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- Fall 2015
Intro to Creative Writing
01 Chris Holdaway MW 9:30-10:45
02 Nichole Riggs MW 5:05-6:20
03 Tony Messina TR 3:30-4:45
This course will introduce you to the craft of writing poetry & fiction. Study the language, forms, techniques, & conventions of poetry & fiction with the purpose of putting that knowledge into practice. The hope is that by the end of the semester you will have also discovered ways of reading creative works that are stimulating & enriching for you. A large part of the semester will be devoted to the writing & sharing of exercises & original creative works in a workshop setting.
02 Nichole Riggs MW 5:05-6:20
What is aesthetic? How do we approach writing from an aesthetic perspective? This course aims to answer these questions, and to familiarize its constituents with the multifaceted artistic mediums of poetry, fiction, and more. Elements we will focus on include style, voice, craft, and additional techniques that might define a work’s aesthetic. This course will also utilize hands-on methods to explore the writing world, including bookbinding and somatic writing exercises. Writing is art. This class will approach writing as such, with selections from various genres, time periods, and movements.
Intro to Poetry Writing
The poetry we will read in this class will be absurd, grotesque, tender, bleak, revelatory, & as comforting & disconcerting as a friend talking about the “meaning of stuff” on a cold day with a warm cup of coffee. We’re going to focus on the self, &, via reading and writing, explore how the self is distanced (possibly to the point of absence) or intimated in various characters, forms, & language. From sonnets about Batman to prose poems obsessed with a single color to ruminations on pop culture to the epistemological validity of existence, we’re going to hear what contemporary poetry is talking about. We’ll use the ideas we get from the assigned poetry to write poems of our own, & explore where & how the “I” exists in it all, learning about the meaty fundamentals of poetry along the way.
Oscar Wilde: “A writer is someone who has taught his mind to misbehave.” In this course, students will practice constructive misbehavior in the service of fiction. Through guided exercises, in-class discussions & analyses of select readings, we will explore the craft of prose writing. We will look at ways in which the imagination can be tapped, harnessed & refined. While infinitely complex, fiction is composed of a limited number of moving parts. We will isolate & examine them. We will identify how they function in the works of contemporary authors whose minds have misbehaved spectacularly. As we expose the inner workings of fiction, students will gain lessons to apply to their own creative work, which will culminate in a complete draft of a short story.
Ronald Sukenick: “If you don’t use your imagination, someone else will use it for you.” All a person has to do to see how many people are trying to use our imaginations for (or against) us is look around. We live in a sea of narratives created by advertising (New and Improved!); politics (The 99%); churches (Adam & Eve); science (Survival of the Fittest); the music & entertainment industries & thousands of other entities & individuals (e.g. maybe your mom or dad?). This course is an introduction to the creation of narratives: a “studio” class in which we learn by doing, studying how to write fiction by writing fiction. No prior experience is assumed, but students will be asked to treat language as a medium, & the writing of fiction as an art: a practice where, as in music, or visual art, form, technique, & “materials” shape the experience, & are part of the message. The class is conducted through a discussion format centered on fiction written by students in the class as well as by authors working in a wide variety of forms. No one style is advocated over another. In fact, students are encouraged to find their own subject matter, their own perspective; they are asked to find methods of translating ideas & experience into language, & aesthetic experience that goes beyond formula/commercial entertainment. Course work will consist of daily readings, critique of the readings, several brief prose pieces, & two major short fictions to be turned in for class discussion.
Writing the Unreal
In this class we will investigate the question: how do we write about what isn’t real? Students will study the elements of fiction (such as language, setting, character, & narrative structure) with a focus on techniques for writing about things & places that don’t exist, & ideas that complicate our understanding of reality. The reading list will consist of literary fiction alongside science fiction, fantasy, & the surreal; students will focus on growing as both readers & writers, with a blend of discussion & workshop based exercises, & apply these techniques to creating their own works of fiction.
Writing Creative Nonfiction
In this course we will explore the various forms & conventions of writing creative nonfiction, a very contemporary genre with plenty of old-school antecedents. We will be writing within various subgenres of CNF, including memoir/personal essay, lyric essay, literary journalism, & travel writing, & we’ll even dabble in some more recent outcroppings of creative nonfiction, such as blogging, food writing, & other internet-infused trans-genres. We’ll also be reading a number of both classic & hybrid creative nonfiction texts to help us understand what makes some nonfiction writing “creative,” & so that we can pilfer them for ideas to fuel our own writing process, of course; texts as diverse as Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams, and Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. Over the course of the semester, we will forge a serious & personally invested inquiry into the very human concept of writing one’s real life into literature.
Fiction Writing for Majors
As an English major, you’ve read lots of stories. Now is the time to put your own voice in the conversation that is literature, drawing on your reading to write narratives that resonate with your own time, your own place, your own view of the world. This is a “studio” class where we learn by doing: students will be pressed to think about what fiction is for, & how it works, through the writing of their own works of fiction. It is designed for those who come to fiction as readers & want to use fiction as an art form to do what narrative has always done: to explore what you think, & to give a sense of something meaningful that we can believe. Unlike nonfiction, fictional narratives usually raise more questions than answers; unlike other kinds of writing, how a work of literature is written is as important as what’s said. But the course could also be called ‘having fun with story,’ as narratives in a variety of forms & shapes will be used to inform the work done in class; students will be asked to draw on the conversation that is literature to write narratives in ways that are surprising, or grow out of other forms, as well as those that are more traditional. If this were a music class, you would be invited to compose a rock blast, or a classical organ fugue, some hybrid of the two, or a completely different conceptual sound; you’ll be asked to articulate why you’re writing one way & not another; you’ll be asked to demonstrate through your writing the difference between fiction as an art & popular or formula entertainment, finding along the way how flexible, moving, probing, and convincing, the medium of words can be. In general, the course work will consist of daily readings & critiques of those readings. Students will also be asked to write original short fiction to be turned in for class discussion.
In this course, students will read & model their poems upon writers who, by virtue of their talent and craft, have left their mark in the English & American poetic traditions. We will also examine performative aspects of poetry by attending a variety of readings either on or off campus. Students will circulate their own poems among all the participants, who will then discuss & critique them in a workshop setting. Throughout the semester attention will be given to those proven strategies for composing & revising one’s poetry. Assignments will be fashioned so as to provide practice both in traditional forms & in free verse.
Writing the Future
What’s up with all the zombies in contemporary literature—& what’s up, for that matter, with all the rising waters, pandemics, technological wonders, new life forms? This course is designed for any student interested in writing fiction & fascinated by the spate of contemporary narratives about humankind’s future. Our reading list will focus on a wide range of literary artists contemplating what that future holds, & will include Margaret Atwood, Junot Diaz, George Saunders, Colson Whitehead, & Ursula K. LeGuin. This is not a course in formulaic or easily categorized writing, so we’ll also think a great deal about what literary writing entails, & how art can engage, celebrate, & challenge popular culture. Whether you hope to write fiction for the first time, have experimented on your own, or have had an introductory writing course, you are most welcome. The class will also give you plenty of opportunities to write about the present & the past, & to design your own time travels.
Advanced Fiction Writing
This course is designed for students who have already taken a fiction writing course (or the equivalent) & who are seriously interested in writing fiction; graduate students who are not in the Creative Writing program are also welcome. In a workshop setting, student stories, novel chapters, & other prose pieces will be presented, discussed, & taken through editing, revision, & polishing. Student goals may include submitting revised work for publication on campus or beyond, compiling a portfolio for application to an M.F.A. program, or making significant progress on book-length projects. Our reading list will include plenty of contemporary stories, novels, & essays.
Advanced Poetry Writing
This is a class for students with some background in poetry. We will write & read intensively & widely, exploring what it means to write, read & publish poetry in an era of small-press & Internet publishing, cross-genre & cross-media explorations (poems that invoke film or novels or essays for example). The class will ask for extensive independent work, as students will work on their poems & develop their portfolios. Part of the class time will be spent discussing readings, but much of it will consist of discussing student work. We will develop an artistic, creative & supportive community to help each student grow as readers & writers. The course is ideal for students who are thinking about applying to graduate programs, or for students who simply want to hone their skills in a supportive but dynamic environment.
Creative Writng Honors Colloquium
This is a class for students working on their creative honors thesis. It will serve three main purposes: to support the writing of the thesis as well as the required essay that accompanies the thesis; to introduce students to a range of skills which support literary careers (writing reviews, editing publications, events & promotion, etc); &, if they are so inclined, to help prepare students to apply for graduate programs.