Creative Writing (HM 320)—Preliminary Syllabus (subject to revision)

Sterling College, Fall 2012

Meeting Time and Place: TBA

Carol Dickson


Phone: 586-7711, x110

Office hours: TBA


This course investigates various forms of written creative expression, with an emphasis on poetry, short fiction, and creative non-fiction.  We will read widely in order to consider characteristics of style and to strengthen skills of literary analysis.  Frequent writing exercises will encourage risk-taking and the exploration of new approaches.  Student work will be regularly shared and discussed within our group.  A final portfolio will enable each student to showcase his or her best work.

Goals & Objectives

~to develop and strengthen our creative skills by writing frequently and revising regularly;

~to generate a body of polished work, culminating in a final portfolio;

~to become more sophisticated and sensitive readers—of published work, of others’ work, and of our own work;

~to gain confidence in our self-expression skills and in our voices.

Required Texts & Materials

Course reading packet (to be distributed)

Preliminary Calendar

Week of Sept. 24: Introduction

Week of October 1: Creative non-fiction

Week of October 8: Creative non-fiction

Week of October 15: Poetry

Week of October 22: Poetry

Week of October 29: Poetry

Week of November 5: Fiction

Week of November 12: Fiction

Week of November 19/November 26: Fiction

Week of December 3: Final portfolio due.  Reading rehearsal and celebration.

Time TBA: Reading for the Sterling community.


Classes will be conducted seminar-style and will typically consist of discussion of assigned readings, group workshopping of student work, and in-class writing in response to prompts.  From time to time, we will invite guests to class or watch a film relevant to a topic at hand.

For homework each week, you will: 1. Write 3-5 pages of new text (which can be a new piece or a revised piece) and post this on our class Google docs site by 5 pm on Friday; 2. Read your classmates’ work online and post at least one question in response to each piece; and 3. Read 2-3 published essays or stories, or a series of poems, and prepare to discuss them in class.


Your grade for the class will be based on the quality of your final portfolio (40%), the extent and quality of your participation in class discussion (30%), and the extent and thoughtfulness of your engagement with your written work and revision (30%).  True revision—your willingness, literally, to “re-see” and reshape your work—is a key component, as is participation in draft workshops.  (Unexcused absences, habitual lateness, or late work will affect your grade; if you miss class, you are expected to make up work you miss.)

Academic Honesty

You are expected to be familiar with the Sterling’s Academic Honesty Policy, found on pages 37-38 of your student handbook.  It reads, in part, “all students are expected to exhibit honesty in completing classroom and laboratory work.”  In addition, “plagiarism will not be tolerated.”  If the concept or words you are using are “borrowed or copied from any source, whether electronic, print, recorded, or spoken word, the original source must be acknowledged.”  If you are ever unsure about when and how to cite another’s ideas or words, please ask me.

A Note on Learning Styles (from the Sterling College Student Handbook)

Students bring a variety of learning styles to class.  We do our best to support different learning modes by mixing lecture, discussion, hands-on work, and visual information.  Please feel free to let us know what mode works best for you—we will do our best to accommodate your learning style.  If you have a learning challenge or documented disability, please check in with Leland Peterson, Learning Support Coordinator.  Leland can help you determine accommodations that can be helpful in this course.

Recommended Resources

There are a number of books on reserve in Brown Library for your reference.  We will occasionally be reading selections from these.

•Creative Nonfiction

Creative Nonfiction: Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life, Philip Gerard

In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction (anthology of essays), ed. Lee Gutkind

Writing Creative Nonfiction, ed. Carolyn Forché & Philip Gerard


A Book of Luminous Things (anthology of poetry), ed. Czeslaw Milosz

A Poetry Handbook, Mary Oliver

The Practice of Poetry, Robin Behn and Chase Twitchell

The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing, Richard Hugo


The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers, John Gardner

Showing and Telling, Laurie Alberts

The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories (anthology), ed. Tobias Wolff

What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers, Anne Bernays & Pamela Painter

Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French & Ned Stuckey-French