Sunday, October 4, 2009

Syllabus for Creative Writing–Fall 2009

(Focus on Flash Fiction)
(Class meets on Tuesday, 13:00-14:30)


We will cover techniques for writing fiction (with emphasis on Flash Fiction, a type of fiction that focuses on the short short story, 250-1,500 words, give or take). Given that English is a second language for this class, I believe it will be helpful for you to concentrate on writing weekly short short fiction in draft form and then selecting the best drafts for a final portfolio, perhaps developing short shorts into longer pieces for revision.

You will come to this class with a certain level of anxiety. THIS IS NORMAL because you will be putting your work, much of it in draft form, out there for others to read and critique. ALL creative writers feel anxious about allowing others to critique their work; even published writers AND your instructor are not immune to this anxiety and fear.

Each group of students is different, so it is difficult to make accurate assumptions about your particular class and abilities of individual writers; some of you may be ready to write longer stories, others may not, so we will begin with Flash Fiction and make adjustments as needed. As we say in the U.S., “Let’s play it by ear.”

Teaching methods will likely include the following: in-class writing, writing group workshops, discussion of published fiction, writing drafts, public readings of own work, objective final exam, and final portfolio development.

Beginning Week #2, each session will begin with a writing “prompt,” which is simply a creative and focused way of circumventing the dreaded “writer’s block” that just about every creative writer has experienced. Some of your own stories may arise from one or more of these prompts, or you may find your fiction going into another direction entirely. This is okay–whatever works for you. You will also be assigned to a workshop group.

In Week #3, you will start submitting typed drafts to me, and your workshop group will begin with session #1.

Final portfolio = 50%
Four drafts and one revised story = 20%
Objective final* = 20%
Workshop group participation = 10%

*If the class as a whole is doing very well, I may be able to avoid giving an objective final exam. In this case, the final portfolio will be weighted 70%.

Attendance is mandatory, given that you will be writing in class and working with a workshop group. If, for any reason, you must be absent, please ask a colleague for any notes or handouts. Also, check the website for updates. You may miss up to one class without penalty, but beginning with absence #2, points will be deducted from your final grade.
Submission of Drafts, Revised Draft, and Final Portfolio:

All submitted drafts and final portfolio assignments must be typed and double-spaced (with your name, course name, and date in the upper left-hand corner). Please staple your pages together.

If you wish, you may e-mail your drafts to me electronically, as a Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) attachment. Please, do NOT submit any other kind of file! Also, do not submit your work in the body of the e-mail message; incorrectly electronic submissions will be rejected.

If you submit electronically, I will read it on the computer and make comments directly on screen. I will return your work and my comments electronically. In any case, please bring a typed version of your drafts to class for group workshops.

You must submit your drafts on time; this class will not work well if you try to submit your all your drafts at the end of the semester. You will be required to submit FOUR drafts (of the SIX assigned, so, as you can see, you may abstain from submitting two of your six assigned drafts). Before submitting your final portfolio, you will also submit a revision of one draft.

What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers: Revised and Expanded Edition, Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. New York: Harper Collins College Publishers, 1995. (Primary textbook)

Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction, Ed. Tara L. Masih. Brookline (MA): The Rose Metal Press, 2009. (Secondary textbook)

What If? is available now for reserve at the library front desk. Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction will be available after October 15. Other materials will be distributed as needed.

Please bring writing supplies to class, including a notebook, loose paper for in-class writing, and pencils or pens, so that you don’t find yourself in the embarrassing position of having to beg your colleagues for supplies.
Semester Folder:

You are responsible for keeping your in-class writing, drafts, class notes, handouts, and syllabus well-organized and bringing them to class each week. You will create a lot of writing this semester; thus, I recommend that you buy a folder or ringed notebook so that organizing your materials will be easy and effective. Bring all your cumulative work with you to every class.

This is a preliminary schedule, subject to change if circumstances warrant it. Before offering you a final schedule, I would like to see how the first few weeks of class go. This schedule is also posted on my website and will be updated, changed, and expanded as needed: I may also be posting additional exercises and information.
Week 1:

Introduction to Course. Questionnaire and preliminary syllabus. “Elements of Fiction” Handout. Exercise: “The Silent Interview” and “Two Lies and a Truth.” Short stories: Distribution of “Yours,” Mary Robison, and “Jackie,” Jennifer Semple Siegel.
Week 2:

Notebooks, Journals, and Memory. Prompt #1 (I will NOT collect these in-class drafts; you will place these pieces in your semester folder and take them with you for possible further work). Workshop group set up. Preliminary workshop group meeting.
Week 3:

Traditional Story Structure. Plot. Prompt #2. Workshop Group Meeting #1. Draft #1 due (500-1,000 words). NOTE: I will collect your typed drafts weekly and return them to you the next week.
Week 4:

Characterization. Prompt #3. Workshop Group Meeting #2. Draft #2 due (500-1,000 words).
Week 5:

Characterization (continued). Point of View. Prompt #4. Workshop Group Meeting #3. Draft #3 due (500-1,000 words).
Week 6:

Point of View (continued). Perspective and Distance. Prompt #5. Workshop Group Meeting #4. Draft #4 due (500-1,000 words).
Week 7:

Dialogue. Prompt #6. Workshop Group Meeting #5. Draft #5 due (500-1,000 words).
Week 8:

Dialogue (continued). The Elements of Style. Prompt #7. Workshop Group Meeting #6. Draft #6 due (500-1,000 words).
Week 9:

Learning From the Great Writers. Revision: Rewriting is Writing. Prompt #8 (probably a revision exercise). Workshop Group Meeting #7. Revised Draft due (required), which will be read and critiqued by your workshop group, 750-1,500 words.
Week 10:

Revision: Rewriting is Writing (continued). Final Portfolio Instructions. Prompt #9. Workshop Group Meeting #8 (tying up loose ends). Revised Story returned.
Week 11:

Public Reading of Student Fiction. On your own: developing your final portfolio.
Week 12:

Public Reading of Student Fiction. On your own: developing your final portfolio.
Final Week:

Submission of Final Portfolio. Possible Objective Exam.

If you have any questions/concerns, e-mail or see me after class or during my office hour.

Also, if there is ANYTHING in this syllabus or ANYTHING I say in or out of class that you don’t understand, please ask me, either in person or via e-mail. This includes definitions of words, cultural references, slang, historical facts, etc.

In the U.S., we have a saying: “The only stupid question is the question left unasked.”

So please ask. That’s why I’m here.


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