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EGL 72 WB — Transporting the Reader: The Art of Description

Quarter: Spring
Course Format: Online course (System Requirements)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Apr 3—Jun 9
Drop Deadline: Apr 11
Units: 3
Tuition: $850
Instructor(s): Lewis Robinson
Limit: 17
Status: Closed
Apr 3—Jun 9
10 weeks
Drop By
Apr 11
3 Units
Lewis Robinson
On your couch at home, you open a book and are immediately transported to base camp on Mount Everest. The sights, sounds, and smells are shockingly recognizable. Have you been here before? How did this happen? Sensory details hurtle us into a story, and alert us to the physical and emotional experience of the characters. Even in small doses, description reveals why a story is being told and what is most relevant to those involved. Being mindful of plot, characterization, and point of view, we will practice finding the right balance of details, so a setting can become more than just a static backdrop, and objects can feel like more than just props. Attending to the precision and authenticity of details helps to make a short story, memoir, or novel all the more emotionally engrossing. In the first five weeks of class—by way of reading and writing exercises—we will generate new work and share our progress. In weeks six through ten, students will submit and workshop longer excerpts. We will discuss short stories, essays, and notes on craft by a variety of contemporary masters. This course is suitable for both fiction and nonfiction writers, and all experience levels are welcome.

Although the time commitment for an online writing course is dependent upon one’s degree of participation, students should plan on investing four to six hours per week in order to gain substantial benefit from the course.

This is the third course of the four-quarter sequence, “The Craf t of Creative Writing: The Essential Tools.” The four courses focus on Scene (Fall 2016), Character (Winter 2017), Description (Spring 2017), and The Sentence (Summer 2017). These courses are less workshop-oriented than most of our Creative Writing courses, instead devoting each quarter to an intensive and wide-ranging practicum in a key question of craft. While these courses build upon one another, each course can be taken independently as well.

Lewis Robinson, Author

Lewis Robinson is the author of the novel Water Dogs, a New York Times Editor’s Choice, and the story collection Officer Friendly, which received the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award and a Whiting Award. His short stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Tin House, Sports Illustrated, The Missouri Review, and on NPR’s Selected Shorts. He is host of the podcast Talk Shop. He received an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and has taught at Colby College and the University of Iowa, and in the MFA program at the University of Southern Maine.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Junot Diaz and Heidi Pitlor, The Best American Short Stories 2016 (ISBN 978-0544582897)
(Required) Cheryl Strayed and Robert Atwan, The Best American Essays 2013 (ISBN 978-0544103887)