Course Syllabus


ENG 103.10   Introduction to Creative Writing                    Dr. James Allen Hall     

            Classroom: 226 Smith Hall                                                      MW 2:30-3:45                         Office: 221 Smith Hall

            Phone: (410) 778-7887                       Office Hours: M 10-11; T 1-2; W 10-11 & by appointment                Fall 2015



Course Objectives and Description: Introduction to Creative Writing helps students learn the tools and rules that writers use to make rhetorically and emotionally engaging art. The course aims to:


  1. Introduce students to and engage them with the practice of the tools of craft, such as: narrative modes, tone, image, metaphor, point of view, setting, plot, and characterization. (Readings, Event Profile, Writing Assignments, Anthology Project)
  1. Introduce students to the ways that writers use genre to inflect content (Readings, Writing Assignments, Anthology)
  2. Challenge students to see form and content as not only related but inextricably interconnected (Readings, Event Profile, Writing Assignments)
  3. Challenge students to analyze the tools at the writer's disposal: the best creative writers are also scholars of writing; the best writers are, then, not just the best makers of literature but the best thinkers about literature as well. (Writing Assignments, Anthology Project, Revision).
  4. Engage students in all parts of the writing process: brainstorming, drafting, and revising (Writing Assignments, Revision)
  5. Create a space where students comment intelligently and constructively on classmates’ creative work—and sharing those comments—thus actively engaging the creative as well as critical vocabulary requisite of imaginative literary writing. (Attendance and Participation, Revision).


The above are the quantifiable aims of the course—the objectives upon which you will be graded. But there is another aim of the course, one that is not easily quantifiable. This aim concerns what teachers and artists call "deep structures": the goal of any workshop is not to make better writing, but to make better writers. Thus, though I will be grading you on the above aims and though I believe that achieving the above aims will make you a better writer, I know as an artist myself that sometimes it takes a while for the craft to gel, that what I will teach you here is aptly named: is, in fact, an introduction to creative writing.


Reading: The first half of the course is reading intensive. Aside from the reading we'll discuss in class, I expect that you'll be reading in contemporary literary journals to complete your Anthology Project.


Our course readings will be drawn from one textbook about imaginative writing as well as two anthologies of contemporary literature. These books help us examine the elements of craft that are imperative for any writer to hone. There will be handouts as well, posted as PDFs on Canvas. We'll use the reading to engage in aesthetic debates. Allow yourself time to read, digest, and respond to the readings. They are as important as your writing and will help us analyze voice, diction, register, tone, figurative language, form, rhythm, syntax, and subject matter. I expect students to fully engage the time-consuming endeavor that is becoming a writer and immersing oneself in what Lewis Turco calls “the art of language.”   I expect that you will read the material at least twice and take notes as well, which will help you prepare for our discussions and workshops.

            We might not discuss in-depth every reading on the syllabus, but they are there for your education. Every writer has something to teach you. Approach each text as if it has some valuable lesson for you—because it does. Ask each text, "What can you teach me about making the Art I am destined to make?"


Writing: The second half of the course is writing-intensive, meaning that you will be writing in various genres as you read and write comments about other students' writing. I will sometimes collect these responses. At the end of the course, I will ask for a list of students who were most and least helpful in their critiques. These evaluations will help me determine Participation grades as well.


Policy Statement: The course values all voices dedicated to depicting an honest world-view. We will read work by writers of various religious persuasions, ethnicities, sexualities, and politics. You may not agree with certain texts; the course does not require your agreement. Some of these texts may make you feel uncomfortable or challenge your world-view. The course does not require your comfort or seek to change your world-view; the course aims to show you how you might learn these techniques of engagement. The course does not require your agreement or comfort. It does insist upon your intellectual participation and creative engagement. I expect all of us to respect each member of this classroom community. Any student who makes hate a part of her or his speech to another member of this classroom community will face dismissal for that class (marked as absent) and any other repercussions at my disposal (which may include removing you from this course). I do not wish to censor what you’re writing about, but if you’re writing hate speech then you’re writing what is antithetical to imaginative writing itself. In this course, we will engage adult themes and controversial issues. I expect students to comport themselves as adults do: by engaging texts and each other thoughtfully and respectfully.


Plagiarism: I won’t tolerate representing someone else’s work as your own. Such academic dishonesty, even at the draft level, will result in serious effects, ranging from failing the class to expulsion. Please familiarize yourself with the Washington College Honor Code, and make sure that you write and sign the Honor Code statement on each piece of written work you turn in. As well, familiarize yourselves with the College's policy regarding academic dishonesty, found on pages 12-13 of the Student Handbook: Some papers will be turned in via Canvas and run through


Late Work: Turn in assignments on the day they’re due in class. If you must miss class for some reason, please make sure that you turn in the assignment before the class. Workshop materials must be turned in on time. It’s imperative that you observe this practice strictly.


Grading Policy: Excellence occurs when students deploy effective rhetorical strategies, dazzling syntax, and active voice. It happens when students marshal descriptive specificity, employ metaphor and image that are idea-bearing, and use pattern and variation to create coherence and rapture. Excellence occurs when craft elements work in concert with each other, and the piece uses strategies of dis/engagement effectively. Excellent work contains few errors in grammar and mechanics. I encourage you to aspire to excellence.

            The word "excellence" came in to English parlance in the 14th century. The Oxford English Dictionary tells us the word has roots in Latin (excellĕre: to rise above others, be eminent) and is formed by adding the prefix ex- (out, forth, upward) to the root verb cellĕre, which means to rise, to tower (taken from celsus, an adjective that means lofty). Excellĕre is a verb found only in compounds: excellence is always achieved by adding something extra, something extraordinary, to the given.    

            At the university level, As mean that students have achieved excellence: lofty feats and towering triumphs. Bs denote that students have met the requirements and have achieved excellence in some aspects of the assignment. Cs mean that students have completed an assignment satisfactorily. Grades lower than C mean that the student may have achieved satisfactory progress on some aspects of an assignment, but that most of the aspects have not met the minimum expectations of the assignment.  

            I encourage you to aspire beyond the average. On a 10-point scale, for instance, 5 is average (acceptable work). A score of 7 points is above-average. A score of 9-10 means that rare thing, excellence.

            Grading Scale:

            100: A+                                   99-94: A                                 93-90: A-

            89-87: B+                               86-84: B                                 83-80: B-

            79-77: C+                                76-74: C                                 73-70: C-

            69-67: D+                               66-64: D                                  63-60: D-        59-0: F


Grades will be rounded up to the nearest whole number. There is no extra credit.

Electronic Devices Policy: Please keep your focus on the material during class. Students may bring an e-reader or laptop to class on days we are discussing articles, though I reserve the right to require material printed out if I believe that it would suit the pedagogical purpose for that class day. Workshop Materials must be printed out, written upon, and brought to class (stapled if necessary).

            Cell Phone Policy: My policy is that if your phone rings in class, I will answer it and politely remind the caller that you are in class. If my phone rings in class, I will happily allow a student to answer the call. No texting in class. If I think you're texting in class, you will be dismissed and marked as absent.


Formatting: It goes without saying that everything you hand in for this class must be typed (except for photocopies of creative work in journals for the Anthology). Please use 12 point, Garamond, in black (default) type. Use one-inch margins. Always include a title. Double space for prose; single space for poetry. Defaults on most computers now are 1.15 spacing, with a 10-point letting space when you hit the enter key. Change these defaults to single-space for poems, double-space for prose, and 0-point for Before and After. These settings are usually found in the Format Menu, under the Font and Paragraph Menus. Failure to follow these instructions will result in a lower grade.


Students with Disabilities: I believe in a level playing field for all students in this course. If you have a documented disability, please make sure to see Andrea Vassar in the Office of Academic Skills (see next section). You will need to present me with a "professor letter" that identifies the accommodations and we will work together to make specific accommodations to ensure that the course is fair for everyone.


Some Important Student Resources


  1. Writing Center: One of the most important resources for any student at Washington College is the Writing Center, located in 106 Goldstein. The Writing Center offers peer tutorial sessions, workshops, and other guidance regarding writing well. To view hours and to make an appointment online, visit


  1. Office of Academic Skills: Located on the 2nd floor of the Miller Library, the OAS provides students with support that enhances their academic and personal development. They offer a series of workshops, which I have included on this syllabus. As well, students can request tutoring in any subject area and receive peer tutoring through the OAS. It is an invaluable resource I hope all students will keep in mind.


  1. Washington College Academic Resources Website: This website will allow you to log on to academic resources in order to make an appointment with such things as the Writing Center or the OAS.


  1. Creative Writing Opportunities (CRWOPPS) Listserv: Run by the poet Allison Joseph, this yahoo group emails its users with opportunities to submit writing to various venues. I suggest joining the listserv so that you can see what kind of opportunities are available to writers on a daily basis, but issue this caveat: beginning writers are (99.9 % of the time) not ready to submit work, and should absolutely avoid paying reading and contest fees until later in their career (if ever).



Course Requirements:


Anthology (20 pts)                  Professionalism (20 pts)          Major Writing Assignments (30 pts)   

Event Profile (10 pts)             Writing Assignments (10 pts)  Revision (10 points)


  1. An Anthology of Creative Work (20 pts): Due at midterm (October 7). You will construct and introduce an anthology of creative work in ONE genre: poetry, fiction, or nonfiction. You'll select pieces from literary journals of the last 10 years. You will write a critical preface or introduction (2-4 pages) to the works you’ve assembled. Your Preface should analyze a common craft element that each work employs to various effects. The task here is to introduce creative work you admire, and to analyze specifically the various functions of one or two craft elements (such as image, metaphor, point of view, etc).


Select work that engages your intellect, emotion, and spirit. Certainly, your anthology may be thematically organized. Or, you may choose to organize according to your taste for image, metaphor, sonic texture, syntax, tone (all aesthetic considerations), etc. Regardless of theme, your preface must analyze craft. See more about this assignment on the Assignments page on Canvas.


  1. Professionalism (20 points, evenly divided): Come to class prepared. Speak intelligently and constructively about the work under discussion. Be engaged with the material in the classroom. You can be intellectually absent just as you can be physically absent.


  1. Attendance Policy: (10 pts). I take attendance by in-class Writing Assignments and by roll sheets. The only excused absences are those required by Washington College (i.e., athletic events) and religious observances. I must have written notice 48 hours before the absence takes place. Grading for attendance is as follows:

0: 10pts          1: 9 pts       2: 8 pts    3: 7 pts     4: 6 pts.   5: 5 pts. 6: 4 pts. 7: 0 pts.

All students will meet with me at least once outside of class in conference about their writing. If you miss this conference, it will count as an absence.


  1. Participation (10pts): This comprises all interactions with me and with your peers. If it becomes clear to me that the class is not doing the reading, I may resort to quizzes that will factor into your Professionalism grade. Also, as I say above, you can be intellectually absent just as you can be physically absent: if it is clear to me that you have not done the reading, I will dismiss you from class and mark you as absent. All students must have an email address and check it at least once daily. If I send you an individual email about a matter, I expect a response back within 24 hours. I understand that some of you may find public speaking difficult. Please keep in mind, however, that learning is not supposed to be an entirely painless process. To give you an idea of my assessment of class participation:
  • If you say almost nothing on most days: 0 – 1 points.
  • If you make 1 helpful contribution on most days: 2-4 points.
  • If you make 2 helpful contributions on most days: 5-7 points.
  • If you make 3 helpful contributions on most days: 8 points.
  • If you make countless helpful contributions every day: 9-10 points.

Good participation is a matter of quantity and also quality.


Make sure you come to Workshop prepared to talk intelligently and constructively about the work. On days that workshop material is due, you will upload the piece to Canvas. If you have difficulty uploading it, you may email me the piece as an attachment (.doc, .docx, or .rtf files only please) and pasted into the email itself. I will always acknowledge receipt of your email with one of my own. If I don't acknowledge that I received your emailed piece, it's because I didn't receive it. The responsibility is yours; be sure I receive your work.


If you turn in late work, I will dock your Professionalism grade. For each assignment turned in late (even drafts), you will be eligible for 1 point less on your Participation grade. So, if you turn in your Anthology one day (not one class day) late, you will only be eligible for 9 points of Participation.


  1. Major Writing Assignments (30 pts): Students will write one poem, one story, and one creative nonfiction essay. We will workshop these in class. Rubrics are available on Canvas regarding each of the three genres, and your grade will be determined using this rubric. Each piece is worth 10 points:

10-9: Excellent effort at incorporating the rules of the genre and deploying craft elements   that make well-voiced writing.

            8-6: Adequate effort at incorporating the rules of the genre; craft elements may seem

                        lacking, hackneyed, or ill-conceived

            5-4: Minimal effort at incorporating the rules of genre; craft elements are lacking originality;

                        language is trite and clichéd.

            3-1:   Inadequate effort has been given to the craft of the writing, and the piece seems either

                        inadequately developed, ill conceived, or suffers from trite language.

Failure to hand in any of these pieces will result in failure of the course, not just the assignment. These are major components of this class.

            Formatting: Please do not include name, class, date, or any other information. Just begin with the title. Please follow the guidelines listed on page 3 of this syllabus under "Formatting."


  1. Revision (10 pts): At the final exam, you will turn in a revision of one of the workshopped pieces, as well as a brief letter (1-2 pages) explaining your revision of craft. Do not address the fact that you've fixed your punctuation unless it changes the emotion or theme of the story. Do address how you restructured plot, rethreaded a dominant image, sharpened a character's tension, etc.

            10-9: Excellently addresses the craft elements that have been revised, with an eye toward how they

                        have impacted the emotion of the piece, as well as what the writer has learned about various                                   elements of craft.

            8-7: Demonstrates an above-average knowledge of craft but doesn't express any insight gained

                        through the process of revision, OR does not analyze in-depth the relationship between                               revision and the emotional or intellectual impact of the piece.

            6-5 Demonstrates an adequate knowledge of craft and the revision process, though no new insight

                        may have been gained through the process of revision. Shows a weak relationship between                          revision and the emotional or intellectual impact of the piece.

            4-3: Demonstrates an adequate knowledge of craft and the revision process, but no new insight has

                        been reached and there is no demonstrable relationship between revision and the                                          emotional/intellectual impact of the piece.

            2-1: Fails to demonstrate an adequate knowledge of craft and the revision process. No new insight

                        has been reached. Fails to demonstrate the relationship between revision and the                                         emotional/intellectual impact of the piece.


  1. Event Profile (10 pts). Throughout the semester, you'll have the opportunity to attend several readings. You must attend one such event and write a profile of the occasion. Profiles are vivid descriptions that allow the reader to experience the event vicariously through your powers of description. Profiles should talk about issues of craft as well: what struck you about the work being read? Plan to go early in the semester—if you wait until it is too late, then it is too late. The profile is due at the beginning of our last class day.


  1. Writing Assignments (10 pts). Low-impact, low-pressure assignments designed to help you investigate matters of craft. We may workshop some assignments in class. The grading rubric for these are the same for the Major Writing Assignments:

10-9: Excellent effort at incorporating the rules of the genre and deploying craft elements   that make well-voiced writing.

            8-6: Adequate effort at incorporating the rules of the genre; craft elements may seem

                        lacking, hackneyed, or ill-conceived

            5-4: Minimal effort at incorporating the rules of genre; craft elements are lacking originality;

                        language is trite and clichéd.

            3-1:   Inadequate effort has been given to the craft of the writing, and the piece seems either

                        inadequately developed, ill-conceived, or suffers from trite language.

            Formatting for Writing Assignments:

                        Please include your name, the date, and the Writing Assignment #, as well as a title. Use

                        Formatting guidelines listed on page 3 of this syllabus.


Required Texts:


  1. College-level dictionary and thesaurus.


  1. Handouts posted to Canvas. Please save these on an electronic device or print them out and bring them to class.


  1. Burroway, Janet. Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft. Fourth Edition. New York: Penguin, 2011.

ISBN: 0134053249.

  1. Williford and Martone, eds. The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction: 50 North American Stories

Since 1970. Second Edition. New York: Scribner (Simon and Schuster), 2007. ISBN: 1416532277.






























Tentative Schedule

(Changes announced in class and/or on Canvas)


Note: Readings on Canvas can be found by logging in, then navigating to FilesàReadings. Complete the readings listed before class. We will discuss the reading assignments on the date they are listed.



M 31:   Course Introduction.

            Reading: Canvas/emailed: Rebecca Mead, "The Scourge of 'Relatability'" and Natasha Tretheway,

                        "Why I Write"
            What is Art? Why do we write? How does writing function in our culture? What are our ethical

                        considerations as writers?

            Hand out poems to be translated (WA # 1, due Friday 9/4 by noon via Canvas).




W 2:    Reading: Burroway, Chapter 1 (1-7)

            Reading: Canvas: "The Four Temperaments and the Forms of Poetry."

            Assignment: Please bring into class the most beautiful song you know on your iPod or iPhone or     CD, and 17 copies of the lyrics (please place the text into columns or shrink the font so that it fits       on one page; please bring full pages. Please also write your name on the lyrics handout).


M 7: Finish "The Four Temperaments and the Forms of Poetry" and songs.

            Workshop: 2-3 Translations (posted to Canvas by 9/4 by 8:00 pm).


W 9:    What makes beautiful writing?

            Introduction to Genre:

            CSF: Jamaica Kincaid, "Girl" (also in IW 38-39).

            Canvas: "22" by Jenny Boully and "Detailing the Nape" by Jericho Brown


Wednesday, 9/9: Event Profile Opportunity: Benjamin H. Irvin, Patrick Henry Fellow in residence. (history/nonfiction). 5:30 pm, Hynson Lounge.


Thursday, 9/10: Event Profile Opportunity: Claudia Rankine (poetry/lyric essay). 4:30 pm, Decker Theater.


M 14: Image              

            Reading: IW: Chapter 2 (15-27)

            CSF: Olen Butler, "Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot" (103-108).

            IW: Yusef Komunyakaa, "Facing It" (42-43).

            Writing Assignment # 2 (in class). Post your WA # 2 to Canvas by Tuesday 9/15 at noon.


W 16:  Workshop: WA # 2 (2-3 selections, posted to Canvas on Tuesday 9/15 by 4:00 pm)


Canvas: Mark Doty, "The Six Principles of Metaphor"

CSF: Amy Bloom, "Silver Water."


F 18:    Writing Assignment # 3 Due to Canvas by Friday, 9/18, at noon.


M 21:   Workshop: 2-3 WA # 3 (posted 9/18 by 1 pm).

            IW: Chapter 3: Voice (47-61).

            Canvas: Eudora Welty, "Where Is The Voice Coming From?"

            Writing Assignment # 4 in class: Psychic Distance. Post WA # 4 to Canvas by noon, 9/22.


Tuesday, 9/22: Event Profile Opportunity: Linda Gregerson (poetry). 4:30 pm, Lit House.


W 23:  Workshop: 2-3 WA # 4.

            Point of View

            Canvas: Oates, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" and Louise Glück, "Parable of the



M 28:   Tone

            CSF: Donald Barthelme, "The School" (19-21).

            IW: 307-08 (the short section title "Denotation and Connotation")

            Canvas: Pop Sonnet # 8.

            Writing Assignment # 5 in class: Tone. Post to Canvas by noon on Friday, 10/2.

Anthology reminder/questions.


W 30: Character:        IW: Chapter 4: Character (94-108).

            CSF: Denis Johnson, "Car Crash While Hitchhiking" (288-292).


            Setting:            IW: Chapter 5: Setting (135-147).

            Canvas: Cunningham, "White Angel"


            Preview Writing Assignment # 6 on Canvas.





Thursday, 10/1: Event Opportunity: Peter Turchi (fiction & nonfiction). 4:30 pm, Rose O'Neill Literary House.


M 5:     The Four Modes of Narration.

            CSF: Lahiri, "A Temporary Matter"

            CSF: Melanie Rae Thon, "Xmas, Jamaica Plain"

Writing Assignment # 6 in class. Post to Canvas by noon Tuesday, 10/6.


Tuesday, 10/6: Event Opportunity: James Magruder (fiction). 4:30 pm, Rose O'Neill Literary House.


W 7:    IW: Chapter 9 (259-270).

            Canvas: Beginnings and Endings.

            Other Reading: Review the beginnings and endings of each of the stories we've read thus far. Identify each narrative mode used to introduce and conclude the story. Also try to answer: How does the story's opening prefigure the story's end?


            Anthology Due. You may upload this to Canvas or turn it in as a hard copy (in a folder or envelope, please) at the beginning of class.


Friday, 10/9: Story due by noon via Canvas.


M 12: Workshop Story.


Monday, 10/12: Event Opportunity: Roy Kesey (fiction), writer in residence. 4:30 pm, Rose O'Neill Literary House.


W 14:  Workshop Story.


Thursday, October 15- Friday, October 16: Fall Break


M 19:   Workshop Story.                   


Monday, 10/19: Event Opportunity: Sheila Bair (fiction). 4:30 pm, Rose O'Neill Literary House.


W 21: Workshop Story.


M 26:   Canvas: Jo Ann Beard, "The Fourth State of Matter"

            IW: Chapter 8: Creative Nonfiction (225-237).

            Writing Assignment # 7 in class.


W 28:  Canvas: "Be Destroyed."        


Friday, 10/30: Essay due by noon in Canvas.





M 2:     Workshop Essay.                   


Tuesday, 11/3: Event Opportunity: Matthea Harvey (poetry). 4:30 pm, Rose O'Neill Literary House.


W 4:    Workshop Essay.         M 9:     Workshop Essay.                    


Tuesday, 11/9: Roy Kesey, Writer in Residence, Craft Talk. 4:30 pm, Rose O'Neill Literary House. Note: this does not qualify for event profile opportunity, but it will be invaluable as an educational experience.


W 11:             Advising Day. No class scheduled.                 


From this point onward, we revised our schedule.  I'm not sure which scenario will play out, but am including Scenario A here FYI:



ENG 103: Introduction to Creative Writing

Revised Schedule: 11.18.15

Scenario B



M 30:   Finish Essay Workshop


            IW: Chapter 10 (297-317)

            Canvas: Poem Handout

            Writing Assignment # 8 in class.




W 2:               Poem Handout 2.

            Writing Assignment # 9, in class.


Saturday, December 5: Poem due by noon via Canvas. The Poetry Rubric is available on Canvas (under FilesàWorkshop Material). You should read that before composing your poem. As well, the actual assignment on Canvas has some added details, for those who need a little more guideline than "Write a poem."



M 7:     Workshop Poem.

W 9:    Workshop Poem.

F 11:    Finish workshopping Poem.

            Revision Strategies. IW: 203-208, 211-213

            Canvas: Tillinghast, "Notes on Revision"



Tuesday, December 15, 12:30-3:00 pm: Final Exam Period: Please read the syllabus before coming to class. Review our schedule of readings, making notes as to which pieces you think were most effective at helping us discuss elements of craft. Review the writing assignments that you did in class, and think about which ones were most effective in helping you practice various craft elements. Finally, make a list of students that were most and least helpful to you in your own revision.

            Fill out course evaluations

            Revision and Event Profile Due at the final exam, for which all students must be present. You may upload these documents, but please bring something to read from your Revision.



I understand that students will be ready to go home and that you may wish to skip the Final Exam. Believe me, I cherish my time away from school as well—it's when I get my own writing done, see my family, and plan courses for the next semester. The revised material is due at the Final Exam and your presence is required because I fervently believe that revision benefits greatly from this cook-time, and that your work will be better for that time. Wrapping up the semester on the last class day would not only rush this last important unhurried conversation, but it would short-change you as learners and as writers. Please understand, I enforce this policy because I believe it will give you the necessary time to make better art. And making better art is, after all, the most important objective of this course.

Course Summary:

Date Details Due