This post was written for the Inside Colby blog by my student, Annelise Wiersema. It probably speaks for itself.
Waffling and Writing
Annelise Wiersema ’10 on November 17, 2009
First, Jenny put down the eggs and milk on the seminar table. Our class stared at her, waiting for the analogy. Jenny Boylan’s a fairly eccentric – and, hey, bestselling! – creative writing professor, and this wasn’t the first time we’d been treated to a visual analogy of the writing process in English 378, Fiction Writing II. Our first day of class, for instance, we’d watched the YouTube video where a man juggles to a Beatles soundtrack, a video ostensibly shown to teach us about the importance of sustaining multiple story lines in fiction but more, we all suspected, because Jenny thought it was just fun to watch. (I still always think of those juggling balls when I write, though, so take from that what you will.)
Today, our pre-class conversations tapered off as she withdrew a flour mixture from her bag next, and then a measuring cup, a mixing bowl, and a large plastic ladle. Then came maple syrup – organic and from Maine, nothing better – and a whipped cream canister. Some classmates hurried into the room, their worry about being late fading into astonishment as Jenny heaved a waffle iron out of her bag and placed it with a faint clunk on the table.
“It’s Waffle Day,” she announced matter-of-factly, and handed me the waffle iron extension cord. “Do you mind plugging that in?”
“So, we’re really making waffles?” asked one student. “Here? In the classroom?”
Jenny nodded, pouring milk into the measuring cup.
Jenny paused for just a moment. “Because it just seemed like the right thing to do,” she said finally, beaming at us from above her glasses.
Then, with the background accompaniment of the iron beeping at us every few minutes with a prepared waffle, and a faint column of steam swirling dangerously close to the fire alarm, we got to workshopping stories.
“Are the waffles a distraction?” Jenny asked midway through class.
“The good kind,” we assured her. And they were – delicious. Each waffle had been divided into five little hearts, which Jenny artistically arranged on our plastic plates in various formations, dribbling the whipped cream in the center for us.
And it wasn’t all that distracting, actually. It just made the already friendly writing workshop cozier, like we were around a large kitchen table, our professor cracking jokes and eggs over the mixing bowl while leading discussion. “Do you think we need to know more about the narrator?” Jenny asked us seriously as she prepared the second batch of waffles, ladling the mix onto the spitting iron. A little bit of batter dripped onto the fake wood table, and she looked at it and sighed before continuing, “Or do you prefer the ambiguity?”
As she concluded her final thoughts on one of the stories, delving into faith and character journeys and story arc, she paused. “Let’s pull back for a moment and consider another very important question,” she said, and grinned widely. “Who wants more waffles?”
Colby College: feeding us mind, body and soul since 1813.