Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

Teaching/Pedagogy: Presentation Samples


“Take Me To The River”--Designing Writing Exercises for Yourself and Others (T)

Ted Deppe

The longer you write, the more likely it is that you will be asked to offer writing prompts for groups of friends, school classes, prisons, or other groups.  There are fine collections of writing exercises that you can draw from, but there’s also real pleasure in creating your own exercises which you can tailor for the particular occasion.  What makes for an effective writing prompt?  Where do they come from?  How do you continue once you’ve got a rough draft generated?  We’ll try out some exercises that Annie Deppe and I have created, and I’ll talk about how we came up with them.

Participants who email me a favorite exercise by 15 December 2011 (either one you’ve created or one you’ve encountered elsewhere, in which case please give credit to your source) will receive by email a collection of writing prompts contributed by the group that you can use, alone or when leading others.  Handouts with some exercises Annie Deppe and I have created will be distributed during the presentation. This class will be for writers of any genre.  Come prepared to generate some new work of your own and /or to get fresh ideas of where to take works-in-progress.

Suggested Reading:

Robin Behn, The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets Who Teach            

Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter, What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers

Sherry Ellis, Now Write! NonFiction: Memoir, Journalism, and Creative Nonfiction Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers

Teaching with Agha Shahid Ali: Poetry for Prosers (and Poets too!) (T)

Kazim Ali

The poetry of Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali is unsurpassed in its music, carefully plotted rhythm and rhyme, devotion to both Eastern and Western poetic forms, epic in its scope, intimate in its focus on the individual human spirit. We will read Ali's work with eye toward how to use Ali as a text in the creative writing classroom, whether in poetry, fiction or creative non-fiction

Required Reading:

Agha Shahid Ali, The Veiled Suite: Collected Poems

Suggested Reading (in this text):
I will discuss some but not all of these poems. Read as many as you can.
pgs 29, 42-43, 50, 61-64, 69-71, 98-103, 107-109, 121-135, 152-153, 171-195, 199-210, 225-226, 234-241, 250-278, 282-285, 327-328, 341-344, 351, 363-364, 371-373

Agha Shahid Ali, “The Ghazal in America: May I?” in After New Formalism, Annie Finch, editor

Kazim Ali, “The Guardian of the Gates of Paradise” in Orange Alert

Pedagogy for Prison: What I Have Learned Teaching Poetry Behind the Walls (S, T)

Cara Benson

What began as a three month teaching practicum for my MFA degree has blossomed into a grant funded and now accredited college course for inmates. My students are frequently published on the “outside,” and the evolving conversation has been instrumental in my own development as a writer and a person. We know what William Carlos Williams says of poetry to be true: “men die every day from a lack of what is found there.” This presentation will combine theory, anecdote, writing, and lively discussion to offer participants the opportunity to explore the teaching of writing as a liberatory and creative practice. We will also examine the ways in which writing instructors need to be conscious of their roles in offering academic vocabularies to already marginalized voices; in other words, how to teach the "rules" in order to transcend them. Specific tips and exercises for incorporating the student into her learning and evaluation processes will be discussed. 

Required Readings:

Gloria Anzaldúa, “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter To 3rd World Women Writers” in Fire and Ink: An Anthology of Social Action Writing

Langston Hughes, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”

Suggested Readings:

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

Tricks of the Trade:  A Practical Seminar in Teaching Creative Writing (T)

Joan Connor, Aaron Hamburger (Moderator) Nancy Holder

This hands-on seminar will compliment the panel discussion of Teaching Creative Writing, and will consist of interactive activities to give students the experience of conducting a creative writing class. We’ll engage in icebreakers, talk about laying down ground rules, generate reading and craft exercises, role-play workshops, and talk about ways to bring a class to a satisfactory conclusion.  The presentation will be led by Aaron Hamburger, with the help of Nancy Holder and Joan Connor.  

Ideally, it will not only give some pointers on how to teach creative writing, but also inspire creative writing students with practical activities they might want to try with their own work. 

Required Reading: Choose one:

Michael J. Bugeja, The Art and Craft of Poetry

Gotham Writing Workshop Guide to Writing Fiction

William Zinsser, On Writing Well

Meter for Beginners: Making Old Music New in the Modern Classroom (C, T)

Alexandra Oliver

Despite a lively renaissance in what many refer to as “formal” poetry, the teaching of meter continues to be a controversial issue in many educational environments. Metrical poetry and the study of meter is often viewed as a fusty, antiquated, and politically conservative enterprise. This could not be further than the truth; meter affords the student not only the opportunity to understand the workings of great poems of the past, but also the chance to create (and perhaps break down) intriguing frameworks for new poetic material. In this presentation, we will examine new ways of reading and appreciating meter, as well as explore lively and innovative ways of bringing meter (back) into the classroom.

Required Reading: Sections from A Poet's Ear (Finch), The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within (Fry), Poetic Meter and Poetic Form (Fussell), Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse (Oliver), packet of assorted poems 

Suggested Reading:

Stephen Fry, The Ode Less Taken

Poetic Meter and Poetic Form, Paul Fussell

Suggested Listening:

Gwendolyn Brooks reads “We Real Cool”

Edna St. Vincent Millay reads “Love is Not All”

Dylan Thomas Reads “Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London”

Carolyn Kizer reads “Mud Soup” (skip to 5’32)

Writing through the Walls: Teaching Creative Writing in Prison (T, S)

Susan Renee Richardson

As writers, we use words to express our experience of life. Words crafted into poetry and prose have the power to transcend the bounds of our individual lives, giving us a place within the history of humankind. In the prison system, where the identity and voice of each inmate has been stripped away, the written word offers reconnection. Join us as we explore what it means as writers and teachers to bring the art and craft of creative writing to those who have lost their place at the common table.  

Required Reading:

Robin Casarjian, Houses of Healing: A Prisoner's Guide to Inner Power and Freedom (any 50 pages)

Amanda Eyre Ward, Sleep Toward Heaven (any 50 pages)

Etheridge Knight, “Belly Song(poem)