EGL 225: Creative Writing, Spring 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!

  • Portfolio Due: (two edited stories and six edited poems) Thursday, May 13 @ 11:55 p.m. Please submit it (all in one document) here.

  • Story #2 (last one!) goes here. Remember to comment on the first three posted for Thursday night.

  • April 20, 2021: That’s What She Said (Dialog(ue))

    Poem of the Day: The Tradition, by Jericho Brown

    Poem of the Day: Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front, Wendell Berry

    I always think of this guy when the backstory is “revealed” through dialogue in a piece of fiction.

    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?


    Playlist of the Day

  • April 8, 2021

    Hi Class! Here’s where you should post your poem for tonight’s poetry workshop. See you tonight!

  • Sunday, March 14

    First short story due at 11:55 p.m. Please turn it in here, and make sure to comment on the first three stories by class on Tuesday.

  • 3/2/21 and 3/4/21: Poetry Workshop!

    Note: in case it wasn’t clear, the name of the topic to post your poetry responses is called “Poetry Packet 1” in the Forum. We’ll talk about those on Thursday so everyone can get them in. Thanks to those who figured it out!!

  • 2/18/21

    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? What does F*ckhead “do” for the story?
    9. 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:

    Special extra hour: Denis Johnson reading

    Album of the Day: MGMT, Oracular Spectacular (2007)

  • I’d sure like to visit this place when Covid is over: Atelier Brancusi, Paris


    Poem of the Day, “The Fly” by Karl Shapiro. Great example of imagery!

    We are already a teeny bit off-schedule, but don’t worry.

    Imagery Exercise: Describe your uniform in a way that conveys exactly how you feel about your college experience. Rule: You are not allowed to use any “feelings” words.

    Homework: Read “Emergency” by Denis Johnson (link on left) and write response on the Forum. Write 1000 words.

    I’m feeling a little French tonight:

  • Thursday, 2/4/21

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


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

    Forum Question: Why do I/would I/might I want to write creatively? What has “triggered” me to create in the past?

    Exercise: 10-line poem : sunflowers, glass, water, stock, desert, happiness, khaki, redundant, astrology, dingo, kangaroo

    suffice to say

    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 to Forum

    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, 2/2


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


    Assignment: Memoir in six words

    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 8/27): 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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