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Fiction

The Reading Series in the Classroom: Kate Bernheimer

Kate BernheimerThe Poetry Center’s Fall Reading Series kicks off this Thursday, August 30th at 7:00 p.m., featuring writers Cynthia Hogue and Kate Bernheimer. The Reading Series is a great way to teach writing and expose students to poetry, stories, and essays that they might not encounter in the classroom. This Fall, Wordplay will be writing a series of blog posts titled, “The Reading Series in the Classroom,” which will highlight a story or poem by writers from this Fall’s Reading Series. In addition to providing a story or poem for students to read, we’ll also provide a set of writing prompts, that both parents and teachers can utilize with their students. We hope that these posts will not only get your students writing, but that the posts will also expose them to our Reading Series. Kate's reading will be most salient for middle to high school students, so we're including this Extra Credit Worksheet and this great interview with local poet and teacher, Christopher Nelson. (Teachers: Feel free to download the worksheet and interview, which are both designed to help students reflect on our Poetry Readings. Please modify it as it suits your classroom needs.) Check out VOCA, our audio-video library, and watch this great reading with Kate Bernheimer.

Check out her short story, A Petting Zoo Tale, which also appeals to a K-5 audience. (After you read the story, check out this fun, interactive version of the story, from Born Magazine.) Then follow the writing prompts below.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Breaking the Rules of Fiction

Lisa LevineLisa Levine is a teaching artist at Corbett Elementary, and an MFA Candidate in Fiction at The University of Arizona.

Teaching fiction to Jill Carey's second grade class confounds the rules of fiction. In my class' stories, every person has superpowers, pizza is the universal food, and magic is the only ending that counts. The minds of second graders are so able to transition from real to made-up that setting boundaries from one to the other is like building walls over running water - the awareness of real and made-up is fixed in their minds, but their beliefs are still entrenched in a child's world, where the unimaginable is not only imaginable, it's still kind of true. My most memorable instance of realizing that second grade is a time of unmatched creative transformation was when one student read about his imaginary character, who bore a strong resemblance to a certain ubiquitous character of wizard and literary fame - the class called him out on using someone else's character. "He's Harry Potter," one girl said, and this boy blushed and hid a little behind his story as he left the front of the room. "Yes," he said. "But he's mine too."

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Reflections of a 49-year-old Intern

Tim DykeFor the past two years, Tim Dyke has been one our wonderful Education Interns. He's recently graduated from The University of Arizona with his MFA in Fiction, and will be returning to his Hawaii homeland to teach. We will miss him dearly.          

Even if I am the world’s oldest intern, I still am glad that I have had the opportunity to work at the Poetry Center for the past two years. In the spring of 2010, I made the decision to leave Honolulu, Hawaii, where I had lived and worked as a high school English teacher for 18 years. I would travel to Tucson, AZ, a place I’d never been before. I’d enroll in the Creative Writing graduate program to pursue an MFA degree in fiction writing.  In order to augment my funding support, I applied to be an Education Intern at the University of Arizona Poetry Center. I still remember the interview. I hadn’t had to apply for a job in almost two decades, and then all of a sudden there I was: I remember sitting in my friend’s office, borrowing his phone as I talked to the Poetry Center staff about joining them that upcoming autumn.

Two years later I am all set to graduate. With the support of the Creative Writing faculty and my classmates in workshop, I have produced a novel manuscript and have read and learned so much about fiction writing. 

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Rodari's Cards of Propp: How to Invite Race Discussion in the Classroom

Lisa LevineLisa Levine is an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Arizona, and writer-in-residence at Sam Hughes Elementary School.

In a Difference and Equality brown bag this fall, two writers brought up the issue of silence. One of the writers described an entire undergraduate class in which the students analyzed a novel (whose title I have forgotten, I'm sorry to admit) known for being, among other things, about the themes of race and identity. The students, she said, got through a full hour of discussion in which no one ever mentioned the subject. In an era where the classroom is a relatively safe place to study the murky waters of race and identity, why aren't students willing to drink?

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Literature as Hypothesis

Hilary Gan is an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Arizona, and writer-in-residence at Hollinger Elementary.

Before I started my MFA in creative writing at the University of Arizona, I worked for two years in science outreach through the Arizona Science Center.   I traveled around the state, visiting schools, clubs, and libraries with our portable science kits and demonstrations, trying to spark the public's interest in science and its many applications.  I learned a number of crucial lessons, including not to chew gum when handling liquid nitrogen, but one of the more frustrating ones was how difficult it is to change the public perception of science as a field which requires a great deal of education to understand. The students were a little more pliable when it came to convincing them that they were already scientists; it was the adults that were brick walls.  I can't tell you how many times an instructor or somebody's mom would come up to me after a program and say, "That was so much fun; I wish I could do more of that with my kids, but I'm so bad at science."  If I tried to point out that they had just easily understood the basics of electron motion through copper wire or the basic functions of the digestive system, they demurred and shut down. "I just don't get science," is the common refrain of most teachers with no formal training, and it is, quite simply, not true.  You do get it--you just don't know it yet.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

An Interview with Beth Alvarado on "Emily's Exit"

Beth AlvaradoBeth Alvarado is the author of a memoir entitled Anthropologies (University of Iowa Press, 2011) and a collection of short stories titled Not a Matter of Love (New Rivers, 2006). She lives in Tucson where, with her husband Fernando, she raised two children. She teaches at the University of Arizona and is the fiction editor for Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts.

Beth Alvarado will be reading at the University of Arizona Poetry Center on Monday, December 5 at 7 p.m., along with Christopher Cokinos. The reading is free and open to the public.

PC: How or why did you begin writing "Emily's Exit?"

Alvarado: Several things had to come together for me to write this story. One semester I had a very religious student who would sit in my office for hours every week trying to convert me to her particular beliefs. Now I really liked this student and I knew she liked me because she was concerned about my soul. She was very smart and I found it interesting to talk to her about her beliefs but, after a while, I started wondering why she was so anxious to go to heaven. I mean, I've always wondered what could be better about heaven than earth because I find the earth so beautiful.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Owl & Panther Speaking Peace

Marge PellegrionOn September 17, at 11:30 a.m., participants from the Hopi Foundation's Owl and Panther Project recite original work on themes of war and peace in response to Speak Peace: American Voices Respond to Vietnamese Children's Paintings, on display at the Poetry Center from August 29 to September 23. Join us!

The Hopi Foundation's Owl & Panther project will take part in the Speak Peace exhibit on display at the University of Arizona Poetry Center, even knowing that we walk a fine line when we ask those whose lives have been damaged by war to speak back, speak out, speak peace to images depicting that very aggression.

Our participants are as young as five and a few grandfathers are as old as sixty. They come from Congo, Guatemala, Mali, El Salvador, Chile, Iraq, Nepal, Bhutan, Ethiopia and Somalia. Each carries private memories of the brutality of war, some the scarcity of camps. Others still witness a family member's ongoing battle with PTSD's haunting night visitors.

When introducing Speak Peace, one woman balked. She wouldn't write about war. Done, flat out refusal. She didn't want to look at the images projected at the Poetry Center the night we introduced the project. But the images weren't all bombs and mayhem. And she will be invited to choose one with a band aid on the world, or an image where peace is already peeking out from the scarred earth. And if that proves difficult at all, she'll be asked to paint her own soothing image from which to speak peace.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Authenticity: Writing about War and Peace

Christopher McIlroySpeak Peace: American Voices Respond to Vietnamese Children is an international, collaborative traveling art exhibit out of Kent State featuring paintings by Vietnamese children and American responses in the form of poetry. The Poetry Center invites you to visit this exhibit from now through September 23, 2011. On Saturday, September 17, from 11:30 - 12:30 participants in the Hopi Foundation's Owl & Panther Project will give a reading of their responses to the paintings in this exhibit. Join us.

I have no specific qualifications to address authenticity in writing as it relates to war, so let's get that out of the way. Assisting with Marge Pellegrino in the Speak Peace project has been my first experience of the kind. My students in the Tohono O'odham and Yaqui communities live with hardship, pain, and grief to a degree I scarcely can imagine, and produce writing of a rare eloquence and authenticity from that background, but I realize it isn't the same.

I even find it hard to define the slippery "authentic." We can't even say that "we know it when we see it."  We may not agree upon what strikes that note in us when we read, view, or hear what we believe to be authentic. Sincerity seems a necessary component but not a sufficient one. Rarely do we hear the response, "I admire the authenticity of the piece, but unfortunately it's terrible." The authentic must capture a truth, as well, and probably artfully.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

What You See in the Dark: A review

What You See in the DarkYou know the scene. The actress is standing under a stream of running water. You get a glimpse of her collarbone, of her calf. You understand that she is at her most vulnerable. You worry something horrible is going to happen. And then it does.

The shower scene from Psycho has become one of the most legendary and recognizable moments in film history. So much has been said, analyzed, parodied from Psycho that you might think that there is nothing new to be explored, but What You See in the Dark is evidence that this is not true. In his past short story collections, Manuel Muñoz has revealed his stellar lyricism in prose and skillful craft of individual stories and in his debut novel, he seamlessly weaves in and out of voices, in and out of parallel narratives to reveal something about the intricate nature of human beings' motivations, desires, and fears.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Creating Sam: A Collaborative Furniture Project

by Elizabeth Falcón

SamAs we were planning out our week-long middle school summer camp, "What's in the Box: Creative Writing in 3D", at the Poetry Center, my co-teacher Erin and I were trying to anticipate what we would do during the first half hour of every morning. We didn't want to start a lesson while waiting for the campers who might be straggling in late, but we didn't want our campers just sitting around waiting to start.

I remembered reading somewhere (I think it might have been in David Morice's The Adventures of Dr. Alphabet) about some kind of collaborative furniture project, where students were allowed to write poems on a chair.  And it gave me an idea.  What if we had a week-long collaborative project we were working on every morning before camp?  

We looked for a piece of furniture and, as luck would have it, a friend was giving away a nice old cabinet with drawers and doors and nice little nooks and crannies.  We decided that during a lesson on character creation the first day, the class, as an example, would create a collaborative character first, who would become the basis for the collaborative cabinet project during the week.  (Erin and I prematurely called the cabinet "Sam.")

We planned out short activities day by day that the students could do to elaborate on Sam, such as cover a drawer with the place(s) Sam lives, fill a drawer with objects from Sam's pockets, write a secret Sam has and fold it so no one can see it. We even had an exquisite corpse activity where students would take turns writing on the cabinet one line at a time to create a story about Sam.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011
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