English 826 section 005
Fall 2013
TR 11:40-1:20, Anderson 1106
Instructor: Kathryn Ionata
Office: Anderson 946
Office hours: Tuesday 1:30-3:30 and by appointment
Office telephone: 215-204-7351
Mailbox: Anderson Hall, 10th floor across from the elevators
Course Description
This course focuses on the art of writing, finding one’s voice, and writing for different genres,
including but not limited to poetry, fiction, and experimental prose. In a small classroom setting,
we will work together to improve your writing through workshopping. Readings of published
texts will expose you to a diverse selection of writing and styles to encourage you to experiment
in your own work. By the end of the semester, you will produce a portfolio of your work.
Course Goals
 This course aims to facilitate creativity and encourage an appreciation for writing and
 Students will learn how to construct fiction, poetry, and other forms of creative writing in
order to improve their writing skills.
 Students will develop a vocabulary and demonstrate correct terminology for discussing
elements of literature.
 In discussions of both published and student work, students will respond to and interpret
writing in social, cultural, and historical contexts.
 Above all, this course is designed to give students an outlet for expressing their own
unique perspectives, and to endow them with the confidence to do so.
Course Requirements:
There is no required textbook for this class. All readings will be available on Blackboard and
should be printed out and brought to class on the day they are due to be discussed. One of your
main tasks in class is to read assigned literature, whether published or the work of your
classmates, with focus and care. Approach each work with an open mind and an attention to
detail. Be aware that what you read may be open to interpretation, but rather than trying to guess
or determine what the “right” interpretation is, note what stands out to you as being significant.
Read carefully and make notes for yourself. When reading poetry in particular, it’s a good
practice to read poems more than once. Come to class with questions you have about what you
have read.
Because this is a small and interactive class, your attendance and participation are essential to
your success. As such, they are reflected in your final grade. Attendance counts for 10% of your
grade. If you miss no more than 2 classes, you will receive the full 10%. With more absences,
your grade will diminish accordingly. If you are absent 5 or more times, it will not be possible to
pass the class. Keep in mind that two late arrivals or early departures will count as one absence.
Excluding extreme and documented emergencies, you must be in class on the day your writing is
due to be distributed or workshopped, or you will lose the opportunity to participate in the
workshop and take a zero for the assignment.
Good participation in this course means coming to class with any readings and written
assignments completed, and being prepared to actively contribute to discussions and activities in
a thoughtful manner. Share observations and opinions, and treat your classmates with respect. No
cell phones or electronic devices. You must get my permission to use a laptop or reader.
Participation is worth 15% of your grade. If you contribute to discussions every class, you will
receive the full 15%. If you rarely or never participate, your grade will diminish accordingly.
Writing exercises
Several times over the course of the semester, you will be required to complete writing exercises
for homework. Usually these writing assignments will be written in response to or inspired by a
published text we read for class. These exercises are designed to give you the opportunity to
experiment with different kinds of writing.
We will devote several weeks of the semester to workshop, meaning that everyone receives a
copy of the writer’s work prior to class, reads and writes comments, and discusses it as a class.
Typically, we will workshop 4 students per class meeting. Everyone will sign up for a spot in the
rotation. If your work is due to be workshopped on a Thursday, you should be prepared to
distribute (25) copies of your writing on Tuesday. You can get copies made for free by filling out
a form in the Undergraduate English office on the 10th floor of Anderson Hall, but you must
allow 24 hours for copying.
Our first round of workshop will be devoted to poetry, and each student should submit 2-3 pages
of work. Our second round of workshop will be devoted to fiction, and each student should
submit 4-7 pages of work. Our third round of workshop is a little different: rather than being a
full class workshop, instead you will break into small groups of 4 or 5 and workshop within your
group only. We will discuss workshopping further before our first round begins.
Please note that what you submit to workshop must be different than the work you submit for the
homework writing exercises. Submitting the same work for both a writing exercise and a
workshop will result in a failing grade for the latter assignment. However, you are welcome to
develop any in-class writing we do and use it for either a future workshop.
A note on late work:
I expect you to turn in your work on time. If you are absent on the day an assignment is due,
email me the assignment by class time and bring a hard copy to the next class meeting.
Otherwise, late assignments (such as writing exercises or commentaries) will lose points for each
day of lateness. If you anticipate needing more time on an assignment, tell me well before the
assignment is due and I will consider granting you an extension, although this is by no means
guaranteed. Due to scheduling constraints, it is not possible to turn in workshop stories late.
For each workshop, write a letter to the author telling him or her what works in the writing and
what could be improved, and how. This should be typed and ready to give to the author on the
day of the workshop. Please print out an extra copy of the letter for me. This letter should be
approximately 2 paragraphs or 1 page long. If you make notes on the author’s poem or story,
give that to him or her as well. Sign your name to everything—no anonymous commentaries. I
will give out more instructions about this before our first workshop.
Final portfolio
Due on the last day of class, your portfolio should consist of the following:
 Revisions of the work you distributed for any two of the three workshops, along with the
original copies (the ones with my comments)
 Revisions of two of the writing exercises you completed for homework, along with the
original copies (the ones with my comments)
 A 1-2 page letter of reflection
 A final writing project of 4-6 pages, the genre and style of which is your choice. You
may write fiction or poetry, a combination thereof, an experimental piece, something that
incorporates images or music, etc. I will give you more details as the due date
Formatting tips
 Unless specifically instructed otherwise, please type all your work.
 Poetry is generally single-spaced (although this very much depends on the writer and
poem), whereas fiction and other prose, such as commentaries, should be double spaced
for easier readability and commenting.
 Staple any document with multiple pages.
 By all means, feel free to print double-sided to save paper and money.
Grade breakdown
Workshops: 10%
Writing assignments: 10%
Attendance: 10%
Participation: 15%
Commentaries: 15%
Final portfolio: 40%
Please note that in a workshop it is more difficult to track your grade than in other courses. If you
have questions about your grade at any point during the semester, come see me and we can
discuss your standing in class.
Plagiarism is a crime that will result in your failing the course and possibly being suspended or
expelled from the university. Plagiarism includes submitting the work of someone else; helping
others to plagiarize; doing the work of another person; or submitting work in one course that was
done for another. If you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism, make sure to
consult with me before you turn in the work; it will be too late afterwards.
Disability Policy
Any student who has a need for accommodation based on the impact of a disability should
contact me privately to discuss the specific situation as soon as possible. Contact Disability
Resources and Services at 215-204-1280 in 100 Ritter Annex to coordinate reasonable
accommodations for students with documented disabilities.
Student and Faculty Academic Rights and Responsibilities Policy:
Freedom to teach and freedom to learn are inseparable facets of academic freedom. The
University has a policy on Student and Faculty and Academic Rights and Responsibilities
(Policy #03.70.02), which can be accessed through the following link:
Course schedule
Week 1: Introductions and poetry
T August 27:
Review syllabus
R August 29:
Week 2: Poetry
T September 3:
R September 5:
Jeffrey McDaniel selection
Excerpt from The Practice of Creative Writing, “A Word on Words”
Kim Addonizio selection
Writing exercise #1 due
Guest poet: Warren C. Longmire
Slam poetry selection
Writing exercise #2 due
Week 3: Poetry & workshop
T September 10:
Frank O’Hara selection
R September 12:
Workshop students 1, 2, 3, 4
Week 4: Poetry workshop
T September 17:
Workshop students 5, 6, 7, 8
R September 19:
Workshop students 9, 10, 11, 12
Week 5: Poetry workshop
T September 24:
Workshop students 13, 14, 15, 16
R September 26:
Workshop students 17, 18, 19, 20
Week 6: Poetry workshop & fiction
T October 1:
Workshop students 21, 22, 23, 24, 25
R October 3:
Week 7: Fiction
T October 8:
R October 10:
Week 8: Fiction
T October 15:
R October 17:
Junot Díaz, “How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl or Halfie”
Aryn Kyle, “Brides”
Writing exercise #3 due
Excerpt from The Practice of Creative Writing, “Focus on What’s
Writing in the city (meet at Broad St. and Cecil B. Moore Ave., in front of
southbound subway, at 11:40)
Alice Walker, “Flowers”
Julia Alvarez, “Snow”
Writing exercise #4 due
J.D. Salinger, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”
Excerpt from The Practice of Creative Writing, “Ways to Be Unwise”
Gish Jen, “Who’s Irish?”
Dan Chaon, “The Bees”
Week 9: Fiction workshop
T October 22:
Workshop students 1, 2, 3, 4
R October 24:
Workshop students 5, 6, 7, 8
Week 10: Fiction workshop
T October 29:
Workshop students 9, 10, 11, 12
R October 31:
Workshop students 13, 14, 15, 16
Week 11: Fiction workshop
T November 5:
Workshop students 17, 18, 19, 20, 21
R November 7:
Workshop students 22, 23, 24, 25
Week 12: Experimental writing
T November 12:
Sandra Cisneros, “Barbie-Q”
Sandra Cisneros, “Anguiano religious articles rosaries statues”
Writing exercise #5 due
R November 14:
Margaret Atwood, “Happy Endings”
Excerpt from The Practice of Creative Writing, “Revision is Seeing
Week 13: Experimental writing
T November 19:
Rick Moody, “Boys”
Mike Lacher, “I’m Comic Sans, Asshole”
R November 21:
Jesse Porter, “Trader Joe’s, Circa 1877”
Bring in example of experimental writing
Writing exercise # 6 due
Week 14: Experimental writing workshop
T November 26:
Group workshop
R November 28:
No class. Happy Thanksgiving!
Week 15
T December 3:
Final portfolios due