Visiting Writers and Slaying Dragons with Christian Bale

Even though I’m in an MFA program, I still have a hard time considering myself a capital W, Writer. I mostly like to write about funny stuff that primarily makes me laugh, and a lot of the time will make a few other people laugh, too. I mean, if it does, great, if it doesn’t then I certainly tried my most mediocre, but I’m laughing so I can be amused. 

Oh, I should point out that an MFA is a Master of Fine Arts. I use that a lot but not everyone knows what it is. I’m getting one in Fiction. It’s like a degree in any science, except I just write nothing but hypothesis and I’m not stuck with the burden of proving it’s true. If I want dragons to be real, then I write it and just assume that they’ll make a movie where Christian Bale fights them with helicopters. If I want robots to be real, then my Google asks me kindly to hold off until they’ve fully organized all the roombas in the funniest death squad ever. 

Anyway, a few months back I a call went out to anyone who would be willing to be a visiting writer at a local elementary school. Since I had some experience teaching from one of my other degrees, I decided to give it a shot. For those just joining us, back when I was beautiful (and just starting this blog) I wanted to be a teacher. There were some complications, and I decided that perhaps I didn’t want to be a teacher anymore. Then I went for my MFA. As with any origin story, this is clearly out of my comfort zone, so I decided it was time to go for it, suck it up, and try to teach kids about the thing I enjoy the most: pretending dragons were real, and a dragon/helicopter fight would be disappointing if it were put in a movie with Christian Bale.

(This is a real movie, kids. Look it up.)

So, I volunteered to be a visiting writer.

Now, pulling back the curtain one more time, a visiting writer is usually one who’s had some kind of success, and is teaching their craft to other craft seekers who want to craft a crafty piece of writing. They also teach about varying word choice in a sentence. I have only had a little success, writing for Cracked, this blog, and anything my cats want to read which is not about dragons and/or helicopters. So, I felt a little out of my depth: I was a writer with no success going to teach kids which was one of my greatest fears while I was learning to be a teacher.

Hey, life is about overcoming fear, right? Right? Anyone?

Naturally, the people within my MFA program were thrilled to have me on board, mostly because I volunteered and this is a very supportive MFA program. That’s one of the best things about this program: We want everyone to succeed, and if that means bringing in people to teach elementary school kids to write, then do so. 

So, I prepared a program to teach a 6th grade and a 2nd grade class to write. Now, the other thing I should point out is that I was kind of unique in what I write. See, as I joked about earlier (they’re all jokes, kids) I write mostly comedy. Why? Because I’m funny, and I crave laughter as a form of acceptance. There are whole host of psychological issues that go along with that, I’m sure, but that’s a post for another day. But as amazing as my MFA program is, there aren’t a lot of straight up comedy writers in the group. There are people who are very funny, but manage to make poignant statements without relying on a cheap joke or wordplay, much like moi. (Does that count as wordplay or just throwing in another language to attempt at comedy. Please like me.)

So, I wanted to do something hilarious for the kids, mostly by showing them that anything can be art or funny. So, for the sixth grade, I decided we were going to do writing prompt throwdown. It’s a game where you start writing something, then the person teaching the class decides to throw in something new every few minutes, changing the story as you go along. It’s very annoying, because usually they throw it in when you hit your groove. But the kids loved it, changing their story of sitting in a coffee shop to giant monsters to ninjas… it was a wonderful time. It kind of reminded me of old me, who liked getting up in front of a classroom and teaching kids, and for a brief time I thought maybe I just picked the wrong age group. Sixth grade wasn’t as jaded as high school, and they were all still very hopeful.

For the second grade, I tried to do a little more collaborative work, having them start a story and pass it around. It was a little more controlled chaos, but it was still fun as they had a dragon do fun things that didn’t involve fighting Christian Bale. Maybe a few did, we didn’t get to every story. But it was a fun time. 

The truth is, I liked teaching those kids how to write, because it’s something I’m passionate about. I also think more people would have the ability to write if they took away their inhibitions and spent time just writing what it was they wanted to write. No, it’s not all going to be published, but sometimes it’s just fun. You see, I’m pretty late in my MFA program right now. I’m getting ready to start my Thesis, which means I’ll be focusing in on the writing, and sometimes that can make me nervous. I’m essentially writing a novel, and it has to be read by a lot of people. I think as we get later in our MFA program and get mired in publishing and Thesis writing, we forget that it’s supposed to be fun. I know I did. And what I needed was to teach people writing to remind me of that fact. 

And you know, I really, really wanted those kids to have fun, but at the end of the day, I had the most fun. 

Of course, what I really think I’ll be remembered for is my Baby Yoda shirt. That part was the biggest hit. Hey, you can’t really inspire them all, and sometimes, it just takes a good wardrobe.

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