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Back in classroom brings thrill of meeting new people


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This semester I am enrolled in a graduate creative nonfiction writing class at IUPUI. And even though I am a new student (again), I am thrilled to report that, for the first four weekly classes, no one has given me a swirly.

My classmates are a diverse group of ages and backgrounds.

There’s dark-haired, clean-cut Joe, a Purdue aerospace engineering graduate, who was on the wait-list but got into the class through his persistence. I’m pretty sure everyone likes him best because he brought bagels and cream cheese to class last week.

There’s also Jamie, a 30-ish writer who is engaged to be married. Jamie is in my four-person critique group, so I get to read his diverse writings on the habit of biting his nails, the benefits of being a movie junkie and attempting to live up to the legacy of his grandfather, who was a Holocaust survivor and the trusted confidante of his rabbi.

There’s Ellen, who teaches something with English and computers at IUPUI and is finishing her master’s degree in English. This may sound very selfish and vain, but I was especially happy to meet Ellen in my class, because her pretty face is as vintage as mine. Ellen has written essays on gun control and her deep hatred of something as healthy as oatmeal.

I have found I have some commonalities with my fellow English students. After reading our 15-minute timed, in-class writings to each other, David and I both discovered we write words like “blah, blah, blah,” when we are trying to write and nothing is going onto the page. We also both title our writings with “best title — ever” or “An awesome Title Goes Here” until a title comes to mind.

And then there’s that entire other side of the room, whom I haven’t gotten to know yet. I haven’t learned much about the 20-something guy with the Mohawk, except that his son has a matching Mohawk; or the six young ladies who are about my daughters’ ages.

There’s the young, tall blonde with the bob haircut, who answers lots of questions in class. And all I know about the tall man named Peter is that he is a bit older than an average college student and has a deep, Australian accent.

I haven’t had the chance to read their writings yet, so they remain these mysterious fellow students who sit on the “other side of the classroom.”

The class instructor is much easier to discern. Terry Kirts is a senior lecturer in English at IUPUI and teaches creative writing, poetry, short fiction, literature and creative nonfiction. He obtained his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Masters of Fine Arts from Indiana University. His monthly restaurant reviews appear in Indianapolis Monthly. Her recently published a chapbook, “To the Refrigerator Gods,” which was printed by Seven Kitchens Press.

Like every other writer in the class, I get excited and anxious about reading my work to others; but I think I’m definitely out of the dangerous “swirly stage.”

Janet Hommel Mangas, the third of seven children, grew up on the east side of Greenwood. The Center Grove area resident and her husband are the parents of three daughters.

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