Dear Creative Writing Students:
Since this is an introductory class, I would like to take a moment to give you a run-down of some of the basic elements and considerations this class entails.
To begin, everyone participating in this class is coming from some different place: literal, emotional, metaphysical, racial, religious, gendered, physical, cultural, academic/creative interest and experience, etc and etc. It is important that we all realize that, in this class, we are now members of a community in which everyone’s ideas and perspectives are valued. We may each have our own ideas about what is right or good, but we also have to understand that others may have differing ideas or opinions. The more we can all work to open our minds and hearts to others, the more we will all learn and benefit. I speak for myself when I say that listening and paying attention to others’ thoughts and ideas has given me some of the most valuable education I have had and carry with me.
Because this is an introductory class, everyone will also be coming from different places in terms of interest and practice in creative writing. Some will prefer to read and write poems, some prefer fiction, but we can all learn from one another, and especially from the things we don’t expect to learn from. I encourage you to open your mind to texts, readings, ideas, and opinions that you wouldn’t have expected to encounter, or might not have chosen on your own. You can still read and think about the things you will otherwise choose on your own, but in this class we may do some things differently. Also, sometimes doing and reading things that we don’t necessarily like or enjoy can offer productive thinking and learning. I encourage each member of this class to please be willing to read, discuss, and engage and we will all benefit as writers and readers because of it.
This introductory class is also a part of a larger program in creative writing at EMU, and as such includes certain requirements and components. Insofar as the larger program understands creative writing and critical reading to be inseparable activities, we will all participate in the dynamic relation between the two. In addition, we will practice fundamental grounding in interdisciplinarity by bringing creative works in various mediums and theoretical texts into conversation around a range of topics. This means that reading and writing will be our primary modes of engagement in this course. We will practice critical reading and creative writing, creative reading and critical writing. We will learn how to become better readers through our writing, and to become better writers through our reading. Moreover, we will approach writing not only as the means to express a set of predetermined ends, but as a form of sensation and cognition. In other words, we will practice what it means to perceive, feel, and thereby think by way of our writing, rather than simply using our writing to communicate something previously thought, felt, or planned ahead. Weekly writing assignments and workshops will be based on exercises that are in relation to reading assignments. Our writing processes will progress rigorously by way of focused freewriting, directed exercises, drafts, critiques, revisions, and completed pieces.
This is a reading, writing, and workshop course. We will read creative work from various genres (poetry, fiction, essays) and work that falls between or outside of genre categories (experimental prose, prose poetry, hybrid genre essays). Writing assignments will also span a variety of genres. Reading assignments are not optional. Reading and engaging with written texts of a great variety is critical to progress and learning as writers. Everyone is expected to do weekly readings from a variety of sources, complete regular writing assignments, offer creative work for class workshop and discussion sessions, and attend and participate in class. Because this is not an upper-level workshop class, we will spend some but not all of our time reading and workshopping class members’ own creative writing. If you are not interested in the structure of this class as I’ve outlined it here, you want to think about another class that will serve you better.
Since lively discussion and debate is an essential part of our learning process, it is extremely important that we all feel free to express viewpoints that may be considered controversial or potentially open to disagreement. In order to ensure that there is room for the disagreements that ensue from free expression of ideas, you will be expected to be respectful towards the viewpoints of your peers, and to express your ideas in thoughtful ways. I will expect you to have complete respect for your classmates and for me; this is an integral part of our classroom dynamic. We all share a responsibility in creating and maintaining a healthy environment where we all feel recognized and safe, especially when sharing work that may make us feel vulnerable. I encourage you to share your opinions and ideas, your responses and reflections so that we can all learn from each other. I have a lot of experience in reading and writing widely, but I certainly don’t have all, or maybe not even a lot, of the answers. And, if at any point you have questions or concerns about anything as the class progresses, please make sure to come and talk to me outside of class time.