CCS 300, section 2 (Honors)

Sophomore Seminar

Creative Writing Workshop: Life Narratives—Americans in Transition


Dr. Eleanor Swanson

Office: Carroll Hall 124

Office Hours: TTh 8:00-9:00; W 8:30-11:30

Other times available by appointment

Telephone: 303.458.4147

e-mail: or




The Poet’s Companion, eds. Addonizio & Laux; Fiction Workshop Companion, Volkmer; Growing Up Poor: A Literary Anthology, eds. Coles, Testa & Coles; Imagining America: Stories from the Promised Land, eds., Brown & Ling; What is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics, Adrienne Rich


Course Description

“I think of the…blistering crackle of energy in a room when one is reading…work to others.  Every word counts.” (Susan Griffin, Made from This Earth) 


This writing workshop will identify writing as an important and passionate social act, which involves writing about your world, as well as the larger world in which many voices have been and continue to be routinely silenced.  We will focus on the writing of poetry and fiction, with the intent of producing a portfolio of work that can engage a diverse audience with words that can empower, clarify, challenge cultural assumptions and help form community. We will discuss questions such as these:  Who is a writer? Why write? How does one become a more powerful writer? What is the role of the writer?  And more.


Week 1-3


            8/20: Introduction to course


“I loved poetry, and I loved words.  But what was beautiful had to serve the purpose of changing my life, or I would have died.  If I cannot air this pain and alter it, I will surely die of it. That’s the beginning of social protest.” (Audre Lorde, Black Women Writers at Work)


For Tuesday, 9/2—Read: “To Love the Marigold: The Politics of Imagination”;

What is Found There, (hereafter, Rich), pp. xii-xv and Chapters I-VII; The Poet’s Companion (hereafter, A&L), 11-13, 65-73, 14-38

Write: #6, p. 28, #1 or #4, p.72 (A&L); a one or two page response to Rich’s Notebooks


8/28: Mary Ellen Carroll and Melissa Nix will join our class to discuss service learning with us, specifically as it applies to this class.  We will also discuss possibilities for service learning placements.


CCS 300, cont.


NOTE: All students will be required to engage in at least twenty-five hours of service learning specifically for this class.


9/4: Discussion of Rich and A&L. 

For Tuesday, 9/9—Read: 40-189, Rich, and Write a one or two page response to these chapters; Read 85-114, A&L. Please let me know your service learning placement by 9/9.


Week 4-5


            9/16, Discussion of Rich and “The Poet’s Craft” in A&L, cont.

9/18, Workshop, student poetry. Write: #1 or #3, p. 92, A&L); Final Project Progress Report due 9/18 (#1)

9/23, Conclude discussion of Rich, 190-250; Write a response to these closing chapters.

For 9/25—Read 115-128, 138-160, 171-192, A&L; and write, #1, p.127.


Week 6-7


            Continue discussion of “The Poet’s Craft” section in A&L

            Workshops: class poetry

            Response Paper due 9/30

Mary Ellen Carroll and Melissa Nix join us for a discussion of work in progress: writing and service placements


Week 8

            10/14-10/16   Final Project Progress Report due 10/14 (#2)

            Workshops, class poetry, through 10/14

10/15, selections from Fiction Workshop Companion

            Response Paper due 10/16


Week 9-11


No class Tuesday, October 21 (Mid-semester break)

            Response Paper due 11/6


Week 12-15


            Final Project Progress Report due 11/13 (#3)

Thanksgiving Holiday: Thursday, November 27


Week 15: Final Presentation


Final Portfolio, Service Learning Self-Report/Self Evaluation and Final Project Self Evaluation due Tuesday, December 9

Final examination period: Tuesday, 12/9, 3:30-5:30



CCS 300, cont.


How Your Grade is Determined


Response Papers/interim assignments

(including progress reports)                                                                  15%


                Participation                                                                                                         15%                       


Workshop Commentaries

Optimally, these will include marginal notes, comments and questions, as well as a concluding comment. I will review these, then pass them on to writers.                   20%


                Service Learning Self Report/

                Service Learning Quality/Quantity                                                                  15%


                Final Project                                                                                                    10%


                Final Creative Portfolio

(you may choose either a poetry or fiction emphasis) Note that portfolios will be evaluated not only on the basis of "final" drafts, but also on evidence of significant revision. Include all of your drafts in the portfolio.)                                                                                              25%


Attendance policy


Students in this class may take up to four absences without penalty.  With the fifth absence, the student loses one full letter grade on his/her final grade for the course.  With the sixth absence, the student fails the course.


With six absences in a two-meeting-per-week class, the student has missed three full weeks of a fourteen-week course.  That’s over 20% of the course’s classroom time, and the English Department feels that students shouldn’t miss that much of the class’s content, no matter the reason.  The line maybe arbitrary, but in the our judgment the student will benefit more by retaking the class than by trying to make up independently what he/she has missed through absence.


A student whose absences are the result of truly exceptional or catastrophic circumstances may petition the English Department for an exemption from this policy.  The Department will review the petition, and its decision will be final.   


Students with disabilities

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, I will make every effort to meet the reasonable accommodations request of students with documented disabilities.  (If you have a documented disability, please see Joie Williams as soon as possible; her extension is 3666.  Following your meeting with Ms. Williams, please meet with me to discuss your accommodation request.


Plagiarism policy

Representing the work of others as your own, no matter the source (scholarly essays, Internet, student work, purchased papers, etc.) will result in failure of the course.