Monday, January 25, 2010

Creative Writing: Syllabus--Spring 2010


Syllabus for Creative Writing–Spring 2010

(Focus on Creative Non-fiction)

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

We will cover techniques for writing creative non-fiction (with emphasis on flash non-fiction, a genre that focuses on short short creative non-fiction, 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 creative non-fiction in draft form and then selecting the two 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 short pieces and make adjustments as needed. As we say in the U.S., “Let’s play it by ear.”

However, the Fall session involving Flash Fiction was very successful, so my expectations may have been set very high.
Teaching methods will likely include the following: some in-class writing (mostly at the beginning of the semester), class critique of individual pieces, some discussion of published essays, writing drafts, public readings of your own work, and final portfolio development based on two drafts of your required four drafts.

Beginning Week #2, I will e-mail to the class 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 creative essays may arise from one or more of these prompts, or you may find your work going into another direction entirely. This is okay–whatever works for you.

Please do not feel obligated to use the prompts; they are just tools for writers. Last semester, some wonderful work emerged from the prompts, but other wonderful stories emerged without any prompt help.

Beginning week #3, we will start class critique of individual essays. My goal: to try to offer two critiques for each writer, even if we have to meet one or two extra sessions to accomplish this goal. You will NOT be assigned to a workshop group.

In Week #2, you will start submitting electronic drafts to me (see “Submission of Drafts, Revised Draft, and Final Portfolio,” next page).
Final Portfolio: (2 essays, revised from 2 drafts) = 70%

Four drafts (from 8 assigned) = 20%

Class participation (class discussion of essays) = 10%

------Total = 100% (10 points)
Attendance is necessary, given that you will be writing in class and engaging in class critiques. If, for any reason, you must be absent, please ask a colleague for any notes or handouts. Also, check the website for updates.
Submission of Drafts and Final Portfolio:
Last semester, most of you were able to submit your work electronically, and I found that, generally, this has worked out very well.

Therefore, I am going to ask that you try to submit your drafts electronically, instead of handing in paper copies.

When 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 print versions of your drafts to class for any impromptu exercises.

But if you are without internet, you may still submit a typed paper document, but be aware that I seem to offer better and more detailed comments electronically. In addition, my comments to you are more readable.

For paper copies, please double space and staple your pages together.

To make electronic submission much easier, I have revised the submission protocol:
1. If you use Microsoft Word, you still must submit a .doc or .docx file as an attachment; I’m just not set up to accept any other type of word processing program. So, please, do NOT submit any other kind of file! Make sure your full name is on the attached file, upper right hand corner preferred.

2. You may submit your electronic submissions single-spaced. I will convert it to triple spacing on my end when I mark your essays.

3. If you do not have access to Microsoft Word (or if you have a version that offers only limited use), you may submit your work in the body of your e-mail message. I will move it to a Microsoft Word file and give you a print out of your marked essay.

4. An alternative to Microsoft Word: Google Docs, which is a FREE open-source word processing program, accessible from any browser, from anywhere in the world.
Keyword phrase in browser: “Google Docs” or “Google Documents”

On Google Docs, your document is stored online and accessible no matter where you are, so no need to carry around a flash drive.

You will need a gmail account, however, and you will need to submit that gmail address to me. Also, I’m still learning this application, so be patient if I make errors. Link to my gmail address, the same user ID I use for my Yahoo! email.
You must submit 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 EIGHT assigned, so you may abstain from submitting four drafts. That way, you will have more control over your deadlines.
What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers: Revised and Expanded Edition, Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. New York: Harper Collins College Publishers, 1995.
Although What If? focuses on fiction, creative non-fiction often incorporates fictional techniques, such as description, dialogue, plot, and characterization. (On reserve at the department library.)
Life Writing, Winifred Bryan Horner. Upper Saddle River (New Jersey): Blair Press, 1997. (Select essays, to be distributed. I have only one copy of this text.)

Handouts: “Elements of Non-fiction” and “Private vs. Public Writing.” 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 your semester schedule, subject to change if circumstances warrant it. 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 (for new students) and syllabus. Handouts: “Elements of non-Fiction” and “Public vs. Private Writing.” In-class writing exercise: “Three Vitally Important Facts about Yourself.” Short non-fiction: “Straightening Our Hair,” Bell Hooks, and “Chapter Eight,” from I, Driven, Jennifer Semple Siegel.
Week 2:
Draft due (1) (500-1,000 words). Prompt #1.
Week 3:
Draft due (2) (500-1,000 words). Prompt #2. Class Critique of two drafts.
Week 4:
Draft due (3) (500-1,000 words). Prompt #3. Class Critique of two drafts.
Week 5:
Draft due (4) (500-1,000 words). Prompt #4. Class Critique of two drafts.
Week 6:
Draft due (5) (500-1,000 words). Prompt #5. Class Critique of two drafts.
Week 7:
Draft due (6) (500-1,000 words). Prompt #6. Class Critique of two drafts.
Week 8:
Draft due (7) (500-1,000 words). Prompt #7. Class Critique of two drafts.
Week 9:
Draft due (8) (500-1,000 words). Prompt #8. Class Critique of two drafts.
Week 10:
Revision: Rewriting is Writing. Final Portfolio Instructions: Revise TWO of your drafts and submit on or before May 11, 2010. Class Critique of two drafts.
Week 11:
Class Critique of two drafts.
Week 12:
Class Critique of two drafts.
Week 13:
Class Critique of two drafts.
Last Week:
Submission of Final Portfolio by Tuesday, May 11, 2010.

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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