Diary of a creative writing class 1

Diary of a creative writing class 1

Once they are seated I begin:








Question to class: What do you think this is?

Silence. Then timidly. A list.  A twirly-keep-going movement with my right hand. A list of words…

What sort of words?

My favourite words.

Question to class: What does this say about me as a teacher? As a person?

The students look decidedly scared. Is it too late to change option? Eyes darting side to side over the top of their masks. Is she qualified? Certified?

A couple of kind students make an interested look with their eyebrows.

Yes, yes, go on.

It’s true, I like words. I almost go as far as Nabokov and say I fondle them. But I don’t. I’m in a classroom after all.

First activity: Make a list of your favourite words.  (5 minutes).

Now exchange with your neighbour. Why did you choose that particular word? (10 minutes).

I walk round the class:

A hum

Some giggling

That becomes laughter.

Yeah so…

Like ehm….



Maybe, it makes me feel. Like. Ehm.


I’m not exactly sure what we’re supposed to be doing.



It’s sort of visual.

+ Sunshiny

Full of glory and laughter.

Just imagine a word. A warm Zephyr breeze.

Its shape.

The caress of a certain sound.

The shiver.

The shashay. The whisper.

Listen and write.

Whilst they are busy, I enjoy myself putting crosses next to the names of the students who have turned up for class. Six students present are not on my list. Five students on my list are absent. The class contains 24 French, 1 Turkish, I Vietnamien, 3 Greek and 2 English students.

Crosses and lists are very satisfying to teachers. We are generally an easily pleased bunch.

Next exercise: Choose your favourite word from your neighbour’s list and when I call out your name shout out the word.

I take my register and call out a name at random.

It’s very difficult to get students to shout out in a classroom in a French university.

Now choose your favourite word from your own list and write freely, without stopping or crossing out. (10 minutes)…

Before class, I prepared at home then practised by singing my words out to my husband. We were in the car at the time. He agreed with me that “Zanzibar” was a fine word in all senses. I felt there was no point in explaining that despite its very strong points, there was some unresolved sisterly jealousy behind that word. The fact that not both of us got to go there. As in one of us was there whilst the other one was here. Sort of thing.  

“Shimmy” he didn’t get straight away. What like chimie he said. No, shimmy has nothing to do with lab coats and test tubes. It’s all smooching and nightclubs. Smoke and velvet. And cigarettes. And Kohl. A sexy sort of word. He looked more interested. I couldn’t resist. “Shiver”. I said, not dashing his hopes. The idea that words make you shiver. In a way that is nothing to do with your mind. Or your heart. But your spine.  Up and down your spine. Dragging the sentence out. He nodded enthusiastically and tapped the steering wheel. I continued with “Core” and “Strength”. I felt that they spoke for themselves and I did not feel like expanding. Enough had already been said.

Thank you to Lou for, amongst other things, her beautiful Hellebores on fig_tart.

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