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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

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.

About a month ago I delivered the final re-writes of a new collection of stories for ninth-graders to the Swedish publishers Natur och Kultur. This is the third book in this particular series I’ve worked on, and it’s been a demanding but rewarding commission.

As I’ve said before, writing for young people in short formats is not the most glamorous work an author can do.  Nonetheless, young people need tightly crafted stories that will help them learn about the world and their role in it –– while at the same time helping them develop as readers and people.  I believe young people have an even greater need than adults for skilfully written stories, so to me the format is far less important than doing work with the potential to help shape the next generation of thinkers.

In addition, I’ve also had a great time working with my editors on the project.  While it’s true that authors and editors sometimes have opposing interests, while working on six books for this publisher, I’ve come to understand that the editorial discussions we’ve had over structure, linguistics, and subjects have always produced stronger books.

The book goes to press in the spring of 2017, and its title sounds to me like a science-fiction novel: Wings 9.

One of my literary heroes is George MacDonald, often credited with writing the first fantasy novel, Phantastes: A Fairie Romance for Young Men and Women (1858).  Phantastes was MacDonald’s first novel, and it’s a mess as far as novels go –– he’s crammed enough material for a whole authorship into one slim volume, has no clue about pacing, and writes in an archaic, highly poetic manner that makes for occasionally impenetrable prose.  But it’s still a masterwork of psychological exploration.

Phantastes is there-and-back or low fantasy, and employs what Tolkien what later term eucatastrophe –– the main character Anodos undergoes a beneficial death at the end of the novel, in order to return to our world.  One oddity of this proto-fantasy novel, inspired by Novalis and HC Andersen, is that the fantasy world The Fairy Land cannot be mapped.  Instead it seems to be created by Anodos himself, according to his moods and subconscious needs, as he wanders through it.

The novel also contains one of the clearest descriptions I’ve read of the mental process involved in reading fiction (also the topic of my master’s thesis from 2007).

In Chapter 11 of Phantastes, Anodos spends a few days in an abandoned library, and describes his reading experiences: “If the book was one of travels, I found myself the traveller. New lands, fresh experiences, novel customs, rose around me. I walked, I discovered, I fought, I suffered, I rejoiced in my success. Was it a history? I was the chief actor therein. I suffered my own blame; I was glad in my own praise. With a fiction it was the same. Mine was the whole story. For I took the place of the character who was most like myself, and his story was mine; until, grown weary with the life of years condensed in an hour, or arrived at my deathbed, or the end of the volume, I would awake, with a sudden bewilderment, to the consciousness of my present life, recognising the walls and roof around me, and finding I joyed or sorrowed only in a book. If the book was a poem, the words disappeared, or took the subordinate position of an accompaniment to the succession of forms and images that rose and vanished with a soundless rhythm, and a hidden rime.”

Fiction functions differently than non-fiction.  Non-fiction requires questioning; fiction requires acquiescence. We give ourselves up to the story, and disappear into it. We act it out in our minds, playing mental theater, building the stage and props ourselves. And fantasy requires us to work harder, because we can’t borrow the ones around us.