Trust The Process: Multigenre Narrative Continued

I enjoy the writing process. I’ve learned to relax when I have a piece in mind: I write it again and again until it’s ready to be written more fully and even then, it isn’t finished. I revise and rewrite and work my way to a finished piece that still might be added to or subtracted from later. These past five years I have learned to appreciate the practice and the process of writing, realizing that each piece shows up at its own pace.

This semester I am writing around a theme, just as I’m asking my students to do.

My theme: Just Up And Go

My first assignment, the Multigenre Narrative, will fit this theme, as will the majority of my other new pieces. This theme came from a week of sifting ideas in my notebook, and the idea is more a throwback to when I moved abroad than a comment on my current place.

I am wondering how the process might change as I seek pieces under a theme, rather than letting  a theme find me. Usually I live a theme, think it and consequently write it into piles of notebooks that yield a story or essay or two. Choosing a theme and exploring what might fit under Just Up And Go will be fun. (Why write if it isn’t fun, really?)

My writing practice remains anything goes and my revision work  must continue, but I’m kinda excited to create work centered on a single theme.

Multigenre Narrative

I wrote hardly anything my first year of teaching. I took a crate of student journals home and read those, but neglected my own.* During my second year of teaching, I figured out a way to keep a writing habit. I completed my own assignments. At first, because I needed examples to show students and I wanted to model the writing process. But after a couple of years of this, I thought it’d be fun to compile all my comparison/contrast essays, pantoums and opinion pieces in a collection I’d call My Assignments. This idea never went beyond the image of a book cover and Oprah appearance, stalling out when I realized very few people would enjoy reading a comparison/contrast of  my parents’ and in-laws’ garages. My parents and in-laws might enjoy such a piece least.

I still write alongside my students. And I have a new assignment to start the semester: the multigenre narrative. This serves me well, too, because I need a kick in my creative pants. I’ve assigned multigenre narratives in the past, drowning students in genre options. This time, I’m requiring only five genres, three already set: fiction, poetry, nonfiction.

Parameters, if you want to play along at home:

Tell a story or explore a theme using five distinct genres. Each piece should be able to stand alone. The pieces, ordered purposefully, build a complete narrative.

Fiction: 500-1000 words
Poetry: Whatever you can defend as poetry
Nonfiction: 500-1000 words
2 Super Special Bonus Genres of Your Choice: Go nuts

The pieces are short, the turnaround is quick, and the yield will be a group of young writers ready for more fun.

I’ll post what I come up with. Give me a couple of weeks. If you try this, or have completed multigenre narratives or seen great examples, please let me know. Post a link in the comments.


*I don’t read read my students’ writing practice anymore. I take a close look only if they ask, respecting their privacy, glancing through to check completion. When a word or phrase catches my attention, I ask. I like talking about the process. But beyond that, I prefer my students’ notebooks to be their own space.