With the fall semester underway (I’m taking an online writing class and an independent study lit class), I’m realizing I probably should have started this series sooner to cover all my summer experiences, since I’m already bursting to tell you about my fall classes, but live and learn, I guess!
Where did I leave off? Oh, yes, the magical summer in the dorms.
Aside from adjusting to dorm living, I dove into my courses with wild abandon, and it’s no wonder: I spent six hours a week in a History and Criticism of Children’s Lit class, reading and discussing such works as The Secret Garden, The Hunger Games, and The Outsiders. The class discussions were amazing and stimulating (hooray for literary arguments), but some of the best moments in that course were actually the unexpected little glimmers of beautiful insanity. Toward the end of the semester, when everyone was more than a bit fried at the prospect of presentations and term papers, the class burst into a spontaneous singalong of “Spoonful of Sugar” from Mary Poppins. Seriously. The instructor was the only one not lustily singing along by the end of the first chorus. (We also closed that class with a sumptuous brunch, complete with mimosas and more literary arguments…ah, Grad school.)
Just one of the many moments where I realized that this summer, I did a lot more than begin an MFA: I found another tribe of writers where I belong. (That will be the topic of a future post!)
My other class was just as amazing: we looked at myth and fairy tales, and then we read a number of awesome reinterpretations of these classic stories. It was interesting; in both courses, I approached my reading less as a writer or a scholar, and more as a teacher. (I suppose it helps that I’d taught a good number of the books we read at one time or another while I was still teaching middle school: more on integrating my writer/teacher self in another post, I promise!)
I wanted to share my favorite book from the myth class with y’all; Kissing the Witch, by Emma Donoghue. It’s a feminist, occasionally erotic, frequently LGBTQ collection of retold fairy tales, and oh my gosh I LOVED it. The stories are lyrical, the “what if” questions seem well suited to each tale, and the collection reexamines tropes like happily ever after in a way that really resonated for me. I wish I could go back in time and give this book to my adolescent self; she would have been transformed by it!
Three more lessons I took away from my amazing summer?
1. You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t take the student out of the teacher.
2. Singalongs make everything better, no matter how old or young you are.
3. There’s always a book waiting for you that will transform you in some way.