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.

Tuesday, 12/15

Today was our final work day for the final portfolio. Students need to turn in their portfolios Friday at 9:00 a.m. During this finals period, all students will also present a 2-3 minute reading from their portfolios.

Monday, 12/7

Today was the due date for phase 3, the rough draft of your short stories. We did workshopping in class of these drafts and I also asked you to do a little thinking about changes you need to make for Wednesday as well as re-thinking the beginnings of your stories. Homework: be ready to type your final draft in class on Wednesday, and bring copies of all of your writing on Friday.

Thursday, 12/3

I began today by fielding questions and concerns regarding the short story assignment. I then checked in on phase 2 progress while everyone worked on dialogue and plot exercises. Homework: complete phase 3, the rough draft, for Monday.

Tuesday, 12/1

Today I checked Phase 1 of the short story project as well as the Thanksgiving break eavesdropping assignment. We spent some time doing mostly character-related exercises (including this one) continuing to work towards a short story draft next week. Homework: Phase 2 of the short story project is due Thursday.

Friday, 11/20

Today we did some warmups and spent some time beginning some of the homework due the first day back from break. Homework: complete the Thanksgiving eavesdropping assignment as well as phase one of the short story assignment.

Wednesday, 11/18

Today we tried to review the three ways Burroway looks at Story in ch. 5 — Story as a Journey, Story as a Power Struggle, and Story as Connection and Disconnection. Then we did an eavesdropping activity to start listening to how people talk (which will help in writing dialogue). Homework: none for Friday, but you will have to complete the Thanksgiving eavesdropping assignment as well as the first phase of the short story assignment both for the first day back after break.

Monday, 11/16

Today we started again with some warm-ups from Bernays/Painter on character. Then I had students read two relatively short stories — “A Clean, Well-lighted Place” on p. 296 and “Bigfoot Stole My Wife” on p. 300. I had wanted to use these to discuss story, but the discussion got hijacked as happens far to often in this class. Homework: read ch. 3 on Character in Burroway; if you didn’t do Try This 8.9 for today, I will check it again on Wednesday.

Thursday, 11/12

Today we did some more fiction-related warmups from the Bernays/Painter text. I also handed out and went over the short fiction assignment, along with all of its organization and draft assignments. Afterwards, we discussed “Tooth and Claw” and “The Interpreter of Maladies” using Burroway’s chapters on Fiction and Story as guides. Homework: Try This 8.9 on p. 293 of Burroway.

Tuesday, 11/10

Today we did some good warm-ups from the Bernays/Painter texts on 55-word stories and 26-sentence stories (each starting with the next letter of the alphabet). I had students read “Tooth and Claw” if they hadn’t previously so we can discuss it Thursday. Homework: also read “The Interpreter of Maladies” on p. 100 in Burroway.

Friday, 11/6

I was out today, but the sub should have started class by collecting the creative non-fiction essays. The sub then had for you photocopies of a story — “Tooth and Claw.” You needed to write down questions that are asked by this beginning, conflicts that are apparent, characterization that happens, and then read the rest of the story, making note of how the story turned out compared to their initial observations and questions. Afterwards, please read the chapter in Burroway on Fiction. Homework: finish the Burroway reading for Tuesday.

Wednesday, 11/4

Today I had planned on providing self- and peer-editing time for your creative non-fiction essays. Almost no one brought drafts to class, however, so instead we jumped into the short fiction unit with some exercises in the Bernays/Painter text about beginning stories in the middle. Homework: bring your completed creative non-fiction essays to class on Friday.

Tuesday, 10/27

Continuing our work from Friday with the sub, students worked more on the outlines and sample scenes for their creative non-fiction. During this time, I conferenced with students who completed the assignment, and I urged them (and others) to round out the scene they’d written (or another new scene) with one well-developed character, including dialogue and narrative in that scene. Homework: get caught up with Burroway’s ch. 4 and the outline and sample scenes if you are behind.

Friday, 10/23

I was out today. With the sub, you read ch. 4 in Burroway on setting. I left a handout with the sub for you to begin outlining and working out setting for your memoir/personal essay. This is due at the start of class on Tuesday.

Wednesday, 10/21

Today we did some pre-writing from the Smith/Greenberg text (p. 96-104). I also recommended the exercise “The Backpack” on p. 105 as a good one if you’re still not sure of your essay topic. See me or e-mail me if you didn’t copy this down and want to try it. I then handed out the details of the creative non-fiction assignment, which will be due Nov. 4. We will have a work day Nov. 2. We also discussed “An Inheritance of Tools” as another professional example.

Monday, 10/19

Today we started with some warm-ups in Burroway’s ch. 4 on setting. We reviewed the characteristics of creative non-fiction from last class, and then we discussed “The Knife.” I also had students read two more non-fiction essays in class — “At The Dam” on p. 143 and “A Wind From the North” on p. 145. We discussed the first and ran out of time, so we’ll pick up the second next class. Homework: read “An Inheritance of Tools” on p. 93.

Thursday, 10/16

Today we wrapped up workshopping on the poems #2 and 3. If somehow you didn’t get a poem workshopped, it’s your responsibility to get copies in the hands of others so you can do quality revisions (this might not be a bad idea even if you did have your poems workshopped in class this week). Then we did some warm-ups from Burroway’s ch. 7, and we discussed “Interlude” and hit the highlights of ch. 7 introducing creative nonfiction. Homework: do the interview portion of Try This 7.7 on p. 245; also, if you haven’t already, read “The Knife” on p. 262.

Tuesday, 10/13

Today we attempted to workshop all of the #2 and #3 poems — we didn’t quite finish, but we got really close. We will quickly wrap this up on Thursday. Homework: read “Interlude” on p. 261 and “The Knife” on p. 262 in Burroway; if you haven’t yet, also read ch. 7 on creative nonfiction.

Friday, 10/9

Today was a work day for typing up poems 2 & 3. Copies will be made for Tuesday when workshopping will happen. Homework: please read ch. 7 of Burroway on creative nonfiction.

Wednesday, 10/7

We did our last pre-writing for poems 2 and 3 today — an exercise on p. 84 in the yellow Smith/Greenberg text and a brief introduction to pantoums in the blue Morrison text. Homework: make sure you have two poems to type and turn in by the end of class on Friday.

Monday, 10/5

Today we started off with some pre-writing in the Smith/Greenberg text (p. 78, 81, and 90). I checked in on progress on poems 2 & 3, and then we talked more about line breaks and did an exercise with Sylvia Plath’s Lady LazarusHomework: continue work on poems 2 & 3, due at the end of class on Friday. 

Thursday, 10/1

Today we completed our practice with syllables and meter by writing some Haikus. We also talked about sounds of poetry and line breaks, which we’ll continue discussing next week. And we started talking about voice — the poet’s voice, the speaker’s voice, the voice of other characters — using Burroway. Homework: Poems 2 & 3 (same parameters as the first one) will be due at the end of class next Friday, 10/9.

Tuesday, 9/29

We workshopped one of our two remaining poems today before doing a little more practice with writing poems from models. We used an example by Lucille Clifton to compare a character to a concrete object. We also began our study of poetic sounds by talking about syllables and writing cinquains. Homework: read ch. 2 on voice in Burroway.

Friday, 9/25

Today Mr. Swan visited class to talk about senior stuff (college, financial aid, etc.). After that we did some exercises writing poems from other poems — particularly playing with personification, everyday objects, and poetry itself. Homework: pick any one poem from the Burroway text; try to mimic it in some way — form, topic, theme, stolen line, etc. — with your own new poem inspired by the one you’ve chosen.

Wednesday, 9/24

Today should have been the last full day of workshopping round 1 of poems — we have a couple poems left, but it shouldn’t require an entire class again this round. Homework: bring in your round 1 poem showing that some revision work has been done on it since having it workshopped.

Monday, 9/21

Day 3 of workshopping your first poems. We’ll continue this through the rest of this week. Homework: work on revisions if we’ve workshopped your poem; also, continue pre-writing (and logging!) for poem #2.

Thursday, 9/17

Second day of Poem #1 workshops. Homework: again, review the comments folks gave you if you had your poem workshopped today.

Tuesday, 9/15

Today was the first day of our workshop on everyone’s poem #1. Homework: if your poem was workshopped today, best to review everyone’s comments and jot down additional notes while the workshop is still fresh in your mind.

Friday, 9/11

Today was a work day for typing Poem #1. If you were absent, you need to have 27 copies of Poem #1 ready for class on Tuesday (or whenever we agree on, if you’ve been excused absent). At the end of class, we briefly read about and discussed the protocol for our workshop, beginning Tuesday.

Wednesday, 9/9

I started by checking homework from last Friday. We then did some pre-writing — Try This 1.6 and 1.9 in Burroway. After this we talked about the assignment for the first poem for workshop. We will be in the computer lab on Friday to type this poem. It will be due at the end of class. We also spent a little bit of time discussing development and revision from Ch. 6 of Burroway, and then we read and discussed a couple poems at the end of Ch. 1. Homework: have a rough draft of your poem #1 ready to type, and then turn in, on Friday.

Friday, 9/4

We spent the beginning part of class working on prewriting, 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). We also briefly discussed figurative language — more on this, and imagery, next week. 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, 9/2

A presentation by a representative from DeVry University took up the bulk of class. Homework: 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, 8/31

We started today with a warm-up from the Everyday Creative Writing text. Then I introduced and handed out the Janet Burroway text, Imaginative Writing. 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. If you did not get a copy of this text signed out to you because you were absent, please make sure you get one from me when you return to class. Homework: Read Ch. 1 in the Burroway text you received today.

Thursday, 8/27

Today I checked the homework from Tuesday, we did the “What is Poetry?” group writing activity, and we did a quick pre-writing exercise from Everyday Creative WritingHomework: none

Tuesday, 8/25

Today I checked the homework — the paraphrasing of the three poems on Friday’s handout. I then assigned p. 2-19 of Everyday Creative Writing for students to read in class. This will be our primary pre-writing text for the next several weeks. We then discussed the reading and the tools they recommend for pre-writing. Afterwards, we discussed the three poems, weaving in a review of imagery, poetic sounds, and figures of speech which I first introduced on Friday. Homework: choose one pre-writing technique from the reading today and try it out for 20 minutes straight.

Friday, 8/21

Today we started the course with a writing inventory (well, following yearbook photos). After this, we read, paraphrased, and discussed Billy Collins’ poem “Introduction to Poetry.” I used this poem and discussion to introduce the three components of poetry we’ll be examining and practicing in our first unit: imagery, poetic sounds, and figurative language. Homework: read and paraphrase these three poems which we’ll discuss on Tuesday.


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