The Month At a Glance:
The Course Overview is a rough description at best: it doesn’t come close to articulating the importance of collaboration and experimentation and community-bonding that will evolve very quickly in our work together, and it doesn’t include a third book we’ll read and discuss, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely by Claudia Rankine. My guess is that most of you have quite a bit of experience writing nonfiction (in the guise of academic papers, journals & diaries, articles, application essays and the like) but little experience writing creative nonfiction of the sort we will be exploring during the month. We are also a living example of collective intelligence, and as such, every one of us has to contribute to the experience by participating actively in every aspect of the course: reading, discussing, blogging, experimenting, sharing.
Be prepared for an adventure that will require us to be bold, open, and ready for anything! Above all, we have to be willing to experience “glorious failures,” to work closely with one another, and to get inside Mose Allison’s statement: “The artist is the one who never gets it right.” This is a course about daring to write better than we thought we could–and to do that, we have to make mistakes along the way and to be willing to try out all kinds of creative exercises. Indeed, we will have a good deal of freedom to choose forms, topics, and styles. To get a taste of the kinds of things you might write/create this month, take a look at the work of students in my fall 2007 first-year seminar. You will have time to hit the slopes, attend workshops and pursue other interests over January, but understand that this course requires a high level of commitment.
During the first half of J-term we will work through a series of short-form exercises and readings as we explore the elements of contemporary creative nonfiction, both in pure text and online multimedia forms. The second half of the month will have us creating drafts of two full works, one of which will be revised for a class online ‘zine (to be designed and posted during the final week of the term). The rhythm of our weeks will move us from solo to group activities and back again: reading & blogging during the weekends; writing/creating/blogging on the weekdays, as well as participating in discussion and experimental exercises in class, and attending weekly one-on-one meetings with bg. We will not meet during the final half-week of J-term, but by noon on Wednesday, January 30, you will post to our class ‘zine your final project and post to your blog a final, hypertext narrative reflection of your work during the month. You will also email bg your self-evaluation/proposed grade and rationale for the grade using the rubric below.
Because J-term is so compressed, I have set up the grading rubric for the course (in semester courses, my classes come up with rubrics together). A-F grades will be based on the quality of work in three areas:
The Final Project 30%
Participation (blogging, workshopping & class discussion) 30%
Exercises & Assignments (including short reading-as-writer essays & writing experiments) 40%
We will discuss in class how each area will be evaluated; in other words, what we mean when we use grades to describe our work.