intro to creative writing

time: tuesday and thursday 12:15 – 14:45
location: 3082 JFSB

description: you will write and read a lot. pierre menard - you must by the end of the semester be able to authentically write the same exact poem as william carlos williams much in the same way that pierre menard wrote don quixote from scratch. you will write weekly. if you are not writing regularly, then you will not learn how to write. billy collins said that everyone is born with bad literature in them and they have to write enough to get it out of their system. I hope by the end of this class you will have written most of the bad literature out of your system. you will be reading daily, so as to get all the false notions of poetry and writing out of your head. workshop will happen in such a way that we will be doing close readings, that is to say that I want you to interpret the writings brought to class. you will first give a synopsis of the piece, and then you will engage with the meaning of the piece. you are being asked to critically analyze the piece. we won’t spend time talking about whether we liked it or not. we won’t say why we liked it or not. this is not a valuable way to spend time in a workshop, for it mostly devolves into a sort of fancy or perhaps even a certain kind of breeding of preferences, or standing for tastes (which are so personal that it will do very little good other than create a piece that the class all agrees will taste good to them (“they taste good to her, they taste good to her, they taste good to her”). I want to criticize the meaning and not the fashion of the piece. we can find something distasteful and yet be compelled by its meaning. you will write each week. everyone of you. there are two main activities we will focus on: reading and writing. there is a third aspect of writing that I will leave completely up to you: publishing. I don’t care to address that in this class and at this level, but I want to include it in the syllabus so that you are aware that this will be something you will have to address in your future, but there are so many complications to this that I don’t even want to address them, not because I don’t think you are ready, but because i am given a limited amount of time and can in no way address everything that needs to be addressed, thus you should all consider making writing a lifelong pursuit. it’s as good of a way to spend your life as any. 

instructor: zach t power
office times: tuesday and thursday 15:00 –17:00
office location: 3004 JKB

print reading: (you will need to buy these books)
the writing life by annie dillard
ron carlson writes a story by ron carlson
the sounds of poety by robert pinsky
workshop packets*

digital non-fiction reading: (i will provide some of these readings digitally)
brute neighbors (walden excerpt) by henry david thoreau
consider the lobster by david foster wallace
leap by brian doyle (reading by doyle) 
on the pleasure of hating by william hazlitt
of smells by michel de montaigne
of thumbs by michel de montaigne
of sleep by michel de montaigne
of idleness by michel de montaigne
of pedantry by michel de montaigne
under the influence by scott russell sanders
the death of the moth by virginia woolf
the death of the moth by annie dillard
how i wrote the moth essay — and why by annie dillard
once more to the lake by e.b. white
heaven and earth in jest (excerpt from pilgrim at tinker creek) by annie dillard
nature (excerpt from nature) by ralph waldo emerson
the year of magical thinking (excerpt) by joan didion
the pleasure of writing by a.a. milne
civil disobedience by henry david thoreau

digital fiction reading: (i will provide some of these readings digitally)
bullet in the brain by tobias wolff
greasy lake by t.c. boyle
the wallet by andrew mccuaig
pierre menard by jorge luis borges
a sign in space by italo calvino
the paring knife by michael oppenheimer
the aleph by jorge luis borges
winnie the pooh (excerpt) by a.a. milne
peter pan (excerpt) by j.m. barrie
turgvinder’s stone by w.s. merwin
the little prince (excerpt) by antoine de saint exupery
death of a right feilder by stuart dybek
bigfoot stole my wife by ron carlson
cathedral by raymond carver
entropy by thomas pynchon
incarnations of burned children by david foster wallace

digital poetry reading: (i will provide some of these readings digitally)
atomic pantoum by peter meinke
sonnet two by william shakespeare
one art by elizabeth bishop
in kyoto by basho
invisible cities (excerpt) by italo calvino
the gift by bob hicok
story about the body by robert hass
shirt by robert pinsky
squirrel problem by zachary schomburg
day (excerpt) by kenneth goldsmith
to a poor old woman by william carlos williams
this is just to say by william carlos williams
the red wheelbarrow by william carlos williams
song of myself by walt whitman
the moose by elizabeth bishop
the hero's journey by tony hoadland
I am not responsible for anything the moon does this month by steve roggenbuck
ars poetica by steve roggenbuck
point at the wall and say here are a few pictures i took by mark baumer
a leaf falling by ee cummings
a beautiful marsupial afternoon (excerpts) by c.a. conrad. 
the prelude (excerpts) by william wordsworth
self portrait in a convex mirror by john ashbery
duino elegies (excerpt) by rainer maria rilke
famous by naomi shihab nye
thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird by wallace stevens
introduction to poetry by billy collins
my papa’s waltz by theodore roethke
the negro speaks of rivers by langston hughes
from DRIFT by caroline bergval
knockin' on heaven's door by bob dylan
popcorn explosion with mr. let's paint by john kilduff
balaenoptera by joshua bennet
beethoven by shane koyczan
various by ken m
objects (excerpt from tender buttons) by gertrude stein (see also chinese characters in my carpet)
magical realism bot by @chrisrodley & @yeldora_

*you will need to print off your workshop packets for other students to read. consider this a fourth course book of sorts. 

assignments: polish your work before turning it in. don’t turn work in late. no holdovers, only work written after the first day of class. 

essay / 1000 words minimum / 100 points /  - write whatever is your concept of an essay.
essay critique / 1000 words minimum / 100 points - choose an essay from our reading and break the essay into its pieces. thoroughly analyze all that is being used to construct the essay.
non-fiction workshop / 100 points - non-fiction workshop will occur during the non-fiction section. each student will be assigned a day to workshop. print out twenty copies of your own essay and hand them out the class before your assigned workshop day. when receiving essays from others, write annotations on the essay and write a thorough paragraph critique on the back. you will receive five points for each essay you critique and discuss.

story / 1000 words minimum / 100 points - write whatever is your concept of a story.
story critique / 1000 words minimum / 100 points - choose a story from our reading and break the story into its pieces. thoroughly analyze all that is being used to construct the story.
fiction workshop / 100 points - fiction workshop will occur during the fiction section. each student will be assigned a day to workshop. print out twenty copies of your own story and hand them out the class before your assigned workshop day. when receiving stories from others, write annotations on the story and write a thorough paragraph critique on the back. you will receive five points for each story you critique and discuss.

poem / four "pages" minimum / 100 points - write whatever is your concept of a poem or collection of poems.
poem critique / 1000 words minimum / 100 points - choose a poem from our reading and break the poem into its pieces. thoroughly analyze all that is being used to construct the poem. 
poetry workshop / 100 points - poetry workshop will occur during the poetry section. each student will be assigned a day to workshop. print out twenty copies of your own poem and hand them out the class before your assigned workshop day. when receiving poems from others, write annotations on the poem and write a thorough paragraph critique on the back. you will receive five points for each poem you critique and discuss.  

* a note on workshop: its my personal belief that workshop serves two functions: one, to give you an opportunity to speak and materialize your opinions on writing (really, if you're not going to speak-up during workshop, then there's no point in taking this class, and you will just be wasting your (or your parent's (or tithing payers) money)), and, two, to give you a space to experiment. if you're turning in old work to impress the twenty of us, then you are short sighted. none of us care about your work, really. if you want to impress people, then get the piece published, or read it to your family at your fourth of july gatherings, but, really, i want to encourage risk-taking in the workshop.

workshop can be broken down into a few steps: one, have the author read their work so as to understand the tone and feel that the author is after. two, have someone in the workshop summarize the piece so the author can see the disparities that might arise (this quickly illuminates the confusion in the piece). three, talk about what is beautiful. four, talk about what can improve. five allow the author to ask questions.

final portfolio (100 points) - you will turn in a portfolio consisted of all the writing from the semester. you will revise these thoroughly based on your own growth and what you take from workshop. the final portfolio should include an introductory self analysis and justification of your work. 

grading: it’s simple, if you do all the work, then you will get an A. if you don’t do the work, then I will find some other appropriate grade to give you. my interpretation of “do” is polished and on time. refer to a dictionary for the meaning of polished.  

(one day) - introduce everything: the instructor, the students, the course, the material, the assignments, the syllabus, the world of literature.
non-fiction (four days) - non-fiction is the art of attempting to tell the truth. non-fiction is an approximation to experience. non-fiction oddly defines itself in negation. the purpose of this section is to expose you to those aspects of writing. i've included it as the first section, because non-fiction is often (if not always) born and concerned with the self, and what better place for us to start than here.
fiction (four days) - fiction is the lie that tells a truth. i have to say that i believe that reality is a spectrum. fiction was the first artificial reality. fiction is how we relate to the world. in short, fiction is how we mentally construct the world, or at least attempt to recreate the world so as to feasibly understand it. as the second section in the class, fiction is well suited for re-imagining the self. 
poetry (four days) - poetry is difficult. poetry is anti-absorptive. poetry is not only text but also the page on which the text is placed (which is and is more than context). poetry is a tiny machine, and i believe the pinnacle of writing, one not to take lightly, and one not to be attempted without proficiency in its sister categories. 
final (one day) - we will be turning in our final portfolios and having a taco party. i will make a sign-up sheet for things to bring. we also have the option of doing the party at my house (i live up provo canyon near vivian park). 

schedule: we have four days per genre. each day there will be something due (at the beginning of class) and something to do (in class). 

day one / june 27 / syllabus, introductions, creative writing theory
due / syllabus read / books bought / questions on the syllabus
class / introduce people / what is literature / why have you taken a creative writing class / what are your expectations for yourself / is, for you, writing a serious career, a serious hobby, or a casual hobby / how many other classes are you taking, and what priority is this class / what is creative / what is writing / what is the purpose of creative writing / why do you remember good writing / what is the ethical responsibility of a writer / you are welcome to eat and use your laptop (add these to attendance section) / what is language / (pentad) is language used / you must spend time learning your questions. there are no answers here. / heidegger and the function of language / heidegger and the theory of art (poet in a forest) / undo, unpack the thing / whitman and the eidolon / writing process requires percolation / creative reading / mark baumer reality beach (what is an image?) / popcorn explosion with mr. let's paint (writing is larger than books) / button poetry (slam poem) (the medium matters) / ken m (writing is larger than just books) / whitman song of myself (compared to mr. paint) / tender buttons (meaning and language) / chinese characters in my carpet (meaning and language) / magical realism bot (meaning and language) / ivanka trump, what it means to be complicit / jargon / creative writing is about earning questions / what is “creative” / what is “writing” / good writers will simplify complex ideas, not complicate simple ideas / words as a medium / abstract to concrete language as a spectrum / the irony of language (“what difference does it make?”) / writing as a process of falling through floors /

day two / june 29 / non-fiction
due / dillard chapter one and two read / one page of percolations for an essay printed / sign up to meet with instructor / the death of the moth by annie dillard read / the death of the moth by virginia woolf read / 
class / discuss what is non-fiction / what is truth in writing / epistemology / what is essai, to essai / freewrite / james frye’s “memoir” and why we feel indignant / trust and validity / “based on a true story” / first scene of pilgrim at tinker creek / break into groups and discuss the readings / IRL vs. AFK / n = 1 vs. n \= 1 / wandering and the flaneur vs. constraints / truth and fallacy on a spectrum / true and real / degree of specificity (every word from a week by kenneth goldsmith /  essai (to tease out) / personal truth vs. object truth (relativism, solipsism, “emotional truth”, experience, etc.)

day three / july 6 / non-fiction
due / dillard chapter three and four read / one rough draft for your essay printed / consider the lobster by david foster wallace / of smells by michel de montaigne / of thumbs by michel de montaigne / of idleness by michel de montaigne
class /  identity / identity vs. persona / thoreau, the i is always present in writing “We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the first person that is speaking. I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience.“ / phonemes and lines are always made by the individual / what is voice in writing? “Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!” (Dr. Suess) / what is the self? what are we trying to render in writing? and how does one render the self in writing? / better question yet, what is being? (ontology) / how is the self defined? / consciousness and hermenuetics / the other and marginalization / solipsism and conversation / “we,” the “universal,” audience and zeitgeist / the meta-self (self to the self) and self-awareness (catharsis) / persona (desire, style, choice) /

day four / july 11 / non-fiction
due / dillard chapter five and six read / twenty copies of your essay for next period's workshop printed / under the influence by scott russell sanders / leap by brian doyle / once more to the lake by e.b. white /
class / memory / history vs. past / truth vs. memory / memory vs. knowledge / memory as essential to living (essential to human function) / memory and identity / our dependence of memory / memory as fickle / ecosystemic memory / recall / forgetting / past in the past vs. past brought to present / memory and experience / memory is metaphor / the spectre of memory / memory vs. memory / memory is type of imagination vs. belief / memory and emotion (emotions thay stay with memory, ptsd and actively changing memory, actively changing memory and trying to keep memory authentic) / selectivity in memory vs. selectivity in writing memory / memory as a dual existence / memory as identity / collective memory / collaborative memory / what happens when you are forced to remember / infinite number of past selves / context of original memory vs. context of space memory is brought to after the momemt / memory vs. context / memory “is not a pipe” / what does memory reach for? / how do you identify with your past / “healing” from memories /

day five / july 13 / non-fiction
due / dillard chapter seven read / essay critique / workshop essays read and annotated
class / non-fiction workshop

day six / july 18 / fiction
due / carlson pages 1-30 read / a sign in space by italo calvino read / pierre minard by jorge luis borges read / one page of percolations for a story printed
class / creation / fiction as created / fiction catalysts are different than non-fiction catalysts (which are real world occurrences) / what is creation, and how do we know we have created / creation as connection / ecclesiastes 'nothing new under the sun' / everything is a remix / creation does not occur ex nihilo / you don't create unpreceded / you create preceded / you are preceded / you must be aware of the precedents / cliche, fads, and creation / eliot's tradition and the individual talent / creation vs. constraints / creation vs. genre / "bring into existence / the horror of the void / the horror of the fetus (alien) / which is the creation / when is the creation (abortion) / innovation / avant garde / du champ's fount / creation vs. organization / why do you create / the ethics of creating / creation and identity / creation and process (evolves as you pursue it). /

day seven / july 20 / fiction
due / carlson pages 31-60 read / the paring knife by michael oppenheimer read / the wallet by andrew mccuaig read / one rough draft for your story printed
class / symbolism and meaning / what can be symbolic (the heideggarian forest / symbolism as assigned / why are some things interpreted as symbolic and others aren't / what contexts lead to symbolic searching / symbols: real vs. ideal / language is representative, language is inherently symbolic / "the death of the author" vs. who has control over the meaning of a symbol: audience vs. author / why and when is a symbol not recognized / symbols as social constructs (arbitrary, but nonetheless negotiated) / symbolic as relational vs. symbolic as relative / what use does symbolism have in our lives? / why use symbolism, why not just say it straight? / what gives something the capacity to be a symbol / how do we recognize symbols? / symbol and meaning (why is your mother meaningful to you?) / what is meaning? / what is a symbol and how do we charge it with meaning / the world is a set of relations. sign and signifier. / why write it as fiction when you can say it clearly in an essay (fiction is not an essay veiled in symbols) /

day eight / july 25 / fiction
due / carlson pages 61-90 read / twenty copies of your story for next period's workshop printed / bullet in the brain by tobias woolf read / greasy lake by t.c. boyle read
class / experience / "waking dream" / responsibility of writer to be designer (dieter rams: good design is no design, or the material should melt away in the presence of the experience, experience is royal) / "waking dream" and suspension of disbelief (samuel taylor coleridge, biographia literaria) / making the piece relatable, believable, natural / writing as opportunity for experience / experience vs. imagination / experience as internalizing, interpreting, observing / experience for reader and "world-building" / audience and prior experience (brought assumptions) / visceral experience by clarity (context, situation, pentad) / experience ask of audience for perceptions, judgements, emotions / perceptions: asking the audience to make interpretations / judgements: asking the audience to make decisions / emotions: asking the audience to feel / experience as writer vs. experience as character vs. experience as audience/reader / fiction tries to have authenticity, authenticity: striving to avoid a bad character. you don't believe the acting. a bad actor is not authentic to the story / fiction tries to have invisibility, invisibility: the prose doesn't call attention to itself. the seams disappear, there is no dust on the projector.

day nine / july 27 / fiction
due / carlson pages 91-100 read / story critique / workshop stories read and annotated
class / fiction workshop

day ten / august 1 / poetry
due / one page of percolations for a poem printed / pinsky chapters one and two read / atomic pantoum by peter meinke read / sonnet two by william shakespeare read / one art by elizabeth bishop read / haiku by basho read / squirrel problem by zachary schomburg read / thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird by wallace stevens read / my papa’s waltz by theodore roethke read / 
class / form / is the form in the text or the reading of the text? / what is form? / form as eidolon (see eidolon by walt whitman) / form and language (see one and three chairs by joseph kosuth) / language as art most suggestive of form / types of poetic form: pantoum, sestina, villanelle, sonnet, haiku, free verse, etc. / techniques that determine form: accent, duration, line, syntax, stanza, alliteration, etc. / form vs. function / form vs. content / form as method to enhance the attempt of eidolon expression / eidolon vs. ideal / platonic form / form vs. universal / form is suggested by shape / shape in language is made by sounds and figure, by syntax and grammar, by line and break, by stanza and space, by beginnings and ends / when did you begin to realize that there were forms?

day eleven / august 3 / poetry
due / one rough draft for your poem printed / pinsky chapter three read / ars poetica (an internet bard at last) by steve roggenbuck read / point at a wall and say here are a few pictures i took by mark baumer read / magical realism bot by @chrisrodley & @yeldora_ read / from DRIFT by caroline bergvall read / various by ken m read / popcorn explosion with mr. let's paint by john kilduff read / balaenoptera by joshua bennet / beethoven by shane koyczan / knockin' on heaven's door by bob dylan read / a leaf falling by ee cummings read / day (excerpt) by kenneth goldsmith read / 
class / substrate / art's relationship with technology through the ages / substrate as form of embodying / substrate as materialization of eidolon / poetry vs. poetries (visual poetry, slam poetry, page poetry, etc.) / substrate and context / substrate and concept / language as medium and the multidimensionality of language (one-dimensional (thought), two-dimensional (image), three-dimensional (sound) / substrate and what you believe is the purpose of poetry / digital as light, paper as reflection of light / printing press 2.0 / digital renaissance / substrate vs. time (ephemerality) / substrates: oral, lyrical, bacteria (see xenotext), publisher, publishing, gray matter, paper, spine (book), printing press, coding, the body, theatre, performance, internet, tweets, instragrams, facebook posts, snapchats, youtube video, video, t-shirt,

day twelve / august 8 /  poetry
due / twenty copies of your poem for next period's workshop printed / pinsky chapter four read / invisible cities (excerpt) by italo calvino  read / the gift by bob hicok read / story about the body by robert hass read / shirt by robert pinsky read / this is just to say by william carlos williams read / the red wheelbarrow by william carlos williams read / the moose by elizabeth bishop read / the hero's journey by tony hoadland read / famous by naomi shihab nye read / introduction to poetry by billy collins read /
class / image /  

day thirteen / august 10 /  poetry
due / poem critique / workshop poem read and annotated / pinsky chapter five read
class / poetry workshop

final / t.b.d. (august 16 or 17) / creative writing
due / final porfolio
class / taco party

guide: this is not a strict definition of these words. you can easily search for strict definitions on the web. instead of finding 'answers' here you will find questions: things that will get you thinking about these ideas and engaging with them.


writing process 


essay (essai)
the self





disclaimer: this syllbus is subject to change

text required by b.y.u.:

Honor Code: In keeping with the principles of the BYU Honor Code, students are expected to be honest in all of their academic work. Academic honesty means, most fundamentally, that any work you present as your own must in fact be your own work and not that of another. Violations of this principle may result in a failing grade in the course and additional disciplinary action by the university. Students are also expected to adhere to the Dress and Grooming Standards. Adherence demonstrates respect for yourself and others and ensures an effective learning and working environment. It is the university’s expectation, and every instructor’s expectation in class, that each student will abide by all Honor Code standards. Please call the Honor Code Office at 422–2847 if you have questions about those standards.

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