Assignments & Due Dates
Formal Writing Assignment 20%

You will turn in one formal assignment to be "workshopped" (you can read about workshopping on the syllabus). You can choose to turn in a short story, an essay or a group of three poems for this assignment. This work is entirely of your own making. It should not be related to any of the exercises we'll do in class.

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 discussing in class and 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 will be obligated to revise this piece, no matter what grade you receive.

A quick word on grading: you will be able to improve your grade in the revision process, but this means actually improving the piece on the kinds of things we agree on in the revision plan (see below). My definition of revision is not a mere cleaning up of a piece, but a wholesale rethinking of what the piece is doing.

Formal Assignment Submissions: the nitty gritty
You need to bring 17 copies on February 23rd. Please use page numbers and bring the copies already stapled. The story or essay must be between 6 and 16 pages double spaced. If you choose to single space (which is fine), then it should be between 3 and 8 pages. In addition to turning paper copies in for the class, I’d like you to also email me an electronic copy. If you fail to do this, I'll treat it as a late assignment (see below).

If you turn your piece in late—that is, if you come to class the day it is due and you don’t have it or you just don't come to class that day—you will get an automatic C on the assignment. Technical issues (printers, computers, whatever) are not acceptable excuses.

Please turn in your piece formatted as follows:

• Your piece must have a title
• Typed, standard 12 point font
• Double-spaced or single-spaced are both fine
• One inch margins
• Numbered pages
• Stapled
• Your name, course name, and date in the upper left corner of page one
• All drafts must be proofread and spellchecked

Due: February 23

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. On occasion I will comment on this work; other times, we might workshop it in class (most likely in small groups). Exercises are a vital part of the experience of this course, 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 exercises there will be, but usually it is somewhere between 10 and 15. I’ll maintain a list of the exercises on the wiki under “exercises.”

Late exercises will be treated the same as late assignments with an automatic C.

Due: Final Portfolio

Class participation: 10%

This should go without saying: You are this class. So, really, you need to be here (see the syllabus for a very clear explanation of the attendance policy). 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. It is necessary that everyone is engaged and participating; that is, everyone must talk in class. And everyone will receive a grade for their involvement. If you don't talk, that grade is necessarily lower.

Group Work: 10%

You will work with the same group of folks (3-4 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).

I will ask your group to be responsible for leading a certain number of workshops throughout the semester as well as a certain number of reading discussions (I’ll clarify how many as soon as we know exactly how many people are in the class). On these days, everyone in your group must be present and be prepared to guide us through our discussion. You can find guides for leading workshops and leading reading discussions under "documents" on the wiki.

Public Reading: 5%

All students will give a 5-7 minute public reading toward the end of the semester. You will need to read a polished piece that you have written over the course of the semester (it might be your formal piece; it might be the revision of an exercise; it might be something else entirely).

Due: These will occur during the last two weeks of the semester.

Revision Plans: 5%

You will need to write at least a 200 word plan of revision goals of your formal piece. You and I will meet to discuss this in a conference sometime early in the second half of the course. You will include a copy of these in your final portfolio.

Due: Thursday, April 8 in the body of an email—please do not attach (and also include in the Final Portfolio)

Revision: 5%

You will be required to do a major rethinking of your formal piece (this includes writing a revision plan and meeting with me to discuss it—see above). You will include your revision and your revision plan in your final portfolio (as well as a copy of the original story/essay/poems and a copy of the comments on it/them that I will email me to you in the weeks after your workshop).

Due: Final Portfolio

Responses to Stories, Essays, Poems: 10%

You will be required to write at least a response (at least 300 words) to the formal pieces that your group is in charge of leading the discussion on (this will be in the ballpark of four to six stories/essays/groups of poems). I will expect a copy of each of these letters in your portfolio (another copy goes to the authors of the stories/poems/essays at the end of the class they’ve been workshopped in). You may also be asked to write shorter commentary in response to exercises.

Due: Final Portfolio

Reading Write-ups: 10%

There are some great writers coming to campus this semester and you will be required to attend at least three of the readings and write a response to it (at least 300 words for each). The schedule for the readings is available on the English Department website under events. I encourage you to come to my own reading (Feb 25), but you cannot use it as one of your responses.

Due: In Final Portfolio.

Author Presentation: 10%

For this assignment, each student will be asked to choose and do research on a contemporary author of poems, essays or fiction (this means they need to have published something since 2000). This assignment will include familiarizing yourself with their work as well as reading several interviews they have given. These presentations will be spaced out over the course of the semester and are designed to introduce the class to contemporary writers. And so, I would like you to choose three writers you are not familiar with and email me a list of their names by Feburary 2; you and I will then negotiate which of the three you'll present on. See below for how to get started. As in all else, we will not be discussing genre writers. Period.

The nitty gritty

The presentations should be between 12 and 15 minutes long (this is a strict window, which means you will need to practice your presentation several times in order to time it correctly) and should include the biography of the writer (where is she from? what does she do? where did she study? etc.), as well as thoughts they've had about writing (taken from multiple interviews), and a brief oral excerpt from one of their stories, poems or essays (we will have read a story, poem or essay from the writer for the day of your presentation). The presentation should also include an audio/visual element. This most likely will mean a clip or clips from an interview or a clip of the author reading a short passage of their work. It could possibly also be a short clip from a screen adaptation of their work. Finally, you will be responsible for leading the discussion on that day, so you need to have questions prepared to guide us through the reading.

Early in the semester, I will ask you to both choose your author and turn in a copy of a short story, poem or essay (not more than 12 manuscript pages) by that author for the class to read. 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.

Some places to start your search for contemporary authors that might interest you include:

1. The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Poetry and/or The Best American Essays pretty much any year since 1995. Our library doesn’t really have any of these, but you can search the names and titles of these anthologies online and find books by those authors.

2. (The NY Times is one of the most important place for book reviews to be published in North America.)

3. (A large and unwieldy list of mostly magazines that publish fiction, essays and poetry. Most of these have some sort of online presence.)

4. (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.)

5. (A more comprehensive listing of book review sources, both in the US and abroad.)

6. (If you’re interested in poetry, this handy tool will help you discover tons of great stuff).

A schedule for these presentations is under "schedules." They were occur throughout the semester. My recommendation is to get started on this immediately. Though some of you will go early in the semester with your presentation, everyone must have chosen their author in the next few weeks.

Due: You need to email me the names of three possible writers by Feb 2nd.

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