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1: The Creative Writer: Level One: Five Finger Exercises (The Creative Writer) Paperback – January 16, 2012
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About the Author
Boris Fishman holds an MFA in fiction from New York University, where he has taught fiction and poetry. His journalism has appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the New Republic, the London Review of Books, and other publications.
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The Creative Writer is put out by the Well Trained Mind Press, and when Susan Wise Bauer says something is good, we listen.This text is written to the student, with a helpful teacher/mentor section in the back. Each lesson is well planned and it is clear what the author is asking the student to do to demonstrate their knowledge. I appreciate that this covers both story writing and poetry (half the book is dedicated to each). Fishman asked good, leading questions and provides lots of directed writing. It requires a fair bit of the parent’s time and interaction. It also moves quickly through the material, so one gets a strong overview, but not necessarily depth. I think the format of the book is good, and while some of his references would be above my students, they would find it readable and relatable.
I also previewed IEW’s How to Tell a Story by Lee Roddy. When IEW publishes something, my assumption is that it will be top-notch and student friendly. This book, however, is not designed for a student but for the teacher of a class, and there is no student manual to use. That said, the resource contains a “question and worksheet” section at the end of each lesson which would help the student and teacher evaluate whether the material was understood. The material is very useful, though dry. I would not recommend it for those who are looking for an independent resource for their homeschooled child, but it would be great in a teacher directed classroom setting.
Sharon Watson publishes a lot of language arts curriculum. Her Writing Fiction [In High School] provides an in-depth and reader friendly series of teaching and assignments. There are two tracks - one for every student, and an additional assignment for those who are currently working on a manuscript. Watson does a good job providing solid explanations and expectations of what should be learned; of all the resources this feels the most like a school book. She writes directly to the student in an easy going manner. A teacher’s guide must be purchased separately, and there are some extra readings assigned. Based on my readings, I’d say these lessons really should be taught and experienced in a group setting.
A Pirate’s Guide t’ th’ Grammar of Story is by far the most fun and engaging curriculum I found. The author is a story developer—which seems to mean he works in some capacity with actual novelists and filmmakers—and this book is a simplified version of the training program he uses with them. It is a stand alone workbook that does not require any additional materials or teacher guides. A student could easily do this without any parental support at all. Each lesson focuses on a single subject and because it uses an incremental approach to learning the material is easy to digest and understand. There is nothing dry about this material - within a few pages of previewing, I found myself reading this aloud to my kids, and they loved it. It somehow manages to be playful while still communicating very complex ideas and eliciting creative responses from the student. Throughout the workbook there are opportunities for review and independent writing. As for negatives, there are an awful lot of exercises in this and some students might find all this work monotonous.
In short - each of these resources provides solid direction in creative writing/story telling. Each was written by a professional in their field, and I’d recommend any of them for use in a classroom setting. For a quick, yet thorough introduction to creative writing that includes poetry, you’d have to choose The Creative Writer. If I were teaching a class of students experienced in creative writing, I recommend How to tell a Story. Using Writing Fiction [In High School] would be best if you had students who wanted to complete a manuscript during your class. If you looking for something for independent home use, or if you don't feel confident to teach creative writing (like me), I'd suggest you look into A Pirate's Guide.
So, this book is GREAT because it teaches students that they can practice creativity and that there are some basic guidelines they can follow to start expressing themselves well.
But the book doesn't give a lot of actual exercises, and the lessons are very short. Of course, you can always combine lessons, doing 2 in one week. I would say that this would be a good book for a middle school or lower high school level class. It would last for about a semester, although if you follow the book's chapter suggestions, it would be a year-long course.
I will most likely buy level 2 because, as I said, there are not a lot of options out there for this type of instruction, and from the preview it looks like it covers quite a bit more.