Course Overview (Fall 2020)
Updated: 10 August 2020
Who’s running this show anyway? How do I get in touch with that person?
- “Instructor” = Stephen Hebert
- Conference Periods = B, F, and G
- Email = Please don’t use email. :)
- Contact = Send a chat message on Teams.
This course is centered on writing as a practice. We will spend time every single class engaging in writing practice and learning to find our own writing process. Sometimes, that practice will be formal. For example, you might be asked to produce a series of rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter. (What fun!) At other times, however, that practice will be up to you: you will have the opportunity to explore the ideas that you want to explore and in the way that you want to explore them.
The class will require you to produce three major pieces of writing. These pieces will go through multiple drafts:
- Draft #1. Upon completion (or near the completion) of the first draft, you will share it with me and we will conference about it. I’ll give you some ideas about how to move the piece forward.
- Draft #2. This draft will be workshopped with your peers. NOTE: What you write will be read by other students, so be mindful of the topics and territory you choose to explore.
- Draft #3. Based on the feedback from the workshop, you will produce a third draft. This is the draft that will be assessed.
By the end of the semester, students will:
- Practice the craft of creative writing in a variety of forms and genres.
- Develop their own writing process.
- Improve close reading skills.
- Develop a critical vocabulary for discussing creative work in multiple genres.
- Progress in your ability to write more precise and economical sentences.
- Compose a portfolio showcasing the revision process as well as final drafts of original creative work across a range of genres.
No texts are required for purchase. All texts will be distributed to students as needed.
This course requires active participation in both the discussions/workshop as well as in the daily writing exercises. The requirements for the course can be broken down into three main categories:
- Daily Exercises & Notebook/Journal
- Engagement in Discussions & Workshops
- Portfolio of Three Written Pieces.
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
1. Daily Exercises & Notebook/Journal
For this course, you will be expected to write daily. You can keep your notebook/journal in whatever form works best for you. If you’d like to use pen and paper, go for it! If you’d prefer to keep a dedicated folder in your laptop, do it! It’s up to you. However, you will be expected to write in the journal and, from time to time, share what you have written.
Your journal work should show evidence of your preparation for and participation in the work of the class.
There will be an occasional writing prompt, but more often than not, you will simply be encouraged to use your journal as an outlet for your creativity. I urge you to write both random thoughts and more structured drafts, always keeping in mind Anne Lamott’s notion of the “SFD.” The habit-forming practice of writing is your greatest tool for improvement. Always bring your journals to class. You will occasionally be asked to create new, or build off of prior, writings and sketches during in-class exercises.
2. Engagement in Discussions & Workshops
This course operates from this core belief: which each have a creative writer inside of us. However, access to that creativity varies from person-to-person and from day-to-day. Therefore, we view the fostering of that creativity as a process that requires our engagement. Likewise, the practice of writing improvement is also a process.
You will be expected to engage deeply with this process. Just give into it! Explore! Find something to love in it.
You will be required to produce three pieces of polished writing in the following categories:
- Poetry (at least two poems, preferably exploring the same theme)
- Short Fiction (1,500–4,000 words)
- Student Choice: Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, Short Fiction, Screenplay, Mixed or Multimedia, etc.
Your grade for this course will come down to two major factors:
- Class Engagement.
- Your Portfolio.
1. Class Engagement Grade (50%)
As mentioned above, the focus of this class is on writing as a practice and a process. Therefore, you will need to engage in the work of the class and trust that the activities that we are doing are designed to stretch you and grow you as a writer. Some of them will be difficult, but that’s what practice is all about: moving ourselves forward, bit by bit.
In addition to engaging in class activities, you’ll also need to engage in the workshop process, offering both written and verbal feedback to your peers. This will be discussed further below, but the idea here is to value quality of feedback over quantity.
2. Portfolio Grade (50%)
The three pieces that will comprise your portfolio will be graded based on whether or not they are “publishable.” Here’s how that system breaks down:
- Publishable. This piece is highly effective and polished enough to be publishable in a magazine or newspaper publishing high school or college work.
- Revisable. This piece is highly effective, but lacks polish or could be more effective. Thus, it is not quite ready to be published, but with some more effort and tinkering, it certainly can be.
- Redo. This piece is not yet ready for publication or even revision. The piece has a number of areas that need to be improved. This may mean that the author needs to “go back to the drawing board.”
Here’s how letter grades will be assigned for the Portfolio grade:
- A+ = 3 publishable
- A = 2 publishable + 1 revisable
- A- = 1 publishable + 2 revisable
- B+ = 3 revisable
- B = 2 revisable + 1 redo
- B- = 1 revisable + 2 redo
- C+ = 3 redo
- C- = Did not try one piece
- D = Did not try two pieces
- F = Did not try any pieces
NOTE: Grades reported mid-semester will be an estimate based on what you have produced so far. Therefore, students should be advised that their grades could change drastically in December.
A Note on Revision
In this system, you may revise a piece as many times as you like until the end of the course. Infinite revisions! Make it great! Want to rework that poem 8 times? Lovely! DO IT! Keep going until it’s marked “publishable.”
Again, the purpose of this class is to come to an understanding of writing not as something that we simply produce once, but as a practice and a process. Lean into the writing process, revise your pieces, earn that A+!
If you are in need of information, three great places to look:
- The Course Page. The course page on johncooper.org will house basic information about the course, but it won’t be as dynamic as the two options below.
- Teams. The bulk of our online communication will happen via Teams. Consider that a repository of information. We’ll be collecting everything there over the course of the year.
- Classmates. Get in the appropriate #channel on Teams and ask your classmates. Someone will likely respond. It might even be me!
A Note re: Inclusivity
The John Cooper School’s students represent a rich variety of backgrounds and perspectives. As your instructor, I am committed to providing a learning atmosphere that respects this. While building our classroom community, I ask that you—
- share unique experiences, values, and beliefs;
- be open to others’ views and differences;
- honor your peers’ uniqueness;
- appreciate the opportunities to learn from each other;
- value differing opinions and communicate in a mature, respectful manner;
- foster an inclusive environment not only in class, but also in the JCS community.
I pledge to act with integrity and honesty; I will take responsibility for my conduct and treat members of the John Cooper School community with dignity and respect.