The Creative Writer is a 4-volume series by Boris Fishman designed to bring student writers from the basics of creative short story and poetry writing to its more advanced principles. Each volume offers 36 chapters for one normal school year of work, with 18 chapters dedicated to short story writing and 18 chapters covering poetry writing.
Himself a novelist, Fishman knows his craft very well. More than that, he's an engaging teacher who avoids the Scylla and Charybdis of failing to be entertaining and talking down to his audience. The intended audience is middle and high school students, though the quality of the content makes these books suitable for older students and adults as well.
Chapters are generally short, with plenty of examples and exercises, including one- or multi-part challenge exercises at the end that force beginning writers to push themselves beyond easy or comfortable. One of the great strengths of this course is Fishman's ability to drill into his readers the need for something worthwhile to say and the need for a unique personal voice; he manages to do so while seldom if ever explicitly stating these truths.
Rather, he guides students by demonstrating. That's not to say he's vague or esoteric—though his content is challenging, it's all very plain and well laid out, very concrete. Fortunately, he doesn't insist exclusively on the "show, don't tell" method, instead showing when it's appropriate to show, when it's okay to tell, and when a mixture and both approaches is best.
The final project at the end of each semester is to write a short story or a poem using the skills and knowledge learned in that text; in the final volume, it's to prepare both a short story and a poem for submission for publication. Fishman assumes those who make it through the entire series want to pursue a career or at least a serious hobby in writing, and he prepares them for it.
Published by Peace Hill Press,The Creative Writer series is designed to supplement The Complete Writer, a multi-grade writing course by Susan Wise Bauer that focuses on mechanics, logic, and rhetoric. However, The Complete Writer can be successfully completed without The Creative Writer, and The Creative Writer can be used by itself.
Many courses attempt to teach creative writing, but fail either because the author tries to stuff students into a mold, or because the content is too vague and abstract. Fishman falls into neither trap, instead offering a superb program for beginning writers in which to nurture their skills while grasping the theory behind the world's best writing. This is without doubt the best series of its kind we've seen at Exodus Books.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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