Genre reading and writing

plotsIt’s been a while since I did evening classes. The last course I attended was for learning Welsh; I was a tenacious attendee — those like me who didn’t fall by the wayside managed, over some two years, to get through three different tutors with very different teaching styles — but I can’t say I have any proficiency in the language. It’s a difficult tongue for English-speakers to become acclimatised to, very different from Italian, the language I also lasted two years with; English shares so much more in the way of word roots with Latin languages, and for me familiarity with French made things so much easier.

Before that I took a course in teaching English as a foreign language, and even got a qualification for it. Now can you see a pattern here? Language, language, language — it was surely time to do something different. And so it was that I found myself signing up for a creative writing course.

I can hear you groaning from here. Not another wouldbe writer! Aren’t there enough authors, good, bad and indifferent, to sink whole fleets let alone a battleship? Well maybe, and maybe not. I was actually more struck by the title of this particular module: Vive la Différence / Writing in Genre. (Look, four French words!) The course aims to provide an introduction to writing in various fictional genres, including horror, detective fiction, comedy, science fiction, fairy tale and romance. Yes, there are writing exercises, but I’m just as exercised by the promise of group discussions and workshops. Ten years in a remote old farmhouse has made me hungry for rather more mental stimulation now that I’ve relocated.

As a book review blogger this course then seems right up my street. I’m hoping you will stick with me as I blather on with my thoughts on each week’s topic. This week’s genre will be Horror. You have been warned.

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23 thoughts on “Genre reading and writing

  1. So you had a go at Welsh? I am impressed, never got the courage to do it. I have still my hand too full with Japanese…Re:your new adventure. I write every day for professional reasons but creative writing is a completely different story. I have published (under a different byline) some SF, and I can say is the most challenging thing I’ve done, more than advanced maths or cosmology studies. I look forward to having your weekly news – and reading you of course, if you’re inclined to share on your blog your exercises 🙂

    1. I’m just as impressed by your learning Japanese as you are by my attempts at Welsh, if not more so! And amazed — nay daunted — by the fact that fiction was harder than maths or cosmology. Anyway, we’ll see, I may be turning to astrophysics or biochemistry if creative writing proves beyond me…

  2. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    This sounds like a wonderful way to explore books, as a reader or a writer. I’m glad you will share your experiences with us.

  3. I can definitely say that becoming a fiction writer has changed how I read. I’ll be interested to learn about the classes, the discussions, and your own writing. Good luck, and enjoy!

    1. I can well believe it, Lizzie; just reviewing books on a regular basis changed the way I read. And certainly, with my musician’s hat on, the experience of composing and arranging music gave me insights into how real compositions worked and why, and that’ll be much the same with writing, I’m sure!

  4. Heh Chris! What a surprise! I would say you are a brilliant ‘writer’ already; although there is nothing like joining a group for the fun and the like minded support to get the old pen flying ! Looking forward to seeing how and where you take off and ultimately land! Oh dear you may have to build a new shelf for all those pencils!

  5. Thanks for your kind words, Gill, but to be honest I don’t anticipate using that many pencils! But I’m enjoying the course so far, whether or not I get to write all that fiction…

    1. Thank you, Stefy! Although, having been a classroom teacher as well as doing that one-year TEFL course, the teaching styles for the Welsh classes were at times somewhat antediluvian, I did gain insights into Welsh culture that stood me in good stead.

  6. Yes, antediluvian’s the word. And I wonder whether a lot of the teachers truly wanted English native speakers to speak Welsh well. There’s a long and complicated history between the two countries and the two languages, isn’t there.

    I remember taking Welsh classes when I lived in Aberystwyth and it reminded me of nothing more than those awful, mind-numbing phrasal verb lists that I found EFL students struggling through in Spain. ‘Make: make up, make out, make over, make good, make for, make off etc., etc. When you see your own language reduced to that form, it’s impossible to make sense of it. It always seemed that the mutations of Welsh were presented as a done deal, with no attempt to communicate the original ‘why’ of them. So they seemed nonsensical.

    1. I do largely agree with you about the current approach to teaching Welsh. It seems to me that there are a number of aspects to this. One is a kind of superiority, an understandable but misguided reaction to English disdain of all things Welsh. Another is, I feel, an outdated pedagogic approach (which you allude to) which betrays a lack of understanding of different learning styles not just among children but also in older students, and the greater difficulties adults face in new language acquisition. I applaud a justifiable resurgent Welsh pride in culture and language, but it’s not served well by ham-fisted teaching methods. Thank you so much for helping confirm my experience!

      1. I remember, as well, a great discomfort among native Welsh speakers at the sudden influx of English speakers taking jobs in the media and trying to pick up a bit of Welsh to help them. This was back in the 80s.

        To be fair to the native-speaking teachers of Welsh, they hadn’t been well equipped with a methodology. It would be hard to step outside the language that they’d learnt at home and transmit it in a form that English speakers would understand. It would have been hard to communicate its internal logic when they might not have considered Welsh in that way themselves.

        And yes, some of the native English speakers wore their difficulties with the ll of Welsh as a badge of pride. So it wasn’t like a TEFL classroom, where students, usually, want to please the teacher. There’s still a strange ‘disdain’ for the Welsh language among the English. An idea that it isn’t a ‘real’ language. That must be hard on a native Welsh speaking teacher. Especially if they’re of an age to remember the Welsh Not.

        1. There’s still a strange ‘disdain’ for the Welsh language among the English. An idea that it isn’t a ‘real’ language.
          There’s no combatting wilful ignorance, is there? The willingness of others to learn English — because it is a passport to culture, opportunities, personal challenges and so on — is rarely reciprocated by native English speakers because not only is it a primary lingua franca but there is that haughty, almost imperialist, supposition that others ‘should’ learn English. Hence the not-a-real-language attitude towards Welsh. Not helped by the bellicose approach by some Welsh speakers as a natural reaction. And so it goes on.

          1. There’s too often a shameful haughtiness on the part of native English speakers, but we’re not alone in treating the language of others as somehow not ‘real’. I don’t know if you speak Spanish, but you’ll get the idea of this Jose Mota sketch, whether you do or not. The premise is that German is an ‘invented language’, one that is only spoken ‘de puertas para afuera’ (outside the home) in order to impress visitors/tourists. He’s a clever man, Señor Mota, and he’s summed up something about human beings in his sketch. They say that the landscape that you grow up with stays with you as the only ‘real’ landscape when you go travelling in other countries. Something similar happens with language: http://bit.ly/15E8DH1

  7. This sounds really interesting. I did a creative writing short course a couple of… actually it was five and a half years ago, wow. There wasn’t a genre theme though and it was only four classes long, so we wrote one non-fiction, memoir type piece, one creative piece of prose, and one poem. I’m not sure how much I got out of it – I think something where I got to try writing in genre would have been a bit more interesting. At the time I didn’t find it all that challenging but I’d done a lot of creative writing at school – I haven’t really written anything much since so I wonder how I’d find it now. Looking forward to seeing your thoughts!

    1. I’m sure I must have at secondary school done some ‘composition’ (as I think creative writing was called in the 60s) but I have no real memory of it — nor of any literary efforts at primary school: odd, as there was no such inhibitions where Art was concerned. Hope you had more encouragement in your efforts at school and on the short writing course!

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