Creative Writing

Class info

Metaphor. Irony. Plot. Setting. Theme. Imagery. Symbolism.


These and other elements of literature should by now be familiar to you. They exist in all types of writing – from poetry to non-fiction essays, from novels to scripts. You have spent time studying them through the words of other writers. Now you get to try to use these tools for yourself.


This class will be an opportunity for you to express yourself creatively through writing. You will get a chance to try many different genres of writing. You will get to help others improve their writing, and the favor will be returned to you with your own writing. By the end of the class, you will develop a portfolio of your best, most polished work.

Friday, 12/12

Today was our last regular day of class — it was a work day to continue work on your portfolios.

Wednesday, 12/10

Today was a work day in the computer lab for typing final drafts of short stories. Homework: your portfolio is due in less than a week.

Monday, 12/8

Today was the due date for rough drafts of your short stories. I checked these, and then students workshopped each others’ drafts. I also handed out and briefly discussed the formal assignment for the portfolio — your final for the entire semester (hint: it’s all about revision). Homework: prepare your draft to be typed and submitted by the end of class on Wednesday.

Thursday, 12/4

Today I checked phase 2, and then we talked about plot. Particularly, we talked about (and did some pre-writing around) where in the story to choose to begin the plot. Homework: phase 3 — the rough draft of your story — is due on Monday.

Tuesday, 12/2

Today I checked the homework from over Thanksgiving break. We did one warmup, and then did some exercises with character development. Homework: phase 2 of your short story drafting is due on Thursday.

Friday, 11/21

Today we did an in-class eavesdropping activity to practice listening to people — writing good dialogue will be key to writing good short fiction (and you might get some good ideas along the way). Homework: you have a related assignment over Thanksgiving break, so make sure to review the handout; you also have your 1-page treatment of your story due on our first day back from break, so make sure you review the segmented short fiction assignment as well. 

Wednesday, 11/19

As usual, we started today with some warm-ups — these were character-related and came from Burroway’s ch. 3. I then read “Beautiful” to you, a story written by a former Skyline Creative Writing student of mine. We talked about it and some of the other stories as a recap of our discussion of story as a journey, as a power struggle, and as connection and disconnection. Homework: read ch. 3 on character in Burroway.

Monday, 11/17

Today we started some short story warm-ups. We discussed Burroway’s guidance on story in the context of Stranger Than Fiction. Then I handed out copies of the Kurt Vonnegut story “Souvenir” for you to read for homework. I also asked students to catch up with reading “Interpreter of Maladies” in Burroway, which was originally assigned for today. There was about 15 minutes to work on this reading, and then in the last 5 minutes of class I handed out the short story assignment handout. Homework: read those two stories for Wednesday.

Thursday, 11/13

Today we finished and discussed Stranger Than Fiction. Homework: read “Interpreter of Maladies” on p. 100 in Burroway.

Tuesday, 11/11

Today I collected the creative nonfiction pieces, which were due. If yours is late, you need to talk to me ASAP. If you were absent, you will only be able to turn in this assignment if your absence is or gets excused. We then began our short story unit with the first hour of the film Stranger than Fiction. We will finish the film on Thursday. Homework: read ch. 8 in Burroway.

Friday, 11/7

Today was a work day for the creative nonfiction pieces. These pieces are due, typed, at the start of class on Tuesday. Homework: finish up your creative nonfiction pieces if you were unable to complete them in class today.

Wednesday, 11/5

Today was a shortened period — I gave everyone a checklist to help with constructing and drafting your creative nonfiction assignments. Students used these checklists for the first 15 minutes of class to work on those drafts. Then, in small groups, students were supposed to help their classmates using the same checklist. Homework: continue your drafting, have a draft ready to type on Friday, and then turn it in by next Tuesday.

Monday, 11/3

Today we started, as usual, with some warm-ups. We discussed “The Inheritance of Tools” as our last professional model. And then I gave everyone work time for their creative nonfiction pieces. Homework: continue working on your creative nonfiction; work day in the computer lab will be Friday; due date for your memoir/personal essay will be next Tuesday.

Thursday, 10/30

Today we continued working on creative nonfiction. We did some more warm-ups and then talked about the essay assignment; I also made suggestions for other warm-ups to do on your own from ch. 7 to help in generating ideas for the essay. We read and discussed some more samples from Burroway: “Red Sky in the Morning” on p. 173 and “A Note About Allen Tate” on p. 56. Homework: read “The Inheritance of Tools” on p. 93.

Tuesday, 10/28

Today we began our work on creative nonfiction, using ch. 7 of Burroway to guide us. Students did some warmups, we discussed the difference between memoir and personal essay, and started reading “The Knife” (end of ch. 7) as a professional example. Homework: work on those poem 2 & 3 revisions. And bring in whatever you’ve done for me to check on Thursday.

Friday, 10/24

Today was our last round of workshopping for poetry; next week, we’ll start a brief unit on creative nonfiction. Homework: read ch. 7 in Burroway and complete Try This 7.1 and 7.3; in addition, work on those revisions of poems 2 & 3, which I’ll probably check next Thursday.

Wednesday, 10/22

Today students workshopped their #2 poems in smaller groups — and did a really good job. We will do our last round of poetry workshopping on Friday. Homework: ch. 7 of Burroway will be due next week. 

Monday, 10/20

Today was a work day to type up poems 2 and 3. We will be workshopping these poems on Wednesday and Friday this week. Long-term Homework: we will start a short unit on creative non-fiction next week. You will need to read ch. 7 of Burroway for next Tuesday, so please start on that now if you can. There will be additional homework assigned over the weekend pertaining to the start of this unit.

Thursday, 10/16

Today I was absent for a Newspaper class field trip. The sub took you through some writing exercises to try and get ready for the poems #2 & 3 that you’ll have time to type on Monday. Those poems will be workshopped on Wednesday and Friday of next week.

Tuesday, 10/14

Today was more work towards poems 2 and 3 — several warm-ups, and some exercises with form (pantoums) and finding inspirations in other poems (“Poetry Rides the Bus”). Homework: find and bring in a published poem to use in class on Thursday.

Thursday, 10/9

We workshopped one last poem today, and then jumped back into pre-writing for poems 2 and 3. Those poems will be workshopped in small groups the last week of October. I also gave out progress reports and talked about the importance of not skipping homework every night (unless you’re happy with a D or F). Besides the spotty homework from some of you, I’m pretty pleased with the work and participation I’m seeing. Keep it up! We finished the class talking about revision. Homework: bring in a copy of the draft of your poem we workshopped as well as evidence that you’ve been working on revising it. I'll check those on Tuesday.

Tuesday, 10/7

Today was our last full day of workshop for Poem 1. Homework: I gave everyone an extra day to complete last week’s homework, the Try This 2.6 and 2.10 exercises in Burroway.

9-25 through 10/3

I was absent for two days, so workshopping was put on hold. The sub had in-class assignments to help you continue filling your journal in preparation for poem #2. The class also had a visit from the counseling department to discuss senior-year stuff. After my return, we resumed workshopping, which should finish up next week. Homework for Tuesday, 10/7: complete the Try This 2.6 and 2.10 exercises in Burroway.

Tuesday, 9/23

Today was more workshopping of poems. Make sure you spend some time after your poem is workshopped reviewing the suggestions and making edits and changes to your poem — it’ll be a whole lot harder if you wait until December to do this.

Friday, 9/19

Today we began our first round of poetry workshopping. It was unfortunately cut short by the ill-timed senior meeting, but everyone seemed to do a pretty good job for just the first couple times around. We’ll finally spend a whole class for workshopping on Tuesday.

Wednesday, 9/17

Today was primarily a work day for typing your first poem for workshop. We will begin workshopping those poems in class on Friday.

Monday, 9/15

Today we primarily talked about line breaks, and the choices poets make on where to break lines and stanzas. We practiced with the Sylvia Plath poem “Lady Lazarus” — deciding where line breaks might go, and then comparing it to the actual poem. Afterwards we talked about the assignment for Poem #1, which we’ll start workshopping on Friday. We also had Stephen from the Art Institute do a presentation during the second half of class. Homework: Work on Poem #1; use Burroway to help (particularly ch. 6); you must type and hand in your workshoppable poem #1 at the end of class on Wednesday.

Thursday, 9/11

After checking the homework for today, we started with a couple warm-ups. We then talked about some of the things poets do to affect the sound of a poem. We used this to do an exploration and practice with end rhymes and iambic pentameter in Shakespearean sonnets. Homework: finish your sonnet; also, do Try This 9.1 on p. 311 in Burroway.

Tuesday, 9/9

I started class today by checking homework and then with some warm-ups from the Smith and Greenberg text. Next, we talked a little bit about the first poem for workshop, which will be due at the end of class next Wednesday. Then we used the Sylvia Plath poem “Stillborn” to review parts of Burroway’s ch. 9 — one at a time, we talked about imagery, connotation/denotation, metaphors, and density of language. Briefly at the end of class, I asked everyone to do all of these things at once with “The Pardon” by Richard Wilbur. Homework: do the warm-up on p. 308 of Burroway; spend at least 20 minutes on this.

Friday, 9/5

A presentation from DeVry University took up the first half of class. Afterwards, I checked last night’s homework, we did a warm-up from the Smith/Greenberg text, and briefly discussed Figures of Speech — this included the poem “Facing It” by Yusef Komunyakaa. Homework: Read Ch. 9 in Burroway up until the poems. Then read one poem of your choosing and complete the next Try This following that poem.

Wednesday, 9/3

Our class was very abbreviated today by the combination of late start and yearbook/ID photos. I checked the homework from last Friday, we reviewed imagery a little more, and we read another Billy Collins poem in the Burroway text to look at its imagery. Homework: Try This 1.4, p. 14 in Burroway.

Friday, 8/29

We spent well over the first half of class working on preewriting, mainly using prompts from the Smith/Greenberg text. We briefly discussed imagery after that, using the Burroway text. After that, we did the “Try This 1.3” in Burroway, ruining a vivid piece of writing by replacing the concrete details with vague generalities and abstractions (and then trading with a partner to put new vivid details back into their ruined piece). Homework: Since I won’t see you again till next Wednesday, two pieces of homework. 1.) Do the “Quilting” exercise from Smith/Greenberg p. 63. In a nutshell, look through your closet, dresser, wherever you keep old clothes. Create a list of the clothes that have special meaning for you. Then, label the event(s) that each item on your list makes you remember as well as feelings each item evokes for you. Finally, try and write a poem, with each stanza being a different piece of clothing. 2.) Try and write a second poem from any of the prewriting we did in class today. Remember to look for words that have an interesting sound or rhythm as well as vivid images that already exist in that prewriting.

Wednesday, 8/27

I introduced the Janet Burroway text, Imaginative Writing, today. I used a couple Burroway texts in my college writing classes, and I like what she has to say on the subject. In her introduction, she talks about how writers have to be critical readers and how they can’t help but draw upon real-life experiences. She reiterates some of the ideas from the other text in regards to journalling (freewriting, brainstorming, etc.), but also mentions how important it is to observe the world around you and record those observations. She also talks about how important it is to write every day, and I think those every-day observations can be a big part of that. We did a couple different writing exercises (Try This 0.2 and 0.3 and Warm Up on p. 2), and then used the first few pages of her chapter on imagery to talk about the difference between the abstract and concrete when it comes to writing. Homework: Read Ch. 1 in the Burroway text you received today. Also, bring in a vivid piece of published writing (not your own) to class on Friday; a poem, fiction, creative non-fiction, journalistic writing, whatever. We will do an exercise with these.

Monday, 8/25

Today I checked the homework from Thursday, we did the “What is Poetry?” group writing activity, and we discussed and took notes from Everyday Creative Writing — “Resistance as a Tool” and “What Form Should You Choose?” p. 17-23. No homework tonight.

Thursday, 8/21

Today we reviewed the paraphrases of the Frost, Williams, and Hughes poems that were for homework. We also spent time comparing the three poems. We then began preparing for daily pre-writing by reading and discussing the first chapter of Everyday Creative Writing — we focused specifically on suggestions for organizing and recording your pre-writing as well as some different techniques we will use in class. Homework: spend at least 20 minutes practicing one or more of the pre-writing techniques before class on Monday.

Tuesday, 8/19

Today we kicked off the course with a writing reflection so I could see what kinds of writers you are. We then reviewed the Class Norms and Expectations. Lastly we began to practice paraphrasing; we paraphrased and discussed “Introduction to Poetry” by Billy Collins in class. Homework: students are to paraphrase and briefly respond to three other poems for Thursday, Aug 21.

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