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Required Text: The Best American Short Stories, 2022, Andrew Sean Greer, ed.
Classic 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“
Flannery O’Connor, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” (audio!)
Flannery O’Connor, “Everything That Rises Must Converge” (audio!)
Welcome to our Class!
Wednesday, September 20: Characterization in Fiction
Homework: Read Denis Johnson, “Emergency” (not in book–link in left margin) and write a response here.
Poem of the Day: “Going Blind,” by Rainier Maria Rilke
Monday, September 18: Sound Exercise
Also: “We Real Cool,” Gwendolyn Brooks
“In this exercise, focus purely on sound; meaning is of secondary importance (or no importance). Feel free to make up a new language, use foreign words, or just string together words that have a certain sound quality though their meaning makes absolutely no sense.
1) Write a line that flows beautifully.
2) Now write a line that has some abruptness to it, a halting feeling.
3) Now write a line that evokes speed through sound.
4) Now write a line that evokes slowness through sound.
5) Now write a line that evokes expansiveness of space.
6) Now write a line that evokes heaviness.
7) Now write a line that evokes joyfulness and lightness.
Post your best ideas here.
After that, read this little poem by Emanuel di Pasquale:
Like a drummer’s brush,
The rain hushes the surface of tin porches.
What words evoke the sound(s) of the rain in this poem? What types of rain can you hear in the sound? Just one type or more?
1) Write a line that evokes the sound of the rain (anything from pitter-patter drips to torrential downpour, it’s up to you).
2) Write a short poem of just a few lines describing a phenomenon of nature you know intimately from having witnessed it, and describe it in a short poem that evokes your subject both in sound and meaning.”
Album of the Day: Sketches of Spain, Miles Davis
Friday, September 15: Song/Sound/Flow
Handout: Black Beatles vs. Day Tripper
Video: The Beatles, “Day Tripper“
Video: djlobsterdust, Nelly vs. The BeeGees, “Staying Hot”
Wednesday, September 13
If you liked this story, listen to this one: “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” by Flannery O’Connor
Groff discussion. My questions: Why the story frame/granddaughter POV?
How does Groff create tension, starting with the first line?
Why does Groff kill off Ralphie?
Where is the story’s climax?
How is the reader left feeling at the end?
Monday, September 11: Plot
“Cliches are the compost of art.”
Image: Freytag’s Plot Pyramid
Video: What Makes a Hero?
Infographic: The Hero’s Journey
Image: The Heroine’s Journey, by Victoria Schmidt
Today’s in-class reading: Jerome Stern, “Don’t Do This: A Short Guide to What Not to Do“
Friday, September 8: Class Cancelled!! Please get the book. See you Monday.
Wednesday, September 6: Imagery in Poetry: Simile & Metaphor
Homework for Friday: GET THE BOOK
The very qualities that make one a writer in the first place contribute to the block: hypersensitivity, stubbornness, insatiability, and so on. Given the general oddity of writers, no wonder there are no sure cures. –John Gardner
Poem of the Day (example of extended metaphor):
“How the Pope is Chosen,” James Tate
Read 10-line poems
Tips on writing imagery, by Margaret Atwood
“The Fly,” Karl Shapiro
“In a Station of the Metro,” Ezra Pound
Haiku, Kobayashi Issa
Friday, September 1
“You owe reality nothing.”
Discussion: Hugo/Why do I/would I/might I want to write creatively? What has “triggered” me to create in the past?
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
Wednesday, August 30
Question: Why do I/would I/might I want to write creatively? What subjects have inspired me to create in the past? Post your answer here, anonymously.
Monday, August 28, 2023
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 8/30): On the Google Doc, 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:
First thing, subscribe to this website so you’ll know when I update it: