Thursday, February 10, 2011

Great Opportunity: Spring Creative Writing Course, Fiction Writing Workshop

Hi Guys -

I'm very excited to let you know about a new course, Fiction Writing Workshop (ENG276.5672) that I'll be teaching in the Spring. If you're interested in Creative Writing or are looking for a fun elective, give it a look, and feel free to pass along to others who might be interested.

PLEASE NOTE: The catalogue lists Creative Writing (ENN 198) as a prerequisite for this class. HOWEVER, if you are receiving this message, I will waive this prerequisiste and you will be able to enroll. If you wish to enroll and haven't taken ENN 198, send me an email ( so we can set this up.

Thanks, and hope to see you in the Spring.

The description:


Fiction Writing Workshop

ENG 276.5672

Mondays and Wednesdays, 6-7:30 PM

Distilled moments, chance encounters, the internal thought and the external action, the spoken and the unspoken, the familiar made strange and the strange made familiar: in this class we will explore the boundless possibilities of short fiction. Students will be encouraged to experiment with a variety of forms and techniques, share their work with one another, give and receive constructive feedback, and to take risks throughout the writing and revision process.

We will use a reader containing short fiction (and some creative non-fiction) by a range of writers with diverse backgrounds and styles, including Jorge Luis Borges, Dorothy Allison, Sherman Alexie, Jamaica Kincaid, John Dos Passos, Raymond Carver and Miranda July. We will use these writers as inspiration, as idea-generators and as the jumping off point for a variety of writing projects.

We will undertake writing exercises and games that explore such elements of fiction as character, dialogue, description, plot, time, and place, using techniques and elements including collage, found texts, observation, chance, and collaboration. Throughout we will focus on multiple and overlapping elements of the writing process, with a special emphasis on the various possible approaches to revision.

All students will have the opportunity to have selected work published in a chapbook that will be created by the group. We will also discuss other opportunities for publication.

Please feel free to contact me at with questions.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Update as of Thursday 12/16.

Hi guys -

As of Thursday, I'm still out of town due to a death in the family. If you were scheduled to give a presentation Tuesday, you can email me your visuals or notes if that's possible, if not; don't worry about it and I'll calculate your participation grade without it. If you still owe me an essay, please email it to me or post in your blog. You can also continue to post your public art posts or bonus posts. I will most likely be turning in the final grades next Monday.

Tomorrow, Friday, you can meet as scheduled from 10:30-12:30 in E264; I will pass the essays that are in New York and all your grades to colleagues who will be able to give them to you. If I have your essay with me, I will include comments about it and you can pick up the physical essay at the start of January. If I don't have all your work, I will indicate this on the sheet I give to my colleagues and ask you to get in touch with me.

Feel free to contact me at laura.tanenbaum@gmail or 917 710-7341. with any questions or concerns.

Thank you for understanding. You've been a great class and I'm sorry I won't be there to Friday. Do stop by come January or stay in touch.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bonus Posts

To complete your work for the semester be sure you have:

1) Turned in your research essay with all the elements listed on your checklist.

2) Posted your "Public Work of Art" post to your blog.

3) Deposited your research essay without your name (or mine) following the instructions on the handout.

4) Done your oral presentation in class. (Come see me if you missed this).

5) Completed our blog posts (1-6) - topics can be found by scrolling down. You can also find old bonus topics which you can respond to enhance your partcipation grade.

In addition after completing the work listed above, you can raise your grade with an additional bonus post by responding about one of the texts in the packet from the last part of course. For any of these texts, summarize the text and its argument or purpose, describe your response and how you think it relates to the themes we've been discussing throughout the semester. You can complete your posts anytime through Monday, December 13th.

Texts you can write about for bonus posts:

Alice Walker, "In Search of Our Mother's Gardens"
Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow
Tricia Rose, "All Aboard the Night Train"
Anna Deavere Smith, Twilight
Public Enemy "Party for Your Right to Fight," "Fight the Power," and "911 is a Joke"
Thomas Frank, "Why Johnny Can't Dissent"

Thursday, December 2, 2010

An Invitation: Publish your work and Join Us for a Holiday Luncheon

Next Wednesday, December 8th, during club hours - 2:15-4, the Creative Writing Club will be holding an end-of-the luncheon and celebration in M317. We will have hot and cold food and wonderful treats from club officer and master chef Jennifer Phanomrat. Come take a break from end of the semester studying, meet other creative writers and hear about our exciting plans for the future.
We're pitching in with a food drive being held by the Natural Science department and Nursing club to benefit a soup kitchen in South Jamaica, so please bring a canned good or small cash donation.

The Club is also taking submissions for a chapbook of work from club members. Short fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction are all welcome. If you'd like to submit, send your writing as an attachment to

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sample Public Art Post

*Note: below is a sample of your Public Art assignment which is due on Thursday, December 2nd, on your blog. Start looking around your neighborhood for ideas and taking notes. Proofread your work before posting*

This painting of Bob Marley is on the grate outside what was the Vox Pop cafe until a few months ago, about a ten minute walk from my apartment in the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn. It's on Cortelyou Street, where there is a strip of cafes, food markets, restaurants and wine bars. There's also a public library, a farmer's market in the summer, and some new semi-luxury apartments for sale. This street is most often described as Ditmas Park. Sometimes I refer sarcastically to it as the 'prefab gentrification strip' because of its similarity to other blocks in other neighborhoods, down to the locavore restaurant menus. Vox Pop was different - it was always on the edge of closing. The tables were unbalanced; the shelves were following down. It apparently closed because of tax issues. Of course, now that it's closed, Marley and the other grate paintings are more visible. Store grates are a quintessentially urban canvas. You see more of the slotted ones; the full ones like this offer a great example of New Yorkers finding any space to fill with images.

I would include this painted grate in my New York (2010) exhibit because the coffee shop is a key part of New York life for many people. The film in the Nueva York exhibit talked about bodegas as community centers; coffee shops often play a similar role. People post flyers, pass out free newspapers, advertise for services, have free or cheap musical performances.
Students and freelancers use them as their offices. They play a role in our perception of neighborhoods and how we think about gentrification. The people who used to hang out at Vox Pop can now be found down the street at a more upscale cafe.

The Marley we see here is mostly apolitical: his presentation and the "be happy" written across the top is the Marley of "One Love," which was used in a Jamaican tourism commerical, rather than the Marley of "Redemption Song" (How long will they kill our martyrs/while we stand aside and wait?) or "War" (Until the philsophy which hold one race superior/And another/Inferior/Is Finally/And Permanently/Discredited/And abandoned/Everywhere is war). It even brings to mind the 1988 hit "Don't Worry, Be Happy," which Public Enemy took a shot at in "Fight the Power." Interestingly, there are two other figures above Marley and next to the instructions to "Be Happy" I can't identify the one on the left; the one on the right is Martin Luther King. "Be happy" seems an odd label for his philosophy. Similarly to Marley, an interpretive choice is being made: this would be the King of "I have a Dream" rather than the one who said "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom." In both cases, I might say that the images makes a political statement through its seeminly apolitical nature: in taking away the challenging pieces of the message, musical, spiritual and political icons gain a presence in our everyday lives but lose some of their power to confront us, to shape our day instead of smiling at us as we go about it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Updated Schedule

Here's a overview of our readings and work for the rest of the semester.

For Tuesday, November 2nd
Complete Post #6 (see below)
Read Young Lords, 13 Point Platform
Read Collection of poems from the Nuyorican Poetry Movement (following platform in your reader)

Thursday, November 4th
Continue discussion of Nuyorican Movement
Discuss Presentations of Research Projects
Introduction to Politics and Sports Discussion

For Tuesday, November 9th
Read Robert Lipsyte, "Clay Refuses Army Oath"
Read Dave Zirin, "Sports on the Edge of Panic"
Continue to post sources and drafts

Thursday, November 11th
Trip to Museum of the Barrio (meet in classroom)

For Tuesday, November 16th
Continue to Post Sources and Drafts of Staged Essay
Begin work on Final Blog Post: A Public Work of Art
Read Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow

For Thursday, November 18th
Work with Drafts of Research Essays
Continue discussion of Alexander and songs by Public Enemy

For Tuesday, November 23rd
Turn in or post Drafts of Research Essays
Read Anna Deveare Smith, Twilight, Los Angeles.

Weeks of November 30th and December 7th: Presentations of Research Projects, Final Drafts of Research Essays, and Final Blog Posts (Public Art Projects)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Post 6 and more extra credit posts

For Thursday, October 28th, read the collection of poems from the Black Arts movement from your packet along with Alice Walker's essay "In Search of Our Mother's Gardens" Think about how each present an argument about what art is and what it should do.

For Tuesday, November 2nd, post on the sources you've found so far for your research essay. Describe each one, link to it if possible, and describe how it will help your topic. Keep in mind you can use wikipedia for backgound and to lead you to other sources, but it's not one of your final four.

Also begin to do some early drafting on your essay. Begin with the questions in Part I of the paper outline:

Drawing on your sources, describe and analyze the political situation the text was mean to address. Some questions you might consider:
What was the artist/activist’s relationship to this issue?
What kind of analysis or argument does the text/act put forward?
Is your text an example of protest art? Or something else?
What did the artist/activist think needed to be done in response to the issue?
How does the text/act suggest alternatives and/or solutions?
What does the text/act ask of the viewer/audience?
How did the text/act draw on/connect to a larger social movement?
What was your first reaction to the text/act? Do you think you would have reacted different when it was first created?

Finally, some more extra credit topics. Please note: if you are behind on your posts, you may substitute one of these (or other extra credit topics found below) for your missing posts). Here's an interesting article about activism going on right now by young people and young women in particular. What techiniques are these activists using? Who has the power regarding this issue, and what do you think will be effective in helping these activists gain power?

If you attended the poet laureate reading, describe your experience. What struck you about Ms. Ryan's poetry and the presentation? How would you say it compares to some of the poetry we've been discussing?

And here is the website for the It Gets Better project, an activist project using social media tools to fight against homophobia. Watch some of the videos and describe your reaction. What is the purpose of the project? Which videos do you think will be more effective - those from leaders like Presiden Obama or from 'everyday people'? Do you see connections between this movement and the Civil Rights movement against racism we've been discussing?