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COURSE NAME: "Graduate Creative Writing Workshop: Fiction"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Summer Session I 2017

INSTRUCTOR: Michael Carroll
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MTWTH 4:00 PM 5:45 PM
OFFICE HOURS: By appointment

ADMISSIONS REQUIREMENTS: Current enrollment in an accredited graduate program in Creative Writing OR, for students not currently pursuing a graduate program in creative writing but who wish to receive graduate credit, a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution (transcripts required) and assessment of a significant writing sample or previous publications (See JCU website for application procedures).
COURSE DESCRIPTION: This workshop aims to develop graduate-level creative, editorial, and reading habits needed for the production of literary fiction; to develop self-editing skills; and to foster an aesthetic sensibility for use in writing literary fiction. Students will read both contemporary literary fiction and materials related to analyzing and editing literary fiction and participate in a traditional creative writing workshop through in-class writing exercises, reading classmates' fiction, and producing and workshopping their own fiction. Students will compile a portfolio of the work they produce during the term. Students completing this workshop course will be familiar with the graduate-level skills needed to produce literary fiction, to self-edit work in progress, and to discern the characteristics that make quality literary fiction.

From the first day of class we will be writing and discussing one another’s improvisational writing done in class, prompted by the openings of unidentified, previously published stories (given as handouts).  We’ll have occasional short in-class fiction readings also provided as handouts to discuss for style, content and narrative elements.  And I hope that within the first few days we will begin workshopping one another’s individual fiction pieces, which will represent the bulk of coursework over the following weeks (and most of what’s done out of class).  By the last week we will present a portfolio of our individual workshopped and revised fiction.  



This course is designed to help the individual writer develop a greater and more fluid facility in beginning, drafting and completing fiction by making writing a regular, almost daily activity, one of constant, perhaps even automatic, thinking in terms of language and narrative creation, and by challenging the notion that “inspiration” is a divine and occasional visitor.  By interacting with one another’s (and with more established authors’) work, evaluating it, and comparing its narrative strategies to the ones we would choose for our own efforts, we free our imaginations, and make our own writing an act of spontaneous thinking--one in which we begin to view the world outside of class (and away from our personal fiction efforts) as a constant storehouse of characters, stories, and fresh, interesting language.


At least fifty pages of workshopped and revised fictionObviously, the weight of the course grade falls mainly on the portfolio of fiction written for workshop and revised, with a minimum of fifty pages to shoot for by the end. This can be two stories or three or more in total. Every writer writes at different lengths, and there are no length requirements for any story. Students who feel they've fallen short on the fifty-page requirement may supplement the fiction portfolio with, for example, a review of another student's work, or with an elaboration of one of the short in-class assignments ("Prompt Improvisations," see below).70%
Participation in class: effort, personal initiative, development of critical ability and responsivenessImportantly, to think about and improve one's own writing by learning to evaluate, frankly and felicitously, others' work.20%
Regular improvisational in-class writing, usually from single-paragraph promptsDesigned to get us writing (I will participate too) from the first few moments of the first day of workshop and beyond10%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the cou
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.



As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Week 1 - Narrative instinct and tone.  Following our instincts with an intriguing, even irresistible opening, and seeing where that takes us daily, off the cuff, and instantaneously.  Getting started through one-paragraph story-opening prompts.


Week 2 - How does each of us get started?  What to leave in, what to leave out.  How much should we know about our characters?  Dialogue and characterization.


Week 3 - More on tone and language--humor, irony, description.  Figurative language (or none?).


Week 4 - Time and setting.  Verb tense.  What is plot and how important is it?  Is plot time or is it the artificial arrangement of time, or is it the attempt to get outside of time?


Week 5 - Originality--tone, subject matter, personal experience and how we use personal experience liberally or loyally.  Developing who we are as writers (and who we wish we were!).