Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Me? A Teacher?

Although I come from a family of teachers, I never saw myself as one.

My mother taught art in junior high school and, later, ceramics and other college courses to art students. My mother-in-law is a retired teacher, and my younger son is studying to be a high school biology teacher.

But me? Sure, I’ve enjoyed giving the occasional critique to fellow writers, but I’m impatient with people who aren’t seriously interested in learning a subject. Besides, the only thing I really know about is writing.

I had a lot of writing teachers. We can start with Mrs. Tyler and Mrs. Hitchcock in high school, and then there were some distinguished instructors in college, including Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Howard Nemerov and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright William Gibson (The Miracle Worker).

Later, while working as a journalist in Southern California, I took a few writing classes here and there, and joined a critique group that I’ve participated in for more than 30 years. Many members have come and gone – including Elizabeth George and T. Jefferson Parker.

I learned from my editors (don’t ask me how many – after 87 novels, I’ve lost count) and some of my agents (there’ve been three or four, but only two that count). I also learned from my editors at a daily newspaper and The Associated Press.

Along the way, I accumulated a lot of knowledge and skills. It seemed almost a shame to have gained so much insight when, let’s face it, I’m hardly Shakespeare or even J.K. Rowling.

A couple of years ago, a fellow writer tipped me off to a college-accredited distance-learning institute called Long Ridge Writers Group, for which she was teaching. I applied, was thoroughly evaluated and trained in their curriculum of short story & article writing and an advanced course on novel writing, and set loose on an assortment of students from all over the world.

During the last couple of years, I’ve learned something: that I’m a teacher. I doubt I could stand in front of a classroom and deal with bored adolescents or disciplinary problems, but I love working one-on-one with motivated writers from their teens to their eighties. The payoff is seeing many of my students make tremendous progress, and hearing back from them how much the experience has meant to them.

I’ve written an article called “Ten Things a Novelist Learned From Teaching Writing” and posted it at http://www.jacquelinediamond.com/WritingTeacherTips. If you get a chance, I hope you’ll take a look.

6 comments:

Leigh Duncan said...

Jacqueline,
Congrats on finding another avenue for sharing your tremendous talent. Your students are certainly fortunate!

Jacqueline Diamond said...

Thank you, Leigh!

Rula Sinara said...

Loved your article. It reminded me of a friend I had in college. She liked to help fellow classmates study for exams by explaining the material to them. She said that she wasn't being entirely unselfish because 'teaching' helped her to study and understand the material better. Funny how that works :)

joyceharring said...

Jackie,
You are not only a great teacher but one that cares by giving sincere direction.
I know from first hand experience.
Looking forward to your next book.
Joyce Harring

Winter said...

In the past few years I've found myself taking on this role too. Oddly enough, teaching is where my husband feels called to be. I've just taken a different route than getting stuck in the classroom.

I found I love teaching new writers and some slightly experienced ones what I've learned over the years and from those who taught me. Kind gives me a giddy feeling when they succeed.

Roxann Delaney said...

Long, long ago, I was a student there. (ICL) I heard from them not long ago and saw you were one of the staff, Jackie. How very cool!