In my last blog, I asked for advice about writing a study guide for The Worlds of Harriet Henderson. Twelve members of ‘my community of knowledgeable peers’ replied, and their advice has given me three clarifying insights.
1. I don’t like the idea of readers studying my novel. I want people to read it, and I want to do everything possible to encourage as many readers as I can. Perhaps the study guide idea was, for me, a way of enticing teacher educators to get their pre-service teachers reading my book; naturally I want pre-service teachers to read my book. But I don’t want them to study it. Mary talked in the comments about the experience of entering into the world of the novel, and how a premature exposure to a study guide might interfere with that.
2. If there’s guiding to be done, I want the novel to do the guiding, not me. When I’m teaching students in schools or at university, or when I’m leading teacher groups, what works best almost every time is when I introduce some material and then ask two questions: What did you notice? What did you wonder? The ensuing discussion is then determined by the material and the readers’ experience of it, not by my own preconceptions or agenda. I think an approach based on these two questions would lead to the kinds of discussions and explorations listed by Misty and Brenton in their comments on my last post.
3. I’d rather spend my time doing other things rather than writing a study guide. I want to start writing the next novel. I’ve also got some ideas about creating some kind of online space for an emerging and potential community of knowledgeable peers. And I’d love the opportunity to discuss the novel face-to-face with groups (students, teachers, readers). I’d find all of that kind of thing much more appealing than writing a study or reading guide.
Thank you all who commented. Whether you were encouraging or discouraging of the idea, your thoughts helped bring me some clarity. I do feel blessed by these collaborations.