This is an introductory fiction writing workshop with an emphasis on close reading, craft and technique. Participants need not have taken any prior workshops but should have completed a literature course that focuses in part on the reading of short stories and/or novels. We will discuss student stories and some published work in class. Written critiques of all student stories and some published work are required and I will take up critiques, unannounced, throughout the semester to make sure you are keeping up with the reading.
The work in a workshop is done at the shop;, attendance is vital, as is punctuality. You will learn as much from the discussion of someone else’s story as you will from your own. You are allowed two unexcused absences before your final grade will be severely affected. If you miss more than four classes without a valid excuse I will drop you from the roster. Should you have to miss a class when the stories are distributed, it is your responsibility to come up with the assigned stories, either from me or from a classmate. (I suggest exchanging information with a classmate immediately, in the event that you cannot reach me.) Should you miss a class, you should turn in your critique as soon as possible (either slide it under my office door or put it in my box in the English office) in order to receive credit. Should you, for some reason, miss class when your story is up, you forfeit class discussion of that story.
Grading in a writing workshop can seem to some students mysterious and subjective,
and I will do my best to demystify the process, though if at any point you
are unclear about how you are being evaluated, I encourage you to see me immediately
so we can discuss your progress in the class. Your grade will be based on the
--Attendance and participation in class discussion.
--Written critiques of stories
--Quizzes on craft lectures and assigned course pack stories
--Handing in work on time and in the proper format
--A final portfolio of two short stories and a substantial revision of one of these stories
--Improvement over the course of the semester
The text for this class
is Ann Charter’s Anthology The Story and Its
Writer, available in the UNCG bookstore. You will need to purchase a copy as
soon as possible. (Should you decide to find a used copy, please make sure
it is the 6th edition.) Aside from that expense, you will be asked to pay for
copies, for each student as well as the instructors, of each of the two stories
you write. I strongly suggest you not wait until the last minute to make copies
of your stories. If you are having problems coming up with the dough, let me
know a week or so before the story is due and we’ll try to work something
When your story is up for class discussion, you will be asked to read at least a part of it aloud, as it is important for me, and the rest of the class, to hear how you intended for your prose to be read and understood. While your work is being discussed, you will be asked to keep quiet. No one is allowed to ask you a direct question during the discussion of your story. The process works better for all of us if we discuss the story as it is written, and assume everything included is there for a specific reason. If, however, you feel your story is wildly misunderstood or if at any time you feel that you are not being taken seriously as a writer, I urge you to see me as soon as possible.
A detailed list of readings and assignments is forthcoming. For class on Thursday, please read Tobias Woolff’s story “Say Yes” (handout) and be prepared to discuss it in class. (Pay particular attention to the ways in which we come to understand the characters through what the author shows us about them rather than what is directly stated or told.) I would also like you to write a page-long and grammatically correct sentence. You are allowed the following articles of punctuation: unlimited commas, one colon, two semi-colons, one set of parentheses and, of course, a lone and expertly placed period. You will do well to remember the words of the Russian writer Isaac Babel, who wrote that “no iron can stab the heart with such force as a period put just at the right place.”
Further Reading and Writing Assignments, as well as due dates for stories, to follow.