Syllabus & Assignments

Schedule & Syllabus*

* We may well adapt the following plan as we go. Think of these assignments as a general plan; we will revise them if/when we see fit.

Thursday, January 3

Morning: Introduction to the Course, First Reading & Writing Exercises: Just what do we talk about when we talk about twenty-first century creative nonfiction?

Afternoon: Guest Instructors Piya Kashyap ’07 and Remy Mansfield ’07 will take us through a series of online storytelling exercises. Blogging set-up/intro. Look at Piya and Remy’s Blog; subscribe to their feed so you can follow along with their India adventures in teaching and learning.

Friday, January 4
Piya & Remy Visit, Part 2; Narrative Considerations

Assignment Due:

Find and on your blog link to a compelling story on the internet. Look through Alan Levine’s 50 Web Ways to Tell a Story, exploring the different outcomes possible depending on tool selection. Finish your story from Thursday afternoon, making adjustments and/or revisions based on your Web exploring. Feel free to make any changes you like, including tools and media.

Start blogging & responding! I won’t mention blogging again in the assignments, but to get a real sense of what blogging can do for your writing, you must blog and respond often about topics that matter to you. Start messing around, playing with the stuff of your life in your writer’s notebook and/or on your blog–what you have seen and experienced and thought–what stirs here? Start gathering material for the term. Surprise yourself by considering stories that rest beneath the surface of your skin. Think about what kind of writer you are–do you live in your eyes, your ears, your mouth, your body? The more you commit to a writing practice this month, writing every day and exploring the full reach of yourself as writer, circling back when you find promising bits that continue to call to you, the richer this course experience will be for you.

Monday, January 7
The Creative Nonfiction Short, The Creative Nonfiction Essay & Other Text Forms

Assignment Due:
Read as a writer, thinking about how these pieces work their magic:

In Short: Preface, p.17; Simic, p.191; Rodriguez, p.48; Haines, p. 107; Wilkinson, p. 146; Gutkind, p.165
D’Agata: “To the Reader”, McPhee, Griffin, Alexie, Antin
Rankine, pp. 1-18


10 Photos: make each one represent a different abstraction or emotion (for example, you could take one shot of a teapot that suggests comfort and another of the same teapot that suggests fear). Consult Pomona’s Visual Literacy Website for theoretical underpinnings of working in images. Post your images to Flickr and then to your blog. Those without cameras can check one out at the Circ. desk at the library for a couple of hours at a time.

5 One-page narratives of moments from memory that lead you to writing about your own experience as an act of communication rather than a private musing, according to the following rules: one must be about a specific place, one about a person, one about a time when you were alone, one about a moment when you understood something about the world beyond you, one involving several people. Spend some time exploring the rich landscape of memory (you can use exercises from class to help you unlock story potential); once you have selected the five memories, write quickly, spending ten minutes but no more on each one, trying to sketch the moment, the people, the place, the sensations, the deeper meaning. Remember that you are writing narrative here. Post.


Take a look at metaspencer’s Found Fridays (he’s a prof at University of Illinois). Bring in a piece of “found” writing.

Tuesday/Wednesday Conferences with bg

Thursday, January 10
Morning: Experimenting with Form and Structure

Assignment Due:
Reading: bg’s “Into the Storm”

Hypertext stories–Alex Hay’s “Three Jazzmen”, Shelley Jackson’s “My Body”, Jae Woo’s This is Life and Tim’s “Descent”


The Impact of Voice: Choose one of your five mini-narratives and record yourself reading it. Upload to your blog. Consult the page on podcasts if you need help with recording. (It’s fine to use an iPod with iTalk, or to check out a mic at the circ. desk, or even to use the built-in mic on your laptop. I’ll plan to arrive at class by 10:00 to help anyone having difficulty uploading the file.)

Hypertext: Take your mini-narratives from Monday and play around with moments inside them that lend themselves to visual and auditory and text intersections/tensions. In addition to discovering ways in which multmedia forms open new narrative avenues and meanings, think about how isolating and intensifying an image, how drawing out or speeding up of time, and how drawing closer or distancing the narrative voice have an impact on the story. Try your hand at a One-sentence Hypertext. Go beyond a single layer, but do not get lost in your own story. This is just an exercise–you can return to hypertext for your final project if you like. Post.

Afternoon: Workshopping and Stretching

Friday, January 11
More about Elements

Assignment Due:

Reading: In Short: Berger, p. 175; Saner, p. ;Ehrlich, p. 219; Hoagland, p. 270.

Nicholas Handler’s The Posteverything Generation


Reading As a Writer Response: Choose one of the assigned readings from In Short, and write a brief, 500-word, clearly and concisely written response to one lesson you learn about writing creative nonfiction from the piece.

Monday, January 14

Moving from fragments to fully realized pieces

Assignment Due:

Reading: Claudia Rankine Don’t Let Me Be Lonely

D’Agata: Mitchell and Weinberger

Student Examples: Cathy’s “Sides” , Megan’s “Mar(k)” , Liz’s “The Art of Exploding”


Stranger Studies:
Go out and discreetly (meaning, without offending anyone) observe people you do not know and have, ideally, never before seen. Write several brief sketches of these strangers, trying to create the person as fully and objectively as possible in as few words as possible.

Then choose one sketch you want to work with a bit more and write three versions of it (no more than three sentences each), descriptions which explore who you think this person is:
–one relying exclusively on physical description;
–one relying exclusively on the person’s movement;
–and one that creates a direct relationship between you and the person (you put yourself quite directly into this one).
Read Megan’s

Choose a topic and brainstorm/stir up section ideas for a 5-page braided essay in which you will include personal narrative & research. Here’s where some of the in-class exercise techniques may well help you. Get as far into the writing as you can.
Tuesday/Wednesday Meetings with bg and with your workshop groups

Thursday, January 17

Assignment Due:

Five + page draft of a creative nonfiction braided essay. Write to the deeper meaning, making every aspect of the essay work towards uncovering that meaning in a way that makes it far more than you “asserting the interestingness of your experience.” Why do we need to read this piece? Why do you need to write it?

Morning: Revision Strategies

Afternoon: Workshop

Friday, January 18
Multimedia Elements & Forms

Assignment Due:

Small-group assignment–Examine your group’s assigned digital stories and prepare to present them to the class.

Group One
Ashley’s “How to Learn Czech”
Pat’s Project

The Sienfeld Analog by John Bresland
Eli Menaker’s Digital Story
Remy Mansfield’s Ankhor Wat

Group Two
The Arrow of Time from Zonezero
Daniel Meadows’ digital stories
Alex Hay’s Inhabit Your Body
Alex Yule’s mydestruction
Logan’s “Last Waltz” and Anxiety (on DVD)

Group Three
Killers of Community” by Macquarie University (Australia) student Petrice Henderson
Sky by Christina Manning
The murmur Project
Lydia’s “On Simplicity”
Zoey’s Digital Story (on DVD)

SUNDAY JANUARY 20 Dinner at Barbara’s

Monday, January 21
Multimedia Workshop

Assignment Due:


Bring (and post) 10 sentences you didn’t write but wish you had.

Post 10 images you wish you had taken but didn’t. (With permission, of course!)


Take 10 photos in response to each of those sentences, images that amplify and do not illustrate the sentences.

Write 10 sentences that amplify but do not explain the photos, one each.

Detailed written plan (storyboard) and description of Multimedia Essay–its parts, its rationale. Work on the essay draft.

Tuesday/Wednesday Meetings with bg

Thursday, January 24
Exercises, Workshopping & Work-time

Assignment Due:

Reading: TBA

Creating/Writing : Draft of Multimedia Essay

Friday, January 25

Final Class 9:30-12:30

Assignment Due:

Creating/Writing: Final Project Well Underway (Braided Essay or Multimedia Essay or Something New)

Wednesday, January 30

Final Project posted by noon. Final hypertext narrative reflection of the learning adventure posted by noon. Email to bg with proposed grade and rationale by noon.


2 Responses

  1. Hey, here’s a link to a bigger version of my digital story:
    Here’s a direct link to the quicktime version:

  2. Hey, here’s a link to a bigger version of my digital story:
    Here’s a direct link to the big quicktime version:

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