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What’s Coming Up?. Tour of the Disciplines (9 days; 3 disciplines ) Special Topics (4 days, 4 topics) Magazine Prep and Major Project Research (3 days ) Intensive Writing (work on Major Projects and other pieces) (7 days) Completion of Magazines, Major Projects, Portfolios (6 days)

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what s coming up
What’s Coming Up?
  • Tour of the Disciplines (9 days; 3 disciplines)
  • Special Topics (4 days, 4 topics)
  • Magazine Prep and Major Project Research (3 days)
  • Intensive Writing (work on Major Projects and other pieces) (7 days)
  • Completion of Magazines, Major Projects, Portfolios (6 days)
  • Closing Ceremony!
today june 7 th
Today, June 7th

We’ll reflect broadly on some ideas about writing.

We’ll do what writers do: WE’LL FIND MATERIAL—even risking discomfort, if we have to!

We’ll do what writer’s do: draft a story.

  • We’ll do what writers do: consider the formal demands of a story.
  • We’ll do what writer’s do: solicit feedback.
  • We’ll do what writer’s do: edit, polish, and submit our work to the world.
What is this stuff and how do you learn it?

Where is its place in the history of writing/writing studies?

How do you teach it?

How is it different from any other kind of writing?

let s start with

Let’s start with

“creative writing”—

small “c” & small “w”


What kind of writing is “creative” writing? What is “art,” really? What’s it for? Whom is it for?

Take a look at a verrrrryyyyy long list of quotations about art, creative writing, and the creative process online:

Skittish Libations

Read through your classmates’ views from our journal writing yesterday.

Try to EXTRACT as many distinct ideas or views as you can.

That is, how many specific ways of completing this sentence do you find in the journals?

Creative writing (art) is ________________.

Jot down each idea on a piece of scratch paper or in Word.

Now pair up with another person, and consolidate your lists. I.e., complete this sentence in as many different ways as possible. Write your list in Word.
  • Creative writing is ________________.
  • Creative writing is ________________.
  • Creative writing is ________________.
  • Etc.

When done, each person should copy-paste their list into their journal, with the header, “_____’s and ____’s List of Views.”

Let’s have each pair share some of their stuff. And let’s consider the strengths as well as the limitations of each view.
Maybe writing’s a constant


of binaries


Artist Audience


Something produced solely for others; a means of pleasing an audience

A mysterious inborn talent


A commodity

Expression that is shaped and crafted

The honoring of tradition

A pile of crap; a hoax; excuse for not having a REAL job

Creative Writing



A learnable skill

Emotional or psychological therapy

The subversion of tradition

Expression that is wide-open and free

Self-expression; solely for self ; exploration of one’s unique vision



A confrontation with reality; facing reality

Note that some types, such as satire, mock or interrogate reality

The invention of reality


Creative Writing

The improvement

of reality (art as a hammer

An escape from reality; a

sedative or distraction


Defiance of reality; reality as it ought to


A magnification

of reality



So nobody knows how to define it.

Or there’s no final definition.

Then how do we learn it?

How does it get taught? Should I, as a teacher, emphasize process or product? Craft or free exploration?

How is it distinguished from any other kind of writing and so what’s it’s place in the schools at any level? In other words…

what is creative writing with a capital c and w
What is “Creative Writing” with a capital C and W?

= the branch of English Studies that involves teaching and learning how to write creatively, right?

Yeah, but…

Isn’t all writing “creative”? Why call it Creative Writing?

Can it really be taught? Isn’t it about talent and a mysterious ability to summon the muse?

What’s it doing in a university? How do you evaluate it?

How does it relate to Rhetoric and Composition, Literary Studies, Linguistics, Technical Writing? Isn’t writing in these fields creative also?

What’s more important: the writing of literature or the study of it?

did you know
Did you know…

In some of its earliest appearances in higher ed, Creative Writing was offered to help students understand literature better. I.e., it was in the service of literature studies.

The idea was that by writing some fiction, poetry, or drama themselves, students would better understand the masterpieces of literature.

but also
But also…

a bunch of teachers who were also writers wanted to get together with other writers and blab about their work—

in a college setting. (Couldn’t hang out in the bistros of Paris or Gertrude Stein’s salon anymore, so had to get together somewhere…)

it s always been a bit of an outlaw
It’s always been a bit of an outlaw…

Not scholarly like other disciplines. The MFA is a studio degree. Very different criteria.

Not really “academic.” Considered to be even a “spiritual” discipline.

A “soft” subject. Workshop approach is considered by some to be whimpy: writers who want to talk with other writers sit in a circle and read/discuss their stuff, while a teacher/published writer chimes in.

since the 80s though
Since the 80s, though,

It has been influenced by postmodern theory, composition studies, and English education.

The way it is taught is changing here and there…

You can now study “the teaching of Creative Writing” as a subject itself. Or “Creative Writing Studies” which examines:

Creative writing pedagogy

The culture of creative writing/creative writing in the culture

The history of creative writing in the university.

You can get an MA and PhD in “Creative Writing Studies.”

Me? What in the heck do I do as a teacher of the stuff? When I go into the creative writing classroom…
I teach genres. Poetry, fiction. Creative nonfiction. Some script writing.
  • I encourage wide-open, glorious self-expression. Go for it.
  • I encourage self-denial and disciplined attention to the needs of audience. Craft.
  • I encourage demented new ways of thinking about the world.
  • I encourage thoughtful appreciation of very old traditions.
  • I try to do everything.
  • That’s why I’m burning out.
  • That’s why I’m insane.
  • Don’t tell my boss.
let s stop theorizing now and start behaving like writers like fiction writers for the time being
Let’s stop theorizing now and start behaving like writers—like fiction writers (for the time being).
go give away a buck
Go give away a buck.

Yeah. I’m serious.

Give a dollar to a random stranger.

Do NOT explain that your were assigned to do it.

Do NOT give specific reasons for doing it.

Be attentive. Be awake to the whole experience. See it.


Don’t talk. Don’t think. Just go into your journal, create a header (“The Lucky Dollar”), and describe what happened.

Don’t comment on the experience. Just describe the whole thing in specific detail from start to finish. Re-see it. Details!


Where’s the “story” in what happened?

In your journal, under “Story Idea,” briefly sketch out a tale (a paragraph summary).

How to you make a story out of what happens in your life? How do you “find” stories?

Let’s just take the issue of plot, for instance, in the events you just experienced…

Possible pts. of view
  • You
  • Teacher
  • Onlookers
  • Classmates

Point of entry

  • Instructor giving assignment
  • You on your way
  • Teacher waiting
  • Handing over the dollar
  • Framing device

Narrative question

  • What will it feel like? (action story about people in conflict, danger)
  • What will happen to me when I do this weird thing? Can I make myself do it? (character-based story about personal growth; tiny coming-of-age piece)
  • Why is instructor doing this? (story about education; maybe mentor-piece; battle-of-wills piece)
  • What will students think of this assignment? (the burned-out teacher; the evil teacher; the heroic teacher)
What will be some triggers, hooks, complicating actions, mounting tension?
  • Dialogue with other students on the way
  • New thoughts on the way
  • Diversions; delays; false leads
  • Receiver responds in completely unexpected way

What exactly will be the setting: how do things LOOK when one is stepping directly into the unknown?

What will be the crisis point

What are the risks and drawbacks of this particular story idea?

Pat theme!!!!!!

With those considerations in mind, write an actual story.

You can draft your work in Word.

Be sure to save frequently to your jump drive!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Let’s put your story aside for a bit, and look at some stories others have written.

Let’s start with


Hey, why do we like this stuff?

Are we so brain-dead these days that we can’t concentrate on a long work?

What are its virtues?

What are its challenges?

the poet s husband
“The Poet’s Husband”

This is a really short story, and only one sentence long! Does it work? Are the characters fully developed? Is the plot engaging?

Damned straight!

poetry going back to the very beginning
PoetryGoing Back to The Very Beginning
  • Playing with language: Kenneth Koch, The Luminous Object
  • Surrealism
  • Worst High School Metaphors
  • Harmonious Confusion
what s figurative language
What’s figurative language?

How do you say that someone is drunk?

How many animal metaphors do we use everyday?

Where did most worn-out metaphors come from, and how do we keep the language alive? Look at Lorrie Moore…

worst high school metaphors
Worst High School Metaphors

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. Instead of 7:30. 

12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. Traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. At a speed of 35 mph.

15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan’s teeth.

16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.

18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

19. Shots rang out, as shots are want to do.

20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

23. The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

Sometimes it helps to take a really unusual perspective…say, that of an animal.

Once a student wrote a piece from the point of view of a deer. It described a hunter’s gun as “a branch that barks.”


Focusing on particular traditions:

  • The private, inward-directed lyric poet.
  • The community bard.
  • The craftsman or maker.
  • The mad or divinely inspired visionary.
spoken word poetry

Spoken Word Poetry

The Oral Tradition (the Bard)

this stuff is really old
Hey, Daddy-oThis stuff is really old…
  • Homer 800 BC
  • Old English poetry 400 AD
  • Native American 8000 BC to present
  • The Beats 1950s
  • Slam Poetry 1980s to present
the beats 1950s 60s
The Beats (1950s,60s)
  • Getting poetry out of the classroom
  • Poetry read to jazz accompaniment




rap and hip hop
Rap and Hip Hop
  • Came of age alongside the poetry slam phenom.
  • Hyperbolic, gymnastic, inventive
  • Heavily end-rhyme based; rhymes often funny, clever, silly
  • Distinct prosody
the poetry slam and open mike coffee house reading
The Poetry Slamand Open-Mike Coffee House Reading
  • Harks back to the Beats
  • Again, desire to get poetry out of the classroom
  • Emphasis on anyone can write poetry
  • Tends to be political
  • Theatrical, sometimes mixed-media
check these out
check these out!




What makes a good spoken-word

or slam performance?

Listen to Spoken Word selections,

plus Beat poems with jazz accompaniment

Blurring the line between poetry and theater; performances are like one-person, one-act plays.
  • Aggressive, clever, sometimes funny rhyme, not in any strict pattern (triple rhymes, internal rhymes, slant rhymes, repeated words, etc. In video, “Lazarus, Lazie, Lazy”).
  • Projection! Loud broadcast.
  • Number of unstressed syllables don’t matter, maybe. Success depends on how cleverly you get the four stresses in (rap).
  • Getting into a groove.
  • Memorizing the material adds interest.
  • Mixing genres: insert singing, use accompanying sound, etc.
  • Ritual presence of performer.
ok so
Ok. So.

Describe what you see on the table. REALLY LOOK. The thing. The thing itself.

Make the object…


STOP ! !

Are you being dull?

Are you being predictable?

Are you thinking too much?

Try a thesaurus…




1924 andre breton
1924: Andre Breton:

The Surrealist Manifesto

“I believe in the future resolution of these two states, dream and reality, which are seemingly so contradictory, into a kind of absolute reality, a sur-reality.”

“The idea of surrealism aims quite simply at the total recovery of our psychic force by a means which is nothing other than the dizzying descent into ourselves, the systematic illumination of hidden places and the progressive darkening of other places, the perpetual excursion into the midst of forbidden territory” (Breton).
between wwi and wwii
Between WWI and WWII


the principles, ideals, or practice of producing fantastic or incongruous imagery or effects in art, literature, film, or theater by means of unnatural juxtapositions and combinations. An attempt, through these random, irrational juxtapositions and combinations, to make make a new reality or a new whole.

Instead of:

I saw the rabbit, as soft as cotton, his eyes bright, munching the grass.

you get:

I saw the rabbit, ripe as a hammer, his eyes boiled, baptizing the grass.

(random words from carpentry, religion, cooking)


I saw the rabbit, as Monday as Van Gogh’s ear, eyes in search of Harvard, document the grass.

(random words from stuff on my desk)

early surrealists valued
Early Surrealists Valued:

The names of Aztec gods were on one page,

serotonin uptake inhibitors on the other.

  • random CHANCE and the seizing of accident;
  • “convulsive beauty,” the marvelous, the uncanny, the disruptive, and the unexpected;
  • strange and unexpected juxtapositions;
  • defamiliarizing the everyday so that it once again appears strange and new;
  • liberation of mind from bourgeois modes of thinking;
  • the oblivion ha-ha silly brain brillo stain

Here, you said: another baby avocado tree.

You threw your shoe. I broke

the refrigerator and the fossil fish.

I broke my shoulder blade.

I tried to make jambalaya.

To relax the organism, the cookbook said,

pound with a mallet on the head or shell.

I love you. This remarkable statementhas appeared on earth to substantiate the clams.

Here's your fire


welcome to the glacier.

Don't think I wasn't shocked when

you were a traffic signal

and I a woodpecker.

I can't make it any clearer than that

and stay drunk.


“intelligence is often the enemy of poetry, because it limits too much, and it elevates the poet to a sharp-edged throne where he forgets that ants could eat him or that a great arsenic lobster could fall suddenly on his head—”

“The duende...Where is the duende? Through the empty arch comes a wind, a mental wind blowing relentlessly over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents, a wind that smells of baby’s spittle, crushed grass, and jellyfish veil, announcing the constant baptism of newly created things.”

Duende is “the melancholy demon of Descartes: a demon who was small as a green almond and who sickened of circles and lines and escaped down the canals to listen to the songs of blurry sailors”

"The Guitar“
  • "Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías": #1, 2, 4
  • "Casida of the Lament," p. 91