Roger Rosenblatt is a favorite of my Book Club since he appears every other year at the Chautauqua Institution in southwest New York State and brings several famous authors with him to discuss their works.
One of his recent offerings (in 2011) is the recounting of the happenings in a class he teaches in the Master of Fine Arts program in Stoneybrook University in Long Island, New York. It is easy to discern that Roger loves his twelve students and his craft and that they return this love.
He calls the class Writing Everything because the students spend the term writing a short story, an essay and some poetry. They meet once a week for two hours. The students come from diverse backgrounds. There is a Pakistani girl, a husband and wife in their sixties from the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, a retired Air Force pilot, a 71-year-old Englishwoman who is the daughter of a UN diplomat, a 54-year-old restaurateur from Manhattan, and many others who make up the 12 member class.
Some hints and suggestions for writers are interspersed between the conversations which Roger repeats from the classmates.
You may have to do nine or ten drafts before you are satisfied with your piece.
Adornment with adjectives and adverbs may suffocate the body of your work. One of the students wrote a poem about this subject: “Roses are red, violets are blue, but Roger thinks roses and violets will do.”
Let your protagonist “say it,” not aver it, declare it or intone it. Many readers unconsciously slip over those explanatory words anyway.
Don’t be afraid to throw away all of the pages you have written if they don’t seem right. You can start fresh again.
Roger Rosenblatt believes you should not use an outline because you will follow it. Some writers may disagree.
Know thyself. You will soon discover that your writing validates your life.
An essay deals with something that really happened; a short story is most often fiction.
The first task of a writer is to make the reader see.
The students enjoyed Roger Rosenblatt’s class so much they staged a reunion at the restaurateur’s place the following February. It was evident again from the banter and jokes of the students and Roger that the class loved their teacher. I say that it is well-deserved love. My Book Club also loves Roger and I look forward to seeing him at Chautauqua Institution this coming June 25 through 29.
Source: Unless It Moves the Human Heart -The Craft and Art of Writing – by Roger Rosenblatt (2011)