Fundamentals of Writing Poetry and Fiction

f, w, o and CRE Requirements Satisfied

“Quiet your mind, and the whole universe surrenders.” —Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
“Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too.” —Isabel Allende

April Bacon,
Office: Swannanoa 207

Required Texts

1. The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, Second Edition. ISBN-10: 1932870482
2. The Best American Short Stories 2013, ISBN-10: 0547554834
3. Fantastic Women (Tin House Anthology), ISBN-10: 1935639102
4. A dedicated notebook of your choice for improvisational writing


Through written work and revision, readings, analyses, and performances/presentations, students will investigate the art, craft, and practice of contemporary poetry (in the first half of the course) and short fiction (in the second half).

First-year requirements

This course fulfills the first-year writing skills requirement (f), the additional writing skills requirement (w), the oral communication skills requirement (o), and the creative expression perspective (CRE).


20% Attendance & Participation
20% Written Work
20% Oral Presentations
40% Final Portfolio

Attendance & Participation

The success of a workshop is directly correlated to the dedication of its members. It is a community which necessitates trust and respect. Therefore, your full attentive and participatory presence in class is necessary not only to meet the requirements of the class, but also for the experience of your peers. Full participation requires having finished all readings and homework assignments, actively listening to your peers, speaking during discussions, and participating in any in-class exercises. Pop Quizzes will be given at my discretion. Use of a cell phone during class is not permitted, and will count against your participation grade. Failure to bring your textbooks and improv notebook to class each day will also count against your participation grade.

Absence and Lateness

I should be informed of your absence by email, preferably before class. More than two unexcused absences will result in the drop of a letter grade, and each absence afterward will further drop your grade by three points. Additionally, if you are more than five minutes late, your lateness will be recorded. Three “lates” will equal one absence. If you arrive more than fifteen minutes late or leave more than fifteen minutes early, you will be counted as absent.

You are encouraged to meet with me anytime during the office hours indicated above. Additionally, you will be required to meet with me twice during the course to discuss your overall progress; conferences are mandatory and, as such, missing a conference counts as an absence.

Written Work
No late work will be accepted.
Students are encouraged to use the campus writing center, located on the first floor of Middle East. Call x6387 to make an appointment or email Reading responses, workshop submissions, and peer responses should be free of spelling and grammatical errors. Students who continually fail to meet this requirement may be required to visit the writing center as a part of your participation requirement for this class.

Formatting: All work should be Times New Roman, 12 pt. font. Prose should be double-spaced and Poetry should be single spaced. Headers: A header should appear on the first page of all written assignments as follows:

Student’s Name
Professor April Bacon
ENG 141

Each subsequent page should contain the following header on the upper right hand side of the page: Student’s Last Name | Page number
Lispector | 2

Writing Improvs
Improvisational writing means writing without planning—no worrying over a sentence or an adjective, and no stopping. It is here that we practice finding our entry into the creative mindset. We take risks with our writing, without judgment. Writing improvisationally generates the raw materials that ease our path to fully drafted works. Students will frequently be required to participate in writing improvs in class. Portions from your improvs may be used for your workshop submissions (this is, in fact, encouraged), so long as they have been significantly expanded and revised. Improv notebooks may be occasionally collected at my discretion.

Live Performance Responses
Due no later than one week after the attended reading/performance. Students are required to attend three on-campus readings and write a two-page, double-spaced response to each. Responses should meaningfully use the Writing Response Toolkit. It is suggested that students attend readings in different locations (i.e., one in the Green Drawing Room and one in the basement of Moody). One of these responses may be ekphrastic—an artistic response to another art—in this case it must be a performance art (dance, theater). Ekphrastic responses should be a half page to one page poem or prose piece, accompanied with a one page description of how the performed art inspired the ekphrastic response (also using the Toolkit).

Workshop Assignments

Work for workshops should be placed in the TURN IN box labeled “Bacon” on the first
floor of Swannanoa (across from Lisa Radcliff’s office) on Thursday by noon and will be available for pickup that day after 4pm. An electronic copy should also be emailed to me ( by that deadline.

• Please use paper clips. NO STAPLES OR FOLDING).
• SAVE YOUR ORIGINALS electronically and on hard copy. These will be required for your portfolio.

Submissions for workshop should already be substantially revised and polished on your own—turn in rushed and poorly reviewed work, and we’ll only be able to get you to where you could have gotten yourself. Turn in the best of what you can do, and workshop can inform you on how to take the art and craft of your work to new heights.

Poetry #1: 1.5-2 pages of new poetry (single spaced, except for stanza breaks)
Poetry #2: 1.5-2 pages of new poetry (single spaced, except for stanza breaks)

Poetry Mini-Portfolio
A packet containing:
• Two original poems from Poetry #1 and #2 workshops, CLEARLY MARKED originals
• Revised copies of those same two poems, CLEARLY MARKED revisions
• 1-1.5 pages of new poetry (single spaced, except for stanza breaks)

Fiction #1: 2-4 pages of new fiction (double spaced)
Fiction #2: 2-4 pages of new fiction (double spaced)

Fiction Mini-Portfolio
A packet containing:
• One original work of fiction from Fiction #1 or #2, CLEARLY MARKED original
• A new version of that same work of fiction, revised and lengthened to 6-8 pages in length, and CLEARLY MARKED revision
• 1-3 pages of new fiction (double spaced)

Peer Responses
You are responsible for carefully reading your peers’ work and typing up a written response, responding to the work using the Writing Response Toolkit passed out on the first day of class. Bring two copies of your typed response to class: you will turn one in to me, and give the other to the writer of the piece. Responses should be between a half a page to a full page.

Oral Presentations

Poetry Memorization
From memory, students will perform one of their own poems, which has been written with attention to its aural and performative qualities. The performance should last two to three minutes. Attention should be given to the style of the performance in relation to how the poem asks to be read.

Oral Storytelling
Students will perform a story, either an original story written for this class, or a classic story rewritten and developed in new ways. The performance must be memorized or mostly memorized with improvisation and last five to seven minutes.

Final Portfolio

The portfolio is an ongoing project that you should be working on throughout the semester. Its contents should reflect significant, thoughtful revision (more than a little tweaking here and there). The portfolio must contain at least three significantly revised poems and two revised short stories from the semester’s work. I’m looking to see that you’ve looked closely at your work and gone deeper into the heart of each piece. These revisions will be handed in along with the original drafts with my comments on them. It must also include a letter addressed to me discussing your performance in this course, the elements of craft you focused on for each final revisions, and conclude with what grade you feel you have earned in this course.

Additional Policies & Procedures

Documented Learning Differences. If you have a documented learning difference of physical disability that requires accommodation, please inform me at the beginning of the course.

Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Any student suspected of plagiarism may be reported to the Hollins Honors Court and risks failing the course. Reusing prior work is not permitted. All work must be newly created for this course.

ENG 141 (2): Fundamentals of
Writing Poetry and Fiction

Spring 2015
Monday & Wednesday 1:10-2:40PM,
Swannanoa Room 209

April Bacon,
Office: Swannanoa 207
Office Hours: M/W 2:40-4:40
(or by appointment)


**Readings are due on the date they are listed.**
This schedule is subject to change.

W, 02/04 Welcome!


“If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.”—Emily Dickenson

M, 2/09 How Poetry Means and Why. Reading:
—Autumn House Anthology—
• “How the Brain Works,” by Margie Anderson
• “Famous,” by Naomi Shihab Nye
• “Discussing the Dream of Culture with Professor Kwaam,” by Peter Blair
• “Solstice: Voyeur,” by Bob Hicok
• “Theory of Everything,” by Mary Crockett Hill
• “The Supple Deer,” by Jane Hirshfield
—YouTube Videos—
• “Everyday moments, caught in time,” Billy Collins (15 mins 13 seconds)–see embedded video to the right.

Turn in Poetry #1 by noon Wednesday, 2/11 and email copy to

W, 2/11 Voice Lessons & Creative Decision Making. Readings:
—Autumn House Anthology—
• “Fair Warning,” by Rick Campbell
• “moonchild,” by Lucille Clifton
• “My Father Teaches Me Light,” by Jan Beatty
• “My Father Teaches Me Desire,” by Jan Beatty
• “Cutting edge,” by Bob Hicok
• “Almost Grown,” by Cornelius Eady
—YouTube Videos—
• “Life on Mars,” by Tracy K. Smith (4 mins 18 seconds)–see embedded video to the right.

M, 2/16 Poetry Workshop #1

W, 2/18 Poetry off the page. Discuss Solo Performance. Readings:
—Autumn House Anthology—
• “Ballad of the Returnee,” by Samuel Hazo
• “Dance at the Amherst County Public Library,” by Cornelius Eady
• “my dream about being white,” by Lucille Clifton
—YouTube Videos—

See embedded videos to the right.

• “I Give You Back,” by Joy Harjo (2 mins 44 seconds)

• “The Type,” by Sarah Kay (4 mins 43 seconds)

• “To This Day,” by Shane Koyczan (7 minutes 36 seconds)

• “It All Started,” by Tracie Morris (2 minutes 7 seconds)

Turn in Poetry #2 by noon Wednesday, 2/18 and email copy

M, 2/23 Poetry Workshop #2

W, 2/25 Poetic Forms: Received, Free, Found. Reading:
• On the Villanelle and Pantoum.
—Autumn House Anthology—
• “What the Living Do,” by Marie Howe
• “Practicing,” by Marie Howe
• “the times,” by Lucille Clifton
• “First Light Edging Cirrus,” by Jane Hirshfield
• “The Bus Comes, the Girl Gets On,” by Nancy Krygowski
• “Pantoum for Attachment,” by Mary Crockett Hill

M, 3/02 Poetic Forms: Received, Free, Found, Cont.. Reading:
• On the Sestina and the Sonnet.
—Autumn House Anthology—
• “Dear Final Journey,” by Lynn Emanuel
• “Story Problem,” by Beckian Fritz Goldberg
• “Incident,” by Natasha Tretheway
• “Sonnetina: The Storm,” by Alicia Suskin Ostriker
• “Sestina for the Beloved,” Sheryl St. Germain
W, 3/04 Solo Performance Rehearsal & Revision Day

M, 3/09 On Inspiration. Reading:
—Autumn House Anthology—
• “How I Get My Ideas,” by Dean Young
• “Taking Off Emily Dickenson’s Clothes,” by Billy Collins
• “study the masters,” by Lucille Clifton
• “Young Nubian Woman,” by Corinne Clegg Hales
• “Hattie McDaniel Arrives at the Coconut Grove,” by Rita Dove
• “Secure the Shadow,” by Claudia Emerson

W, 3/11 Poetry Memorizations

Turn in Poetry Mini-Portfolio by noon Wednesday, 3/11 and email copy

M, 3/16 Poetry Mini-Portfolio Workshop
First Live Performance Response is due (bring one copy to class for me)
W, 3/18 Poetry Mini-Portfolio Workshop, continued

Monday-Friday, March 23-27: Enjoy Spring break! (no classes)

Short Fiction

“When you read a short story, you come out a little more aware and a little more in love with the world around you.” —George Saunders

“To think of a plot that is, as Aristotle says, surprising and yet inevitable, is a lot, lot, lot of work.” –David Mamet
M, 3/30 Voice Lessons & Creative Decision Making. Reading:
• “The Tenth of December,” by George Saunders
—Best American Short Stories—
• “The Chair,” by David Means
—Fantastic Women—
• “Song of the Selkie,” by Gina Ochsner
—YouTube Videos—
• George Saunders, Live from the NYPL (8 mins 22 seconds)–see embedded video to the right

Turn in Fiction #1 by noon Wednesday, 4/01 and email copy

W, 4/01 How Prose Means. Reading:
—Best American Short Stories—
• “Nemecia,” by Kirstin Valdez Quade
• “Train,” by Alice Munro
• “Philanthropy,” by Suzanne Rivecca
M, 4/06 Fiction Workshop #1

Turn in Fiction #2 by noon Wednesday, 4/08 and email copy

W, 4/08 The Language and Music of Prose. Reading:
—Best American Short Stories—
• “The World to Come,” by Jim Shepard
—Fantastic Women—
• “The Young Wife’s Tale,” by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum
• “The Dickmare,” by Rikki Ducornet

M, 4/13 Fiction Workshop #2

W, 4/15 Prose off the page. Discuss Oral Storytelling. Reading:
—Fantastic Women—
• “The Doll Awakens,” by Stacey Richter
—YouTube Videos—

See embedded videos to the right.

• “The Moth and The World Science Festival Present Nathan Englander: Man on the Moon” (12 minutes 20 seconds)

• “International Storytelling Conference (2013): The Power of Storytelling” with Jan Blake (28 minutes 17 seconds)
M, 4/20 Prose Structures: Arcs, Collages, & Experimentations. Reading:
—Best American Short Stories—
• “A Voice in the Night,” by Steven Millhauser
• “Chapter Two,” by Antonya Nelson
• “The Third Dumpster,” by Gish Jen

Turn in Poetry Mini-Portfolio by noon Wednesday, 4/22 and email copy

W, 4/22 Storytelling Rehearsal
M, 4/27 On Inspiration. Reading:
—Fantastic Women—
• “Light,” by Kelly Link
• “The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach,” by Karen Russell

W, 4/29 Fiction Mini-Portfolio Workshop. Second Live Performance Response is due (bring one copy to class for me).
M, 5/04 Fiction Mini-Portfolio Workshop, cont.
W, 5/06 Oral Storytelling Performances
M, 5/11 Oral Storytelling Performances, cont. & Farewell
Portfolios are due during exam week on Thursday, May 14 by noon to the designated box outside my office door
(do not email me your portfolio).

Poetry Videos (Click to Open)






Fiction/Storytelling Videos (Click to Open)