by Luann Lewis
Our Fabulous Facilitator of the month is Carol. I have had the privilege of taking several of her classes. I’ve especially enjoyed the classes on Writing Literary Fiction and Linked Stories but she brings so much more to the table than just that. Take a moment to check out Carol’s biography in the WVU Staff section.
Carol, in your opinion what does a facilitator do and what do they bring to the class?
Facilitators bring as much as they choose to a class. That can range from just answering questions, keeping records of work done, and stepping in to prevent conflicts in the class to mentoring class members. Most of the classes I facilitate at WVU I created so I hope I bring knowledge and love for the subject matter to them.
When did you begin facilitating classes at WVU?
I started developing and facilitating classes at WVU shortly after first joining, which was more than 15 years ago. When I first came to WVU, I was writing poetry and there was only one poetry class so I decided to create some.
Do you teach/moderate other MFA or writing classes outside of WVU?
Right now, I only facilitate WVU classes. I have taught writing at the university level, in the public schools, at libraries and through nonprofit outreach programs. I have facilitated writing workshops and readings in my home. From teaching college-age students and younger, I have recaptured the love, energy, and purpose in my own writing, and I have learned to respect the personal stories of others and their ability to express them regardless of income, educational level and age.
You’ve been with WVU for quite some time! About how many classes would you say you’ve facilitated or moderated during that time? And which ones are your favorites?
I’ve facilitated lots of classes. It’s difficult to say which are my favorites. I enjoy introducing others to writers they may not be familiar with, to elements of craft they may not have used before, and to marketing their work. I’m primarily writing literary fiction right now and a linked story collection. I haven’t been able to find any other online course on the writing of linked stories or novels-in-stories so that’s one of my favorites. The Art of Time in Fiction book introduced me to new and exciting concepts so I enjoy facilitating that one. I love introducing converts to literary fiction, which I do through my three-part writing literary fiction course and through literature courses.
How much time do you generally spend on each class, including preparation time and research? And what kinds of things do you search for to add to the class?
Since I develop my own classes, a lot of the work is done before the class even starts, but I try to update and improve the classes each time I facilitate them, which means finding new reading materials and developing new writing exercises. How much time? Many, many hours. It can take me many hours just to give one person feedback.
You are or have also been a mentor, as we know. What does a mentor do at WVU? When you have followed up with those you have mentored has anything special come of that?
A mentor guides those she mentors and helps each person to find his/her own strengths. I have followed up with some of those I mentored. Lasting friendships have come from that, and I have had the privilege of seeing some of those I mentored published.
We know you have made a career from your writing. What do you feel has been the most important or most special piece of writing you have done. If there has been more than one, tell us a little more?
As a journalist, I have had experiences that many never have the opportunity to have. I tried to give my readers a taste of those experiences so they would feel as if they had shared in them whether it was attending a national political convention, having lunch at the White House, going on patrol with a cop, or sitting with a family that has just learned of the violent death of a loved one. I enjoyed the role I played as a watchdog for the public.
Some of my most treasured experiences from writing have not come from the writing itself. Through my writing workshops for youths, I was able to bring together young people from different cultures and help them feel good about themselves and each other and to express their feelings through the weapon of the written word rather than through violence. I secured funding to take inner city youths on weekend writing retreats. On one of those retreats, my students cooked for themselves and for a community of Quakers, did a reading for them and swapped life stories. I was able to secure funding to publish my students work and to aid them in submitting and getting their work published elsewhere.
I really appreciate all that Carol has shared here and I have to admit that I am one of those converts to literary fiction Carol was talking about. I had always judged literary fiction as something boring and tedious before I took her class. If you haven’t explored the art of literary fiction yet, I would urge you to try out Carol’s classes and find a world of excitement you didn’t know existed!