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F/S: Workshop 1-2

INTRODUCTION

If you were holding your newborn baby, would you say, “Dang, that kid’s skull looks like a trapezoid! We need to fix that! Schedule plastic surgery, stat!” No, of course you wouldn’t. (I hope you wouldn’t.) To fix a thing implies that it is broken. Your newborn baby isn’t broken, it’s just new. That weird-shaped skull will grow and shape itself just fine on its own, though it helps if you apply a little care and nurturing. Your story/poetry is like a newborn baby. It’s not fully formed yet. It looks a little weird, but it’s not broken, it’s just new. With proper care and nurturing, it will turn into something you can proud of. Maybe it will even change the world in some way. So at this point, you shouldn’t ask, How can I fix this story/poem? Instead, you should look at your story/poetry and ask, What might it be? What could it become? What are the possibilities? (Kind of like asking, “I wonder if my precious newborn baby will become president of the United States, or a computer engineer, or an artist, or…”) The purpose of Workshop 1 is NOT to fix your work. It is absolutely crucial to keep this in mind!! Workshop 1 is designed to help you explore the possibilities in your story/poetry by reflecting on its characters, plot/structure, imagery, and subject matter. You need to have all of your options laid out in front of you before you can decide which one is best.

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WHAT TO DO

Workshop 1 will invite you to share your creative work with 2-3 classmates, respond to your group members’ work, and reflect on your group members’ responses to your own work in order to brainstorm how to develop your own work further. Group assignments and other instructions are included in the “Workshop 1” document. Before you look at that, though, read on: IMPORTANT things to keep in mind:

 

  • Understand my role in our 3 workshops.  My role in workshop discussions, though, is to remain largely “invisible,” and ensure that everyone’s participating without any problems, answer questions that might arise, and offer only the occasional comment when it seems appropriate. My comments should be taken in the same vein as your group members’ comments–they are suggestions only. Following my own comments is not a guarantee for a better grade. You shouldn’t be engaging in the creative process just to earn a good grade, anyway. One of the main goals of this course is to give you the tools to be your own best educator/creative thinker. Don’t blindly follow advice you might be given. Consider all advice, then make your own best decisions.
  • Understand what the Final Portfolio requires of you. The Final Portfolio is graded primarily on strong evidence of the creative process you’ve engaged in, not on the quality of your creative work itself.
  • All of the above means that you should:
  1. Be fearless: Try something different–write in an unfamiliar genre, or write about an unfamiliar subject. Experiment with craft elements to see what they can/cannot do for your particular story/poetry. Reflect on “mistakes,” and learn from them. Fail, then fail better.
  2. Save your fiction/poetry drafts as separate documents. The final portfolio requires you to submit all of your different workshop drafts, so that I can see how your work progressed. Give each draft a separate file name (for example, “Melbye_WS 1”).
  3. Save your work in multiple places–on your Google Drive, on the cloud somewhere, on a flash drive, etc. I will NOT accept “my computer crashed and I lost my files!” as an excuse for late/missing work.

DUE DATES, GRADING

Your rough draft is due no later than 3/23.

Your responses to your group members’ drafts are due no later than 3/27.

Grading criteria and other details are in the Workshop 1 document below

 

Workshop 1

About Workshop 1

 

Workshop 1 is designed to help you explore the possibilities in your story/poetry by reflecting on its characters, plot/structure, imagery, and subject matter. You need to have all of your options laid out in front of you before you can decide which one is best.

 

The purpose of Workshop 1 is NOT to fix your work. It is absolutely crucial to keep this in mind!

 

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Workshop 1 Requirements

There are two basic requirements for Workshop 1:

  1. Submit the first 2-3 pages of a story,AND 2-3 pages of poetry (that’s 2-3 pages of poetry, not 1-2  poems), properly formatted, by the assigned due date. To submit your work, create a message, title it with your name, and post your work. You can either copy/paste your work into the message body, or provide a link to a Google Doc. If you provide a link to a Google Doc, you must be certain to set sharing permissions so your group members and I can read your work.
  2. Read your group members’ work, and compose a thoughtful response to each work using the “Workshop Response” guidelines below. To respond to group member’s work, simply respond to each person’s message and type your work.

 

Below you’ll find detailed info on these requirements and step-by-step instructions on what to do.

 

 

Workshop Groups

Workshop groups have been randomly selected, and will be posted on the Workshop 1 page on our Canvas site. Each workshop group has its own discussion forum thread on Canvas, which you can find on the Workshop 1 page.

 

NOTE ON DEVELOPING YOUR FIRST DRAFT: If you’re struggling to find ideas for your Workshop 1 creative work, you can use the “Finding Your Work” exercise at the end of this document. This exercise will lead you through a series of steps to help you develop an idea for your story/poetry. This exercise is not required. You don’t need to submit the results. It isn’t graded. It’s purely an exercise to help you develop your first draft, it’s entirely optional, and it’s purely for own personal use.

 

NOTE ON POETRY FORMATTING: Poetry may be single-spaced. Underline and/or boldface poem titles, and leave a little white space between poems—just enough to show readers where one poem ends and the next one begins. DO NOT try to get away with placing one extremely short poem on each page, just to reach the page limit.

 

NOTE ON WHERE ALL OF THIS IS HEADING: Workshop 1 is about exploring your creative ideas in multiple genres (fiction AND poetry). For Workshop 2, you’ll choose ONE genre (fiction OR poetry) to develop from your Workshop 1 draft. At the end of our class, you’ll submit copies of your Workshop drafts along with other materials in a final portfolio, which including another draft of your story/poetry.

  • After Workshop 1, you have the freedom to choose to write either a story or a collection of poems. Not both. The final draft of your story will be 8-10 pages long. The final draft of your poetry collection will be 7-9 pages long (any number of poems).
  • If you choose to write poetry, all of your poems must revolve a single, specific thing: a person, a place, an event, a very specific theme or idea, a color, a sound, a texture, a word, an object…you get the idea. It should be clear from the work what your thing is, and your thing should be very specific (i.e., not broad, general things like “relationships,” “family,” “hobbies,” “church,” “death,” etc.). You’ll get plenty of help in developing a specific focus.

 

 

Workshop Response

After submitting your work, your second step is to read your group members’ work and respond to it. You do not need to post your response as an attachment. Simply type it into the message body of your response. You are only required to write one response to each of your group members, though I strongly encourage lots of back-and-forth discussion—that’s the next best thing to live discussion.

 

Your response is simply an informal “letter to the author” that offers thoughtful observations and questions about the work. This workshop is NOT about “fixing” the work or making recommendations, so avoid offering suggestions for improvement, etc. Just stick to the guidelines below. There is no length requirement for the response. As a guideline, write the kind of detailed, thoughtful response that you hope to receive yourself from your group members.

 

When you’re responding to fiction, write a response that addresses the following:

  • What aspect of this story really interests you: Is it the main character? Another character? The conflict of the story? The plot?
  • What do you believe the main character wants or needs from life, and why?
  • What conflicts or obstacles stand in the main character’s way to getting what he/she wants/needs?
  • Do you think the main character will ever get what he/she wants/needs? If so, how? If not, why?
  • How do you think the story will end?

 

 

When you’re responding to poetry, write a response that addresses the following:

  • What seems to be the central “thing”—the main subject—that all of the poems revolve around? Be specific. For example, don’t say all of the poems are about love, say they’re about romantic love, or fraternal love, or about the dangers of falling in love, or the rewards of loving a specific something or someone.
  • Do the poems spend most of their time expressing emotions or thoughts about abstract concepts (love, hate, friendship, loss, etc.), or do they use a lot of concrete and specific imagery (a cut, a rusty hammer, a vine curled around a rock, an empty room, etc.)? What images stand out to you?
  • Does the poet seem to be writing about his/her own experience in order to express something about the poet himself/herself (“self-referential” poetry), or is the poet consciously using his/her own experience to participate in a larger subject that impacts a larger discourse community? Explain.
  • What other angles or perspectives do you think the poet might use to explore his/her main subject? For example, if the current poems explore the joys of romantic love, which is only one perspective on romantic love, do you think the poet’s future poems might explore the dangers of romantic love, or the challenges, the rewards, the humor, the chaos, etc., of romantic love?

 

 

 

Workshop 1 Grading

Each of our workshops is worth 25 points of your course grade.

In Workshop 1, you will receive 10 points for:

  • Submitting your creative work to the appropriate Canvas discussion forum, properly formatted, by the due date.

In Workshop 1, you will receive 15 points for:

  • Responding thoughtfully to your group members’ work using all of the “Workshop Response” guidelines above, by the due date.

 

NOTE ON GRADING WORKSHOP RESPONSES: If one or more of your group members does not submit their work on time, you are not obligated to respond to it. If a group member does not submit work at all, it won’t affect the other group members’ grades. In other words, if a group member is not contributing to the group, it’s not the other group members’ problem, and their grades won’t be affected.

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Your Work

The blank page can be a scary thing if you have no idea what to write, and you have a deadline looming. Fortunately for you, you have plenty of material to draw on to begin crafting your own fiction or poetry.

 

First, here’s a reminder about where your creative work will be headed after Workshop 1:

 

  • You have the freedom to choose to write either a story or a collection of poems. Not both. The final draft of your story will be 6-8 pages long. The final draft of your poetry collection will be 5-7 pages long (any number of poems).
  • If you choose to write poetry, all of your poems must revolve a single, specific thing: a person, a place, an event, a very specific theme or idea, a color, a sound, a texture, a word, an object…you get the idea. It should be clear from the work what your thing is, and your thing should be very specific (i.e., not broad, general things like “relationships,” “family,” “hobbies,” “church,” “death,” etc.). You’ll get plenty of help in developing a specific focus.

 

With that in mind, you might be wondering where and how to begin writing your creative work. That’s easy: Use the material that you and your classmates have already generated to find the seed of an idea for a story or poetry collection, and then begin writing. Specifically, you can:

 

Remember who you are

Reread the “Creator’s Subject” assignment you completed, focusing on 1) your description of the kind of writer you said you are and want to be, and 2) the specific subjects you said you are interested in. Keep these things in mind as you move through the steps below.

 

Find the seed

Look through ALL of the writing you’ve done so far in this course, including assignments and forum posts like the Alien Anthropology forum. Using all of these materials, create a list of all the things that really grab your attention for any reason—a list of people, characters, places, problems, desires, passions, obstacles, objects, events, words, names, images, etc.

 

Next, skim through the stories/poems we’ve read, focusing on the ones that really interested you, and see if there’s a connection between any of these readings and any of the writing you’ve done. Jot down those connections on your list.

 

You should now have a list of things that interest you. Which one(s) interest you the most? Use those things to start writing a story or a poem. Start anywhere, and write at least one page of a story (not necessarily the first page, just one page), or two poems. The more you write, the better, and feel free to start on more than one story/two poems.

 

Now, take a look at what you’ve written. If all has gone well, you should be able to see some of the subject matter you located in Step One in your writing. Keep that subject matter in mind, and keep writing: Add more to the one-page story, or go back to Step Three and start a new story. Add 1-2 more poems to your original two poems, or go back to Step Three and start two new poems.

 

As you write:

  • Try to employ the knowledge you’ve gained of the creator’s tools so far to continue crafting your work.
  • Be true to yourself: speak with your own voice, remembering all that “voice” means.
  • Write fast and loose: even though you have a subject matter in mind, don’t try to force your work to fit a certain theme, idea, etc. Just write. Let the story/poetry evolve on its own terms. First drafts are always crappy. That’s OK.

 

Finally, make some decisions. For this final step, do some freewriting for yourself that addresses the following:

  1. Summarize what happened as you worked through steps 1-4 above. What previous writing to you draw from, mostly? What were some of the items on your lists? What are your thoughts on the writing you did in Step Four? In general, what frustrated and/or excited you about the writing you did in Steps 1-4? What new discoveries or insights did you make? Most importantly, what genre have you chosen to write in (fiction or poetry), and why?
  2. Describe the story or the poetry idea that you’d like to focus on developing over the rest of this course. If you’ve chosen to write a story, describe the plot situation you’re considering for now (it may change later), and any other major story elements (ideas for characters, major events, etc.) If you’ve chosen to write a collection of poems, describe the main “thing” that your poems will revolve around, and any thoughts you have right now about how your poems might explore that “thing” (that may change later).

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