Thursday, August 28, 2014

Beware of what you wish for. (And what you don't.) -- My Teaching Writing Update.

For the past seven years, I've tried to keep this blog filled with tips, advice, and resources that will help writers. For the past few months I've relied heavily on some generous guest post contributors and interview subjects (as well as link round-ups) to do the job. My own contributions dwindled because I was extra-busy. Thanks, readers, for supporting the guest bloggers, and sticking around! At first my busy-ness was all about writing, teaching, and editing in fairly equal portions. But lately, that shifted. I hope you'll indulge me a bit while I explain. Then, the plan is to get back to a more regular posting schedule in September. - Lisa

During my MFA program, I frequently thought (and sometimes said), oh, I'll never teach.

Toward the end of those two years, a mentor who knew me well predicted, I think you are going to teach. It's clear you want to help other writers.

"Nah," I said. 

Three months later, a local library hired me to teach an adult memoir class and another in freelancing. Within six months, I was teaching creative nonfiction online via small private classes I'd developed. Within 15 months, I was teaching in the continuing education writing program at Rutgers University, and two years after that, I was asked to teach memoir and personal essay writing for a lovely, multiple-location regional organization, The Writers Circle.

In between, I created the *I Should Be Writing!* Boot Camp for writers in any genre (it's now on-demand solo course). Along the way, I developed a monthly coaching option, which brings so many wonderful writers my way.

Now, I'm setting out on new teaching adventures. And, I've been thinking of Barbara Hurd, who like all terrific mentors, sometimes say what their students don't necessarily want to hear. I've also come to understand the power of the MFA community one develops, too.

When Suzanne Strempek Shea, a faculty member from the Stonecoast MFA program I completed, called me about 20 months ago to gauge my interest in joining the faculty of a new all-online, all-nonfiction MFA program in the planning stages for Bay Path College (now Bay Path University), I didn't hesitate. It sounded perfect. 

I said yes, then tried to put it in the back of my mind, tried to temper my excitement. After all, it was nearly two years away, and needed all kinds of approvals and certifications before it could (would?) launch.  

A few days ago—after a summer of syllabus revision, training in the online course management system, and wonderful conference calls with the director and other faculty—I welcomed some 20 students into the two classes I'm teaching in that vibrant new MFA program.

Once the students began checking in, I realized that I was right where I wanted to be.

But there's more to the teaching story.

In April of this year, the Rutgers program was shut down; sad, but I'd had a good run there.

I live about one mile from Montclair State University. I've used the library there, attended literary events there. I've signed my kids up for programs there, our family has seen plays and concerts and sporting events on campus. And two years ago, I applied for a teaching job there. I didn't get it.

What I did get – about a month ago – was a call from the writing program director: Was I interested in teaching one section of an undergraduate elective creative nonfiction writing class? 

My plate seemed full already. But then, isn't it always? 

I was a kid who always loved school, longed for the smell of fresh pencils and the feel of new notebook pages. As an undergraduate college student, I jammed my schedule with as many different kinds of writing and literature classes as I could. I remember the feeling of being in those classrooms. I love September and the idea of a new semester. (And I'll be they one day unwittingly contribute to my Stuff My Writing Students Say series!)

So next week, I'll be in that classroom at MSU. I'll be online with my Bay Path students every day. I'll be writing. I'll be sending out the memoir. I'll be editing, and prepping for the fall session at The Writers Circle, and helping to get out the fall issue of Compose Journal.

It's a lot.

It's a little bit of everything I ever and never wished for, and clearly need.

Wish me luck.

Images: Flickr/Creative Commons - Old time teachers desk, Todd Petrie; Scrabble tiles, Denise Krebs; Notebooks, Kristen Nador


Andrea said...

Fantastic! All good're living the dream. :) And you'll totally rock it all. Plus Suzanne's the best, ever, so it will be a dream to work with her. Good luck!

Liane Kupferberg Carter said...

Congratulations,Lisa! You know what they say -- if you want something done, give it to a busy person. Best of luck!

drew said...

Bravo for creating (and being open to creating) a rich and full life of writing/teaching opportunities.

I'm sure you and your students will benefit greatly!

Unknown said...

I am so happy for you. All of these things are in the "what goes around, comes around" category. NO-ONE works harder or is more dedicated to her students. This is well deserved karma.Your new students don't know how lucky they are.

Nina B said...

All good writerly stuff! You will get it done. I know it.

Lisa Romeo said...

Thank you all. I appreciate your kinds words and support !

Christi said...

I love all that you are doing--wonderful, exciting,...congratulations! And, I agree with Ryder, your students don't know how lucky they are. I gained so much from the two week-long workshops I took with you--so much so that I've referred several writers to your site.

Unknown said...

Exciting news, Lisa. Sharpen those pencils!

Anonymous said...

That sounds incredible, Lisa! I hope you have enjoy every minute of the opportunity to do so much of what you love!

Lisa Romeo said...

Oh, Christi, that's lovely, thanks.

Shaun, indeed. That is, if anyone (at least the undergraduates) remember what a pencil is for, huh?

Thanks, goes.

Erika D. said...

Belated congratulations, Lisa! This is all such wonderful news.

Lisa Romeo said...

Thanks, Erika! Seems we're both exploring a lot of new territory this fall. (Which must mean we're due for a meal, drink, or coffee if you get a free hour sometime while visiting the Garden State!)