You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Writing’ category.

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.

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!

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.

There are still a few spots available in my two spring 2017 writing courses at Skrivarakademin in Stockholm.

Creative Writing and Narrative Theory, the entry-level course, runs on Mondays starting February 6th.  In this course I teach linguistic style, narrative mechanics, and simple narrative structures.

The Novel Workshop, for people working on longer projects, runs every other Thursday starting on February 9th.  This course works more in-depth with longer manuscripts, their structural strategies, linguistic elements, their psychology, etc.

Hope to see you there!

 

This is my schedule for free lectures for teachers at Swedish schools ––  the topics are teaching the writing process through conversation theory, and how to work with creative writing in the classroom.  All workshops generously sponsored by Natur och Kultur publishers, Stockholm.  The schools listed are the ones who have signed up, and who we’ve been able to fit into my schedule (I teach at two different schools and can’t be away all the time).   I’m aware that some schools have requested a time but not yet received one.

If your school is not signed up but is still interested, please contact gunilla.hallin@nok.se. It might still be possible to find a time, but unfortunately there are no guarantees.

I look forward to working with you!

June

– Söderköping: Nyströmska gymnasium, June 8th

September

– Nässjö, Brinellgymnasiet: Sept. 5th

– Halmstad: Sturegymnasiet & Sannarpsgymnasiet, Sept. 21st

October

– Gothenburg: Göteborgs Folkhögskola & Schillerska Gymnasium, Oct. 4th

– Stockholm: Cybergymnasiet, October 6th

– Lidingö: Hersby gymnasium

– Stockholm: Fryshuset, Oct. 17th (preliminary)

– Mora: Mora Gymnasium, October 26th

November

– Stockholm: Thorildsplans gymnasium, Nov. 15th

 

My publisher Natur och Kultur has booked me in to lecture at Swedish schools this year, and first up is Nyströmska skolan in Söderköping, where I’ll be discussing teaching the writing process based on conversation theory.  This is a method I developed a few years ago after years –– decades –– of trying to find a better way to teach academic writing, and in general a more unified theory for helping students understand the writing process.  I’d recently completed double a masters in education and English at the University of Stockholm, and had taken a course in linguistics that got me thinking about language and communication in new ways.

At the same time, I was teaching one group of students how to make speeches based on conversation theory, and another how to write.  I finally put the two together and realized I was teaching the same process, but calling it two different things.  A colleague was sick and I was asked to tae his English classes on short notice, so in desperation, not knowing what he’d already taught his students, I decided to teach them something I knew they wouldn’t have heard before ––– and I taught my first lesson on teaching essay writing based on the universal rules of structuring a conversation.

Since then I’ve refined the method, and I’ve found it helps students accept and understand various writing conventions much more easily –– because suddenly they learn that structuring our ideas on paper is the same as structuring arguments with our parents.  I used to introduce academic writing (logical structures) by saying, “This is boring but I unfortunately I have to teach you anyway.”  Nowadays I introduce it by saying, “Today I’m going to teach you how to win arguments with your parents.”

That usually gets their attention.

The method I developed is outlined in the back of my book Echo 6 Main Issues (fiction and instructional texts for high school students).

At my lectures this year, I’ll also be discussing why and how to teach creative writing in the classroom, as well as discussing simple guidelines for workshopping writing with students.  If you’ve booked me for a lecture, I’m looking forward to working with you.  If you still want to book me for a lecture, contact Natur och Kultur here.

Last summer I drove with my family across the US, from Philadelphia to San Francisco, visiting relatives, friends, and national parks –– and gathering story ideas.  Last Friday I rode my bike to the post office and picked up a box of full of books with those stories.

During the last few years I’ve been writing a lot of short fiction and non-fiction for Swedish publisher Natur och Kultur.  I’ve also had the pleasure of reading and analyzing these stories with my students.

When I wrote stories for the Echo-series, I was challenged by their short format.  The Wings-books allow me about half as many words per story, which I find twice as challenging.  But every time I get frustrated, I think about the excitement my students bring to each new story as they enter a new world and make new friends. Young people deserve well-written, psychologically engaging stories; and I’m proud to get the chance to write for them.

Some of the stories and dialogues I most enjoyed writing for this collection called Wings 8, 2015 are:  The Season’s Shows: NPS and Pottymouth (16-17), What Sells? And Where? (20-21), Confessions of an Exercise Addict (40-41), Mr. Hassler (52-53), Burgerville Letters (76-77), Pets Around the World (100-101), Dear Koala Care Clinic (105-107), Hi Brittany (130-131), Why Do First People Come Last (141), and Sugar, Not Such a Sweet Deal (144-145).

The non-fiction texts I wrote are: Reading Changes our Minds (22-23), The Unhealthy Ideal (44-45), Climate Change (68-69), Wangari Maathai and the Greenbelt Movement (74-75), Have Fun with Handicraft Recycling (78-79), Topsy the Elephant, 61 Days (110-111),  Declan Murphy (based on a phone interview with my friend Andreia’s violin student, 124-125), Becky Torres (based on a phone interview with someone my friend Jason knew through his wife, 126-127), An American Role Model: Mae Jemison (128-129), The United States of America (132-133), US Travel Guide (based on my travels last summer, 134-139), and A Mix of People (142-143).

The book also includes texts by other authors with different writing styles.  Hopefully the book’s wide variety of stories and ideas will inspire students to continue reading and writing –– the way the stories I read as a young person inspired me.

 

IMG_0739 (1)

About ten years ago I learned the word chronotope from an essay by literature professor Maria Nikolejeva.  Most people talk about setting or milieu in terms of literature, but these both emphasize place over time.  The word chronotope (Greek: chronos/topo, time/place) indicates the interface between time and space, and I like to keep this in mind when I’m writing fiction.  Some authors, especially of fantasy, view their settings as central characters; but the time period is just as important.  Kansas today is not what it was two hundred years ago, nor what it will be in two hundred years, or two thousand.  Present-day Stockholm is not the same as present-day Buenos Aires, Tuvalu or North Philadelphia.

Travelling makes chronotopes more apparent.  I was recently in Pompeii and Venice –– two places that have inspired a great deal of storytelling.  For example Mary Hoffman’s Stravaganza novels take place in a slightly-altered medieval Venice.  They were fascinating to read, but I had the sense that the chronotope was somewhat of a gimmick in the stories.

After spending a rainy day in Venice, I changed my mind.  Venice is a completely different concept regarding how to build a city, and how time leaves its mark on a place.  Pompeii (and nearby Herculaneum) were frozen in time by a volcanic blast, and their stories ended –– again giving us a unique insight into what a chronotope can mean to a story.

The story of Pompeii ended with Vesuvius’s eruption in 79 CE; Venice’s continues.

I was in Rome last week helping dozens of young writers and musicians put together and perform a musical drama based on the lives of Nero and his mother Agrippina. Rome is a city of ruins built on ruins, with buildings from all epochs stepping on each others’ toes.  History is an obstacle in Rome, getting in the way in the form of ancient walls and buildings that can’t be moved or renovated.

But history is also the city’s future, because the story of where it’s headed is forever linked to where it has been.  And it’s not just the physical Rome, it’s also the story of Rome.  You can still visit the ruins of Nero’s pleasure dome the Domus Aurea, but for nearly the same price you can buy a more compelling version of the same visit –– the paperback edition of Robert Graves’s translation of Suetonius’s The Lives of the Caesars, which includes all the contemporary gossip on Nero and his mother Agrippina, who was the real emperor while her psychopathic, megalomaniac son travelled the empire rigging singing contests so he could win.  I always enjoy walking the ruins of Rome, but even more than that, I enjoy wandering them with my well-worn copy of Suetonius in hand, reading stories from two thousand years ago that are still as raw, preposterous, and unfortunately believable as contemporary tabloid articles: Agrippina marrying her uncle the emperor Claudius. Nero poisoning his brother Britannicus, the rightful heir to the throne. Nero the young emperor wandering the streets of Rome at night stabbing people at random.  Nero trying to murder his mother four times before finally succeeding (and then being haunted by her ghost for the remainder of his brief life).

Jorge Luis Borges wrote in This Craft of Verse (1968) that “for many centuries, three stories –– the tale of Troy, the tale of Ulysses, the tale of Jesus –– have been sufficient for mankind.”  He forgot the story of Nero, which has also fascinated us for thousands of years.  The ruins of Rome will always be ruins, but its stories will remain fresh in our imagination, waiting for us to tell them anew.

IMG_0651