By KRISTI ABBOTT
If you talk to me for more than ten minutes, I’ll probably end up mentioning that I teach creative writing. I’m trying to tone it down, but it’s hard. It’s a relatively new thing for me so I’m still learning and it’s on my mind a lot. I’m always thinking about new ways to explain concepts or feedback I could give my students.
It’s also on my mind a lot because I really want to be a person who walks the walk. I want to be able to tell my students to do as I do as well as to do what I say. I want to live up to the standards I’m setting for them. I find myself reviewing whatever I’m working on with an eye toward whatever my class is discussing that week. If I’m telling my students to try to include as many senses as they can in their descriptions I have to ask if I’m doing that, too. Have I made sure that my protagonist — a chef who would be highly sensitive to smell — is aware of scents and aromas? If I’m trying to get the students to really put the reader in a scene, I have to see if I’m showing the right amount. Am I balancing scene and summary well?
Then there are the questions. While quite a few of them tend to be about when something is due, a lot of them center around further explaining concepts or helping them understand feedback from me or from their workshops. It makes me dig a little deeper. Again, I turn back to my own work to see if I can dig a bit deeper there, too. Can I reach down inside myself and make those concepts the foundation of my writing?
I went back to school to get my MFA in part because I wanted to teach at the college level. I was thrilled when it actually worked out for me. As Hannibal Smith would say, I love it when a plan comes together. This was a long game and it took a lot of time and effort to make it work, which just made the payoff that much sweeter.
Even though I was there in part to get the letters off my name that would give me the credentials I needed, I took the program seriously. I wanted to milk the opportunity for every drop I could get so I worked hard on my papers and the stories I wrote during those two years. After I finished my MFA, a lot of people asked me if it had changed the way I wrote, if I felt my craft had improved. It did, but teaching has changed it even more.