There are many ironies in the dynamic and often unstable world of higher education today. One is that, despite the push by students and their parents for more STEM courses and majors, often at the expense of humanities and social science programs, creative writing is growing in popularity. Across the country, schools and universities are adding creative writing sections or developing and expanding existing programs, yet in many cases, student demand still exceeds offerings.
A second irony is that, in the complex hierarchy of academia, it is often the courses taught by graduate students that engage the most creative, inclusive, and successful pedagogies. Though they may have the least power within their departments and earn the smallest paycheck, graduate students make transformative teachers. Deep in their own practice of writing but still developing voice and style, they have the kind of skin in the game that students can smell, and that compels them, implicitly and irresistibly, to become writers.
This open-access anthology celebrates the work of instructors we see as the vanguard of creative writing instruction. We have collected an arresting sample of classroom exercises by graduate students who not only teach across genres, but who themselves represent diverse regions and identities.
We imagine this anthology as a generative grab bag. The exercises are grouped only by genre, and this schematic absence is intentional. Vanguard is an informal collection of strategies somewhat representative of those being used at this minute in classrooms across the United States. Experienced creative writing teachers as well as those who feel an experiential distance from those who sit behind the desks are likely to find more than one gem in here to re-energize their practice. Novice graduate teachers will discover a sense of security in using one of the tried and tested approaches contained in these pages. This anthology will serve well those who are teaching outside their primary genre for the first time and do not know where to begin. Teachers with an emphasis in literature who are teaching creative writing can glean from this book an array of discipline-specific exercises, the kinds of features shared by dynamic creative assignments, or even just a sense of the dynamism possible in such classes. We especially hope to inspire those who want to make their approach more interdisciplinary, active, and bottom-up. Regardless of teaching stage or area, however, we hope that this anthology will function, in part and aggregate, as a prompt for those who strive to make writing feel relevant to the students who produce it.
Each exercise is formatted to be as user-friendly as possible. The creative writing instructors who have offered their classroom expertise first offer an overview of the exercise and a rationale for its objective. This introduction is followed by step-by-step instructions. Many instructors have included, with permission, examples from their students. Almost all the exercises are adjustable for various levels—from high school to the graduate classroom—and we hope this anthology will be a useful and edifying tool for teachers at all stages of their career.
We wish to thank RAIDER Publishing, Texas Tech University Libraries, Dr. D. Gilson, the Department of English at Texas Tech, Dr. Brian Still, and Dr. Curtis Bauer, without whom this project would not have been possible.