ENG 162 Fall 2013

ENG 162 at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor ME, taught by John A. (Don't ever, ever ask!) Goldfine johngoldfine@gmail.com

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fall 2013 syllabus ENG 162

Catalog Course Description: ENG 162 Creative Non-Fiction Writing:

Uses a non-workshop approach - no peer editing or critiques. Students will read short creative non-fiction, explore developing non-fiction material using fictional techniques such as dialogue and narrative voice, and write their own pieces. 3 credits.

WHO I AM: I'm John Goldfine, your EMCC writing instructor.

CHANGES: Nothing in here is carved in stone. Changes happen—that’s the only thing I know in advance won’t change.

PHONE: I'm available for conversation on writing at 1 800 286 9357 x 4648 (work) and 338-3080 (home) (not after 9 pm or before 6 am, please.) If you don't reach me and want to leave a message, that's fine, but, unless you tell me it's an emergency, please DON'T leave your phone number and ask me to call you back--phone tag is a waste of everyone's time, and I won't return calls that aren't emergencies. EMAIL me instead, okay?

EMAIL: My email address is johngoldfine@gmail.com . Don't use a subject line because that might send your email to my junk mail folder, which I only read when I need muscle enlargements, a million dollars from a Nigerian bank, cut-rate V*agra, or cheap inkjet cartridges. That would be never.

E-mail me anytime. I will respond to email within 24 hours unless my computer is fried by lighting or another icestorm knocks out my power for two weeks....

Please be sure to include your real name and email address with any emails.

OFFICE HOURS: I can be reached by phone or email. I will be in or near my office (Room 155 Maine Hall) MWF, office hours on the door, unless my car breaks down or I have a meeting with my boss--that sort of thing. I’ll be glad to meet with you other times if needed. Online real-time chatroom conferences or skype converstations are also possible.

MATERIALS: No textbook. On http://fromswanvilletoyou.blogspot.com/ there will appear week-by-week assignments, lecture material, syllabus, links, and sample essays you can download onto memory stick or home computer. That’s your text. Free.

COMPUTERS: each of you will have your own blog with all your stuff on it (you will get instructions on how to create your blog). That's a permanent record of your work.

But, stuff happens. You'll want to back up your blog. Save your stuff somewhere else--on disk, hard drive, flash drive, on another website. I will probably make mistakes recordkeeping, and I want you to win the discussion when I say, 'I don't have a record that you did that assignment.' How do you win? By showing me the assignment. So, have that backup updated.

You can have blogger automatically send all your posts to an email address, if you go to your blog's settings/email/fill in blogsend address.

VIRUSES: If you send me material online and include a virus, I won't read any of your online stuff until we've talked and you've assured me you have an anti-virus program, you have updated your protections, and you are clean. If you send me a second virus, I will sadly but surely drop you from my list of valued correspondents. Generally speaking I want anything you send me electronically to be copied and pasted. I only open attachments under extreme duress.

The school’s policies outlined in the school catalog—policies on affirmative action, disabilities, sexual harassment, and grievance procedures—apply to this course.

If you have a documented disability, talk to the ADA coordinator, Elizabeth Worden, right away so we can plan reasonable accommodations.

The school’s EO/ADA policies are included at the end of this syllabus.

If you simply dislike something I say in the course of my teaching, conferencing, or lecturing but if what I've said does not seem like any sort of harassment, then you ought to discuss it with me first before going to Authority.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m a total dub when it comes to recordkeeping. I wish it were otherwise, but it isn’t and I’m not going to improve a whole lot at this point.

That means I'm going to make recordkeeping mistakes. When I make mistakes, I'll gladly eat them and correct my goofs and apologize, as long as you can document your side of the story. In other words, please hang onto your writing all semester and hang on to my replies, reactions, and writer’s checklists. Don't change your blog or delete or erase entries without checking with me.

If you need a teacher who is perfect and who has all the answers and is always right and who gives you that feeling of total security you haven't had since kindergarten, bail out now 'cause it ain't me.

WHAT YOU'LL DO in 162: I've taught this course on line many times before, but I'm still (and always) just feeling my way. There may be changes.

* You will come to http://fromswanvilletoyou.blogspot.com/ and find weekly prompts. You will use a prompt to write a short piece relating to the week's theme, and you will post that prompt piece on your own blog. Your post will be open for everyone in the class to read if they choose to, not to mention everyone in the universe with a computer and internet access. Each week you will do three prompt reactions and do them as three separate posts--makes my record-keeping life easier.

Just write your own, post it, read any of the others you like. I will comment on new material three times a week. The prompts sometimes look like questions but don't go into student mode and think I want answers--I want creative nonfiction writing.

* On your blog, you will also write a piece based on the week's theme.  For some reason, sometimes people forget this part of the course, but it really is your big chance to strut your stuff.  Of course, that can be intimidating.

* Each week I will also post some very brief lecture material on creative nonfiction on http://fromswanvilletoyou.blogspot.com/. If you have a reaction to what I write or questions, post them as comments, and I will see and reply, also as a comment. That's optional on your part.

I will post the theme and explanatory material on http://fromswanvilletoyou.blogspot.com/.

Understand: you will be using the theme as a key to get into writing stuff you want to write. The theme isn't a test--it's a springboard for your writing.

Some of you may have long-term projects in mind. You want to use this class to work on them. Fine, let's talk about that and negotiate how the themes will tie into your stuff, whether assignments can be combined, and so on.

Your theme assignments will be open to the class to read and to comment on.
Once in a while you might write something in a theme assignment you don't want anyone in the class to see. That's okay--email it to me.

* You can also use your blog to keep a journal. You want to keep writing, pecking away at stuff, putting down ideas, impressions, bits of overhead conversations, things happening--the blog is the place. But this part is completely optional.

Overall, you'll explore ways of developing material—using such fictional techniques as dialogue, scene-setting, character development, controlled ambiguity, narrative-voice variations, metaphor, vignette —and then create your own pieces. You'll get a lot of writing practice, see each other’s work, and get detailed attention from the instructor.

WHY YOU'LL DO IT: writing is always a test of character. How do you cope with being naked in public, everyone’s worst nightmare? When given the chance, do you stand tall by climbing onto a pile of former friends’ egos you have just finished crushing? Both of these character questions often arise in workshop-based writing classes, which this class isn’t. Yes, this class will be different.

You’ll all be writing. You’ll all try to wow each other (one of the big motivators for writers!) because you will have the class as audience. But you'll be nice to each other and won't need to find something clever or devastating or 'helpful' to say about someone else's piece. You’ll all get faster, slicker, cleverer, cockier, as you find you can too write everything demanded in the time allowed. Writer’s block? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Again, writing is always a test of character, and when this course is done, your friends will come up and say, “There’s something different about you these days. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but I like it, whatever it is….” You will show a spouse or lover a piece you’ve written, and they will smile at you the way they haven’t for years. You'll have a hard time remembering the poky old you before you took English 162

WHEN YOU'LL DO IT: online means flexibility, but week by week assignments have to be done. The prompts ought to be done the week they're given.

I can offer a little leeway on the themes, but not much. Here's why: Writing improves with practice, lots of practice, lots and lots of practice. Practice has to be spread out over the semester--this is NOT a course whose goal is to crank out writing, any writing, squeeze-it-all-in-at-the-end-who-cares. The goal is to try new things in your writing over an extended period.

If you start missing a lot of weeks or assignments, I may give you a formal snail mail official warning, as well as an informal email heads-up. One to two weeks missed of any one of the types of assignment listed above (prompts and themes) would probably trigger a warning, and if within a week after the warning, you aren't caught up, I might drop you from the course.

BEHAVING YOURSELF: You (online students) will be using blogger, aka blogspot, when you write. The school’s server is not involved, and you (everyone) can write anything you like, as long as you do your best to write it well and don’t violate any laws of libel, treason, obscenity, and so on. Generally, don’t write anything that would get you in trouble if the police happened to read it, but if your mom reads it and yells at you for not telling her you’re engaged or lost your job or you’re hungover, maybe it’s time she had a wake-up call anyway!

My only interest is helping you improve your writing, not taking charge of your opinions, morals, attitudes, or behavior. If you write about not washing the dishes for a week, I won’t nag you to clean up and I won’t tsk-tsk. I will work hard at making sure your writing details every greasy dish in the sink, squashed-out ciggie butt in your mother’s best coffee cup, and every cockroach that skitters under the fridge when the light goes on in the kitchen.

ANONYMITY: Online students can post stuff all semester under the name ‘Honeygoodstuff’ or ‘BoredwithFord’ or 'Barbieklone' or whatever handle you want (but only one handle per semester--if you choose one, you're stuck with it.) If you want to write about some cutie you know or some situation you screwed up, it might go easier and write better if you know you won’t be signing your name. And you can comment on other people’s stuff using that same handle.

The only thing is—and it’s a big thing—you won’t get credit for the course, not even a little, if I don’t know your handle! I mean, I can’t send the grade through as ‘Studmuffin Slickster gets an A.’

So, if you want, you can be anonymous to everyone but me, but if you’re flaming people behind your mask or using the anonymity to be a pain in the neck or, god forbid, harass someone, I’ll be on your case.

Of course, if you want to sign your name, that’s perfectly okay. I do that myself and find it makes me braver, not less so. You can certainly switch from Anonymous to a name at any time.

Comments on classmate's posts: Online students: Feel free to read and comment on other people's writing, politely and tactfully. You can learn from other people's ideas! Not part of your grade though—


If you miss no more than three prompt, reaction, and theme assignments (three altogether, combined) and any revisions I ask for, you will receive an A.

If you miss four, five or six of the prompt, reaction, and theme assignments (six altogether, combined) and any revisions I ask for, you will receive a B.

If you miss more than six of the prompt, reaction, and theme assignments (more than six altogether, combined) and any revisions I ask for, you will receive an F.

How papers are evaluated for acceptability: I’ll be looking for
• Personal voice
• Consistent tone
• Imaginative approach to deciding on and developing topics
• Coherence
• Structure that is unobtrusive but real
• Writing geared to an audience and that matches the week’s theme

If a paper is not accepted, I’ll discuss its problems with the student, and the paper can be rewritten as often as the student wishes before the semester deadline for rewrites.


1. “Demonstrate understanding of artistic work (writing) or craftsmanship…that reflects an understanding of the level of skill, effort, and thought that went into the piece being evaluated.”
• Students will do this by reading works of art (writing), discussing the art and craft of the various writers, and finally by creating their own works of words.

2. “Demonstrate the ability to evaluate a problem and develop a solution or a clear explanation of the problem….”
• Students will do this by seeing all their writing as a series of decisions about ways to solve problems in expressing themselves.

3. “Synthesize new ideas from existing facts.”
• Students will do this by using the facts derived from observation, research, memory to create original writing.

4. “…[E]ffectively state opinions”
• Students will do this by writing effective essays based on their opinions.

5. “Use…writing to convey ideas.”
• Students will do this by using their ideas to inform their writing.

6. “Demonstrate the ability to comprehend, evaluate, and interpret what they have read, seen, and heard.”
• Students will do this by writing essays, which will incorporate ideas presented in class lecture and in class readings.

• tba

ATTENDANCE POLICY: this is an online course, and you can come and go as you please. But if you're going to be away from a computer for a while, better talk to me about it. Feel free to come to class in your pajamas.


Some of you have come from a place where authority figures watch your every move. They check your name off to make sure you’re where you’re supposed to be every second of the day. They get angry if you wear forbidden clothes or carry contraband or eat certain foods at certain times and places. They are always on the lookout for drugs. They worry that you’re trying to manipulate the system, take over and run the place, form cliques. If they don’t like your attitude, they may write you up, put you in solitary, send you to Supermax, deny you privileges, threaten your future. And, of course, all this is being done to make you a better person.

After a few years of being treated this way, all you can think about is the day when you’re sprung and can hit the streets, free!

Prison? Nah, all too often that’s public high school I’ve just described. You’ll notice I said nothing about learning anything. Students and teachers are so busy hating each other, doing numbers on each other, hassling—they sometimes forget why they’re supposed to be there.

It can be comforting to be in prison instead of school because learning is hard and so is teaching. If you approach this class expecting that I’m going to hassle you about your appearance, your lateness or absences, your food and soda, your homework coming in late, and so on—you’re going to be disappointed. You may get mad at me for not providing you with the discipline you need. Tough! Provide your own! This ain’t high school!

The only thing I claim expertise in is writing. I can’t make you a better person. I’m not going to try. Naturally, I want you to be neat, clean, polite, punctual, organized, friendly, chem-free, hardworking, and cheerful. But the only thing I’m going to talk to you about is your writing.

When we get to the writing, I’ll have a lot to say.

If one thinks of an English course as a Writing Factory, it doesn't really matter much when material is comes in; after all, the teacher is the shop foreman and all he cares about is seeing that the production schedule is met. He checks off the assignments and lets the Big Boss know that all is chugging along well on the shop floor.

Many English courses are run that way. Essays have to be so many words long and have a certain look to pass quality control and that's that. You get your grade, punch the clock, and go home.

You must believe me when I tell you that my time as a steel fabricator on the shop floor at Lasko Industries in West Chester, Pennsylvania in the late sixties turned me off forever to factory work.

My job is not to ratify that certain assignments have been done. It is to help you improve your writing. You write, I read, I think, I react, you think, you react to my reaction, you rewrite--maybe we get somewhere.

So, you need to keep stuff coming regularly so I can react and comment. If I were a student and a teacher asked me to hand in a piece without offering a hand, I'd feel cheated. As it is, you're cheating yourself of the chance to learn and me the chance to teach if you slack off. You may not, but I feel cheated.

If you give me nine things to look at it, it's nine times more work for me than dealing with one thing, but it's exactly as useful to your learning as if you had given me one thing. One thing or nine--you still have to sleep on it and think about it.

So, ENG 101 or 162, please don't give me a bunch of saved-up assignments all at once.

WHY WRITING IS SUCH A PAIN: Writing improves over time with lots of practice, like any skill. For most of us it is a skill to be worked on, not some mysterious God-given talent. That means lots of blood, sweat, and tears.

GETTING HELP: Please let me do my job and help you if you’re having big troubles—or little ones. If you find yourself, late some night, up against a deadline, tired, out of ideas, desperate, panicky, and tempted to submit work that isn't yours--the thing to do is forget the deadline and get some sleep. In the morning, get in touch with me. I can cut you slack on deadlines, help you with ideas, and generally buck you up. This is my job. Let me do it!

CONFUSION: A certain amount of confusion always happens at the beginning of any course while you sort out what you need to do and not do--and so do I. Be prepared for that mentally, and don't let it steamroller you. I'm sympathetic and it will pass, I promise. We’ll all make mistakes until we find our groove—me as well as you. Be patient with my mistakes and I'll return the favor!

And help me do better by letting me know the good and bad stuff when I survey you! Or any time!

Assignments. Detailed descriptions will show weekly on the course website. These are the topics:

Week 1: Journal; Autobiography of writer as a writer

Week 2: You and the world, you and history

Week 3: Scene-setting and dialogue

Week 4: Fact and fiction

Week 5: Narrative

Week 6: Place description

Week 7: Character

Week 8: Vignettes

Week 9: Linked vignettes

Week 10: Distance, framing, alienation

Week 11: Irony, symbolism, suggestion--when words mean something beyond themselves

Week 12: Taking risks: humor, exaggeration, juxtaposition

Week 13: Perspective: large to small, small to large

Week 14: Using yourself differently; finding a voice without first-person

Week 15/16: Some choices: focused journal, revision, bigger future project, self-evaluation, assemblage/collage



Eastern Maine Community College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age in its programs and activities. Inquiries about the College’s compliance with, and policies that prohibit discrimination on, these bases may be directed to: Affirmative Action Officer, President’s Office, Rangeley Hall, 354 Hogan Road, Bangor, Maine 04401, telephone number 974-4633, voice/TDD 974-4658, fax number 974-4888, nlundy@emcc.edu, http://www.emcc.edu;

United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, 33 Arch Street, Suite 900, Boston, MA 02110, telephone 617-289-0111, TTY/TDD 617-289-0063, fax 617-289-0150, e-mail OCR.Boston@ed.gov internet http://.www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html?src=oc;

Maine Human Rights Commission (MHRC), 51 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0051, telephone 207-624-6050, TTY/TTD 207-624-6064, fax 207-624-6063, internet http://www.state.me.us/mhrc/index.
shtml: and/or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 475 Govern-ment Center, Boston, MA 02203, telephone 617-565-3200 or 1-800-669-4000, TTY 617-565-3204 or 1-800-669-6820, fax 617-565-3196, internet http://www.eeoc.gov/.

The College also does not discriminate on the basis of sexual preference or marital, parental, or veteran’s status. Inquiries about the College’s policies that prohibit discrimination on these bases may be directed to the Affirmative Action Officer or MHRC identified above.

Eastern Maine Community College is an equal opportunity institution and complies with the requirements of Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 (34 CFR Part 106), Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (34 CFR Part 104), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and its implementing regulations. Discrimination on the basis of race; color; national origin; gender; sexual orientation, marital, parental or military status or disability in the recruitment and admission of its students, in the administration of its educational policies and programs, and in the recruitment and employment of its instructional and non-instruction personnel is prohibited. Sexual harassment of either employees or students is a violation of state and federal laws. It is the policy of Eastern Maine Community College that no member of the College community may sexually harass another. Inquiries concerning Title IX, Title VI and ADA may be made to Affirmative Action Officer, at Eastern Maine Community College, 354 Hogan Road, Bangor, Maine 04401, (207) 974-4633; inquiries regarding Disability Services may be made to the Section 504 Coordinator at the same address, (207) 974-4658 (voice/TDD). Questions, concerns, complaints and/or grievances about discrimination in any areas of the college should be directed to Eastern Maine Community College’s Affirmative Action Officer; or to the Maine Human Rights Commission, State House Station 51, Augusta, Maine, 04333-0051, (207) 624-6050 or the Office of Civil Rights, J.W. McCormack, POCH, Room 707, Boston, Massachusetts, 02109, 1-617-223-9662.


**EMCC is committed to providing an equal opportunity for students and complies with all state and federal equal opportunity laws.  Students with documented disabilities will be accommodated in accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991.  If you have a hidden disability, you must disclose the disability and provide documentation to the Accommodation Evaluator, Room 312 Katahdin Hall, or call 974-4658 before any accommodations can be made.


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