When I first saw Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor by Lynda Barry on the shelf, I knew it would be a perfect choice for New Title Tuesday. I’m not ordinarily attracted to books in the graphic format, but curiosity led me to open it and the contents compelled me to keep reading and looking at the drawings. I have kept a journal since I was in junior high school, but over the last few years, I’ve pretty much stopped the practice. But after reading not only the prompts but some of her students’ written responses, I was inspired to resurrect my writing routine.
The award-winning author Lynda Barry is the creative force behind the genre-defying and bestselling work What It Is. She believes that anyone can be a writer and has set out
to prove it. For the past decade, Barry has run a highly popular writing workshop for non-writers called Writing the Unthinkable.
Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor is the first book to make her innovative lesson plans and writing exercises available to the public for home or classroom use. Barry teaches a method of writing that focuses on the relationship between the hand, the brain, and spontaneous images, both written and visual. It has been embraced by people across North America—prison inmates, postal workers, university students, high-school teachers, and hairdressers—for opening pathways to creativity.
In addition, the book is sprinkled with quotations from writers such as Rumi, Proust, and Emily Dickinson but also questions to ponder such as Is creative concentration contagious? And, What do ideas look like when they are taking physical shape?
Barry also presents alternative formats and non-traditional prompts for writers , but also some intriguing ‘exercises’ to complete during a writing session. We see Barry’s thought process and rationale in both print and drawings. For example, she links drawing images and writing down ideas as tools to improve problem solving.
From openculture.com: “Barry’s marching orders are always to be executed on paper, even when they have been retrieved on smartphones, tablets, and a variety of other screens. They are the antithesis of dry. A less accidental professor might have dispensed with the doodle encrusted, lined yellow legal paper, after privately outlining her game plan. Barry’s choice to preserve and share the method behind her madness is a gift to students, and to herself.”
I recommend this delightfully inspirational and thought provoking book to anyone (grade 10 and up) who believes they can’t draw, write, or aren’t creative. Barry will open your mind and give you permission to not care if the sketch is good or bad.
Also by Barry: What It Is [that you wish you could write]
Barry references Ivan Brunetti’s : Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice,
Happy reading, writing, and drawing, Susan C.