Preface to the Instructor Summary

Burroway’s Preface to the Instructor, briefly sites numerous changes made to the original Imaginative Writing, outlines the organization of the textbook, and acts as a set of loose guidelines on how the book should supplement an introductory writing course. Regarding the changes made to the first edition of the textbook, Burroway asserts that most of the revisions were put in place in order to clarify, simplify, and eliminate instances of “sketchiness, and goblins of jargon”.

The format of the book is designed so that the first five chapters focus on techniques present in all of the genres covered in Imaginative Writing(image; voice; character; setting; story). The sixth chapter focuses on personal writing development and the revisionary process, and the final four chapters each focus on a specific genres creative writing (creative non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and drama). Burroway makes it clear, however, that this is simply the suggested order of instruction and this order may be altered based on the teaching style of the instructor.

Each chapter discusses both the logic behind all of the theories and techniques, and every chapter ends with a few pieces of writing that particularly illustrate the concepts discussed in that chapter.

The function of the writing exercises that are featured in all of the chapters are briefly discussed in Preface to the Instructor, and, much like the order in which chapters are taught, are meant to be utilized accordingly with preference to the instructor, and can be used as in-class assignments, journal entries, or homework. An exercise is presented at the beginning of each chapter, called ‘Warm-ups’. The rest of the exercises that are included throughout the chapter are known as ‘Try This’ exercises, and the same loosely regimented format that are suggested for the warm-ups apply.

Evaluation

One of the key points that Burroway makes in Preface to the Instructor, is that the theory and concept of Imaginative Writing intends to allow early writing students the opportunity to experiment with multiple genres and various writing techniques before they are thrown into a course that focuses on one single genre. One of the most important and helpful elements of Preface to the Instructor is Burroway’s explanation of the reasoning behind the order in which each of the chapters are introduced. Burroway eloquently (and convincingly) outlines the logic behind the layout of the textbook; reasoning that by grouping the first five techniques that are implicit in each of the genres discussed later in the textbook allows for the students to look at creative writing from an exploratory standpoint, facilitating a non-threatening learning environment. Even the order of appearance regarding the first five chapters is based on a calculated, logical theory. Image and voice highlights the most internal elements of creative writing; the transfer to character allows students to apply the more internal characteristics to a broader medium, then ascending to the even more external concepts of setting and story. The general idea is to facilitate a mindset that looks at creative writing as a snowball rolling down a hill. Small, yet necessary techniques are meant to manifest into a greater piece that can be viewed and evaluated as a whole rather looking at writing as a series of individual elements thrown together, as some students mistakenly do. The final four chapters also derive from a calculated, rational approach to examining creative writing genres separately; beginning with memoirs allows students to work with a medium that is both familiar and personal, easing them into creative composition. The transfer to fiction is a small step towards a more inventive, exploratory depiction of writing. By making poetry the next lesson, students will be able to observe the powerful effects of language and practice the theories offered in earlier chapters on a more densely organized plain. Finally, drama completely puts the students at their most vulnerable and possibly very unfamiliar position as writing completely from ‘the outside’.

The most important and refreshing aspect regarding the format of the textbook, is Burroway’s logic behind her placement of the sixth chapter, which focuses on revision. Burroway asserts that revision is featured in the middle of the book with the intention to suggest to students that [revision is] an ongoing part of the same process, rather than a representation of a beginning and an end (xvii)”. Because the idea of revision as a continuous process is one of the most widely accepted concepts in composition pedagogy today, Burroway’s approach to the format ofImaginative Writing is conceptually sound and should prove to be an effective way of integrating freshman creative writing students into a realistic, easy-to-swallow curriculum that they should (whether they are aware or not) find to be generally logical.