“Some people think writers spring from the ear of Zeus – well, they don’t,” says John McPhee, a legendary writing teacher at Princeton and author, most recently, of Annals of the Former World. “What really teaches writing is writing.” In other words, just get started, and what better way to cope with the aggravations and small miracles of life in the big city than to channel every thought, every paranoia, every lunatic in the elevator, into your PowerBook? For those who can’t make it to Princeton, Lou Stanek’s class on the memoir – aptly called “Writing to Save Your Life” – is just the ticket. Participants range in age from 21 to 84, but one thing they have in common is a penchant for the emotional. “I suppose I should thank Frank McCourt,” says Stanek. “I put a box of tissues on the edge of the table.” Sherrie Carman, a two-time veteran currently at work on a book about her brother’s death from aids, insists that the best thing about Stanek is the way she makes you feel your life is worth writing about “even if nothing eventful has happened yet.”
“Writing to Save Your Life,” four sessions, Wednesdays beginning September 16, 2 to 5 p.m.; $300. The New School, 66 West 12th Street (229-5353).
If you prefer a bit more distance between the page and your personal life, Grace Edwards’s course on fiction writing teaches that the best inspiration may come from observing others. “So many walk around the city with Walkmans and lock themselves out,” says Edwards. “But these little nuggets of info are exactly what we can use. Especially on the subway.” A mystery writer whose latest book, A Toast Before Dying, debuted last May, Edwards has a loyal following. “Unlike teachers who try and force their voice upon you,” says former student Diane Richards, “she inspires students to find their own.”
“Fundamentals of Fiction Writing,” ten sessions, Thursdays beginning October 8, 7 to 9 p.m.; $285. The Writer’s Voice, 5 West 63rd Street (875-4124).
THE PERFECT RHYME
William Packard has been teaching poetry writing at NYU for over 30 years. “When I started, I used to be the only one” says the poet, who also edits the New York Quarterly, a poetry journal that sometimes publishes his ex-students. He marvels at his students’ self-awareness: “This summer’s session, they all were extremely clever, because every one of them had had therapy. It was wonderful! They had access to material they didn’t know what to do with.”
“Poetry Writing Workshop,” ten sessions, beginning September 22; $450. Limited enrollment. New York University, 48 Cooper Square (998-7130).