I don't mean children. I'm going back to school. This spring I took an eight week beginner's writing course for fun at an online college called Future Learn. My younger brother alerted me to the course and said he had signed up for it. The course is free. What costs is the diploma when the course is over if I'd wanted it. I didn't. It was enough to be able to say I took the course and challenged myself. After having written 48 books, some of which are in foreign languages and large print, I really don't think I'm a beginner anymore. I did enjoy the classes and the interaction of the other students from other countries. Where I could I added excerpts from some of my books as examples of the way I write. We students had to critique each other's works. I was very surprised at the response my writing a portion from of one of my Amazing Gracie Mystery books got from others. Actually, they had insight about my background just from reading my writing. The questions and answers are as followed. Which method of character creation was being used? The description seems to be autobiographical or biographical, perhaps either from the writer's own experience with older family members, or from observation of people around her or characters she's read about. Were you able to see the character clearly? Did you want to know more about the character? The character of Gracie is vividly built up from the first sentence, when we suspect, from the two rocking chairs, that she is an old lady who doesn't live alone. The details which follow then allow us to imagine her as she dozes and drifts between the present and the past, between reality and her memories. I wanted to know what her story was - what her life was like before she went to live in the retirement home, and of course the tantalizing final sentence holds lots of possibilities! What approaches to portrayal, such as depicting appearance, occupation, voice, and so forth, did the writer successfully use? Gracie's character is developed through small details which give a lot of information. I loved the way the narrative of the rocking, the heat and Gracie's thoughts lull the reader into a similar state, even though she tries to wake herself out of her stupor. The end is particularly effective at creating that contradiction which adds an unexpected dimension to the character and to the rest of the story. I was surprised and please that both ladies assumed that I had taken care of or observed family members or older people. They are very right. I was a CNA for many years in a nursing home, taking care of residents and took care of my parents in their home until they died. [caption id="attachment_592" align="alignnone" width="200"] Book one in Amazing Gracie Mystery series titled Neighbor Watchers. Found at Amazon, B & N and Smashwords.[/caption] In fact the characters in the Amazing Gracie Mystery series were real people in the nursing home that I enjoyed being with. I used their characteristics to embellish my Gracie Evans, Melinda Applegate, Libby Hook and even the neighbors across the street, the Bullocks. They were patterned after my parents. I responded with this information so the students could see how right they were. Now I'm getting ready to do a two weeks course on How to Read a Character's mind. From my writing, the critiquers could tell as much about me as they could my characters. So let's see if I can do as well starting Monday October 3rd. The two series I write Nurse Hal Among The Amish and Amazing Gracie Mysteries are continuations of life for the same characters with a few new ones added in. These characters are so familiar to me I know what each will say at any given moment and how they will react. I didn't think about that as being able to read my characters minds, but it is. Now let's see if I can do as well at reading others works. Wish me luck. I'll let you know how I came out. The following email letter is from the instructor of the course if anyone else wants to join tomorrow. Hello Fay, Our short course How to Read a Mind: an Introduction to Understanding Literary Characters begins in a few weeks’ time. I’m looking forward to welcoming you on Monday 3 October. As you know, the course will take place online and will run for two weeks. There are short units of explanation, consisting of text, images, and several short video sequences. Each unit ends by inviting you to share your own thinking and experience with other learners. We expect this course will take you about three hours each week. However, we have also included further reading and suggestions that you can follow if you are particularly interested in certain ideas. The level of engagement is entirely up to you. The area of study that we will be following is quite new, and many of even the key ideas are not yet fully settled. It is an exciting time to be involved, and – as you will see – the journey from new student to advanced study is really very short. Over two weeks, you will become fairly expert in cognitive poetics. You will understand in quite a profound way what it is to read and model the minds of other people, both real and fictional. You don’t need any preparation other than your curiosity and your own experience of reading literary fiction or viewing film and television drama. How to Read a Mind is proving to be very popular, and we already have many thousands of people from all over the world ready to study with us. There is still time to invite friends and colleagues to enrol on the course and take part alongside you. The course page where they can enrol can be found at https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/how-to-read-a-mind Feel free to pass this on through your own emails, tweets, Facebook pages, and so on: you can use the tag #FLread if you like. Or link to my Twitter account: @PeterJStockwell I will contact you again a week or so before the course begins, and of course I’ll also send a welcome note as soon as we have got started. If you have any queries or feedback, I won’t personally be able to respond to them, but please take a look at FutureLearn’s extensive FAQs: https://about.futurelearn.com/faq/ I’m looking forward to it! With all best wishes, Peter Stockwell Prof Peter Stockwell University of Nottingham
A woman that has worn many hats in my life time. Join me here and find out about those hats.