Tuesday, January 8, 2008

English 643 Fiction Workshop Spring 2008

Diana Joseph Office: AH 201 L
English 643 Phone: 389-5144
Email: diana.joseph@mnsu.edu Hours: MW 12-2 T 5-6
and by appointment

Graduate Seminar—Fiction Writing

This workshop differs from traditional workshops.

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.

This approach demands work that’s more polished and developed than a rough first draft. Do not bring in work that is incomplete—it must have a recognizable beginning, middle and end. If you’re bringing in a chapter from a novel, please provide a brief description of your project. If you bring in sloppy work, don’t be surprised if there’s not much to say about it.

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

See Schedule of Events for due dates

1. Craft Analysis/Presentation=25%

A. Select a story from any edition of Best American Short Stories between 1994—2007. The story you pick should be one you love. Make copies of your selection for everyone in the class.

B. Define, then discuss and analyze ONE of the following elements of fiction as it relates to the B.A. story you selected. Support and illustrate claims with specific examples from the text; explain how and why the examples support your claim. Turn in your craft analysis on the day of your presentation.

Point of view Characterization Style Structure

Setting/place Tone Imagery Theme

2. Revised Story/Justification Essay=25%

Revise any one of the stories you’ve written this semester and worshopped in this class.
Write an essay in which you:

A. Describe your revision process;

B. Compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses, similarities and differences between the two versions;

C. Describe, discuss, explain, and justify the choices you made regarding how this story is crafted. How does your use of craft create unity, a singular effect, a vivid and continuous dream? (If it doesn’t, discuss what you perceive as the story’s shortcomings.)

Outside sources are not required, but if you find it helpful to refer to any of the stories we’ve read from Best American, feel free to do so.

3. Participation=50%

I define participation as your active engagement with the class, demonstrated through evidence of preparedness, and thoughtful contributions to discussions and workshops. 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; don’t miss class; show up on time. Participation is 50% of your final grade. If you’re not here, you can’t participate. If you fail to turn in your story on the day it’s due, you lose your workshop spot. If you don’t come to class on the day of your workshop, it won’t be rescheduled. If you’re not here to give your Best American presentation, you can’t make it up. All coursework must be completed to pass this class. Assignments are tentative and subject to change.

Due Dates

1/22 Copies of your Best American selection due

1/29 Workshop Story Due
Best American—Cole & DeWolf

2/5—No Class—Precinct Caucus

2/12 Workshop
Best American—Rolfes

2/26 Best American—Irwin

3/4—No Class—Andreas Reading

3/11—No Class—Spring Break

3/18 Best American—Lacey

3/25 Best American—Schultz

4/1 Best American—Melcher

4/8 Best American—Surdo

4/15 Best American—Philips

4/22 Workshop

4/29 Workshop

Finals Day—Revised Story/Justification Essay Due


Your name_________________________________________________________English 643On 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. Cole, Antoinette K

2. DeWolf, Daniel E

3. Irmen, Ami M

4. Lacey, Kathleen N

5. Melcher, Nathan G

6. Phillips, Alex J

7. Rolfes, Luke T

8. Schultz, Dylan T

9. Surdo, Jonathan M

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