I started to write a post about my Star Wars-themed writing program in January. However, I'm finally just posting it now. This project has been in the works for six months and I just finished my second weekly class (of six) with a group of ten middle-school aged young men. We'll finish the pilot of this class mid-July.
Those who have read my other posts here and at my other blog know we're a geeky lot at my house. I have my stepfather and husband to thank for that. I grew up watching Star Trek re-runs. My stepfather hauled us all to Star Wars when it came to our local theater in a tiny town in central Wisconsin. My husband and I have spent "quality time" watching all generations of Star Trek since our dating days. We even stream episodes of Next Generation from our early married years and fondly recall snuggling on the couch together.
And it was my husband who introduced me to Joseph Campbell. When we first met, we talked and talked about what we liked. Before we even started dating, we met for lunch during a work day (no, it was not a date) and he handed me the book The Power of Myth. I loved it. And we talked more about Star Wars and how Campbell greatly influenced George Lucas. And, Campbell held a place at our wedding. A poem from The Power of Myth was on the back of our wedding program.
As we had kids and have homeschooled them, the Star Wars and Star Trek sagas have played out in our lives in different ways. For example, we have no less than sixteen reference guides to the Star Wars world, not including the Star Wars Lego guide books. We have Star Wars Risk. We, of course, own the movies, but at our house it is a rite of passage when you turn eight years old that you get to watch Episode 4. The month after you turn eight, you get to watch Episode 5 (Dad's favorite) and then a month later, Episode 6. This goes on for two more months. We've determined that Episode 3 is just too dark for kids. My husband considers the new Star Trek movie one of the best he's seen and the kids have seen snippets of that, too. We inherited about thirty Star Trek novels from my stepfather. Like I said, we're geeks.
So, I'm running a writing class for boys. Here are the rules. They write six pages of story a week. No grammar or spelling grades. It's volume. Have you ever heard boys play "Star Wars?" This process is all about getting what they play together out of their head and down onto paper. No interrupting to ask, "Are you sure you spelled that correctly?" or "Are you sure that's the right tense?" This is about letting the creative process work and to let these boys see they ARE capable of quality writing, and volumes of it. They are creating their own stories and producing up to ten pages per story a week. These are boys who don't like to write. And the stories are good! The other boys are cheering, laughing, groaning and faking pain while listening to their comrade's stories. While they are listening, they are getting ideas about what to do with their stories.
The boys' stories use Joseph Campbell's model for myth in The Hero With a Thousand Faces, also know as the "monomyth". If you haven't read the book, I suggest you do because in it you will find the archetypes and model of every good story ever told. Once you have read it, you will be able to find the holes in bad stories and realize what it was in the stories you loved that worked for you. The book is often the text for college mythology classes, but I have found it to be a valuable resource for those who want to write a good story. And the class follows many of the exercises of the"progymnasmata" protocol, but don't tell the boys that.
"Intellectual distinction is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for election to a Rhodes Scholarship. Selection committees are charged to seek excellence in qualities of mind and in qualities of person which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead. The Rhodes Scholarships, in short, are investments in individuals rather than in project proposals..."