This four-week online course utilizes creative games, rules, restrictions, and templates to generate pages of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or hybrid work.
During the first three weeks, students will complete weekly writing exercises designed to be highly generative. Some experiments will bear fruit, some won’t, but the point is to be experimental, playful, and productive. In the fourth week, students will sift through their work to find the gems worth polishing, and the class will conclude with a constructive workshop of these selected pieces and discussion of next steps.
Readings will supplement writing assignments, and will include work by Harry Mathews, Lynn Crawford, pieces from 100 Word Story (edited by Grant Faulkner and Lynn Mundell), Dr Seuss, Italo Calvino, and Natalie Goldberg.
Week 1: Surrealist Games: Surrealist artists like Andre Breton, Rene Magritte, and Max Ernst developed games like The Exquisite Corpse as a means of bypassing cliched or conventional thinking and accessing a deeper creative truth. This week, we will make play our work, simultaneously following and breaking rules to create stories, essays, poems, or promising fragments to return to later.
Week 2: Oulipo: Oulipo is a (mostly) French group of writers who use constraints to create literary work. Constraints can range from mathematical problems to restrictions around the use of certain letters. Famously, George Perec’s novel La disparition was written without the letter “e”. We will try out multiple literary constraints and write until our brains hurt. But it might be fun.
Week 3: Forms and Templates: This week we will do a lot of counting. We’ll count stresses, syllables, and words to create prose and poetry. Options for work will include Shakespearean sonnets, haiku sequences, and fiction or nonfiction stories with exactly 100 words.
Week 4: Gem Polishing: Students will read through all their work and explore the transformation of raw material into polished work, using cutting, pasting, combining, recombining, and plain old editing techniques. We will workshop pieces and discuss ideas for moving forward.