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Writing Unbound

How Fiction Transforms Student Writers

By Thomas Newkirk

Tom Newkirk builds an argument for bringing fiction back into our writing curriculum as a way to strengthen all writing.

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In Writing Unbound, Tom Newkirk argues that as a teaching profession, we shoot ourselves in the foot when it comes to writing. We fail to take advantage of a huge opportunity that is before us. That opportunity is fiction writing.

Consider this: Our deepest wish is for students to develop a love of books— particularly a love of fiction.  To discover the power of stories to transport us into worlds we never knew existed.  At the same time, we want them to build a love of writing.  To really love it; not just endure it.

So if these are our two primary goals, how did they become so disparate? Why is the writing we’re asking our students to do so completely opposite from the fiction they enjoy reading? “My worry,” Tom Newkirk writes, “is that we have been asked to buy a lie—or rather a series of them.  That analytic writing is somehow a higher form of thinking than story, that “creativity” is for the talented few, and that fiction writing is unteachable… If we accept these lies, we lose our birthright as English teachers.”

Through 40 in-depth interviews with student writers as well as teachers of writing, Newkirk builds an argument for bringing fiction back into our writing curriculum as a way to strengthen all writing.  He addresses the common obstacles and resistance to fiction and illustrates, through students and teachers’ insights, why keeping fiction writing on the outside of school walls is a missed opportunity. “If reading fiction is humanizing and valuable,” Tom writes, “the same, perhaps even stronger, case can be made for writing fiction.”

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