60. Creative Writing Workshop with Professor Alan Maley

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“You don’t learn writing by reading.
You learn writing by writing.”

I suppose any workshop on ‘writing’ or ‘creative writing’ starting with those statements was sure to be an effective one. And, it indeed turned out to be one. With a simple yet powerful statement like that, Professor Maley began the workshop by explaining how expository writing is different than creative writing. Out of his several explanations and examples, one got glued to my mind. Creative writing is about stretching the language, say by using unusual collocations. Example: a grief ago.

The next big question: Why is creative writing important for teachers?

Again, out of his several explanations and examples, this one remains cemented in my mind. “If you ask your students to write, you write as well and share them what you’ve written.” Well said Professor Maley.

Imagine a teacher teaching about poetry and has never written any poem in his/her life. Imagine a teacher teaching about story and has never written any story ever. Wouldn’t it be nice, for a teacher to share his writings, poems, stories or any text with the students he’s teaching to?

Then was a moment of surprise and a mild disappointment. One of the participants raises his hand and says, “If creative writing is not in the curriculum and it is not tested, why should we teach it?” I didn’t want to do “small mouth – big talk” at that moment, because Nepali people usually take everything personally and they get offended easily. But I wanted to shout that this particular workshop was not about your students or their exams or their progress. This was about YOU. This was about your personal and professional development. I was so disappointed that some people come to workshops with their ‘baggage’ and feeling they don’t need to learn anything.

Anyways, Prof Maley justified the query (I hope so) by saying that “learning/teaching to pass an exam is not similar to learning/teaching to write in a language”. Which pretty much makes sense to me. If one can’t write ‘creatively’, how can one expect to teach students to write ‘creatively’. And it’s common understanding that, if you are good in creative writing, you can be good in expository writing as well.

I’m going to skip writing about most of the activities we did during this full day workshop however I want to mention a few. The one activity on writing ‘acrostic poem’ was really fun. In his own words: An acrostic poem is based on a word written vertically. The letters then each form the first letter of a word, and all the words are related to the meaning of the original word.

For example: dog

Docile
Obedient
Growling

A variation is to describe the word using only the first letter and a pattern might be: noun, verb, adverb.

For example: duck

Ducks
Dive
Dangerously

So, here is what I did with duck.

Ducks
Dress
Depressingly.

Ducks
Dine
Duck-duckingly

And, with cat.

Creepy
Arrogant
Terminator

We then did several activities based on two line poems, guided poems, haikus, metaphor poems, word array, 9-word stories, mini-saga and a short story. With each activity, we also produced our own piece of writing, while trying to be creative of some sort. I was glad that he picked up my suggestion for a short story, which was ‘suicide’.

It was a very very productive workshop (at least for me). Initially I was scared because 7 hours inside a room, sitting on a desk is a long long time. However, there wasn’t a single dull moment through out the workshop. Everything just went along swimmingly. Kudos to the professor’s energy and patience. And, kudos to Kathmandu University School of Education. Rs 200 for a workshop like this (and lunch) is way too cheap.

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6 thoughts on “60. Creative Writing Workshop with Professor Alan Maley

    • Thank you Professor for dropping by the blog and posting your comment. I would love to get in touch with you when you come around here next time. I’m also going through your articles in hlt mag site.

  1. Umes dai,

    Next time if something like this comes up, please, please remember me! I’d totally love to attend it. The workshop sure seemed super fun. Or, how about you hosting a workshop like this yourself? Like for a private group of people and all that?

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