Students will complete four short creative writing assignments. Most will require less than a typed, double-spaced page of text. All assignments will be completed online, in blogs. Each completed assignment should appear in your blog by the deadline.
Please use Blogger or WordPress for your blog, and start a new blog rather than tacking on to an existing one. Please do not use Instagram or other social media sites.
In all of these exercises, your immediate audience consists of your peers and your instructors, though you may wish to imagine a broader audience of family and friends.
Examples of Writing Assignments (Spring 2011 to present)
Momentary blindness (250 words minimum)
Saturday, February 2, 11:00 p.m.
In a public place describe a moment (here defined as a ten-minute period or so) as it unfolds, using all of your senses except sight. Of course, you'll need to open your eyes to write, but the point is not to look around. Rather, narrate what you hear, touch, smell, and even taste.
At the end of your assignment, put the location and the date of your "going blind" in parentheses.
If you have not yet set up your Blogger or WordPress blog, be sure to do so. Please email your instructors with the URL, so that they can access your work.
Voyeur (250 words minimum)
Saturday, February 23, 11:00 p.m.
In a public place, observe a person or persons out and about: a worker, a tourist, a family, nuns — whoever catches your eye. Describe where they are, what they look like, and what they are doing, even if (or, perhaps, especially if) you don't understand what it is. Offer a back story for your characters to explain their actions. What has brought them here? Why do they do what they do?
You are encouraged to get off campus for inspiration. At the end of your assignment, put the location and date of your observation in parentheses.
Ekphrasis (250 words minimum)
Saturday, March 23, 11:00 p.m.
NOTE: Before reading the instructions, consult Prof. Spinner's Ekphrasis, Explained handout.
Ekphrasis is literary device used by ancient poets! (< Gk. "narration").
Pick one (1) image or object currently on display at the Tang museum. Do not choose something abstract, or an audio or video installation. The object about which you write must be representational enough so that your writing can be sufficiently descriptive.
While your finished work is a writing exercise, it starts as an exercise in looking. You will have to look slowly and carefully (rinse, repeat) at your subject, so that seeing becomes less passive and actively engages the mind: How is this thing constructed? Where do the eyes begin, move, or rest? What does it communicate to viewers?
Now translate your observations into words. Narrate, rather than name. This means using verbs to describe what the object does, and not just nouns to label it. Instead of flatly telling your reader what, instruct your reader how she would see this thing if she were in its presence. Move systematically up or down, across the image or around the object, and trace that form with words.
Be playful; be beguiling. Choose words that evoke, that enchant. Can someone who has not gone to the Tang read your description and then visualize this piece in her mind's eye?
Write out a draft, and then edit it over the course of one week. Rewrite your pieces, polishing your ekphrasis until it shines like a literary gem.
At the end of your assignment, put the location and date of your exphrasis in parentheses, as well as the name of the artist, the title of the work, and the year it was created (if known).
Giornale (Journal) (500 words minimum)
Saturday, April 13, 11:00 p.m.
A travelogue or narrative of an excursion. What did you do and see? What did you discover? How did you get there? What happened along the way? Who was with you? What did you learn? This is your chance to personalize a journey and allow your readers to see through your eyes. Some analysis and interpretation is expected, but the key to this exercise is vibrant, descriptive storytelling.