This class differs from many other English courses by being structured around not a series of readings but writings. By the end of this semester, you will have written two substantive nonfiction pieces. This course is designed to support your ongoing work on those two writing projects.
At the start of the course, we will set up three five-person writing groups. These groups will meet five times over the semester (weeks 3, 5, 7, 10, 12). You are required to present work-in-progress to each meeting of your writing group, and to comment on the writing of the other members in it. Working in a group will set a regular set of deadlines for moving forward on your two final projects, offer you useful feedback on your work-in-progress, and give you a sense what other people in this course are writing. My hope is that we will be able to keep the same writing groups for the entire semester, but we will check after week 7 to see if any changes need to be made. (See Writing Groups for more details.)
In the weeks between meetings of the writing groups, I will ask you to write a series of short, informal, and exploratory pieces. The aim of these exercises (Xs) is to spark ideas for your longer pieces. And because good writers are avid readers, I will also expect you to read a lot of published nonfiction. I will ask you to post brief responses (Rs) to the assigned readings each week. We will use those responses to start and frame our talk in class about those readings.
Indeed, it is important to note that, while our class meets on Wednesday evenings, the deadline for all writings (Xs, Revs, and Projects) is Tuesday at 11:00 AM. This early deadline will give me time to respond to your writing by class on Wednesday evening. Similarly, during workshop weeks, you will have time to respond to the drafts written by the other members of your writing group. These and your other responses (Rs) to assigned readings must be posted on Wednesdays by 11:00 AM. This will allow all of us to scan the responses to readings before we meet in class. This means that the success of our class meetings will depend upon your posting your work on time. As a result, my policy is not to accept any late work.
I’ve tried to structure this course to offer you regular practice and feedback in the craft of writing. There aren’t many crunch points in the semester where large amounts of work come due, but there aren’t many blank spots on the calendar either. Instead there is a steady stream of reading and writing. You’ll thus do best in this course if you establish a consistent work schedule. Don’t fall behind, and I promise that you’ll finish the semester feeling more fluent, confident, and expressive as a nonfiction writer.
Good luck! I look forward to working with you!