February 20, 2013. As I mentioned Friday, my students are learning more than just how to craft a pretty sentence. They’re learning that you have to know a bunch of stuff that isn’t about writing in order to be a writer, and their lesson for this week was that in order to write fiction, you need to know what an automat is. I gave them ten paintings by Edward Hopper to look at and their assignment was to write a character sketch of any figure in any of the paintings. The way this works is they turn in their sketches on Tuesday and I put them all together into a single file that I email to them for them to read for the next Wednesday’s class. So today we talked about the sketches they wrote last week (They had to set a scene.) and next week we’ll talk about the Hopper sketches, which I sent out just before class. One student came up to me at break to tell me how much she was looking forward to reading these. She clearly expected that with only 14 students in the class and 10 paintings to choose from, there’d be very few duplications of choices. I’m not sure but I think she was thinking that of course no one else would have picked the same one she picked.
I didn’t have the heart to tell her.
Eight of them chose Automat.
She was not the one who picked Office at Night.
“Well,” I said, “I’ll tell you this much. None of you picked the one I’d have picked.”
“Which one was that?” she asked.
“Conference at Night.”
She gave me a quizzical look, as if she didn’t remember that one at all.
“The three people in the office. Guy in front’s wearing a trench coat and a fedora,” I said helpfully.
She nodded but still didn’t look sure. Obviously it hadn’t made much of an impression.
“Why that one?” she asked.
“Because I think it looks like a scene from a detective movie,” I said.
She rolled her eyes and made a “tch” sound.
“That’s such a boy thing,” she said.