In 2013 when I arrived at the name for the Echo series of high-school English textbooks, my hope was that the books and their stories would reverberate with students throughout their lives. I put great care into researching and writing psychologically complex stories and texts to captivate young people’s imagination.

Natur och Kultur publishers imagined the books would be re-printed a few times before becoming outdated; I determined to make the books as timeless and relevant as possible.

Eight years later, the first book I wrote in the series, Echo Main Issues 5, has been re-printed half a dozen times. I’ve been using the stories and other materials in the books in the classroom ever since, and while the novelty of writing them has worn off, my students’ engagement with them has not. My students are just as interested in the characters and their lives, and find the interactive sections just as compelling.

As the books have gone back to the printers, I’ve made minor corrections. Thanks to the many teachers and students who use the books, the series is still going strong. Do you work with the books? What improvements would you like to see? Please let me know here, or by contacting me at kfrato@yahoo.com. If you have other feedback on the books, please let me know, as well.

Despite the Pandemic, I still plan to run Skrivarakademin’s Creative Writing and Narrative Theory course this spring, with the first meeting delayed until Thursday, February 25th. Classes are scheduled on-location at Folkuniversitetet, Kungstensgatan 45 in Stockholm (nearest train stop is Odenplan, nearest subway stop is Rådmansgatan), with an online option available for those who wish to participate via video-link from home.

As with the two previous terms, I’ll be offering in-person and online participants. We have engaged groups and attendance is always very high. The last few years, spots have been very hard to get, but due to the Pandemic there are at the moment a few left.

The course meets for ten weeks, and covers basic elements of narrative writing, from punctuation and syntax to story mechanics. We also work with theory, and study professional examples. Many students report gaining both skills and self-confidence, and that they learn better self-discipline and editing skills. We also have a lot of fun together.

And good news: some participants from the fall 2020 class are currently writing a story cycle together with some of my other students. The paperback book is scheduled to be printed and released this May. Watch this space for more news about the project. And please contact me at kevin.frato@folkuniversitetet.se if you have any questions.

Looking forward to working with you this spring.

It’s been a while since I published in Swedish, but in December I published a column in Manus, the quarterly of the Swedish Textbook Authors’ Guild (SLFF).  My column tells the story of travelling to lecture in the north of Sweden with my editor.  During the trip I wondered about the Swedish term for “teaching materials” –– a discussion which eventually led me to question my relationship to my own books, my identity as an author, and the role of textbooks in society.  The text concludes with the assertion that books read in schools convey knowledge young people need to grow up and maintain a functioning democracy.

My writing students have been asking for this course for years, so of course I’ve been careful to avoid offering it.  What more can I possibly teach, after ten intense weeks in the intro course?

But through teaching the course Prosa (Prose Writing) at Skrivarakademin’s Skrivarlinje, and publishing my recent book Creative Writing – a Classroom Guide, I’ve realized I do have a few more things to teach.  And if I’m clever, I can squeeze six more evenings of teaching into an already busy schedule.

So this spring, in addition to Creative Writing and Narrative Theory (which I’ve taught every term since 2012, and which last term had a waiting list) I’ll also be teaching Creative Writing and Narrative Theory II, which will go into greater detail and involve more challenging concepts and skills than the intro course.

Creative Writing and Narrative Theory will meet on ten Thursdays from 6-9:15 pm, starting March 5th.  The advanced course will meet six times, every other Wednesday, starting February 19th.  Participants often continue meeting after the end of these course, and several groups have later cooperated to write and co-publish story cycles.

Please contact me with any questions you might have.

My newest book Creative Writing – A Classroom Guide has received an excellent review from the Swedish BTJ journal for librarians. Reviewer Alan Pejkovic writes in Swedish: “I denna korta, tankeväckande handbok ger författaren många goda tips på hur lärare i undervisningen kan använda sig av kreativt skrivande och går igenom hur skriftligt berättande får elever mer intresserade av läsning, förbättrar deras språkfärdigheter och låter dem uttrycka sin personlighet på ett medryckande sätt.” (BTJ-häftet nr 12, 2019)

… which means: “In this short, thought-provoking handbook, the author gives classroom teachers lots of good advice for working with creative writing; he also discusses how telling stories in writing makes students more interested in reading, improves their language skills, and lets them express their personalities –– all in an engaging way.”

Later the review mentions the book’s section on the workshopping process, as well as the writing exercises, which it notes are challenging and can be adapted to various age group (“Boken lägger fram ett antal intressanta, och ganska svåra, skrivövningar som kan anpassas till olika undervisningsnivåer.”).

In addition, the review mentions the attractive, inviting layout (done by Linn Yngborn), and the extra worksheets and resources available through publisher Natur och Kultur’s homepage.  It notes that the book can be used either in the classroom or by individuals, regardless of whether they are beginners or more experience writers.

Please contact me at kfrato@yahoo.com if you have any questions about the book, or how to use it.  And as always, please contact me if you’re interested in a school visit.

My latest book Creative Writing – a Classroom Guide has just been released by Natur och Kultur publishers, Sweden.  The goal of this book is to improve society through helping students understand stories and how to structure them, by applying theory and practise.

In the theory section, I’ve included completely new ways of teaching story writing through conversation theory and the elements of the narrative.  I also include traditional linguistic tools and narrative mechanics, and I reference authors as widespread as Aristotle, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, Edgar Allen Poe, and Stephen King. The practical section includes detailed suggestions for structuring workshopping sessions, and I also provides guidelines to protect the integrity of student authors (no value judgments or helpful suggestions, etc.).  Instead of traditional writing prompts or exercises, I’ve included eleven writing challenges –– enjoyable tests of skill that you can make as simple or complex as you like, such as the Poetic Language, Character Names, Tempo, Tonic, and Cityscape challenges.

IMG_4315

Creative Writing – a Classroom Guide, by Kevin Frato (Natur och Kultur, 2019). Cover photo: Cecilia Magnusson

The book also offers textual examples from classic works to illustrate each skill or concept, and also includes four sample of student work, to illustrate the rich variety of stories students write.  Along with the text, you’ll also find easy-to-access online materials, including worksheets with clear layouts and more textual examples.

Whether you’re a teacher interested in working with creative writing in the classroom, or looking for new ideas for the work you already do –– or whether you’re a writer looking for a more structured understanding of the process –– this book provides you with a rich variety of practical and theoretical tools of the trade.

Special thanks on this project to my editors Åsa Gustafsson and Desiree Kellerman.

I’m available to lead workshops on this topic (contact me or Natur och Kultur); you can also sign up for one of my classes at Skrivarakademin, Stockholm.

If you’re interested in learning more about writing short stories –– choosing material, structuring narratives, adapting language, editing, and marketing –– there are a few spots left for my weekend short story workshop March 9th and 10th at Skrivarakademin, Stockholm.  Sign up through the link above.  Questions?  Send me a note.

Unfortunately my intro-level course Creative Writing and Narrative Theory is fully booked this term.  My Novel-Development Workshop has one spot left, though though the course started earlier this week.

PS: I’m fortunate enough to have been granted a writing residency this spring, a week in a house on an island near the sea. If all goes well, my latest book with Natur och Kultur (see post under this) will be on its way to press by then, and I’ll be working on other things.

 

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.

Creative Writing_infoblad

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