Foundations of Creative Writing

Course Description

625D is a class devoted to learning the Foundations of Creative Writing. But how do each of us conceive of our writerly foundations? And how can a study of both our shared foundations and our distinct lineages of craft, technique, story, and inspiration help us grow as writers and teachers of writing? In the first weeks of the course we’ll consider the various meanings of the word “craft.” We’ll also think about whom we write for, and why, as well as what kind of work our writing does (or might do) in the world. From there, we’ll move into a larger research project: a writer’s family tree or genealogy of scholarship (conveniently, the theme for this fall’s 625 cohort). We’ll identify which writers, theories, methods, and techniques have influenced us– and we’ll seek out additional influences that can deepen, complicate, and further our knowledge. From this genealogy, each of us will select at least one book to read and study independently. We’ll also write several creative emulations in order to experiment with style, voice, and technique. In the final weeks of the term, we’ll prepare for our presentations at the Department Colloquium before closing with a brief survey of several workshop models that allow us the opportunity to give and receive feedback on our favorite critical and creative pieces.

Course Delivery

We will plan to meet in person, M/W 1:30-2:45 in Sakamaki B211

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Foundational knowledge of creative writing history, theories, and pedagogies
  • Understanding of creative writing craft technique in fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry
  • Ability to analyze and articulate why we write and how we construct that writing
  • Ability to contextualize one’s own creative writing within broader artistic and scholarly conversations
  • Ease with independent research, including the integration of primary and secondary sources with creative skills

Assignment Overview

  • 8 Experiments (a mix of creative and critical first drafts aimed at either practicing writing techniques or elucidating ideas under study)
  • 2 Revisions (of the student’s choice of two of their experiments)
  • 1 Teaching Demo (10 minute lecture, with 20 minutes of discussion questions and class leadership)
  • 1 Annotated Bibliography/ Writer’s Family Tree
  • Presentation at the department colloquia
  • A final portfolio consisting of some combination of creative work, artist’s statement, and/or craft paper.

Some Texts

Full books recommended for purchase include:

  • Morrison, Toni. Playing in the Dark
  • Ondaatje, Michael. Running in the Family
  • Salesses, Matthew. Craft in the Real World

Essays & Excerpts uploaded to Laulima and available FOR FREE include:

  • Alison, Jane. “Introduction.” Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative.
  • Baxter, Charles. “Against Epiphanies.” 
  • Gay, Ross. Excerpts from The Book of Delights
  • Hong, Cathy Park. “Delusions of Whiteness in the Avant Garde.”
  • Le Guin, Ursula. “Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction.”
  • Leahy, Anna, Ed. Excerpts from Power and Identity in the Creative Writing Classroom
  • Lorca, Federico. “Theory and Play of The Duende”
  • Lorde, Audre. “Poetry is Not a Luxury”
  • McDougall, Brandy Nālani. Excerpts from Finding Meaning: Kaona and Contemporary Hawaiian Literature
  • Miller, Brenda and Suzanne Paola. “The Power of Writing Communities.” Tell It Slant: Creating, Refining, and Publishing Creative Nonfiction, 3rd ed.
  • Mura, David. “On Race and Craft” and “Writing Teachers.” A Stranger’s Journey: Race, Identity, and Narrative Craft in Writing
  • Myers, David. Excerpts from The Elephants Teach: Creative Writing Since 1880