What is the title of your class?
What’s one thing you hope your students will take away from the class?
What I most hope students will take away is a method of talking themselves through the part of writing when there is no “right answer”—when they have something they want to write but don’t know how or where to begin.
What sorts of writers will you be reading/assigning in class? Why?
The writer I almost always assign is Dorothy Allison, because she has a short story that offers the most amazing answer I’ve yet found to the question, “How on earth do I tell this story?” I’ve also brought in Lucinda Williams’s song lyrics and Lynda Barry’s cartoons as examples of deep-thinking concision. But the writers we read most in class are the students. I’m a stickler for writers reading their work out loud, and we do so in almost every class.
Can your students connect with you on social media? If so, how?
Yes! Follow me on Twitter @davidschmader and find me on Facebook under my name.
Are any of your works online and available to the public?
Yes. I have 15 years of Last Days: The Week in Review columns in The Stranger’s online archive, along with a bunch of essays and profiles and arts writing. (Here’s a feature I wrote about attending Michael Jackson’s criminal trial in 2005.) The film of my solo play Straight is available to stream on Amazon Prime and available to rent on DVD at Scarecrow.
What’s your teaching philosophy?
I count on my students to come to class with full arsenals of self-critique and self-doubt, and I have no interest in adding to that. It’s easy to find the flaws in an early draft. What’s harder and more valuable is finding what’s good and promising and makes a writer excited to tackle the next draft. My teaching philosophy is built on helping students improve their aim for the rich bits in the brainstorming/early-draft muck.
What advice do you have about getting into the habit of writing regularly?
The best advice I can give is set a daily or weekly time-based writing goal—10 minutes a day, an hour a day three days a week, whatever—and stick to it. The time goal is key, as it allows/forces you to leave your emotions out of your writing schedule. It’s not about how you feel about writing today, or how many pages you pump out before you’re allowed to stop. It’s about getting your butt in a chair and logging the time and seeing what happens. If you’re holding to a time-based goal, you can have all the feelings you want. But whatever you feel, you’re not getting out of the chair until the timer dings.
What’s your favorite word in the English vocabulary?
Let’s talk writing inspiration—what’s the No. 1 thing that drives you to write?
A deadline. There’s a whole world of hard decision-making in writing that I am pretty much unwilling to do without a deadline forcing me to. Once I agree to a deadline, it’s no longer just about me and my brain and my Desire to Write—other people are involved, my ego’s on the hook, and it’s on.