English 010.301 Creative Writing: Fiction and Poetry Deborah Burnham TR 10:30-12:00
English 010.302 Creative Writing: Literary Journalism and Memoir Jamie-Lee Josselyn W 2:00-5:00
English 010.601 Creative Writing Daisy Fried W 5:30-8:30
English 111.301 Uncreative Writing Kenneth Goldsmith R 1:30-4:30
English 112.301 Fiction Writing Workshop Max Apple T 1:30-4:30
English 113.301 Poetry Writing Workshop Gregory Djanikian T 1:30-4:30
English 115.301 Advanced Fiction Writing Karen Rile M 2:00-5:00
English 116.401 Screenwriting Kathleen DeMarco Van Cleve M 2:00-5:00
English 116.402 Screenwriting Keir Politz R 4:30-7:30
English 117.301 The Arts and Popular Culture Anthony DeCurtis R 1:30-4:30
English 120.401 The Translation of Poetry and the Poetry of Translation Taije Silverman MW 3:30-5:00
English 123.301 Advanced Writing for Children Elizabeth Van Doren M 2:00-5:00
English 124.401 Writing, Blogging, Tweeting about Movies Carrie Rickey T 1:30-4:30
English 130.401 Advanced Screenwriting Kathleen DeMarco Van Cleve W 2:00-5:00
English 135.301 Creative Nonfiction Writing Max Apple R 1:30-4:30
English 135.302 Creative Nonfiction Lorene Cary M 2:00-5:00
English 135.303 Reality Check: Experience and the Art of Nonfiction Jay Kirk T 1:30-4:30
English 135.304 Creative Nonfiction: Writing Your Travels Marion Kant M 2:00-5:00
English 135.401 Peer Tutoring Valerie Ross TR 10:30-12:00
English 145.301 Advanced Nonfiction Writing Paul Hendrickson T 1:30-4:30
English 145.302 Advanced Nonfiction Writing Stephen Fried T 1:30-4:30
English 145.601 The Art of the Personal Essay Kathryn Watterson T 5:30-8:30
English 156.301 Writing from Photographs Paul Hendrickson W 2:00-5:00
English 157.301 Introduction to Journalistic Writing: Writing About Food Rick Nichols T 1:30-4:30
English 157.302 Entrepreneurial Journalism Sam Apple M 2:00-5:00
English 158.301 Journalistic Story-Telling Dick Polman M 2:00-5:00
English 162.301 The 2012 Presidential Election Dick Polman W 2:00-5:00
English 415.640 Storytelling in Fiction and Nonfiction Kathryn Watterson R 5:30-8:10
English 415.641 Research for Writers Meredith Broussard T 5:30-8:15
Creative Writing: Fiction and Poetry
In this class, we’ll read personal essays, mostly contemporary American, and poems from all over. The readings are structured to emphasize the contrasts among various structures. We’ll read some essays that are built along traditional lines (chronological, logical, etc.) and some that are segmented and less linear. You’ll write several short essays and one longer piece, drawing from your experience in idiosyncratic and unpredictable ways. You’ll also write very short responses to the readings that will form the core of a writer’s notebook, useful in generating more writing.
We’ll read some very contemporary and some very old poetry structured like lists, without the familiar organizing principles of rhyme and closed endings. We’ll also read and write poems in what are accurately called “obsessive forms”, poems that contain, magnify and alter their subjects. We’ll read, and write, prose poems and perhaps some forms of your own design.
The class is structured along familiar discussion/workshop designs. You’ll be responsible for presenting your work periodically, and for responding to the work of others in writing and in class. If you have questions, please feel free to write me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Creating Characters in Literary Journalism and Memoir
This interactive workshop will focus on the way a writer constructs characters in journalistic profiles, memoirs and personal essays. Students will examine – through their own work and others’ – how nonfiction writers must shape information to render people on the page in a way that is accurate, honest, and engaging.
Much of this workshop will be spent on the “I” character. How do we portray ourselves, both when we’re at the center of our stories and when we’re on the edges looking in? How do we decide what to include and how do we justify what we exclude? We will look to the writers Joan Didion, Phillip Lopate and others for help when we need it.
The majority of class time will be spent discussing student work. Revision will be essential. An email listserv will be used to discuss readings and other topics. In addition to writing assignments throughout the semester, students will complete a final portfolio of approximately fifteen pages of revised work.
We often think of poetry and memoir as those forms of writing which capture the “voice” of their authors through expressing one's innermost feelings. This course works to first explain, and then reverse that model: we will learn to write creatively from the outside in. We will read the work of modern and contemporary writers who write poetry and memoir out of materials that exist outside of the self (including mathematical equations, court testimony, movies, newspaper articles, and Google searches). Students will explore individual and group writing experiments that employ collage techniques, methods of random generation, and new media technologies as a part of our active investigation of how poets and memoirists are discovering and enacting new relationships between writing and self-expression. These alternative ways of thinking about language, and subject matter will help us situate our writing acts in relation to our selves as we call attention to, and challenge, the continued consignment of one voice to one author and individualized writing practices. At semester's end, students will turn in a final portfolio including poetry and prose pieces, and a letter which will serve as a critical introduction to the work.
It's clear that long-cherished notions of creativity are under attack, eroded by file-sharing, media culture, widespread sampling, and digital replication. How does writing respond to this new environment? This workshop will rise to that challenge by employing strategies of appropriation, replication, plagiarism, piracy, sampling, plundering, as compositional methods. Along the way, we'll trace the rich history of forgery, frauds, hoaxes, avatars, and impersonations spanning the arts, with a particular emphasis on how they employ language. We'll see how the modernist notions of chance, procedure, repetition, and the aesthetics of boredom dovetail with popular culture to usurp conventional notions of time, place, and identity, all as expressed linguistically.
Fiction Writing Workshop
The class will be conducted as a seminar. Every student will write three stories during the semester; each story will be discussed by the group. The instructor will, from time to time, suggest works of fiction that he hopes will be illustrative and inspirational but there will be no required books. Attendance and participation are essential.
Students who have completed and taken pleasure in a fiction writing course need not submit writing samples. Others please submit brief samples to: email@example.com. Permit from the instructor is required.
A course for students who have had some experience writing poetry but who wish to improve the rhythm and expressiveness of their language, and who may want to see the things of this world in new relationships and, perhaps, with a broader vision. Students will be asked to write every week, and to discuss and respond to the works of classmates and established poets. A final portfolio of revised poems will be required at the end of the course. Students interested in taking the class should submit three poems to Gregory Djanikian via email at firstname.lastname@example.org Permit from the instructor is required.
Advanced Fiction Writing
English 115 a workshop for advanced writers who have already completed at least one semester of English 112 or its equivalent. Participants should be familiar with technical topics in fiction writing, such as point of view and narrative distance.
In this class you will have at least two opportunities to present a story or novel excerpt to the workshop. You are also encouraged to present revisions of your work. We will do some exercises designed to illuminate technical, ethical, and aesthetic issues in fiction, but the emphasis throughout the semester will be workshopping student-initiated projects. Admission to this class requires an instructor permit. Send a sample of your fiction directly to me at email@example.com.
DeMarco Van Cleve
This is a workshop-style course for those who have thought they had a terrific idea for a movie but didn't know where to begin. The class will focus on learning the basic tenets of classical dramatic structure and how this (ideally) will serve as the backbone for the screenplay of the aforementioned terrific idea. Each student should, by the end of the semester, have at least thirty pages of a screenplay completed. Classic and not-so-classic screenplays will be required reading for every class, and students will also become acquainted with how the business of selling and producing one's screenplay actually happens. Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email briefly describing their interest in the course to firstname.lastname@example.orgPermit from the instructor is required.
This is a workshop-style course for those who have thought they had a terrific idea for a movie but didn't know where to begin. The class will focus on learning the basic tenets of classical dramatic structure and how this (ideally) will serve as the backbone for the screenplay of the aforementioned terrific idea. Each student should, by the end of the semester, have at least thirty pages of a screenplay completed. Classic and not-so-classic screenplays will be required reading for every class, and students will also become acquainted with how the business of selling and producing one's screenplay actually happens. Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email briefly describing their interest in the course to the instructor.
The Arts and Popular Culture
"Writing About the Arts" is a workshop-oriented course that will concentrate on all aspects of writing about artistic endeavor, including criticism, reviews, profiles, interviews and essays. For the purposes of this class, the arts will be interpreted broadly, and students will be able -- and, in fact, encouraged -- to write about both the fine arts and popular culture. Students will be doing a great deal of writing throughout the course, but the main focus will be a 3000-word feature story about an artist or arts organization in Philadelphia (or another location approved by the instructor) that will involve extensive reporting, interviews and research. Potential subjects can range from a local band to a museum, from a theater group to a novelist -- all of which students have written about in previous classes.
Class meetings will include detailed discussions of the students' own writing, as well as that of the instructor and other writers whose work appears in magazines, newspapers and journals. A considerable effort will be made to have the course be as professionally focused and "real time" as possible, so current stories in the media will frequently be the subject of class discussion and critique. A number of writers, critics, journalists, editors and other media types will visit the class to share their work and experiences with the students, and to participate in the discussions. It should be emphasized that, in discussing the work of fellow students, courtesy and respect will be as much required as candor.
Those interested in taking the course should email as soon as possible one or two samples of their best prose to Anthony DeCurtis at ADeCurtis@aol.com. Applicants can also mail their work directly to the instructor at: 875 West End Avenue, Apt 10G, New York, NY 10025. Also include your name, undergraduate class, and the telephone number where you can be reached. Permit from the instructor is required.
Translation of Poetry and the Poetry of Translation
“No problem is as consubstantial with literature and its modest mystery as the one posed by translation.” --Jorge Luis Borges
In this class we will study and translate some of the major figures in 20th century poetry, including Rainer Maria Rilke, Claire Malroux, Pablo Neruda, Cesare Pavese, Anna Akhmatova, and Bei Dao. While the curriculum will be tailored to the interests and linguistic backgrounds of the students who enroll, all those curious about world poetry and the formidable, irresistible act of translation are welcome. No knowledge of a language other than English is required: we will study multiple translations of seminal poems and render our own versions in response. Students with knowledge of other languages will have the additional opportunity to work directly from the original; students may also work in pairs, or groups. A portion of the course will be set up as a creative writing workshop in which to examine the overall effect of each others’ translations so that first drafts can become successful revisions. While class discussions will explore the contexts and particularity of (among others) Urdu, Italian, French, and Polish poetry, they might ultimately reveal how notions of national literature have radically shifted in recent years to more polyglottic and globally textured forms. Through guest speakers, essays on translation theory, and our own ongoing experiments, this course will celebrate the ways in which great poetry underscores the fact that language itself is a translation. In addition to the creative work, assignments will include an oral presentation, informal response papers, and a short final essay.
Advanced Writing for Children
This is a course for students who have completed either English 121 or at least one other creative writing class. We will focus on writing novels for children – from early chapter books to older teen fiction—and the importance of creating compelling characters, a good plot, excellent pacing, a distinctive voice, and an appropriate theme with the goal of each student refining an existing project or beginning work on a new one. There will be at least one reading and one writing assignment each week. Exercises will include studies in voice, point of view, plot development, humor, description, developing a fantasy world, writing historical fiction, and memoir. At the end of the semester each student will have completed a minimum of 60 pages of a novel for young readers. In addition, class work will include reading wide variety of published children’s fiction, from young chapter books to older teen novels, as examples of the genre. Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email that includes a brief description of their interest in the course and a writing sample of no more than five to ten pages. Please email applications to Mingo Reynolds at email@example.com
Writing, Blogging, Tweeting About Movies
Everyone’s a movie critic but not everyone is master of the many forms and platforms that contemporary film criticism takes. Does a movie like “Bridesmaids” profit from frame analysis? Can one tweet a review of a sensory experience like “Tree of Life” in 140 characters or less? How do you take films diverse as “Hugo,” “Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows,” and “War Horse” and extract a theme for an essay that gives readers the flavor of how movies reflect contemporary times? (One answer: all three are set in part during the run-up to World War I. Another: Each deals with the disruptions of war and European dis-union.)
When should you tweet, when should you blog and when should you write an extended film review? Are the differences among these three forms?
Students accepted in the course are expected to see five (assigned) movies during the semester on their own time and write up to 1,000 words per week plus read assigned articles and blogs. The final will be three reviews of the same movie, one in essay form, one in blog form and one as a tweet. Attendance and class participation constitute 1/3 of the final grade.
Students interested in the course should send two writing samples to the instructor at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your scholastic year.
DeMarco Van Cleve
This is a workshop-style course for students who have completed a screenwriting class, or have a draft of a screenplay they wish to improve. Classes will consist of discussing student's work, as well as discussing relevant themes of the movie business and examining classic films and why they work as well as they do.
Classic and not-so-classic screenplays will be required reading for every class in addition to some potentially useful texts like What Makes Sammy Run? Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email.
Please send a writing sample (in screenplay form), a brief description of your interest in the course and your goals for your screenplay, and any relevant background or experience. Applications should be sent to email@example.com.
Creative Nonfiction Writing
Each student will write three essays and the class will offer criticism and appreciation of each. There will be some discussion of and instruction in the form, but the course will be based on the student writing. Attendance and participation required.
Creative Nonfiction Writing
Each student will write three essays and the class will offer criticism and appreciation of each. There will be some discussion of and instruction in the form, but the course will be based on the student writing. Attendance and participation required.
Reality Check: Experience and the Art of Nonfiction
Every work of nonfiction is a writer’s attempt to reconstruct experience. But experience can be an elusive thing to capture: a strange hybrid of the highly subjective and the more tangible zone of perceptible fact. How do we strike a balance in narrative nonfiction? For one, we employ the same devices that we already use to navigate our way through the world—that of our senses. The more vivid the details of sight, touch, smell, taste, and sound, the more immersed the reader will become in the author’s re-created world of words. But what of the more abstract, less concrete sixth sense of thought? After all, it is our mind that perceives and finds the subjective meaning in experience. In this narrative nonfiction writing workshop, we will look at craft, literary technique, the mechanics of building vivid and powerful scenes, discuss the role of story-logic, and the importance of hard fact-checking. Yet, the student is also urged to pay close attention to their own internal narrator, and to be mindful of the intuitive (and unconscious) powers at play in their writing. Each week we will review classics in the genre, do in-class writing exercises, go on periodic “experiential” assignments, and explore how the art of playing around with the raw material of everyday life (i.e., “reality”) can make for great and unexpected stories.
Creative Nonfiction: Writing Your Travels
In this course students will learn to observe and record what they see when they travel. They will explore a popular form of writing and practice it in their own daily activities. The familiar will become strange and new as they return home, walk through the campus, visit Center City or explore an ethnic community in order to write accounts of what they see. They will, in the process, learn about themselves but without that preoccupation with the self alone that marks much student writing. They will see themselves in the mirror of "the other". The course will explore famous works by travelers who visited the USA as a means to see the familiar through foreign eyes, such works as Alexis de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America" (1835), Charles Dickens' "On America and the Americans" (ed. Michael Slater), G.K. Chesterton's "What I Saw in America" (1922). Jonathan Raban's "Old Glory: An American Voyage" (1981) and the expatriate who returns like Bill Bryson's "I am a Stranger here myself: Notes on returning to America after twenty years" (1999).
This course is intended for capable writers who possess the maturity and temperament to work successfully as peer tutors at Penn. The course emphasizes the development of tutors' own writing through the process of collaborative peer-criticism, individual conferences, and intensive sessions on writing, from mechanics to style. The class meets twice weekly; tutors also work two hours weekly in the Writing Center or elsewhere, and confer regularly in small groups or one-on-one meetings with the instructor. Tutors are required to write five short papers, eight one-page peer reviews, and two responses to readings. Additionally, students keep a journal and give two class presentations. CWIC-affiliated course.
Advanced Non-fiction Writing
This is an intensive course in creative nonfiction--both the reading and practice of it. It's seeking to look at fact as literature. Think of it as the art of fact: using reportage and some of the literary techniques of fiction in the service of compelling, true, real-life stories--sometimes your own story. The core goal is to get a circle of student writers writing, and have them willing to share the work aloud in class. Implicit in this is the willingness to suffer some gentle slings of criticism. We will be examining models of nonfiction from present and past word masters: Annie Dillard, E.B. White, Joan Didion, James Baldwin, Michael Herr, Tim O'Brien, John Hersey, James Agee, George Orwell, Thomas Lynch. Ever heard this last name? Lynch is a Michigan undertaker. He writes like a dream. Good writing is where you find it; sometimes it will be about the art of taking folks under.
We will attempt different forms of creative nonfiction, starting with the personal essay or family memoir. Then we'll move on to something deeply reported and/or researched--something that's essentially outside oneself. For this piece it's likely a student will travel into the nearby world and observe something: or interview someone (or several someones). The piece--and these are always to be thought of as "pieces," not as "papers"--could be a profile of a local personality or athlete. It could be an extended scene, say, of a jazz club, or of a hospital emergency room, or of a homeless shelter, or of the Reading Terminal Market. The student will have the primary say in what he or she wishes to tackle. But the instructor will approve the story idea and will monitor and help guide its development. Although not a direct aim of the workshop, it's slimly possible someone will emerge with a piece of nonfiction that any professional magazine or newspaper editor in his or her right mind would be proud to publish. This has happened in previous workshops.
Those interested in taking the course should email by attachment as soon as possible one or two samples of their best prose to Paul Hendrickson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also include your name,last four digits of SS#, undergraduate class, and telephone number where you can be reached. Permit is required by the instructor.
Advanced Non-fiction Writing
Too often, what passes for “creative non-fiction” is neither as creative as it could be, nor truly non-fictional. The goal of this class is to explore many different forms of creative non-fiction writing and, through your individual work and intense group workshopping, broaden and deepen your knowledge of both the form and yourself as a writer and a reader. The course will use a different magazine or periodical each week, along with your own writing, as its primary reading material. And it will feature some of the intense peer editing and support my students have helped me develop at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where I’ve taught the magazine writing workshop for the past eight years.
It is not, necessarily, a class only for those interested in non-fiction writing or journalism as a career, and students will be selected based on the quality and ambition of their writing samples, not whether the pieces were ever published. That said, I do expect that some students will produce work in the class that is publishable—or, at the very least, would open doors for you at publications. But, everyone will learn how to write, report, think and communicate more concisely, emotionally and entertainingly; how to draw out characters and narratives; and how to share your knowledge and enthusiasm for a subject, and your deepening understanding of it, with readers. You’ll also learn how to constructively criticize the work of others, and to accept and embrace critiques of your own work.
You will be writing pretty much every week in this class. We’ll begin with short pieces (500+ words) that will be tied to what we’re reading that week, and a theme: first-person memoir, reported memoir (amazing how memoir changes when you ask someone else how they remember it), observed scene, scene recreated from reporting, extended dialogue, historical recreation, procedural how-to, profile of a person and biography of an idea. For the final assignment you’ll expand your favorite piece (with my approval) into a full-length story.
If it sounds like a lot of work, I suspect it will be. (For me, too.) This isn’t a class for tourists. It’s an immersion experience in non-fiction writing, reporting, thinking and editing for students who think they might want to do this for a living—or, at the very least, expect to be superior communicators.
Please send one or two samples of your best work and a cover letter expressing your interest in the course to email@example.com. Also include your full name, last four digits of SS#, undergraduate class, and telephone number where you can be reached. *Permit is required by the instructor.*
The Art of the Personal Essay
Our voices as writers take shape as we begin to identify the complexities of our inner landscapes, perceptions, dreams, and fears. Memory is a dynamic force, and as we grow through our lives, our relationships with the past often change. This seminar will help you tap into and write about experiences that have helped shape who you are. We will use the personal essay, a form the Handbook of Literature defines as “a kind of informal essay, with an intimate style, some autobiographical content or interest and a…. conversational manner.” Class work will include meditation, freewriting, and visualization exercises; revision, peer review and class discussions. Readings will include works by Maxine Hong Kingston, Kaye Gibbons, Jorge Luis Borges, Toni Morrison, Eudora Welty, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Joyce Carol Oates, Joan Didion and Walt Whitman. In addition to in-class writing, students will maintain a daily practice of free-writing; write reading responses to assigned books, essays, and stories; conduct interviews, do research and write and revise two to three personal essays during the semester.
Writing from Photographs
A creative writing course built entirely around the use of photographs, and the crafting of compelling nonfiction narratives from them. The essential concept will be to employ photographs as storytelling vehicles. So we will be using curling, drugstore-printed Kodak shots from our own family albums. We will be using searing and famous images from history books. We will be taking things from yesterday's newspaper. We will even be using pictures that were just made by the workshop participants outside the campus gates with a disposable camera from CVS or with their own sophisticated digital Nikon. In all of this, there will be one overriding aim: to achieve memorable, full-bodied stories. To locate the strange, evocative, storytelling universes that are sealed inside the four rectangular walls of a photograph. They are always there, if you know how to look. It's about the quality of your noticing, the intensity of your seeing.
Writers as diverse as the poet Mark Strand and the novelist Don DeLillo and the memoirist Wright Morris have long recognized the power of a photograph to launch a story. In this course we are going to employ memory and imagination to launch our stories, but most of all we are going to make use of fact-everything that can be found out, gleaned, uncovered, dug up, stumbled upon. Because first and last, this is nonfiction, this is the art of reported fact. So a lot of this class will go forward using the tools and techniques of journalism: good, old-fashioned reporting and research, legwork. And turning that reporting into writing gold. A photograph represents time stopped in a box. It is a kind of freeze-frame of eternity. It is stopped motion, in which the clock has seemed to hold its breath. Often, the stories inside of photographs turn out to be at surprising odds with what we otherwise thought, felt, imagined.
Say, for instance, that you hunger to enter the photographic heart of this youthful, handsome, dark-haired man-who is your father-as he leans now against the gleaming bumper of a 1951 Pontiac. It was three decades before you were born. The moment is long buried and forgotten in your collective family's past-and yet in another way, it is right here before you, on this photosensitive surface. Whether the figure in the photograph is alive or deceased, you are now going to try with all of your writing and reporting might to "walk back in." Almost literally. You are going to achieve a story about this moment, with a beginning, middle, and end.
"Every great photograph has a secret," a noted critic once said. An essayist for Time magazine once wrote: "All great photographs have lives of their own. But sometimes they can be false as dreams." Those interested in taking the course should email by attachment as soon as possible one or two samples of their best prose to Paul Hendrickson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also include your name, last four digits of SS#, undergraduate class, and telephone number where you can be reached. Permit is required by the instructor.
Introduction to Journalistic Writing: Writing about Food
Some of the worst writing in the world is passed off as "food writing." And some of the finest, most moving, most joyful prose, as well. This course aims to push the needle -- your needle -- closer to the latter. We'll move smartly through various forms -- profiles (of guest chefs, farmers, turnips), reviews (of the likes of Han Dynasty, local tacquerias, Penn's food trucks), columns (on why avocados once cost less in Canada than Philadelphia, how the Amish may be killing blue crabs in the Chesapeake, the downsides of eating local). Finally, we'll tackle a longer piece that will serve as a final exam. The possibilities are as endless as the cornfields of Iowa (or the snack shelves at Acme). But in the end, the object is to write engagingly, be the subject feast or famine. To write with meaning. That means learning to report well, live and in person. To test conventional wisdom and to dish up what you have to say fresh and tasty. That's not an easy job. We'll look to Dickens for guidance, and the masters, M.F.K. Fisher, Joseph Mitchell, A. J. Liebling, Upton Sinclair and, maybe, Swift and Malthus. And newer voices -- Gopnik, Pollan, Trillin, Reichl, Bittman, Kurlansky. There will be field trips. There will be discussions of how immigration and war and technology (the stove! GMOs!) and transportation have shaped what's on our plate; or short-changed whole populations. Talking about this is a piece of cake. Writing about it -- and in a way that grabs, and holds the reader (of a website, newspaper, magazine, pitch for a best-selling book) -- is a different matter. It is what this course is all about. And, yes, there will be light refreshments!
This class is designed to help students develop their own digital journalism models. Working alone or in small groups, students will conceive of a unique site or app and then spend the semester fine-tuning the concept and developing a basic business plan. Along the way, we'll explore some of the key challenges facing the industry, from how to build a reliable revenue stream at a moment when few people are willing to pay for content, to how to best engage an audience across multiple social media platforms. At the end of the semester, students will prepare brief presentations for their projects and present them before a panel of outside judges who will distribute $7,500 in seed funding. A team of developers will also help build the winning projects at an end of semester "hackathon." (No technical expertise is necessary for the class.)
This is a how-to course for talented aspiring writers--how to write well in the real world; how to hook the reader and sustain interest; how to develop the journalistic skills that enable a writer to gather, sift and report information. The instructor will share his own real-world experience, as a full-time working journalist for the past three decades. He will be joined on occasion by eminent journalists- including several star journalists from the New York Times--who will address the class and appear at mandatory forums to be held at the Kelly Writers House.
Even though students will read and critique some famous practitioners of non-fiction writing-among them, Gay Talese, Tom Wolfe, Michael Herr, Truman Capote and Richard Ben Cramer--along with contemporary newspaper storytellers that include the instructor (a national correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer), the emphasis will be on the students' own writing.
The goal is to inspire students to tap their own potential, gain fresh insights, and feel comfortable enough to share their assigned work-both short and long pieces-with others in the class over the span of the semester. Students will write all kinds of non-fiction pieces, from personal memoirs to long-form features about anything from the Philadelphia scene to campus issues and events. The topics are less important than the craftsmanship; anything can be a great read if it's written and reported well.,P. Journalistic issues, both practical and ethical, will also be addressed--among them: how to decide who to interview, and how to handle an interviewee; how to use (and not use) the Internet; when to use (or not use) anonymous sources.
The 2012 Presidential Election
This in-depth course on political commentary writing will feature the autumn clash between President Obama and the Republican challenger who seeks to replace him in the White House. Students will write weekly on a class blog, chronicling and analyzing the twists and turns of the campaign rhetoric, the campaign ads, and the media coverage. Obama and his challenger will meet in three presidential debates, and each will be grist for much of the student writing. All told, students will track the news as it unfolds week by week, and deepen their understanding of what constitutes credible point-of-view journalism.
All points of view are welcome, but they must be effectively backed up with substantive factual evidence, and, most importantly, they must be communicated in clear, persuasive, and (especially) lively prose. In short, the course will emphasize the challenge of effective thinking and effective writing. The course will also feature several prominent guests from the media and political communities, who will comment on the campaign and the coverage.
Storytelling in Fiction and Nonfiction
This workshop will focus on how to tell a good story—whether fiction or creative nonfiction. Writers will identify stories they want to write, learn how to research subjects and settings, and tap into imagination to make a story or personal essay come to life. In-class writing exercises and visualizations will jump start or enhance works-in-progress that may include short story, personal essay, novel or memoir. Students will explore the importance of detail, humor, perspective, character, dialogue, and place in both fiction and nonfiction, while at the same time examining the substance of the story within a larger context. We will read selections from a range of versatile authors, including Jumpa Lahiri, Kaye Gibbons, Richard Wright, Audre Lorde, Alfred Kazin, Toni Morrison, Stephen King, John Edgar Wideman and Anne Lamott. Students will be asked to maintain daily writing journals, participate in and lead workshop discussions, contribute to peer review, and write and revise stories on a weekly basis.
Research for Writers
Writers are nosy. We want to know what happened, and then we want to know why, and how, and where, and what it smelled like. Good writing demands details. Finding these details… well, that can be the fun part. Research for writers involves poking through archives, asking people for stories, and looking at alternate interpretations of historical events. It involves answering all kinds of questions for ourselves and our readers: If W.E.B DuBois were a character in a short story, what would he wear? On Juneteenth, what was the weather like in Beaumont? Can a sonnet be biographical, and if so are the facts correct? In this class, you will learn the research methods employed by scholars, journalists, and super-sleuths. The class is intended for poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers, though journalists and documentary filmmakers may apply. We will read writers like Zora Neale Hurston, Marilyn Nelson, and Colson Whitehead to examine how writers use research in their work; we will talk to oral historians, archivists, and museum curators about how to mine the past for ideas. Be prepared to choose a topic early in the semester and research it thoroughly. Your final project, a creative piece in your choice of genre, will be informed by your discoveries.