3375 (Introduction to Creative Writing)

Instructor: Laura Kopchick

Introduction to Creative Writing                                 Office: 418 Carlisle, Office Hours: M/T/W 12:30-1:30

Summer II 2014

M-TH 10:30-12:30                                                                                                    E-mail: laurak@uta.edu

Texts:                   Three Genres, Ninth Edition, Minot (you MUST get the 9th edition)

Overview:

“If it blows the top of your head off, that is poetry.” –Emily Dickinson

“Little said, much meant, is what poetry is all about.” –Charles Simic

“Character is the very life of fiction. Setting exists so that the character has someplace to stand, something that can help define him, something he can pick up and throw, if necessary, or eat, or give to his girlfriend. Plot exists so the character can discover for himself (and in the process reveal to the reader) what he, the character, is really like: plot forces the character to choice and action, transforms him from a static construct to a lifelike human being making choices and paying for them or reaping the rewards. And theme exists only to make the character stand up and be somebody: theme is elevated critical language for what the character’s main problem is.” ~John Gardner

This course is designed to introduce students to the world of contemporary creative writing, particularly to the genres of literary prose fiction and poetry.  This will be accomplished through discussions, readings, writing assignments, and workshops.  All students will compose original works of prose fiction and poetry, culminating in two final, polished portfolios (one poetry portfolio of at least 4 poems, and one fiction portfolio of 8-12 pages). We will practice the art of writing poetry and fiction critically as well as creatively.  The primary focus of this class will be on student work.  We will not hold one person’s work against another’s—there is no corner on good, and there is enough excellence to go around—but against the light of the finest that has been—is being—written, and we will encourage one another to reach beyond our current grasps, remembering that we are here not in the service of ego, but of art.  We will also read and discuss some of the best contemporary poetry and short stories to see what we can steal.  By “Steal” I don’t mean plagiarize (more on this as the term progresses). Unlike literature courses, where the discussions focus mainly on subject and theme, we will discuss these works in terms of craft.  We will be architects of language, and will learn the best ways to deliver meaning to an audience.  Specifically, we will concentrate on the three “S’s” of good writing: style, structure, and specifics. Most importantly, we will learn that writing is work, but an enjoyable (and quite rewarding) form of work.  This is an introductory course, and assumes that you have had no previous writing experience (although some of you may have).  The course is designed to appeal to a wide range of writing histories, and no matter what level of experience you have, if you complete all of the reading and writing assignments you will leave this class a stronger writer (and reader). Please note that this is both a reading and writing intensive course. Please consider this when evaluating your course load for the semester.  If you are taking this class as an easy elective you should consider another course.

STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES:

At the end of the term, students should be able to:

• Develop critical understanding of one’s own writing and writing process.

• Respond critically not only to one’s own work but to fellow students’ work.

• Create and edit documents using word processing or other computer programs.

• Identify characteristics of literary genres.

• Identify major literary or rhetorical terms and figures.

COURSE REQUIREMENTS:

**Class attendance is required.  This is not a lecture course—this is a seminar that relies on active student discussion and participation.  Attendance is, therefore, mandatory, and cutting classes will lower your final grade (see below for point breakdown).  Everyone is allowed a free absence without losing points.  Use it wisely!  Excused or unexcused—there is absolutely no difference. I don’t need doctor’s notes or e-mailed excuses: an absence is an absence is an absence. If you do miss class, it is your responsibility to make up the work (and, of course, if you have questions then please feel free to e-mail them to me).  I will always leave handouts, workshop stories and poems, etc. in the metal mailbox next to my office door. It is your responsibility to pick these up and complete any work before the next class session. Even if you are absent, all assignments are due to me on the assigned date or you will not receive the points for that assignment.

**I will not accept late papers or assignments unless you have made arrangements with me in advance.  Because our workshops will run like a finely oiled machine, it is imperative that you have your drafts of poems and short stories ready and copied to hand out to the class on your assigned workshop date. If you do not have your rough drafts with you in class on the assigned day (photocopied and ready to distribute) you will not participate in the workshop for that genre and will not receive the points for that workshop round. Also, your final portfolio grade for that genre will be knocked down a full letter grade. In case of illness or emergency, please contact me as soon as possible. There will be no make-up quizzes offered, late workshop responses accepted, etc. unless there is a documented medical emergency. When you miss points due to a missed assignment, you miss the points. No exceptions.

**All short stories (both drafts and final versions) must be typed and double-spaced.  Poems must also be typed, but single-spaced is allowed. Please don’t use fancy fonts or colored inks.  Use 12-point font, Times New Roman or Courier. Always, always keep an extra hard copy of your work.  All assignments turned in (unless instructed otherwise) must be typed. No handwritten assignments will be accepted.

**Students will be required to bring additional copies of their work for workshops.  Please come to class with materials ready to distribute.  We are all relying on each other. If you miss your workshop date your grade will suffer (your final portfolio grade for that genre will be lowered by one letter grade and your class participation grade will suffer as well). Be sure to keep extra copies of your work in case of computer problems.

**Plagiarism will result in immediate failure. I am more than happy to meet with you to work on your creative endeavors. No need to plagiarize.

**You are not allowed, under any circumstances, to reuse papers from prior classes in this course.  Reusing papers does not demonstrate any advance in knowledge or skill, and so would not be helpful for you either in terms of your learning this semester, or for me in terms of assessing this learning.  If you feel your situation constitutes a clear or significant exception to this rule, you must discuss this with me prior to the due date of the first draft. Your work is to be your own, and it is to be prepared originally for this course and section. It is considered Academic Dishonesty to present any portion of work prepared by someone else and to claim it as your own. It is also unacceptable to submit work or portions of work you have written for another class or section. This includes work prepared for high school and college courses you have taken or in which you are currently enrolled and any previous sections of this course.

**Two polished writing portfolios (one for poetry, one for fiction) will be produced during the course of the semester. These portfolios will contain work that has been written during the semester, workshopped and then significantly rewritten (in other words, no first drafts will be permitted in these final portfolios.)

Class No-No’s

  1. No laptop use unless there is a documented need for it from the Office of Disabilities.
  2. No cellphone use or texting in class!
  3. Quizzes are given at the beginning of class—arrive on time in order to take the quiz.

COURSE BREAKDOWN:

This course will be divided into two parts.  The first half of the semester will be devoted to poetry, and the second half will be devoted to the close study of the short story and its elements.  We will conduct workshops throughout the semester. Each student will have works of both genres reviewed and workshopped by small group (4 students per group in poetry, 3 per group in fiction).

GRADING:

The two final portfolios (one for poetry, one for fiction) will be worth 2/3 of your final grade for this course.  Although these final portfolio grades are somewhat subjective, they are mainly given based on objective standards.  In the text Three Genres we will read and learn about the elements of good poetry, creative non-fiction and fiction.  Is the structure solid?  Are there specific images? Is the language nicely written?  Are the characters developed?  Is the grammar solid?  We will be discussing all of these elements during class discussions.  You don’t have to be a “good” writer coming into this class.  If you do the reading, pay attention in class, and participate in class workshops your writing will improve.  These portfolios will also be graded on improvement and the effort put into reworking and polishing the initial stories and poems turned in for workshop. You will also be graded on your written workshop responses to your fellow classmates, your class participation in discussions, and your participation in in-class writing assignments as well.

A rough breakdown of how your final course grade will be given is:

Poetry Portfolio: 33% (A-F)

Fiction Portfolio: 33% (A-F)

Participation: 33% (A-F, figured below)

Takehome Assignments: 30 points (6 x 5 points each)

Pop Reading Quizzes: 30 points (6 x 5 points each)

Workshop Evaluation Letters/ Small Workshop Group Participation: 20 points (2 x 10 points)

Attendance: 20 points (maximum):        0-1 absence=20 points

2 absences=15 points

3 absences=10 points

4 absences=5 points

5 absences or more=0 points

Feel free to see me at any time during the course of the semester if you are uncertain of how you are faring in this course. I am always eager and willing to meet with you during office hours to talk about your writing.  My real goal for the semester is to help you to produce writing that, by the end of the term, you are extremely proud of.  I will do whatever it takes to help you accomplish that goal. 

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE (please note: reading quizzes will take place almost every day. Please come to class prepared to discuss what is scheduled for each day, as listed below).

This calendar will be followed as closely as possible; However, some changes during the course of the semester will probably be necessary.  I like to employ an adaptive course syllabus where readings change based on our class discussions, which is why many readings are not yet assigned or might get changed during the semester.  Please note: I will always post readings and make changes to the class reading schedule at least a week before the class date. I will try to inform you of any necessary scheduling changes as soon as possible.  Please check this course schedule page as well as your UTA e-mail account often. This is the only way I have of contacting you.

I.              Poetry

7/8  T        What we’re discussing in class today: Review syllabus 2.Do Poetry overview (and discuss misconceptions of poetry and poets) as well as in-class reading and discussion of Seibles and Addonizzio poems (these will be handed out in class).

7/9 W       What we’re discussing in class today: ch. 27 and 197-199 in Ch. 28.  Also “The Gift,” (200), “On A Maine Beach” (205). In class discussion of clichés and concrete description using in-class writing exercise to demonstrate ways to get rid of abstractions. “ABC” List explained (on board in class). Here’s an Assignment handed out, explained in class today, then due NEXT class: Part 1 of takehome description assignment

7/10 TH         What we’re discussing in class today: ch. 29, ch. 30 and ch.31 (rhyme scheme) in Minot. Also “The Pardon” (211) and “Mystery” (218). What we’re handing in today: Turn in part one of takehome description assignment (some read out loud). Here’s an Assignment handed out, explained in class today, then due NEXT class: part 2 of description assignment

7/14 M             What we’re discussing in class today: ch. 32 and 33 and practice in-class scansion using examples on the board.“Thanks” by W.S. Merwin (found on-line here) and “Introduction to Poetry” by Collins (found on-line HERE)What we’re handing in today: part two of takehome description assignment (some read out loud).  Here’s an Assignment handed out, explained in class today, then due in class for workshop group exchange (due 7/21): sonnet assignment.

7/15 T         What we’re discussing in class today: ch. 34.Finish discussing the sonnet form. Bring an interesting travel photo to class today (it should have an interesting landscape!). In-class writing sensory exercise using photos. Here’s an Assignment handed out, explained in class today, then due NEXT class:“Think of a Journey to a Loved One”

7/16 W          What we’re discussing in class today: ch. 35 and ch. 36 and “South,” by Trethaway (found on-line here).   What we’re handing in today: “Think of a Journey to a Loved One” (some read out loud). Here’s an Assignment handed out, explained in class today, but please note these prompts are not mandatory, not due next class merely more ideas for possible workshop poems if you don’t like the ones you’ve done so far: writing prompts pg. 1, pg. 2, pg. 3 Also, please note that EVERYONE must bring 4 copies of 3 free verse poems to class to distribute to workshop group members next class (your sonnet will be exchanged 7/21). If you do not bring these to class you will not be put into a workshop group and your final portfolio grade will be lowered by one full letter grade. See above syllabus.

7/17 TH          What we’re discussing in class today: In-Class reading by visiting poet. Discuss poetry workshop procedures (workshop procedures found HERE) . Here is also a handout to consider when workshopping. In-class poetry workshop example (have a volunteer bring a copy of a free verse poem for the class to mock workshop). What we’re handing in today: EVERYONE must bring 4 copies of 3 free verse poems (your sonnet will be exchanged on 7/21).  Get put into small groups for Group Workshops and exchange all poems with group members.  Here’s an Assignment handed out, explained in class today, then due NEXT class: Take home all copies of poems from workshop group members and write comments using your guidesheet given to you in class.Also, please bring 4 copies of your sonnet to exchange with your group members to class on 7/21.

7/21 M        Discuss What we’re discussing in class today: Lucky us! Today we come to class, circle up into our groups, and do small group workshopping of our free verse poems and of our sonnets. What we’re handing in today: letters to our workshop group members and our sonnets.

7/22 T        What we’re discussing in class today: Discuss ch. 37. Finish up small group workshops and discuss revision approaches (tip worksheet found HERE) as well as poetry portfolio guidelines (found HERE) and the grading rubric for the poetry portfolio (found HERE)Here’s an Assignment handed out, explained in class today, then due 7/24 : Final Poetry Portfolios

II.         Short Fiction

7/23 W         What we’re discussing in class today: Discuss ch. Fiction overview. ch. 7, 8 and 9 and 10. Small group exercise on character clustering.  Here’s an Assignment handed out, explained in class today, then due NEXT class: Character cluster writing assignment handed out (page 1, page 2).

7/24 TH        What we’re discussing in class today: Finish character cluster discussion from last class session. ch. 11,12 and 13. What we’re handing in today: character cluster assignment (some read out loud). Final Poetry Portfolios due today.

7/28 M            What we’re discussing in class today: ch. 14, 15, and 16 and “Cathedral” by Carver (found HERE). Here’s an Assignment handed out, explained in class today, then due NEXT class: assignment on Narrative POV .

7/29 T          What we’re discussing in class today:ch. 17 and 18. Bring a printout of an interesting item for sale on ebay with you to class today.  In-class group assignment on ebay sale items. What we’re handing in today: narrative POV assignment (some read out loud).

7/30 W         What we’re discussing in class today: ch. 19, 20 and 22 and “Hunters in the Snow” (print out a copy to bring to class). Here’s an Assignment handed out, explained in class today, then due NEXT class: Dialogue assignment

7/31 TH       What we’re discussing in class today: ch. 24, 25 and dialogue assignment. What we’re handing in today: dialogue assignment (everyone please bring 3 copies). Here’s an Assignment handed out, explained in class today, then due NEXT class: Write Your Opening To Your Story (found HERE)

8/4  M        What we’re discussing in class today: Group discussion of story openings. Here’s an Assignment handed out, explained in class today, then due NEXT class: Everyone needs to bring 4 copies of your story to next class! Need  a volunteer for full-class workshop example.

8/5 T      What we’re discussing in class today: Discuss Fiction workshop procedure guidelines (handed out in class). Do full-class example workshop. Break into small groups and exchange stories. What we’re handing in today: EVERYONE MUST BRING 4 COPIES OF FULL FIRST DRAFT OF A SHORT STORY TO CLASS TODAY. Here’s an Assignment handed out, explained in class today, then due NEXT class:Read and type up comments to group members using workshop guidelines (handout provided in class).

8/6 W       What we’re discussing in class today: What we’re discussing in class today: Lucky us! Today we come to class, circle up into our groups, and do small group workshopping of our short stories. What we’re handing in today: typed letters to our peer group members.

8/7 TH     Last Day of Class!  In class reading and celebration! Final fiction portfolios due today.