Charles Johnson on Writing Classes

Charles Johnson Cartoon for writing classes

Charles Johnson Cartoon for writing classes.

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!

From Charles Johnson—a National Book Award winner, Professor Emeritus at University of Washington, and…
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