Creative Writing BFA

Creative Writing BFA

Introduction to Poetry—Literary Survey, Analysis, and Application

(CW101)

3 Units Units

William Carlos Williams suggests, "It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there." In this class, nobody dies. Through lecture, discussion, and writing exercises, students address the following topics: rhythm, image, form, diction, metaphor, condensed language, denotation, and connotation — all keys to not only not dying but rather living a meaningful life.

Introduction to Fiction—Literary Survey, Analysis, and Application

(CW102)

3 Units Units

Mark Twain, whose tongue perpetually pushed into his cheek, asked the following: “Why shouldn't truth be stranger than fiction? Fiction, after all, has to make sense.” This class is about making sense of the process of making sense. By analyzing and implementing the tools of fiction — plot, character, tone, symbol, point of view, setting, theme — this class provides students insight on how storytellers order the chaos to engender meaning.

Introduction to Nonfiction—Literary Survey, Analysis, and Application

(CW103)

3 Units Units

In The Empathy Exams, Leslie Jamison writes, “Empathy isn’t just listening, it’s asking the questions whose answers need to be listened to. Empathy requires inquiry as much as imagination. Empathy requires knowing you know nothing. Empathy means acknowledging a horizon of context that extends perpetually beyond what you can see.” The best kind of nonfiction is an act of empathy — for both the writer and the reader. By examining all the tools of nonfiction storytelling — character, voice, scene, structure — this course aims to unravel these empathic concerns.

Fundamentals of Creativity, Process, and Play

(CW104)

2 Units Units

Psychiatrist and researcher Stuart Brown argues that the act of playing is the most effective natural process in the creation and development of our complex brains. Writing, telling stories, engaging in any artistic endeavor, really, will be necessarily enhanced through the act of play. Via games, discussion, and exercises — both structured and unstructured — this class assists writers to develop a creative flow and a better understanding of their own creative processes.

Ideation Lab

(CW105)

1 Unit Units

Brainstorming is a muscle. Muscles can be developed, strengthened, and defined. An individual can certainly achieve these ends in solitude; though, it’s easier with a partner and even easier with a trainer. Think of this course as brainstorm training. Students identify an available instructor and meet one-on-one (in person or remotely) to hurl the students’ writing and story ideas at the wall and see what sticks, what doesn’t, and what needs a little putty. Throughout the semester, students learn several strategies and approaches for developing their ideas, which may include freewriting, looping, listing, clustering, cubing, researching, and snowflaking.

Fundamentals of Plot and Structure

(CW106)

2 Units Units

A book that does not compel its reader to turn pages is not a book. It might be a coaster. Or if it has enough pages, it might be a door stop. Or, in a pinch, it might be a low-rent extermination tool. To be a book, though, its readers must turn pages, must want to turn pages, indeed feel they need to turn pages. A writer creates these page-turning compulsions via plot and structure. This course unpacks the principles, patterns, and situations specific to these storytelling components. *Note: the above argument applies to all forms of storytelling, not just books. Radio dramas without plot and structure are not radio dramas but noise; documentaries without plot and structure are home movies; etc.

Introduction to Writing Poetry: Poetic Forms Workshop

(CW201)

3 Units Units

Introduction to Poetry—Literary Survey and Analysis. (CW201) Corequisite: Ideation Lab (CW105)

The speaker in Pablo Neruda’s poem admits he “wants to do with you what spring does to the cherry trees.” This course wants to do the same thing for student poetry. Implementing a modified version of the Critical Response approach, students draft, submit, and engage in poetic forms ideation under the supervision of the instructor, addressing the foundational concerns absorbed in Introduction to Poetry—Literary Survey and Analysis.

Introduction to Writing Fiction: Short Forms Workshop

(CW202)

3 Units Units

Introduction to Fiction—Literary Survey and Analysis. (CW202) Corequisite: Ideation Lab (CW105)

Neil Gaiman describes the short story as “the ultimate close-up magic trick — a couple of thousand words to take you around the universe or break your heart.” The goal, then, of this course is to make long-distance travel agents and/or heart-breakers of its students.  Implementing a modified version of the Critical Response approach, students draft, submit, and engage in short forms ideation (short stories, short scripts, etc.) under the supervision of the instructor, addressing the foundational concerns absorbed in Introduction to Fiction—Literary Survey and Analysis.

Introduction to Writing Nonfiction: Nonfiction Forms Workshop

(CW203)

3 Units Units

Introduction to Nonfiction—Literary Survey and Analysis. (CW103) Corequisite: Ideation Lab (CW105)

Writing nonfiction is narrative sculpture. The raw material already exists. The nonfiction writer is called to shape, to mold, to carve and to polish, until that the material becomes a story that an audience can recognize in themselves. Implementing a modified version of the Critical Response approach, students draft, submit, and engage in non-fiction forms ideation (essays, autobiographies, etc.) under the supervision of the instructor, addressing the foundational concerns absorbed in Introduction to Nonfiction—Literary Survey and Analysis.

Genre Survey 1

(CW204)

3 Units Units

Genre is the language of storytelling. Just as languages have distinct grammar and diction, genres have their own subtleties, which make each suited to communicate ideas for a particular context. Horror speaks to fear and dread. Romantic comedies speak to the crazy-making of courtship. The bildungsroman speaks to the wonders and discoveries of growth. And so on. Via readings, lectures, discussions, and writing exercises, this course, the first of two, explores common narrative genres.

Story Ideation and Mapping

(CW205)

3 Units Units

Ideation Lab (CW105)

Stories are about evolution and failure of evolution. Certainly the evolving factor can involve different components — character, setting, an ideology, and so on — but the trajectory of evolution (or failure thereof) remains constant. This class assists students in developing and tracking these emotional, intellectual, and spiritual factors.   

Fundamentals of Style and Voice

(CW206)

3 Units Units

An appeal to the authority of Raymond Chandler, a master stylist: “The most durable thing in writing is style, and style is the single most valuable investment a writer can make with his time.” In this class, students make aggressive investments to hone their styles, which in turn refines their writing voices. Through readings, discussions, and exercises, students explore the elements of voice and style: diction, sentence structure and variety, punctuation, figurative language, concision, precision, and clarity.  

Genre Survey 2

(CW254)

3 Units Units

Genre Survey 1 (CW204)

In Genre Survey 1, it is argued that genre is the language of storytelling. Sub-genre, then, are the dialects of storytelling. This course explores those dialects. Within the lexicon of science fiction, for instance, are steampunk, dystopian, alien invasion, and many others. This course digs into the genre taxonomy, using the same approach as Genre Survey 1.

Mythology and Archetypes

(CW207)

3 Units Units

Myths are the dreams of the people. And familiar faces and patterns — that is to say, archetypes — run rampant in these myths. To be familiar with myths and archetypes is to understand the foundations of what makes humans human, and having this understanding is integral to the art of stirring an audience’s emotions. Via readings, lectures, discussion, and writing exercises, this course invites students to tap into the dreams of the collective unconscious.

Journalism

(CW208)

3 Units Units

The following sentence addresses the five Ws and one H — the bread and butter of journalism: Students consume journalistic principles in a classroom for a single semester to enhance their writing skills via readings, discussion, lecture, and exercises. In addition to these fundamentals, students will also discuss the benefits of going too far because, as Albert Camus says, “that’s where you’ll find the truth.”

Advanced Poetry Writing: Poetry Workshop 1

(CW301)

3 Units Units

Declaration of Emphasis and Advancement Review

Leonard Cohen claims that “Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” This class comes with a lot of ash trays. Students who have declared a poetry emphasis workshop their writing in a more intense and focused fashion but still in step with the modified Critical Response approach.

Advanced Fiction Writing: Prose Workshop 1

(CW302)

3 Units Units

Declaration of Emphasis and Advancement Review

According to Annie Dillard, “At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then — and only then — it is handed to you.” In this course, the greatest attempts are made to search, to break, and to accept. Students who have declared a fiction emphasis, and choose to specialize in prose, workshop their writing in a more intense and focused fashion but in step with the modified Critical Response approach.

Advanced Fiction Writing: Script Workshop 1

(CW305)

3 Units Units

Declaration of Emphasis and Advancement Review

Scriptwriters are sadists. Compelling drama and comedy are rooted in desperate characters who badly want something but have a miserable time trying to get it. So this course is about making characters suffer and perhaps saving them in the end. Or perhaps not. Students who have declared a fiction emphasis, and choose to specialize in scriptwriting, workshop their writing in a more intense and focused fashion but in step with the modified Critical Response approach.

Advanced Nonfiction Writing: Nonfiction Workshop 1

(CW303)

3 Units Units

Declaration of Emphasis and Advancement Review

Joan Didion’s reasons for writing: “I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” These reasons might seem selfish, but selfishness need not be negative. The writers in this class will pursue a similar kind of selfishness and in so doing strive to create possibilities of self-discovery for their audience. Students who have declared a nonfiction emphasis workshop their writing in a more intense and focused fashion but in step with the modified Critical Response approach.

Dialogue Workshop

(CW304)

3 Units Units

This class has the word dialogue in its title, but it’s really about music, about rhythm and tempo and texture and tone. A well-crafted exchange between characters sounds like a song and brings with it similar emotions and revelations. Leaning on readings, viewings, discussions, and workshops, the goal of this class is for students to create music from banter, repartee, conversation, and confrontation.

Principles of Conflict and Suspense

(CW306)

3 Units Units

A strange man walks into a bar and produces a gun. This introduces conflict. At the very least, it’s an imbalance of power. If he then says, “By midnight tonight, someone will be shot.” Now we have suspense. The scene begs questions: Who will be shot? Why? Who decides? Can the decision be reversed? These questions provide momentum to a story, which is to say that conflict and suspense add momentum to a story. This course holds conflict and suspense hostage for the purposes of interrogation via lecture, discussion, readings, viewings, and writing exercises.  

Special Topics: Author

(CW307)

3 Units Units

Yes, breadth is important. But so is depth. This course honors that idea by taking an intimate look at a specific writer. The writer changes each semester with an eye on diversity of form, genre, tone, and identity. One semester might offer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The next, then, would offer Laura Albert. And, perhaps then, Alice Walker. And so on. The goal of the class is to unearth the techniques of the master writer through lecture and discussion and then apply them in student writing exercises.

Advanced Poetry Writing: Poetry Workshop 2

(CW351)

3 Units Units

Advanced Poetry Writing: Poetry Workshop 1 (CW301)

This course picks up where Advanced Poetry Writing: Poetry Workshop 1 left off and delivers more of the same. But, you know, with a semester of work and wisdom and technique bolstering the course’s direction.    

Advanced Fiction Writing: Prose Workshop 2

(CW352)

3 Units Units

Advanced Fiction Writing: Prose Workshop 1 (CW302)

This course picks up where Advanced Fiction Writing: Prose Workshop 1 left off and delivers more of the same. But, you know, with a semester of work and wisdom and technique bolstering the course’s direction.    

Advanced Fiction Writing: Script Workshop 2

(CW354)

3 Units Units

Advanced Fiction Writing: Script Workshop 1 (CW305)

This course picks up where Advanced Fiction Writing: Script Workshop 1 left off and delivers more of the same. But, you know, with a semester of work and wisdom and technique bolstering the course’s direction.    

Advanced Nonfiction Writing: Nonfiction Workshop 2

(CW353)

3 Units Units

Advanced Nonfiction Writing: Nonfiction Workshop 1 (CW303)

This course picks up where Advanced Nonfiction Writing: Nonfiction Workshop 1 left off and delivers more of the same. But, you know, with a semester of work and wisdom and technique bolstering the course’s direction.  

Special Topics: Genre

(CW308)

3 Units Units

The Genre Survey 1 and 2 course descriptions describe genre as the language of storytelling. A Czech proverb argues that if you know only one language, you only live once. The implication, of course, is that mastery of a second language creates a new life. This ideas justifies an in-depth exploration of a specific genre. The genre changes each semester with an eye on diversity of form, structure, and tone. One semester might offer Crime The next, then, would offer satire. And, perhaps then, Southern Gothic. And so on. The goal of the class is to unearth the patterns and structures of a specific genre through lecture and discussion and then apply them in student writing exercises.

Comedy and Wit

(CW309)

3 Units Units

“I have a paper cut from writing my suicide note. It’s a start.” As evidenced in this Steven Wright gag, comedy and wit rely on a keen eye for irony and an ability to subvert expectations. Through readings, viewings, lecture, and discussion, this course digs into these techniques as well as incongruity, exaggeration, timing, contrast, slapstick, and others, and students apply them in writing exercises.  

Senior Portfolio 1

(CW418)

3 Units Units

Senior Status

This course marks the beginning of the end of the BFA student’s journey. The work begun here is what stokes the fires that forge the degree. This directed studies course allows students — with faculty supervision — the time and support to draft their final emphasis-specific manuscripts. Students arrange one-on-one appointments with Senior Portfolio faculty who assist in the development of the work in question. Modified Critical Response workshops are spaced throughout the semester for the student’s benefit.

Narrative Experience and Research 1

(CW401)

3 Units Units

Senior Portfolio 1 (CW418)

Muses provide stories to those who can tell them. At this point in the BFA curriculum, students have in their toolbox the requisite skills to put together a compelling story. That said, even the most imaginative storytellers benefit from life experience. This course requires students to supplement their Senior Portfolio 1 writing with experiential research specific to the manuscript. For instance, a student writing a script with themes of death might volunteer at a hospice care. A student writing poetry about violence and crime might participate in police ride-alongs. And so on. Through contractual arrangements, the student has the opportunity to work in a professional environment or situation specific to the thematic or genre concerns of the manuscript. Note: Documentation and contract must be signed and submitted prior to the first day of the internship. No internship credit can be given retroactively.

Professional Studies

(CW412)

2 Units Units

Senior Status

Publishing, production, entertainment, media — this is where writers often land work. It can be welcoming and forgiving. It can also be cutthroat. Forget the wolves in sheep’s clothing. There are wolve who are honest about their wolf-dom just for the sport of it. This course — via lecture, discussion, and Q&A — prepares students to navigate the writing-specific terrain of self-promotion, marketing, collaboration, agents, managers, producers, and more.

Senior Portfolio 2

(CW419)

3 Units Units

Senior Portfolio 1 (CW418)

A continuation of Senior Portfolio 1. A sequel, if you will (but more along the lines of Godfather: Part II in terms of quality than, say, Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment. In this course, students complete their manuscripts, essentially returning with the Joseph Cambell-ian elixir. More specifically, this directed studies course allows students — with faculty supervision — the time and support to complete their final emphasis-specific manuscripts. Students arrange one-on-one appointments with Senior Portfolio faculty who assist in the development and completion of the work in question. Modified Critical Response workshops are spaced throughout the semester for the student’s benefit.

Narrative Experience and Research 2

(CW451)

3 Units Units

Senior Portfolio 2 (CW419)

A continuation of Narrative Experience and Research 1, students continue to engage the muses. This course requires students to supplement their Senior Portfolio 2 writing with experiential research specific to the manuscript. For instance, a student writing a script with themes of death might volunteer at a hospice care. A student writing poetry about violence and crime might participate in police ride-alongs. And so on. Through contractual arrangements, the student has the opportunity to work in a professional environment or situation specific to the thematic or genre concerns of the manuscript. Note: Documentation and contract must be signed and submitted prior to the first day of the internship. No internship credit can be given retroactively.