Creative Writing ~ ENG 251 (Updated for spring 2014)
Dr. Jonathan Alexander
609-894-9311 or 856-222-9311 (x1123)
Online syllabus

Course Description: This course will allow students to investigate their thoughts through fiction and poetry in an informal environment. It requires respect of the critical process and acknowledgement that true learning occurs with substantive comments. It requires appreciation for the uses of language and a (reasonably) serious desire to write fiction and poetry. The majority of the course will include free-writing and focus on the fundamentals, and it will end with the completion of a creative manuscript (see below). By the end of the course, each student will be exposed to the major components of poetry and short fiction, such as setting, dialogue, characterization, point of view, plot, rhythm, meter, line breaks, figures of speech and voice. We will be looking at various kinds of poetic forms, how to use imagery and avoid using clichés, the structure of poems and how to develop your ideas in a poem.

Course Expectations:

Attendance: If the student is to profit from any course, he or she must attend class on a consistent basis.

Students must attend all classes for the full duration of each session. Should you need to miss a class for observance of religious holidays, jury duty, military duty, bereavement, or illness, you must notify the instructor by telephone or e-mail prior to or within 24 hours after the class. Without such communication, students forfeit the right to make up missed work. If such communication is made, students will be permitted to make up missed work at the beginning of the following class meeting. It is, therefore, the student’s responsibility to read the syllabus and be prepared for current as well as missed assignments.

Entering class late or leaving class early (without prior authorization) is considered disrespectful and will not be tolerated.

Academic Etiquette: Students will respect themselves, their peers and their instructors by considering the following:

Cell phones must be kept on silent. No calls are to be made or received during class. If you are expecting an important call during the class meeting time, notify me prior to class and quietly excuse yourself if the call is received. No text-messaging or game-playing will be tolerated.

Students who wish to use the restrooms may do so by quietly leaving and re-entering the room. If a student believes he or she will require an absence of more than a few minutes, it is his responsibility to notify me accordingly.

Communication: Many means of communication are available to the student including telephone, e-mail and mailbox.

If you leave a message on my office voice-mail (x1123), please remember to speak clearly and provide your name, course information, and phone number if you request a return call.

If you contact me via e-mail, it is expected that you use the BCC “Mymail” account provided to you by the College. Messages sent through any other email account may not be received or responded to.

Students who send me e-mail and do not receive a reply of any kind within 48 hours should assume it was never received. Such e-mails should be resent. If your message doesn’t present itself as urgent, I may reply quickly and briefly and ask to get back to you before long.

Students who send e-mails containing attachments must save these documents as one of the following types: DOC, DOCX, TXT, or RTF. Please do not send any MAC “Pages” files, ODT, or WPS files. You may also choose to copy and paste the text of your assignment into the e-mail message itself, and always send a copy back to yourself  (or another email account) as a receipt to verify if the transmission fails to reach me.

Class Assignments:

All work written and submitted should utilize standard rules of grammar, sentence organization, paragraph organization, and diction.

All formal papers are to be typed, titled, double spaced, and carefully proofread. Documents are not to be held together by paperclips, alligator clips, or other creative measures. Papers will not be accepted unless they are stapled prior to arriving to class. Asking me to borrow a stapler will not place you in a positive light.

All assignments are due on the date specified on the syllabus. Assignments which are not submitted during the class session they are due will be penalized. If you happen to be absent for a particular class session and you wait to submit a paper until the next class meeting, it will lose 15% for each day it is late. NOTE: A “day” is a calendar day, not a class meeting. A paper which is received by email within two hours of the end of the assigned class session will be considered submitted on time (without a penalty for lateness). A paper which is received after two hours, but before 10pm, will incur a late penalty of 5%. All other papers received after 10pm on the assigned day will incur a 15% penalty per day.

If a student presents reasonable justification for an absence, this absence will not be counted against the student’s course grade; however, such an absence does not allow for more time to complete assignments. Since students are provided with all assignments and deadlines on the first day of the semester, excuses such as “crashed computers,” “misplaced data,” “misplaced flash drives,” or “empty printer ink cartridges” will not be accepted. There is no excuse for not saving all documents twice (hard drive and floppy/flash).

Plagiarism will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Be aware that plagiarism includes (but is not limited to) copying someone else’s words without crediting the source; paraphrasing someone else’s words without crediting the source; using someone else’s ideas without crediting the source (even if rephrased in your own words); using facts not universally known which are obtained from a source without crediting the source; asking someone else to write your paper, either in whole or in part; or obtaining a paper or portion thereof by any means and submitting it as an original document. The penalty for plagiarism is failure of the assignment and potentially failure of the course (at the instructor’s discretion), and it may result in suspension or expulsion from the College (at the discretion of the Student Affairs Committee). Please refer to the BCC Student Handbook for additional information regarding College regulations and the handling of plagiarism.

Explanation of Assignments:
Each day, students will spend 15-20 minutes freewriting about several topics to be announced. This type of writing is meant to be free of structure, criticism, censure or editorial. Homework assignments will generally be a combination of freewriting exercises. Students are expected to write freely for the duration of the exercises. Do not stare too long at a blank page and do not spend too much time constructing the perfect sentence.

HOMEWORK ACTIVITIES (40 pts): Each of the 5 “Homework” assignments must be typed and double-spaced using Courier or Times Roman 12 pt. font. They will be submitted in a portfolio folder in which shall remain all work for the semester. Homework should have a creative title, be clearly marked with the assignment number, and may include any endnotes describing authorial intention or explanation. Specific “topics” are provided for all homework assignments, but students are encouraged to incorporate in-class freewrites as part of homework pieces. The homework assignments may be re-submitted as part of the final manuscript, though revisions are recommended.

OBJECTIVE EXAMINATION (10 pts): This exam will cover terms and strategies for literary analysis which are necessary for effective creative writing. Terms are listed in the back of the syllabus and are also accessible here:

FINAL MANUSCRIPT (30 pts): Students shall develop and produce a formal creative writing manuscript which includes exactly ten creative works, one each from the following list. Each work shall appear on its own page in the manuscript, and a header must identify the following information: 1) which of the ten creative forms/styles the piece is satisfying, and 2) which homework exercise the piece also served as (if applicable).

Tanka: five lines, 57577 syllable count, unrhymed, unmetered (generally written about nature, but not necessarily)

Shakespearean Sonnet: fourteen lines, three quatrains and a couplet, ababcdcdefefgg rhyme scheme (iambic pentameter not necessary)

Limerick: aabba rhyme scheme, anapestic meter ( - - ’ ), playfully humorous or satiric

Acrostic or Mesostic: free verse, “anchored” down left or internally

Epistolary: free verse or prose, letter format, communicative

Dramatic Monologue: free verse or prose, “one-way conversation,” unintentionally yielding

Confessional: free verse, autobiographical, purposefully (almost dangerously) honest,

Epigram or Flash Fiction: free verse, between six and twelve words, philosophical or proverbial

Prose Piece #1: Character sketch, mostly dialogue, past or present tense, 1st or 3rd-person point-of-view, 100-350 words, developing conflict for an intriguing character

Prose Piece #2: Character sketch, mostly narrative, past or present tense, 1st or 3rdperson point-of-view, 100-350 words, developing conflict for an intriguing character

The manuscript shall be introduced by a Cover Letter which includes both a Table of Contents (identifying titles and page numbers) and a 50-word response to each of the following questions: 1) How has this course changed your approach to writing, and 2) What have you learned about yourself since the beginning of the semester?

Schedule of Assignments: Many online works of poetry will be introduced in class and used as examples. For the best possible exposure to effective writing, students are expected to have these poems printed and with them in class on the scheduled days.


Classwork (completed on day listed)

Homework due



Class introduction




Topic 1: A place you know very well.
(see Carl Sandburg, “Chicago”)




Freewriting activities (1-16)




Topic 2: Reacting to an uncomfortable situation.
(see Dylan Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”)




Freewriting activities (17-26)




Topic 3: Music as metaphor.
(see D.H. Lawrence, “Piano”)




Freewriting activities (27-34)




Topic 4: The influence of passing time.
(see Eamon Grennan, “Pause”)




Freewriting activities (38-46)




Exercise: Internal monologues




Topic 5: Weather as an essential element.
(see Wallace Stevens, “The Snow Man”)

Homework due:
One poem generated from
Topic 1, 2, 3, or 4 (place, situation, music, time)



Freewriting activities (47-58)




Exercise: Paired dialogues




Topic 6: Perspectives on relationships with animals.
(see Elizabeth Bishop, “The Fish”)



Freewriting activities (59-67)




Topic 7: Elegy for a lost friend or relative.
(see Oscar Wilde, “The Grave of Shelley”)




Freewriting activities (68-85)












Topic 8: Making tough decisions.
(see William Stafford, “Traveling Through The Dark”)




Freewriting activities (86-92)




Exercise: Paired dialogues




Topic 9: Perspectives on war.
(see Wilfred Owen, “Dulce Et Decorum Est”)

Homework due:
One poem generated from
Topic 5, 6, 7, or 8 (weather, animals, elegy, decision)



Freewriting activities (93-115)




Topic 10: Interacting with nature.
(see Robert Frost, “Birches”)




Freewriting activities (116-120)




Exercise: Collaborative poetry




Topic 11: Dramatic Monologue
(see Robert Browning, “My Last Duchess”)



Freewriting activities (121-132)




Topic 12: A disagreement or quarrel.
(see Robert Frost, “Mending Wall”)




Freewriting activities (133-140)




Topic 13: Responding to a work of art.
(see John Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”)

Homework due:
One poem generated from
Topic 9, 10, 11, or 12 (war, nature, monologue, quarrel)



Freewriting activities (141-158)








Topic 14: Perspectives on parents.
(see Theodore Roethke, “My Papa’s Waltz”)



Freewriting activities (159-169)




Topic 15: Perspectives on intimacy.
(see Carolyn Forche, “Taking Off My Clothes”)




Freewriting activities (170-188)












Topic 16: Perspectives on God.
(see Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Thou Art Indeed Just”)



Freewriting activities (189-193)








Topic 17: Perspectives on society.
(see Langston Hughes, “Theme For English B”)

Homework due:
One poem generated from
Topic 13, 14, 15, or 16 (art, parents, intimacy, God)



Freewriting activities (194-202)




Topic 18: Underdog challenges the mighty.
(see John Donne, [Death be not proud])




Freewriting activities (203-212)








Topic 19: Making something small seem grand. (see William Butler Yeats, “Brown Penny”)




Topic 20: Observing something or someone.
(see Sharon Olds, “Looking At Them Asleep”)








Topic 20: Observing something or someone.
(see Sharon Olds, “Looking At Them Asleep”)

Homework due:
One poem generated from
Topic 17, 18, 19, or 20 (society, underdog, small, observation)



Objective Examination

Final Manuscript Due


Point of view
 (direction from which story is told)


Symbolism (things, people, events, or actions which have representative value beyond the literal)

Style (method or manner in which writers distinguish themselves)

Character (individual in a story who assists in moving along the plot)

Plot Elements (what happens in a story)

Forms of Irony (contrast between what happens and what was expected or intended)

Introduction to the Elements of Poetry

Metrical Structures of Poetry

Poetic Forms

Rhyme and Stanza in Poetry

Figurative Language in Poetry