Intro Courses | Fall 2013

Columbia Artist/Teachers Intro Program offers free non-credit writing workshops taught by MFA Writing Program students. These courses will help students explore new genres while receiving critical feedback for their work.

Classes
The Columbia Artist/Teachers Intro Program is pleased to offer 18 classes this spring 2014.
Classes will begin on March 24, 2014 and run for four to six weeks.
 
Registration Periods
The priority deadline to register for fall Intro classes is:
Friday, March 21, 2014, at noon.

How to Register
Submit your course preferences online by visiting this website:

Late Registration
If you are interested in signing up for a class, but have missed the priority deadline, send an email directly to writingcats@gmail.com.

Intro Student Reading
The Intro Program aims to host its Intro Student Reading in late April 2014. This reading will be an opportunity for Intro students to celebrate their experience and share what they’ve written with their peers, and others.
Those who will have taken an Intro class in either Fall 2013 or Spring 2014 will have the opportunity to participate in this event.  Details forthcoming.

Questions
If you have a question about a specific class, you may email the instructor directly. 
All and any other questions may be directed to the Intro program coordinator at writingcats@gmail.com.

 
Click below to jump to a specific genre:
 
 
Summary of Courses

Classes beginning in late March 2014.

Poetry
The Unconscious Cloud:
Examining 20th Century Surrealism             
 
 
Sat 10am-11:30am
 
Stringing it Together:
Poetry and Songwriting                                    
Sun 6pm-7:30pm

Nonfiction
Getting Them Hooked:
Writing that Keeps Kids Reading
 
Thur 8pm-9:30pm
 
Nonfiction: The Whole Spectrum
Fri 3pm-4:30pm
Profiling Jesus, Jay-Z, and J.D. Salinger     
 
Sun 4pm-5:30pm
 
Cross-Genre
Meet Me at the Met
Fri 2pm-3:30pm
SILENCE; Or, Reverse Cartographies of the [In]finite
Fri 5pm-6:30pm
The Listing Impulse
Fri  5pm-6:30pm
Hybrid Forms: Slippery Slopes and Brilliant Chimeras
Sat noon-1:30pm
I think, therefore I write.
Sat 2pm-3:30pm
The Possibilities of Place
Sat 4pm-5:30pm
Imagination in the World-Creator or World-Interpreter
Sun 2pm-3:30pm

Fiction
How to End It All
Mon 7:30pm-9pm
Exercises in Style: A Fiction-Writing Laboratory
Tue 8pm-9:30pm
Love, Death, and Coffee: How to Write about Old Things
Fri 3pm-4:30pm
Party Up
Fri 6pm-7:30pm
What Happens in Fiction: Plotting the Short Story
Sat 3pm-4:30pm
How to Write Young Adult Literature       
Sat 5pm-6:30pm
 
 

Course Descriptions
 
Fiction

How to End it All
Fiction Hybrid
Steph Waterfield
Mondays 7:30-9:00pm
Dodge 409

What makes a great ending? One that satisfies or crushes, that haunts us long after we put it down? That give us pause, and somehow seem to sharpen or refresh the world, even just a little, before they fade to black?

We will do close readings of a handful of short stories (~4-6) with a focus on craft, looking at elements such as structure, perspective, content, and sound, with the aim of identifying certain rules of thumb or guidelines we can apply to our own work. Class sessions will be split between craft discussion and the workshop of student work, weighed towards the former. Students are invited to submit for workshop new or old work.

Reading will include a selection of the following: “A Father’s Story” by Andre Dubus, “Babylon Revisited” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned,” by Wells Towers, “Scordatura” by Mark Ray Lewis, “Able Baker Charlie Dog” by Stephanie Vaughn, “Love and Hydrogen” by Jim Shepard, “Bullet to the Brain” by Tobias Wolff. All reading will be distributed in class and available via email.


Exercises in Style: A Writing Laboratory
Fiction Workshop
Joss Lake
Tuesdays: 8:00pm-9:30pm
Dodge 411

This course is designed around serious literary play as characterized by OULIPO (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle), a group of French writers who used exercises, constraints, mathematical models, and other generative structures to produce writing. The purpose of the course is not to create "polished" writing, but to give writers a space in which to take risks: to try out new voices, produce fake documents, and create stories out of very specific scenarios. For inspiration, we will read part of Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style, in which he rewrites the story of a man getting on a bus 99 different ways, and other short examples of literary play. Each class will center around two writing "experiments" and discussion of the texts provided.

 


Love, Death and Coffee: How to Write about Old Things in New Ways
Fiction Hybrid
Deana Silverberg and Kanasu Nagathihalli
Fridays 3:00-4:30pm
Dodge 411

Have you tried to write about big ideas like love, loss and obsession or everyday experiences like taking the train, drinking a cup of coffee and standing in the rain, but struggled to make them new?

In this class, we will examine fiction that has tackled seemingly overdone subject matter in fresh and creative ways. We will also look at how the parts of a story that too often feel boring to read and mundane to write can become the details that make the story compelling. Through weekly in-class writing, we will consider how to recharge our prose by experimenting with structure on a larger level and playing with language at a sentence level. Class time will be divided between discussion of the texts, short writing prompts and workshopping your stories. Writers to be discussed include Wells Tower, Elissa Schappell, Alice Munro, A.M. Homes, Henry Roth, R.K. Narayan, Ernest Hemingway, and others.


Party Up
Fiction Hybrid
Michael Hafford
Fridays 6:00-7:30pm
Dodge 407

Everyone writing fiction has attempted at one point or another to write a great party. Or at least attended one. But what makes a good party? Guest list? Alcohol? Some sort of magic? This course will approach reading and writing a great party in a practical manner. We will read two short stories (Thomas Pynchon’s “Entropy” and James Joyce’s “The Dead”) as well as excerpts from the classic party novel The Great Gatsby. We will also view film clips (Gatsby, Boogie Nights, among others). Combining lessons from film and literature, we will conclude the course by writing a great literary party of our own. The course will run for four weeks as a seminar with an optional workshop in the final two weeks during which students will have the opportunity to write and critique short party scenes.


What Happens in Fiction: Plotting the Short Story
Fiction Hybrid
Carianne King
Saturdays: 3:00-4:30pm
Dodge 413

Short stories don't demand to be action-packed blockbusters, and often, they’re more interested in emotional truths, but we must face it: stories rely on certain structures to be told. Rebecca Curtis, an author we will read, said, “I see scenes as dominoes—and the whole story as a domino game in which one domino tips and fells the next.” Therefore, each week we will read a short story and analyze the author’s tactics in building tension and intrigue (not necessarily ‘plot’), and see how the chips fall. The second half of each session will be a workshop run on a volunteer basis. The aim of the course is to get students thinking about how abstract ideas for stories—theme, mood, character—can be translated into an entertaining course of events on the page. 

Readings will include:  Rebecca Curtis, “Summer, With Twins”; Deborah Eisenberg, “What It Was Like, Seeing Chris”; Alice Munro, “The Progress of Love”; and George Saunders, “Sea Oak.”


How to Write Young Adult Literature
Fiction Hybrid
Elisa Maria Fernández-Arias
Saturdays 5:00pm-6:30pm ** NB, this class starts April 5 **
Dodge 413

In this course, we will read excerpts from young adult literature—from popular books like The Hunger Games, magazines like One Teen Story, and classic YA tales such as Catcher in the Rye.  We will ask the question: How does this author, using several strategies such as POV, plot, and style, produce literature that is both well-written and accessible to young adults and children?

In addition to analysis of literature, we will read theory on young adult literature and complete writing prompts to be workshopped in class.  I will also talk a bit about my experiences working as a librarian at a K-12 school, where I constantly talk about YA literature with its intended audience.
 
 
 
 
Poetry

The Unconscious Cloud: Examining 20th Century Surrealism
Poetry Hybrid
Eddie Martinez and Nicholas Wright
Saturdays 10:00am-11:30am
Dodge 409

How much of a writer’s idea can be known before it is revised?  All poems are rooted in the unconscious and subconscious before they grow on the page and are shaped into a higher sense, but how do we capture the subconscious itself and make art out of it? The aim of this class is to free the writer of the confines of absolute reason and explore the meanings implicit in nonsense.  Students will be challenged to find the art that is hiding in their free associations and their previously unexamined visceral juxtapositions.  We will discuss some of the major movements of Surrealism and incorporate some of these into our writing. The class will also cover how some of these movements were adopted by contemporary writers.  Reading material will include works by Andre Breton, Cesar Vallejo, James Tate, Lucie Brock-Broido, and others.

 


Stringing it Together: Poetry and Songwriting
Poetry Hybrid
Chukwuma Ndulue
Sundays 6:00pm-7:30pm
Dodge 413

In this course we will discuss how various poets and songwriters tackle the classic themes (lovesickness, addiction, violence, swagger etc.) in different music traditions as diverse as delta blues to modern day pop. We will examine the use of poetic devices in song lyrics while considering how words on the page and the sung/spoken word can affect us differently. Students will also have the chance to craft lyrics of their own.  So regardless of who gets your blood going, John Berryman or Ke$ha, this class is for you.


 
 
Nonfiction

Getting Them Hooked: Writing that Keeps Kids Reading
Fiction/Nonfiction Hybrid
E. B. Bartels and Deborah Cannarella
Thursdays 8:00-9:30pm
Dodge 409

When kids first get to choose books they want to read—not the books they have to read—what do they pull off the shelves? This four-week course will examine the key components of some of the most popular fiction and nonfiction books for young readers, ages 10 to 13. We will look at captivating titles, compelling first paragraphs, wonderful sentences, inspiring illustrations, and unforgettable characters to see what works so well and why. We will read excerpts from works of fiction, biography, science, history, mystery, and sci fi, written by award-winning authors. Students will have the opportunity to write and workshop their own book ideas, titles, and first paragraphs.


Nonfiction: The Whole Spectrum
Nonfiction Hybrid
Beth Anne Livermore
Fridays 3:00-4:30pm
Dodge 409

One of the world’s oldest literary traditions is now the fastest growing—for good reason. Nonfiction documents reality. It defines our place in the world. And, when done well, blending fact and imagination, can even elevate, broaden and deepen our consciousness as well as any piece of literature. Learn how to explore your world through memoir, essay and reportage.  Open your mind to experimentation, reading trailblazers and masters both. Discuss the ethical dilemmas that continue to grow with this expanding, often controversial genre.  Produce work that matters to you now, and later.

 


Profiling Jesus, Jay-Z, and J.D. Salinger
Nonfiction Seminar
Briana Fasone
Sundays 4:00pm-5:30pm
Dodge 413

Pretend you're assigned to profile Jesus (or Jay-Z or J.D. Salinger). How would you pull this off? By the end of this course, you'll have an idea. We'll study writers who took a typical assignment down a different path, pushing against the creative limitations of a form. Writers who broke all the rules—or rewrote them. Joan Didion turned a puff piece on John Wayne into a powerful cultural commentary. Gay Talese profiled Frank Sinatra without ever interviewing him. We'll read profiles, as well as unconventional reviews and essays. No knowledge of any form needed! Readings may include excerpts from Joan Didion, Gay Talese, David Foster Wallace, Chuck Klosterman, Janet Malcolm, Carl Wilson, Mark Leibovich, and Donald Barthelme. Students should expect in-class writing exercises inspired by the readings.
 
 
 
Cross-Genre

Meet Me at the Met
Cross-Genre Workshop
Nicollette Barsamian
Fridays 2:00-4:00pm
*** This course meets at the Metropolitan Museum of Art ***

We all wish we went to museums more. Museums can be a tome of inspiration for writers and we often don’t allow ourselves free time to be inspired. This workshop will create structured time to be inspired and write at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This cross-genre workshop that takes place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Total time will be an hour and a half with a 20-minute break. The first 45 minutes will take place in one exhibit and feature writing prompts. Students will be asked to write for these 45 minutes (leaving some time to explore the exhibit as well). There will then be a 20-minute break. The final 45 minutes will be a workshop based on works students bring in. It is encouraged to bring in works from writing prompts or something inspired by the museum. I will offer to take the M4 with students from Columbia prior to the class and after class. These times can be used for private meetings or class bonding.


SILENCE; Or, Reverse Cartographies of the [In]finite
Cross-Genre Hybrid
Adam Winters
Fridays 5:00pm-6:30pm
Dodge 411

“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent,” concludes Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. As we approach the limits of language, can we observe those limits? Might we writers construct and destruct cartographies of the imagination on the page? Thoughts are: Words? Images? Might we shake the dusty greatcoats that are words and reveal things in themselves? And can painters show us how an apple is not an apple? Can we express the inexpressible?

We may or may not consider none or some of the following: Lao Tzu, Li Po, Heraclitus, Homer, Aeschylus, Kafka, Blanchot, Beckett, Giacometti, Rauschenberg, Cage, Cézanne, Rilke, Trocchi, Burroughs, Carroll, Borges, Höch, Sterne, Sade, Didion, Tillman, Davis… Time will only allow for fragments, but perhaps we’ll see there are only fragments.

And the Bellman cried “Silence! Not even a shriek!”  — Lewis Carroll


The Listing Impulse
Cross-Genre Hybrid
Nick Neeley
Fridays 5:00-6:30pm
Dodge 409

In this workshop-seminar, we will discuss and share lists as art: famous lists, found lists, your lists, blue lists. Inherent in any list or catalog is some guiding principle, any deviance from which becomes especially revealing. They can prioritize or equalize. They can be timeless even as they tick. Quite possibly, lists are the backbone of our existence; at the very least, they’re the surreptitious structure beneath many works of art. As the poet-critic Geoffrey O’Brien notes, “Abundance in and of itself indicates vitality, even if it’s abundance of disease or deformities. The whole world begs to be classified.” We will consider poetry, fiction, nonfiction—even montage—and seek the enumerations hidden in our midst. Readings will include writing from Joan Didion, David Shields, Rick Moody, Nick Hornby, Christopher Smart, Walt Whitman, Wallace Stevens, Trader Joe … the you-know-what goes on.


Hybrid Forms: Slippery Slopes and Brilliant Chimeras
Cross-Genre Hybrid
Matt Alston and Meghan Maguire Dahn
Saturdays noon-1:30pm
Dodge 409

Grolar Bears, and Beffalos, and Hinnies – Oh my! 

In writing workshops, borders are drawn and genres assigned – students are asked to heed the party line and bring in your fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. But what happens when we blur or abolish these lines? This class will consider the gene splicing, cross-breeding, and generally disguised forms writing can take. What is the difference between flash fiction and narrative prose poem? What do we make of memoirs that fictionalize?  Can an index of maladies be a poem?  We will pin down examples of each and consider how writers have fractured taxonomies.

Students will have short in-class writing assignments that they may choose to polish into finished pieces (whatever their form!).  Readings may include: Charles Simic, Anne Carson, Roland Barthes, Mark Leyner, Maggie Nelson, Charles Olsen, sundry field notes, and the National Weather Service.


I think, therefore I write.
Cross-Genre Seminar
Zach Hindin
Saturdays 10:00am-11:30am
Dodge 409

Philosophy gets a bum rap for being dusty and dense. Consider this course a short, pyrotechnic demonstration to the contrary. The authors of our readings may be philosophers, but we will read them first and foremost as writers. The idea is to leave you with a variety of options for generating your own intellectual energy on the page in a way that provokes, persuades, arrests and/or mesmerizes your readers.

Each week, short readings will be drawn from several prominent traditions in Western thought, including existentialism, phenomenology and postmodernism. We will also look at how the philosophical mode is performed in a few contemporary pieces of fiction, cultural criticism and polemic.

Absolutely no knowledge or awareness of philosophy is prerequisite.

 

The Possibilities of Place
Cross-Genre Hybrid
Kayla Smith and Elizabeth Walters
Saturdays 4:00pm-5:30pm
Dodge 411

How does a place influence a writer and her writing? How can we evoke a place for a reader who has never been there? We will examine these questions and others through reading fiction, nonfiction and poetry texts, and students will have in-class writing opportunities to evoke places of significance to themselves. After four weeks of seminar-style classes with brief writing exercises, our last two course meetings will take place off campus at sites where we can explore writing about a place in that place. The authors we read might include excerpts from, but will not be limited to, Joseph Mitchell, Michael Chabon, Katherine Boo, Joan Didion, Thomas Hardy, Emily Bronte, Philip Larkin, T.S. Eliot and W.B. Yeats.


Imagination in the World-Creator or World-Interpreter
Max Ritvo
Cross-Genre Hybrid
Sundays 2:00pm-3:30pm
Dodge 407

Are you masterful at developing a framework that the whole world seems to be able to fit in? Have you done some version of dividing the world into Coke and Pepsi people—and it seems to work every freaking time? Are you like Dante?

Do you instead think the whole world can’t be boiled down to one idea, and course through life with open eyes—chancing on beautiful momentary instances and taking pleasure in the way the seemingly paradoxical relate to one another and the seemingly harmonious annihilate one another? Do you stumble across an amazing YouTube video where the shouting baby sounds exactly like your fourth grade music teacher—and are wise enough to connect the two? Are you like Shakespeare?

Inspired by Isaiah Berlin’s essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox”, this hybrid seminar/poetry-workshop class will explore these kinds of imagination, and help you bring an enhanced awareness of creative motives and possibilities to your writing through fun prompts. We will think about how these kinds of creativity can make their way into the criticisms we offer in workshops and as exegetes. There will be some hopefully-eye opening philosophy: Do you believe very strongly in Cause and Effect? Three or four pages of Hume might shake that. Do you think the effort to understand the course of history is feeble? Let’s see what you think after a five-pages of Marx. (Notice how low the page numbers on readings are!) We will have a listening party where we compare Bach and Beethoven, Burial and CocoRosie, Miles Davis’s Surrey with the Fringe on Top, and Roger’s and Hammerstein’s, and also whatever music you guys bring in. We will read your favorite poems and discuss what kind of imagination goes into making them work.

I encourage you to take this class with friends, or make friends through this class: I hope you’ll be able to discuss the ideas outside of class and that they’ll make their way into the way you see the world and fight with and love other human beings.
 
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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.