4349 (Advanced Creative Non-Fiction)

English 4349                                                                                                   Instructor: Laura Kopchick

Creative Non-fiction                                                            Office: 418 Carlisle, Office Hours: T-TH 3:30-5

Fall 2013

Always available via E-mail: laurak@uta.edu

Required Course Texts:

Creative NonFiction: A Guide to Form, Content, and Style, With Readings by Pollack

Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction, Williford, Martone, eds.

Overview: This class centers around the writing of creative, non-fictional essays. Since better readers make better writers, we will read several contemporary essays, discuss them, then use them as inspiration for our own works. These readings will primarily come from the textbook for the course, but there will also be some outside readings posted to the course website blog. We’ll also discuss various approaches to each type of essay (the narrative approach, the segmented approach, etc.) Non-fiction essays are a unique and interesting form of argumentative writing—and the trick is to seduce the reader into believing your point of view on an experience, a person, an event, or a memory. We will discuss this seduction in more detail as the semester progresses, as well as the tricks and tactics that can help you with your seduction. We will discuss language, structure, narration, and, most importantly, deal with the “So What?” factor (more on this, again, as the semester progresses). Our goal is to become better writers, yes, but also to become more confident of our writing strengths and more aware of our weaknesses. The wonderful thing about creative non-fiction is it’s a form of creative writing with pragmatic value—you may, in fact, actually be able to make a buck writing essays one day. In terms of workshopping, everyone will have one essay workshopped by the entire class, and the other two essays will be peer evaluated (for a total of three essays written during the course of this semester). We will learn that writing is often a collaborative process, which leads me nicely into the policies of this course:

Policies: **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 course participation grade. If you have a legitimate excuse (medical, with documentation) I will work with you to make up whatever work was missed in class and provide extra assignments to make up for the discussions missed. If you do miss class, it is your responsibility to make up the work. You should contact me via e-mail as soon as possible to see what you’ve missed. If you do miss class, I will always leave handouts, workshop essays, etc. in the box on my office door if the assignment is NOT posted on-line on the course schedule. 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. *Please note: If you miss more than 6 classes during the semester you will automatically fail the course for the semester.

**I will not accept late papers or assignments unless you have made arrangements with me at least 24 hours in advance.

**All assignments must be typed and double-spaced. Use basic fonts, no larger than 12 pt. Margins should be standard. Titles are mandatory and fun. Be original and inventive. Do not use plastic binders or notebooks to enclose your essays. Staples are best. Always, always keep an extra hard copy of your work.

**Plagiarism will result in immediate failure. You are here to improve your writing. I am here to help you improve your writing. I am usually waiting there, in my office, waiting for you to come by so I can help you improve your writing.

**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 laptop use unless there is a documented need for it from the Office of Disabilities or if you are using it as a reading device in class on days when we are discussing a downloadable essay.
  2. No cellphone use or texting in class!  (This is my big rule–cellphone use in class is disruptive and disrespectful to everyone else in the classroom.  If there is an emergency situation, or if you are expecting an important phone call, put your phone on vibrate and go quietly into the hall).
  3. You MUST bring your text(s) to each class session. Come to class prepared and ready with your textbook or a copy of the assigned 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. If it is obvious that you have not come to class prepared then there is a good chance you will be asked to leave and will be assigned an absence for that day.
  4. 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!

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

Final Essay #1: 25% (A-F)

Final Essay #2: 25% (A-F)

Final Essay #3: 25% (A-F)

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

Takehome Assignments: 25 points (5x 5 points each)

Full Class Workshop Evaluation Comments: 25 points (approximately 5 spot checks x 5 points each)

Small Workshop Group Letters: 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

100 points total

Essay Grading: (A parenthetical insertion: I am much more concerned about your learning something in this class than I am about the final grade you earn. I have much to teach you and I’d rather not waste our limited time together “arguing” about why I gave you a certain grade and why you’re sure I was horribly off the mark. I’d much rather spend office meeting time helping you with your writing. I know, however, that you have a somewhat different perspective. That’s why I’ve included the following section in my policy statement.)

I shall consider the following general and specific questions when I grade your papers:

Generally, does the paper make easy sense to me? Can I trace the rational development of ideas leading to a logical end? Have you supported these ideas with specific detail and/or sound reasons? Is the prose written by a human being or is it textbook prose composed by a committee of brain-dead psychologists? (i.e. is there a human voice? Have you made the private public?) Where is your personal commitment? Is it an interesting read? Is the essay marred by grammatical blunders so horrible I’ll want to run for a red pen? Does the essay take into account the “so-what?” factor? Does the essay fulfill the obligations of the assignment?

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE: (Please NOTE that I am appropriating an adaptable reading syllabus this year and so many of the essays will be chosen as the semester progresses, based on the needs/desires of the class.  Please check here OFTEN to see updated readings, assignments, etc.)

Section I : The Personal Historical Experience Essay and the Profile Essay

TH 8/22 Discussion of the course and the syllabus. In-class student introduction game (two truths/one lie!)

T 8/27 In- class discussion of pages 1-13, pgs 19-22, “The Love of My Life,” “If You Knew Then What I know Now” and “Burl’s” (all In Scribners). focus on narrative voice in the discussion. Takehome writing assignment of an interesting person (due next class).

TH 8/29 Read aloud some profiles (then hand in). Discussion of 23-27 and 53-59 and “Repeat After Me” (In Scribners). Focus on use of humor to engage versus in-your-face writing when discussing personal history.

T 9/3 Discussion of “The Undertaking,” “Mirroring,” and “The Fourth State of Matter” (In Scribners). Take home writing assignment (due next class): On-line dating profile (Use THIS wiki site and remember that your profile should have a distinctive narrative personality).

TH 9/5 Discussion of “”Meet the Shaggs” (found HERE) and “Werner” (pdf scan found HERE). Essay assignment #1 handed out. brainstorm essay topics.

T 9/10 discussion of 28-42, 305-308, finish brainstorming.

TH 9/12 Essay #1 first draft due. Workshoppers to bring extra copies for entire class. Discuss workshop policies. Get broken up into small groups.

T 9/17 Workshop Galvan, Coble, Orozco

TH 9/19 Workshop Holmes, Denney, Barnum

T 9/24 Workshop Kutcher, then do Small Group Workshops (bring typed evaluations of small group workshop essays)

Section II: The Public Spectacle Essay and the Group Portrait Essay

TH 9/26 Discussion of 283-294, focus on sense of purpose in defining place and group rules. Begin PART ONE of group signifiers assignment.

T 10/1 Discuss 214-222 and 262-272. Final draft of essay #1 due for grading. Present PART ONE of group signifiers assignment (you will do Part 2 as a takehome assignment, due 10/8)

TH 10/3 No Class

T 10/8 Discussion of PART TWO of group signifiers writing assignment (due today–turn in) and “A Ticket to the Fair” by DF Wallace (PDF found HERE. Please note: you will need access to Adobe to view this pdf. It is a long essay–21 pages–so don’t wait until the last minute to download this!)

TH 10/10 Discuss “Springtime in the Masochist Cafe” (This will be a handout provided to you in class), essay assignment #2 handed out. Brainstorming for Essay topics

T 10/15 Essay #2 first draft due. Workshoppers to bring extra copies for Entire class.

TH 10/17 Workshop Ketkeorasmy, Martin, Tate

T 10/22 No class today–writing day

TH 10/24 Workshop Clark, Rivera, Bolen

Section IIl: The Quest Essay and the Experiment Essay

T 10/29 Workshop Honea, then do Small Group Workshops (bring typed evaluations of small group workshop essays)

TH 10/31 Discussion of 109-118, 139-141 and “OK, Glass” (PDF Scan).

T 11/5 Final draft of essay #2 due for grading, Discussion of 142-147, 244-250 and “I Bought a Bed” (PDF Scan) Takehome on Mysteries assignment handed out.

TH 11/7 Discuss “My Habit” and takehome assignment (some read out loud, then all handed in). Brainstorming Ideas for Essay topics. Essay assignment #3 handed out

T 11/12 Discuss “Naked” and “On Dumpster Diving.”

TH 11/14 Essay #3 first draft due. Workshoppers to bring extra copies for Entire class.

T 11/19 Workshop Jefferson, Truong, Huq, Almasri

TH 11/21 Workshop Tremaine, Omar, Parsley

T 11/26 Workshop Lighty then do Small Group Workshops (bring typed evaluations of small group workshop essays)

TH 11/28 No Class—Thanksgiving!

Th 12/3 Last Day of Class, In class reading and celebrating!