This module is suitable for new writers as well as for those with some experience who would like to develop their skills. It will help you to identify your strengths and interests as a writer by giving you the opportunity to write in a range of genres: fiction, poetry, biography and autobiography. The emphasis is on finding your own directions and styles through experiment, practice and constructive feedback. The module is suitable not only for aspiring writers, but for anyone with a strong interest in reading and writing, who would like to deepen their understanding of the creative process. The module is structured around five parts. The introductory part, The Creative Process, focuses on developing a habit of writing. It examines a range of strategies including clustering, morning pages, and keeping a writer’s notebook, as well as statements from writers about their own approaches and practices. Part 2, Writing Fiction, introduces the main aspects of narrative including story structure and genre; showing and telling; character; point of view; and place and time.

In Part 3, Writing Poetry, the role and function of poetry are discussed. The main formal strategies and poetic devices are introduced, including lines; line breaks; enjambment; rhyme and half-rhyme; varieties of metre; stanzas; and forms. Part 4, Life Writing, looks at biography and autobiography. Some of the central issues raised by life writing are discussed, including the nature of memory and forgetting, the performance of the self, and the representation of others. There are suggestions for finding subject matter, with an emphasis on the importance of memory. The final part, Going Public, outlines the requirement for professional presentation of manuscripts and an understanding of audience and market. At the core of the module is a Workbook that takes you week-by-week through the five parts. The emphasis is very much on practice through guided activities, supported by supplementary articles and literary examples including poems, prose extracts and complete stories to illustrate particular methods or strategies. Four audio CDs contain interviews with writers talking about their own inspirations and methods, and with representatives of the publishing industry. Online tutor-group forums enable peer discussion of some of your work and allow tutors to make general points of relevance to the whole group. Your tutor will support you through assignment feedback, and through five online tutorials. Your electronic tuition is supported by two face-to-face day schools. Your tutor also offers general support throughout the module, as you progress through the Workbook, which is the principal guide to your learning.

But this particular student dropped out because he wants to teach more than do research. I tried to talk him out of it, to no avail. Another student stopped coming to his classes and has also decided to withdraw from the program, which is probably the right decision for him. But the problem is he thinks he can go on being a TA for the rest of the semester and collecting his stipend check. Theoretically, I think he’s right, and if we saw TAs as employees and treated them as such with all the attendant legal rights, that would be the case: he’d do his job and we’d pay him for it. But our university, like most, sees a TAship as financial aid, for which only full time students are eligible. The withdrawal of the student above leaves me with an unfilled TAship for next semester, which will mean the College will suck the line back up into itself, giving us one fewer TA line for next year.

Another student has decided to leave the literature concentration for the other concentration we offer. That’s fine — at least he’s still “ours” in the larger sense, since all of our students get MAs in English. But the problem is that program is less flexible in its course sequence, so he has to take next semester off and restart in the fall. So I have his TAship to fill in the meantime or lose it, as well. It’s Ph.D. program application time and a few of our “good for us but not stellar” students have delusions of grandeur. I tried as best as I could to get them to apply to fewer extremely competitive programs and more programs with higher acceptance rates. They have no idea of their worth in this market. I think I’m being so gentle with their fragile egos that they don’t get it and they’ll just end up disappointed. And some of them are so freakin’ arrogant without reason and they have no idea how they’re coming across.

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