Writers in the Making
This selective summer concentration will emphasize the making of skilled creative writers through practice, revision, and the lessons to be learned from literary models, mentors, and peers. Writers write, above all, and they get better at it by paying attention to how readers receive and understand what they’ve written, as well as by training themselves to discern how more experienced writers have practiced the craft.
Concentrators will take two courses. They will be members together of the seminar, “Reading as a Writer,” and also will be placed in one of two small craft workshops described below, where they will write and revise intensively. Placement will be made on the basis of applicants’ writing samples, expressed preference, and seat availability—not everyone will get his or her first choice. All concentrators will complete a revised body of work for chapbook publication. Participants will take home multiple copies of their own chapbook, as well as a set of the whole group’s works. They will take advantage of the full range of BCE excursions, but also have additional concentration outings to evening readings in bookstores.
Supplemental Application Materials
A maximum of 16 writers will be selected for the concentration. Applicants should submit:
• BCE application
• Letter of recommendation from an English teacher specifically addressing creative writing abilities and experience.
• Writing sample of up to 6 pages of fiction or creative nonfiction, or 4-6 poems of up to 6 pages, or a mix of genres up to 6 pages. The applicant’s first and last name should appear in either the header or footer on each page of the writing sample.
These materials can be sent with the application to the Boston College Experience mailing address.
Reading as a Writer
Almost any writer will tell you that he or she came to literature first as a reader: a reader who was transformed by a story told just right, or frustrated by a poem that seemed to get things all wrong. Translating that initial enthusiasm (or dissatisfaction) to the process of writing can be a real challenge, however. In this seminar, we will read, discuss, imitate, analyze, and otherwise engage various types of creative writing, from the traditional to the experimental.
To learn how to read as a writer would, we will take apart stories, poems, plays, essays, and other forms to determine how they were put together in the first place—and how we might use their strategies as inspirations for our own work. In other words, we will examine literature as practitioners, as technicians, and as artists. We will try to understand each piece we read as a clockmaker might attempt to understand a clock: not only as an indicator of the time, but as a quiet machine, each gear and dial working together to produce a series of effects. Supplementing and enhancing our own independent work will be weekly visits with accomplished practicing writers. These writers will bring literature to life by discussing with us their own work, the work of some of their influences, and your work.
—Prof. Allison Adair
Writing Workshop: Short Fiction
“You can’t want to be a writer,” says Paul Theroux, “you have to be one.” And so we shall – in this class, we’ll commit to the practice of writing fiction. We’ll write regularly, share drafts of our stories, help each other with revisions and read work by masters of the form. Through our reading and writing, we’ll learn about the building blocks of fiction – character development, plot design, dialogue construction and many others – but we’ll also ask the big questions: What keeps readers reading? How can we write fiction that’s “true”? Finally, we’ll gain a new understanding of ourselves as artists – what we’re inspired by, what we have to say to the world, and how we can cultivate a practice which will continue long after the summer ends.
—Prof. Chris Boucher
Writing Workshop: Poetry and Lyrical Essay
“Poetry” (and perhaps any lyrical impulse that drives a writer to the page) is, according to British Romantic poet William Wordsworth, “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” What, exactly, makes one want to write a poem or essay about him- or herself? What does the writer do with all this feeling, to learn to communicate it, shape it and make it art (as well as something others want to read)? Wordsworth went on to say that poetry (and again, perhaps any creative written expression) “takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” It is that tranquility, that stillness, that helps the writer shape feeling and thought into something tangible.
In our workshop we will practice both poetry and the lyrical essay, learning how to harness the strong feelings a young writer wants to express, and finding the more tranquil space in which these words can find shape and meaning. We’ll read selections of both kinds of writing, but most of the work will come through the process of making: exercises designed to get at aspects of structure, sound, sense, movement, and design that make the words on the page do something new, something unexpected, and, hopefully, something fun to create.
—Prof. Susan Roberts
Allison Adair received an MFA in Poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a BA in English and History from Brown University. At BC, Allison teaches various writing and literature courses, including Travel Literature and The Poetics of Rap. Her poems and prose work have appeared in various journals, and she serves as a Contributing Editor for The Brooklyn Quarterly. Allison is originally from Pennsylvania but has lived in Boston for almost fifteen years, with the more recent additions of a husband and a spunky toddler.
Christopher Boucher received his MFA in Fiction from Syracuse University in 2002, and he published his first novel, How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, in 2011. Chris teaches courses in creative writing, literature and magazine publishing at BC; he’s also the Managing Editor of Post Road, the English Department’s literary journal. Chris lives in Watertown with his wife and two children. In his free time, he plays the five-string banjo.
Susan Roberts earned her MA in English at Boston College and her BA in Journalism at St. Michael’s College. She has worked as a newspaper reporter and editor, and has had her poetry and non-fiction published in a variety of journals. She’s been on the full-time faculty of the BC English Department since 1996 and teaches courses in poetry, introductory literature, composition, creative writing, and non-fiction. A native of Vermont, she now lives in Boston with a small white dog who sometimes comes to her classes and three cats who do not.