3375 (Introduction to Creative Writing)

Instructor: Laura Kopchick

Office: 418 Carlisle

Office Hours: T-TH 2-3:30

Fall 2014

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, creative non-fiction and poetry.  This will be accomplished through discussions, readings, writing assignments, and workshops.  All students will compose original works of creative non-fiction, prose fiction and poetry, culminating in three final, polished portfolios (one poetry portfolio of at least 4 poems, one fiction portfolio containing a final, polished short story of 8-12 pages and one creative non-fiction portfolio containing a final, polished essay of 8-12 pages). We will practice the art of writing poetry, creative non-fiction 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, non-fiction essays 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 choose another course.

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 missing classes will lower your final grade (see below for point breakdown).  Everyone is allowed a couple of free absences without losing points.  Use these 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).  Most takehome assignments will be posted to the course schedule below.  However, there might be a handout that was passed out in class that you will need to pick up if you are absent. 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 the standard format. 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.

**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.

**Class No-No’s

  1. No regular laptop use unless there is a documented need for it from the Office of Disabilities. The only exception is on days when you are using your laptop as a reading device for assigned reading.
  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.
  4. You MUST bring your text(s) to each class session.  Come to class prepared and ready with your textbook or a printout of the reading (or a reading device, open with the reading) in front of you. If you have not done the class preparation there is really no point coming to class discussion and you should take an absence.
  5. Do not be disrespectful to your fellow class members, especially during workshop.  Keep comments objective and constructive.  We are all here to help each other…

PORTFOLIO GRADING:

The three final portfolios (one for poetry, one for fiction, one for creative non-fiction) will be the main focus of your final grade for this course.  Although these 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.

Portfolios will be graded A-E, defined for this course as follows:

“A”: An “A” portfolio is filled with poems or stories which are extremely well-written and take intellectual risks, going considerably beyond a merely adequate response.  Your writing is challenging to present and your treatment is thorough and insightful.  Your writing enhances the power of your topic by being smooth, cohesive, vigorous and fresh, and by omitting the distraction of grammatical errors and misspellings.  For poetry, the poems must contain vivid, specific images, they must have a sense of structure, they must convey meaning clearly and well.  There should be at least 3 significant drafts per poem. For stories, the characters must be well-rounded, the structure must be strong, the pacing right, and the language excellent.  The page count also must be met.

“B”: A “B” portfolio does more than fulfill the assignment; the poems and stories go beyond a routine response and show evidence of thought and planning.  They contain no major distracting errors in usage or mechanics, and are well developed.  The writing is clear and free of grammatical errors.

“C”: A portfolio receiving a “C” is acceptable.  The poems and stories carry out the assignment, though in a routine way.  The poems and stories show evidence of engagement with the topics of the textbook and make at least a minimum response to those topics.  The prose contains few distracting errors and no glaring platitudes or mistakes in word choice.  I can follow and understand the poems and stories without difficulty, but also without much pleasure.

“D”: A portfolio earning a “D” is a weak portfolio: the poems and stories relate to the assignment but show no real evidence of engagement with the topic.  Alternately, the pieces may be severely weakened by their awkward writing: a reader might not be able to follow the plot of a story or the development of a poem because of the frequent distraction of grammar and usage problems.  Significant grammatical errors, such as comma splices, sentence fragments, subject-verb disagreements, and verb tense shifts will tend to put the paper in the “C” to “D” range, as will absence of a clear central purpose.  Vague phrasing, ambiguous diction may also prevent the reader from understanding the point.

“E”: An “E” portfolio is a disaster.  The poems and stories show little or no thought and are so poorly constructed that I cannot follow the sequence of ideas.  This category may also include a stylistically adequate paper that does not fulfill the assignment, or that is plagiarized.  If I do not receive all the course assignments from you by the end of the term, you will receive an “E” for this course.

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.

FINAL SEMESTER GRADING:

Three final portfolios (one for poetry, one for fiction, one for creative non-fiction) will be worth 3/4 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: 25% (A-F)

Fiction Portfolio: 25% (A-F)

Creative Nonfiction Portfolio: 25% (A-F)

Participation: 25% (A-F, figured below)

Takehome Assignments/ Pop Reading Quizzes: 50 points (approximately 10 x 5 points each)

Workshop Evaluation Letters/ Small Workshop Group Participation: 30 points (3 x 10 points)

Attendance: 20 points (maximum):1-2 absences=20 points

3 absences=15 points

4 absences=10 points

5 absences=5 points

6 absences or more=0 points

COURSE BREAKDOWN:

This course will be divided into three parts.  The first third of the semester will be devoted to poetry, the second third will be devoted to the close study of the short story and its elements, and the final third will be devoted to creative non-fiction.  We will conduct one small group workshop per genre where each student will have works reviewed by small group (3 or 4 students per group).

This calendar will be followed as closely as possible; However, some changes during the course of the semester may be necessary.  I will try to inform you of any necessary scheduling changes as soon as possible.  Please check your UTA e-mail account often. This is the only way I have of contacting you.

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE please note: unscheduled reading pop quizzes can—and will—take place (sporadically, so always be prepared). Come to class having already read the chapters, poems, stories scheduled for discussion on each class day.

I.              Poetry

Aug 21  TH        What we’re discussing in class today: Review syllabus 2.Do Poetry overview as well as in-class reading and discussion of Seibles and Addonizzio poems (these will be handed out in class).

Aug 26 T           What we’re discussing in class today: ch. 27 and 197-199 in Ch. 28.  Also “The Gift,” (200), “On A Maine Beach” (205)

Aug 28 TH         What we’re discussing in class today: ch. 29 and ch. 30. Also “The Pardon” (211) and “Mystery” (218). In class discussion of clichés and concrete description. “ABC” List explained. Here’s an Assignment handed out, explained in class today, then due NEXT class: Part 1 of takehome description assignment

Sep 2 T             What we’re discussing in class today: ch.31 (in-class rhyme scheme) in Minot. “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: 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

Sep 4 TH          What we’re discussing in class today: ch. 32 and 33 and practice in-class scansion using examples on the board and worksheets (these will be handed out in class). 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 on 9/18: sonnet assignment.

Sep 9 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”

Sep 11 TH          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 9/18). If you do not bring these to class you will not be put into a workshop group. See above syllabus rules.

Sep 16 T           What we’re discussing in class today: In-Class reading by visiting poet. Discuss poetry workshop procedures (this will be handed out in class) . In-class poetry workshop example (have two volunteers 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 poems to class today.  Get put into small groups for Group Workshops and exchange 3free verse poems and one sonnet 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. Be sure to bring 4 copies of your sonnet to exchange next class.

Sep 18 TH         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. What we’re handing in today: letters to our workshop group members and also 4 copies of our sonnet.

Sep 23 T           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 sonnets. Discuss ch. 37. Finish up small group workshops and discuss revision approaches as well as poetry portfolio guidelines and the grading rubric for the poetry portfolio (these will be handed out in class).

II.         Short Fiction

Sep 25 TH         What we’re discussing in class today: Fiction overview. ch. 7, 8 and 9. Here’s an Assignment handed out, explained in class today, then due NEXT class: Final Poetry Portfolios.

Sep 30 T           What we’re discussing in class today: Discuss ch. 10. Small group exercise on character clustering. What we’re handing in today: Final Poetry Portfolios. Here’s an Assignment handed out, explained in class today, then due NEXT class: Character cluster writing assignment handed out (page 1, page 2).

Oct 2 TH           What we’re discussing in class today: ch. 11,12 and 13. What we’re handing in today: character cluster assignment (some read out loud).

Oct 7 T             What we’re discussing in class today: ch. 14, 15, and 16 and “The Dark Arts” by Ben Marcus, found HERE. Please print out a copy to bring to class or bring a reading device to use in class). Here’s an Assignment handed out, explained in class today, then due NEXT class: assignment on Narrative POV

Oct 9 TH        Class Cancelled

Oct 14 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).

Oct 16 TH         What we’re discussing in class today: ch. 19, 20, 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

Oct 21 T            What we’re discussing in class today: 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: Round-robin story answers! (handout)

Oct 23 TH         What we’re discussing in class today: 22, 24, 25 and “Cathedral” (found HERE). Round Robin story answers. 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.

Oct 28 T            What we’re discussing in class today: Go over Fiction workshop procedures and guidelines (handed out in class today).  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).

Oct 30 TH         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.

III. Creative Non-Fiction

Nov 4 T             What we’re discussing in class today: ch. 26 (brief wrap-up of fiction section) and then ch.1 and ch. 2 and “My Supermarket,” by Tim Morris, found HERE. Here’s an Assignment handed out, explained in class today, then due NEXT class: Final Fiction Portfolios

Nov 6 TH          What we’re discussing in class today: “A Plague of Tics” by Sedaris essay (found HERE. print out copy to bring to class) and ch. 4. What we’re handing in today: Final Fiction Portfolios. Here’s an Assignment handed out, explained in class today, then due NEXT class: 2-pg writing prompt

Nov 11 T           What we’re discussing in class today: ch. 5, 6, AND “OK, Glass” by Shteyngart (found HERE on the New Yorker website) and “On Dumpster Diving,” found HEREWhat we’re handing in today: 2-pg writing prompt (some read out loud).

Nov 13 TH         What we’re discussing in class today: In-class group exercise. Here’s an Assignment handed out, explained in class today, then due NEXT class: Take-home writing assignment

Nov 18 T           What we’re discussing in class today: “Bigger and Deafer” by Davy Rothbart (found HERE) In-Class essay topic discussion. What we’re handing in today: writing assignment (some read out loud). Here’s an Assignment handed out, explained in class today, then due next class: Non-fiction major essay assignment.

Nov 20 TH         What we’re discussing in class today:Nonfictioon essay group workshop guidelines and nonfiction portfolio guidelines (these will be handed out in class). Have a volunteer read essay out loud for a mock workshop. What we’re handing in today: ROUGH DRAFT OF NONFICTION ESSAY (BRING 4 COPIES). Break into small groups and exchange essays.

Nov 25 T           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 nonfiction essays.

Nov 27 TH         No Class–Thanksgiving

Dec. 2 T            Last Day of Class. In-class Reading. Final Non-Fiction Portfolios Handed in to me.