Distinguished Visiting Writers
About the program
Each year we bring in distinguished writers to teach topic-based, upper-level creative writing courses. We rotate among fiction, poetry, journalism, creative non-fiction, children's literature, and a range of topics. While on campus, the writers also give public readings and/or lectures.
2016 - 2017 Courses
Screenwriting: Creating Characters (ENG 382)
Brian Sloan, Block 3
Great films rely on great characters. In this screenwriting workshop, students will study and explore techniques for creating their own dynamic, character-driven films with special attention on using the tools of visual storytelling to create cinematic shorts with memorable characters. Using a series of writing exercises as well as in-class readings with actors, students will create and shape their characters from the ground up and then place them into narratives that help define and, most importantly, reveal who their characters are. Genre will be a secondary consideration as character takes center stage to create compelling scripts that are honest, emotional, and even personal. Students will not only write their own screenplays but they also will be expected provide thoughtful and constructive feedback on all other students’ work throughout the development process of the workshop’s scripts. Class participation, creative collaboration, and critical thinking about other students’ work is essential to success in this workshop. Students will create a 12-15 page screenplay that displays strong character development, with additional focus on act/scene structure and visual storytelling film language.
Live Literature: The Personal Is Political (ENG 383)
Kate Harding, Block 6
Sharing personal stories is a vital part of creating social change, but for creative writers, trying to send a message or teach a lesson can drain a story of its value as art and/or entertainment. The emerging nonfiction genre of “live lit”—short memoirs written for performance—is an excellent medium for exploring the personal and the political in creative work. How can we broach political subjects without coming across as excessively preachy or wonky? How can we draw broader social points out of our personal stories, without seeming “whiny” or narcissistic? What’s the difference between writing for the page and for a live audience? Through workshopping, class discussion, field trips, and performance practice, we’ll move toward balancing the persuasive power of a political speech with the delight of well-crafted essay.
2015 - 2016 Courses
Art, Comics, and Transformative Journalism (ENG 381)
Jacqueline Roche, Block 3
What is the role of the image in journalism? Why do photographs resonate differently from text? How can art tell a factual story? In this hands-on course, students will explore the burgeoning world of visual journalism, examining comic books, infographics, and even virtual reality landscapes as platforms for sharing information and encouraging empathy. As a capstone for the course, students will put observed methods into practice, ultimately creating transformative visual journalism projects of their own. The goal of this course is to explore how art combined with reporting can deepen public understanding of and engagement with complex topics. Readings will include critically acclaimed non-fiction graphic novels and comic books, plays, immersive infographics, and more. Students do not need to have a journalism or arts background to enroll but must be prepared to actively participate in a course that combines theory, analysis, and creative practice. You will make something new every day.
Reporting from the Margins (ENG 382)
Deborah Jian Lee, Block 7
Communities form around any number of factors: class, race, gender, sexuality, faith and politics, as well as shared narratives as broad as migration or homelessness and as specific as refugee girls escaping forced marriages or LGBTQ evangelicals clashing with church authorities. As a class we will explore various marginalized communities, learning to identify what makes each unique and how to capture their stories with nuance, respect and complexity. What sets these groups apart? What knits them together? What impact are they having on the rest of society? Students will engage these questions through readings, discussions, writing exercises, guest speakers and field trips. Most importantly, students will answer these questions and hone their journalistic skills in the real world. Students will employ the tools of immersion journalism to shed light on communities that exist on the margins of society. Each student will choose one community to focus on for the entire term; this is their “beat.” They will spend most of their time immersed in their beat, applying classroom lessons on the ground. They will learn how to find fresh stories, how to choose strong sources, how to conduct revealing interviews, how to ensure balance and accuracy in reporting, how to structure stories and how to write cinematically.
2014 - 2015 Courses
Form & Technique in Fabulist Fiction (ENG 381)
Lily Hoang, Block 4
This class will navigate the use of magic from Homer to the contemporary to student writing. Students will read texts employing magic in traditional and non-traditional ways as examples for the generation of new creative fabulist materials. Note: this is not a class on genre writing, per se; it is an exploration into literary magic and the boundaries it dissolves.
To Look on Meaning Bare: The Art of Literary Translation (ENG 382)
Mira Rosenthal, Block 5
In this course, we will challenge Robert Frost’s absolutist view that poetry is what’s lost in translation. In our exploration of the particularities and flexibility of different languages, we will delve into difficulties of dialect, puns and wordplay, cultural references, and other translation conundrums. Participants will develop a literary translation project that will then be workshopped and revised during the block. Readings (including key theoretical essays and multiple translations of individual works of literature) will familiarize students with issues of methodology, ideas for experimentation, and ways of controlling the style, tone, and reception of a translation. Students need not be fluent in a second language, though good reading knowledge is required.
Recent visiting writers and courses
- Sandra Beasley, "Stranger Than Fiction: Creative Writing about the Sciences"
- Jennifer Hemmingsen, "Watchdog Journalism"
- Pulitzer-Prize nominee Angie Estes, "Ekphrastic Writing"
- Michael Martone, "Writing the Rural"
- Children's writer Sarah Prineas, "The Protagonist Must Protag: a Development of Character and Action"