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 and practice the writing process. 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.


End of the Semester

To finish the semester, students completed and workshopped their short stories, and then they made revisions to all of their pieces from the entire semester to turn in as their final portfolios. On the finals day, students read an excerpt of their portfolio to the class.

Monday, 12/5

I checked Phase 1 at the start of class. Students then worked on Phase 2 throughout class, producing a plot outline, doing some character-related pre-writing, and writing out one scene or portion of their story. I checked Phase 2 at the end of class. Homework: Phase 3, the rough draft, isn’t due till the end of class on Wednesday — however, this is a late start day, and it will be almost impossible to satisfactorily complete Phase 3 in the class time available; please start working on rough drafts before Wednesday’s class.

Thursday, 12/1

After some more fiction-related warmups, we discussed elements of fiction out of the Burroway text using “Tooth and Claw” and “Interpreter of Maladies.” I also handed out and reviewed the short story assignment along with checkpoints that will be due at various times next week. There was also some time to begin working on Phase 1 of the short story assignment. Homework: Phase 1 is due on Monday.

Tuesday, 11/29

We completed three fiction-focused warm-ups to start class. We talked a little bit about the nonfiction essays as well as the upcoming short story assignment. Then students read “Interpreter of Maladies” on p. 100 in Burroway. Being a long story, we didn’t have time to discuss it, so we’ll do so on Thursday. I also redistributed copies of “Tooth and Claw” for another try. Homework: please finish reading both of these stories for Thursday.

Friday, 11/18

We attempted to discuss “Tooth and Claw” as another professional example illustrating the “Story as” angles from Burroway, but as best I could tell no one actually finished the story. Instead of wasting my time talking to myself about the story, I moved on to our eavesdropping activity for today (the top half of this handout). Students left class to record everything they could overhear in an attempt a.) to begin to pay more attention to the way people speak and prepare to write dialogue, and b.) to gather possible ideas for the short stories. After everyone returned, I checked these for points and we discussed what everyone overheard and how they might be useful. Homework: over Thanksgiving break, please do some additional eavesdropping (the bottom half of the same handout).

Wednesday, 11/16

Students read “Bigfoot Stole My Wife” from p. 300 of Burroway as a professional example of a short story. We used it to discuss the three different angles from ch. 5 — Story as a Journey, Story as Power Struggle, and Story as Connection and Disconnection — after doing some fiction-related warm-ups. I then handed out copies of “Tooth and Claw” by T.C. Boyle to start reading. Homework: finish “Tooth and Claw” for homework.

Monday, 11/14

Today was our workshop day for the Creative Nonfiction essays. Homework: read ch. 8 in Burroway and work on your essay revisions.

Thursday, 11/10

After checking the rough drafts, today was a work day for writing/typing the workshop drafts of the creative nonfiction essays. Homework: essays must be ready for workshop by the beginning of class on Monday.

Tuesday, 11/8

I collected and checked (and then handed back) the outlines for the creative nonfiction essay today. Many of them were incomplete or missing, but students may turn them in next class for partial credit. While I was checking the outlines, students read “Interlude” on p. 261, a very short essay, and then we considered how the author put this essay together as one last professional example. The rest of class was time to finish up outlines and work on rough drafts. Homework: please have a rough draft with you, typed or hand-written, at the start of class on Thursday; this does not have to be a complete draft, but it should be at least 70% done.

Friday, 11/4

At the start of class, students reviewed their journals for ideas for the creative nonfiction essays. We then talked through some of the key points of ch. 4 in Burroway, including setting as a camera (long shot, medium shot, close-up), using setting to establish mood and atmosphere, and setting as action. Students then began working on their outlines, which are due next class. Homework: finish those outlines!

Wednesday, 11/2

After some warmups, we talked about the details of the creative nonfiction assignment today. We also briefly started discussing ch. 4.

Tuesday, 10/31

We started class by reading “The Knife” (p. 262), and then students completed a couple warmups from ch. 4. We talked some more about ch. 7 and also the essay we read today, focusing particularly on the difference between fact and truth as outlined by Burroway at the end of ch. 7. Homework: read ch. 4 for Wednesday.

Thursday, 10/27

I started class by having students read some example creative nonfiction — “At The Dam” (p. 143) and “A Wind from the North” (p. 145). We then did some warmups from Burroway’s ch. 7. We discussed portions of ch. 7 next, using the different essays we’d already read to illustrate various points. Homework: choose 2 warmups from ch. 7 that we haven’t completed and do those for Monday.

Tuesday, 10/25

After completing some warm-ups from the Smith/Greenberg text, some students read “An Inheritance of Tools” (which was actually for homework for today) while others started on ch. 7 in Burroway. At the end of class, we discussed “Inheritance” and some of the general details of creative nonfiction essays. Homework: read ch. 7 if you didn’t finish it in class today.

Friday, 10/21

Today was our small-group workshop day for Poems #2 and #3. Students shared their poems with each other via Google Docs and commented using the Insert Comment feature, but otherwise workshop was to run just as it did with the whole class and hard copies. Homework: please read “The Inheritance of Tools” on p. 93 in Burroway for next class.

Wedensday, 10/19

Today was a work day for Poems #2 and #3. They need to, as before, have a title, be longer than 10 lines, and include vivid imagery and some figurative language. Additionally, they need to show some attention to the sound of the poem through rhyme and/or other sounds, rhythm of the syllables of words, and the lengths and ends of lines/stanzas. Homework: have poems #2 and #3 ready to workshop on Friday.

Monday, 10/17

After finishing up the Shakespearean sonnet exercise, and talking about the challenges as well as benefits of writing this way, we talked a little more about the difference between formal verse and free verse. We also talked about the importance of line breaks, and in support of this I asked students to reintroduce the line/stanza breaks into a copy of Sylvia Plath’s “Lady Lazarus” which I typed up as prose. Homework: begin your Poems #2 and #3 to work on in class Wednesday.

Wednesday, 10/12

After some warm-ups, we talked through many of the aspects of poetic sound and rhythm that I’ll be looking for in poems #2 and #3. We then talked through a sample Shakespearean sonnet as an example of a poem that adheres to a very strict form. We talked about different aspects of that form (number of lines/stanzas, end rhyme, end-stopped lines, syllable and scansion), and then we began working on writing our own sonnets by, as a class, developing a rhyme scheme for everyone to use. We will finish these next class. Homework: start thinking about Poems #2 and #3 which will be due in the second half of next week.

Monday, 10/10

After a warmup, we talked through some portions of ch. 9 (poetic action and doubleness), and then I led the class through an exercise of writing a poem from a model. This one practiced personification, poetic action, and doubleness in trying to mimic and rework the Ruth Forman poem “Poetry Rides the Bus.” Students completed their own “rides the bus” draft poems in class, which I checked for a completion grade. I also talked a little bit about Poems #2 and #3 coming up due next week.

Thursday, 10/6

Today students spent most of class working on various revisions to Poem #1. I asked students to catalogue all of their feedback from workshop into the same Google Doc that contains the poem. Then I gave everyone some different revision exercises to try with their poems. We finished up class talking a little bit more about Sylvia Plath’s “Stillborn.”

Tuesday, 10/4

We finished up workshop on Poem #1 today. Students then completed some warmups from the Smith/Greenberg text and we started discussing “Stillborn” from the end of chapter 9. Homework: please bring in all of your notes and copies of your poem from workshop so we can do some revisions to Poem #1 in class on Thursday.

Friday, 9/30

We have a few more poems to workshop, but today was probably our last full class of workshopping. Homework: please bring in all materials related to your Poem #1 — your notes from workshop, others’ suggestions for you, and any edits you may have already made — to class next week.

Wednesday, 9/28

Another day of full-class workshopping for Poem #1. We’re nearing the end of the pile, though.

Monday, 9/26

Another day of whole-class workshopping on Poem #1.

Thursday, 9/22

Today was our third day of whole-class workshopping for students’ Poem #1s. Homework: please read ch. 9 in Burroway for next class.

Tuesday, 9/20

Today was day 2 of whole-class workshopping for Poem #1. Homework: read ch. 9 in Burroway for next Monday.

Friday, 9/16

Today was our first day of full-class workshopping of Poem #1.

Wednesday, 9/14

Today was a work day for typing and finalizing Poem #1 for workshop. They were due at the end of class — anyone who was absent or who didn’t finish on time for some reason needs to bring in 30 copies on Friday.

Monday, 9/12

After a bunch more prewriting, we reviewed the details for Poem #1, and we finally finished discussing the Komunyakaa poem. I talked through suggestions in both books on how to get started and what to do if you get stuck. Students then had time to start combing through their journals for ideas. Homework: Poem #1 is due at the end of class on Wednesday.

Thursday, 9/8

After a visit from the counseling department to talk about college applications, I checked the homework that was due last class when I was out sick. We did warmups from the Burroway text (Try This 1.6, 1.7, and 1.9), and then we discussed the assignment details for the first poem for workshop. We began discussing the Komunyakaa poem from last week, and we will continue discussing the imagery and figurative language in this poem next class. Homework: start working on Poem #1.

Thursday, 9/1

I used three warm-ups from the Smith & Greenberg text to start us off today. We then discussed imagery as presented in Burroway’s first chapter. We discussed two of the three image-heavy poems from the end of ch. 1, talking some about how the vivid, concrete details lead directly into figurative language. Homework: please complete the “Quilting” exercise as described on p. 63 of the Smith & Greenberg text (students copied this down during class). In a nut, 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.

Tuesday, 8/30

After three warmups from the Burroway text (0.2, Warmup on p. 2, and 1.4), we read and reviewed Imagery, Figurative Language, and Sounds of Poetry with “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes. Homework: please read the (Ted) Hughes, Collins, and Komunyakaa poems on p. 26-29 of Burroway; identify and write down 3-5 examples of imagery from each poem.

Friday, 8/26

The second of three poems — “The Red Wheelbarrow” — was how we started class today, again paraphrasing and looking for imagery, figurative language, and poetic sounds. I then signed out copies of the Burroway text Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft. Students read the introduction, which we briefly discussed as a class. Then we attempted to get everyone logged into Google Docs to spend some time checking it out and create and share a collection (folder) with me. We didn’t end up with much time for this, and several students had problems logging into the netbooks themselves, so we’ll revisit this soon. Homework: please reach ch. 1 on Image in Burroway.

Wednesday, 8/24

We started by discussing one of three poems on this handout — “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost. Students practiced paraphrasing and identifying imagery, figurative language, and poetic sounds. Then using the introduction in the Smith & Greenberg text, I introduced the pre-writing journals we will use many days this semester. We talked about the different types of writing exercises we will try and the importance of logging these exercises. Students then completed their first exercise and logged it.

Monday, 8/22

After visiting the auditorium for yearbook/ID photos, we reviewed the course guidelines as well as the Billy Collins poem “Introduction to Poetry.” We discussed paraphrases that students attempted last Friday with the sub and also discussed the three poetic elements we’ll be focusing on for our firs unit — Imagery, Figurative Language, and Poetic Sounds.

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