Teaching

Not Where I Teach

My mother was a teacher. Her mother was a teacher. And her mother was a teacher. Small surprise that when I was a child and people asked me if I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up, I emphatically said no. Then, long after I had grown up to become an editor and writer, the opportunity to teach an adult writing class fell into my lap. My mother, who at that time had been teaching two adult writing classes for nearly twenty-five years, encouraged me to do it. “You’ll be surprised at what you learn,” she said. “It will challenge you to be a better writer.” Less than a year after I started teaching that class, she decided to retire and I took over her advanced writing class as well.

So now I teach two writing classes for adults, one in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and the other in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Students bring in their works in progress to read, and the other students and I offer both written and oral critiques. In other words, I get paid to read some terrific short stories, novels, memoirs, and essays and to talk about writing. It’s a great job. But even better, it is the rare class when a student’s writing or the critiquing session doesn’t expand my knowledge of good writing.

I hope to muse occasionally upon some of those unexpected epiphanies and to share what I learn in writing class. And for a taste of some of the delightful writing I am treated to, below is a portion of “A Meal from Heaven” by Margaret Sofio:

“It was my last night in Italy and my daughter and I were staying overnight in Ancona near the airport. Ancona is a rough port city with an oil refinery, narrow, dark streets, smoke-streaked buildings, and big rusting tankers in the port. The desk clerk at our hotel explained that although the hotel did not have a restaurant, a back stairway led to a small one that served dinner. We were the first customers, and after we were shown to our table the sommelier appeared and introduced himself as Ilario.

We explained we wanted to eat lightly and have only a glass of wine. With an air of kindness and concern for our well-being, Ilario relieved us of the necessity of making decisions, suggesting a zuppa di orzo followed by a little cheese and a red wine to go with it. Our soup arrived in large shallow soup bowls and was an unlikely ambrosia consisting of barley, a few vegetables, perhaps a little cheese, and a lovely broth. Wineglasses were placed before us and Ilario appeared with a robust red. After our soup, with the impeccable timing of Italians, our waiter presented us with our cheese course. It consisted of two cheeses, one soft and one of medium texture, and on the plate was a spoon filled with dark syrup—mosta—for drizzling over the cheese.

We slowly ate our cheese and bread and looked around the small restaurant. ‘One more glass of wine would be nice,’ I said to my daughter.”

Copyright © Margaret Sofio

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3 thoughts on “Teaching”

  1. Bett, I was in your Triple Tulip Writing summer workshop, not this year but the summer before, and I really enjoyed your comments and the class completely. It was like summer camp only without the camp. Roy Blomster was the one who told me about Titia and her summer workshops which have helped me put my thoughts to paper (computer). I continue to write not because I desire to become a publishing author but to put my thoughts to paper so my kids and grandkids might get a glimpse of what life is like to live through my eyes. I will read your books. Young adult is about my age group because I am completely wrapped up in that phase of my life. It was difficult. It was stressful. It was the time I did so much growing emotionally though I fought it…hard, but after coming through it, I grew up, in spite of my fighting it. And at 81, I’m still growing. It’s wonderful.

    1. Of course I remember you from last year, Jack–you and Billy the Kid. I am glad to hear you are still writing and still growing. A great testament to your life. But just to clarify–my book Free Fall, which I hope to have out early next year, is a young adult novel. The other two books, Lost Mothers and Every New Beginning, are adult fiction. Specifically, women’s fiction. I hope that won’t stop you from giving them a try!

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In which I blog about the days I write and the days I don’t write; about teaching about writing; about reading (which is never enough); and occasionally about music, because sometimes a three-minute song can tell as good a story as a novel.

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