Introduction to Literature: Creative Writing: Big Worlds in Small Stories

ENG 273 (Section 3)
Introduction to Literature: Creative Writing — Big Worlds in Small Stories

Fall 2022 – Monday, Wednesday, Friday @ 9:30 a.m. – 10:20 a.m.
In-person Instruction
Instructor: Micah Lau (


Course Overview:
Less is more. Keep it short. A little goes a long way. In Twitter replies and Instagram captions, self-introductions and academic abstracts, we are often asked to express a lot in very few words. How do we compress an enormous subject into a tiny space, and what tools do we have to do so?

In this course, we will examine two literary sub-genres that distinguish themselves foremost through radical brevity: “flash” fiction and nonfiction. These creative forms often escape consistent definition; some say “flash” means sub-1000-words, others draw the line at a word count of 500 or 250 or 100 – and what the heck is “microfiction,” exactly? We will instead concern ourselves more with the practice of reading and writing very short texts while keeping in mind the techniques of narrative, character, imagery, and style.

You will hone your writerly craft by engaging in the arts of close observation, precise word choice, thoughtfully condensed detail, and nuanced syntax. Through exposure to a variety of authorial voices, you will also extend your creative process in a series of “experiments,” or assignments that ask you to draw on particular examples for inspiration. Lastly, you will develop critical language to discuss flash forms – both others’ and your own.

This course has a Writing Intensive (W) Focus designation, meaning you will produce a minimum of 4000 words of revised, polished prose.


Course Materials (Tentative):
I will provide all required texts for this course, distributed through Laulima.

We will read an enormous number of very short creative works by a wide range of authors, including Jamaica Kincaid, Amy Hempel, Claudia Rankine, Ocean Vuong, Craig Santos Perez, Fernando Pessoa, Joy Harjo, George Saunders, Emily Jungmin Yoon, and David Foster Wallace, to give you just ten names.

Check out “The Colonel,” by Carolyn Forché, as an example of the type of creative work we will read in this course.

Essays on craft will come from Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction, ed. Dinty Moore, and Essays One by Lydia Davis, among other texts.


Assignments (Tentative):

  • Weekly “Flash” Writing Experiments and Writing Workshops (35%)
  • Homework — e.g., discussion posts on Laulima Forums (15%)
  • In-Class Activities — e.g., leading discussion, class participation, writing exercises (15%)
  • Take-Home Final Exam — critical analyses of course readings of your choice (5%)
  • Final Portfolio — six revised Writing Experiments, with ~1000-word artist’s statement (30%)