Creative Writing class at risk of ending as enrollment falls
February 26, 2020
English teacher David Martin had a class full of students who were one step from expulsion. They had all failed an English class before, and they almost never did the homework they were assigned.
Martin wondered why he had to teach such a class and agonized over how to deal with the students. He eventually came up with a plan where each student would keep a journal. Then, at the end of each week, he would grade them based on how much they wrote.
In a few short months, the class started to blossom. The students discussed poems and other forms of literature and wrote in class on a regular basis.
In November of the same year, Martin decided to compile some of the pieces his students had written into a four-page pamphlet and shared it with the class.
Over time, more pamphlets were printed, until it grew into a literary magazine called “Duct Tape,” and Martin began to teach a creative writing course.
While this class had been offered before, much of creative writing’s history has been lost or fragmented throughout time.
The first time that creative writing appeared at Central occurred some time between 1910 and 1940, taught by English teacher Sara Vore Taylor, who developed a magazine of student writing called “Word Hoard.”
When Martin started his creative writing class, he revived the program, and it began to grow, with two sections of creative writing each semester.
Under Martin’s direction, this course would be different from an English or Journalism class, as it would allow students to explore themselves through writing, with less of a focus on research and the analysis of literature.
As the course developed, the literary magazine “Duct Tape” began, a student-run publication that continues to run today.
Martin also developed his own magazine, “Fine Lines,” while at Central, which he later began to publish independently.
Martin left Central after teaching Creative Writing for about seven years, and English teacher Deron Larson took over in his place.
“Mr. Martin was very forthcoming when he handed me control of the program,” Larson said. “He basically gave me any materials and any ideas that I was willing to ask for, and he sort of helped define what was possible in my view of creative writing.”
Larson has taught the class ever since, about 14 years now. Throughout that time, enrollment has fluctuated from year to year.
Now, however, Larson estimates that there has been no more than 30 to 40 people enrolled in the course between the two semesters in recent years, a decrease from previous years, which could threaten the continuation of the class.
To boost enrollment in the course, Larson and his students hosted an open mic in the Black Box Theater, and they plan to invite guests to the open mic held in the class each week. At the open mic, students are given the opportunity to share writing of all forms in front of an audience of their peers.
“If a student is interested in writing creatively, whether that involves images or other genres than full-blown stories, I hope that these open mics will encourage them try out the class,” Larson said.
Larson has also considered the creation of a creative writing club, something that existed in the past and might increase enrollment in the course now.
“Having a club might be a way to continue the class if it had to go away and might even bring it back one day,” Larson said.
No matter what form the creative writing program takes, he wants to help his students grow as writers.
“I would like them to explore their personality, to develop their interest and provide them with an opportunity to create.” Larson said.
Just as he hopes creative writing has helped his students, the class has also helped Larson grow and develop as a writer.
“It has allowed me to practice self-discovery and creating my identity through words on the page,” said Larson. “And it makes it possible for me to be a more complete human being when I am writing on a daily basis, even if I don’t share on a daily basis.”