“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” –Thomas Mann

As William Styron says, “Let’s face it, writing is hell”–and not only the doing of it, the staring at the blank paper in what must look like an idiot’s stupor, but the putting of your fresh, tender work out there for readers. No matter how accomplished we might be, it’s still a strange moment when we have to let our writing go. But let it go we must in this class, repeatedly, often, and without fear. Our goal is to explore our creative writing selves and to learn as much as we can about what makes good writing work–across the creative genres. During the semester we will read, discuss, write, revise and play with digital multimedia writing, creative nonfiction, fiction and poetry, paying particular attention to the writing challenges each genre presents and to the often confusing edges between and around them.

Tuesday and Thursday class time in Coltrane will be divided between discussions of craft and readings, exercises, and presentations. Expect to talk a good deal about what makes writing work, and expect to have all kinds of writing exercises thrown at you. Wednesday evenings will be devoted to experimentation and workshopping your own writing, under the mentorship of our fabulous course tutors, Alex, Katie and Maddie.

Outside of class you will develop your own writing habit and goals within each genre through a series of writing and reading assignments including blogging, experiments, and responding to one another’s work. You will also meet regularly with BG and/or our tutors in conference to discuss your writing.

In this classroom, we are a community of writers sharing a creative learning experience, and therefore, we shall support one another and contribute to one another’s sense of creative writing by being thoughtful and honest writers, readers, experimenters and responders.


***We will revisit the following requirements during the opening days and revise them according to the needs & wishes of the full writing community. In other words, it isn’t until we are all together, and it is together that we can know where we’re headed and how and why.****


We all must attend class, workshop and conference on time in order for the learning community to bond and to work effectively. If you are sick or otherwise must miss class, please notify BG with as much lead time as possible. All class members must participate energetically in class discussion and in group-exercises as well as contribute actively and constructively to small-group work and workshops


This interactive Website, home for us during this semester, has three columns, each serving its own purpose.
Collaborative, ongoing blogging space. Each of us will post entries to the homepage of the blog, directing the rest of us to discoveries made during class discussions and through the assigned readings, and to classmates’ writing for us all to see, or just because we have something to tell the group. When something in a reading strikes you as worthy of a closer look and discussion, post the excerpt or reference, make your observation or ask your question, and join the discussion as it unfolds. This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of this course–the emphasis on reading.

As Samuel Johnson said, “I hate to read a writer who has written more than he has read.” To explore a full writing life, you need to do more than create a digital story, write a work of creative nonfiction, a story or two, and a few poems. You have to read exemplary works of nonfiction, fiction and poetry; and you must crawl around inside these works and see how and why they work; you have to engage them in conversation. This is your chance to figure out with one another what’s going on in the writing. Everyone must participate–not in every discussion, but often.

Take a look at the 100-words experiment from J-term. Here’s an example of one kind of posting we’ll do.

For other examples, skim through the homepage entries on these blogs:
EL170B Spring 2005

EL170B Spring 2006

FYSE 1223 The Far Reaches of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction

J-term 2008 The Far Reaches of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction

Our course organizing tool: a place to find this overview, assignments and the syllabus, and helpful links to the writing world.

The locale for all our work–

Links to Student Blogs: Each of you will have your own blog on which to post your writing. We can see at a glance all the new work everyone is posting and can respond to one another’s work. At first you might find blogging exposes you too much, but I’m pretty sure you’ll all come to see the powerful benefits of sharing your work on the Web. If you write something you’d rather not have out there in the world beyond our class, we can close it off.


You also have to play with abandon (on paper and/or on blog) to discover your own relationship with language, your own natural terrain.

You must find a place and a time to write every day. Experiment with locations; search for the place(s) that will allow you to write freely and without interruption. Find a time to write that suits your work–play around with different times of the day. Explore writing routines: do you write well with a certain pen and notebook, or does your laptop under a tree suit you?

I am a believer in actively embracing the world–your world–all of it, through observation and informal writing whenever possible. Hone your senses, keep your pen stirred, and exercise your imagination.

You will need to own at least one substantial notebook (one that can live through torrential downpours and flights across rooms and coffee spills)–preferably unlined to allow you absolute freedom here to work beyond mere lines on a page and beyond written text to multi-media explorations–and perhaps a small pad to keep in your pocket at all times. You may also mess around on your blog as part of your daily writing.

Collections: It’s important to collect words & images obsessively, making them strange and unfamiliar, listening to their sounds, looking at their textures, their meanings, and how they bump up against each other. Here we’ll share words and images and whatever discoveries we make with language.



Once during the semester you will sign up to give a ten-minute presentation on one of the writers we encounter this semester. You will select a short passage from one of the readings assigned for the day of your presentation and explain for us what you learn about writing from the passage. Do not paraphrase the passage or interpret it. Do not think of this exercise as an opportunity to do some literary criticism. We’re thinking as writers, here, and interested in the how of the what. Give us, too, some sense of who this writer is/was. Remember, 10 minutes max. We will podcast these mini-lectures and post them on the blog. Discussion will follow out of these presentations.


The following system both allows you to experiment wildly and requires you to take three pieces of writing from first inklings to completion:


We will develop a grading rubric together during the semester.
You will each write an ongoing narrative reflection about your learning and progress in the course, keeping these standards in mind. At the end of each of the units you will write a unit reflection and meet with bg to discuss your progress based on the standards from our rubric. At the end of semester, you will write a final, hypertext narrative self-evaluation and present your work, including a proposed final grade to bg in a one-on-one conference much as people do in performance evaluations out in the work world.


D’Agata, John The Next American Essay
Kitchen & Paumier Jones In Short
Oates, Joyce Carol Telling Stories
Dumanis & Marvin Legitimate Dangers
Hand-outs and Web Reading, as assigned

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