Republic of Moreland

October 22, 2007

“Like the guy in that ad with the microwave”

Filed under: books & writing,nonsense — Kath @ 6:27 pm

This semester I started teaching first-year writing students at a university rated at the very bottom in the Best Universities Guide. It’s located in Zone 3 — or what was until recently, when Zone 2’s girth expanded. Most of the students are from suburbs listed on the bottom rung in the real estate valuation pages (those suburbs topping the unemployment charts); many are first-generation Australians; many are the first in their families to go to university. I’m guessing they wouldn’t think to describe themselves as I’ve just done, and sometimes I feel like an impostor.

I love my students — I really do. As a colleague said, they don’t have tickets on themselves.

Sometimes I find myself teaching them tenets of good writing I’m yet to learn myself. One class exercise was to minimise adjectives and let our verbs do the hard work (I wish!). Each of us had to write a passage describing someone in the room, and then read it to the class.

Knowing that adjectives would indeed flow, I became anxious as students started scribbling. Polite restraint isn’t characteristic of my class, and I was fearful of the offensive descriptions that might ensue: of flesh billowing out of too-tight jeans; of try-hard piercings; of swampy complexion, fussy synthetic track pants, prim hijabs, a smile that goes down instead of up, nicotine fingertips, overstated bling, service-station sunglasses, solariumed cleavage, lank hair.

The adjectives did pour out, but not as I’d second-guessed, with my Zone 1 prejudices. A scarf was described as knotted noose-like around the wearer’s neck. (The wearer chortled.) A woman was described in purple prose (by the lank-haired lad) as having hair that cascaded mermaid-like on to the pleasing tension of her t-shirt. (I swallowed and looked at the woman, who grinned, unblushing.) Another woman named every shade of grey in a headscarf: dove-grey, rain-grey, corporate-grey. Someone was “like the guy in that ad with the microwave…”

I love my classes: they are so intimate. Semester is almost over, and I’m sad.

October 12, 2007

Wisdom from Raymond Carver

Filed under: books & writing — Kath @ 5:20 pm

“Writing is trouble, make no mistake, for everyone involved, and who needs trouble?”

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