Wednesday, March 18, 2015

THE BUDDING PORN QUEEN


Most of the time, trying to teach creative writing to a disparate group of adults was rewarding, challenging, frustrating and sometimes eye-poppingly weird.

Their reasons for enrolling in a writing class were varied, but they were all there because they chose to be, and wanted to find out how to write. Whether writing can be taught at all is a subject often debated; I am firmly in the “sometimes” and the “it all depends” camps. But there is a basic level at which someone who wants to write can be given a gentle shove in the right direction. There are so many ways to show people how to start, and then to keep going, and the rest is confidence. We all have to start somewhere, and we all need help sometimes, at whatever stage we find ourselves.

Light No Fires
The first session of any course was illuminating. During the let’s-get-acquainted stage now almost universally expected at meetings, there would be several “I’ve always wanted to write but never had the time” people. There might be a couple of new grandmas who had developed a sudden desire to write stories for children. I remember an earnest young woman who wanted to earn her living as a writer – I managed not to blurt that she should take her place in the line. She took copious notes but did none of the assignments, and bustled up to me at the end of the course to ask “now, where do I go for a job as a writer?” And once there was a young woman who seemed determined to write porn, although she never actually said so.

It dawned on me slowly, as the weeks passed. There were hints of salaciousness in the most unlikely assignments. A word or phrase that I first thought was simply ill-chosen was carefully dropped into a sentence. There were hints of nudge-nudge, wink-wink developments to come. A description seemed over-blown and unnecessarily suggestive. Alarm bells began pealing in my head and I stopped inviting people in the class to read aloud what they had written. I wanted to be sure that the budding porn queen didn’t take the chance and suddenly burst full-blown into lurid prose in front of the unprepared and possibly shockable audience.

I’m all for doing one’s own thing, but not in my class. Once that cat had flown the perch there would be no picking up the pieces. However the porn queen did unwittingly give me the opportunity to mould a session around an important message without once mentioning porn: write what you know and like, but then aim it squarely at the appropriate readership.

 

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