I’ve just started a new course entitled ‘Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector‘ (PTTLS or ‘Petals’, as it is sometimes referred to). It is one of the most basic qualifications often needed before becoming a teacher of adult education. I’ve been seriously considering becoming a Creative Writing tutor for a while now, and though I probably have enough expertise on the subject after studying it at BA and MA level, obtaining a handful of publications, running my own literary magazine, and generally just being obsessed with the theory of creative writing, I felt crippled by my lack of teaching experience.
I was discussing this with someone and they suggested ‘why not go on a course?’ It’s strange – I’d never actually considered it. I didn’t know anything about such courses. The only one I was aware of was the year-long, expensive university-based course, the PGCE, that prepared you for teaching in a school environment. I had no idea about more basic courses, or courses specifically geared towards adult learning. So I did some research and found some testimonials online from people who had become Creative Writing tutors after completing their MAs, and the PTTLS course was mentioned a few times.
Hoping that it was just the stepping stone I needed, I researched local courses. I found one a few town’s over, and I enrolled online three weeks before the course was due to start. I didn’t hear back for a while so assumed I’d missed the boat, but two days before the course began, I got a phone call saying I had a place. The website said there is usually an interview, but the person on the phone asked if I had GCSE English, before realising that I had an MA in my subject area – and those were the only requirements. Unfortunately, the course also cost me £329 – though that’s nothing when you’re used to university fees. Often, if you are already employed as a teacher, your institution would pay for this.
The course is eleven teaching weeks with one week for half term. It is held in a college – seeing all the sixteen-year-old students around makes me feel obscenely old. There are about twenty students in my class – a lot of them are from the same music school, so I’d say there is roughly an equal split between people who are already teaching and those who are hoping to teach in the future. Everyone seems really nice.
The course is a very broad overview of teaching skills – from record keeping, understanding your role, planning lessons, etc. The assessment is based on weekly assignments that are collated at the end of the course to form a portfolio. There is also a ‘micro-teach’ that we have to perform at the end of the course.
You can aim for a Level 3 or a Level 4 qualification. Level 3 is roughly the equivalent of an A Level whereas Level 4 is roughly the equivalent of the first year of an undergraduate degree. I think quite a few people in the group are aiming for the Level 4 qualification, myself included. The assignments are all the same, but they require a slightly higher level of depth and a few references to established theories. We’re asked to analyse methods, with reference to theories, but we aren’t asked to analyse the theories themselves.
Each week there is a three and a half hour lesson. I’ve had three lessons so far. The content seems pretty simple and mostly common sense, but I appreciate that it is encouraging me to think about all aspects of teaching, and the assignments allow me to go into further depth and think about how I would apply the concepts to my own teaching, which is useful. I don’t think I’m going to learn anything particularly crucial, but having the grounding will hopefully increase my confidence and prove to myself that I have what it takes. The qualification will also (hopefully) help me establish my first teaching position.
Creative Writing is such a broad subject and it is taught in a variety of ways at a variety of levels. I’m using this opportunity to further research how Creative Writing is taught so I can build a clear and informed vision in my head of how I want to teach it. Though I think ‘teach’ is almost certainly the wrong word… But more on that another time.
This is such exciting news. Last week, Inkspill Magazine was launched on the Apple App Store, making it available via Newsstand.
Newsstand is a new app that brings subscription material, like newspapers and magazines, together in one place on your iPhone or iPad. It’s like the magazine’s version of iBooks, with the added feature that you can subscribe to a publication.
As far as I’m aware, Inkspill Magazine is one of the first literary magazines to become available on Newsstand. I’m hoping this will have a good impact on sales.
My main objective with Inkspill Magazine is, and has always been, to provide a highly accessible, good-looking platform for great creative material. I want to develop a huge readership, and this is why the magazine is still available to view free online. Instead of providing a PDF to view, I’ve moved the issues to a magazine host called Issuu, which makes them look really snazzy, with page turning graphics, easy click-and-zoom and the like.
The iPad version is priced at the lowest pricing tier. The extra effort that goes into the coding and development is absorbed by an external company – Appeal Software Ltd – and I think people who want the accessibility of a portable reading experience might be willing to pay a few pence towards the magazine. At 69p an issue and £1.49 for a three-issue subscription, I don’t think anyone can complain!
A hell of a lot of time and effort goes into producing the magazine. I want to have the means to develop it, and that means substituting my time with financial gain – otherwise I’m either losing money, or I can’t justify working on the project when I could be working to earn a living.
I’m hoping these two new platforms will develop the readership. The bigger the readership, the more I can charge for advertising. I’ve already secured a few adverts for the next issue, which I’m really pleased about. However, I can’t justify the amount of money I need until I get the distribution figures up. So far, each issue reaches around 1000 people. Ideally, I would like it to reach at least 5000 people.
If you want to help, you can do so in two ways:
1. Spread the word! Let people know they can read brilliant creative content free online at http://www.inkspillmagazine.com/readonline/ or buy issues to read on their iPad from the Apple App Store or iTunes.
2. Advertise with us! (And/or spread the word about advertising!) Take advantage of our incredibly competitive rates and advertise your creative service or product, whether that’s a book you want to promote, an editing service, or a writing course. See http://www.inkspillmagazine.com/advertise/ for more details or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A new website is also in development. The current website has been around since Inkspill Magazine’s birth, two years ago (Happy 2nd Birthday!)
The 6th issue is due out on 15th January. Keep an eye out for it – we’ve got some fantastic creative writing to share with you!
It is useful to see course reading lists before the start of term, though most universities don’t provide a lot of time for this. So in case you are starting an MA and want to get ahead with the reading, or if you’re generally just interested in reading more theory about creative writing, then I hope this reading list is of use to you.
From our very long reading list, these were the core books, the ones we referred to again and again.
- Atwood, Margaret, Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing, Virago, 2003
- Culler, Jonathan, Literary Theory—A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 1997
- Eco, Umberto, Six Walks in the Fictional Woods, Harvard, 2001
- Lodge, David, The Art of Fiction, Penguin, 1992
- Baxter, Charles, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction, Graywolf Press, 1997
- Forster, E M, Aspects of the Novel, Penguin, 2005
- Wood, James, How Fiction Works, Vintage, 2008
As well as the books listed above, we’d also often refer to the following (or at least they would crop up in conversation or be recommended for something specific):
- Bennett, Andrew & Royle, Nicholas, Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory (2nd Ed.) Prentice Hall, 1999
- Booker, Christopher, The Seven Basic Plots, Continuum, 2004
- Lodge, David & Wood (eds.), Nigel, Modern Criticism and Theory—A Reader (3rd Ed.) Longman, 2008
- Rivkin, Julie & Ryan, Michael (eds.), Literary Theory: An Anthology (2nd Ed.) Blackwell, 2004
- Pope, Rob, Creativity—Theory, History, Practice Routledge, 2008
- Prose, Francine, Reading Like a Writer Harper Perennial, 2007
These weren’t on the list, but from the many books about writing that I have read, I have found these the most inspiring. They mostly deal with the philosophy, motivation and creativity of writing, rather than academic theory (though I have seen Short Circuit on university reading lists).
- Gebbie, Vanessa, Short Circuit: A Guide to the Art of the Short Story, Salt, 2009
- King, Stephen, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, New English Library, 2001
- Morgan, Nicola, Write to be Published, Snowbooks, 2011
- Naimark-Goldberg, Natalie, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, Shambhala Publications Inc, 1988
It is important to understand the theory of writing. Much of it is conflicting, and you might not agree with all of it, but it is useful to know what is being said and understood by informed individuals and literary movements, so that we, as writers, can take the most appropriate and informed direction in our own work.
Have I missed out your favourite book about writing? Leave some recommendations in the comments section.