12.3 Response

By the end of reading Gammarino, Hesse, and Moneyhun, I felt a bit like the student Moneyhun describes, who asks her parents (composition and creative writing) not to fight. All three authors seemed to be involved in a struggle I guess I don’t feel that much a part of. Who are these people saying that we can’t blur the line between creative writing and composition? That we can’t draw on one discipline when teaching the other? Maybe my feelings might have to do with my position, the fact that I am not full-time faculty or administration and thus am not privy to the departmental discussions and goings-on that these authors might be. Also, because I am an MFA who is teaching composition, that there is a link between creative writing and composition is obvious. Not to say that the two are the same, but there is crossover. I am certainly for incorporating creative assignments into a composition class and vice versa. And I think the institutions where I studied were for it, too. As an undergraduate I remember the two being linked: In my school’s mandatory composition class, we were asked to write autobiographical narratives and in what was essentially English 101, we were asked to write our own endings to a story we had read over the semester (both creative writing type activities). In my MFA program, along with our writing workshops, we were required to take literature classes and write analyses on the works we read (okay, perhaps this falls more into “English” than “Composition” but still, it was “academic writing” vs. “creative writing”). Furthermore, for our theses, we had to submit academic papers on a topic of our choosing, in addition to our partial creative manuscripts. So, in my career, I’ve felt that academic writing and creative writing have worked well together.

One thing I’d like to add that was not touched on in the articles: I believe that, in addition to helping students develop their own writing, the MFA workshop is built to produce teachers of writing. Any kind of writing. The whole format is essentially teaching practice. As a student responding to another classmates’ work, you are required to assess if the author is achieving his or her purpose, if the organization is working, if the sentences are clear, if something needs to be explained further or should be explained less or eliminated, and then you are asked to articulate those assessments both in writing and in front of a small group. You are also (if you want to be helpful and also not come across as an asshole) meant to express these comments in a polite and thoughtful way. It doesn’t hurt if you can determine what would and wouldn’t work best for certain classmates (just like certain, less confident students need more encouragement and other, overly confident students might do for a bit more criticism, so too, do writers). These are skills that we use all the time as composition teachers who talk about and grade student writing. Although this all has to do with the teachers of composition and not with the content of the courses, to me, this has been the greatest evidence of the partnership between creative writing and composition.