English 111 -- Creative Writing: Fiction

Dr. Eric Sonstroem
Office: WPC 137 Phone: 946-2619
Office Hours: 1-3 TR

Fall 2019
T,R 3:00
- 4:45
WPC 232



This is a creative writing class, but we won't spend most of our time learning how to be creative. Chances are, you're already creative enough to write fiction that you can sell. Chances are, you've already got some great story ideas, if only you could get those ideas onto an actual, coherent story, if only an editor would read past the first page of your story, if only . . .

This course will emphasize two other things besides creativity: First, the craft of narrative creative writing, the 99% perspiration that goes into tightening your plot, hooking your reader, maintaining dramatic tension and suspense. This class will teach you the practical nuts and bolts of character, conflict, plot, and setting with an eye toward selling in an actual market. Second, you can't write contemporary short stories without a deep familiarity with and appreciation of contemporary short fiction. We will therefore read a lot of contemporary fiction, and also learn about researching markets and practical strategies for submitting your material.

This is a "workshop" class. Students must be prepared to write regularly and to share this writing with the class. Equally importantly, students must be willing to read each others' work carefully, and provide insightful feedback.

There is no textbook for this class. All your readings will be found within the Files section of our Canvas page. The large PDF of assigned readings must be printed out and brought to class. Student writings, posted for workshop critique, as well as student-suggested readings, will also be on Canvas, and also must be printed out for class. Expect to do a large amount of reading (fiction, "how to write" essays, and each others' writings). Expect to do a lot of writing, which will be gathered into a portfolio at the end of the class. Expect to submit your work to actual markets. Expect to do writing exercises in every class. Expect to possibly participate in a public reading at the end of the course. In other words, if you are interested in creative writing, expect to make a lot of progress in this class, and hopefully have a lot of fun.

Catalog Course Description: 111 emphasizes steady, productive writing of stories. Practical advice is offered in fictional techniques and in ways to improve writing, especially through revision. Student manuscripts are submitted regularly for response and verbal-written criticism by peers and by instructor in a workshop setting.

The Details

Class format for an average class will be:

You will be responsible for showing up. Attendance is required. You may miss two "personal days" for any reason (and I don't need to know the reason). After that, your final grade will drop 1/3 of a letter grade for each additional day missed. If you have a valid, documented reason for needing to miss more classes (eg, a valid medical reason) talk to me about that early in the course. Chronic or extreme lateness will also not be tolerated, and may count as absences as well. The same applies to failure to participate in classroom discussion or activities. Cell phones (or other texting devices) are absolutely not permitted in class and must be off. Also, you may not use your computer in class.

You will be responsible for writing regularly. You will submit 3 instances of your writing for peer critique at workshop sessions. These need to be posted to Canvas at least 48 hours before we will be discussing them in class. Aim for a story length of 15 to 20 doublespaced pages (4000 to 5000 words). The first story has no additional requirements. For the second story you must note what your initial target market is for the story. The third story must be targeted for a specific market with your 2-page market analysis in mind.

You will be responsible for presenting one "Student Suggested Reading" of no more than 10 pages. This should be an example of contemporary short-story writing from one of your favorite current authors, something you admire and would like to emulate. You will be required to present your reasons for choosing this particular work to the class. You need to get the reading to me at least one week before your reading comes up in class, to allow time for it to be scanned, for me to post it to Canvas, and for the other students to download, print, and read it. All Student Suggested Readings must be no more than 10 years old, and published in a professional market.

You will be responsible for printing out and reading all assigned readings, workshop stories and Student Suggested Readings. There will be periodic, unannounced reading quizzes throughout the semester.

You will be responsible for printing out, reading, and providing constructive criticism on all student writing that comes up for workshop. Print out and read each of the writing submissions, and make some notes on them that you can use in class to provide feedback. Please email me these notes ahead of class, with the subject heading ENGL 111 Reading Notes. Come to class with the story printed out (remember, I don't want you using your computer in class). I will pay careful attention to who provides detailed, helpful feedback and who does not, since this is a large part of your class grade.

You will be responsible for maintaining an exercise notebook and bringing it to each class. Most class periods will include some kind of writing exercise, which can later be used as material for your workshop pieces and portfolio.

You will be responsible for a 2-page market analysis, to be turned in before you submit your third short story.

You will be responsible for turning in a portfolio at the end of class, including at least 3 of your best pieces from the semester. If these are workshop pieces, they should be revised from the original workshop draft. Each piece should also be accompanied by a 1-page reflection on your revision process for the piece and what you were trying to accomplish. All stories should have a market identified, and one story should have been actually sent (include the cover letter).

You should have access to a computer. You will notice that there is a web page for the class, at http://www.sonstroem.com/111/. You will be required to access this webpage throughout the semester, for readings, assignments and other material. Many readings will be found on the resources tab within Canvas. You will also need to use Canvas to access other students' writings, and to post your own writings. Computer access is therefore vital to the class. Written work will be submitted mostly electronically. Any hard-copy assignments should be printed on white paper, in a standard 12-point font, with one inch margins. Your exercise notebook can remain in longhand.

Student Learning Objectives

Learning objectives include developing your skills as a creative writer in a variety of specific ways (character development, conflict, plot, setting, language, etc), enhancing your familiarity with contemporary short fiction and short fiction markets, developing the skills of market research, and developing your skills as a careful reader and a constructive critic of others' writing.


Please refer to your Student Handbook (Tiger Lore) for a complete statement of the University Honor Code, an essential element in the academic integrity of our campus community. If I believe you to be in violation of the University Honor Code I will refer the matter to the Office of Student Life. Penalties for violating the Honor Code can include suspension from the University. In other words, if you plagiarize in this class, I will probably catch you, and you will probably end up in serious trouble.

Plagiarism is the attempt to pass off someone else's text or ideas as your own. If you copy or paraphrase from any outside source, even another student, and fail to formally acknowledge this in your text, you are guilty of plagiarism. If someone else writes a paper for you, or even part of a paper for you, you are guilty of plagiarism. If you are found guilty of plagiarism, you will receive an F for the assignment, an F for the course, and a letter will be sent to your dean. A student who is found violating the academic honesty policy (i.e.: cheating or knowingly plagiarizing) in a course will be prevented from dropping the course even if the deadline to drop has not expired. There are no exceptions.

In a creative writing class, general story ideas can come from all kinds of sources, even other stories that we've read. In most cases, that's not a problem. If you have any questions about avoiding plagiarism, please feel free to talk with me.

Students with Disabilities:

If you are a student with a disability who requires accommodations, please contact the Director of the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) for information on how to obtain an Accommodations Request Letter.

3-Step Accommodation Process

1. Student meets with the SSD Director and provides documentation and completes registration forms.

2. Student requests accommodation(s) each semester by completing the Request for Accommodations Form.

3. Student arranges to meet with his/her professors to discuss the accommodation(s) and to sign the Accommodation Request Letter

To ensure timeliness of services, it is preferable that you obtain the accommodation letter(s) from the Office of SSD as early as possible in each term. After the instructor receives the accommodation letter, please schedule a meeting with the instructor during office hours or some other mutually convenient time to arrange the accommodation(s). The Office of Services for Students with Disabilities is located in the McCaffrey Center, Rm. 137. Phone: 209-946-3221. Email: ssd@pacific.edu. Online: www.pacific.edu/disabilities


Participation/Reading Notes-----


Workshop Submissions/Market Analysis-----




Reading Quizzes-----


Exercise Notebook-----




A = exceptional work, mastery

B = good, excelling in some areas and deficient in others

C = fairly competent

D = barely passing, minimal competence

F = failing

Grade Scale: A 100 to 93 ; A- 92.9 to 90 ; B+ 89.9 to 87 ; B 86.9 to 83 ; B- 82.9 to 80 ; C+ 79.9 to 77 ; C 76.9 to 73 ; C- 72.9 to 70 ; D+ 69.9 to 67 ; D 66.9 to 63 ; D- 62.9 to 60 ; F 59.9-0. 

Copies of student work may be retained for purposes including to assess how the learning objectives of the course are being met.

Schedule of Classes

Due to the nature of the class, this schedule will remain flexible. I will add/modify the readings as we go along to reflect the developing needs of the class.

All readings will be available through the Canvas site.

Week 1 Begins August 26 -- Getting Started


Welcome. Introduction to the class.


Reading: Roddy Doyle, "Blood"; Robyn Carr, "Getting Started"; Donald M. Murray, "Letter to a Young Article Writer"

Week 2 Begins September 2 -- Pitfalls, Raymond Carver Example


Reading: Jerome Stern, "Don't Do This"; Ben Nyberg, "How Stories Fail Before They Start"; Anne Lamott, "Shitty First Drafts"


Reading: Raymond Carver, "On Writing"; Raymond Carver, "Cathedral"

Week 3 Begins September 9 -- Character I


Class Reading: David Lodge, "Introducing a Character"
Students for Workshop:  Mary F


Class Reading: Anne Lamott, "Character"
Students for Workshop:  Kerry M

Week 4 Begins September 16 -- Character II


Class Reading: Ben Bova, "Character: Theory"
Students for Workshop: Sam S, Alexandra C


Class Reading: Mary Kole, “Character Objective and Conflict”
Students for Workshop: Noah L

Week 5 Begins September 23 -- Characterization and Point of View


Class Reading: Michael Connelly, "Characterization"
Students for Workshop: Christiana K


Class Reading: James Smith, "Understanding Differences in Point of View"
Students for Workshop: Taylor R, Ethan P

Week 6 Begins September 30 -- Voice


Class Reading: Dorothy Parker, "But the One on the Right"
Student Suggested Reading: Noah L – Ted Chaing, “The Great Silence” (on Canvas)
Students for Workshop: Jamel F, Anthony S


Class Reading: Lodge, "The Sense of Place"
Class Activity
: Setting and Defamiliarizaton Exercise

Week 7 Begins October 7 -- Setting


Class Reading: Hallie Ephron, "Writing Dialog"
Student Suggested Reading: Ethan P – Ken MacLeod, “Earth Hour” (on Canvas)
Students for Workshop: Mary F, Cassia A


Class Reading: I will bring this with me to class.
Student Suggested Reading: Christiana K – Stephen King, “Premium Harmony” (on Canvas)
Students for Workshop: Kerry M, Sam S

Week 8 Begins October 14 -- Maintaining Conflict and Tension


Class Reading: Bova, "Conflict: Theory"
Student Suggested Reading: Mary F – S. Dole, excerpt from “Surprised by Life” (on Canvas)
Students for Workshop: Alexandra C


Class Reading: Jordan Rosenfeld, “Withholding”
Student Suggested Reading: Kerry M – B. Sanderson, “Ten Heartbeats” (on Canvas)
Students for Workshop: Christiana K

Week 9 Begins October 21 -- Plot


Class Reading: "Plots and Stories" (Note: This is a web link, not a resource on Canvas.  Just click on it.  Please read it, but no need to print it out.)
Student Suggested Reading: Alexandra C, Nix, “The Highest Justice” (on Canvas)
Students for Workshop: Cassia A, Taylor R


Class Reading: Lamott, "Plot"
Student Suggested Reading: Sam S, Seok-Jin, “Things with Wings” (on Canvas)
Students for Workshop: Ethan P, Jamel F

Week 10 Begins October 28 -- MS Format and Happy Halloween


Class Reading: McIntyre, "Manuscript Preparation"
Due: 2-page Market Analysis
Student Suggested Reading: Cassia A, Toni Morrison, “Sweetness” (on Canvas)
Students for Workshop: Anthony S, Noah L


Class Reading: Ray Bradbury, "The Emissary"
Student Suggested Reading: Taylor R, from Draper, “Out of my Mind” (on Canvas). We will also cover Cassia A, Toni Morrison, “Sweetness” (on Canvas)
In- Class: Intro to the writing minor.

Week 11 Begins November 4 -- More Conflict


Class Reading: Meredith and Fitzgerald, "Dramatizing Conflict in the Short Story."
Student Suggested Reading: Anthony S, from Martin, “A Game of Thrones” (on Canvas)
Students for Workshop: Kerry M, Mary F.


Class Reading: Flash Fiction Sampler (featuring "Pumpkins", "Oak", and "Dinner Time")
Student Suggested Reading:
Students for Workshop: Alexandra C

Week 12 Begins November 11-- Publishing Success


Class Reading: Adam Nevill, "Advice for Writers"
Students for Workshop:  Sam S, Christiana K


Class Reading: Bova, "Into the Cold, Cruel World."
Student Suggested Reading:
Students for Workshop: Noah L, Cassia A

Week 13 Begins November 18


Student Suggested Reading: Jamel F, – Galchen, “Have You Ever Met One?”
Students for Workshop: Taylor R, Ethan P


Student Suggested Reading:
Students for Workshop: Jamel F, Anthony S

Week 14 Begins November 25


No Class. Work on Portfolio Revisions. Individual Portfolio Meetings.



No Class.

Week 15 Begins December 2


No Class. Work on Portfolio Revisions. Individual Portfolio Meetings.


Last Day of Class. Reading of revised passages & tearful goodbyes. We may commandeer somewhere other than the classroom for this. Be prepared to read a revised passage from one of your stories aloud.

No Final Exam. Final Portfolios are due Thursday, December 12 at 3:00pm.