The Inside Scoop on Writing Classes: Phony or Profitable?

Monday was the final day of the writing class I had taken for my summer at Duke. It had started 5 pm, and continued on until 11 pm.  Why? Well, we had 4 notebook presentations (one of which was mine) and 4 short stories to critique, one of which took a full fucking hour, but we’ll get to that later. I never really held a place in my heart for writing classes. I always thought they would be full of way too many pretentious snobs, but when I found out that Duke had a minor for creative writing, I had to jump all over it. And luckily there was a class available that would fit my summer schedule perfectly and give me a creative writing credit. So I signed up, hoping for the best. I was both looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time;

My class was interesting on multiple levels. It was a rather diverse group. I was the youngest of the bunch (but it didn’t seem to matter too much, except for when they teased me :P. Thanks, guys). Of the twelve students, I was one of four black students, and one of two black girls. There were a few sorority and fraternity member, and a few selective living group members. I was impressed that it wasn’t just the same archetypes that you would expect.

Going through class, I hadn’t expected for the poetry section to be so significant. The class was titled, Into to Creative Writing. And before you just write me off as stupid for not checking the class description, I did. It wasn’t very lengthy, nor were there any reviews for the professor on RateMyProfessor, so I was going into this blind by default. I’m not the type of person to just chuck out poetry. Nope, I’m more of a fiction novelist (though I’ve never actually published anything yet. Maybe one day…), so I was completely out of my element. I also hate the type of poetry that’s all fluffy and has some uber deep meaning that takes an hour to decode… which is what we focused on.

Though the style of the poetry was not to my liking, at least the main poetry book that we read was decent. I enjoyed reading the book, although I probably wouldn’t have read in on my own this summer (I’m in the midst of a research essay, so pleasure reading has been put to the back burner).

The critiques I got from most of the classmates were actually pretty good. Not usually one to do poetry, I found it helpful receiving comments from my peers. The professor was pretty good, and he provided a lot of insight, but I did get a little tripped up by the grading rubric. There was none. Except that there was. Confused? So was I.

The critique I received from the professor followed a sort of pattern. It turned out that every single time I had an assignment to turn in, I was always asked to cut out parts of it. And I knew going in not to be married to parts of my work, as it was a draft, but I’m talking about something different. Every single he tended to prefer my writing without the main point. Like…… Huh? So you want me to write my poem, but without the meat of the story? I couldn’t wrap my head around it.

The last class was a doozy. We had been assigned to present part of our notebooks we were assigned to write in, which was fine, except for I’m weird. I am only going to give you the basics of my mind unless you indicate otherwise. Nobody had indicated otherwise, but of course, that was what we were supposed to do. So I went up there and gave my boring ass presentation.

The problem I had was when we went on for a full hour for one girl’s short story. She was the type of girl who you would expect to be in a writing class. Always liking to play with the beauty of the words. Her story was full of beautiful combinations of words, but I couldn’t follow it. Even the professor took awhile to get the grasp of it. I felt bad because when she explained the story it was actually really beautiful.

All in all, it was a pretty decent experience. I probably wouldn’t have taken it if it weren’t for my minor given the poetry, but it was a nice experience and I am looking forward to being completely done with it by this weekend.


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