San Francisco State University Bachelor of Arts in English: Concentration in Creative Writing


San Francisco State University Bachelor of Arts in English: Concentration in Creative Writing



Work in Progress

CW 601–02


Fall 2010

August 25–December 8, Wednesdays



Instructor: Steve Dickison

Office hours: Thursday 2:30–3:30pm or by arrangement


Course Description:


The Work in Progress course is designed to help enable senior status students in creative writing to complete a written work in their chosen genre. Our focus will allow each student to become more adept at respectful and constructive commentary on her/his own and other writers’ written works, focus on methods for research and revision, and build up a repertoire toward useful critique in support of one’s own writing practice in relation to that of other writers.




CW 301, and senior status creative writing major (juniors about to become seniors may enroll).


Course Objectives:


• To enable each student to produce a written work that reflects her/his creative development.


• To allow each student an understanding of the progress she/he has made in recent years, with a sense of how to continue working as a creative artist outside the university structure.


• To fulfill departmental requirements for assessment of each student completing the undergraduate program in creative writing.


Course Content, Methods, Materials:


• Reading, research, writing, and revision assignments will be given regularly throughout the semester.


• Student work of all types will be aired in larger class sessions and in smaller working groups.


• Everyone will be involved in offering spoken and written commentary on the work that’s aired. This is a complex and crucial skill that each of us will be working to refine throughout the semester.


• Circa the seventh class meeting, each student will present a written midterm self-evaluation detailing the status of her/his work in the course to date, and as projected over the remaining seven weeks. Details to be announced.


• Every student will be required to meet individually with me during the second half of the semester.


• Our final two meetings (Dec 1 & Dec 8) will be given to presentations of student works in progress, and your critical commentary (spoken and written) on your own work and the work of other student writers. It is crucial that you attend and participate at all levels in these opportunities to experience what each of us has managed to accomplish throughout these weeks.


• iLearn: Each student must provide her/himself with reliable online access to iLearn for posting and critiquing one another's work on a weekly basis.


Required Books:


There are three required books for all students.


(1) A Community Writing Itself: Conversations with Vanguard Writers of the Bay Area, ed. Sarah Rosenthal, Dalkey Archive


(2) The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Michael Ondaatje, Vintage Books


(1) is a new book of conversations with Bay Area writers; small groups will be assigned to research and report on the work of each of the writers in the book—with particular attention to the specific concerns voiced by each writer reflecting on their own work.


(2) is a celebrated narrative incorporating qualities of the novel, short fiction, the poem, popular song, historical inquiry, etc.; we will all read this book in the early weeks of the semester, so to have a common ground of reference regarding concerns, strategies, and approaches for writers at work in any genre.


Also required: at least one of the following books:


(3) Poems of the Late T’ang, A. C. Graham, New York Review Classics (for poetry students in particular, though an excellent book useful for all writers), and/or


(4) I Hotel, Karen Tei Yamashita, Coffee House Press (for fiction writers in particular; emphasis on San Francisco history), and/or


(5) Foundations for a Theater, Richard Foreman, Theater Communications Group (for drama writers in particular; provocative work for all writers).


These exemplary works we will put to use as stimulus, model, informed source, tentative common ground, etc.




Four guest writers will be visiting our class this semester. Please make it a priority to be present and prepared.


Sept 22

Sarah Rosenthal, Robert Glück, and Camille Roy, editor and writer-contributors to A Community Writing Itself, have agreed to be guests in our class, and talk with us about their practices as writers, the question of “community,” and like concerns. Note: other contributors to this book will be appearing at local off-campus events throughout the semester.


Nov 17

Karen Tei Yamashita, novelist and author of I Hotel, will visit our class at 12:10pm to talk about her research and work as a novelist; then to present a multiple-media reading in the Poetry Center at 2:00pm.


Note: Nov 3 class cancelled; I will be out of town, reading on the East Coast.


Public Events:


Every student must attend three (3) public performances of literary or related work during the semester and post brief one-page summaries for each at iLearn within one week of attending. Indicate the date, venue, featured artists, content of the performance, and your observations. The SFSU Poetry Center calendar and other resources for public events will be shared. Please bring in information for events you're aware of and/or involved in.


Class Attendance:


Class attendance is mandatory. Every weekly meeting will involve work in groups, discussion, research, and writing assignments that cannot be easily summarized or otherwise accounted for outside the class. It’s essential that you arrive on time and commit to staying the full length of the class. If this is a problem, talk to me. Commit yourself to being a full-time member of the class. If you’re not here, there’s no real way to “make up” what you’ve missed, since what you’ve missed is live interaction, thinking and speaking and writing based on what transpires among us. If you miss three classes (which amounts to more than 20% of our total class time) your grade will be lowered a full grade from what you’d otherwise earn. Contact me if you need to miss class.




Grading will be based, proportionately, on:


• being present, attentive, and participating (includes all assigned work): 30%

• the quality of regular writing you do for the class: 20%

• the quality of your contribution to in-class presentations: 20%

• the quality of your final written project: 30%


Completing all assignments successfully will result in a grade of B, while an A grade will be given for exceptional work.


Disability Statement:

Students with disabilities who need reasonable accommodations are encouraged to contact the instructor. The Disability Programs and Resource Center (DPRC) is available to facilitate the reasonable accommodations process. The DPRC is located in the Student Service Building and can be reached by telephone (voice/TTY 415-338-2472) or by email (


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this is the dialog test text
I’ve always been attracted by the nontraditional in art and by contemporary work that finds meaning—even necessity—in testing the established, pre-approved limits of its medium.
I did not think there was an “I”—a self—that existed apart from representations—texts of one kind or another—but I was urgent to “tell my story,” a completely different kind of truth, the strange story of the marginalized experience of a sexual minority whose existence was rather experimental itself, and had yet to appear in our literary forum.
Each generation [of poets] has a necessity that it has to work out for itself. And the intelligence will only help you so far in that task, and then you have to reside in your imagination.
Our very greatest human thing—which is language to me—musicians would say it’s music, but I think it’s language—our very greatest human thing is wild. Uncontrollable. It is impossible to put boundaries on your words, even if you make a poem.
I’ve heard people who do in poetry something that emulates what Coltrane does. They’ll actually scream, do things of that sort…. My screaming is … the fraying of meanings; it’s the colliding of sounds that creates certain consternations of meaning that might be the counterpart of the scream, analogous to the scream.
I have an ironic relationship to figures of speech as they are in the world, and a fascination with the mystery that occurs as we reframe them. We let them pass as everyday-life words, and yet if we pull back just a step, they acquire a kind of poetic estrangement.
The world out there can’t ever be exactly reenacted. But through working in these repeating forms over a long period of time, I’m exploring how the things of the world can be enacted in language.
I would argue that poetry-making is not a solitary but a communal activity. Part of our ethical work as writers … is to engage with that, to be good readers and responders, to participate in some way.
I am not of the school that one ought to run around trying to have extreme experiences in order to become a more interesting person. I do think, though, that when things go really, really wrong, and people act out violently, it’s in those moments that you see the playability of reality.
I think people being actively aware are jumping out of a propagandized state of social conventions. Writing could be an active state outside social convention. Yet it is not to be alone, not to withdraw, or to fail to pay attention. In that case one couldn’t write, because what would there be to write?
My drive in thinking about writing something is the question, How can I look at this information and re-sort it in a way that helps me to understand it? I’ll think, Oh, gee, I’m really confused about colonialism and my role in it; I’m going to sit down and try to think about some ways that I can gain an understanding of it.
Speaking English was the way that I separated myself from my parents…. Becoming a writer was a way to further separate … especially because in my writing I examine issues such as being gay and being raised Catholic. But … the more I’ve written, the more I’ve circled back to the connections and stories that originated in my family.