Professor Maya Sonenberg
Padelford B-431, email@example.com
Office Hours: TTh 2:30-3:30
Winter 2020, TTh 9:30-10:50
Advanced Prose Workshop: Inspiration to Revision
"I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work."--Thomas Edison (allegedly)
Facing with terror, the blank page, we wonder where to find the form, idea, and language to begin. Facing our complete drafts, we wonder how to bring them in line with those dreams of form, idea, and language which inspired us.
This advanced prose writing workshop will focus on the creative process, from inspiration to revision. The first part of the quarter will be devoted to generating several brief pieces, inspired by different sources. The rest of the quarter will be devoted to extending one of those pieces into a longer story or creative essay and revising it several times.
Developing a revision process will help you acquire or improve one of a writer’s most valuable skills. While we will leave some time at the end of the quarter for copy editing (the final, fine-tuning stage of revision), we will devote most of the quarter to earlier stages of composition and revision, discovering ways to generate and deepen material.
As this is an advanced writing workshop, be prepared to do a lot of reading and writing.
If you're curious about me and my writing, you can check out my website where there are links to stories and essays I've written: Link
Course reader, available at Rams Copy Center, 4144 University Way NE
A good dictionary
A good thesaurus
- Several brief in-class writing assignments
- Two short (250-500 word) written exercises to be done at home
- Two complete, 7-10 page (1750-3000 word) stories or works of literary nonfiction
One complete, 7-10 page (1750-3000 word) story or work of literary nonfiction AND one deep revision of that story or work of literary nonfiction
- One (further) revision of one of those stories or works of literary nonfiction
- A “final” version of that story or work of literary nonfiction, including a brief reflection on your writing and revising process
- Participation (including written comments on classmates’ writing)
Final version of story or literary nonfiction 120 pts
Revision 60 pts
Stories/Nonfiction works 60 pts each (120 total)
Exercises 20 pts each (40 total)
Participation 60 pts
Total 400 pts
Format for Written Assignments
All assignments will be turned in to me and each other via Canvas. You must submit writing as Word documents (doc or docx). It is near impossible for me to provide feedback on work submitted as a PDF or in Pages. No Google docs either, please.
In order for me to keep careful track of your work, the following file name formatting is essential. All file names MUST read as follows: your last name, assignment & number, option (for example: Sonenberg, exercise 1, option 1.doc).
Make sure to include a title and page numbers. Unless specific formatting is intended to add meaning to your work, use Times New Roman, 12 pt. font, double spaced, and 1 inch margins.
Content for Written Assignments
What you can write for this class: fiction, memoir, personal essay, lyric essay
What you cannot write for this class: journalism, academic papers, scientific articles, manifestos, formulaic genre fiction (romance, detective, sci fi, fantasy, thriller, western, horror, spy) although you may write fiction that includes elements of those genres.
- I expect each of your two stories or works of literary nonfiction to be complete. In other words, you must reach the end, not stop part way through and hope to complete the work during the revision process.
- Avoid guns, knives, lasers, other weapons or forms of violence. Violence is an easy way to create and resolve conflict, and I know you are more ambitious than that. If you are interested in writing nonfiction based on a real violent incident or you feel violence is absolutely integral to your short story, please discuss your plans with me first. I’m also not a fan of car chases.
- More on genre fiction: Excellent works of fiction have been written bridging the gap between the genres and literary fiction ( think Jeff Vandermeer, Angela Carter, Kate Bernheimer, William Gibson, Dorothy Sayers, Kelly Link), but run-of-the-mill genre fiction is formulaic rather than inventive, is geared towards providing a set of expected pleasures for the reader rather than exploring the writer’s passions or providing the reader with something they didn’t realize they needed, spends way too much time world-building, and tends to use hackneyed phrases and images rather than fresh ones. If you choose to write in one of these genres, I’ll still expect originality and lovely prose. Come talk to me if you have any doubts or questions.
This is largely a discussion class and therefore cannot succeed without participation from each and every one of you. I will expect you to attend every class, arrive on time, thoughtfully complete the reading and writing assignments, contribute insightful comments to class discussion, and participate in all class activities with consideration, openness, and a sense of humor. This is especially important because so much of this class is devoted to workshop. Your classmates are counting on YOU to help them make their writing better. It’s really not fair to accept their help without providing help to them.
- Attendance: We need you here! This course depends on you—a community of dedicated writers and readers. Every day we will be doing something essential to your development as a writer. I will be keeping track of attendance, and expect you to come to every class. Should you need to miss a class due to serious illness or family emergencies, please let me know as soon as possible. You will still be responsible for getting work to me on time and you are in charge of finding out what you’ve missed from one of your classmates. Also please make sure you get to class on time, every time. In addition to being disruptive and disrespectful, repeated tardiness will adversely affect your grade, as will repeated absences.
- Late Work: There is no such thing in this class. All formal written work is due in the Catalyst drop box at the time listed, after which the drop box will close. If something isn’t turned in on time, it ceases to exist and its glaring absence will most definitely haunt your grade and hinder your development as a writer. If you have a true emergency, please contact by email me as soon as you know you’ll have trouble turning work in on time. If it is a true emergency, of course we can work together to figure out an alternate plan.
- Cell Phones: Cell phones must be turned off or silenced during class—not just turned to vibrate. Class is short—we’ll be able to return all those calls when it’s over!
- Computers: Although I feel that raised laptop screens close us off from each other and hinder discussion, I realize that some of you may takes notes on one. If I feel that staring at the screen is distracting you from work in class, I will ask you to close your computer.
- Plagiarism: While I whole-heartedly agree that great writers “steal” from the work of others, they do NOT do this word for word, line for line. If I find that you have been using another writer’s (including another student writer’s) words without attribution, we will need to have a serious chat and you run the risk of failing this class. That said, you are certainly free to plagiarize yourselves—and I hope you do so! In other words, feel free to expand on or combine our short exercises to write your longer piece; it is expected that you will do so. However, you may not submit work for this class that you have written for another class.
What I Value in Literary Writing
To be upfront about this: I value complexity, ambition, maturity, seriousness of purpose (even if the piece is humorous), a happy marriage between prose style, form and content. I don’t value all of those equally in all pieces of writing all the time.
Access and Accommodations:
- Your experience in this class is important to me. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.
- If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or firstname.lastname@example.org or disability.uw.edu. (Links to an external site.)DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.
University of Washington Religious Accommodations Policy
“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 Religious Accommodations Policy (https://registrar.washington.edu/staffandfaculty/religious-accommodations-policy/). Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (https://registrar.washington.edu/students/religious-accommodations-request/).”
And last but not at all least….
Department of English Statement of Values
The UW English Department aims to help students become more incisive thinkers, effective communicators, and imaginative writers by acknowledging that language and its use is powerful and holds the potential to empower individuals and communities; to provide the means to engage in meaningful conversation and collaboration across differences and with those with whom we disagree; and to offer methods for exploring, understanding, problem solving, and responding to the many pressing collective issues we face in our world—skills that align with and support the University of Washington’s mission to educate “a diverse student body to become responsible global citizens and future leaders through a challenging learning environment informed by cutting-edge scholarship.”
As a department, we begin with the conviction that language and texts play crucial roles in the constitution of cultures and communities. Our disciplinary commitments to the study of language, literature, and culture require of us a willingness to engage openly and critically with questions of power and difference. As such, in our teaching, service, and scholarship we frequently initiate and encourage conversations about topics such as race, immigration, gender, sexuality, and class. These topics are fundamental to the inquiry we pursue. We are proud of this fact, and we are committed to creating an environment in which our faculty and students can do so confidently and securely, knowing that they have the backing of the department.
Towards that aim, we value the inherent dignity and uniqueness of individuals and communities. We aspire to be a place where human rights are respected and where any of us can seek support. This includes people of all ethnicities, faiths, genders, national origins, political views, and citizenship status; LGBQTIA+; those with disabilities; veterans; and anyone who has been targeted, abused, or disenfranchised.