Natur och Kultur Publishers passed out this flyer during the Skolforum conference in Stockholm in October, where I lectured on teaching creative writing in the classroom.

The book is slated to be released spring 2019.

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Annonser

Don’t be fooled by the fact that Anthony Grooms’s latest novel The Vain Conversation (University of South Carolina press, 2018) is inspired by the 1946 Moore’s Ford Lynchings. Like fantasy and gothic tales, we read historical fiction not just to learn about the past, but also to understand our present lives. The Vain Conversation is especially topical, challenging us on nearly every page to consider just how much progress our society has actually made since then.

Grooms is an immaculately skilful writer. He opens the book with a pastoral scene, portraying the beauty of Georgia with the eye of a naturalist, and employing convincing psychological detail from childhood. Violence quickly shatters the peacefulness, though. Perspectives change, conversations grow more desperate, and the novel winds unrelentingly back upon itself, chasing resolution. This polyphonic work is really a collection of related novellas triangulating around a central question: what does it mean to be human? Is it more human to die for our beliefs, or to stoically suffer inhuman treatment, including death? At what point do those who abet or commit evil themselves become evil, and how far does the responsibility for abhorrent crimes spread throughout society?

The Vain Conversation is social archeology, digging strata by strata below the surface of our modern world, unveiling what we’ve buried in our collective bad consciences. The book is layered with horrific stories: US slavery; the pogrom of black Americans in Rosewood, Florida; the concentration camps of WWII; racial lynchings; post-traunmatic suicide; poverty and prostitution; and towards the end, drugs, crime, workplace-related sickness, and vengeance. Bertrand, one of the main characters, wonders at one point, “What Negro had a happy story to tell?” There is happiness in the book, flashes of friendship and love and true enlightenment –– but thwarted, always. The shorter, final chapter of The Vain Conversation is the most brutally paced for the reader. It shifts genres as the foundations of society itself shift, and brings to mind the urban post-apocalypse of Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren.

Reading The Vain Conversation reminds us that the US has in fact been a dystopia for much of its past. I recently read Uncle Tom’s Cabin (why? because it was there, and I couldn’t avoid it any longer); the two books are equally unforgiving in their portrayals of inhumanity, and the folly of believing in providence.  The Vain Conversation is a painfully balanced novel which will hopefully take its rightful place in the ongoing societal discussion of who we think we are.

On Monday the 29th of October, I’ll be lecturing at Skolforum, Älvsjömässan, Stockholm, on creative writing and its connections to reading. I’ve been giving workshops on this and related topics around the country; this lecture will contain new ideas developed in my various classrooms, and included in my upcoming book Creative Writing – A Classroom Guide, to be published by Natur och Kultur (new release date: February 28th, 2019).

Throughout my years of teaching, writing, lecturing, and researching, I’ve developed what I believe is a breakthrough approach to teaching writing of all types, and creative writing in particular. It explains the underlying rules of various formats based on relationships of those engaged in these virtual conversations.

A special thanks to the teachers at Hedbergska gymnasium, Sundsvall, Rudbecksgymnasium, Örebro, Vägga gymnasieskola in Karlshamn, and Blackebergs gymnasium, Stockholm, Sweden, for their recent responses to key sections of my ideas and methods.

PS: I’ll also be speaking at Engelskaläraren 2019, a conference for English teachers arranged by Kompetensteamet at Westmanska Palatset in Stockholm, February 5th, 2019

English teachers directly affect the future of our society, and one of the most important ways is through teaching young people to mature (which in turn helps society mature) through reading and writing stories. Many English teachers already teach creative writing; others would like to but are afraid, or don’t know how, or don’t think they’re allowed.

In order to help all these teachers, this winter I’ll be releasing a new book through Swedish publishers Natur och Kultur called Creative Writing – A Classroom Guide, which instructs teachers about why and how to teach writing in the classroom.

There are many benefits of working with creative writing compared to academic formats.  Essays and reports are incredibly important to society, but they work at the conscious level, and tend to age quickly; narrative fiction, theater, and poetry on the other hand work at the subconscious level, and become a lasting part of our personal and cultural identities.

Creative Writing – A Classroom Guide is the result of decades of leading writing workshops and teaching writing to all ages in the USA, Sweden and Italy.  It includes theory, practical help, concrete skills-based exercises, and new ways of working including a how-to for making books of interwoven short stories (story cycles) with English classes.

Look for it in early 2019.

 

PS: I’ve been travelling Sweden recently running workshops on this subject, sponsored by my publishers Natur och Kultur.  My latest workshop was at Vägga Gymnassieskola in Karlshamn – teacher Jeanette Ekwurtzel wrote about my visit here.

PPS: I’ll also be lecturing on this topic at Skolforum, Stockholm on the 29th of October, 2018.

It’s been a few years since I organized a workshop with the popular and award-winning American poet Moira Egan, who currently resides in Rome. Luckily for us, Egan will be coming back to Stockholm May 5th & 6th to teach a two-day workshop with me at Skrivarakademin.

Egan is one of the foremost formal poets working in English –– her clever, brutally honest books Bar Napkin Sonnets and Hot Flash Sonnets established her reputation as a sassy neo-classical poet on both sides of the Atlantic.  She’s also a popular workshop teacher –– the reviews of her last workshop here in Stockholm were excellent.

The weekend workshop will focus on combining ideas with structures –– in short narrative and poetic formats.  The sign-up link for the workshop is here; to answer the question “personlig motivering” or why you want to take the course, simply write that you’re interested in improving your skills.

Hope to see you there!

On February 6th, 2018 I’ll be speaking at a Skolporten conference for English teachers at Näringslivets Hus in Stockholm.

My focus will be on non-traditional, more practical and enjoyable ways of teaching writing, which has also been the focus of my workshops for teachers through Natur och Kultur Publishers.  I’ll also be mentioning my upcoming book with Natur och Kultur The Creative Writing Classroom Guide, which will hopefully be released in the fall of 2018.

Due to its structural and linguistic complexity, creative writing is far more complex and demanding than non-fiction –– though unfortunately many teachers think this makes it both impossible and irresponsible to work with.  The truth is, though, that learning to write fiction is even more important than learning to write essays.  Through writing creatively, we lay the foundation for the future, not just mirroring the world but re-inventing it –– even though it may take generations for the world to catch up.

Hope to see you at Skolporten on the 6th of February.

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith, best known for his Botswana novels about The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, at The Junior Academy music school in Stockholm, Sweden, where McCall Smith was on tour with his Really Terribly Orchestra.

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I was familiar with McCall Smith’s Akimbo-books, which I’ve read to my kids, but as I prepared to conduct the two-hour interview and Q&A session,  I understood his authorship is far more complex.  McCall Smith has written more than a hundred works of fiction, librettos and scholarly titles – including multiple series and many stand-alone works.

He divulged a great deal of interesting information about his writing process, including the fact that for his Botswana books (The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency series) the titles and covers are often set long before he’s finished writing, which can lead to awkward situations. He said he writes five books a year, with only a vague outline in his mind when he starts, and often works right up to the deadline.

 

 

Thanks everyone who attended and contributed to my recent lecture on teaching creative writing at Natur och Kultur publishers. Upwards of fifty teachers attended in person, while a dozen or so watched and chatted online from elsewhere in the country. Natur och Kultur themselves had about six people on hand –– working late to help students around the country by helping their teachers get new ideas.

My long-term goal is to improve the quality of English education in Sweden; working with creative structures is a vital part of that improvement.  If you were (or weren’t) in attendance and have questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at: kfrato@yahoo.com.

I’ll be finishing my Swedish lecture tour on Wednesday, May 10th at the Natur och Kultur building in Stockholm, talking about teaching creative writing at the high school level. The lecture starts at 5 p.m. (refreshments from 4 p.m.) and the sign up is here.

I’ll be discussing the benefits and challenges of using creative writing in the English curriculum, how to grade creative writing and the workshopping process, teaching the theory of what creative writing is, teaching narrative structure and mechanics, and finally describing the workshopping format and its dos and don’ts (extremely important for protecting students’ integrity, and where my Echo Main Issues books differ from others).

I’m planning to cover a lot of useful material during the evening.  Please bring your ideas and questions, and I hope to see you there!

Last fall I wrote approximately two dozen short stories and non-fiction texts for Swedish publisher Natur och Kultur’s Wings 9 middle school reader. This was the culmination of three years of work on the new three-book 2015-edition of the classic Wings series.

Working with the series has given me a fabulous opportunity to reach young readers through a wide variety of subject matter, formats, and genres.  One of my goals with the project has been to write texts that students will remember and grow from, and therefore I’ve striven for authentic psychological content in every piece, for instance portraying young people forced to make difficult decisions.

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Uhuru Park, Nairobi

Starting with Wings 8, I also replaced the old editions’ fake interviews with new, authentic ones.  For instance for Wings 8, I interviewed young people in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Oakland, California, USA; for Wings 9 I interviewed young people in Nairobi, Kenya, (a Kenyan named Arthur and a Swede named Carolina), as well as two Syrian students who had come to Sweden as refugees.   My interviewees made complex observations about the world and their place in it –– commenting on topics such as identity, religion, war, racism, family, and life and death.

When the books went to press, I asked for review copies for each of my interviewees.  And while in Kenya a couple weeks ago, I was thrilled to be able to personally deliver copies of Wings 9 to my interviewees in Nairobi.  I appreciated getting the chance to work with these young people, and I expect that for years to come, everyone who reads the interview with them will benefits from their intelligent insights about the world.