For decades I’ve taught fiction writing at the New School University in Greenwich Village. I thought I was just a hired hand; turns out I’m now an associate professor. My classes are writing workshops under the moniker: Memory, Imagination, Desire—the three components of any great story, perhaps any work of art. We call up the clay from our lives, turn and shape it in our own imaginations, fired always by our greatest passions. With enough dedication and rewriting, strong stories result.
My simple teaching philosophy? As I learned from my mentor Bernard Malamud, you can’t actually teach writing, you can only hope to get beginning writers to get over bad habits and learn more sophisticated technique earlier than they’d figure it out themselves. In my classes, we always try to be helpful and useful above all. Critiques are expected to be in the spirit of the work, and to make suggestions that the writer might not have thought of themselves. All critiques are to help the writer move to a better, more effective next draft.
Because of my fascination with photography, I’m teaching a new course at the New School, Make Your Photobook: Camera Magic, Personal Truth. The class considers photobooks works of literature, and students make their own books, paying attention to sequence, story, metaphor, truth.
My ideal class works like a good story, lively, inventive, with a beginning and well-earned end, and drama and fun along the way.