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Building Community for A Writer’s Craft

Untitled-2.inddNot long ago, I wrote about setting up the companion website for A Writer’s Craft. That is now up and running, but one thing I had always wanted to add was a discussion area, where teachers could talk about using the book and teaching introductory creative writing in 4 genres, and where students and teachers could share writing prompts, opportunities for undergraduate writers, etc.

In developing the companion site, we had talked about a number of services that could be used, since doesn’t have a discussion feature for their companion websites. In the end, I settled on using GoodReads, which has the advantage of being linked to the textbook (on GoodReads) and open to all viewers. Anyone can read the discussions in a group, though to post to the group you need to login with GoodReads, Facebook, or Google and then join the group. That seems fairly easy for anyone to do, and I’ve found that GoodReads is a social media platform that isn’t too invasive — I can use it as much or as little as I want.

I called the group A Writer’s Craft Community to set the name apart from the title of the book and to emphasize that it is a community discussion. I hope this will become a good resource for anyone teaching introductory creative writing (though I also hope instructors will want to use my book).

So far, Teachers have discussion topics on:

  • Teaching 4 Genres
  • Sample Syllabi (I posted mine)
  • Workshop Strategies & Alternatives

Writers have discussions for:

  • Writing Prompts
  • Undergraduate Literary Magazines

I plan to add discussion topics in both folders, and I hope that people who are using the book will add to the discussion and maybe even suggest topics. Incidentally, I decided to have two groups, Teachers and Writers, because some people may get the book to use outside of a classroom. Though the Writers area is primarily aimed at undergraduate writers in an introductory class, teachers may add writing prompts, and the discussion could move on to topics of interest to any writer.

Companion Website for AWC

Untitled-2.inddThe companion website for my textbook A Writer’s Craft is now available at

Materials for teachers and students are publicly available, including:

  • Teaching with A Writer’s Craft
    • Why Teach 4 Genres
    • Cross-Genre Teaching
    • The Small Group Workshop
    • Full-Class Workshop
    • Midterm and Final Portfolios
    • Teaching Creative Writing with Literary Magazines
    • Plagiarism
  • For Students
    • Journal Exercises
    • Online Resources

For those who adopt the textbook, additional resources are available once you register with Palgrave and request access to the textbook’s restricted materials. These include:

  • Lecturer Materials
    • In-Class Exercises
    • Small Group Workshops (sample exercises)
    • Powerpoint presentations for
      • Chapters 4 & 8-14
      • Publishing
      • Workshop Guidelines

I hope the public materials will be useful to anyone teaching creative writing, though of course if they are, I also hope that provides an incentive to try using the book. I hope the restricted materials will make using the book easier or at least provide some models that you can use to create your own materials for the book that match your teaching style.

Book Review: Always Happy Hour by Mary Miller

Always Happy Hour: StoriesAlways Happy Hour: Stories by Mary Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mary Miller’s wit sparkles in these stories like a stiff drink with a healthy dash of bitters. They are dry, acerbic, and full of bitter irony. Consider the title, taken from a line on one of the later stories in the collection: it is “always happy hour,” yet no one seems happy in these stories. Or if they are, their happiness is fleeting, yet all of Miller’s characters are searching for this elusive spirit. We read these stories, not for the plot — spoiler alert, not much happens — but for Miller’s exquisite character studies, her detailed sense of place, and her subtle exploration of relationships. Miller’s narrators and female main characters are women, divorced or unmarried, most of whom are with or looking for boyfriends who are either divorced or unmarried. They are aware their relationships are imperfect and may not last. They may be dissatisfied with their current partner or they may be so satisfied they are sure they’ll do something to make their partner leave. We see the compromises they are willing to make for love, even as they struggle with commitment; we see them negotiate ex-wives and their boyfriends’ children; we see them struggle with family and friends who seem to have it all, at least if you believe their status updates. It is in the unguarded line of dialogue or the narrator’s reflections where Miller allows a realization, where we recognize ourselves in her flawed and human characters for whom a happy ending seems always just out of reach.

View all my reviews
Mary Miller will read at the Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium on October 20.

Barrier Island Suite

Barrier Island Suite front cover imageBe sure to check out my new book page, featuring my third collection of poems, Barrier Island Suite, and the gracious comments from T. R. Hummer, Adam Vines, and Beth Ann Fennelly that will appear on the back cover. It is scheduled for publication in spring 2016. I’ve enjoyed working with the Anderson family on the cover art and art for the interior.

2015 in review (by WordPress)

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 57,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 21 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

2015 Year in Review

Before WordPress tells me what happened this year, let me do a little review. 2015 will be best remembered as the start of The W’s low-res MFA program in creative writing. As the year began, we had just been approved and were only starting to recruit students. By June, we had 11 students enrolled and were getting classes and new faculty ready to roll in Blackboard. August brought the news that the campus was switching to Canvas for our LMS, and we quickly transitioned the writing program as well, so we could start in the new learning environment. since all our classes were new and hadn’t been implemented yet.

Our grade students did a great job in their online courses. And really enjoyed meeting each other and their faculty at the Welty Symposium. Directions the program and the symposium at the same time, creating two new classes, one in Writing for New Media and the other our first residency, was a challenge with many rewards. And we’ve admitted 5 new students for Spring and have several students already in the pipeline for Fall 2016. It seems clear we are well on the way to a successful program, though there will be many challenges next year as we work towards graduating our first MFAs in 2017.

In other news, I completed the manuscript for my third book of poems, Barrier Island Suite, which will be published by Texas Review Press next year. I’ve had some good conversations with the Walter Anderson family about using his artwork on the cover and inside the book. And Terry Hummer, Beth Ann Fennelly, and AdamVines were kind enough to write blurbs for the cover.

Our family took a great car vacation to see friends in Virginia, visit Lancaster County PA, explore Acadia National Park, and take in the beautiful and historic city of Montreal, where we also caught up with friends from Venice. Along the way, we found great surprises in the country sides of Maine and Quebec.

As we head into the new year, I’m grateful for all these opportunities and for all the friends we’ve been able to make or reconnect with. Visits to family in the summer and over Christmas are also highlights. It’s been a great year, and I’m looking forward to the year ahead!

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 42,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 16 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.