- by Patricia Rosemoor
Those that can, do…those that can’t, teach. You’ve heard that, right?
I beg to differ.
Some say one of the insanities that many successful working writers get involved in is to teach others to replace them. I guess I’m insane because I’ve been doing it in various ways ever since I was first published twenty-five years ago-by giving workshops, then running adult ed classes and private classes.
For the past twelve years, I’ve taught credit classes-Writing Popular Fiction and Suspense-Thriller Writing-for students at both undergraduate and graduate levels at Columbia College Chicago-a college noted for visual, performing, media and communication arts. Columbia hires working writers, filmmakers, television directors, artists, theater people and many, many others to bring up the next generation of creatives.
So why do I do it? Why do I teach a class that lasts fifteen weeks, that’s four hours long, leaving me too exhausted to do anything else that takes energy that day, that requires me to read more than a thousand pages of student writing in three months? I’d like to be able to say I do it for the health insurance, but adjuncts can’t even buy into the system, and while the money I make teaching USED to pay for the health insurance I bought elsewhere, the group health insurance through Authors Guild is now so expensive that my teaching now only pays half the bill.
The truth is that writing for a living is lonely, and I’m not a loner. I need interaction with people—especially with creative people. I knew teaching would give me that. What surprised me was how much teaching affected my own writing. As I work with students, helping them brainstorm characters and plot points, I feel my own creativity stretching and renewing. And when I get students with real possibilities, I push them to reach for publication. If I think they will finish their novels, I also invite them into a critique/support group of ex-students which has been dubbed The Chicago Contingent. They keep each other writing-half of them have finished their novels-and they keep each other honest. They also have produced an anthology of short stories called SIN with another called SEX on the way.
Over the last several years, I’ve seen four of my credit students and two students from other venues publish in novel length fiction. A former grad student now has a major contract and his published novels have been sold to Hollywood. And another grad student and I became friends and started brainstorming and critiquing each other’s work. Then we took a big chance and wrote two books together that are true crossover fiction-urban fantasy romantic thrillers. Del Rey bought them and the second book-THE VAMPIRE AGENT-just hit bookstores last week.
I’ve gotten a lot more from teaching than the pay. I’ve been frustrated, challenged, enlightened by my students. I’ve made long-lasting friendships. And even had a couple of new books published as a result of helping to train my replacements.
Only don’t count me out yet…