In my writing classes, I emphasize how learning art and craft is essential to succeeding as a writer. Tonight, I’ll be interviewing my former teacher, Charles Johnson, on teaching and writing. He just published an important new book, The Way of the Writer: Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling. The book grows out of his teaching at the University of Washington, where I received my Master of Fine Arts and doctorate. Here are some of the questions we’ll address:
-Why did you write The Way of the Writer? What was the impetus for it?
-What do you hope the book will do? What kind of conversations will it spark?
-How does the book grow out of your own approach to writing?
-You never attended a creative writing program. How did you find your way as a writer?
-How important were mentors like John Gardner? How would a young writer acquire a mentor?
-How was working as a journalist important to your development?
-What did art and cartooning teach you about writing?
-You say in The Way of the Writer that you avoided creative writing classes while working on Faith and the Good Thing? Why?
-Have these programs changed over the years? As a young writer today, would you be more or less willing to attend such a program?
-What would you look for in a creative writing program? What could be most helpful about such a program? What are potential drawbacks?
-Has the writing workshop approach evolved? Is it still the main pedagogical strategy of these programs? What are its weaknesses? Its strengths?
-Can craft and technique be taught?
-What cannot be taught?
The are also issues I’ll address in my spring writing class, The Nature of Narrative. I’ll be interviewing Charles Johnson tonight 7:30 p.m. at Third Place Books Seward Park in Seattle. Please stop by!