Formal Writing Assignment 25%

You will turn in one “formal” assignments over the course of this semester to be "workshopped" (more on that later). I recognize that many of you may already identify with one genre or another. Because of this, it's okay with me if both of your workshop submissions are in the same genre (fiction, poetry or non-fiction). That said, this class is meant to ask you to try your hand at both prose and poetry, so I will still expect to see in your final portfolio a batch of four poems and one piece of prose (either fiction or non-fiction), whether you workshop only poems or only essays or only short stories.

A quick note about “workshopping.” If you’re not familiar with the concept, the way it works is that we all closely read the pieces that are to be workshopped on given day (jotting notes in the margins and/or at the end), and then we all sit down and have an extended discussion about them—probably in the ballpark of 25-30 minutes for each piece. By way of helping the author, we will be trying to articulate what makes a piece tick.

I base this grade for the formal workshop pieces on two things:

1. The ambition of the piece: What I mean by this is how well you use the fundamentals and tools we will be working on in the many exercises we do during the course of the semester.
2. The success of the piece: How well does the story/poems/essay achieve what it has set out to achieve.

You are obligated to revise both of them, no matter what grade you receive (these revisions and the revision plans—see below about this—must be included in your final portfolio).

A quick note about due dates for your formal assignments. Everyone’s formal assignments will be due on the same two days. The first due date is September 30. The second due date is November 2.

Exercises and Homework: 15%
Because this class is oriented towards experimentation and practice, we will do exercises throughout the semester with the intention of promoting successful writing practices—everything from getting started to drafting and revision. In general, the idea with exercises is to stretch your limits as writers. A willingness to try new things is no less crucial in this course than a weekly commitment to writing. Sometimes we will do these exercises in class, sometimes outside. I will rarely comment on this work, but they’re a vital part of the experience, helping you prepare your thoughts for discussion or work on an important concept. I will ask you to save all of these and will collect them at the end of the semester in the portfolio. I never know exactly how many there will be, but probably it will be somewhere close to ten. I’ll maintain a list of the exercises on the wiki under “exercises.”

Group Evaluations: 5%
In light of the frequent group work you will be doing, I will ask you toward the end of the semester to evaluate the performance and involvement of your group members on the various activities you will have been working on together. I will ask you to include these in the final portfolio and they will be anonymous.

Class participation: 10%
This should go without saying: You are this class. So, really, you need to be here. But you also need to be awake, involved, contributing. I assume that you're taking this course because you're interested and I assume, too, that you are going to be prepared for our meetings. This means that you have read the material carefully and have a considered response to it that you are ready to articulate and integrate with the discussion. Everyone needs to find both a way to contribute to the group and a way to help others contribute, though these methods needn’t be the same from person to person. If you're not doing those things, it can't help but be reflected in your participation grade.

Group Work: 5%
You will work with the same group of folks (4-5 people, depending on the class size) all semester, especially in prepping to lead workshop and reading discussions. In leading discussion, you will be responsible for creating materials for the class that will promote discussion and discovery.
For the group work grade, I will assess you as a group (that is, each member will receive the same grade on these assignments, unless I feel there are extenuating circumstances). You might also on occasion do work in these groups in class.
A quick word on leading workshops. I will ask your group to be responsible for leading a certain number of workshops over the course of the semester as well as a certain number of reading discussions (I’ll clarify what these will be as soon as we know exactly how many people are in the class). On these days, everyone in your group must come prepared to guide us through our discussion. You can find guides for leading workshops and reading discussions under "documents" on the wiki.
Final Reading: 5%
All students will give a five minute public reading at the end of the semester (this will occur during our exam period). You will need to read a polished piece that you have written over the course of the semester. We’ll talk about the details of this assignment later in the semester.

Revision Plans: 5%
You will need to write a one page (single spaced) plan of revision goals of your formal pieces. You and I will meet to discuss the first of these in a conference sometime early in the second half of the course. The second I’ll just ask you to email me for an okay. You will include a copy of these in your final portfolio.

Revisions: 10%
You will be required to do a major rethinking of your formal pieces (including writing a revision plan for each; see above). These will be included in your final portfolio.

Responses to Stories, Essays, Poems: 10%
You will be required to write at least a half-page (single spaced) response to the formal pieces that your group is in charge of leading the discussion on. I will expect a copy of each of these letters in your portfolio (another copy of course goes to the authors of the stories/poems/essays at the end of the class they’ve been workshopped in).

Reading Write-up: 5%
There are some great writers coming to campus this semester and you will be required to attend at least one of the readings and write a response to it (in the ballpark of 300 words). I’ll give you guidelines for this shortly. The schedule for the readings is available on the English Department website under events; there’s a link from the wiki to this site under “Schedules.”

Interview Exercise: 5%
For this assignment, each student will be asked to choose a contemporary author of poems, essays or stories and do some research on them. This will include familiarizing yourself with some of their work as well as reading at least two interviews they have given. Each week, we'll hear a short presentation about these authors (5-10 minutes). The presentations should include the biography of the writer, as well as thoughts they've had about writing (taken from interviews) and a brief oral excerpt from one of their stories or novels.

Early in the semester, I will ask you to both choose your author and turn in a copy of a short story (not more than 7-10 manuscript pages), an essay or poem by that author. I ask you to do this because I want to shape the reading list for the second half of the course based on the authors that you all find of interest.

Here’s the rub: Your choices have to be okayed by me. As in all else, we will not be discussing genre writers. If you think you can make a case that the genre writer you'd like to present on is something more than a genre writer, feel free to try your luck. Odds aren't good that I'll bite, but I might.

Some places to start your search for contemporary authors that might interest you include: (The NY Times is one of the most important place for book reviews to be published in North America.) (A large and unwieldy list of mostly magazines that publish fiction, essays and poetry. Most of these have some sort of online presence.) (This is a website devoted entirely to the short story. It includes long lists of short story authors and publications that put out short fiction.) (A more comprehensive listing of book review sources, both in the US and abroad.)

A schedule for these presentations is under "schedules."

1. Exercises. Both in and out of class.
2. Revisions. This is of your formal pieces (including the original versions with my comments on it).
3. Revision plan.
4. Reading Write-up.
5. Responses to stories.

MWF Section

September 14
Contemporary Authors Proposals Due

September 18th
Contemporary Author poem/story/essay Due

September 28th
First Formal Workshop Piece

October 30th
Second Formal Workshop Piece

November 4th
First Revision Plan

Tuesday, December 15, 7:00-9:15
Final Portfolio & Reading

T/TH Section

September 15
Contemporary Authors Proposals Due

September 22
Contemporary Author poem/story/essay Due

September 29
First Formal Piece Due

October 29
Second Formal Piece Due

November 5
Revision Plan for First Formal Piece Due

Monday, December 14, 9:00-11:15
Final Portfolio & Reading

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