ENGL 284 B: Beginning Short Story Writing

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:30pm - 2:50pm
* *
Emily Huso

Syllabus Description:

ENGL 284 Beginning Short Story Writing

Instructor: Emily Huso

Email: ehuso@uw.edu

Class Meeting Times: T TH 1:302:50 p.m.

Class Zoom Link:   https://washington.zoom.us/j/92727229301

Office Hours: TH 8–10 a.m. & by appointment

Office Zoom Link:  https://washington.zoom.us/j/93844994565

Course Description 

“A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.” Flannery O’Connor

ENGL 284 is designed to introduce you to the writing of fiction and specifically to the versatile short story form. To this end, we will explore both classic and contemporary works of short fiction representing a diverse array of aesthetics and backgrounds. We will aim to discover what it is that sustains these works of art and what we can learn for our own writing. Along the way, we will add craft strategies and techniques to our literary “toolboxes,” establish an adaptable and individualized writing practice, and begin to develop a sense of our personal writerly aesthetics. We will write our own stories, conducting a series of writing experiments culminating in a final portfolio of revised work. We will think about why our stories matter and for whom. We will mine memory, reflect on the page, breathe life into characters, construct fictional worlds, concoct drama, and hopefully somewhere along the way provide readers with a glimmer of recognition of what it is like to be human. 

It’s going to be a fun quarter! I’m glad you are here. 

Course Goals

  • To cultivate strategies for “writerly reading,” i.e. reading with an appreciation for not only what a literary work achieves but also a deep curiosity for how it does so.
  • To establish a writing practice that includes strategies for invention, reflection, and revision.
  • To develop and practice using craft vocabulary and techniques such as characterization, plot, setting, scene, dialogue, and point of view.
  • To recognize the conventions of the “traditional” short story and experiment with the artistic impacts of unconventional storytelling and intentional “rule”-breaking.
  • To develop an awareness of the ethical implications of the stories we tell.


Participation constitutes an important aspect of your final grade for this class. Participation includes demonstrated effort in class discussions, workshops, writing assignments, and revision, as well as willingness to learn and application of skills. Participation also includes turning on your Zoom camera when you are able. 

On days when we are discussing assigned readings, each student is required to have the relevant text in hand or otherwise accessible, whether on a laptop or other digital reader. 

Please silence all cell phones and other potentially distracting electronic devices prior to entering our class space. I am not interested in banning technology from the classroom. I find it to be both a valuable and unavoidable tool for learning, but I will ask this: when in the classroom, you are in a professional space. Please use technology in a professional manner. This is not the time to make dinner plans with friends, share memes, do other homework, or involve yourself in any non-class related activities. I do not want to micro-manage, and you are capable of being the judge of this for yourself.


Regular attendance plays a vital role in your success in this class. When you miss a class, you miss an opportunity to participate, to collaborate, and to stay informed of course business. That being said, we all experience demanding schedules and unforeseen emergencies, so I will just ask that you please communicate with me as much as possible regarding your absences. If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to review the day’s course materials and check the calendar to ensure you are aware of upcoming assignments. In general, missing more than four classes will affect your participation grade.  

Discussion Posts & Collaborative Exercises

Occasionally you will be asked to write brief discussion posts on our Canvas site. These discussion posts aim to provide opportunities to engage with your peers, explore resources related to the subject of the course, and engage more directly with the texts for the week. On one or two occasions, I may assign collaborative activities, which ask you to directly engage with the writing of one of your classmates. While we often think of writing as a solitary activity, these activities are designed to invite you to think about creative collaboration, the ways that we can learn from our peers and utilize this writing community to assist our own work. 


You are required to meet with me virtually once this quarter to discuss your writing, revision goals, and any questions or concerns you may have about the class. Of course, you are welcome and encouraged to come to office hours or make an appointment with me at any point during the quarter to discuss your writing, but I want to make sure I get to speak with all of you one-on-one at least once. I will schedule these conferences around Week 6. 

Writing Experiments

Over the course of the quarter, you will complete six writing experiments. These experiments are opportunities for you to try out craft elements under study in both fiction and nonfiction genres. 

Writing Experiment One: Character (1-3 pages)

Writing Experiment Two: Scene (2-3 pages)

Writing Experiment Three: Short Story 1 (5-7 pages)

Writing Experiment Four:  TBA (1-3 pages)

Writing Experiment Five: TBA (3-5 pages)

Writing Experiment Six: Short Story 2 (5-7 pages)

Final Portfolio

Your capstone project for this class will consist of a final portfolio including substantially revised versions of any two stories that arose from your work in this class. This is your opportunity to implement feedback you found helpful in workshop and take your writing through one more drafting stage. You will include the revised versions and any previous drafts you would like me to see in a single Word document turned in via Canvas by the due date. You will also include 2-3 page artist’s statement narrating your artistic intentions/vision for these works, goals for future revisions, struggles you may have faced in the writing process, etc. (See the assignment handout for more details.)

There are no final page requirements for your revised works. You may choose to expand a 1-3 page flash into a longer 5-7 page story or compress a longer piece into something shorter. 

Grading Breakdown

Given the subjectivity inherent in evaluating creative works, your grade in this class will be determined not by the quality of your writing but by your demonstration of effort. You will receive full points for all work that is completed on time and meets the requirements. 



Participation (including attendance & workshop letters)


Discussion Posts & Collaborative Exercises




Writing Experiments (six, 50 points each)


Final Portfolio & Artist’s Statement



University Policies

Statement of Commitment

We at the English department are committed to valuing the lived experiences, embodied knowledges, and scholarship produced by people of color and Indigenous peoples; queer, trans, and disabled people; immigrants and refugees, and other targeted identities who have historically been excluded from sites of knowledge production; denied access to wealth, resources and power; and forced to negotiate multiple interlocking forms of structural and institutional oppression and violence. This commitment emerges from and reflects our shared vision for a just and equitable world that actively affirms and values the humanity of every individual and group. It is this vision that informs our pedagogical practices.

Code of Conduct

We at the English department have a zero-tolerance rule for hate speech. According to the American Bar Association, hate speech is “any speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.” While this could and does apply to many groups, one of the tenants of this course is that hate speech is a violence, and that these violences do not impact everyone equally. Rather, the force of their impacts is dependent on systems of power. Marginalized communities and people are vulnerable to and impacted by such speech in ways that groups or individuals in power are not. With this in mind, I will specify that I interpret “hate speech” to be any forms of speech that targets already vulnerable people/communities. Racism and xenophobia will not be tolerated in this course, nor will transphobia, homophobia, ableism, classism, or other statements or practices that uphold white supremacy.

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.

Land Acknowledgement

The University of Washington acknowledges the Coast Salish people of this land, the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Duwamish, Suquamish, Tulalip and Muckleshoot nations.

University of Washington Resources for Students


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 what you require. This syllabus is available in large print, as are other class materials. 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 Religious Accommodations Policy . Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form 

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 www.washington.edu/alert.

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

Writing Resources

I encourage you to take advantage of the following writing resources available to you at no charge!

  • The CLUE Writing Center in Mary Gates Hall (141 suite, CUADSS lobby) is open Sunday to Thursday from 7pm to midnight. The graduate tutors can help you with grammatical concerns. You do not need to make an appointment, so arrive early and be prepared to wait.
  • The Odegaard Writing and Research Center is open in Odegaard Library Monday  Thursday 9am to 9pm, Friday 9am to 4:30pm, and Sunday 12pm to 9pm. This writing center provides a research-integrated approach to writing instruction. Find more information and/or make an appointment on the website: www.depts.washington.edu/owrc.

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/

Any Hungry Husky Program

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: http://www.washington.edu/anyhungryhusky/ 

Catalog Description: 
Introduction to the theory and practice of writing the short story.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
November 25, 2020 - 10:50pm