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Introduction to Creative Writing

ENGW 2300.01













Contact information


CM Box #998

Office: Andre Hall 302 Hours: TBA


Class meeting information

11-12:15 TR

Trustee Hall 118



Creative Writing: Four Genres in Brief (Starky)

Bird by Bird (LaMott)


Course Description

Welcome to Introduction to Creative Writing! This course will introduce you to the art, craft, and pleasure of creative writing in three genres: poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction. We will read the work of contemporary writers, engage in writing exercises, and critique each other’s work to improve both the work and our critical sensibilities. You’ll experiment with the basic tools used by creative writers. Assignments consist of reading, discussion, workshops, writing exercises, writing your own creative work, and learning the basics of how to submit your work for publication. For your final project, you will develop an expanded piece in the genre of your choice and learn how to submit your work for publication.


Course Overview

This course is divided into four units: three genres (poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction) and a final portfolio that showcases your best work. Here’s how that works. We will do lots of exercises both in and out of class to generate content (think of this as seed material). Keep all of these in a notebook or folder or whatever works for you. We will then use our seed material to create developed works, workshop them in groups, and revise them. Students will submit a final assignment for each genre. So, here’s the abbreviated version:

  • Generate

  • Write

  • Workshop

  • Revise

  • Submit


At the end of the semester, students will revisit both their seed piles and their best work, revise and polish again, and present a collection of writing samples as a portfolio. Each portfolio will include

  • A letter of transmittal

  • 2 poetry samples

  • 1 fiction sample

  • 1 creative non-fiction sample

  • 1 writer’s choice sample



The grading for this class is very simple and is based on a point system.

            Poems (2)                                          20 points

            Short Story (5 pages)                       20 points

            Essay (5 pages)                                 20 points

            Portfolio                                             20 points

            Participation*                                    20 points


*Participation includes regular attendance* and active participation in discussions and workshops. Plan to attend at least one reading by an author here in Austin. SEU will host two with its on-campus Visiting Writer’s Series and you can easily find others hosted by the University of Texas, The Michener Center at UT, the Harry Ransom Center at UT, and many other organizations. Check the calendar section of the Austin Chronicle for opportunities. I will provide you with multiple opportunities.



Because this is a hands-on, process-oriented class, regular attendance is critical. Be on time and be prepared (do the reading and assignments). After three absences, you will lose a letter grade. Three late (less than 10 minutes) arrivals equal an absence. Further absences may result in a WA (withdrawn for absences). The good news is that perfect attendance gets you an additional 3 points toward your final grade.


On Reading and Speaking Aloud

Everyone will read his or her work aloud in this class, so we will work hard as a group to establish and maintain an atmosphere of respect and support. Plan to listen respectfully, pay close attention, and respond as you’d like your peers to respond to your work. Speaking and reading in public are important skills for college and life in general. If you’ve ever been nervous speaking and reading aloud, be brave! This is a safe and supportive place to practice (and it’s required for the course).


Submission of Assignments

Assignments are due at the beginning of class on the day that they are due. If you know in advance that you will be absent on the day that work is due, arrange to have it delivered by a classmate. In-class work cannot be made up and late work will only be accepted with my written permission and for dramatically reduced credit (typically about 50%). Do not plan to print your work right before class as this is the cause of a great deal of panic and unhappiness when it inevitably goes wrong. Back up your work.


Letters of Transmittal

All of your formal assignments must be accompanied by a letter of transmittal. This is a letter from you to me introducing your work and telling me a little bit about the choices that you’ve made and why. These should be one page long, 1.5 spacing, and should follow a standard business letter format. We will talk about this format in class and samples are easy to find on the Internet.


Extra Credit

I will give up to five points of extra credit toward your final grade. Do one or more of the following activities, keep the evidence (detailed below), and submit with your final portfolio. This is the only way that you can get extra credit in this class.

  • Attend a Visiting Writers' Series reading here at SEU, sign in, and write a one-page review.

  • Attend a reading at UT, The Ransom Center, or Book People and write a one-page review

  • Submit any piece that you write in class to a publication (I'll post links to them). Print a copy of your emailed submission.

  • Write a book or product review on Print a screen shot.



A critical part of being a good creative writer is reading. Plan to read pages from your textbook (CW), Bird by Bird (Lamott), and those posted on this website. Reading should be done before the day that you see it listed on the calendar (that means we’ll be discussing the reading in that class), with the exception of the first week.


Support services

If you have a medical, psychiatric, or learning disability, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that your professors make appropriate accommodations. Please bring your documentation to me as early in the semester as possible. Student Disability Services is in Moody Hall 155, in the Academic Planning and Support offices.


Your student fees entitle you to a wide range of support services. I encourage you to take advantage of these resources.

Writing: The Writing Center in the library

Research: Librarians library

Computers/IT: Academic Computing in Moody Hall or the Sorin Hall computer lab

Tutoring: Academic Planning and Support in Moody Hall

Personal issues: Psychological Services in Moody Hall or Campus Ministry in Mang House



Just as I encourage you to take advantage of the other resources that SEU provides, I encourage you to take advantage of the resource that I offer as your professor. If I can help, do not hesitate to contact me. Please feel free to come by my office or send me an email. I get paid to help you learn. Use this resource.



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