Creative writing classes let students explore imagination

Tony Ji, Business Manager

by Tony Ji

Lily Harris works on a creative writing assignment. Photo by Petra Huang for the Sagamore.
Senior Lily Harris constructs a creative writing piece for her Craft of Writing class. The high school offers classes in creative writing which allow students to try a different type of writing. PHOTO BY PETRA HUANG

Creative writing classes offer students the opportunity to exercise imaginative muscles and to be more personal and expressive in their writing, according to Craft of Writing teacher and English Curriculum Coordinator Mary Burchenal.

The high school offers multiple creative writing classes with Craft of Writing available to seniors and other courses available to students in School Within a School. According to Burchenal, creative writing classes are often more casual and student-centered.

“This course is more of a workshop format, which means I depend a lot on students to work together and give each other feedback, and to internalize along the way some of the things I guide them towards that we are focusing on each unit,” Burchenal said.

As a creative writer and poet herself, Burchenal said she regards creative writing with passion and believes that these classes are necessary for students to be inventive.

“I have been teaching this course on and off for 20 years.  So it’s a course that has a special place in my heart because I went through the trouble of making sure that it existed here at Brookline High School. Otherwise I feel that students won’t have a chance to exercise these imaginative muscles in English the way they can in other courses,” Burchenal said.

For senior Hannah Timmermann, who is currently enrolled in Craft of Writing, creative writing classes mean an opportunity to pursue what she has always been passionate about.

“Maybe I don’t know the definition of creative, but I think that I love words very deeply.  I love words, and I love writing; I love playing with words, and I love playing with writing,” Timmermann said.

For senior Lily Harris, creative writing courses offered by the high school mean a chance to become a better writer.

“I chose to take Craft of Writing because I think that in typical English classes we focus so much on analytical writing, and I’m hoping to become a better writer through the process of learning how to be a creative writer,” Harris said.

According to Harris, one of the first writing assignments in Craft of Writing is a description of the world around her.

“So far, this class has given me a broader view of what it means to observe the world around us in terms of how to write descriptively,” Harris said. “We had a lot of discussions about life in general as opposed to simply what you want to get out of this piece we are reading; it’s more about how this piece connects to the world around us.”

According to Harris, the discussions are her favorite part of the class because they are always in depth and everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas in the classroom. Moreover, she said that even the homework has become entertaining.

“The homework is enjoyable because at the moment, it has mostly been free writing and practicing writing instead of just writing and thinking about how I can get a good grade on this piece,” Harris said.

Senior Steffi Gaehde, who takes Creative Nonfiction in SWS, said the creative writing classes are more enjoyable and expressive.

“Even though Creative Nonfiction was not my first choice, I ended up really enjoying it,” Gaehde said.

Timmermann said she found traditional English classes not suitable to her learning style.

“I have written poetry for my whole life and I don’t really think of myself as creative at all, but I like writing a lot,” Timmermann said. “I have found that in other English classes, in traditional ones, it’s more focused on reading and writing analytical essays; there’s nothing personal or fun. It wasn’t my kind of class.”

According to Timmermann, one of the biggest differences from traditional English classes is that creative writing classes take off the stress of competition for the students.  Timmermann said that in typical English classes, students unconsciously fight for recognition from the teacher, but in creative writing students can express themselves through writing.

“In other English classes, you feel like you can’t raise your hand because you are afraid someone will say it better than you or someone has already said it better than you,” Timmermann said. “But nobody can say what you want to say better than you can say it, and that’s what you get when you are allowed to write what you want to write.”