EGL 225: Creative Writing, Fall 2023

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.

Contact & Important Links

Workshop Etiquette

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!)

Other Links:

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

Welcome to our Class!

  • Wednesday, September 20: Characterization in Fiction

    Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet

    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

    Video: “If You Can’t Answer These Questions, You Don’t Have a Story”

    Video: “Writing Strong Characters: Want vs Need.”

  • Monday, September 18: Sound Exercise

    Homework: None

    “The Jabberwocky”. An illustration to the poem Jabberwocky. John Tenniel, 1871
    First published in Carroll, Lewis. 1871. Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. Public domain.

    Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carroll (of Alice in Wonderland fame). Basic iambic tetrameter w/ alternating rhyme. Here’s actor John Hurt performing it. My notes.

    Also: “We Real Cool,” Gwendolyn Brooks

    Sound exercise, by Nynke Passi:

    “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

  • Wednesday, September 13

    Homework: none

    Nice article about Lauren Groff in the NYT

    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?

    Plot Exercise: Working Backward. Post your paragraph here.

  • Monday, September 11: Plot

    “Cliches are the compost of art.”

    Jerome Stern

    Homework: Read “The Wind,” by Lauren Groff and write a 250-word response here

    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.

  • Study of Red Pope, Francis Bacon (BBC)

    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.”

    R. Hugo

    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

    Poet Richard Hugo, with fish (source)

    Homework: Read Richard Hugo, “The Triggering Town,” chapters 1 & 2 and write a response here.

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

    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

    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 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:

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