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And so it begins…

30 Sep

I bet you’re wondering what Facebook and Twitter have to do with getting an MFA in Creative Writing. Oh, you weren’t wondering that. Well, now that it’s on your mind, let me explain the connection. But first- introductions.

My name is Erin Corriveau, and I am a graduate student studying creative writing- nonfiction. This is my third semester at Fairfield University. To be honest, I’m head over heels in love with my program. I’m going to put that right out in the open. I’ve studied under the auspices of the most remarkable writers and teachers. My workshops have been taught by Kim Dana Kupperman, Lary Bloom, Da Chen, Leila Philip and Baron Wormser. I’ve sat in on seminars by Wally Lamb, Mary Karr and Charles Simic. In previous semesters, I was so fortunate to have Lary Bloom and Joan Connor as my faculty mentors. This semester I am thanking the writing gods to have bestowed Porochista Khakpour as my mentor. She has been instrumental in helping me shape the idea for this third semester project.

Want to know more about a third semester project?

Most great MFA programs understand that their students need to be well rounded as a student and a writer. Graduate school should teach students how to look at the bigger picture when creating their art. We must understand the world around us in order to be able to write about it. So most programs have the students spend a semester working on a “project” of some sort. At Fairfield, students have many different options as to how they should proceed. Each student is responsible to chose, develop and complete their own project. You’re assigned a faculty mentor, and you’re sent on your way into the great big world to “study” something. Some people teach creative writing, others write critical papers analyzing a type of poetry for example, or the particular writing style of a specific author. Some students write screenplays, others do a mixed media project and write slam poetry and then perform what they’ve written. There are endless possibilities.

Teaching has always been very important to me, so I wanted to spend this semester in a classroom. I also knew I wanted to try something different and stretch my comfort level within my own writing. So I began the semester with the idea to teach monologue writing. I knew I would be able to get a guest spot in some of the local high schools, and I was hoping I’d find a community group that was interested in my project. I studied monologue writing, read hundreds of monologues and developed lesson plans for an entire month, but when the time came to discuss my first packet with Porochista, we both knew my concentration was focused elsewhere. It seemed like all of my work (and my questions for Porochista) was on one specific lesson plan I had created.

Lesson Plan #1: The Status Update also known as Get the Teenagers’ Attention On Writing Any Way Possible.

My goal was to have students come to class with a couple of status updates from Facebook or Myspace (does anyone still use that?) or some tweets from Twitter. I planned on explaining how a person could take a 140 character random update and turn it into a work of art. I figured they could freewrite a little, and maybe create a poem or an essay…and then I would help them turn that into a monologue.

But plans change, and I guess so do projects.

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