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Writing and the Practice of Literature - (EN907)

Compulsory for students taking the ‘taught’ route of the MA in Writing

Tutor: George Ttoouli

Autumn Term: Day/time Friday 10am-12pm, Writers’ Room, Milburn House

This module will introduce participants to a number of key practical considerations, skills and professional mindsets that will equip them for the business of, (a) teaching themselves, and (b) being a professional writer. These skills are subjectively selected from the perspective of the discussion leader’s approach to being a practising writing and in no way represent anything other than the tip of a large iceberg.

Seminars are to be considered junctions for meeting fellow learning practitioners, sharing ideas and triggering investigation and practice beyond the meetings. Each seminar will take the format of:

  1. Presentations by selected participants each week, on interviews they have read with authors they admire (suggested sources: The Paris Review Interviews; The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers; Saturday Guardian Review ‘Profile’ articles; etc.)
  2. Discussions of set texts (creative writing, writing about writing, biographical material, ‘self-help’ texts for writers) from the perspective of particular themes – see below for weekly plan.
  3. Peer reviewing sessions, where time permits, looking at examples of participants’ work.

Beyond the seminars, participants are expected to:

  1. Set a weekly/daily word count goal (suggested minimum of 2000 words per week), aim to achieve it and moderate their targets as they fail to achieve them.
  2. Maintain a weekly reflective journal to monitor their writing process, progress, setbacks and inspirations.
  3. Carry out practical research and investigation into their chosen subjects (trips to the library, documentation of actual locations where their creative work is set, conduct work experience, shadowing, or undercover visits to professional environments shared by their protagonists/antagonists, where personal experience is lacking).
  4. Share the results of their external research with the group through blogging, or similar information circulation.
  5. Promise not to undertake any practical action that may be a danger to themselves/others.

Further to the seminars, participants are expected to engage wholeheartedly in the LitBiz event series (http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/writingprog/litbiz), taking place at the Writers’ Room on Thursday lunchtime. These events are free to attend and centre on talks by invited speakers from all aspects of the literary industry.

Places are strictly limited to fifteen for the coming academic year. Please be suitably prepared to be worked to the bone.

Syllabus

The reading list reflects a particular ethos of the Warwick Writing Programme, practical approaches to being a writer. Not all texts are readily available, but key reading should be in the library.

  1. Journals
    JA Baker’s The Peregrine
    Journals by other writers, e.g. Anaïs Nin, Henry Miller, D.H. Lawrence, Dorothy Wordsworth, Gerald Manley Hopkins, John Fowles, etc.

    For week one, please prepare by acquiring a writing journal, if you do not already have one. Please also find an extract from a published writers' diary and bring in a single paragraph which 'speaks to you' as a developing writer, which you can share with the group.

  2. Reading like a writer
    The Paris Review Interviews, vol 1-4
    The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers

  3. Flow
    Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
    Nikos Kazantzakis, The Life and Times of Alexei Zorba (Zorba the Greek)

  4. R&D: Research & Develop or Rejig and Distort?
    Maureen Freely, Enlightenment
    Alexander McMasters, Stuart: A Life Backwards
    David Shields, Reality Hunger

  5. Defeating the internal critic / learning to unlearn
    Jim Crace, The Devil’s Larder
    Lynda Barry, What It Is
    Peter Blegvad, Leviathan

  6. Relinquishing control
    J.G. Ballard, The Atrocity Exhibition
    J.G. Ballard, Miracles of Life

  7. The Nature of Culture
    Lorca on duende and darkness vs. Elytis on the mystery of light
    Sam Selvon, The Lonely Londoners
    James Kelman, How Late it Was, How Late

  8. Going cold / coming back cruel: the Jim Crace Method
    No set reading for this week: students are expected to bring a piece of writing from at least one year ago and a suitably ‘cruel pen’ for lacerating their past mistakes.

  9. The Influence of Anxiety
    Juan Gabriel Vasquez, The Secret History of Costaguana
    Damion Searls, ; or The Whale
    Damion Searls, What We Were Doing and Where We Were Going
    Margaret Atwood, Negotiating the with Dead

  10. Survival of the Strength in Numbers
    Lewis Hyde, The Gift

ASSESSMENT

The submission will consist of

(1) a creative writing portfolio, arising out of a response to work read on the module:

- either two short stories, each between 2,000 and 3,000 words;

- or an extract from a longer work of fiction of no fewer than 5,000 words and no more than 6,000 words;

- or a portfolio of poetry totalling about 250 lines

[a mixed submission of fiction and poetry may be offered by prior arrangement with the tutor]

plus

(2) a critical essay of 3,000 words on a subject agreed with the tutor