John W Steere
Introduction to the theory and practice of writing the short story.
For SUMMER 2007: By the end of this course, students should have a better understanding of what defines a great contemporary short story and how to craft their own work. While the class will contain discussions about the typical elements of fiction (plot, character, setting, etc.) the real emphasis will be on equipping students with a process for exploring and creating stories on their own. In approaching fiction, perhaps for the first time, students have a fresh perspective on the generative process, and as such will be able to benefit from thinking about the roots from which great prose arises.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
This course will be held in a class-wide workshop format. Students will submit work to be reviewed by other students and the professor after which the class will discuss the author's work and make suggestions for its improvement. We will also be discussing published stories by professional writers and excerpts from Robert Olen Butler's book on writing "From Where You Dream." The class may also venture outside the classroom to write from experiences in art galleries and natural areas.
The best thing a student can do in order to prepare for this course is read. Familiarizing yourself with modern literary fiction will help you understand the expectations for how to create your own stories. Magazines that publish short fiction include "The New Yorker," "Atlantic Monthly," "Harper's," etc. Prominent anthologies of contemporary authors include "The Best American Short Stories," "Best New American Voices," and many others that are readily available in almost any bookstore. As always, studying the classic works of authors like Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Virginia Wolff, Alice Munro, etc. will surely help as well.
Class assignments and grading
Students will be writing two stories over the course of the quarter and revising one of them. A presentation on one of the stories in the required fiction anthology will also be required. In addition, in-class writing activities, exercises, and responses to other students' stories will also be considered part of the body of work students should produce by the end of the quarter.
Evaluation will consist of a response to the written stories, the presentation, and class participation.