Creative Writing

Courses

New and revised course descriptions are available from the registrar's site.

Creative Writing 201 - Introduction to Creative Writing

Making Fiction
One-unit semester course. In this course, students will learn about and experiment with the tools of fiction writing. Students will complete numerous generative, exploratory forays into the world of fiction, honing their craft as well as considering the ethical, political, and personal implications that arise when one transmits language to the page. Our reading list will be composed of work by contemporary writers who represent the range of what gets classified as “fiction” today, such as Carmen Maria Machado, Percival Everett, Stephen Graham Jones, Kelly Link, and NoViolet Bulawayo. Class sessions will be used primarily for discussion of assigned readings and student work. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a writing sample of three to five pages, at least sophomore standing, and consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2022–23. 

The Short Story
One-unit semester course. In this course students will write short stories, and read the work of their classmates as well as that of published authors. Close attention will be paid to the narrative strategies used by writers such as Alice Munro, Jamaica Kincaid, Lydia Davis, George Saunders, and Yasunari Kawabata to help the students in writing their own fiction. We will consider these various strategies when reading and responding to the work of peers. Class sessions will be used for discussion of assigned readings and work in progress. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a writing sample of three to five pages, at least sophomore standing, and consent of the instructor. Conference. 

Creative Writing 207 - Introduction to Creative Nonfiction

The Lyric Essay
One-unit semester course. For many of us, our first impression of the lyric essay is that it’s basically autobiography, or maybe memoir. And this is often the case. But “personal” is also about a tone, a relationship with the reader, a sense of intimacy established, often, through the use of the first person. Which is to say that the lyric essay may look outward as much as it looks inward. In this workshop students will write personal essays that cover a range of genres (such as memoir, analytic meditation, and portrait) and discuss the work of writers such as Montaigne, Didion, and Baldwin, as well as more contemporary essayists. Students will also read and discuss the work of their peers. Class sessions will be used for discussion of assigned readings and work in progress. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a prose writing sample of three to five pages, at least sophomore standing, and consent of the instructor. Conference.

Creative Writing 224 - Poetry Studio I

Awakenings and Connections
One-unit semester course. According to Lucille Clifton, “Poetry began when somebody walked off a savanna or out of a cave, looked up at the sky with wonder and said, ‘Ah-h-h!’” In this introductory poetry studio students will engage in writing exercises designed to help them strengthen their poetry-writing skills. We will read, listen to, and analyze poetry written by nationally recognized authors in an attempt to find a common critical language that we will use while discussing student work. To that end, students will write poetry, both in and out of class, and will workshop that poetry with their peers. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a writing sample of three to five poems, at least sophomore standing, and consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Rearranging the Mirrors
One-unit semester courseIn Cole Swensen’s poem “The Painter Rearranges the Mirrors,” she writes “you open a little door. the door could be anywhere.” This line will serve as our governing precept to create entry points for approaching and writing poems. We will examine the poem as portal, as all-access pass of our own making with any other door left ajar ours to enter at will. In practical terms, this translates to weekly writing exercises and in-depth class discussion while reading a wide range of published works to develop critical skills and creative strategies beneficial to a sustainable writing practice. Emphasis will be placed on encouraging and reviewing student work within a workshop format. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisite: a writing sample of three to five pages of poems and consent of instructor. Conference.  

Creative Writing 274 - Poetry Studio II

One-unit semester course. Variable topics. Enrollment limited to 15. Writing sample required. See specific listing for other prerequisites. Conference. May be repeated for credit. 

Not offered 2021–22.

Creative Writing 321 - Special Topics Studio

One-unit semester course. Variable topics. Enrollment limited to 15. Writing sample required. See specific listing for other prerequisites. Conference. May be repeated for credit. 

Flash Nonfiction 
One-unit semester course. This workshop is designed for students with considerable experience in writing short prose. Students will read essays by authors such as Ross Gay, Lydia Davis, Sei Shōnagon, Sarah Manguso and Brian Blanchfield in order to learn to manage effects economically and to write with maximum efficiency and suggestion. Students will write one short piece of prose every or every other week; critically responding to others’ work, and the revision of one’s own stories, will also be emphasized. Class sessions will be used for discussion of assigned readings and work in progress. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a writing sample of three to five pages, one 200-level creative writing course, at least sophomore standing, and consent of the instructor. Conference.

Inspiration as Reaction
One-unit semester course. This workshop will investigate where our writing (fiction and nonfiction) comes from, and how to provoke it from within us. We will endeavor to investigate the objects of our personal curiosity, and how to pursue our curiosity to productive and entertaining ends. Such investigations might generate reactions to other writings and works of art, music, the news, our memories, animals, and will involve additional delving into our fears, hopes, and blind spots. Class time will be spent in conversation, generating and critiquing work, observing art and perhaps traveling to witness it, show and tell, etc.; a fair portion of the reading for this course will be assigned as we go, reacting to the atmospheres that are generated. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a writing sample of three to five pages, one 200-level creative writing course, at least sophomore standing, and/or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2022–23. 

Mutable Pleasures: Possibilities in Multiplying Forms
One-unit semester course. The focus of this upper-level writing course is to provide students with an immersive forum to engage deeply with and as poets writing across narrative forms. Our collaborative investigation will include a brief overview of the enigmatic prose poem; considerations of the personal essay, autobiography, and rangier, unbridled cadences (manifesto!); and rigorous readings of three book-length experiments that undo the sentence and elude/elide the line. Heavy emphasis will be placed on weekly writing exercises and attentive peer-centered review within a workshop format. The course will culminate with a collective writing project modeled after Anne Carson’s Float. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a previous workshop course, a writing sample of three to five poems, and consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Poets in Prose
One-unit semester course. From prose poetry to lyric essay, and from memoir to microfiction and more, poets working outside the boundaries of the poetic line continue to create some of the most vibrant new works in contemporary literature. The prose poem itself resists the romance of the line to embody a poetry of multidirectional resistance. In this creative nonfiction course, we will begin with a study of prose poetries which span seventeenth-century Japan, where Matsuo Bashō originated the haibun form, through the nineteenth-century French writings of Aloysius Bertrand and Charles Baudelaire, who called for “a miracle of poetic prose.” After considering the modernist work of Gertrude Stein, we will engage the work of contemporary practitioners of poetry in prose such as Syrian Nobel laureate Adonis, who Edward Said called “today’s most daring and provocative Arab poet,” and American writers like Juan Felipe Herrera, Naomi Shihab Nye, Campbell McGrath, Harryette Mullen, Ray Gonzalez, Anne Carson, and the late “Little Mr. Prose Poem,” himself, Russell Edson, each of whom offers a unique road map through the promise of form. Then, as rich an excavation site as prose poetry is on its own, much of this class will explore the various ways that today’s poets work in prose outside of its poetic form. Troubling the waters of creative nonfiction with their own style of lyrical language arts, contemporary poets enliven the current literary moment through experimentation as well as their own slant embrace of traditional narrative. We will read the prose writing of poets like Natasha Trethewey, Mark Doty, Tracy K. Smith, Don Mee Choi, Asha Bandele, Elizabeth Alexander, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Lucia Perillo, Richard Blanco, June Jordan, Dao Strom, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Maggie Nelson, and Mary Karr. Through the study of their work, and our own, we will write toward our own lyric prose, challenging narrative norms to sing true stories like song. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a writing sample of three to five pages, one 200-level creative writing course, at least sophomore standing, and/or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2022–23. 

The Realistic and the Fantastic
One-unit semester course. This workshop is designed for students with considerable experience in writing short fiction. Readings and discussion will focus on storytelling that relies upon a “realistic” depiction of our world, combined with narratives that contain events and situations that are exaggerated, surreal, speculative, and/or out of the “ordinary.” How are such stories similar, and how are they different? Students will read published stories by writers such as Munro, Gaitskill, Hemingway, Cheever, Dybek, McPherson, Poe, Bradbury, Borges, Cortázar, Henry James, Octavia Butler, Kelly Link, Shirley Jackson, Haruki Murakami, and Angela Carter, as well as fairy tales, folktales, and other texts. Special emphasis will be given to individual voices, critically responding to others’ work, and the revision of one’s own stories. Class sessions will be used for discussion of assigned readings and work in progress. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a writing sample of three to five pages, one 200-level creative writing course, at least sophomore standing, and/or consent of the instructor. May be repeated for credit. Conference.

Revision and Beyond
One-unit semester course. This workshop is designed for students with considerable experience in writing short fiction. Often, we talk about writing as if the bulk of the work is in generating the first draft, and revision isn’t much more than a final polish. But most writers eventually find that revision is as creative and gratifying a part of the writing practice as the earlier stages. In this course, students will practice and develop strategies for revision from sentence to story level, focusing on elements of craft as well as considerations of audience, genre, and the ethical dimension of fiction writing. The course will also offer students the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the contemporary literary landscape through discussion and research around publishing, literary community building, the practice of creative writing in the academy, and other timely conversations in the field. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a writing sample of three to five pages, one 200-­level creative writing course, sophomore standing, and consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2022–23. 

Short Prose Forms
One-unit semester course. This workshop is designed for students with considerable experience in writing short prose. Students will read stories and essays by authors such as Ross Gay, Lydia Davis, Yasunari Kawabata, and Sandra Cisneros in order to learn how to manage effects economically, and to write with maximum efficiency and suggestion. Students will write one short piece of prose per week; critically responding to others’ work, and the revision of one’s own stories, will also be emphasized. Class sessions will be used for discussion of assigned readings and work in progress. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a writing sample of three to five pages, one 200-level creative writing course, at least sophomore standing, and consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Writing Resistance
One-unit semester course. Our current cultural climate may more easily stick the word “resistance” to a car bumper than to substantive declaration or action. But as writers, we have the power to remake language with intention—or even choose to altogether reclaim or create language anew. In this open-genre course, we will ask what it means for writing to be “political,” to “resist” through form and structure, content and sentiment. To be didactic and subtle. To be barbed and tender. To affect change. While considering the presence and practice of resistance in fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry, we’ll also ask why or whether genre needs to exist at all. Is that a political question? Our reading of published authors will focus on contemporary work by writers such as Solmaz Sharif, Juliana Spahr, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Etel Adnan, and Hilary Plum. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a three- to five-page writing sample of any genre, one 200-­level creative writing course, at least sophomore standing, and consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2022–23. 

Creative Writing 331 - Special Topics Studio

One-unit semester course. Variable topics. Enrollment limited to 15. Writing sample required. See specific listing for other prerequisites. Conference. May be repeated for credit. 

From Intent to Accident (Unfolding the Poem by Chance)
One-unit semester course. The focus of this course is to provide an intensive, critical forum for students to engage with poems within a workshop format as a process-oriented activity and to test or tease out the relationship between chance and necessity (“Everything existing in the universe is the fruit of chance and necessity” —Democritus), between the subconscious and conscious mind. We will explore ways chance has been used and can be used as a motivating instrument, but with a steady eye on how it introduces possibilities for objectivity and care. Heavy emphasis will be placed on appreciating the draft as a means of sourcing resonance and primacing intuition. Our lively, collaborative investigation will include weekly exercises aimed squarely at stimulating and disrupting our current reading and writing strategies, group discussion exploring wider questions of freedom, mystery, and the utility of disorder. Be prepared for rigorous reading of a range of poetry and essays by poets, artists, and other dedicated thinkers-at-play. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: Creative Writing 224, sophomore standing, a writing sample of three to five poems, and consent of the instructor. Conference.

Limning the Line
One-unit semester course. The poetic line is among the most studied and considered elements of form for poets and scholars alike. A “musical construct,” in the words of Tim Seibles, the line structures and orders its poem—even in its absence. In this advanced poetry-writing course, we will explore the way the line pushes pattern and rhythm, pacing and rhyme, to create meaning through fracture and route. Choices about lineation, enjambment, and stanzaic structure steer the reader through a poem’s turnings and leanings—its “verse.” Taking our poetic paintbrushes in hand, we will limn the hinges which connect the line to every other formal element. “To proceed line by line,” writes poet Kazim Ali, “means not to feel yourself forward in the dark but to throw yourself with abandon into the arms of darkness.” We will read into the ways that contemporary poets write through, around, and about the poetic line and generate our own work following prompts that guide us to the line, the sentence, the stanza, and the poem as a whole. Poets whose work we will engage include Mei-mei Berssenbrugge (Reed ’69), Charles Bernstein, Camille Dungy, James Logenbach, Mary Oliver, Arielle Greenberg, Heather McHugh, Carl Phillips, and even late-published poet Toni Morrison. [Find her limited-edition book of poetry, Five Poems, with original artwork by Kara Walker, in Reed’s Special Collections!] Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a writing sample of three to five pages, one 200-level creative writing course, at least sophomore standing, and/or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2022–23. 

The Long Poem
One-unit semester course. The long-view focus of this advanced workshop is to provide an intensive critical forum for students to engage deeply with the practice of poetry with a specific focus on reading and writing long poem(s). We will work diligently to further the development of each poem/poet, exploring various strategies to generate and extend new work, and giving close consideration to the different modes of time expressed and experienced in poetry. This is primarily a workshop, but each participant will be responsible for presenting/explicating a long work in class discussion. Given the advanced nature of the course, students must have completed at least two course-long poetry workshops at Reed. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: Creative Writing 224, a writing sample of three to five poems, and consent of the instructor. Conference.

Multimedia Poetries
One-unit semester course. This course will be an inquiry into craft and discovery of the multimedia poetries around us and within us. We examine the recent landscape to understand how these poetries and poetics work, how and where they succeed (and fail), and how they might move into the future. We will critically study the work of others, including our peers, while working through regular skills-building creative assignments toward the completion of our own capstone project. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: Creative Writing 224 and one other creative writing course, a writing sample, at least sophomore standing, and consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2022–23. 

The Poem, Visualized
One-unit semester course. In this course, we’ll explore what it means to consider the poem as a visual object, beyond concrete poetry. Looking to films, paintings, dance, fashion, graphic novels, and other media, we’ll test and expand where our poems can live on and off the white page. Our lively and collaborative investigation will include weekly writing exercises and a freewheeling range of poetry and essays. Heavy emphasis will be placed on encouraging and examining student work within a workshop format, but this course will also include gallery visits and engagements with local working poets and artists. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: Creative Writing 224, sophomore standing, a writing sample of three to five poems, and consent of the instructor. Conference. 

Regarding Revision
One-unit semester course. “I don’t write poems,” poet Robert Lowell famously said, “I rewrite them.” In this special topics studio we will focus intently on the art of re-visioning your poetry through multiple drafts to explore how the poem might become its truest self. While not a workshop in the traditional sense, this course will operate closer to the mode of a workshop in an old garage: placing our previously written (and occasionally newly written) poems on metaphorical sawhorses and trying their shape, their sound, their polish or exposed rough edges. Students will be presented with a variety of revision strategies employed by multiple generations of poets while also testing methods to re-vision old strategies anew and in particular for their own voice and their own poems. Together we will work to demystify the often confounding, yet very gratifying, task of revision. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: any 200-level poetry-writing course (instructor may consider exceptions on a case-by-case basis), and a writing sample of three to five poems, sophomore standing, and consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2022–23. 

“When Ecstasy is Inconvenient”—The Poet and the Problem of Livelihood
One-unit semester course. Joanne Kyger writes: “The whole occupation of poet, if it does exist as an identity in the current society, is one that has to do with a spiritual, cultural practice of words, and can’t be ‘bought.’” In pursuit of that ideal, a fundamental concern remains—how then does the poet live? What independence is available in the current economy to the working poet? In this advanced topics poetry workshop, our collaborative investigation will include weekly writing exercises, readings focused on resilience and community in art and art making, and a candid engagement with questions (some dirtier than others) attendant to money, vocation, and viable, spirited practice. Heavy emphasis will be placed on weekly writing exercises and attentive peer-centered review within a workshop format, but the course will also introduce professional practices with recommended tools, considerations, and reservations. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites: a previous poetry course at Reed, a writing sample of three to five poems, and consent of the instructor. Not offered 2022–23.

Creative Writing 481 - Independent Study

Variable (one-half or one)-unit semester course. Independent writing projects. Prerequisite: consent of the instructor and the division.