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Introduction to Creative Writing

School: University of Minnesota
Professor: Argie Manolis

English 1021: Introduction to Creative Writing

Meets MWF, 1:00 02:05 p.m. in Hum 111
(Service Learning sessions at West Wind Village to be arranged)

Instructor: Argie Manolis
Email: manolis {at} mrs.umn(.)edu (This is the best way to reach me)
Office: HUM 124
Office Phone/Voicemail: 589-6257 (This is the second best way to reach me)
Office Hours: Tues, 12-2 and Wed, 2-4

A poem does invite, it does inquire. What does it invite? A poem invites you to feel.
More than that: It invites you to respond. And better than that: A poem invites a total response.

-Muriel Rukeyser from The Life of Poetry

Course Description
Welcome to Introduction to Creative Writing! This is a course in "inquiry" and "total response." In the process of reading and writing poetry and fiction, you'll come to recognize the power of the written word how it can change the way writers and readers live their lives. This writing course is designed to help you discover and put into practice your own strategies for living a more creative life. More practically (or more academically), you'll learn basic strategies for gathering ideas for, writing, critically reading, and revising prose (primarily fiction) and poetry (which may be fictional or non fictional).

This course encourages you to think of all your writing as work in progress. You will complete a portfolio of fiction and poetry at the end of the semester, but much of your grade on this portfolio will hinge on how hard you work at drafting and revising. In the process of doing the work, we'll discuss questions like, what makes a good story? A good poem? What is creative writing as an academic discipline and as a way of life? Where do our own stories and poems, and our own writing goals, fit in? What value does creative writing have personally, socially, and politically?

Research shows that people learn best when their reading, writing, and thinking relate to challenges and needs within their communities. In this course, you will have the opportunity to interact with elderly people in the Morris community, many of whom suffer from Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementia. You will create "found poetry" from their words in addition to your original poems. You will be providing a valuable service, and in the process, you'll learn to value the lives, memories, and words of people much different than you. You will spend a total of eight hours this semester Outside of class time meeting with the residents.

Course Requirements and Policies

Books You Need:

  • A Poetry Handbook, by Mary Oliver
  • Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, by Janet Burroway
  • Service Learning in Writing Courses at University of Minnesota Morris
  • Course Manual, Fourth Edition (This manual will be available from the instructor at the cost of production).

Other Supplies/Costs:

  • Photocopying costs will be significant. You should set aside $20 for these costs from the beginning of the semester.
  • Two two-pocket folders for submission of your portfolios and journal entries.
  • A large envelope for the return of your final portfolio
  • A disk, with all versions of your stories and poems saved.
  • Lined paper and a pen for in class writing assignments.

Attendance and Participation (5% of grade):
Because so much of your learning will take place in class, you must attend to receive credit for this course. If you miss more than three unexcused class meetings, your final course grade will be lowered by one letter grade. If you miss more than five unexcused class meetings, you cannot pass this course. Conferences and service learning sessions count as class meetings. If you find yourself missing class frequently because of illness, family problems, or other reasons, please talk to me about your attendance record as soon as it is of concern.

Because we are building a community of writers in this class, participation is important. You must participate in full class discussions of readings, service learning activities, and workshops. In class writing, including both journals and bi weekly letters (explained below) will count toward your final grade. At the end of the semester, I will assign an attendance and participation grade based on attendance and promptness, in class writing, participation in class discussions and workshops, and peer evaluations of your participation in the service learning project.

The Workshop (Part of attendance and participation grade):

Good writing is never a product of only one mind. Writers draw on a variety of experiences and influences in order to work through the writing process, An important influence is feedback from a diverse audience for the sake of this course, your teacher and your peers. The workshop is an important part of this, and all, creative writing courses. The workshop allows you to gather a variety of responses and make choices about how you will revise your work as a result. As a reader, you'll discover what styles of writing you most enjoy and how to better appreciate good writing. You'll gain critical reading skills which will help you write more clearly and thoughtfully.

Writing involves risk. Responding to writing involves careful, critical, sensitive communication. I hope that as we get to know each other, we will learn to challenge and to support and encourage each other. This classroom should be a place in which we all feel comfortable sharing our work and are all open to thoughtful feedback. It's important to note that there's a difference between providing critical feedback that is useful and feedback that amounts to a general judgment negative or positive about a piece of work. Similarly, there's a difference between disagreeing with an idea or comment and shutting down or criticizing the person who made the comment. All work has the potential to be improved, and all ideas have the potential to be thoughtfully reconsidered. You'll be asked to look critically at each piece by your peers and think about how it could be improved. Unsupported comments will not be accepted. Neither will comments that are hurtful or condescending. Workshop responses (20% of your grade): You will be assigned to a group of three to four other students for each assignment. You are required to read drafts of poems and stories from the entire class, but you must only complete a thorough written response for your group members. You must be prepared to lead the discussion about the pieces written by members of your group on the day they will be workshopped. We will discuss the process for responding to drafts in more detail, and you will get a list of questions and/or criteria for each assignment.

Workshop Policies:

  • You must bring enough copies of your draft for each class member and the teacher on the day your drafts are due. You are responsible for knowing how many copies to bring. If you do not bring enough copies, your participation grade will be affected.
  • You must complete written peer reviews for each group member on the day the peer review is due. You must bring two copies of the peer review: one for the writer and one for the teacher. If you do not complete the peer review on the day it is due, or bring copies for both the writer and the teacher, your participation grade will be affected.
  • You must include copies of peer reviews you received with your portfolio packets, so do not discard them, even after you've completed the revision.
  • Peer reviews must be prepared in one of the following ways: you may type responses to each of the questions or criteria. Include your name, the writer's name, and the assignment if you type peer responses. You may also respond to each of these questions or criteria by writing in the margins of the poem. If you choose the second option, be sure you respond in some way to all criteria and use dark ink to write your comments so they will be legible on a photocopy. Write comments legibly, and include your name legibly at the top of the poem.
  • Bi-weekly letters (part of attendance and participation grade):
    Every other week, I will give you ten minutes at the end of class to reflect on the work we have accomplished as a community of writers during the previous two weeks. I will return your letter with a response during the next class period. Unlike the rest of your work in this class, your letters will be confidential. Because my goal is to help you learn, I want to check in with you every two weeks and find out how the class is working for you. Suggestions on ways to improve the class curriculum are greatly encouraged. In addition to these letters, I encourage you to meet with me so we can discuss how the class is working for you in more detail.
  • Conferences (part of attendance and participation grade): One group and two individual conferences are scheduled during the semester so you may receive one on one feedback on your writing in various stages. In addition, you should plan to visit me during office hours for additional feedback.

Final Poetry and Fiction Portfolio (50% of your grade):
You will write one short story and three original poems this semester. You will be evaluated not only on the quality of the final drafts, but also on the process. You will do a lot of prewriting for each assignment. It is your responsibility to keep track of these prewriting assignments. Out of class prewriting assignments must be submitted in the format described for your story drafts below. In class prewriting will be handwritten, but should include a heading with your name, the date, and a description of the prompt. Each time a draft is due, I will collect all the prewriting that led to that draft, directly or indirectly.

The story and the first two poems will be submitted to the instructor and peers for oral and written comments; the third poem will receive comments from the instructor only. You are expected to revise the story and one of the poems using these comments. At the end of the semester, you will write a reflection on your revision process for each piece you revise. Revision means "re vision" or "seeing in a new way." Mechanical changes or a few minor changes in plot, setting, language, line breaks, etc. does not constitute a revision. A revision involves reworking the piece several times, using critical thinking, peer comments, and artistic vision (which comes from a combination of intense engagement with the piece and periods of distance from it). How thoroughly you revise, how well you address peer comments in your reflection, and how much the story or poem improves in terms of its essential elements (plot, imagery, characterization, line breaks, etc.) will effect your grade.

In order to receive a passing grade (C or D) on this portfolio, you must submit all drafts of portfolio pieces on their due dates, complete 75% or more of the prewriting, and write a good revision. For an A or B, all prewriting must be completed and all drafts submitted on time. The revision must be significantly better in terms of its essential elements than the early drafts. All pieces must also be carefully proofread and free of mechanical errors for an A or B. In addition to prewriting exercises, Your portfolio will include several drafts, workshop responses, a final revision of at least one poem and the story, and a reflection on your revision process.

Found Poetry Portfolio (15% of your grade):
You're responsible for writing found poems based on the tapes from at least three meetings with residents at West Wind Village. Each time you write a series of found poems, you will also write a reflection on the process and on what the poems reveal or witness (a handout with specific questions to address will be available). Writing found poems will give You practice in composing titles and line breaks and help you think about your role as a writer in new ways. At the end of the semester, you and your peer group will compile these poems into a book of poetry for the residents and their loved ones. Each group of found poems and reflection is due in draft form a week after the session with residents. Final versions are due close to the end of the semester, when you will compile final books of poems for each resident with your peers.

Service learning journals and final service learning reflection essay (10% of your grade):
As part of the course's service learning requirement, you must reflect on the service learning project periodically throughout the semester. Specific questions will be offered to you in advance of each journal due date. Service learning journals should be submitted in the same format as your short story draft (see "final poetry and fiction portfolio"). In addition, you will draft and revise a final service learning reflection essay, which will be included in each resident's final book of poems. On some weeks, rather than a journal, you will be asked to write a letter to a family member of a resident with whom you work on the service learning project along with a brief reflection and analysis to accompany the letter. This letter should be formatted like a business letter. Examples will be provided.

Grading Policies:

  • For drafts of poems and stories, I will offer comments only; however, the comments will clearly explain how the assignment could be improved. I will you written comments on the day your poem or story is workshopped. For the third poem, you will receive my comments during a conference. You won't receive a grade for these pieces until I review your final portfolio revisions, but these final grades will be largely based on how thoughtfully you incorporated earlier comments.
  • You will receive comments on found poems within a week of the day they are submitted. You and your peers will receive a group grade on the final poetry books.
  • Your workshop responses will be graded based on how thoroughly you answered each assigned question/addressed each criterion and how thoughtfully you engaged the writer's work. I will offer thorough comments on these; please allow two weeks for a return.
  • Your service learning journals and essay will address how thoroughly and thoughtfully you answered the prompt and how well you narrated, reflected, and analyzed your experience in the previous two weeks.
  • Please see me during office hours or make an appointment to discuss any concerns about your grade.

Tentative Schedule
(NOTE: This schedule is likely to change. All changes will be announced in class.)

  • 1/13: Introductions/pre-survey
  • 1/15: Complete informational questionnaire. Read introduction to manual and complete reflection journal on p. 15. Read chapter one in Burroway.
  • 1/17: No class today. Begin work on assignments for 1/20.
  • 1/20: Read chapter one in manual and complete reflection journal on p. 23.
    NOTE: If you have already been involved in the service learning project, please complete the same journal assignment; Your responses will likely be
    different this semester.
  • 1/22: Read chapter four in manual and complete reflection journal on p. 72 under "additional questions for creative writing." You do NOT have to complete the reflection journal questions above this one. Read "The Visible Man" on pp. 144 154 in Burroway and the stories and poems on reserve at the library before tackling the reflection journal question. Be prepared to discuss all the stories and poems in the packet.
  • 1/24: Read chapter five and complete reflection journal under "additional questions for creative writing" on p. 80. You do NOT have to complete the reflection journal questions above these.
  • 1/27: Read chapter six in manual. Read chapter seven in manual. Read "alternative journal assignment" (handout).
  • 1/29: Complete journal on pp. 52 53. Panel discussion. Bring questions for panelists.
  • 1/31: Tour of West Wind Village. First service learning session during assigned group time. Facilitator will write poems for this week.
  • 2/3: Read chapter eight and complete reflection journal on p. 109.
    NOTE: If you have already been involved in the service learning project, please complete the same journal assignment; your responses will likely be
    different this semester.
    Complete a plot outline for your story. (Consider using exercise 1 or 3 on p. 28, or in class writing exercises, for ideas).
  • 2/5: Read Chapter Three in Burroway. 2/7: Read Chapter 10 in Burroway. Second service learning session during assigned group time. Facilitator will write poems for this week.
  • 2/10: Service learning journal #1 due. Read chapter Four in Burroway to p. 132. Complete a character sketch of your main character by freewriting about him/her, then writing a one page summary of the important characteristics of the character and the main obstacle/difficulty s/he will face in the story. (Consider using the exercises on p. 155 under "development/revision" for help in freewriting).
  • 2/12: Read chapter five in Burroway.
  • 2/14: Read chapter six to p. 216 in Burroway. Write a one page description of one or more of the settings in your story in progress. Read Chapter 7 to p. 273 in Burroway.
  • 2/15: Sweetheart's dance at West Wind Village. Volunteers who write a reflection about their experience will receive 20 points of extra credit toward their reflection journal or essay grade (wherever the points would best help you at the end of the semester). Third service learning session during assigned group lime. Facilitator will write poems for this week. Individual conferences will be held outside of class lime this week. Bring your story in progress to the conference.
  • 2/17: Read Chapter 8 in Burroway to p. 301. Read "Who's Irish?" on pp. 311-319.
  • 2/19: No class today. Begin work on homework for 2/21.
  • 2/21: Read Chapter two in manual and complete reflection journal. Read poems your facilitator wrote from weeks one and two (handout). Read found poetry reflection journal assignment sheet (handout). Practice writing found poems. Continue work on story. Fourth service learning session during assigned group time. Student assigned to fourth session writes poems.
  • 2/24: Service learning journal #2 due. Read pp. 1-18 in Oliver. Practice writing found poems. Continue work on story.
  • 2/26: Read pp. 19 34 in Oliver. Practice writing found poems. Continue work on story.
  • 2/28: Story due with five copies. Read sample peer responses (handout). Fifth service learning session during assigned group time. Found poems and reflection due in class on Monday for student assigned to fourth session. Student assigned to fifth session writes poems. Group workshop conference will be held outside of class time. Bring two copies of each workshop response to the conference.
  • 3/3: Read pp. 35 57 in Oliver and packet of poems (handout).
  • 3/5: Read 58 75 and 112 118 in Oliver.
  • 3/7: Read chapter 11 in Burroway.
  • 3/10-3/14: Have a safe and happy spring break! Sixth service learning session during assigned group lime. Found poems and reflection due in class on Monday for student assigned to fifth session. Student assigned to sixth session writes poems.
  • 3/17: Service learning journal #3 due. Read assignment sheet and readings for poem #1 (handout)
  • 3/19: Work on poem/discuss handout.
  • 3/21: Work on poem/discuss handout. Read sample poem responses (handout). Seventh service learning session during assigned group time. Found poems and reflection due in class on Monday for student assigned to sixth session. Student assigned to seventh session writes poems.
  • 3/24: Draft of poem #1 due with copies for class and instructor.
  • 3/26: Workshop group one's poems. Group one responses due two copies each. If you are not in group one, read group one's poems carefully and make
    written notes for the workshop.
  • 3/28: Workshop group two's poems. Group two responses due two copies each. If you are not in group two, read group two's poems carefully and make written notes for the workshop. Eighth service learning session during assigned group time. Found poems and reflection due in Class on Monday for student assigned to seventh session. Student assigned to eighth session writes poems."
  • 3/31: Service learning journal #4 due. Workshop group three's poems. Group three responses due two copies each. If you are not in group three, read group three's poems carefully and make written notes for the workshop.
  • 4/2: Workshop group four's poems. Group four responses due two copies each. If you are not in group four, read group four's poems carefully and make written notes for the workshop.
  • 4/4: Read poem 42 assignment sheet and readings (handout). Ninth service learning session during assigned group time. Found poems and reflection due in class on Monday for student assigned to eighth session. Student assigned to ninth session writes poems
  • 4/7: Read Chapter 15 in manual.
  • 4/9: Work on service learning essay in class.
  • 4/11: Draft of service learning essay due with copies for peer group. Tenth service learning session during assigned group time. Found poems and reflection due in class on Monday for student assigned to ninth session. Student assigned to tenth session writes poems.
  • 4/14: Service learning journal #5 due. Peer response to service learning essay due.
  • 4/16: Draft of poem 92 due with copies for class. Read found poem semester reflection assignment sheet (handout).
  • 4/18: Workshop group one's poems. Group one responses due two copies each. If you are not in group one, read group one's poems carefully and
    make written notes for the workshop. Last service learning session. Found poems and reflection due in class on Monday for student assigned to tenth session. This session is not taped; no poems are written from it. Individual conferences held this week. Draft of poem #3 any topic, any form due on day of conference. Revisions of Found poems also due on day of conference. Found poems and reflection due in class on Monday for student assigned to last session.
  • 4/21: Workshop group two's poems. Group two responses due two copies each. If you are not in group two, read group two's poems carefully and make written notes for the workshop.
  • 4/23: Workshop group three's poems. Group three responses due two copies each. If you are not in group two, read group three's poems carefully and make written notes for the workshop.
  • 4/25: Workshop group four's poems. Group four responses due two copies each. If you are not in group four, read group four's poems carefully and make written notes for the workshop.
  • 4/28: Service learning journal #6 due. Read 109-111 and 119-122 in Oliver. Read Chapter fourteen in manual. Close to final drafts of all found poems and reflection due. In class, we'll edit poems and reflections and begin work on the books of poems.
  • 4/29: Celebration at West Wind Village held at 6:30 p.m.
  • 4/30: Second draft of service learning essay due. In-class peer review. Continue work on books of poems.
  • 5/2: Post survey and evaluations. Fiction and poetry portfolio due. Includes revision of story and at least one poem, reflection essay, drafts of all
    formal assignments, and final draft of service learning essay (hard and electronic copy).
  • Tuesday, 5/6: Final draft of service learning essay due in hard copy and electronic copy. Final draft of found poetry portfolio due. Final books of poetry due in electronic copy. Bring these to my office. Time TBA.

Wisconsin Campus Compact has brought more visibility and awareness, more leveraging of resources, and more collaboration with other organizations on multiple levels than would ever have been possible with even the best network of individual, campus-based service-learning and civic engagement programs."

-Don Mowry, Director, Service-Learning Center, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire