English 100FA - Spring, 2021

Creative Writing: Advanced Fiction

Class Information

Instructor: Houston, Pam
Time: TR 12:10-1:30


100FA - Creative Writing: Advanced Fiction
Instructor: Pam Houston
Time: T/R 12:10-1:30
On Line
Office Hours: T/R 1:30-3, and by appointment (by Zoom)
Best email contact: pamlhouston@hotmail.com, but plhousto@ucdavis.edu also works.

In this class we will work toward demystifying some of the essential components of fiction (image, metaphor, structure, dialogue, character, scene, among others) and turning them into comprehensible tools that are at our disposal. I feel that it is my job as workshop leader to create and hold a space in which students feel free to take stylistic, artistic, and emotional risks. We will be aiming for stories in which the language is always working in at least two ways at once, where metaphors dance between meanings like beads of water on a too hot grill. We will begin with what I believe to be the real artistry of story writing: the translation of the emotional stakes of the story onto its physical landscape; the way we dip our ladles into the bottomless pot of metaphor soup of our lived and witnessed experience and pull out what we need; the way we pick up hunks of the physical world and bring it back to the page, translated into language.

We will talk about the borderlands between fiction and nonfiction, about the intersection between the personal and the political, between fiction and social commentary, and the ever shifting relationship between fiction, place (landscape), and time (historical moment).

In addition to the specifics of fiction writing, we will talk about art in a larger context, and the series of decisions that make a person decide to pursue the making of art as a way of being in the world. To this end, students will be asked to think across genres and forms.

Each student will be expected to turn in two new stories or two sections of a novel-in-progress during the course of the quarter--two to the whole class--according to the schedule we will make during the first class, as well as either one new piece of fiction OR a (serious and considered) revision to me at the end of the quarter. There will be reading assignments throughout the quarter and weekly writing exercises early in the quarter that will give way to workshop after a few weeks.


Students will be graded on the quality of the writing assignments and the revision they turn in, as well as on their participation in class discussion of both student work and the assigned reading material.


Several Short Stories by Ferrell, Baldwin, Torres, Baxter, Berlin, Links will be provided
How To Pronounce Knife, Souvankham Thammavongsa
What We Lose, Zinzi Clemmons
There, There, Tommy Orange