Contact & Permalinks
Tips for Learning During Disruption
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
Today’s lesson comes from the good people at jerichowriters.com. 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!!
2/25/21: Characterization in Fiction
BONUS: Link to yesterday’s NPR interview with fiction writer Tim O’Brien.
PBS Documentary “The Vietnam War,” by Ken Burns, with Tim O’Brien.
Characterization in “The Things They Carried”:
- How does the character of Martha help “drive” the story? What is her purpose in the story?
- Who is the most vivid character in TTTC?
- Why are there so many characters in TTTC?
- What does Jimmy Cross “want”?
- How is he going to get it?
- What is standing in his way?
- What is he going to do about this impasse?
- How does he change?
- Explain how external vs. internal conflict work in the story.
Characterization exercise: Develop a character profile
Homework: Get a poem ready for workshop by noon on Tuesday, 3/2. Copy and paste it here.
Read the following poems, and write a response to one of them on the Forum: We’ll talk about them for a few minutes before we start the workshop.
One Art, Elizabeth Bishop (villanelle). Here’s a PDF template if you want to try one. Rhyme scheme is indicated on the right; repetition is on the left
Rondeau After a Transatlantic Phone Call, Marilyn Hacker (rondeau). Worksheet.
Spring Break Sestina, de Jesus, et al (sestina). Here’s an online “Sestina-o-Matic,” if you’re interested in writing one.
Ghazal for White Hen Pantry, Jamila Woods (ghazal)
A Ride in the Rain, Blas Falconer (pantoum). Pantoum worksheet here.
Album of the Day:
2/23/21: Meter & Rhyme in Poetry
Meter & Rhyme Info: Meter, Types of Rhyme (and–why not?–names of different stanza lengths)
Interesting thoughts about how breathing shapes poetry…. by poet William Wooten
Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carroll (of Alice in Wonderland fame). Basic iambic tetrameter w/ alternating rhyme. Here’s actor John Hurt performing it. My notes.
Barely anyone writes in trochees. Notable exception: The Tyger, William Blake
First Fight Then Fiddle, by Gwendolyn Brooks (tweaked Petrarchan sonnet). My notes.
Sonnet, by Billy Collins (listen) (read). My notes.
Exercise: Try to write a sonnet and post it in the forum!
Homework: Read this short article about characterization by teacher Scott Stavrou and take the quiz
Read Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried” and write a response on the Forum.
- Which of the seven plots in Margaret Atwood’s list does “Emergency” fit?
- Time does not flow chronologically in this story. Why didn’t he write the story more like this?
- The rising action seems to have a few false starts. Why?
- What is the source of the story’s conflict? Is it literal or thematic?
- Where is the “climax” moment in the story. What tension comes to a head?
- What has changed by the end of the story?
- What kind of unreliable narrator is F*ckhead? Deliberate, evasive or naive?
- What is the purpose of the unreliable narrator? What does F*ckhead “do” for the story?
- 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: https://www.dropbox.com/request/P6Xq1SQbN4b83ozgVaoV
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:
Short creative non-fiction piece of the day: “Finding the Hammam” by Fatima Asghar
Tips on writing imagery, by Margaret Atwood
My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears, by Mohja Kahf
Many Scientists Convert to Islam, by Nomi Stone
Different Ways to Pray, by Naomi Shihab Nye
Musical Artist of the Day: Hamza El Din
Homework for next week: Read Margaret Atwood’s “How to Write Story Plot” and take the Quiz.
P.S. A hammam I’d like to visit:
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.
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:
First thing, subscribe to this website so you’ll know when I update it: