Course Syllabi

Spring 2014 Fiction Workshop with Jayne Anne Phillips

MFA Fiction Workshop/ Jayne Anne Phillips

Spring ’14, Mon. 5:30-8:10 pm Class: 43 Bleeker

Note that I usually meet with writers previous to workshop discussion of their fiction during my Mon. office hours to confer on line edit, thesis construction, any other concerns. This workshop is composed of writing, editing, and reading as writers. Each element is equally important.  Please read ahead in the supplemental texts if possible.

Learning goals: Students will demonstrate increasing skill at writing and revising at least four short stories or excerpts from longer works; they will also write weekly critiques on the work of their peers, and turn in perceptive assigned critical responses to the supplemental reading.

Workshop Schedule: Each student will have four opportunities to present work (and revisions of that work), according to the deadlines set below: Plan now to make your deadlines and have substantial, work to put up for class.  New term begins Monday, Jan. 20. After our first class, work will be distributed IN CLASS for the next week; please plan ahead; if you are submitting work, attend class with the required number of copies for yourself, your classmates, and the instructor).

Each workshop, please bring edited copies of the stories being discussed that week to class with 2 copies of a one page, single-spaced, typed critique. One copy of the critique will be given to the author to aid in his/her revision; the other will be turned in to the instructor. Your critiques should address what works well for you in the story and what doesn’t, where you engage as a reader, where you are lost or lose interest.  Include your praise, questions, and specific suggestions. Your critiques should form the basis of your classroom discussion of the work. Write well in your critiques, in paragraph form, as would a critic or reviewer, but state your points in congenial fashion to your colleagues. Our class aspires to provide a supportive and incisive editorial board for our workshop. Please LINE EDIT your copies of the stories up for discussion, commenting in the margins AND ON ACTUAL LINES. Strive to be a good line editor (you can’t edit yourself effectively until you learn to edit others). Stories marked/line edited by classmates and instructor will be returned to the author to aid in revision.  Editing, along with writing and reading our supplemental texts, is important, and you should strive to progress as an editor just as you strive to progress as a writer.

Each writer knows her/his deadlines far in advance.  Please plan to make your deadlines.  Our opportunity at a small workshop allows each writer to write 4 stories, and be up for discussion of new work every 2 weeks throughout the semester. It’s advisable to begin class with 2 completed stories or self-contained excerpts that are polished in terms of the sentences themselves.  The aim of the workshop is to help the work reach final form and to workshop a revision of three stories.   Please try to move beyond first draft in your submissions of new work; the work you turn in to class should be work you have revised and edited yourself at least twice.  Please do not submit work previously submitted to other workshops.

Workshop feedback is most effective for short stories, or for book/novel/memoir excerpts that can be read as complete in themselves (though enlarged in meaning and effect within a larger context).  Stories or excerpts should be no more than 23 pg; typed and double-spaced; fine to submit a shorter work (the classic length for the short story is 15 pages – longer is not necessarily better), or two (short short) fictions if you like.  Do keep up with the supplemental reading and bring texts to class.    Email me if you have questions.

Please don’t be late for class, or take class time to print copies of stories, etc.  Parking is difficult, so plan ahead if this is a consideration.  The workshop is a community; each member needs to actively participate. Students who miss more than one class (for serious illness or emergencies only) may incur a letter grade drop for each absence. Students who miss class on the day their work is to be discussed will forfeit their chance for discussion of that work. We have an intense semester before us!  Welcome!

Monday Jan. 20: no meeting (MLK day), but classes start on Tuesday.

Please read our first supplemental reading: “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities,” by Delmore Schwartz (along with my Intro to the story, both emailed to you) by the 20th (the story is a scant 5 pages).  Pick 3 favorite graphs from different sections of the story and type them out; follow each with a short statement on why you chose them/ their context within the story.  We’ll use these on Jan. 27 in class as basis for discussion, and you will be turning in a copy to me.  Group I: please email your first submission to me and to all class members by Monday, Jan. 20. Everyone, please bring your line-edited copies to class, along with two copies of your one paged, single-spaced, typed critique of each story.  You’ll return one copy to the author with your copy of their story, and turn in one copy to me.

 

Monday, Jan. 27: Group 1 new work discussed, Group 2 turns in new work.  Discussion of your chosen graphs in “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities.”  Intro: On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan. Please read half of this short novel for next class. Pick a quote from those supplied in class to respond to in writing for next class.

Monday, Feb. 3 : Group 2 discussed, Group 1 turns in revised first submission. Further discussion On Chesil Beach. Assignments re: place, theme, structure, understatement, historical era as formation/influence on character.

Monday, Feb. 10: Group 1 revisions discussed; Group 2 turns in first revisions. Continued discussion: On Chesil Beach.  Intro: Pedro Paramo. Read at least half the book for next class. 

Monday, Feb.17: Group 2 revisions discussed; Group 1 turns in new work.  Discussion structure, character, voice, place in Pedro ParamoRead rest of the book for next class. Type out your 3 favorite lines/graphs, one from each story; follow each with a short statement on why you chose them/ their context within the work.  We’ll use these in class as basis for discussion, and you will be turning in a copy to me.  Choose ‘Speak to’ quotes given out to class. Present your quote to class next week, from prepared notes that you will be turning in to me.

Monday, Feb. 24: Group 1 new work discussed; Group 2 turns in new work.  Continued discussion: Pedro Paramo.  For next week, “map” the structure of the book. How does Rulfo present the information in the story, in what order, and why? What are the effects of the structure he chooses? The language?

Monday, March 3: Group 2 new work discussed; Group 1 turns in revised work; Discussion: POV, voice, story arc, maps of Pedro Paramo. Intro: Tell Me A Riddle, by Tillie Olsen.  Read the title story for next class. For next week, type out 3 favorite graphs; follow each with a short statement on why you chose them/ their context within the story.  We’ll use these in class as basis for discussion, and you will be turning in a copy to me.

Monday March 10: Group 1 revisions discussed; Group 2 turns in revised work. Continued discussion of Tell Me A Riddle.  Intro: Train Dreams, by Denis Johnson.

Monday March 17:  (no class, spring break).  Read Train Dreams and “map” the structure of the book. Note first references to information and echoes that surface later. Research historical era to share with class.

Monday, March 24: Group 2 revisions discussed; Group 1 turns in new work.  Discussion: maps of Train Dreams. Assigned topics: language, historical era/magical elements, manipulation of time and dream.

Monday, March 31:  Group 1 new work discussed; Group 2 turns in new work.  Discussion of train Dreams. Intro:  The Blue Flower, by Penelope Fitzgerald. Read at least half the book for next week. Type out your 3 favorite lines/graphs illustrating the world of the novel; follow each with a short statement on why you chose your quotes/ their strength as language/ context within the book. 

Monday, April 7:  Group 2 revisions discussed; Group 1 turns in new work. Continued discussion of The Blue Flower. Assignments: each class member will speak to one of the following: narrative arc, historical era (known personage), voice, structure, place, political world.   Bring assigned typed response for next week.

Monday, April 14:  Group 1 new work discussed, Group 2 turns in new work. Continued discussion of The Blue Flower.

Monday, April 21:  Group 2 new work discussed.  Discussion of comparisons: openings, voice, technique in “In Dreams…” On Chesil Beach, Tell Me A Riddle, Train Dreams, The Blue Flower. Please bring all texts to class.

Assignment: For next class, each of us brings in a story /excerpt to exchange for discussion on April 28 class: everyone brings in 7 copies of a story or excerpt you want to share with the class.  Try to keep them to a length of no more than 6 xeroxed pages.  Type a short one page graph ‘teaching talk’ on your choice for next week. Bring copies for class/ and to turn in to instructor.

Monday, April 28: Discussion of selected short stories/excerpts, with ‘teaching talks’ by each student.

Discussion: comparison of openings, historical eras, in “In Dreams …”, On Chesil Beach, Pedro Paramo, Tell Me A Riddle, Train Dreams, The Blue Flower. Bring all to class.  Hand-out: one page fictions: Assignment for May 5: each author writes one unsigned, 12 pt type, Times New Roman font, single -spaced one page fiction for ‘Guess The Author’ reading, next class.  You’ll turn these in to Melissa, 10 copies, by 2 pm on Dec.2.  Prizes for the one who guesses the most authors correctly, and for the one who goes most undetected!

Monday, May 5: One Page Fictions Workshop. Reading aloud one page fictions, contest, last class. Drinks and dinner for everyone at venue TBA.


 

Spring 2014 Fiction Workshop with Alice Elliott Dark

26:200:551:01

26:200:553:01

Alice Elliott Dark

Monday 5:30-8:10

Office Hour Monday 3:30-5  43 Bleeker Street

Or by appt.

 

Course Goals:

 

Goal 1: Students will demonstrate a high-level of ability to write and complete a revised, full-length work of literature in a primary genre concentration (fiction or poetry).

 Goal 2: By graduation, students will be able to write critically about structure, craft, and literary traditions of the work of various published authors.

 Goal 3: Students are prepared for entry into the public life of literature, which includes locating their own work in the context of contemporary literary practice, preparing their work according to professional standards, teaching creative writing, and participating in diverse literary communities.

 

For the first six weeks of this semester you will be writing as much as possible. The amount will depend on each of you and your natural pace and inclination, but there are hidden powers in velocity that I’d like you to explore. Then we’ll slow way down and work on sentences, one by one, to see what they reveal. Each week you’ll bring in pages, paragraphs or sentences to class to discuss with the group. This won’t be a critique, but a discussion of what your concerns and what you discovered. We have a small class this spring, and I see this as an opportunity for each of you to develop your own voice and style by the only means possible—doing a great deal of writing.

During the second half of the course we’ll move into a more traditional workshop format to discuss completed stories. I’d like you to turn in two stories that you consider as complete as you know how to make them. Our discussions will focus on considering what you have done, what you might want to think more about, and what this story means for your development as a writer.

Please turn in your work in Times New Roman 12 pt., double-spaced. 25 pages maximum, unless your colleagues agree to let you share more. Have hard copies for the class on the day your piece is due. Please do not ask to email your story later in the week. This is your most important commitment this semester. Workshop comes first.

Please read the stories once through before you mark them up.  Include on this page a one-sentence statement of what the story is about.  Example:  A Good Man Is Hard to Find: A self-absorbed grandmother seeks to change the vacation plans of her son’s family to go where she wants.  It’s important to state what the protagonist seeks to do. Then read again and make note of sentences you think are wonderful, places you don’t understand, and general responses you have while reading.  These responses must remain constructive at all times.  Our job is to understand as best we can what the writer is after, and to help h/er achieve this as fully as possible.  Make comments on the pages as well as notes to bring to class.  We will discuss how to write to each other. I will provide further instructions of how to offer a constructive critique.

If you’d like to meet with me, we will. I enjoy lunch meetings, but not all of you are on campus in the day. We will find time.

You’ll be turning in your stories in groups of two. We’ll make up the schedule after the first six weeks have passed. I don’t want anything to interfere with the freedom of this time.

 

Books:

Several short sentences about writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg


 

Spring 2014 Poetry Workshop with Rigoberto Gonzalez

Poetry Workshop (Spring 2014)
26:200:555/557
M 5:30-8:10 Hill Hall 216
Instructor: Professor Rigoberto González
Office: 43 Bleeker
Office Hours: M/W 4-5
 

Graduate Workshop Learning Goals:
Goal 1: Students will demonstrate a high-level of ability to write and complete a revised,
full-length work of literature in a primary genre concentration (fiction or poetry).
Goal 2: By graduation, students will be able to write critically about structure, craft, and
literary traditions of the work of various published authors.
Goal 3: Students are prepared for entry into the public life of literature, which includes
locating their own work in the context of contemporary literary practice, preparing their
work according to professional standards, teaching creative writing, and participating in
diverse literary communities.

Required Texts
Looking for the Gulf Motel, Richard Blanco
Thrall, Natasha Trethewey
Modern Life, Matthea Harvey

Work Load
Weekly Challenge Poems
Weekly/Bi-Weekly Drafts of Poems
5 Solid Revisions/ New Poems—in Final Portfolio
 

Semester Schedule
M 01/27 WS. Challenge Poem 1 (González)
T 01/28 Writers@Newark: Hadas & Goodman
M 02/03 WS. Challenge Poem 2 (Smolinsky)
M 02/10 WS. Discuss 1/2 Blanco Book. Challenge Poem 3 (Cadman)
T 02/11 MFA Graduate Student Reading
M 02/17 WS. Discuss 1/2 Blanco Book.
T 02/18 Writers@Newark: Blanco & Solomon
M 02/24 No Workshop: Out of Town
M 03/03 WS. Discuss 1/2 Trethewey Book. Challenge Poem 4 (Ferguson)
M 03/10 WS. Discuss 1/2 Trethewey Book.
T 03/11 Writers@Newark: Trethewey & Jones
M 03/17 No Workshop: Spring Break
M 03/24 WS. Challenge Poem 5 (Pallotta)
M 03/25 MFA Graduate Student Reading
M 03/31 WS. Challenge Poem 6 (Finkelstein)
M 04/07 WS. Discuss 1/2 Harvey Book
M 04/14 WS. Discuss 1/2 Harvey Book
T 04/15 Writers@Newark: Harvey & Saunders
M 04/21 WS. Challenge Poem 7 (González)
M 04/28 WS.
T 04/29 MFA Graduate Student Reading
M 05/05 Cinco de Mayo Dinner
T 05/06 Newark High School Writing Contest Awards


 

The Craft of Fiction

26:200:563:01

Professor Alice Elliott Dark

Spring 2014

Wednesday 5:30-8:10

Craft makes us better than we are, smarter, wiser, sharpens observation into vision, quickens reflexes, allowing an intellectual activity to be more blessedly instinctive.   Stuart Dybeck

Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself.  Truman Capote

Words have to be crafted, not sprayed. They need to be fitted together with infinite care. 
 Norman Cousins

Easy reading is damned hard writing. 
 Nathaniel Hawthorne

Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story. Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It's not just a question of how-to, you see; it's also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing. 
  Stephen King

A plot isn’t merely a string of occurrences; it is a carefully orchestrated telling of events that might include breaking up their temporal order, taking out certain pieces or emphasizing other pieces. It is that manipulation that a simple story becomes a plot.   Robert Kernen

 

Course Description:

This class will be uniquely dedicated to reading, thinking about, and studying the craft that goes into writing a work of fiction. 

Course Goals:

1) An understanding of the techniques of fictional craft

How to plot, create a character, write in sensibility, shape a scene, create a variety of sentences, choose the best point of view for a story, make setting the equivalent of character, understand themes

2) A common vocabulary of craft terms

3) Creation and keeping of a writing journal. You may design this any way that will work best for you. A loose-leaf notebook works well, with section dividers. Categories might include: Class exercises, quotes about writing, copying inspiring or instructional passages from books, vocabulary, daily weather report, observations and lines, witty apercus, overheard conversation, free writing, ideas, schedules, writing logs.

4) A portfolio of exercises done for assignments

5) A 15-minute talk about craft—your own TED talk

 

Required Books:

Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft  Seventh edition by Janet Burroway, Ned Stuckey-French

Aristotle’s Poetics

The Art of Time by Joan Silber

Several short sentences about writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg

The Art of Fiction by John Gardner

How Fiction Works by James Wood

 

General Information:

Attendance is mandatory. Please email me in advance of any absence. Acceptable excuses are illness, religious holidays, and a death in the family.

Students will be expected to comply with Rutgers University policies regarding Academic Integrity. You may read the policy here: http://academicintegrity.rutgers.edu

Your work must be your own.

Bring your writing exercises and your notes on the stories we study to class.

You will be graded on class participation, completion of all the exercises, and the craft talk.


Week 1: The Writing Process

January 29

Read WF Chapter 1 Whatever Works

            “Shitty First Drafts” by Ann Lamott

            “Why I Write” by Joan Didion

            “On Writing A Notebook” by Joan Didion

http://www.h-ngm-n.com/storage/didion%20-%20on%20keeping%20a%20notebook.pdf

            Do exercises #1, #3, #5

            Write a Why I Write

 

Week 2:  Narration

February 5

Read WF Chapter 2  Seeing is Believing

            Read “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” Joyce Carol Oates

            Read “The Things They Carried” Tim O’ Brien

            Do Exercise #6 and #7

Read Wood 1-59 Pay special attention to Free Indirect Style

Read Chapter 6 “Technique” Gardner

 

Week 3: Time

February 12      

Read WF Chapter 6  Fictional Time

Read “The Mastiff” by Joyce Carol Oates

http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/features/2013/07/01/130701fi_fiction_oates?currentPage=all

Listen to Louise Erdrich read “The Mastiff”

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2013/11/ficton-podcast-louise-erdrich-reads-joyce-carol-oates.html

Write two lists of events

  1. The order of events as they appear in the story
  2. The order of events as they literally occur
  3. For class discussion: Why does Oates order the events as they appear in the story?

 

Week 4: Time 2

February 19

Read The Art of Time by Joan Silber

Read the three stories in WF Chapter 6 by Cheever, Divakaruni, and Carver

Do all 6 exercises at the end of Chapter 6 in Writing Fiction, one per day over the course of the week.

 

Week Five: Sentences

February 26

Read Several Sort Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg

Try the writing method on p. 96 – 105.

Work on a story of yours, looking deeply into the sentences. Bring in a few sentences, before and after.

Read Chapter 5 Gardner “Common Mistakes”

Read chapter on “Language” in How Fiction Works

 

Week Six: The Story Prize

March 5

Read stories in preparation (handouts)

Attend event at The New School. You’ll be given an admissions ticket.

 

Week Seven: Plot

March 12

Read WF Chapter Seven The Tower and The Net

Read “The Uses of Force” by William Carlos Williams

Read “Golden Boy, Emerald Girl” by Yiyun Li

http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/features/2008/10/13/081013fi_fiction_li?currentPage=all

Read “Everything That Rises Must Converge”

Makes notes about all these stories. What is the conflict, the crisis, the resolution? The patterns of connection and disconnection? Do they correspond to the checkmark/Freitag’s pyramid?

Chapter Seven Gardner Plotting

 

Spring break March 15-23

You will write and perform your own 10-15 minute TED talk during the last class on April 28. Please begin to think about what you want to say about writing to the world and for posterity.

Some TED talks on writing. Also poke around this list.

http://oedb.org/ilibrarian/90-inspiring-author-videos-for-aspiring-writers/

Andrew Stanton http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxDwieKpawg

Elizabeth Gilbert

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86x-u-tz0MA&list=PLm_8HccW2m1te6MPHStgNK3CGGld4YwyV

Amy Tan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8D0pwe4vaQo&list=PLm_8HccW2m1te6MPHStgNK3CGGld4YwyV

Elif Shafak

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zq7QPnqLoUk

Sarah Kay

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0snNB1yS3IE

 

Week Eight: Plot 2

March 26

Read Aristotle’s Poetics, including the Introduction by Malcolm Heath

http://www2.cnr.edu/home/bmcmanus/poetics.html Review of Poetics

http://www2.cnr.edu/home/bmcmanus/oedipusplot.html Plot of Oedipus the King

Important Concepts: Unity of Action, Beginning, Middle, and End, Mimesis, Catharsis, Hamartia, Peripeteia, Anagnorisis

 

Week Nine: Character

April 2

Read WF Chapter 3 Building Character

Read “Gryphon” by Charles Baxter

Read “Every Tongue Shall Confess” by ZZ Packer

By what methods are the characters introduced?

Read chapter on Character in How Fiction Works

Do exercise 5 on p. 136 WF

 

Week Ten: Character 2

April 9

Read WF Chapter 4 The Flesh Made Word

Read “Babylon Revisited” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Do Exercise 2 on p. 170 WF using one of the characters in this story

 

Week Eleven: Setting

April 16

Read WF Chapter 5 Far, Far Away: Fictional Place

Read “Love and Hydrogen” by Jim Shephard

Write a list story focused on setting; all the places you’ve lived, or the places you want to go, or everything you noticed on the day something important happened.  Be sure to think of your setting as intrinsic to meaning, and write in sensibility.

 

Week Twelve: Theme

April 23

Read WF Chapter 10 I Gotta Use Words When I Talk To You: Theme

Read all three stories; Paley, Saunders, Alexie

Read Wood “A Brief History of Consciousness”

 

Week Thirteen: Craft Talks

April 30