Today I had the great privilege to visit not one but two creative writing classes taught by my grad school friend, the wonderful poet Brianna Pike. I’ve always loved Bri’s approach to teaching writing as much as I love her poetry (and folks, she’s a hell of a poet!), so I knew I was in for a good time. But what neither of us realized — because Bri had set her syllabus up several weeks ago, and long before we’d finalized my visit — was how easily I slotted into her lessons today.
The classes were addressing setting. Hagridden is heavily dependent on setting, and setting is a subject I’ve written on before. Bri also mentioned the importance of research, including interviews with locals and actual boots-on-the-ground field research, to get a setting right. And, of course, I’ve done all that too. But then it gets weird: the story she’d selected for today was Angela Carter’s “The Werewolf”!
So, it goes without saying that I had a lot to discuss with her students. But more to the point: her students are amazing. Their insights into the works they were reading and, even better, their seriousness about the craft of writing was invigorating, and I loved getting to talk to them!
Then this evening, I did a formal reading and another Q&A, and Bri’s students — as well as her fellow faculty and some other audience members — asked more hard, insightful questions! It felt great, hearing their ideas and offering up a few of my own, and I had a grand time.
Afterward, Bri and I joined another good friend of ours, writer and editor Will Tyler, for dinner, where we talked about basically everything: professors we still love, the unsung lucrativeness of ghost writing, the joys and frustrations of the classroom, the epic — now legendary — night Tom Franklin came to our alma mater, the University of North Texas.
And to cap it all off, I drove south to New Albany, where I met with my good grad school friend, poet Steve Bowman — tomorrow I’m at Indiana University Southeast, where tomorrow, I give a reading from Hagridden and talk more about my 14 Principles for Creative Writers!