Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Three-minute fiction assignment

Choose between the two three-minute fiction prompts linked to below. You can easily find and read some of the entries in those contests, but you might want to wait until after you're written your story (or not).

First-line prompt: Begin a story with, "The nurse left work at five o'clock." Some of the entries (click on each to expand) are at this link.

Photo prompt: Follow this link to the photo (which you can click on) and additional commentary.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

For Wednesday

We'll go over poems by Gabby and Casey.

We should also hear opening paragraphs by Casey and Mat.

We'll talk about these essays: "Range of Desire," "Everything That's Wrong with Facebook," and "It Was Nothing."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

For 9/11

See the calendar for your assignment.

Friday, September 5, 2014

More poetry reading; start writing

For next time: Read the poems that go from pp. 15-24. Whenever you especially like something, note it, whether it be a line, a stanza, or an entire poem. Look for lines you think are especially cool or memorable.

Do some initial analysis of the poems "Chanson Innocente" (pp. 17-18) and "Those Winter Sundays" (pp. 18-19): What is the literal situation? Who is the speaker, or what can you tell me about the speaker? What is the speaker's attitude toward what is described in the poem? What do you notice about the poem's structure? What lines or parts do you find interesting or puzzling?

Come prepared to talk: ask questions; provide your ideas.

Also, start working on two poems of at least eight lines each. Use the ideas Mayes provides in the back of the book (which I assigned you to look at last time) if you have trouble generating ideas. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


A post! A post!

That's pretty much it.

Check the calendar for the assignment.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Short fiction

Again, don't bother to make copies. I'll take care of it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Over break

Your three pages of fiction are due on the Friday of the week we return, 4/20. Look for inspiration to events from your own life, from things you see and hear (writers often come up with stories based on an overheard conversation), photos you see, or using such prompts as those provided by the NPR Three-Minute Fiction contest, here.

Here is a link to a flash fiction site, in case you want to try something that's brief and complete. You can easily find other sites yourself. (I've written a few pieces of flash fiction, and I was a finalist a few years back in a "very short fiction" contest run by Glimmertrain magazine.)

If you want to read the latest piece of mine, here is the link to the online section of Stone Canoe. Look for my name over on the right.

Also, you're to read Ray Carver's short story "The Bridle" (p. 343) for the Monday of our return. See you then.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Just bring one copy

You need only bring one copy of your essay on Tuesday. I'll copy them double-sided and bind them all together for everyone's convenience. Sound good? So: Don't make copies.

I'm looking forward to seeing your work. If it goes long, that's okay. Don't forget to also read that essay I gave you (prior to finishing your own nonfiction piece).

Monday, March 5, 2012

High school fiction writers?

If you enjoy writing fiction, you should check out this award that's co-sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English. (There's a separate award for teachers, to which I submitted something last year; I didn't make the cut.)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Notes for poets; revisions

Be sure you give each poet a copy of your notes, typed. Either give a copy to me as well or e-mail it to me. I need to see evidence that you're holding up your part of the deal.

Every poem we review is to be revised. I'll expect everything back to me on our first day back from break. Give me the originals as well as the revisions.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Type up your comments on each poem so you can give them to the poet after we've discussed his or her work. See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

For Friday

I enjoyed today's discussion of those two poems; I hope you feel it helped you see inside those pieces, and I also hope it made you think more about your own poems.

Be prepared to discuss, on Friday, Chapter 3's discussion of imagery. Also, look at some of the poems in that section (and the one we skipped, Ch. 2). If there's a poem you'd especially like to discuss, let me know.

Monday, January 30, 2012

For Wednesday

Read Chapter 3, about imagery, up to the point when the chapter turns into poems.

We will, next time, talk about those two poems we didn't get to last time.

Remember that your two poems are due next Tuesday.

Today's lessons:
• end-stopped, enjambed, and caesuras
• sound, consonance, assonance rhyme, half-rhyme, internal rhyme
• the value of the image and the appeal to the senses
• generating interest by using line breaks

Friday, January 27, 2012

For Monday

There are two parts to your assignment:

Read the poems that go from pp. 15-24. Whenever you especially like something, note it, whether it be a line, a stanza, or an entire poem. Look for lines you think are especially cool or memorable.

Do some initial analysis of the poems "Chanson Innocente" (pp. 17-18) and "Those Winter Sundays" (pp. 18-19): What is the literal situation? Who is the speaker, or what can you tell me about the speaker? What is the speaker's attitude toward what is described in the poem? What do you notice about the poem's structure? What lines or parts do you find interesting or puzzling?

Come prepared to talk: ask questions; provide your ideas. See you on Monday!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

First assignment

In The Discovery of Poetry, read p. ix ("Invitation") up to the top of p. 15. Also read pp. 479-491 (top). Keep a notebook, and start making notes for poetry. I'd like each person to generate two poems.

Monday, January 23, 2012

New semester, new folks

It's helpful to have a notebook of some kind.

Aside from that: You'll be getting a book (poetry) on the first day.

Welcome to Creative Writing.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

So here's the situation

Since we didn't have a chance to do more poetry reading/selection, we'll ditch that idea. I do want everyone to work on something to submit to the Windmill. Try to get something to them by the Friday after the Friday that ends the quarter. (Yes, go ahead and submit some six word stories; yes, you must submit something else as well.)

Remember: We're going out and about this upcoming Friday. I'll get permission forms.

Here's an interesting link to a series of postings by writers on the situation of writing in the U.S.:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Before break

For next time, read the Andre Dubus short story and note how it's different from the film.

Also, have your five pages of prose ready for me.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Your new short fiction

I had thought to give you time to work on that in class last week. How about if I give you time during this week? Tuesday, be sure to bring whatever you're working on. Or, if you haven't started, that's fine too.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Here's something else to help you . . .

I came upon this today. It's a page giving us some comments from various writers about their disparate writing processes. Some real great stuff in here:

Three-minute fiction

I've posted the link to National Public Radio's "Three-Minute Fiction" page at left. As I said, your assignment is to write a short (under-three-minute) piece of fiction for Tuesday. You may use any of the prompts that NPR provided in its seven rounds of the contest, or you can operate without any prompt at all.

We'll hear all of them at class on Tuesday. Entertain us!

PS: I actually wrote a poem this morning. It's been months since I've attempted one. And last night I figured out (I think) the section titles for my novelette-in-progress.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Next time

Commenting on essays by:

Jake Ford
Rebecca Lillich
Simon Kozik
Alyssa Hunter
(Correct? Let me know if I'm wrong.)

Again, please send comments to the writer and me. (I'll get my comments out to the previous batch of writers tomorrow; some comments are on the paper copies I return to the writers.)

Revisions: I'd like a faster turnaround this time. For Elijah and Anna, who had their pieces reviewed today, please get your revisions (with originals) to me by next Wednesday's class. Each paper "workshopped" will be revised for the second class following the discussion.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In case I wasn't clear . . .

I expected you to treat the essays the way we treated the poems: e-mail your responses to me and to the writer by classtime (and come prepared to comment). Thanks.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

For next time

You're to read and comment on pieces by:
Anna Rupert
Elijah Möller
Jake Ford
Rebecca Lillich

Please comment on:
What aspects of the essay you liked.
What you think could use "some work" (it's confusing or not as good as other parts).
What did you think the author's attitude was toward the subject?

Monday, October 3, 2011


I didn't think of this till now, but it will help both you and me enormously: Along with your revisions, please submit a document that

 • briefly explains what changes and revisions you've made; and
 • says what you thought of the responses you received via e-mail and in class.

Thank you.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Final set of poets

Please, by Sunday, send comments to the following poets (and me):

Anna Rupert:
Rebecca Lillich:
Elijah Möller:
Alaina McGinley:

If any of those addresses is not the preferred address (I'm going from the addresses each of you used when you e-mailed me), let us know.

Also, I'm not hearing from everyone in class. Come prepared to say something. I want you to speak up with your views, so that the poet doesn't always hear from the same people. Even if you're just "chiming in" to say something like, "I also enjoyed the way it sounded" or "I liked the structure, too," that's useful for the poet to hear. Otherwise, I think the criticisms and problems and suggestions for revision sound overwhelming in comparison, because I speak more at length about those things (for the purposes of revision, and because I'm trying to teach you about writing as writing, not just about writing in a particular genre). Please, speak up!

Monday, September 26, 2011

E-mail info

E-mail addresses for our next four people:


Phil, Sid, and Jake: the previous poets and I are still awaiting your comments.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Left behind?

Did somebody leave behind his or her copies of the poems? If so, contact the poets for copies. (Let me know if you need their e-mail addresses.)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Critiquing the poems of your peers

Here's what I want you to provide in response to the poems your classmates have given you:

1. What did you enjoy and appreciate about the poem? Consider all aspects, including subject choice, word choice, structure, rhythm and ideas.

2. What difficulties did you encounter in the poem?

3. Do you have any questions for the poet?

Your task is not to reshape the poem so it looks like something you would write or something you've seen before but to point to strengths and possible weaknesses so the poet might improve his or her work with revision.

Writers often speak of finding people who are good readers for their own work, who understand the results that they're after—as opposed to readers who want to impose their own template on the writer's work. It's kind of like finding friends who bring out the best in us, turning us into better versions of ourselves. I have a friend who thinks I'm enormously helpful in reading his poems, though I rarely write poetry these days; I'm a better reader of poems than writer of them, I think.

Remember to send a copy of your notes both to each poet and to me. Make clear, in your subject line and the header, which poem you're commenting on.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

First poems

The two poems you'll hand in must be of at least 10 lines each.

That's about it in terms of requirements. You might follow any format, making your lines of any length, relying on enjambment, alliteration, and strong beats . . . or not. It is important, however, as is noted in your reading for the weekend, that you provide the reader with imagery. While you could certainly produce poems that aren't imagistic, I want you to head in the other direction. The tendency otherwise is to lapse into emotion—and emotional words ("I felt sad when")—which is often the easy way out of a narrative situation. Give us something that touches the senses; those elements will serve as hooks for a reader's emotional response.

Please put your e-mail address on your submissions; that way, your peers can e-mail their responses to you.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Justin Torres

Here's the link to the writer I mentioned today, Justin Torres, formerly of Baldwinsville:

Additionally, here's the link to the short story of his that recently ran in the New Yorker:

Friday, September 9, 2011


I hope you're all feeling ready for school and excited about your classes (especially my class, of course). I'm looking forward to seeing you at our first creative writing class on Monday. As for your writing assignments: entertain yourselves; also remember that your writing has an audience.

See you soon!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer 2011 assignment

At the left, you'll find the details for your summer reading assignment. The book is David Sedaris's Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. Enjoy.

Also have a look at the FAQ on annotating, prepared by Mr. Montas. It contains additional links I'd like you to read.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Summer reading

If you're checking here for information about next year's (2011-2012) creative writing classes, then you've come to the right place.

The summer book is David Sedaris's collection of essays Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. I'm told that the ISBN or ASIN listed on the summer assignment sheet is incorrect, so ignore that number and move on . . .

REVISED: As of Wednesday, June 8, the correct author and ISBN are listed online.