Ryan Edel – English 227 Syllabus, pg.

Course Description

English 227, Section 004

Introduction to Creative Writing - Fall 2012

Instructor: Ryan Edel

Office Hours: Tuesday 1-3pm and Wednesday 11am-1pm, STV 414B

Course Website: Eng227.12Writing.com

E-mail: (withheld from public copy of syllabus)

Please contact me through the English Department Homepage (http://english.illinoisstate.edu/files/coins/profile/rjedel)

or via Facebook: Facebook.com/ryanedel


        Creative writing is often considered a solitary pursuit, but successfully writing to reach an audience requires a great deal of revision and feedback.  Yet there’s always the danger of “trying too hard” to reach an audience, of writing to fit a certain style rather than to express something new.  The longer I write, the more I learn about writing.  In this course, we are all writers, and we are all students.  Although I may have more experience in the field, I can hardly provide every approach to writing and revision.  

        In this course, my goal is to help you feel comfortable writing extensively, both independently and after receiving feedback from your peers.  By the end of the course, I would like you to feel the confidence to submit your work for possible publication, and then to maintain the personal focus to continue your writing and your submissions regardless of the acceptance and rejection of works by individual publishers.

Course Description

        In this course, we’ll draw extensively from freewriting prompts and ungraded first drafts in order to help you free your writing, providing new material for your fiction and poetry while also allowing extensive exploration of more personal details for the work of memoir.  As you grow more comfortable with producing larger quantities of work, you’ll begin selecting pieces to revise for workshop.  The goal is that you’ll share works which you yourself would most like to hear feedback.

        The workshop process itself will be our main introduction to critical analysis.  In small groups, you’ll workshop stories, poems, and essays written by your peers, and you’ll collaborate to identify the strengths in each other’s work and then provide suggestions for further revision.  By the end of the course, you will have workshopped four extensive works.  From these works and other drafts you’ve prepared, you’ll then prepare a short (15-40pp) portfolio of works to submit for possible publication.

Course Objectives

  1. By the end of the course, you’ll feel comfortable writing and revising two thousand words per week.
  2. You’ll be able to identify the strengths of a creative work, describe how those strengths contribute to the reading experience, and then provide suggestions for revising a work.
  3. Working in conversation with myself and your peers, you’ll be able to interpret and adapt comments regarding your work in order to make revisions which will make your work accessible and interesting to broader audiences.
  4. You’ll understand the differences between “traditional” workshops of the Iowa Writers Workshop, the Amherst Method workshops developed by Pat Schneider, and the “traditional” composition course instruction.
  5. You’ll be able to lead a detailed discussion on a classmate’s work which involves in-depth analysis of rhetorical effect, conversation regarding the author’s intentions, and suggestions for multiple avenues of revision.

The Use of Online Discussion Tools

        Because this course will involve a lot of writing, it is very important that we provide each other with detailed and encouraging feedback.  When posting feedback for your classmates, please try to anticipate questions they may have about your feedback.  Where possible, provide examples for your comments with direct quotes from the story or poem you are commenting on.

        Due to the real-time limitations of ReggieNet (you won’t be logged in all the time...but Facebook, on the other hand...), I have also set up a Facebook group to use in conjunction with our course.  The Facebook group is meant as a place to ask questions, chat with your classmates, and provide suggestions for the course.  If you have any questions regarding course requirements, assignment instructions, or general grading policies, please post those questions there so that your classmates may also add their thoughts.  However, given the semi-public nature of the Facebook group, all questions regarding your individual grades should be addressed to me via e-mail.

        In the event you are unable to post your work to ReggieNet for any reason, you are required to e-mail it to me before the assignment deadline.  If this will not be possible (class schedule conflicts, exams are killing you, etc.), then you must request an extension at least twenty-four hours before the deadline.  In cases of extenuating circumstances (family emergency, illness, religious holiday) just e-mail me as soon as you can.

        Very Important: Workshop deadlines are extremely important.  Your classmates and I will need sufficient time to read and comment on your work.  If for any reason you will not be able to meet a deadline for submitting a workshop piece, please e-mail me beforehand with ALL CAPS in the subject line (e.g. MISSING WORKSHOP DEADLINE, STORY NOT READY!!)  If I do not reply quickly with further instructions, please send a single text message (no more than one, please) describing the situation.  Please Note: I ask that you only use this for workshop deadlines – for illness/family emergency or any issue affecting a regular assignment, e-mail (without all caps) is preferred.

Respect and Appreciation for Our Peers

        As your instructor, I will treat each of you with attention and respect as a fellow writer.  I also require that each of you treat each other with the same respect.  During the workshops, we will be discussing works which you and your classmates have invested a great deal of time and effort.  Many of these works may also be very personal in nature.  Although there may be many works we disagree with or simply don’t like, bear in mind that each work has been produced by a fellow writer, by someone who is working to express thoughts and emotions within the limitation of words.  This is why we will begin each workshop with a description of the strengths of a given work – our goal is to honor the work of writing by pointing out how each writer has succeeded.  In providing feedback on areas of a work in need of improvement, our focus still remains with helping the writer improve.  Please feel free to ask about the writer’s intent, and please give details when describing sections you found less effective.

        If for any reason you feel uncomfortable with the course, please contact me to let me know.  If you feel more comfortable discussing this over the phone, via Skype, or (if you live nearby) in my office, I’d be happy to schedule a good time for a meeting.  If, however, you do not feel comfortable approach me regarding your concerns, please contact the English Department to ensure your concerns are addressed.

Student Assessment

You’ll be graded based on your participation and project submissions:

  1. Writing Prompts: We will have one or two writing prompts each week.  Although you are not required to follow the writing prompts exactly, you are required to meet the page and word requirements.  All submissions meeting these requirements will earn full credit.
  2. Workshop Revisions: From your weekly writing prompts, you’ll choose four pieces to revise for workshops.  I will grade your workshop pieces initially based on the extent of revision from the first-draft and on the overall quality of the work.
  3. Workshop Discussions: Each student is expected to provide feedback of 250-500 words on assigned workshop pieces.  You may receive extra credit for commenting on additional pieces, but only if your comments on the assigned pieces provide detailed and helpful feedback for the author.
  4. Leading a Workshop Discussion: Each student will lead one discussion for another student’s workshop piece.  You’ll be assessed on your ability to point out the strengths of the work and to provide avenues of discussion for your classmates.
  5. Preparing a Publication Portfolio: Following workshops, you’ll have the opportunity to further revise your works and assemble them into a collection you may submit to publishers.  You’ll be evaluated on the extent of your revisions, the progress of your writing, and the Statement of Intent you provide to introduce your portfolio.
  6. Collaborative Novel Project: This may be one of the most fast-paced and challenging writing projects you’ve ever had.  (Then again, it might be a confusing mess for which you will detest your ENG 227 instructor forever...)  In one month, groups of four-to-five students will write a 40-to-50,000 word novel.  This is a new type of assignment designed to help you develop skills in collaboration, story plotting, and peer review.  I hope that you’ll enjoy the intellectual challenge of this project, but do bear in mind that you are purposely being pushed to write very fast rather than to perfect your work.

In Case of Questions

        For general comments or inquiries regarding the nature of the course or the assignments, please post to the Facebook group to share with your peers.  For specific questions regarding regular assignments, extenuating circumstances, or your personal grades, please use e-mail.  For emergencies requiring my immediate notice (e.g. workshop deadlines) please e-mail me directly, and send a text message in case you don’t hear back right away.

        In general, you can expect a reply within twenty-four hours (sometimes it’s a bit longer during weekends and holidays).  And if at any time you’d like to schedule a meeting, please let me know – I’d be happy to find a convenient time.  And don’t forget office hours - I’m always glad to have visitors stop by, even if it’s only to say hello.