by Kathi Diamant
It’s a very ancient saying
But a true and honest thought
That if you become a teacher
By your pupils you’ll be taught.
--from “Getting to Know You” from The King and I by Oscar Hammerstein II
I became a full time writer in 1990, because I had discovered a story, a true story that had never been told. But first I had to learn how to write. Starting in 1985, I took classes and workshops. I did as Brenda Ueland suggested in her classic book on writing: “Write much, much, in spite of imperfections.” After two decades, I am still a student of writing. In the past few years, I’ve taken online writing courses, and spent weeks in memoir and screenwriting master classes with Honor Moore and Theresa Rebeck. Right now, I am in the midst of a 12-week playwriting workshop with Stephen Metcalfe.
Writing has allowed me to remain a student for life. Every story I write has to be researched. With each article, I learn. I discover a new perspective, an increased awareness of some aspect of life. Being a writer means I ask meaningful questions and listen to the answers, write down those answers, do more research, and then think about what it all means and then draw a conclusion, in order to incorporate that knowledge into a greater experience of the world for others.
So it’s probably not surprising that so many of the current and former San Diego Writing Women are also teachers: Judy Liu, Kathy Jones, Laurel Carona, Caitlin Rother, Marjorie Hart and Karen Kenyon. And now, me, too!
I’ve been a teacher since 2008, starting first at the Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning at San Diego State University, and this quarter in the Department of Literature atUniversity of California San Diego. For UCSD, I designed a course for upper division undergraduates that I had myself had long needed to take. So I am in the delightful position of being both teacher and student in this class. I do all the readings I’ve assigned my students before class, and I’m working on my own projects, which right now includes creating the take-home final.
I was smart enough to design the class so the students could teach me, as well as their fellow classmates, what they are discovering. The students’ reports and final projects are presented orally in class, for a total of three weeks of mutual instruction. During the presentations, I sit in wonderment and admiration at their nimble and curious minds, their energetic examinations of an idea and their surprising, often brilliant conclusions. They call me “Professor,” but in truth, I’m the one learning the most.
Kathi Diamant is the award-winning author of Kafka’s Last Love and an adjunct professor at SDSU, where she directs the Kafka Project, the official search for Franz Kafka’s lost literary treasure. Kathi has lectured internationally, and taught classes on writing, acting and on literary genius Franz Kafka. Earlier this year, she received a month-long residency at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC to continue her Kafka Project research.