EGL 225: Creative Writing, Fall 2021

Taking this class is like having your eyeball gradually consume the rest of your body, until you are nothing but a giant, blinking, crying orb.. Just kidding. Or not.

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Workshop Etiquette

Prose Stories:

Denis Johnson, “Emergency

Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried

Joyce Carol Oates, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been

ZZ Packer, “Brownies

Ernest Hemingway, “Hills Like White Elephants


Richard Hugo, “The Triggering Town,” Chapters 1&2

Welcome to our Class!

  • Tuesday, November 30, 2021: That’s What She Said (Dialog(ue))

    Poem of the Day: The Tradition, by Jericho Brown

    Poem of the Day: Spring, Ominpotent Goddess, Thou, e.e. Cummings

    Today’s lesson comes from the good people at This exhaustive page gives all of the good reasons why focusing on dialogue is an important part of any fiction writer’s development. How might you use the guidelines to streamline your dialogue and, at the same time, develop your characters and reveal the important themes of your story?

    Exercise or…eavesdrop!!

    Homework for Thursday: Read Hemingway, Hills Like White Elephants (on the left) and respond here.

    ***REMEMBER!! Short story #2 is due on Monday, December 6 @ noon. Please submit it here, and don’t forget to read the first three stories for class on Tuesday, December 7.***

  • Tuesday, November 23, 2021: More Poetry Workshop

    Poem of the Day: “Poem About My Rights,” June Jordan

  • Tuesday, November 16, 2021

    Poetry workshop starts on Thursday!! Please submit your second poem here, by the beginning of class on 11/18.

  • William Stafford, 1914-1993

    Tuesday, October 19, 2021

    Poems of the Day:

    Turn in short story #1 here.

    Interested in a daily writing practice? Check out poet William Stafford’s 40-year project.

  • Thursday, October 14: Theme

    Poems of the Day: In the Theatre, by Dannie Abse

    Cambridge Elegy, by Sharon Olds

    from Andrew M. Friday’s website

    Theme exercise here.

    Please post your response to Joyce Carol Oates (story link on left) here.

    This story was made into a movie in the 80’s called Smooth Talk (trailer), starring a teenaged Laura Dern as Connie and Treat Williams as Arnold Friend. In 2020, a restored version of this movie was played at the New York Film Festival, where the author was interviewed (link): if you start the video at 4:51, you’ll jump right to Oates talking about how the story evolved and the dedication to Bob Dylan. Laura Dern and director Joyce Chopra also comment. Check it out!

  • Tuesday, October 5: Poetry Workshop!!

    Stick your workshop poem here.

  • Tuesday, September 28, 2021: Formal Poetry, Part II: Covid Sestina!!

    Divide up into three groups of six. Crowdsource six end-words: Split up and come back with a sestina!

    Album of the Day: Genius Bob Marley
  • Thursday, September 16, 2021: Plot

    Jesus’ Son,
    1. Which of the seven plots in Margaret Atwood’s list does “Emergency” fit?
    2. Time does not flow chronologically in this story. Why didn’t he write the story more like this?
    3. The rising action seems to have a few false starts. Why?
    4. What is the source of the story’s conflict? Is it literal or thematic
    5. Where is the “climax” moment in the story. What tension comes to a head?
    6. What has changed by the end of the story?
    7. What kind of unreliable narrator is F*ckhead? Deliberate, evasive or naive?
    8. What is the purpose of the unreliable narrator?
    9. What does F*ckhead “do” for the story?
    10. There is barely any description in the beginning of the story. Most of the action is propelled by dialogue. Why?

    Other relevant concepts: showing, not telling & foil

    Plot Exercise: Working Backward

    Turn it in here

  • Thursday, September 9, 2021

    Zbigniew Herbert, reading his poem, “The Envoy of Mr. Cogito”

    The tone of your six-word memoirs tended toward sadness: it’s not surprising, given that we are living in the Burning States of Pandemic these days. I hope that Herbert’s poem from last week is a balm for your souls.


    Poem of the Day, “Discovering Your Subject,” by Pattiann Rogers

    Question: Why do I/would I/might I want to write creatively? What has “triggered” me to create in the past? Post your answer here, anonymously.

    Exercise: 10-line poem :

    Give me ten random words:

    Then, subvert a cliche!

    –“it’s raining cats & dogs”

    –“don’t let the cat out of the bag”

    –“woke up on the wrong side of the bed”

    Homework: Finish 10-line poem and post here

    Read Richard Hugo, “The Triggering Town,” chapters 1 & 2 & take quiz.

    Song of the Day: “Dry Lightning” by Bruce Springsteen, from the excellent album The Ghost of Tom Joad.

  • Tuesday, September 7, 2021


    Poem of the day: Envoy of Mr. Cogito, by Zbigniew Herbert


    Assignment: Memoir in six words. Link to Google Doc

    What’s a memoir, you ask?

    “The past is not static, or ever truly complete; as we age we see from new positions, shifting angles. A therapist friend of mine likes to use the metaphor of the kind of spiral stair that winds up inside a lighthouse. As one moves up that stair, the core at the center doesn’t change, but one continually sees it from another vantage point; if the past is a core of who we are, then our movement in time always brings us into a new relation to that core.” Mark Doty, “Return to Sender: Memory, Betrayal, and Memoir,” The Writer’s Chronicle, Nov. 2005

    Homework (due 9/9): In the forum, comment on a colleague’s memoir that strikes you as odd or surprising. Which words, or combination of words, evoke an unusual feeling or image in your mind? Write at least two sentences.

    Today’s writing playlist: Aussie surf rock & worthy covers:

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