Innovative Writing Across Media: An Introduction to the College Workshop

Department: Humanities

Instructor: Zachary Bushnell
Instructor Email: bushnell@gmail.com
Prerequisites: None

Course Description

Students will explore a range of creative writing forms, styles and traditions. They will learn to become better critical writers and thinkers and find effective ways of expressing their creative vision/voice as we move over different genres and media. We will work within traditional forms (poetry and fiction), as well as multi- and new-media writing (screenplays, comics, site-specific works, and digital literature). Students will engage in the basic praxis of writing workshop: producing original writing, annotating classmate’s work with comments, discussing original pieces and supplemental reading, revising, writing critically about presented work, and producing a “final” portfolio. Students will also have the opportunity to meet with a number of accomplished visiting speakers who will lecture on/discuss aspects of craft, give advice about publication, and outline opportunities to become involved in literary communities and industries. Visiting scholars will include editors, professors, and nationally prominent literary artists engaged in a variety of innovative practices. The course will culminate in students getting to publish their best work in either an online literary journal or a handmade chapbook.

Course Goals / Learning Objectives

Students should build a working knowledge of how to produce and discuss creative writing suited to their own tastes, backgrounds, interests, and academic pursuits. This course will stress the basics of form, with an emphasis on learning about the possibilities available for contemporary writers working over a variety of media. Just as Gutenberg’s printing press revolutionized the function of the written word in his time – the ready availability of cameras, computers, and other new medias open exciting and largely uncharted possibilities for writers. Students will be challenged to imagine these possibilities for creative writing in an era of rapid technological change. Additionally, this course will provide students with an opportunity to think about how to engage in a literary world that is becoming increasingly less hierarchical; one in which independently produced books, films, and magazines have proven to be vital points of entry for younger writers.

Course Outline

Week 1 – Poetry & Fiction

  • Introduction, Show & Tell, Exercises
  • Conventions of Realism, Setting, Character Development, Conflict/Resolution
  • Sound, Dialogue, “Sea Oak” performed as play
  • Style, Tone, Guest Lecturer: Cristina Rivera-Garza
  • Formalism, Oulipo, Guest Lecturer: Sal Plascencia

Week 2 – Memoir, Comics, Digital Storytelling & New Media

  • Memoir (Poetry and Prose), Lyrical Essay, Students bring in images (photographs, etc.) Comics, Guest Lecturer: Keith McClearyNew Media, Site-specific work, GROUP WORKNew Media, Site-specific work, GROUP WORK, Guest Lecturer: TBA
  • New Media, Site-specific work, GROUP WORK

Week 3 – Screenwriting, Playwriting & Final Presentations

  • Playwriting exercise (A wants something from B)Screenwriting: Basics of Form, Film Screening: ChinatownScreenwriting & Performance, GROUP WORK, Guest Lecturer: TBA Screenwriting & Performance, GROUP WORK
  • Final Presentations

Note: Each day will begin with a discussion of a relevant text or film. Students will be expected to produce short, written responses to the texts we are discussing. These responses may investigate a specific element of craft (for ex. character development or point-of-view).

Texts

We want to introduce you to a diverse body of literature, by a diverse makeup of authors, through a diversity of mediums. Texts will include but will not be limited to:

  • Salvador Plascencia, The People of Paper
  • Donald Barthelme, 40 Stories
  • Diane Williams, Selected Shorts
  • George Saunders, Pastoralia
  • Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis
  • David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day
  • Woody Allen, Annie Hall
  • Sarah Ruhl, Eurydice
  • Electronic Literature Organization Anthology, Vol. 2
  • Shelley Jackson, Skin

Grading

Grades will be assigned based on engagement in class discussion, daily writing exercises, short critical response papers, and regular presentations (performances) of original writing. Students are expected to be respectful of their instructors and generous with their classmates – read pieces aloud, participate in group activities, offer constructive suggestions, and be respectful of people’s feelings and styles.

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