Monday, September 19, 2005

Class Act

Aside from a day or two's training for something at work, I haven't sat in a classroom for any extended period of time since--let's just go with a very long time. So it is with much excitement and a little nervousness I prepare to embark on a 12-week writing class at the Loft Literary Center. The class I am taking is called "The Personal Essay" and it is being taught by Cheri Register author of Packinghouse Daughter which won a Minnesota Book Award. There is a text for the class, Phillip Lopate's The Art of the Personal Essay. And like the good teacher's pet suck up of a student that I've always been, I've already read the introduction of the book even though there is no assignment to do so. I have had to work hard to keep myself from reading more than that since I owned the book even before I signed up for the class and had been eyeing it on my basement library shelf all summer. The book promises to be good, with a wide variety of essays. What book about the personal essay would be complete without Montaigne? He's there with three essays, all of which I have read already (I am too smug about this--will have to be careful). I must mention though, in looking through the essays in the book, I see that Lopate has managed to include one by himself. According to the dust jacket blurb about Lopate, he is a writer of personal essays. That's fine, but to include one of your own essays with the likes of Montaigne, Lamb, Woolf and Orwell seems so--pretentious. The catalog promises the class it will be 40% discussion of the "master essays" and craft issues, 40% "airing and discussion of student work" which makes is sound like the student essays will be coming from a dark, dank rootcellar or a smelly gym locker, and 20% in-class writing which will likely be exercises meant to get our creative juices flowing. I am not relaxed in a classroom and am rather shy; this may prove to be an interesting experiment. In spite of any trepidation and frequent bouts of sarcasm, I decided to take the class for multiple reasons. I am thinking about getting an MFA and considering my only writing class in college was "advanced expository writing" I thought this class would be a way to begin to test the waters. I also do not make enough time for writing, so I'm hoping this will be a start toward gaining a sort of discipline. And, as a side benefit, I am hoping it will improve my blogging, not only by providing bloggable material but also by improving my blog writing since I tend to view this blog as a combination of book conversations and mini essays rather than a diary or journal of some kind. I keep a diary and believe me, you don't want me to write here like I write there--way too much whining, woe is me, and cussing at people who have made me angry. So off I will go tonight with my (paper)notebook and purple gel ink pen, hoping the teacher likes me and likes me best and dreaming that the class will applaud my essays and declare me the best essayist since my pal Montaigne set pen to paper.