Course Descriptions

Fall 2016

All WRT courses are restricted to graduate students in the Michener Center’s MFA program or graduate students in our affiliated programs in English, Theatre or RTF, unless special permission is granted.  Click for other departments’ workshops in fiction, poetry, playwriting, or screenwriting.


Ben Fountain
Tuesday, 1:00-4:00 pm
FDH Seminar Room

Each student will be required to submit and workshop two short stories over the course of the semester. Variations (novel excerpts, batched short-shorts) may be substituted for stories. Written peer evaluations of each story are required; thoughtful class participation is expected and encouraged. We will also do a fair amount of outside reading–stories, excerpts from novels and reportage, essays. Students are encouraged to offer suggestions for readings, especially in areas where the instructor is perceived to be clueless. Required reading for first class: pp. 10-92, ABC of Reading by Ezra Pound. Also required (assignments tbd): Miami and the Siege of Chicago by Norman Mailer.


WRT 380S:  Nonfiction Reading Course
Geoff Dyer

Tuesdays, 9:00 am – 12:00 noon
FDH Seminar Room

Imagine this course as a badly needed but non-existent section in a bookstore. It’s here that we will find those non-fiction books that don’t sit entirely comfortably in the sections where they are sometimes found. These book are often compounds of several quite distinct genres. What they have in common is that they all merit the status of literature. How do they manage this? How did they assume the form they did? How are the demands of factual accuracy reconciled with the assumed freedoms of fiction? What are the risks involved when a work reportage—or reference, even—becomes autobiography? Are there precedents? Is this a recent phenomenon? If so what is its relationship to the vitality and gravitational pull of the novel?

Each week we will look at one book—or, on a couple of occasions, two books—but students will also be encouraged to read additional titles by the same author or titles of related   interest. Authors will include: John Berger, Annie Dillard, Ryszard Kapuscinski, Dexter Filkins, David Thomson, Janet Malcolm, Rebecca West.

Elizabeth McCracken
Monday, 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
FDH Seminar Room

The good news and the bad news is: there are no rules. When it comes to writing, a piece of fiction succeeds or fails only depending on how it obeys its own rules, when it teaches the reader how to read and enter the particular fictional world. In our workshop, students will read each other’s work with generosity and optimism and rigor, to understand each piece’s best intentions and try to help the author to fulfill them-to learn, in other words, not only how to be critics, but how to read our own work critically. We will discuss in class and in conference both the smallest details of writing fiction as well as its loftiest aims.

Dean Young

Wednesdays, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
FDH Seminar Room

This is a class for practicing poets.  The majority of our class time will be discussing the work generated by the poets in the class.  Each student is expected to submit one poem a week and be an active and prepared participant in workshop discussions.

Naomi Shihab Nye
Mondays, 9:00 am – 12:00 noon
FDH Seminar Room

Restricted to entering MCW class of Fall 2016.

A rollicking, multi-genre, reading and writing marathon.  In this course, we’ll consider short and longer fiction, nonfiction, poetry, plays, and a screenplay, writing responsively to each, discussing all texts, creating an interweave of pleasure and possibility.  Attendance absolutely required unless excused for illness. First draft parallel form responses to readings will be due every week.

Required Texts:

BECAUSE YOU ASKED, A Book of Answers on the Art & Craft of the Writing Life, edited by Katrina Roberts (Lost Horse Press, 2015)

BRIEF ENCOUNTERS, A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction, edited by Judith Kitchen and Dinah Lenney (WW Norton, 2016)

LIFTED BY THE GREAT NOTHING, Karim Dimechkie (Bloomsbury, 2015)

BIRDS OF PARADISE LOST, Stories, Andrew Lam, (Red Hen Press, 2013)

THE HORIZONTAL LINE (HOMAGE TO AGNES MARTIN), a poem by Edward Hirsch (I have gift copies for everyone – limited edition chapbook)


DEEP LANE, Mark Doty (WW Norton, 2015)

SLEEPING WITH THE DICTIONARY, Harryette Mullen, (U of California Press, 2002)

THE NEUGENTS—CLOSE TO HOME, David M. Spear (Gnomon Press, 1993/paperback ed. 2010)

Plays and Screenplays to be announced.