1. Adair Lara
2. Ethan Watters
3. Laura Fraser
These people taught the three writing classes I’ve taken–with Laura teaching the one I’m currently taking.
Adair is a well-known Bay Area columnist. With fire-red hair and a toothpick of a body, she’s got a lot of energy that filled her Haight-Ashbury home. She has a lively teaching method that centered around creativity and finding your voice.
Ethan is one of the founders of the San Francisco Grotto which is an elite writing collective of professionals. He’s pensive and technical. He’s a big proponent of sending your work out and being aggressive about finding the right outlet to get your work published.
I’m so glad I found Laura. She is the best of the three. Also a member of the Grotto, she is no nonsense. While I think Adair’s writing gets by on humor alone and Ethan’s writing is technically crisp, Laura’s is disciplined and funny with so much detail and emotion packed into every sentence. It is obvious why her writing has won numerous awards and been on bestseller lists.
The first session of her class titled “Writing for Craft” was yesterday. I think we were all stunned after someone read her piece and Laura picked out the one sentence she enjoyed then said, “The rest of it can go. Too technical. It was boring.” She wasn’t being mean, only honest. And she was merely conveying what everyone else in the class was thinking.
Another man read his beautiful piece. When he finished, she commented, “Nice. Very nice. But that first part–that analogy you were trying to make with the hands, I’d get rid of it.”
“But that was merely setup. It was just one paragraph.”
“Greg, it sounded like more than one paragraph to me. Look, it doesn’t help you to defend your work. I’m just telling you honestly as a reader. I’m not telling this only to you, but to the rest of the class. From now on, I don’t want to hear defenses. I’m here and we’re all here together to make your writing the best it can be. Let’s not squabble.”
She is one bad-ass mother fucking writer.
Her students are not novices. It’s obvious that we have been or on the verge of being published. Every student read amazing work. I was nervous when I read my piece, but felt emboldened when she commented, “I liked that. Thank you. Very nice.”
Please, please take the time to read this short essay that she wrote. It has won the 2008 award for the best food writing in the world. This is serious stuff, but before she read it in class she said, “I want you all to listen. This is a simple piece. Listen to the easy, very simple sentences.”
Her big insight on why she’s good? “I have been writing every day for 25 years. You don’t get good without practice. This is not innate. I started out like anyone else, writing in my stupid diary as a teenager about boys who ignored me. But I did it every day and I continue to do it every day. Practice, practice, practice. I think it’s completely idiotic to go out and do query letters and write book proposals. You don’t know what anything is about until you start writing. You need to write to figure it out. Write because you want to. Not because you want to be published. If you write from the heart, that’s all that matters.”
Please read her piece from the above link. I promise it’s a short, moving read.