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Creative Launch Pad: Intro to Making Things Up and Writing Them Down

Session A: July 13 – July 23, 2020
9:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.
College Prep
English and Writing
Melissa Jensen

We will read—and watch—across genres: fiction and creative nonfiction, prose and verse and script, exploring various approaches to how best to get those stories told. Students will complete a series of quick writing assignments: honing their voice, creating believable story, characters, and language. We will discuss some of these pieces as a group in class. The goal is to become coherent, compelling storytellers. Because absolutely everyone has a story to tell.


Each session will begin with a focused lecture from the instructor on the day’s topic: novels, poetry, scripts, etc. We will read topical pieces aloud, view segments from film and television, and discuss as a group what we’ve read and seen as works of creative writing: not just whether we like (or dislike) them, but why? What has the author achieved (or not) through subject, language, form, etc. to compel, entertain, illuminate? In the second week, we will workshop students’ work, offering (guided) insights into what is appealing and works well, and what might benefit from revision.

All sessions will be conducted live on Zoom. While some might be recorded, the discussion-based format of the course frequently prohibits this in the interest of creativity and privacy. So students should plan on being present during class time each day.

Assigned Reading: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (it is strongly recommended that students have this read in advance of the first session). Assorted poetry and prose to be read in class and/or on Canvas. Assigned and recommended pieces will be posted on Canvas throughout the week.

Writing assignments: There will be regular in-class writing exercises. Students will also complete two short pieces outside of class, based on a choice of topics provided by the instructor.

Course Outline:

Class 1: Monday
Wingardium leviosa!”: Introduction to Creative Writing
-history, form, function, and some familiar examples
-inspiration and purpose

Class 2: Tuesday
Roses are red; violets are smelly: Poetry
-what it is and why it’s such a good thing, the basics
Reading: Assigned poems

Class 3: Wednesday
Do not go gentle: (more challenging) Poetry
-rhyme, meter, and other form(al) elements
Reading: Assigned poems

Class 4: Thursday
Once upon a time…: Fiction
-plot and setting: building worlds and telling tales
Reading (required): “The Lottery” and “The Paper Menagerie”

Class 5: Friday
…there was a beautiful prince(ss): Fiction
-characters: who they are, why we care, how we make them real
Writing Exercise Due: “Manythings Go”
-poetry: free verse, rhymed/metered, concrete, prose...

Class 6: Monday
“Scourgify!”: Editing, critique, and the workshopping process
-how to find what isn’t working well and how to fix it
Workshopping: Students discuss each others’ work
Reading: Classmates’ “Manythings” pieces, write at least two comments about each

Class 7: Tuesday
“I swear I didn’t make this up!”: Creative nonfiction
-personal essays, reviews, profiles
Reading: choose two non-fiction pieces, either from the suggested list or on your own

Class 8: Wednesday
Fade in: Scripts and screenplays
-form(at) and content

Class 9: Thursday
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Stepsisters: Writing in the real world
-planning, doing, and how to live Happily Ever After in the writing realm
Writing Exercise Due: “F(a)ction”
-information, opinion, or fiction from life

Class 10: Friday
Goodbye, and Keep Cold: Wind-up and final discussions

Instructor bio:

Melissa Jensen is an award-winning writer of historical and contemporary fiction. Most recently, her Young Adult novels have been official selections on such lists as New York Public Library's Teen Reading and FYA. She is currently working on the fourth and final book in her Philadelphia novel series and a play centered around bog bodies and Irish rap music, as well as participating in an ongoing multi-media project exploring the connection between anthropology, archaeology, and literature. “Broken Siren”, a contemporary work for string ensemble and soprano based on Homer’s Odyssey, for which she wrote the libretto, will debut in 2020, followed by Carmilla from the Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu novella in 2021. She has contributed to numerous print media, including Philadelphia Style Magazine and the Philadelphia Inquirer. She currently divides her time between Philadelphia and Dublin, all the better to be immersed in the worlds of really really good fiction and poetry, and fascinating stuff unearthed from underground.