Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Author Master Class?

by Rebecca Cantrell

Judging by the lateness of this post, I might be better off taking a class in time management.

Instead of talking about writers I'd like to take a master class from, here's a list of those I have.
  • Stephen Spittler. He was my English teacher senior year. He loved literature and seduced all of us into loving it to. He was smart, enthusiastic, and he never cut me a bit of slack in my writing. Whatever good fundamentals I have, they came from him.
  • Sharon Dilworth. She was part of the creative writing program at Carnegie Mellon. She was kind and generous with her time, and made me feel like writing was a craft that could be learned and not just a talent given from the gods.
  • Christopher Keane. He taught at the now defunct Maui Writers Conference. He taught me to revise and throw things away and start with a completely different perspective, and the simple value of putting in the hours.
  • Michael Palmieri. Maui Writers Conference again. Structure. Structure. Structure. Michael knows it, and he teaches it with humor and intelligence and grace.
  • James Rollins. OK, also Maui. Pacing, setting, and moving characters through scenes. It sounds simple, but it wasn't for me.
  • Julia Cameron. A bit of a cheat, because I never took a face to face class, but her book "The Artist's Way" taught me as much about being a writer as anything else. I thank her most for this line (I'm paraphrasing, I'm sure she said it better). "If you had a job at the 7-11, you would show up whether the muse inspired you or not. So why are you treating your heart's work as something less than a 7-11 job?" Busted. Busted. Busted. And as soon as I was busted, I started taking writing seriously and within three months had started "A Trace of Smoke," my first published novel.
Thank you all, teachers and mentors, for helping me to get where I am today. You helped me more than you know.

How about you? What's your favorite writing class/teacher/book?


Reece said...

It sounds like you've had some excellent writing instructors, Becky. And I wish that Maui Writers Conference was still around. They would have had me at "Maui".

Rebecca Cantrell said...

I've been lucky, Reece! It was a great conference in a truly beautiful setting. Terrific teachers and lots of enthusiastic fellow writers. There's nothing quite like it out there.

Plus, the beaches were great. :)

Matt W said...

My favorite teacher of all was Mr. Nejman, British lit, senior year high school. He was the basis for the main character's father in my first novel. Second-favorite was Mrs. Hasher, 6th grade English, and my first "creative writing" teacher. After that, I guess Sharon D., and the Natalie Goldberg book "Writing Down the Bones."

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Thanks for stopping by, Matt!

Were we in Sharon's class together? I had her for Survey of Forms: Short Story and something else, but I can't remember what it was called.

I liked the Natalie Goldberg book too! Have you read Julia Cameron's book? Because, if you haven't, I think you should. You'll see what I mean if you do.

Matt W said...

We were in at least one of Sharon's classes. On the first day, there was an exercise to keep us from ever writing cliched stories, and we wound up getting partnered up to come up with the worst story we could. It was painful but it was a lot of fun. I haven't read Julia Cameron's book yet but it's on the list.

Michael Wiley said...

A great list, Rebecca. Mine would also include the many books I've read: mysteries that have taught me how to write mysteries . . . or have done their best to do so.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Matt: Oh God! Now I remember. Girl, right side of tracks, meets Boy, wrong side of tracks...Painful!

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Michael: Good point!

Graham Brown said...

I can't believe with all the MWC's I went to we never ran into each other there. Someone really needs to restart that conference.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

You were at MWC? Sheesh. I can't believe we missed each other! It was a pretty small conference, all things considered.

I agree. Someone should restart it. But I think it's a HUGE amount of work, so...