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In the Writing Classroom

English writing major Angel offers a selection of her senior thesis work (a short story about identity and acceptance in the church) in a culminating public reading attended by students, faculty, and the general public.

How the writing track works:

We encourage students to dive right into the creative process through our Intro to Creative Writing course so that you can study several genres and practice workshop techniques in a supportive community of writers. Once you declare the writing major (which can be successfully combined with other majors or minors), you will also take literature courses, such as Irish Literature or Global Fiction, that deepen understanding of the forms of writing.

Next, you select from among advanced writing courses that focus on techniques within a genre—short fiction, drama, poetry, autobiography, essay, etc. These courses develop craft and skill in the genre as you read more deeply and get practice workshopping your work and the writing of others.  

Many of our writing majors also take the Writing Assistant Training Seminar, which prepares them for paid positions as writing tutors or writing fellows. Tutors work with undergraduate students throughout the College of Arts and Sciences. Our fellows team up with a particular professor of a writing-intensive course on campus, be it Chemistry, Business, or Dance, to accompany students through the drafting and revision process of a significant paper.

Finally, the major culminates with a senior seminar for which you select one genre, develop it fully, and prepare a manuscript for publication. You also give a public reading of your work.

The writing track becomes a small learning community that encourages you to find your voice and to embrace the transformative power of the written and spoken word.  Inklings, our student-run literary journal, is one of the ways this happens. Poetry readings in the Jammin' Java and original plays debuted in the Performing Arts Living Room are other ways our writing majors share with the Eastern community.

What you might do in a creative writing class:

  • Write a communal poem, an "exquisite corpse," as the French poets used to call it.  Take a sheet of notebook paper and write two lines of free verse.  Then, fold the paper over so only one line is visible.  Pass this line to the person on your left, who will had his/her two lines and fold it over so that only one line appears.  Continue this process until your poem returns to you.  Unfold, and discover the mystery of collaborative creative work.
  • Read Nectar from a Sieve and let your heart be broken by the realities of extreme poverty.  In small groups, imagine taking away one thing from your life, then another, then another, until you are left with nothing.  How will you survive?  What kind of transformative hope might gird you?  Will it be enough?
  • Create a timeline of your life, from birth to present day, over several sheets of paper.  Begin to note key moments -- births, deaths, illnesses, tragedies, triumphs.  Now begin to note smaller moments.  Let the random memories flow, from playing with dried macaroni noodles on a linoleum floor to letting go of that blue balloon at the street fair and watching it join the sky.
  • Take an actual event from your life and fictionalize it.  Change the protagonist's gender and age, as well as the setting.  If you were bit by a goose near a pond when you were four, imagine that you were bitten by a lion in a gigantic circus when you were forty.
  • Take a pile of building blocks and build a sculpture.  Analyze your choices -- what are you doing with color and shapes?  What pleases you about your sculpture? Is it the color contrast, the daring temptation of gravity, the complement of shapes fitting together?  Consider how you might structure the sculpture that is your segmented memoir essay.

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