Creative Writing

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Full year
Elective

Creative Writing is a course in which students will explore a variety of genres, creating their own work across those genres. This course supposes that writing creatively should be a little more like messing around with a chemistry set and a little less like playing by a set of rules. That ham-handed analogy is to say that Catlin Gabel's writing students should be free to sense the wide-open possibilities of creative prose, poetry, drama, and journalism; most of the great pieces of literature we read at Catlin Gabel came to be because an author decided to break convention, instead of abiding by it. That said, it’s always good to know what rules you’re breaking before you go ahead and break them. The class will spend some time reading, but we’ll mostly use our reading to see how published writers deal with all the possibilities they see before them, and the bulk of the class will be spent writing, usually from prompts to free up the students' imaginations. We’ll seek larger audiences beyond the Catlin Gabel community, and students should leave the class with a surprising bundle of their own work. Students may even find themselves published in various outlets by the end of the year.  Creative Writing is a half-credit class that meets twice a week all year long, and covers poetry, prose, drama, creative non-fiction, and maybe even some aural media (read: radio). Students should expect to get comfortable in a workshop setting, reading and then commenting honestly (but gently!) on the work of their peers. Creative Writing will be a lot of fun, and only as stressful as you would like it to be.

Units

Unit Essential Questions Habits Of Mind Content Skills and Processes Assessment Multicultural Dimension
Creative Writing: Poetry

What makes a poem and how does poetry differ from prose? What kinds (forms) of poems exist and how do they differ from each other? Why would poets write in form? Why is a mastery of different forms important to a mastery of free verse (the kind of poetry many students will be familiar with)? What possibilities does writing in lines, rhythms, and rhymes afford us that writing in prose does not?

  • Openness to all sorts of poetic forms
  • Ability to give and receive criticism constructively
  • An enthusiasm for revision
  • A sense that great works of art are never really finished
  • Acceptance that others' opinions of our work are usually more clear-eyed than our own opinions
  • A somewhat thick skin
  • Czeslaw Milosz's A Book of Luminous Things
  • Mark Strand and Eavan Boland's The Making of a Poem
  • Handouts and selected poems
  • Student contributions
  • Learning how to write poetical forms: sonnets, haiku, sestinas, ballads, villanelles, rhyming and heroic couplets
  • Learning how to respectfully critique others' work
  • Learning how to look at one's work without self-critique
  • Learning how to look at one's work with an eye towards revision
  • Learning how to submit work to outside publications (magazines, websites, etc...)

Assessment will be based on completion of assignments by due dates; attainment of assigned length; revision and re-drafting of work; participation in workshop in a constructive manner; attendance to class and timeliness of arrival

Students will read work from a variety of cultures and contexts

Creative Writing: Fiction and Prose
  • How does prose differ in its intent and effect from poetry?
  • What is a "story?" What does a piece of prose need to function as a "story?"
  • How do sentences work to affect the overall mood and tone of a piece of writing?
  • How does the structure of a piece of writing affect its narration?
  • What makes for effective character creation?
  • Openness to all sorts of prose
  • Ability to give and receive criticism constructively
  • An enthusiasm for revision
  • A sense that great works of art are never really finished
  • Acceptance that others' opinions of our work are usually more clear-eyed than our own opinions
  • A somewhat thick skin
  • The Story and its Writer
  • Selected stories and handouts
  • Manipulation of sentence length, syntax, and imagery to achieve desired effect
  • Manipulation of structure to achieve desired effect
  • Learning how to achieve a certain tone of voice
  • Learning how to recognize (and deviate from!) one's own style
  • Revision and drafting
  • Constructive criticism

Assessment will be based on completion of assignments by due dates; attainment of assigned length; revision and re-drafting of work; participation in workshop in a constructive manner; attendance to class and timeliness of arrival

Students will read work from a variety of cultures and contexts