Thursday, August 23, 2007

English 643/Graduate Fiction Workshop

Professor Diana Joseph Office Hours: M&W 10-12; TH 10-11
English 643 E-Hours: T&F 9-12
Email: Office: Armstrong 201L Phone: 389-5144

Graduate Fiction Workshop
This workshop will operate differently from the traditional model. It does not focus on story as final product; you do not bring in a "finished" draft to find out whether or not it "works." Instead, this course uses the discussion of short, "unfinished" anecdotal pieces to explore a story's possibilities.

The class stresses close, careful reading and intensive writing. You'll write a thousand words a day, five days a week for fifteen weeks. Topics for writing will come out of prompts; each writer will be responsible for providing a week's worth of prompts. Every few weeks, we'll assemble a packet of these exercises. You should turn in the prompt you find most dynamic or intriguing, the one you're most excited about pushing further. We'll discuss your thousand word piece with an emphasis on craft, but also with the intention of locating the material's potential. Questions for discussion may include What is this piece's emotional center? What seems to be at stake? What are the metaphors? The conflicts? Based on what's here, who is the narrator?

More about My Workshop Philosophy
When we discuss a story, there won’t be talk about what we “like” or “don’t like.” There won’t be talk about what’s “good” or “bad”; there won’t be any value judgments. (This kind of feedback is hugely subjective and frequently confusing—like when six people love it, six people hate it, and one needs more time to think things over.) There won’t be advice on how to “fix” your story. (It’s your story, which means it’s your vision/version of the world, which means you should be the only one who can fix it.) There won’t be suggestions about what you “could” or “might” do. (I’m not interested in talking about writing that hasn’t been written.)

I am interested in what your story is about – the questions it raises, its themes, your artistic vision – and I’m interested in how your story is told, how its form reinforces its content. If writing is a series of choices, then what are the effects of these particular choices? If there’s an infinite number of ways to say something, then why are you saying it in this particular way? Why use first person instead of third person limited? What’s the effect of present tense over past? What are the story’s significant images and how do they create meaning? This workshop centers on describing and interpreting your use of the elements of fiction—and describing how each works with the rest to create unity, a singular effect, a vivid and continuous dream.

Class Materials
This is no required text for this class.
$ for photocopying/printing costs

This class depends entirely on your participation.

I define participation as your active engagement with the class, demonstrated through evidence of preparedness, and thoughtful contributions to discussions and workshops. I will also assess your participation by your completion of the following:
1. You’ll write 1,000 words a day, five days a week for 15 weeks. The writing will be in response to an assigned prompt. Don’t be surprised if I occasionally ask you to email me a file containing your prompts. I don’t want to police people, but I do want to provide an incentive to stay on track.
2. You’ll provide 5 writing prompts for the class. You’ll email your prompts to me by 5:00pm the Sunday of your week, and I will email them to the class.
3. Each of you will offer an assessment of your peers’ workshop responses; I will take this into consideration when determining participation grades.

Class Policies
Do the work; contribute in a thoughtful way to class discussions, but don’t monopolize. If you suspect you’re talking too much, you probably are. Missing more than one class results in dropping a full letter grade; if you’re not here, you can’t participate. Show up on time. No handwritten work will be accepted. All coursework must be completed to pass this class. Late work will not be accepted. Assignments are tentative and subject to change.

Your Name_________________________________________________________English 643

On a scale of 1-10, rate the time/effort you estimate each student put into your workshop critique. Use the back of this sheet for further comments, if necessary.

1. Arimah, Lesley

2. Benjamin, Jessica

3. Clisbee, David

4. Daly, Luke

5. Davis, Andrew

6. Dunnan, J. W.

7. Flynn, Thomas

8. Gatewood, Carrie

9. Grant, Richanda

10. Irmen, Ami

11. Johnson, Joshua

12. Langdon, Sarah

13. Slotemaker, Michael

14. Starkey, Danielle

15. Weerts, Matthew

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