ENGL 284 A: Beginning Short Story Writing

Meeting Time: 
MW 10:30am - 11:50am
* *

Syllabus Description:

ENG284A Beginning Short Story Writing

Meeting Times: M W 10:30-11:50


Instructor: Zahra Al Zuwayed

Email: zahrazwd@uw.edu

Office Hours: T 2:30 - 3:30 or by appointment.


Course Description:

Welcome, writers! In this class, you’ll learn how to start a story and keep it going. It’s not scary. I promise. This will not be a do’s and don’t class, but rather an on-going experimentation of what works for you and your story. You will not become the future Hemingway and you should not aspire to be such. You will become yourself and hone what’s unique about you, your voice, your literary and world experiences and how it reflects on paper—or, well, on Microsoft Word. This course is designed to empower you to know when to walk with caution and when to let your imagination go. The key word, you guessed it, imagination, and letting go. Sometimes you let go by “killing your darlings” and sometimes you let go by exploring your mind and resurrecting darlings from old drafts or old boxes of memories and data in your brain.


You will also learn story structure and key elements of storytelling. The key to any craft is to know the rules before you can break them. In this class, you will write a lot and read a lot. And here’s my theory: writing is just like real life, it’s just like when you hang out with friends and sound like them, if you read only a select few authors, your writing may sound like them, since, after all, they’re your imaginary friends. Reading a diverse selection of stories will help you develop your own taste and understand what writers you want to follow, imitate, or adopt in terms of style when it comes to honing your own voice, which will emerge the less you stress over it.


You have a responsibility as a participant in this class to facilitate in creating a safe space for everyone to grow. We have different backgrounds and experiences, and we’re here to share and learn from each other. Make sure to be fully present in the class to make the most of this experience.



Every Monday we’ll read and discuss a short story. Each There are no wrong answers. We’re all learning together. Each week, four students will be responsible for presenting the story and asking critical questions regarding the story. Four others will be the formal discussants who answer, comment, reflect on the questions that have been raised. Given the number of classes/stories, you might become either a discussant or a presenter three times throughout the quarter. Other students are welcome to join the discussion. These questions can be content-centered or craft-centered. Both are ok as long as they help us understand the story better or allow us to think “outside of the box” and be inspired.

Conferences: each student is expected to meet with me one time halfway through the quarter to discuss specific writing goals or the progress in the class.

On Wednesday, you are expected to come ready with an assigned writing exercise. Every Wednesday will focus more on writing craft where we share and learn from each other. 

I know that Zoom classes can be awkward, and that participation and speaking in general can be painful. But we’re here to grow and help each other reach our best selves, and to facilitate that growth, each one of us needs a safe space that nurtures our growth as writers and as people.


Participation Guidelines:


  • Be respectful to others.

(respect means listening, asking questions, correcting yourself when you’re wrong, knowing your biases and how they affect your judgment—we all have them! As well the awareness of each person in this class and how our biases and backgrounds affect our reception of information).

  • In this class we don’t correct grammar. We discuss how the way a text is written contributes to the intended message of the text.
  • Never assume anything about anyone. If you have a culturally sensitive question and feel uncomfortable asking verbally, you can email me and we can address it anonymously.
  • Don’t joke about other people lack of knowledge of certain classics or canon texts.
  • Ask questions. Don’t interrupt or dismiss your peers.
  • If you’re unapologetically disrespectful or create an unsafe space for anyone in the class, participation points will be deducted.
  • If you have a strong reason not to speak in class, such as anxiety, let me know and we’ll figure something out together.
  • If a certain teaching style doesn’t nurture your growth, then make sure to address it by coming to the office hours or emailing me, and we can adjust accordingly.
  • We’re allowed to disagree with each other. We’re not allowed to disrespect each other.
  • We’ll be reading some culturally and politically sensitive texts. Some of which reflect real lived experiences of real people. Keep this in mind when commenting. Never talk disrespectfully about a story or a character.
  • The key to knowledge is asking questions. If I don’t have an answer, I’ll be happy to provide resources or invite a guest speaker if necessary.
  • I, the instructor, learn as I go just like you.
  • You have more experience, knowledge, and resources than you give yourself credit for, so let’s write, learn, and grow together.

Writing Journal:

You are expected to keep a writing journal. It can be a digital or handwritten. If handwritten, you can scan it for the final submission. In the journal, write notes, thoughts and observations of anything you think is worth documenting. This should become like a bank or a storage of data that you can refer back to when you need writing material.

Course Outcome:

  • Become familiar with the basic elements of short story writing.
  • Develop the skill to read short stories as a creative writer.
  • Become confidant in certain creative uses of literary devices.
  • Feel comfortable giving feedback to peers and ask questions.
  • Develop a final portfolio with a promising selection of writing.

Grade Total:

15% participation

10% one-on-one conference

25% writing journal

50% final revised portfolio.








Wednesday 30

Syllabus Day


Sign up for discussing.





Monday 5 oct 

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez




Wednesday 7

Story structure discussion




Monday 12 oct

Flag by Ha Seong-Nan, Trans. Janet Hong

*discussion of common writing myths


Raymond Queneau Exercises in Style



Write a passage in the voice of someone you know well. It can be someone in real life or a fictional character. Be as creative as you want.


Wednesday 14 oct

God, It’s as Though You’re Sewing a Dress For a Flea” by Hanan al-Shaykh

Character, voice

Discussion of assigned exercise.


Monday 19 oct

Abdulah Hakam

Appendix to the Report on the Individual Who Goes by the Name of Ali ibn Alwan



write a passage in report form imitating the style of Hakam’s story.



Rewrite a passage from the short story using a different style. It can be making it flowery, or big on dialogue, or changing the point of view, or adding details. Anything! Be as creative as you want.


Wednesday 20 oct

The Mark of Cain by Roxanne gay






Monday 26 oct

Xuan Juliana Wang - Home Remedies for Non Life-Threatening Ailments

List, Redefining.

Write a dialogue/scene in the voice of a person you know in real life. 


Subtextual translation of dialogue. 


Describe two characters having a wordless conversation, communicating only through gestures. Try to see how long you can keep the conversation going without any words spoken, but end it with one of them saying a single word, and the other one repeating the same word.



Wednesday 28 oct

Discussion of Exercises




Monday 2 nov

Sandra Cisneros – Eleven.


Novelize a scene from a movie/TV show. 



Wednesday 4 nov

Discussion of Exercises




Monday 9 nov


Trees for Asentees by Ahlam Bsharat (available on UW library website as ebook).

Guest Speaker: Ahlam Bsharat


Style, time leaps

·       Imitate a passage from outside the class that you found interesting. 



Wednesday 11 nov





Monday 16 nov



Edward P. Jones – A Rich Man (POSTPONED). (CANCELLED)





Wednesday 18 nov

The Under Graham Railroad Box Car Set by James McBride

Discussion of character making




Monday 23 nov

Lena Merhej - I Think we Will be Calmer in the Next War

A Letter to an Editor by Raymond Carver

Discussion of Exercises



Revision exercise:

The setting that speaks/as a character




Wednesday 25 nov

Experimental Class: visualizing stories



Wednesday 2 dec

How to Query Stories for Publication.

Guest Speaker: Sulamita Garbuz





Write a scene where you use one color, then explain what does that mean and why did





Academic Integrity 

Plagiarism, or academic dishonesty, is presenting someone else's ideas or writing as your own. In your writing for this class, you are encouraged to refer to other people's thoughts and writing—as long as you cite them. As a matter of policy, any student found to have plagiarized any piece of writing in this class will be immediately reported to the College of Arts and Sciences for review.


Late and Missed Work Policy

Communicate with me as soon as you know that you need an extension. 



Class attendance is important for the content of this course, and some work is required to be turned in on paper during class. Missing class three times or more without communicating with me will affect your grade.



If you have any concerns about the course or your instructor, please see the instructor about these concerns as soon as possible. If you are not comfortable talking with the instructor or not satisfied with the response that you receive, you may contact the following Creative Writing staff: Judy LeRoux in Padelford B-025-F or at jleroux@uw.edu or Director of Creative Writing David Crouse in Padelford B-025 or at dcrouse@uw.edu



If you need accommodation of any sort, please let me know so that I can work with the UW Disability Resources for Students Office (DRS) to provide. More information about accommodation may be found at http://www.washington.edu/students/drs/.


Religious Accommodations 

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Faculty Syllabus Guidelines and Resources. Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form available at https://registrar.washington.edu/students/religious-accommodations-request/.


Campus Writing Centers 

The Odegaard Writing and Research Center (OWRC) offers free, one-to-one, 45-minute tutoring sessions for undergraduate, graduate, and professional writers in all fields at the UW. We will work with writers on any writing or research project, as well as personal projects such as applications or personal statements. Our tutors and librarians collaborate with writers at any stage of the writing and research process, from brainstorming and identifying sources to drafting and making final revisions. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please see our website (https://depts.washington.edu/owrc), or come visit us in person on the first floor of Odegaard Undergraduate Library.


The CLUE Writing Center offers free one-on-one tutoring and workshops, and is open from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday to Thursday in Mary Gates Hall, throughout the regular school year (Fall, Winter, and Spring quarters). It's first come, first served — so arrive early and be prepared to wait if necessary! CLUE also offers tutoring on a range of other subjects, including math, science, and so on. Read more here: https://webster.uaa.washington.edu/asp/website/clue/writing-center/


Campus Safety 

Preventing violence is everyone's responsibility. If you're concerned, tell someone.

  • Always call 911 if you or others may be in danger.
  • Call 206-685-SAFE (7233) to report non-urgent threats of violence and for referrals to UW counseling and/or safety resources. TTY or VP callers, please call through your preferred relay service.
  • Don't walk alone. Campus safety guards can walk with you on campus after dark. Call Husky NightWalk 206-685-WALK (9255).
  • Stay connected in an emergency with UW Alert. Register your mobile number to receive instant notification of campus emergencies via text and voice messaging. Sign up online at washington.edu/alert.

For more information visit the SafeCampus website at www.washington.edu/safecampus.


Counseling Center 

UW Counseling Center workshops include a wide range of issues including study skills, thinking about coming out, international students and culture shock, and much more. Check out available resources and workshops at: https://www.washington.edu/counseling/


Health and Wellness 

Health & Wellness provides support, advocacy, consultation, and education to the University of Washington campus community. Services are free for UW students, faculty, and staff. You can work with advocates on your behalf or on behalf of someone you know. Programs include Alcohol & Drug Consultation and Education, Suicide Intervention, Sexual Assault, Relationship Violence, Stalking and Harassment Advocacy, and Student Care Program. For more information: http://depts.washington.edu/livewell/


Career Center 

UW Career Center offers career counseling and planning, workshops and career fairs, a listing of part-time jobs on and off campus, and much more: http://careers.washington.edu/students


Q Center 

The University of Washington Q Center builds and facilitates queer (gay, lesbian, bisexual, two-spirit, trans, intersex, questioning, same-gender-loving, allies) academic and social community through education, advocacy, and support services to achieve a socially-just campus in which all people are valued. For more information, visit http://depts.washington.edu/qcenter/.



Foundation for International Understanding through Students: FIUTS is an example of a campus organization that can bring together your social and academic learning. "FIUTS is an independent non-profit organization which provides cross-cultural leadership and social programming for UW's international and globally minded domestic students. FIUTS is local connections and global community!" FIUTS also offers a free international lunch on the last Wednesday of every month beginning with a lunch on September 28 from 11:30-1:30 in the Kane Hall Walker-Ames room. Consult FIUTS' web site for a detailed calendar of events and links to many resources http://www.fiuts.washington.edu.


Any Hungry Husky

The Any Hungry Husky program helps mitigate the social and academic effects of campus food insecurity. By providing students, staff, and faculty with access to shelf-stable, non-perishable goods and community resources at no cost, this initiative aims to lessen the financial burden of purchasing food and supplement nutritional needs. This resource is for everyone in the UW community. Learn more here:



Guidance to Taking Course Outside the US

Campus Unit: Faculty Senate in collaboration with Office of the Provost

Optional Syllabus Language:

Faculty members at U.S. universities – including the University of Washington – have the right to academic freedom which includes presenting and exploring topics and content that other governments may consider to be illegal and, therefore, choose to censor. Examples may include topics and content involving religion, gender and sexuality, human rights, democracy and representative government, and historic events.

If, as a UW student, you are living outside of the United States while taking courses remotely, you are subject to the laws of your local jurisdiction. Local authorities may limit your access to course material and take punitive action towards you. Unfortunately, the University of Washington has no authority over the laws in your jurisdictions or how local authorities enforce those laws.

If you are taking UW courses outside of the United States, you have reason to exercise caution when enrolling in courses that cover topics and issues censored in your jurisdiction. If you have concerns regarding a course or courses that you have registered for, please contact your academic advisor who will assist you in exploring options.

Catalog Description: 
Introduction to the theory and practice of writing the short story.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
September 8, 2020 - 10:50pm