Monday, March 9, 2009
Those Who Can Teach
By Deborah Sharp
I still remember the little-girl crush I had on my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Rowland. She was tall (who isn't to a 7-year-old?) Her slender hands were graceful. And she smelled like gardenias.
One of those annoying teacher's pets in school, I always sat right in front, shushed the other kids, and hung on every word. Even beyond second grade, I loved school. I worshipped my teachers.
All of which made my one-and-only experience in front of a classroom all the more traumatic. In another life, I was a Ph.D. candidate in psychology. I was perfectly happy as a research assistant, until some genius decided I should have some teaching experience, too. Picture this:
Psych 101. A giant auditorium. Rowdy college freshman on game day. At the University of Georgia, a party school where football is EVERYTHING. And me, mousy-voiced and serious, trying to explain Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs.
I begged to go back to research. Even cleaning the lab rats' cages was better than trying to teach those football-and-hormone-crazed freshmen. Georgia's team mascot is a bulldog. And believe me, you never forget the sound of an entire auditorium barking.
So here's my problem. I've been asked to teach a session on mystery-writing at the Coral Springs Festival of the Arts. Put aside for a moment the fact that my first mystery hasn't even been out six months. I feel like a fraud, even though my next two Mama books are written and awaiting release. I know teaching is a part of this whole writer's gig, based on how many author friends do panels, seminars, and critiques.
I'm just not sure I'm teacher material. Any tips from the more experienced? Do you lecture or do more interactive, writing exercises? Use notes or speak off the top of your head? Care to share your own top tip for writing mysteries?
Even though the sound of barking haunts my dreams, I think I'll manage. I found some Jungle Gardenia perfume on the Internet. Plus, nobody in south Florida follows Georgia football.
I just hope there are no Florida fans in the class. I couldn't bear to hear a Gator Growl.