A Brighter World Through Writing
Aldous Huxley said that “words can be like rays. When they are used properly, they are able to get through anything.”
At Rick Hansen Secondary, I have had the great privilege of working to develop new Creative Writing courses that satisfy English credits for grade 11. For those students who love to read, are curious about writing and publishing, and need a creative outlet to express their thoughts, worries, and experiences in ways that are not visual—photography, visual art, theatre—Creative Writing 11 has become a haven.
It is my belief that stories have the power to: bridge the gap between cultures, illuminate prejudices in society, develop bonds between diverse groups, teach about the past, set the tone for how we communicate with one another, inspire voices to speak and be heard, shake up the status quo, and offer space to explore who we as independent individuals who have unique ideas to share with the world. These notions are what I hope to inspire in my students, through Creative Writing 11, while also learning and practicing some fundamental skills about writing clearly, with organization, and impact.
This low risk, yet imaginatively demanding, class asks students to be courageous, experimental, and open-minded with their own writing, as well as supportive of their classmates. They must learn empathy for both themselves and others.
We start the course by asking what writing is and why it is valuable. We explore questions like: What is the creative process? Who writes and how do they do it? How can we, as new writers, tap into our own creative process to produce substantial and dynamic pieces? By studying authors like Joan Didion, Elizabeth Gilbert, Stephen King, Thomas King, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, we learn some of the ways authors got started, what challenges they had and overcame, what their process is, and what advice they have for writers just starting out.
As our confidence grows, we begin to experiment with different tools for writing including, but not limited to, using the senses, exploring base human emotions, colour imagery descriptions, developing characters, the power of observation, choosing the right words, and how to use literary devices. We study vignettes, stories, non-fiction personal essays, poetry, and animated short films, to unpack the elements of writing that work.
Throughout the class, we are continually asking ourselves what we like about what we read, what we don’t, and why. We ask ourselves, whose voices are missing from these stories. We then attempt to craft our own vignettes, short stories, poetry, personal essays, and scripts. In using the writing process (planning/researching, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing), students complete a variety of different forms of writing, while bringing forward knowledge and strategies learned from authors we study along the way.
When the course is over, it is my hope that students have a body of work that makes them proud. They will have practiced some extraordinarily valuable human skills including practicing empathy and courage, supporting others, developing an idea, and working to refine and improve it, exploring their own identities and learning to see how they may be connected to others in ways that may not always be clear. They will have learned that what they think, create, and put out into the world, matters, and can make a difference in someone else’s life. While practicing these essential skills, students refine their vocabulary, written structure, reading skills, and clarity of thought and expression. It is my hope that they will then take these skills and move into other parts of their lives with greater confidence, independence, and a stronger voice to advocate for themselves and others, and that they will truly understand that stories can change the world.
NATALIE LANG, TEACHER
Rick Hansen Secondary School