Explore with Curiosity. Create with Love

Creative Writing Syllabus

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Creative Writing

Instructor: Carl Abramowitz


Meeting Times: TBD



Honor Code

We, the student-athletes of YSC Academy, in order to pursue academic and athletic excellence, pledge to live by the following code of conduct:

Always conduct ourselves with confidence and humility

Respect and value the opinions and ideas of all people

Challenge ourselves and each other to do our best

Accept and learn from our mistakes

Lead the way and share our successes, on the pitch and in the classroom

Treat one another and ourselves with honor and respect

Treat all academic and athletic environments with reverence

Embrace change and demonstrate resilience

Take pride in being a member of this community

Every day, everywhere we go, and with every person we meet, we work to earn respect for our school and ourselves.



Overview of the course and its goals:

Creative Writing: This semester-long course explores the art of creative writing, focusing on three major areas: creative non-fiction, fiction, and poetry. After this broad exposure, you will choose a primary area of emphasis for the remainder of the semester. Coursework reinforces the writing process: understanding and stimulating creativity, brainstorming ideas, revising drafts, and establishing a writer’s practice. All students participate in writers’ workshops to learn both how to give and how to receive constructive editorial assistance.

This workshop-style class is an introduction to the pleasures of the writing process. You will benefit from in-depth readings and constructive critical support in a class that fosters a community of writers. We will spend half the semester writing fiction and non-fiction and the other half writing screenplays and poems. Some of each meeting will be devoted to discussing the texts. We will look at literature as writers rather than as scholars. From time to time, we will do some in-class writing. Growing, experimenting, and revising are key. Class participation and attendance are vital.

  • You will develop a working knowledge of the basic elements of the craft of fiction and non-fiction:
    • Character
    • Plot
    • Point-of-view
    • Dialogue
    • Style
    • Narrative distance
    • Voice
    • Riffs
  • You will explore and practice a variety of approaches to the craft of poetry including:
    • Narrative
    • Lyric
    • Free verse
    • Formalist
    • Epistles
  • For homework, you will complete brief writing assignments (known as two-pointers) designed to help you shape and generate work. These are journal entries, meant for you to approach the reading in a scholarly way. Prompt questions will be provided.
  • Details, due dates, and texts are found in this syllabus and on Canvas (for the two-pointers and the discussions). This syllabus is a basic course guideline. I may make some adjustments to it as the semester progresses.


  • Selections from Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University
  • Selections from Writing True: The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction
  • Selections from Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence
  • “The Distance of the Moon” from Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino
  • “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell
  • “Barn Burning” by William Faulkner
  • “The Hunger Artist” by Franz Kafka
  • Selection from Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee.
  • About plot and pacing: “Mastiff” by Joyce Carol Oates from The New Yorker (
  • About point of view and voice: “Happy Trails” by Sherman Alexie from The New Yorker (
  • About dialogue: “Hunters in the Snow” by Tobias Wolff. Find the story here:
  • About ending a story and aspects of theme: “Paper Losses” by Lorrie Moore from The New Yorker (





1.     Course Introduction: Aspects of Fiction and Non-fiction


2.     Screenwriting and Poetry




1.     TBD


2.     TBD



1.     Days 45



2.     Days 45



1.     Days 45


2.     Days 45



I will be looking for participation, improvement, revision, and experimentation. I expect your work to be polished in terms of the written conventions of good English style and grammar.


This is composed of your fiction, your non-fiction, your poetry, and your short screenplay. Your grade on these assignments are based on improvement, revision, experimentation, and timeliness. Each student is required to present his work for constructive critiquing. Be sure to keep your critical feedback and mark-ups from both myself and your peers.








These are double-spaced analytical essays about the texts. These give you opportunities to strengthen your skills in composition and analysis, and to generate critical thinking skills about the reading in a scholarly way. Prompt questions will be provided.



Leadership / Participation means facilitating the discussion on that week’s reading in class. This class is a workshop-based class; hence, pro-active and candid/productive collaboration comprises the majority of this grade. Reading is fuel/nourishment for the writer’s task à not passive reception, but reading as entering into the texts pro-actively, with incisive curiosity, and a critical, perhaps even, meddlesome eye.



Extra Credit: response to a Kelly Writers House reading attendance (see website below)

 +5% (half a letter grade)



So that everyone can write freely as possible, grades are based on your maintaining an active writing process as above defined. Doing the full gamut of required activities (your own writing, two-pointers, and in-class discussions) responsibly and punctually is what earns an “A.”



Late work loses 5% on the specific assignment per class-day late and will be allowed up to two weeks late.



This class is about both your individual creativity and the group’s dynamic. Constructive interaction means the following:

  • Being on time.
  • Staying through class
  • Listening actively
  • Speaking in turn
  • Speaking civilly in all circumstances
  • Keeping your integrity (online and in-person)



  • We discuss what the text/writing achieved or fell short on (not the author/writer)
  • The author DOES NOT speak until the group is finished critiquing his text.
  • Be respectfully frank and specific (being too nice or too general/abstract is not useful)
  • Critique with a text’s potential next evolution in mind.
  • Silence is not a friendly gesture in a creative writing workshop — passivity will be taken as evidence of not having prepared for class.


ACADEMIC INTEGRITY: All students are required to adhere to these policies:

  • When you say you did the work yourself, you actually did it.
  • When you rely on someone else’s work, you cite it accordingly.
  • When you use their words, you quote them accurately, and you cite them too.
  • Refer to the Honor Code at the beginning of this syllabus.
  • Guidelines for Collaborative Work will be explicitly explained per assignment.



  • It’s best to use Microsoft Word or PDF given that many computers you’ll have access to here might have difficulty with other formats.
  • Double-spaced text is easier for others to write comments on.
  • Title your work. Take the titling of a piece of work as part of the creative process.






Author: carlabramowitz

English, Humanities, Foreign Language, & IT Coordinator, Extension Projects, 8th Grade Advisor, Study Support, Reflective-Practice Blogger, School Historian, School Librarian — All of these are labels. I am a teacher/learner at heart. My motto: Explore. Share. Now.

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