students writing

Creative Writing Certificate Program

English 285: Portfolio Development

This three-credit course is designed for students enrolled in the Certificate Program in Creative Writing (CPCW) and is one of the last requirements for completion of the program. Students complete a portfolio of creative works and practice advanced editing and revision skills as well as textual analysis. The class consists of brief lectures, writing workshops, and seminars on practical matters of interest to working writers. Individual conferences between students and the instructor may be used to complement group activities; special projects and activities may take place outside the classroom in an effort to connect the students to resources and writing communities beyond the college.

Prerequisites:

Enrollment in the Certificate Program in Creative Writing; and one advanced creative writing course (currently English 280 - Poetry Writing, English 281 - Fiction Writing, or English 282 - Scriptwriting).

An additional advanced creative writing course (currently English 280, 281 or 282), which may be taken concurrently.

This three-credit course is designed for students enrolled in the Certificate Program in Creative Writing (CPCW) and is one of the last requirements for completion of the program. Students complete a portfolio of creative works and practice advanced editing and revision skills as well as textual analysis. The class consists of brief lectures, writing workshops, and seminars on practical matters of interest to working writers. Individual conferences between students and the instructor may be used to complement group activities; special projects and activities may take place outside the classroom in an effort to connect the students to resources and writing communities beyond the college.

Course Structure

The primary goal of the course is to help students produce a portfolio of creative works that they can use to pursue publication or continue their studies in creative writing on the baccalaureate or eventually graduate level.

To that end, the course depends on three components: creating and revising student work, reading and evaluating existing work, and exploring the writing profession.

Creating and Revising Student Work

Through this component, students will:
  1. improve their skills in polishing and/or completing their writing samples through feedback and continued revision; the primary sources of feedback will be the instructor’s comments and peer review (the dominant form of which is the Writing Workshop, described in Classroom Activities).
  2. further develop skills in improving their work, which may include conducting basic historical research to authenticate setting and/or dialogue as well as to insure factual accuracy, and/or developing a range of macro- and micro-editing techniques useful in improving a project.
  3. practice daily writing, not only through drafting substantial works, but also through exercises designed to develop the way they understand structures and/or find literary inspiration.
  4. complete a Portfolio of original works of some literary merit, which embody significant ideas and exhibit professional presentation (see section I on student assessment for information about the Portfolio requirements). An excerpt of this Portfolio will be forwarded to the Coordinator of the CPCW for possible inclusion on the Program’s website.

Reading and Evaluating Existing Work

Through this component, students will:
  • continue to edit and respond to their fellow students’ manuscripts;
  • continue to develop and expand their vocabulary and understanding of literary terminology begun in previous creative writing courses; they will practice using these terms in class workshops when discussing manuscripts, and/or through quizzes, and/or through critical writing assignments such as reading logs, book reviews, or analytical essays;
  • read, analyze and learn from Core Text(s) about the craft of writing and the life of the writer; such texts will be read in common, discussed with the class and the instructor, and serve as the possible bases for critical writing projects or self-assessments about the students’ own works or goals as writers; each reading is selected to build on students’ previous reading about craft and technique in prior creative writing courses
  • choose a Student Reading List of additional texts from a list of works by exemplary authors; students will read, analyze and learn from this list, which may inform discussions with the instructor or critical writing projects, such as reading logs and analyses of structure, content or theme
  • write at least one paper of literary analysis or criticism; students should be able to analyze creative works using academic language and methods;
  • heighten their awareness of, and objectivity toward, their own work through meta-cognitive activities such as journaling, portfolio review, self-critique, and other forms of reflective writing.

Exploring the Writing Profession

Through this component, students will:
  • learn about aspects of publishing, such as the role of agents and how book publication works at presses both large and small;
  • learn how to participate in publishing and/or performance opportunities, including placing manuscripts at literary journals, publishing online, workshopping a script with a theatre company, starting up a reading series, or working with an existing series, journal or performance space;
  • learn how to write a sample cover or query letter, author’s bio, and/or writer’s resumé;
  • learn how to research and take part in local and national resources for writers, such as independent workshops, national or regional organizations, databases, publications and conferences;
  • learn about future support opportunities for writers, which may include finding a literary mentor, finding a program where they can continue to study writing on the baccalaureate or eventually graduate level, exploring job opportunities for writers, and researching financial or institutional support available to writers, such as contests, grants, fellowships and artists' colonies.

Classroom Activities

As mentioned earlier, English 285 will allow students to improve editing and revision skills in the genre(s) of their choosing. It will also help them enhance their skills at textual analysis. Furthermore, it will provide them with practical knowledge useful to writers who hope to publish or pursue further education in the field. To that end, students will meet for three hours per week and engage in the following activities:

  1. Short lectures on craft and revision techniques, followed by discussion, which help students draft and revise their works, and establish the standards by which the portfolio will be evaluated. Central to these activities are reading, discussing and analyzing model texts. To that end, the reading list required of each student will consist of texts that the class reads as a whole, as well as additional texts each student selects from a list of exemplary works within their primary genre. (This is referred to as the Student Reading List elsewhere in this document, and the list is subject to the approval of the instructor).
  2. Workshop sessions in the form of peer reviews of manuscripts and/or portfolios in progress. While the majority of such sessions will occur as peer workshops in which the entire class participates, instructors may also use private one-on-one sessions with students to discuss their portfolios in-depth. Students in English 285 will already be familiar with the standard workshop model from previous courses at the College, wherein each student distributes work to the group and receives feedback on it through class discussion and written commentary. The Writing Workshop in English 285 will likely follow such guidelines but also function somewhat differently, since the course will likely be composed of writers working in many different genres as opposed to a single genre (such as in English 280, 281 and 282). Carefully chosen Core Texts, read in common by the entire class, can prove useful here in providing an initial framework for discussion. However, because of the interdisciplinary nature of the 285 Writing Workshop, students should be encouraged to discuss how their own, possibly different, genres might approach the themes and ideas embodied by the student work being discussed. This takes advantage of divergent points of view in the hope that such intellectual cross-pollination will provide the student author with new insights into form, structure, and content. Students in the workshop should not be encouraged to write a poem that simply pleases other poets, or a story that simply pleases other fiction writers, but instead should be asked to produce works that will appeal to as wide an audience as possible.
  3. Discussions and activities related to the writer’s profession, led by the course instructor, with possible supplementary help from fellow members of the Creative Writing faculty at the college, as well as invited guests, such as visiting writers, literary agents, book and magazine editors and other writing professionals. These discussions are designed to answer student questions about practical aspects of the working writer’s life, such as how to research publishing venues, how to write a writer’s biography or resumé, or how to pursue advanced study on the baccalaureate or eventually graduate levels. When possible, the instructor will make efforts to relate these discussions to appropriate cultural events taking place in the college and the city. Students may be asked to attend such events.

By the end of the term, students will have completed their Writer’s Portfolio of revised and polished work, and they will provide a sample in electronic format that can be used to showcase their accomplishments on the Certificate Program in Creative Writing’s webpage.

The Writer’s Portfolio

The Writer’s Portfolio created in English 285 differs from the output of written work students will have produced in previous courses because the 285 Portfolio asks students to shape their pieces into a carefully selected body of polished work. Using their understanding of such aspects as form, content, theme or tone, students will assess their own work and develop a rationale of why and how their texts work together.

To that end, each student will submit a portfolio of polished work they have revised extensively during the course of the semester. The student will concentrate on one, primary genre, but with the permission of the instructor may include work in more than one genre. The work should exhibit increased proficiency in writing techniques and should aspire to the high literary standards set by the works on the student’s Reading List and in class discussion and activities. A guideline for the minimum qualifications of the portfolio are listed below:

Poetry: A minimum of twelve poems no fewer than 15 pages in length.

Prose: A minimum of two short stories and/or chapters from a novel with a combined word count of no fewer than 5,000 words.

Scriptwriting: A minimum of two scripts (or two acts from a longer scriptwork) of no fewer than 5,000 words.

Creative Nonfiction: A minimum of two nonfiction essays, memoir pieces, or chapters with a combined word count of no fewer than 5,000 words.

These guidelines are a minimum.

In addition to completing the Writer’s Portfolio, students will give representative examples of their writing (e.g., a few poems, or an excerpt from a longer work) to their instructor in electronic form. Instructors will provide these samples to the English Department for posting on the College Website.

Field Study

In order to learn more about how writers present their work, learn from each other, and/or contribute to the cultural life of their communities, it is important for you to explore the opportunities available to you.

Step One: Participate in or volunteer at one of the activities from the list below. Prior to the activity, submit to your instructor a one-paragraph summary of what you plan to do and/or where you plan to go.

  1. Attend a reading or lecture on a writing-related issue at a bookstore, academic institution or cultural center, and do some related reading about the featured author or topic.
  2. Attend a writer’s conference, such as the free spring writers’ conference hosted by Rutgers University in Camden each April.
  3. Arrange a day to volunteer your services at a local literary magazine, theatre group, film festival or reading series.
  4. Organize, advertise and host a reading or performance opportunity open to the public.
  5. Spend a day researching at an archive or special collection of a particular writer’s work, such as those hosted by area libraries or the Rosenbach Museum. (Your instructor or the College’s library staff can help you make special arrangements to get access to collections at outside research institutions if need be.)
  6. Assume a leadership position in a writers’ organization at the College or in the community (for example, you could run for office in the creative writing club or get involved with a community group, such as Art Sanctuary or the Painted Bride).

Step Two: Field Study Report. Write a two to three page essay that describes the activity and the role you played. You should discuss the relevance of the activity to your own writing. Include details about people you met, ideas you encountered and activities you performed. What did this activity teach you about the writing life? What kind of contacts or information did you gain through the opportunity? Do you plan to participate in similar events in the future on your own, and if so, why? What recommendations or advice can you give to other student writers who might wish for similar experiences? Submit the report to the instructor by the due date given.

Sample Syllabus

ENG 285 - Portfolio Development- Spring 2008

Prof. Alex Bove
Office: B1-9M
Office Phone: 215.751.8533
Office Hours: MWF noon to 2:30 P.M.
above@ccp.edu

Course Description

ENG 285 is an advanced course requiring students to develop a portfolio of polished, original work, often in one particular genre (fiction, poetry, scriptwriting, etc.). Students will also expand their knowledge of textual analysis and literary terminology, and practice advanced editing and revising skills. Finally, students will engage in activities designed to increase their awareness of their own writing and of the practices required of working writers.

Course Objectives

Students will develop skills in three primary areas:
  1. Creating and Revising Student Work – Students will learn how to polish and/or complete their writing samples through outside feedback and continued revision; further develop skills in editing; learn to research period detail or use outside texts to solve problems in their own work; practice regular daily writing; and complete a manuscript of significant length and some literary merit.
  2. Reading and Evaluating Existing Literature – Students will continue to develop a critical vocabulary relevant to their genre(s); read, analyze and learn from a list of works by exemplary authors in their field; and heighten their understanding of their own work.
  3. Exploring the Writing Profession – Students will learn about important aspects of publishing; learn how to participate in publishing and/or performance opportunities relevant to their genre(s); learn how to document their careers through various forms of professional writing (cover/query letters, authors’ bios, and/or writers’ resumés); learn how to take part in local and national resources for writers; and learn about future support opportunities for writers (mentors, undergraduate/graduate programs, grants, conferences, etc.)

Required Core Texts

  1. “The Vintage Book of Contemporary Poetry”. McClatchy, J.D., ed.
  2. “30/30: Thirty American Stories from the Last Thirty Years”. Shreve, Porter and B. Minh Nguyen, eds.
  3. “Glengarry Glen Ross”. Mamet, David.
  4. Handouts from the instructor.

(This list will be supplemented by each student’s self-selected Student Reading List, in which students will read additional books in their primary genre. A separate handout on how to choose this list will be distributed by the instructor.)

Course Requirements and Grades

Grades will be calculated as follows:

A = 90 - 100
B = 80 - 89
C = 70 - 79
D = 65 - 69
F = Less than 65

The value of the work done for class will generally mirror the amount of class time spent on it. In other words, the Writer’s Portfolio and the creative work produced by students will be worth approximately 50% of a student’s overall grade. Activities related to the critical analysis of texts will be worth approximately 30%. Activities related to learning about the writing profession will be worth approximately 20%.

Creative Work 50%

Portfolio (50%) By the end of the semester, students will submit a polished portfolio of work in their genre(s). The portfolio must include: a minimum of twelve poems no fewer than 15 pages in length; or a minimum of two short stories and/or novel chapters with a combined word count of no fewer than 5,000 words; or two or more scriptworks (or two or more Acts from a multi-act play) of no fewer than 5,000 words; or a minimum of two nonfiction essays, chapters or memoir pieces with a combined word count of no fewer than 5,000 words. These are minima, and it is expected that students who hope to receive an A will exceed these amounts.

Critical Analysis of Texts 30%

Student Reading List (10%) - At the beginning of the semester, each student will create a list of exemplary works in his/her genre. The student will submit this list to the instructor for approval, will read each of the works, and will write several critiques, an annotated bibliography, and one critical essay about works from his/her list.

Critical Analysis (10%) - Students will be required to complete several assignments that measure their development in this area including: an analysis essay on a work of their choosing; workshop reports (i.e. critiques of other students’ works); and critiques of texts by professional writers.

Exams (10%) - Students will be tested on texts/materials covered in class and, perhaps, on ancillary materials related to the writing craft. Tests will consist primarily of essay questions.

Writing Profession and Participation 20%

Writing Profession (10%) - Students will explore opportunities in their field and create relevant professional documents including sample cover/query letters, author’s bios, and/or writer’s resumés.

Participation/Attendance/Conferences (10%) - Students are expected to attend class regularly and to take part in class activities. Repeated lateness/absence and/or lack of participation in class will adversely affect this portion of the grade. Students will also be required to meet with the Instructor regularly to discuss strategies for editing/revising their portfolios.