Slaying Genre: Teaching Teens to Innovate
One of the things I look forward to the most is teaching in the YAWP program at Grub Street. Not just because teens are awesome writers (if you haven’t read their work on this blog, you really should), but because they are innovative, they see and seek connections, angles, perspectives that would never occur to me.
On Saturday, February 21, I’m teaching a YAWP fiction class with a Neil Gaiman focus. Why Gaiman? If you read this column you know that I’m a huge fan of his, and the reason that I (and my students) go crazy for his work is the way in which he constantly builds a new perspective from which to tell, see, contemplate the form we call story.
But why, some have asked, is he calling his new collection Trigger Warnings? How does such a hackneyed phrase champion innovation? In his introduction to the collection and in the stories themselves, Gaiman makes it clear that he’s not quite talking about the cliché, the things that could possibly probably upset us, he’s talking about a deeper, often darker kind of trigger. He’s playing with the words and worlds that throw us out of our comfort zones, that take us to places that teach us things, give us a new vantage point from which to see, even if that sight is troubling or haunting. And it’s this place from which we create our own unique dark and happy narratives. My co-teacher (Jess Mann, a fabulous instructor and Gaiman expert in her own right) and I were discussing how encouraging this type of innovation, the turning of a cliché, a known variable, on its head is, especially for young writers. In a world where it’s said that all stories have been told, it’s inspiring to know that reclaiming and reframing old and overused phrases and tropes are tools that we can teach the next generation to use for their own needs, whatever they may be. Happy, dark, or somewhere in between, it’s time for them to tell their own tales.
KL Pereira's chapbook, Impossible Wolves was published by Deathless Press is 2013. Her fiction, poetry, and nonfiction are forthcoming or appear in The Drum Literary Magazine, Shimmer Zine, Lightning Cake, The Golden Key, Innsmouth Free Press, Innsmouth Magazine, Mythic Delirium, Jabberwocky, The Medulla Review, Bitch Magazine and other publications. Pereira’s work on fairy tales, sexuality, Wonder Woman, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are featured on Studio 360 and other radio programs, cited in numerous publications, and assigned in courses all over the United States and Canada. Find Pereira online on klpereira.com and @kl_pereira.See other articles by KL Pereira