Hello and welcome to Fiction 21o with Molly.  Here’s some nuts and bolts type stuff with regards to the class you are currently taking.

You Are Here

Fiction 210 with Molly meets Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 10:10 to 11:00 am in the Native American Center, room 202.

Course Materials

Plan to do a lot of reading and writing this semester.  Most of the reading will be available to you electronically, via web links to the work and on eres (forthcoming).  I may also give you printed copies of stories.

There is no official textbook to buy.  However, I’ll be asking you to print out many, many pages of stories to bring with you to this class, so please be prepared for an investment in ink/printer/photocopying, etc.

You may bring your laptop to class for in class writing / to read off of.  This policy is subject to change if at any time I find their presence distracting.

You will want to devise a method of bookkeeping / organization for all the work we do in class.  Everything we write has the potential to turn into something greater for your final project.  I recommend a folder of some kind.

It should go without saying that you’ll bring writing materials to your writing class.

Course Content

The course will be broken up into 3 vaguely distinct units.  Unit 1 will focus primarily on studying the craft. This is done by reading short stories, writing and discussing the readings, and working on our own writing.  Unit 1 will go until around the beginning of march.

We will take a week to do individual conferences about your work and the direction you want to take it.  You will sign up to meet with me for a block of time in my office, times and dates TBD.

After that we’ll begin Unit 2, devoted entirely to reading and discussing each other’s work in a process we call workshopping. Everyone will workshop two pieces of writing during this time.  I’ll be distributing a sign up sheet when the time nears.  We’ll do this for 4-6 weeks.

Then a second round of conferences.

Finally, in Unit 3 we’ll work together on polishing and revising the work you’ve done throughout the semester.  You will spend this time putting together your final portfolio, showcasing all the beautiful things you’ve created throughout the class.

At the end of the semester, we’ll have a reading.  You’ll stand at a podium and read your best work to the rest of us into a microphone.  Do not be scared; you’re going to love it.

Grading

As is the case for the life of the writer, I ask you to take your education largely into your own hands.  The bulk of your grade will be based entirely on participation and effort.  There will be no quanitative evaluation of your work.  What I mean by that is that I will never give you a letter grade on any of your creative writing.  That doesn’t mean everyone gets a gold star: my comments will be constructive and based on how I think the piece can best be improved.  It’s very simple: if you do the work and work hard, you’ll get a good grade, and if you don’t, you won’t.  Having said that, a few parameters.

Attendance Policy

You are permitted to miss 3 classes without penalty.   A fourth unexcused absence will result in lowering of your final grade by at least half a letter.  Six absences = fail.  Consistent and enthusiastic attendance is crucial for this class, as it is largely discussion based.  More than a class, what we’re making is a community of writers, and negligence is disrespectful to the greater writing community.

Tentative Grade Breakdown

50% – participation

50% – final portfolio

Does that frighten you?  What do I mean by participation?

Participation

Participation includes, but is not limited to the following: completing all the reading I assign.  Completing any written work I assign in relation to the readings.  I may ask you to respond to a post on the blog about the reading or turn in something directly to me.  You may be asked to complete writing prompts and turn them in to me.  For the workshopping unit, you’ll be expected to read your peers’ work and to come prepared to discuss it.  Any and all coursework we do falls into the umbrella of “participation.”  There will be specific writing prompts throughout the class that I’ll ask you to turn in and work on.  Some things will be worth more than others.  In order to be successful in this class, I advise you just plan on doing everything I ask you to.  If you do 80% of it, you get a B.  Do you understand?  It may be deceptively simple.

You will also be required to attend at least one reading throughout the semester.  There are many, many opportunities to see authors read their work throughout Missoula, for example, The Second Wind reading Series held every Sunday at The Top Hat. Notable authors Ricky Moody and Susan Orlean will be coming through town to give readings, and on and on.  I will alert you and remind you often of this throughout the semester.  Go to the reading and turn in a quick typed response to what you heard.  That simple.  If you don’t do it your participation grade will suffer.  How much?  I don’t know! Better just do it.

Portfolio

Your portfolio represents the bulk of the work you do throughout the class.  You’ll be given specific parameters and guidelines for the portfolio as the unit nears.

Disabilities

I got you.  Come discuss them with me.

Finally, a few other things

The grading system in this class is subject to change.  There is a lot to learn about the craft of storytelling.  The discipline comes with a whole range of new vocabulary words and concepts you might be unfamiliar with.  If I use a word in class you don’t understand, like “diction” or “third person omniscience,” it’s up to you to take notes, ask questions.  If I decide throughout the semester that you’re not learning these things, we may have to shift towards a more traditional structure with quizzes / graded homework, etc.  My hope is that you’re enthusiastic about the subject matter and you will be eager to take your education into your own hands.

This class will focus primarily on the art of the short story.  If you’re currently working on an epic novel or otherwise gigantic writing project, I’m going to ask you to temper that impulse, for a time.  This is for several reasons: I want you to get used to writing things that have a beginning, middle, and end.  At this stage in your writing, the art of being an “unfinished novelist” has its limits.  We will begin with structured, tailored assignments.  You will then work your way towards writing your own projects and/or expanding on existing ones.

Get ready for this one: no genre writing.  What do I mean by genre writing?  I anticipate that a lot of you will be interested in these things: science fiction, fantasy, fan fiction, etc.  I’m not condemning them and I know there is great work produced in all genres, but I want to de emphasize this kind of writing for a lot of reasons.  Firstly, I don’t know anything about it, and as your teacher, that’s kind of a speed bump.  Secondly, I want you to hone your skills at traditional, character based story telling.  This is not to say that your work can’t have supernatural/science fictiony/fantasy like themes, but always rooted in traditional storytelling.  I suspect we will argue about this throughout the semester and I welcome it, but for now this is my position.  The final thing is that writing in specific genres caters to specific, exclusionary audiences.  For this class, and indeed, always, you should consider your audience.  For the next 16 weeks, that audience is one another.

Please be advised: “spelling counts.”  Anything you turn in should be carefully edited, formatted and punctuated.  This is a courtesy to the reader, and just a fundamental feature of good writing.  All written work should be typed and double spaced unless otherwise specified.

As I’ve said often, a fiction writing class is a community of writers. It’s of the utmost importance that we are committed to always being kind and respectful to one another.  It takes a lot of courage to write and to share the things you’ve written with other people, and we need to at all times be cognizant of that.  It’s fine to disagree or to be critical, but it’s important to treat each other well, particularly in a class as interactive as this.  I’m not in the business of tolerating any kind of cruelty, bigotry or intolerance here.  Please. Just don’t make me mad.

Writers read. Period. I expect you to do a lot of reading in this course, and to always come prepared to discuss it.  I am famous for calling on people who look crabby and don’t have their hand up to ask them about last night’s reading.  I don’t ever want to hear that you don’t have time to read.  Writers make time to read, and I cannot emphasize this point enough.

I feel like I’m forgetting something…