2013-2014 Course Descriptions

emersonWRITES offers creative writing courses in 5 different genres. Courses are designed and taught by MFA graduate students at Emerson College who are trained in teaching. In emersonWRITES courses, students will exercise their creative voices and work to become versatile writers. The skills they learn at emersonWRITES translate to high school courses and beyond–to the college classroom.

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Fiction: Shaping Your Story From Beginning to Ending

Jamie Burke & Sarah Sassone

Kurt Vonnegut claimed that the shape of a society’s stories were as interesting as the shape of its pots or spearheads. In this class, we’ll work on “shaping” our own stories—through writing prompts, observation journaling, and other imaginative activities. We’ll focus on writing short, character-driven fiction, with special attention paid to crafting compelling dialogue and details. Through reading and discussion of published works, provided as handouts in class, students will learn essential craft techniques, gaining insight for their own writing. Allotted writing time within the classroom will provide students with the opportunity to experience a “writing community” where discussion about their writing can occur simultaneous to its composition. Through workshop, students will learn how to how to give meaningful critiques to their peers and incorporate constructive criticism into their own writing. We’ll learn techniques for revising and editing stories, with the goal of having one complete, publishable story. By the end of the semester, students will have learned all the skills necessary for “shaping” their own complete stories, from inspiration to endings.

Poetry: Messing with Words

Amy Fant

Throughout this course, we will read poetry from a variety of authors, from Shakespeare to Gwendolyn Brooks, share our favorite lines, discuss the techniques that were used to write them, and write our own poems inspired by the work of the authors we study. We will learn how to have fun with poems by playing a variety of games with them. Most importantly of all, we will read each other’s work with care and offer each other feedback. Throughout the course you will learn all about rhyme and poetic rhythm, as well as some skills that will serve you beyond the classroom, for example: expressing your thoughts with clarity and precision, constructing grammatical sentences, and writing for diverse audiences.

By the end of the course, you will complete a final project that consists of a collection of poems that are ready for publication that could also be used as a writing sample for applying to college. Your work will also be included in a class anthology, and you will have the opportunity to perform your work in front of a live audience.

Nonfiction: Voices in the Digital Age

Abby Travis & Dymon Lewis

How often do you post what you’re up to, why you love the song you’re listening to on repeat, how you’re feeling or what you think on Facebook? How often do you learn about what other people think by reading Facebook statuses or following Twitter or reading blogs? The internet has made sharing your voice easy and quick. But why do you do it? And how can you do it so that what you share is meaningful to you, and to other people?

In this course, we’ll focus on different kinds of nonfiction writing that appear online–including blog entries, reviews, and memoir. By analyzing and discussing successful examples and by doing in-class writing exercises, you will work to create your own meaningful, digital writing.

By the end the course, you will have a sample of writing, including two shorter pieces such as blog posts, and one longer piece, such as a memoir. The skills we practice will translate directly to the kind of writing you will be asked to do in high school, college, and beyond. Plus, for juniors and seniors, your writing from this class could be submitted to colleges as a portfolio and/or as a college essay.

Playwriting: Save the Drama For Your Script

Joelle Jameson & Mimi Cook

There’s no business like show business, and when it comes to the world of stage plays, everything starts with the playwright. How will you wield this power when you have the ability to literally make actors come to life in front of a live audience? In this class, you’ll learn and practice techniques to create fascinating characters, build dramatic tension, and explore the hidden meanings in dialogue. Whether we’re mining our own experiences or current events for story ideas, figuring out the best set-up for a joke, or reading plays aloud to explore rhythm and timing, you’ll be honing your story-telling skills to become a stronger, more attentive writer.

In addition to shorter exercises and collaborative writing, you will be guided through writing your own 5-10 page script. We will explore ways theater professionals develop scripts in order to create your own play, which can be submitted to a short play festival, or be used as a creative writing sample for college applications. Furthermore, several guest speakers and playwrights will make appearances to discuss the life of a working playwright and the creative process.

Journalism: Sniffing Out the Facts

Caitlin McGill & Jordan Pailthorpe

All you need to sign up for this course is an empty notebook and a hound dog spirit. We’re talking about someone who sniffs out clues, digs up information, and enjoys scribbling unforgettable details in his or her notebook. We’re talking about someone who’s eager to ask questions when sources give vague answers and few details. So, do you think you might have the hound dog spirit, or want to hone your investigative skills? If you answered yes, then we want you! By the way, we’ll throw in the empty notebooks for free as an added bonus.

In this course, you’ll try out different kinds of journalistic writing on topics you care about. You might write a hard news story on New England’s pollution problems, an arts feature on the newest hip-hop artist, or an op-ed piece on hot-button topics in Boston. You’ll learn effective journalistic practices, develop strong analytical and investigative skills, and sharpen your interviewing techniques. By the end of the course, you’ll have a portfolio of polished writing that can be presented to editors, or used as a writing sample for college admission. You’ll also have the chance to see your writing published online on our class website.