Free, Non-credit Creative Writing Workshops for Undergrads (February 11th Deadline)
Spring 2011 Intro Classes
These are free workshops taught by Columbia School of Arts Grad Students
Deadline to Register: Feb 11 2011 by midnight
To register please use : http://fs21.formsite.com/soawriting/form5/index.html
You will know your results by Feb 18 2011
1. Making Sense of the Sentence
Adam Z. Levy - Adam.Z.Levy@gmail.com
Dodge 411 Fridays 10am-12
Feb 25, Mar 4, 11, 25
As writers, sentences are the most basic units of storytelling: we control each element
of their composition from diction to duration, dress them up or down, and string them
together into stories. But how does the sentence function in fiction? In what ways does
an aesthetic affect our storytelling? Is there a premium on simplicity or should we strive
for prose, as Gary Lutz describes, “in which every sentence [is] a vivid extremity of
language, an abruption, a definitive inquietude”? And most importantly, how do we, as
writers, navigate between these ideas in our own work?
In this course, to answer these questions – or to explore them better – we are
going to look closely at the stories of writers who have taken vastly different approaches
to sentence writing. We will examine the way in which these writers use (or abstain from
using) negative space, punctuation, and devices such as alliteration, assonance,
paraphrasal turns, wordplay, and metaphor in the context of their work and in order to
look for application in our own.
In addition to students’ own writing for the workshop, there will be in-class
writing exercises aimed at honing and strengthening our own sentences and a
supplemental reading packet which will include, but is not limited to: “Water Liars,” by
Barry Hannah, “Murderers,” by Leonard Michaels, “I’m Slavering,” by Sam
Lipsyte, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” by Raymond Carver, “The
Colonel Says I Love You,” by Sergei Dovlatov, and “The Bible,” by Péter Nádas.
2. The Body Chronicles: Writing A (Medical) Story
Abigail Raminsky- email@example.com
Dodge 411 Fridays 10am-12
Medical memoirs—and medical reporting—are becoming increasingly popular in the
mainstream (think Oliver Sacks, Atul Gawande and Jerome Groopman). But there are
plenty of books about medical or physical conditions—mental and physical illness,
pain, trauma, loss—not written by physicians (William Styron, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Anne
Fadiman). The most poignant books and essays about the body are often written by
people living with a disease or disability—or by really good reporters.
This four-week course will help you gather the tools required to write about your
own—or someone else’s—medical/physical condition. We’ll discuss how to write about
medicine and the body even when you’re not a doctor (or a pre-med student). We will
explore how to integrate research without boring the crap out of the reader, and how to
write about difficult physical/mental experiences without resorting to self-pity. Come to
class with an idea of what or whom you’d like to write about.
Some in-class readings and writing exercises; reading and workshopping of student work.
Discussion of readings.
Possible Excerpts from:
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
A Leg to Stand on by Oliver Sacks
Autobiography of a Face By Lucy Grealy
The Pain Chronicles by Melanie Thernstrom
Darkness Visible by William Styron
The Man Who Forgot How to Read by Howard Engel
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
“In Bed” by Joan Didion
3. Off the Map: The Poetics of Place
Rachel Morgenstern-Clarren - firstname.lastname@example.org
Dodge 411 Thursdays 9-11am
Mar 31, Apr 7, 14, 21
Whether you’re interested in writing about the neighborhood you grew up in,
a country you’ve traveled through, or somewhere you’ve only imagined, this
class will give you a chance to explore the role of place in poetry. How can we
approach a city that has been written about so many times before, like New York,
from a fresh angle? How can we bring a less-immortalized region to life? How do
we go beyond journalistic observation to enter unexpected spaces? We’ll discuss
craft, focusing on imagery, framing, and tone. We’ll also talk about insider versus
outsider perspectives and address local particularities like food, slang, and
Readings will include poems by Ilya Kaminsky, Elizabeth Bishop, A. Van Jordan,
Julia Alvarez, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Brian Turner, Rita Dove, Frank Stanford,
Eavan Boland, Mark Doty, Victor Hernández Cruz, Gwendolyn Brooks, Albert
Goldbarth, Jane Kenyon, and Bob Hicok.
4. Stories of Self
Indus Chadha - email@example.com
Dodge 411 Thursdays 9-11am
Feb 24, Mar 3, 10, 24
We will look, in this course, at life writing as a process of discovery and meaning making with the potential to do cultural work. We will examine together the notion that subjectivity is constituted through narrating and that we cannot exist or be understood without stories. Our work will be to see how the stories we read might provide us with narrative strategies for telling about our own lives. We will look at the work of bell hooks, Dorothy Allison, Maxine Hong Kingston, and others, with the impressionable but firm eyes of aspiring writers, asking ourselves why one word was chosen over another, why two scenes juxtaposed, why a piece of writing works. We’ll open each class with a close reading, move into a discussion of the text, followed by a short in-class writing assignment, and end the session with a share out of our work.
5. Narrative Truth Vs. Trickery
Shirin Borthwick - firstname.lastname@example.org
Dodge 411 Fridays 2-4
Feb 25, Mar 4, 11, 25
Have you ever read a story and thought, “I didn’t know a writer could do that! Can I
do that?” For a new writer it’s tempting to try a flashy style or copy the tricks of the
masters. But when does style block substance, and how do you know if you look like
Mastering straightforwardness first is helpful not only for your reader, but for
yourself. Therefore, in this course we’ll undertake writing exercises designed to
unearth the honest message beneath the jargon we’ve been taught to use when
trying to impress a reader. The focus will be on clarity of expression at the level
of the sentence. To complement this work, we’ll read texts that convey profound
ideas in a simple way. Then we’ll introduce and discuss more challenging books that
play tricks on the reader. How do they manage the fine line between metafiction
and gimmick? The goal is to recognize narrative trickery, and hopefully help you to
workshop your own pieces with a fresh and informed perspective.
The reading packet will include excerpts from: J.D. Salinger (For Esmé – With Love
and Squalor), Art Spiegelman (Maus), David Foster Wallace (Brief Interviews with
Hideous Men), Apuleius (The Golden Ass), Julio Cortázar (Blow-Up and Other Stories),
Tobias Wolff (Bullet in the Brain), Jorge Luis Borges (The Book of Imaginary Beings,
The Aleph and Other Stories), Sei Shonagon (The Pillow Book), Shirley Hazzard (The
Transit of Venus), Anton Chekhov (The Kiss), Ovid (The Art of Love) and others.
6. The Sex Scene
Madeline Stevens - email@example.com
Dodge 413 - Saturdays 2-4pm
In On Being Blue William Gass writes, "There are a number of difficulties with dirty words, the first of which is that there aren't nearly enough of them; the second is that people who use them are normally numskulls and prudes; the third is that they generally aren't at all sexy, and the main reason for this is that no one loves them enough."
Anyone who's ever tried to write a sex scene can sympathize with these difficulties. The action often ends up getting confusing, the scenes are either awkwardly short or long or even worse the author frustratedly skips over them altogether and forces a poor fluttering curtain or blown out candle to stand in for the romance.
This class will attempt to get at successful ways of having fun with the dirty parts in fiction instead of skipping over them through a combination of workshop and seminar discussions. Everyone will be expected to bring in one or two original fictional scenes and your reading packet will include stories and excerpts from a variety of writers: Henry Miller, Mary Gaitskill, J.G. Ballard, Vladimir Nabokov, Antonio Vignali, Don Delillo and a few popular erotica writers.
Questions like "Should I spell it C-U-M or C-O-M-E?" are welcomed.
7. Developing The Poet’s Brain
Kate Jenkins - firstname.lastname@example.org
Dodge 409 - Saturdays 1-3pm
Feb 26, Mar 5, 26, Apr 2, 9, 16
There are three key aspects to being a poet: writing poems, reading poems, and talking about poems with other poets. This class is part workshop and part seminar. In the seminar portion, we'll be reading and discussing the poems by various poets with an eye to identifying how they make their poems "work."
Some of the poets we'll be reading may include Jeffrey McDaniel, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Frank O'Hara, Heather Christle, Wallace Stevens, Mary Jo Bang, Mark Bibbins, Emily Dickinson, Rainer Maria Rilke, Sylvia Plath, Julianna Baggott, and Graham Faust.
8. Memoir: Just Write!
Samantha Childs - email@example.com
Dodge 407 - Wednesdays 5-7pm
Feb 23, Mar 2, 9, 23
The purpose of this class is to get you writing! We will have in class writing prompts and exercises to inspire you. Each week, students will read a memoir of his/her choice and at the beginning of each class will give a brief summary (not giving away the ending) as well as thoughts about what they liked and didn’t like about the author’s style/ literary devices/ etc. (If students are unable to fully finish the book, I understand, as this is a not for credit class.) Also, each week, aside from the first week, students will be required to write 3-5 pages of memoir, to email these memoirs to the class, and to do a brief critique of the other students’ work. (It is ok if it is all handwritten and in the margins.) In class we will workshop everyone’s pieces and give each other advice on how to proceed. Note that these are intended to be first drafts, not polished pieces. Hopefully you will come out of this class with ideas, tools, and motivation to keep writing!
9. Morphing Mode: Exploring the Boundaries of Fiction and Nonfiction
Mary South and Jesse Thiessen
firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com
Dodge 409 Thursdays 4-6pm
Mar 3, 10, 24, 31
We write from a particular mix of our experiences and obsessions. But how does subject matter go from raw idea or experience into polished essay, memoir, or short story? Different modes offer both different advantages and challenges, and often projects can change genre as they evolve. Even if you know how you intend to present certain material, trying on different modes can, at the least, enhance your project, if not morph it altogether in ways you would not have thought of previously. This class is team taught by a fiction student and a nonfiction student to explore the different methods both fiction and nonfiction hold for writing the material we want to present to the world. We'll look at how Philip K. Dick brings humanly gripping stories to futuristic dystopias, how Jo Ann Beard blends reportage and imagination into the highest-grade fiction, and how Joan Didion uses only the facts yet explores her very personal, emotional core. Whether you're interested in autobiographical fiction, otherworldly Sci-Fi, personal essays, or objective journalism, this class will delve into the multitude of possibilities for relating a writer's raw material. Students will do some short readings every week (no more than 25 pages of nonacademic prose), write short exercises, and present a longer, polished work for critique.
10. Two (or More) Stories Within a Story
Johanna Smith & Gillian Bagley
jds2124@columbia & firstname.lastname@example.org
Dodge 409 Fridays 2-4pm
Feb 25, Mar 4, 25, Apr 1, 8, 15
In a 1976 interview with the Boston Review, Grace Paley said, “All art, all these stories that people write, happen when two amazing facts come together in some way, or two amazing events, or two amazing winds, or whatever it is, come and the surprise of this meeting is the story." We think of the story form as having a singular quality because of its relatively short length, but Paley taught her writing students that every good story contains at least two stories. The sub-story or subtext lurking beneath or bobbing to the surface can lend a story an essential element of tension.
In this course, we will examine how several different authors knit together multiple threads in order to create friction or even a kind of head-on collision within a story. Your reading packet will include "A Conversation With My Father" by Grace Paley, “La Vita Nuova” by Allegra Goodman, "War Dances" by Sherman Alexie, “Sexy” by Jhumpa Lahiri, “The Flaw in the Design” by Deborah Eisenberg, "Retreat" by Wells Tower, “Roman Fever” by Edith Wharton, and “Safari” by Jennifer Egan. We will look at your work and consider the different stories at play within each story, and how and when to tease out a sub-story to create intrigue and ultimately meaning through juxtaposition.
11. The Page is the Mirror:
Intro Nonfiction Writing Workshop
Emily Herzlin - email@example.com
Dodge 409 Fridays 10am-12
This class will be an intensive 4-week nonfiction workshop geared at generating writing. Every week we will discuss an issue related to nonfiction writing (topics may include nonfiction ethics, writing scene, reflection, memoir, research, etc). Students will be expected to keep a journal of observations, notes, lists, details, dreams, overheard conversations, and moments of inspiration/fascination throughout the week. Some in-class writing assignments will draw from these journals, so it is important that students bring them to class. Each class we will work with writing prompts, have a discussion based on short reading assignments (essays/articles will be provided), and workshop student writing. Students will submit between 5 and 15 pages to be workshopped in class.
12. The First Chapter
Sarah Ulicny - firstname.lastname@example.org
Dodge 409 Fridays 4-6pm
Feb 25, Mar 4, 11, 25, Apr 1, 8, 15, 22
All writers begin with a blank page (or screen), so that's where we'll start. This class will help you sharpen and/or discover your idea and get you through those challenging first pages. The course will be a seminar-workshop hybrid. In the early classes, the first hour of each class will be seminar-style focusing on literary elements crucial to the construction of a novel: Point of View, Voice, Character, Conflict, Description and Dialogue. During the second hour we'll do in-class exercises and conduct mini-workshops (this is for any writer who wants feedback on smaller scenes or paragraphs in their in-progress chapter; these pieces will have been emailed to the class previously and should be brief). The last half of the course will be set aside for in-depth workshops of everyone's first chapters. The reading packet will include first chapters from multiple novels as well as selections from Ann Lamott's writing instruction book, Bird by Bird .
13. How Plot Works: Reversals & Turns in the Short Story
Andrew Eisenman - Andrew.B.Eisenman@gmail.com
Dodge 413 Fridays 10am-12
Feb 25, Mar 4, 11, 25, Apr 1
This is a craft base course, if ever there were one. True, there is no right or wrong way to tell a story. A successful short story need not follow a certain structure, if such a structure even exists. The short story is a free-range form: you begin with a character, an image, a sentence, a word – anything. But then, how do you get from the beginning of your story to the end of it? In this course, we will explore the discernible sequence of events (in the loosest terms) that occur in some very good short stories by some very good authors. We will examine how the sequence of events—in other words, the plot—of a story unfolds, how each event works in conjunction with the other events and the story at large, and how an author can use “techniques,” such as reversals and turns, to manipulate the reader’s experience inside the story.
In addition, on top of writing their own stories to be workshopped in class, students will be given in-class writing exercises that will help increase their understanding of how plot works, of reversals and turns and how to create them, and how to dig the story out of a “plothole.” One of these exercises will be a class-generated short story to be written over the duration of the course, in which students will control the direction of the plot and will have to consider each move before it’s made, as in a game of chess. The reading packet will likely include, but is definitely not limited to, the following stories for their more obvious attention to reversals and turns: “You Can’t Tell a Man by the Song He Sings” by Philip Roth, “Disguised” by Isaac Bashevis Singer, “Civilwarland in Bad Decline” by George Saunders, “Builders” by Richard Yates, “Rules of the Game” by Amy Tan, “The Harvest” by Amy Hempel, “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, and “Romantic Weekend” by Mary Gaitskill.
14. Love and Jokes
Marni Berger - email@example.com
Dodge 407 Mondays 4-6pm
Feb 21, 28, Mar 7, 21, 28
Love is often the artist’s muse. Many writers want to pick up a pen (or keyboard)
when they feel the burgeoning sensation of butterflies and hearts fluttering through
their stomachs. But how does one write about love without sounding just plain
twitter-pated, rosy, or overly sweet? The answer, in some cases, is: Make it funny.
The first half of the term will be spent surveying approaches to writing about
love that avoid the extraneous usage of sugar—be the love romantic, friendly, or
familial—by combining the content with a jauntily humorous tone. The second half
of the term will be spent looking at works of love where the humor is either very
light, or seemingly non-existent.
The authors whose works we’ll discuss include
Joyce Carol Oates, Lorrie Moore, Flannery O’Connor, Mark Twain, and J.D. Salinger.
The course will consist of reading discussions, discussions on plot structure and
tone in relation to content (the best structure for the story and when and when not
to insert humor), and exercises that will support each student’s completed draft of a
short “love story” to be workshopped by the end of the term.
15. Translation Seminar/Workshop
Adva Levin, Emily Martin
firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com
Dodge 409 Fridays 10am-12
Feb 21, Mar 4, 11, 25
In this translation workshop/seminar, students will be invited to translate as-of-yet untranslated pieces of international literature into English. They will present their translations on a workshop rotation schedule, alongside a piece of their own work (optional, but recommended) and will explore the interaction between translation and original work. The class will evaluate the strength of the work in English, and workshop pieces to achieve the greatest level of clarity and style in English.
The reading list will be focused on international literatures and based off of Nobel Prize winners in both poetry and fiction and will include poems, short pieces or excerpts of novels from the following writers: Wislawa Szymborska, Derek Walcott, Wole Soyinka, Octavio Paz, Czeslaw Milosz, Georgio Seferis, Saint-John Perse, Gabriela Mistral and Rabindranath Tagore (for poetry) and Orhan Pamuk, S.Y Agnon, John M. Coetzee, Toni Morrison (for fiction), among others. Working knowledge of a second language is required. If in doubt, please contact the instructors. All genres welcome.
16. The Fragment
Scott Dievendorf- firstname.lastname@example.org
Dodge 411 Fridays 12-2pm
Feb 25, Mar 4, 11, 25, Apr 1, 8
The density of language provides value based on content, regardless of length. This course will explore the form of the fragment in literature. Through different uses of brevity, sparseness, diction and other literary tools, we will learn how to play with the economy of words to produce short or sectioned texts. Whether you are interested in writing flash fiction, prose poetry or a longer piece composed of short segments, or if you would just like to learn the dynamics of storytelling in a condensed form, this class will provide insights and examples into doing so. We will begin by examining flash fiction and prose poetry in order to understand the purpose and methods of writing in the short form. We will then use that understanding to apply the form to a longer piece of writing.
Readings from Lydia Davis, John Edgar Wideman, Dave Eggers, Charles Baudelaire, Nathalie Sarraute and others will demonstrate successes in complete stories told in the short form. The work of these authors will convey why some stories are better expressed with brevity. We will then see how the fragment is utilized in the construction of longer stories through readings from Italo Calvino, Eduardo Galeano, William S. Burroughs, Roberto Bolaño and more. Student work will include the composition of pieces of different lengths ranging from a paragraph to a couple of pages, and will culminate in a longer story of organized connected fragments.
17. Poetry, Today
Alison Sweet- email@example.com
Dodge 411 Saturdays 10am-12
Feb 26, Mar 5, 26, Apr 2
Leonard Cohen said, “Poetry is just the evidence of life." In this course we will explore how poets gather and exploit that evidence in the making of poems. Through writing exercises and workshopping, this course will sharpen your skills as a poet, whatever stage you are at. In an effort to familiarize you (and inspire you) with what is being published today, this course will focus primarily on the published work of current poets. We will be looking at the work of poets such as Rachel Zucker, Miranda Field, Katy Lederer, Elyse Fenton, Ken Chen, Claudia Emerson and Jeffrey McDaniel.
18. IN DREAMS…
JW McCormack - firstname.lastname@example.org
Dodge 409 Tuesdays 7-9pm
Feb 22, Mar 1, 8, 22, 29, Apr 5
…may begin responsibilities, but could the perverse impulse to create not also be stashed somewhere in our slumbering unconscious, amid the trains, clowns and undigested encounters with other people? Authors from antiquity onward have looked to dreams, both for inspiration and in order to cite a precedent for the oddly internalized world represented by books. Certainly fiction and sleeping share a certain porousness at their borders: both are located somewhere between randomness and intention, drawn from life and yet walled off from it, intimately personal substance wrapped in deeply suggestive surface. Read as texts, dreams may depict the shared anxieties of an age, cut a telling peephole into waking life or even graze other states, including madness and death. Finally, dreams offer the writer an opportunity to escape the mundane while confronting its psychic manifestations. Students in this course will keep rigorous dream journals—which they are at no point required to share—whose contents we will work into one or two short pieces.
In addition to reading the work of such accomplished dreamers as Gérard de Nerval, August Strindberg, Edgar A. Poe, E.T.A. Hoffmann and Howard Phillips Lovecraft, we will examine the impressive dream journals of Franz Kafka and Michel Leiris, discuss the opinions of Freud and Jung and perhaps look at the dream’s curious depiction in the pop culture comics of Winsor McCay (Little Nemo in Slumberland) and Neil Gaiman (The Sandman).
19. Resistance is NOT Futile!
Shayne Barr - email@example.com
Dodge 409 Fridays 12-2
Feb 25, Mar 4, 11, 25, Apr 1, 8
Among the most versatile literary tools, resistance—friction—engenders hilarity and dramatic tension with equal facility. Bull! No, it’s true! Throughout the semester we’ll treat various manifestations of resistance: resistance in dialogue, resistance against landscape, mores, and nemeses, along with resistance against oneself. In writing assignments based on these respective topics, we’ll hone our ability to apply conflict towards generating levity, pathos, and an overall invigoration of our prose. We’ll conclude the term by workshopping a piece of each student’s fiction.
Your course packet will include the stories “Helping” and “Bear and His Daughter” by Robert Stone, “Winky” by George Saunders, “I’m Slavering” and “Ergo Icepick” by Sam Lipsyte, “Big Bear, California” by Rebecca Curtis, “The Mud Below” and “Testimony of the Donkey” by Annie Proulx, “The Swimmer” and “The Country Husband” by John Cheever, and “Cathedral”, “Vitamins”, and “They’re Not Your Husband” by Raymond Carver.
20. Take It from the Top: Revision Workshop
Aaron Slater - firstname.lastname@example.org
Dodge 407 Thursdays 4-6
Feb 24, Mar 3, 10, 24, 31, Apr 7
Robert Cormier said that “The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile.” While we do not have to follow in his footsteps and write a controversial young adult novel, we can take his advice on writing. Revision is one of the most vital and often overlooked aspects of writing. Authors contemplate ideas for years, re-jig sentences, omit or add paragraphs, and rearrange scenes before arriving at the final piece. This work often goes unnoticed as we generally only have the final published version to enjoy, a seemingly perfect artifact that seems at once slaved over and effortless.
This workshop will seek to explore revision in greater depth, looking at how it can be applied to our own work. Throughout the course, students will take one piece through two or three extensive revisions. While each revision and workshop will cater to the needs of the author, the goal will be to have the writer craft a more realized story arc before looking toward refining the actual telling of the story at the level of the line. Complementary readings will consist of essays on craft, author interviews, and fictional pieces (often an early draft of a story and its final form). Along with discussion of the published pieces, we will review and workshop submissions in class. Students should have a piece they seek to spend a considerable amount of time on, that they are willing to approach fearlessly and revise, rework, reconsider, and refine with deft precision and reckless abandon.
21. The Stories of (More Than) Our Lives
"Everybody needs his memories. They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door.”-Saul Bellow
Kelsey Motes-Conners - email@example.com
Dodge 411 Fridays 4-6pm
As nonfiction writers, we often use our own memories as material for our work. But how do we keep from being solipsistic and self-indulgent? How do we make our own memories significant and compelling to our reader? Often, the answer is to use our personal experiences to illuminate something beyond, outside of or larger than our own lives. In this 4-week course, we will look at writers who have approached their own lives with this kind of discerning eye--writers like Joan Didion, MFK Fisher, Truman Capote, Virginia Woolf, Mary Karr, Edmund Wilson and more. We will discuss how writers have incorporated observation, reflection and research like padding in and around their own memories--making their work about much more than themselves. We will use short readings as inspiration for in-class writing exercises and discussions, with an emphasis on trying out a variety of methods, voices and models.
22. The Anti-Hero
Iris Brooks Cohen - firstname.lastname@example.org
Dodge 411 Saturdays 2-4pm
Mar 26, Apr 2-16
Anti-heroes are the bad boys of literature; these are the characters you love to hate and the ones you hate yourself for loving. In this course we will examine a few classic examples of the archetype and try to answer the question, how do authors convince us to spend our time in the company of morally repugnant characters and to even enjoy the experience? We will investigate the idea of reader sympathy and see what techniques are available to us as writers to create complicated, sometimes downright terrible, but always compelling characters.
We will read selections from famous works and see what tricks the authors use, including voice, humor, identification, point of view, comparative structures and reader complicity, to make us love their murdering, lying, lecherous creations. Over the course of the class, students will create their own morally comprised character and experiment with different ways of making him more or less sympathetic to a reader.
Readings include excerpts from Crime and Punishment (Dostoyevsky), Lolita (Nabokov), The Talented Mr. Ripley (Highsmith), American Psycho (Easton Ellis), A Clockwork Orange (Burgess), Paradise Lost (Milton), The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald) and Macbeth (Shakespeare). Other great anti-heroes from our culture from Tony Soprano to Batman will also feature in our discussions.
23. Under the Influence: (Re)inventing Your Playwriting Process
Christina Quintana - email@example.com
Dodge 407 Tuesdays 7PM-9PM
February 22- March 22
(No class the week of March 15 due to Spring Break)
Writing a play or always wanted to, but not sure where to start or where to continue? Then this is the class for you. A course focused on playwriting development and revision-- finding inspiration in various sources, surprising and not so surprising (movement, paintings, poems, nature, films, sports, etc). The course will involve in-class reading, exercises, and possible work on outside pieces. Short plays may include: Orange Flower Water by Craig Wright, Seven Jewish Children by Caryl Churchill, excerpts from 365 Days/365 Plays by Suzan-Lori Parks, Mneumonic by Complicite and more.
24. Badass Poetry: A Writing Workshop for Beginning Poets
Kate Lim - firstname.lastname@example.org
Dodge 409 Thursdays 4-6
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word "badass" as a noun ("an aggressive or uncooperative person") as well as an adjective ("very good"). A badass poem is therefore one that refuses to play by the rules, but at the same time is not a poem we can dismiss as clever or shocking. Unlike the nice, well-behaved poem that fails to surprise us a badass poem deliberately strays off the beaten path of Poetry to become something wild and bracingly new.
In this class, we will look at some of these badass poems as a source of inspiration and poetic possibilities for our own writing. In particular we will examine how various "maverick" poets deftly incorporate the element of surprise in their own work through diction, imagery, form, tone, or an unusual choice of speaker such as Louise Glück's talking flowers in The Wild Iris or Thomas James's "Lady Jemutesonekh," an Egyptian mummy who addresses us from the afterlife.
Students will be encouraged to experiment and take risks in their writing and will have the opportunity to share and receive helpful feedback on their work.
Readings will include a few short essays by Robert Bly, Tony Hoagland, Helen Vendler and Federico Garcia Lorca, as well as poems by Sylvia Plath, John Berryman, John Ashbery, Frank Bidart, Thomas James, Louise Glück, Kay Ryan, Franz Wright, Dan Chiasson and Olena Kalytiak Davis among others.
25. Transcending Genre
Nadia Waggener - email@example.com
Dodge 407 Wednesdays 5-7pm
Mar 30, Apr 6-20
Fancy yourself a short story writer? Consider poetry your life blood? Dedicated to the art of memoir or essay? Interested in ways to expand the depth and breadth of your voice? In this course, we will examine some of the most powerful and effective elements of each of our chosen genres, deconstruct the mechanics of each, and apply some of the elements of those “other” genres to our own. What can a memoirist learn about creating a complex character from a novelist? How can a short story illustrate an essential sense of urgency, mystery and plot-development in a way a memoirist could apply? How does a poet’s attention to word-choice, pacing and the line strengthen a prose writer’s work? How can a pen-and-paper writer strengthen their dialogue by listening to radio interviews or reading a screenplay?
Too often, once a writer chooses their genre, their scope of vision becomes narrow and there is little cross-over between and across the disciplines. We have much to learn from one another. In this course we will spend time getting acquainted with some of the masters of straight-up fiction, non-fiction and poetry as well as some contemporary writers who are living in the intersections of genre, applying some genre-bending techniques to beautiful effect. You will also be spending time interacting with work produced by your classmates, experimenting with new approaches and techniques in a series of brief weekly writing exercises and mini workshops.
Austen Rosenfeld - firstname.lastname@example.org
Dodge 413 Saturdays 12-2pm
Feb 26, Mar 5, 26, Apr. 2
What “belongs” in poetry and what should be excluded? Are poems only supposed to be
about love, life, death and nature? Could you write an ode to your shower curtains? A poem
about Li’l Wayne? Some of the most inﬂuential poems in our language have pushed limits and
subverted preconceived notions about what we traditionally expect from a poem. This class
explores how the seemingly unpoetic can ﬁnd its way into a poetic consciousness. We will look at
various poets who have dared to bring the shocking, awkward, ugly and mundane into their
poetry. The class will discuss the often ﬁne line between “shock value” and originality and why
the term “poetic” is often used negatively in workshop settings. A large portion of this class will
include writing assignments that urge and inspire students to draw from the “anti-poetical,”
however we end up deﬁning that, in their own poems. We will gather lexicons and vocabularies
that are unfamiliar and “incompatible” to poetry such as ﬁnancial statements, insurance forms,
grocery lists, prescription labels etc.
The reading for this class will include, but is not limited to, Sharon Olds, Allen Ginsberg,
Frederick Seidel, William Carlos Williams. We will also watch the documentary ﬁlm about the
artist Daniel Johnston titled, The Devil and Daniel Johnston.
27. Writers from the Block
Ashley Nelson - email@example.com
Dodge 407 Mondays 4-6pm
We take some form of a journey every time we sit to write, be it a paragraph, a page, or a Ulysses-sized novel. However, sometimes the path to discovery can detour into the neighborhood we hate the most: the writer’s block. This class is designed to help both generate writing and discuss the work you’ve produced. We’ll typically begin with some form of writing exercise. Then you will (brace yourself) do some writing in class. Then we’ll talk about it. You can use this as a place to work on previous unfinished work/work in progress or jumpstart a completely new project. The artistic freedom is yours. There may be some excerpts brought into class for discussion, depending on how we feel about it. But mostly it will focus on generating writing and then diving into what we’ve created in the first hour. The second hour will be designed around your goals for the class—whether it be reading your work aloud to the group, working in pairs, or reading published fiction from some of the greats for inspiration. In any case, we’ll help each other move out of the dreaded Block.
28. I Remember Everything: Writing About Your Life
Valerie Seiling Jacobs - firstname.lastname@example.org
Dodge 407 Tuesdays 7:00-9:00 p.m.
Mar 29, Apr 5, 12, 19
General Description: This non-credit course is for fiction and nonfiction writers who
want to learn how to make their personal stories come alive on the page. This class will
give you the tools to craft an interesting and compelling narrative.
During the first part of each session, we will cover the basic elements of writing literary
nonfiction, including: structure, description, dialogue, setting, pacing, and narrative
voice. The balance of each class will be conducted in a workshop format: each student
will be asked to bring a short piece (or excerpt from a longer work) to be critiqued.
Suggested Readings: Zinsser, William. On Writing Well. HarperCollins (2006) ISBN
0060891548; Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Anchor
Books (1995) ISBN 0385480016; The NY Writers Workshop. The Portable MFA in
Creative Writing. Writers Digest Books (2006) ISBN 1582973504; miscellaneous other
handouts to be provided by Instructor.
29. Writing for your Reader: Fiction Workshop/Seminar
David Varno - email@example.com
Dodge 411 Fridays 4-6pm
Feb 25, Mar 4, 11, 25
What happens when we are confronted with a text that is difficult to read? Is the
deep breath we take upon opening a book like Ulysses preparation for a shift of hard
work, or are we immersing ourselves in pleasure?
Before a written word such as “lick” can stimulate the motor cortex, which
then increases blood flow to the mouth and tongue, it runs through a premotor
section of the brain called Wernickle’s area. This is known as the reader’s muscle.
Research has shown that lazy readers have a weaker reader’s muscle, less prone
to stimulation. Writers like James Joyce or Jorge Luis Borges expect their readers’
reader’s muscles to be strong.
In class, we will look at modern and contemporary writing that challenges the
reader’s cognitive powers and encourages the reader to visualize, to participate in
the creative process. This will be a framework to discuss our own work, to assess
whether our writing challenges the reader in a way that is helpful or hindering, and
how, as writers, we can balance our mutual concerns for accessibility and ambition.
Writers are encouraged to submit short stories, short-shorts, and/or prose poems,
and will have their work discussed by the class at least once in the four weeks,
depending on enrollment.
(Very) brief readings will include: Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, Donald Barthelme,
30. Sad but Silly
Juliana Xuan Wang - Juliesay@gmail.com
Dodge 411 Fridays 2-4pm
Ever wonder why often we often want to burst out laughing when it’s least appropriate? Why is that we often most enjoy hearing stories that pain and tickle us in equal measure? This class is all about exploring those inexplicable urges together. We will consider the many ways fiction writers find the humor in sadness and point out the absurd within the tragic as techniques in story telling. Every week we will read stories that are at once freakishly funny but also achingly sad. Authors include: Lorrie Moore, Stacey Richter, Junot Diaz, Amy Hempel, Grace Paley, Robert Coover and many more. We will look to these readings as examples successfully using humor with sadness both as emotional discourse and as a literary strategy.
In class-exercises will focus on developing techniques in voice, plot, and perspective through short dialogues and character sketches. Later, we will work on longer original pieces of absurd tragedies. At the end of the course, we will workshop your complete short story, all the while laughing and crying at the same time.
31. The Areas of Your Expertise: A Nonfiction Seminar/Workshop
Alexander Wilds Cunningham - firstname.lastname@example.org
Dodge 407 Wednesdays 7-9pm
Feb 23, Mar 2, 9, 23
Readers love to learn from an expert, and every writer is an expert on something. Journalists provide the exclusive facts of the scoop. Historical writers give fresh analysis on common knowledge. Even the memoirist offers a unique biography and perspective on human nature. In this class, students will examine the tools accomplished nonfiction writers use to craft compelling stories full of expert knowledge. They will also produce work that speaks to their own areas of expertise.
Short selections will be read from John McPhee, Roy Blount Jr., Susan Brind Morrow, Jonathan Gold, Bruce Chatwin, Chuck Klosterman, and Stephen Marche.