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.




Because of the birth of my son on Jan. 1, I began second semester three weeks late. Thanks to my excellent sub, my students were all right on track when I showed up on Jan. 26. Unfortunately, my Web site will pick up approximately where I started this semester. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Wednesday, 5/13

Today the portfolios were due and students did 2-3 minute readings from them. If you were absent today, you need to see me ASAP. Depending on whether your absence is excused or unexcused, you may not be able to turn in your portfolio, which will probably mean you will fail the course.

Monday, 5/11

Today was our final work day for the final portfolio, which is due on Wednesday, 5/13. Please have your portfolio ready when you walk in the door. Please also be prepared to give a short 2-3 minute reading from your portfolio in front of the class. Homework: finish your portfolio and prepare your reading.

Thursday, 5/7

Today was the first of two days to work on revisions for your final portfolioHomework: keep working on the portfolio, due Wednesday, 5/13.

Tuesday, 5/5

Today I introduced the requirements for the final portfolio which is due Wednesday, 5/13. Class time was allocated for make-up workshopping on the short stories as well as beginning organization and revisions for the portfolio. Homework: bring all hard copies and electronic copies of all of your writing to class for portfolio revision work time the next two class periods.

Friday, 5/1

I was out today taking care of a sick 4-year-old. The sub should have facilitated workshopping of your short fiction (as well as collected a copy of each for me). You should have used this workshopping form to guide your feedback to your classmates. Homework: prepare to work on your portfolios next week.

Wednesday, 4/29

I started class by checking the progress on the short fiction rough drafts. We briefly talked over the timeline for the rest of the semester (workshopping Friday, maybe Monday, work on portfolios after that, portfolios due 5/13). The rest of class was work time for typing up the short fiction assignments. Homework: finish your short fiction piece; bring two printed copies to class on Friday.

Monday, 4/27

Today was the due date for Phase 2 of the short story project. I checked those, and then we did a number of exercises around plot and dialogue (8.1, 8.3, and 8.4 in Burroway; 42 and 45 in Bernays/Painter). I also suggested a few exercises that might help as you work towards your rough draft, Phase 3 (8.5 and 8.6 in Burroway; 41, 43, 44 in Bernays/Painter). Homework: complete Phase 3, a 5- to 10-page, handwritten rough draft for Wednesday; we will spend Wednesday’s class typing these.

Thursday, 4/23

I checked Phase 1 of the short story assignment today and talked with everyone about making sure you have a conflict and well-developed characters. To that end, I gave out these characterization exercises for everyone to work on. I also discussed grades with many students, particularly those who are not doing terribly well right now. Homework: Phase 2 of the short story assignment is due Monday.

Tuesday, 4/21

Today we talked about beginnings — particularly not beginning right at the beginning to avoid, in the words of Bernays and Painter, stories that often “meander for three or four pages before the story begins to rear its head.” We did exercises 1, 4, 5, and 6, as well as variations on those. I also handed out the assignment sheet for the short story assignmentHomework: Phase 1 of the short story assignment is due at the start of class on Thursday.

Friday, 4/17

Today was a fairly, um, energetic class. We did some warmups in Bernays/Painter (#26, 27, and 29), talked about the direct/indirect characterization stuff in Burroway’s ch. 3, and also tied back into “Interpreter of Maladies” and “Souvenir” again. Homework: read ch. 8 (Fiction) in Burroway, or ch. 9 (Drama) if you’d rather.

Wednesday, 4/15

Today, lots of pre-writing for the upcoming short stories. We did exercises 53, 54, 55, and 59 in What If? (Bernays/Painter), a new text we’re using in-class for this unit. I also handed out copies of the story “Souvenir” by Kurt Vonnegut. We briefly used this to review plot, will do more with that on Friday, and we’ll also use it to discuss characterization. Homework: read ch. 3 on Character in Burroway for Friday.

Monday, 4/13

I realized I never reminded anyone — in class last week or here on the site — about the eavesdropping assignment that was supposed to be due today. Instead, I’ll check it on Wednesday. Today we reviewed Burroway’s ch. 5 on Story. We talked about story as journey, as a power struggle, and as a pattern of connection/disconnection. We used Stranger Than Fiction and “Interpreter of Maladies” as examples for each of these. We then did several warm-ups in ch. 3 in preparation for talking about character, and finally about dialogue too. Homework: finish the eavesdropping assignment if you haven’t already; reading ch. 3 will probably be assigned for Friday, so you can also get a head start on that if you like.

Thursday, 4/9

Today we started with some warmups from ch. 5 in Burroway (warm-up, as well as Try this 5.1, 5.2, and 5.3). Then I assigned the short story “Interpreter of Maladies” to read in class. I had hoped to have a longer discussion with the story — and building off our discussion Tuesday with the film — of comedy and tragedy, and maybe even start talking about plot. Alas, we only briefly touched on comedy and tragedy before the bell. We’ll pick up there next class. Homework: read all of ch. 5 in Burroway for Monday.

Tuesday, 4/7

Today we spent nearly the entire class finishing Stranger Than Fiction. We also discussed the film, particularly the ideas of comedy and tragedy. Homework: complete the spring break eavesdropping assignment for Monday.

Friday, 3/27

Well, somehow we didn’t have school today. I hope everyone enjoyed the day off. If you can, please complete this assignment before you return for class next week. We’ll also finish Stranger Than Fiction at that time. Have a good spring break!

Wednesday, 3/25

Today we began our short story unit with an eavesdropping exercise, which you’ll extend during break and we’ll do more with after we return. (I’ve included the assignment for over break on the off chance we don’t have school Friday.) After doing the eavesdropping exercise, we started watching the film Stranger Than Fiction.

Monday, 3/23

Today was a work day for typing the creative non-fiction pieces. Most students turned in their typed drafts by the end of class. The few students that weren’t finished should have made arrangements with me for turning it in soon.

Thursday, 3/19

Today I checked progress on the non-fiction essays and gave folks credit for what they had completed. Then we did a little workshopping on these drafts. Afterwards we did a small amount of practice with and discussion of writing dialogue in the essays. I told everyone present that I wanted to see at least 3 distinct examples of dialogue in the essays that come in next week. Homework: work on your dialogue as well as changes suggested in workshop; we’ll have a work day on Monday to type these essays, and I’m hoping to have your typed drafts in hand by the end of class.

Tuesday, 3/17

I was pleasantly surprised at how many of you showed up today. It turned out to be a work day for the creative non-fiction pieces. I conferenced with several of you to help you get on track, and I’m optimistic about the rough drafts we’ll see on Thursday. Homework: rough drafts due Thursday, for workshopping; final drafts will be typed in class next Monday.

Friday, 3/13

Today I checked everyone’s progress on the creative non-fiction assignment. Some of you are in fantastic shape, better than I had anticipated. Others, not so much. We then did some warm-ups to get us on the same page as Burroway in talking about some of the key techniques of writing creative non-fiction — she details them on p. 241-245, but we focused primarily on imagery/voice, scene, and character. I then read to you William Kittredge’s essay “Interlude” and we discussed how he uses these techniques to quickly but effectively weave together a few stories about his Uncle Hank. Right at the end of class, I handed out the actual assignment for the non-fiction essay. Homework: continue working on your essay in preparation for the rough draft, which will be due next Thursday.

Monday, 3/9

Today was our last day of poetry workshopping. If you did not have all three of your poems workshopped, you’re on your own at this point in regards to improving them for the portfolio. We also did some warmups about and discussed truth vs. fact in your creative non-fiction pieces. Homework: bring in some evidence that you’ve begun work on your non-fiction piece on Friday.

Thursday, 3/5

After I checked homework from last class, we did a bunch of pre-writing in ch. 7 of Burroway — Warm-up (p. 236), Try This 7.2 (p. 240), 7.4 and 7.5  (p. 242). We also talked about “Inheritance of Tools” and a little bit about the creative non-fiction assignment. Homework: using the pre-writing we’ve done so far, continue developing ideas for your essay/memoir.

Tuesday, 3/3

Today was a small-group workshop to try and finish up the workshopping of our poems #2 and #3. We didn’t get as far as I had though we would, though, so we’ll likely have one more day like this soon. Homework: make sure to read “The Inheritance of Tools” as assigned last Thursday; in addition, please do 7.4 on p. 242 in Burroway.

Thursday, 2/26

Poem #3 was due today in class. If you haven’t turned it in, please talk to me ASAP. We began our creative non-fiction unit today by reading and discussing “The Knife” (Burroway p. 262). We talked about what made it unique, defined creative non-fiction as a genre, and then talked more specifically about memoir and personal essay as sub-sets of creative non-fiction. We also worked on Try This 7.1 and 7.12 as in-class pre-writing assignments. Homework: read “The Inheritance of Tools” (Burroway p. 93) for Tuesday.

Tuesday, 2/24

Today we workshopped some of the poem #1 stragglers and worked on typing poem #3. Homework: poem #3 is due on Thursday.

Friday 2/20

Today we took a break from workshop to do some prewriting. We also talked about poem #3 — we’ll have a partial work day next Tuesday and the poem will be due, typed, next Thursday. I then talked about revision and gave some time to work on revisions of poem #1 in class. Homework: continue revision work on poem #1 and be ready to type poem #3 on Tuesday.

Wednesday, 2/18

Day 3 of workshopping was today. Homework: revise those poems that have already been workshopped.

Friday, 2/13

Day 2 of workshopping was today. Homework: revise those poems that have already been workshopped.

Wednesday, 2/11

Today we began our first round of workshopping. I reviewed some things Burroway says about the workshop as well as some of my goals and guidelines. And then we jumped in. Homework: revise poems 1 & 2 after you’ve had them workshopped, and start thinking about poem #3 which will be due soon.

Monday, 2/9

Today was a work day in the computer lab for typing poems 1 & 2. If you were absent, please make sure you get these poems in ASAP. We will be starting workshop of these poems on Wednesday.

Thursday, 2/5

Today we started with the warmup on p. 308 in Burroway. Then I gave the class a quick tour of this Web site as it comes back to life after my absence. I checked the homework from yesterday, discussed rhythm & rhyme, and then examined “The Pardon” (Burroway p. 330) for those same sounds as well as vivid imagery and figurative language. Lastly, I reviewed the drafting tips in ch. 6 of Burroway. You should use these tips as you prepare drafts of two poems, each at least 10 lines in length. Typed, final drafts of these poems will be due at the end of class on Monday.

Tuesday, 2/3

Today we began practicing the sounds of poetry using a very strict form — the Shakespearean sonnet, and specifically Sonnet XVIII. We used this to discuss and practice finding syllable counts, patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables, and end rhyme. Students then practiced these by writing their own sonnets. Homework: Try This 9.7 on p. 323 in Burroway; I amended the directions for the second half of the exercise — after creating your list, try to write at least 10 lines of poetry with some of those words.


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