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Instructor Course Descriptions - Catherine Rankovic

Creative Nonfiction

In this group-workshop course, students read, study and discuss examples of excellent creative nonfiction and write four drafts each of two complete essays, finishing the course with two well-crafted and highly polished examples of creative nonfiction. Creative nonfiction, also called "the literature of reality," includes personal essays, memoirs, travel or nature writing, nonfiction narratives, and cultural criticism such as reviews. Individual lessons and writing exercises focus on topic selection, scene writing, observation and description, dialogue reconstruction, describing people, and research on factual material. We aim for work of publishable quality.

Flash Nonfiction

Philip Graham, the co-founder and nonfiction editor of Ninth Letter Arts and Literary Journal, writes: “The memories we have of our lives are not a continuous narrative. Instead, they are more akin to the several arcs of a skipping stone…” He goes on to suggest that rather than having a beginning and end, flash nonfiction has a point of entry and a point of departure. Phillip Lopate suggests flash nonfiction essays offer “…the paradoxical effect of slowing down our attention and encouraging an expansion of the moment…” Come practice and experience this emerging and popular brief essay form, the perfect medium for experimentation, insight, and illumination.

Adv Studies in Craft of Poetry

I’d subtitle this course “How to Improve Your Poetry,” or “How to Create Poems that Move Your Readers.” After writing your first draft, which is like a pencil sketch, optimize your poem using classic and modern poetic techniques to create a memorable full-color experience for your reader. The poets who move you have skills, nerve, and techniques; you can be like them. Feedback and revision will support you in acquiring the ability to write poems of consistent quality. You will also learn the lingo. If you don’t know what syllabics or enjambments are, you will learn. Poetry exercises will encourage you to free your imagination. Teaching us via their textbooks are contemporary poets Mary Oliver and Ted Kooser.

The Poetry Collection

When 40 to 70 poems have been written and perfected, the poet’s next challenge is to arrange them into a book. This is too large a task for pure intuition and, we sense, too important to leave to chance. So a poetry collection is almost always carefully curated by the poet, who is mindful that its arrangement is a public act that will affect the book’s reception. A book of poems can be arranged by theme, as a journey or cycle, in order of urgency, to “teach the reader how to read me,” or even along the lines of a banquet table or a double helix. But the book’s arrangement—a pattern of speech, space and silence—should be intelligible and fit the content. The keywords unity, proportion, and radiance, plus our intuition, will give us a place to start our discussions. Our textbooks are two acclaimed and memorable poetry collections by Ted Kooser and Kim Addonizio.

Manuscript Preparation & Publication

Learning how confidently to submit acceptable manuscripts to appropriate markets is the goal of this practical course. Students must choose one of their own manuscripts to work with for the entire quarter. This manuscript must consist of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry (not drama or screenplays), and range from 20 pages to book-length, but it must be completed, a single unit, and ready for submission. We assume all workshopping and revising has been done, and focus is on the next step: publication. We will read and learn about how the industry works and conventional and new approaches to publication and other forms of manuscript dissemination. Learn the standards for presentation and formatting, practice writing queries, cover letters, and synopses and share them, target likely publishers, learn how to interact with editors, and perform market research. Writing is an art; publishing is a business. This course encourages a businesslike and committed approach.

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