May 6, 2020
$260 | 6 Weeks
In this six-week course, students will explore the ways in which playing with, subverting, and blending genres and genre conventions can lead their work in rich and unexpected new directions. What happens when you write a story in the form of a multiple-choice quiz? Can you translate the movement of a dance into a poem? What happens when a ghost story is also a comedy?
Our approach will be eclectic and practical—we’ll be less interested in the “right” way to categorize a piece of writing, and more interested in “does it work?” and “what happens if I mix this with that?”
In this class, students will:
- Write and workshop 6 original pieces, and learn about how to pursue publication for them if desired.
- Move freely among fiction, poetry, and CNF, exploring the ways they can collide with one another, and the new results that can come from the collisions.
- Gain a deeper understanding of the so-called “rules” of writing and when/how/why to break them (or not).
- Learn to find creative inspiration in working within, deconstructing, and recombining genres, including supposedly nonliterary forms like multiple choice tests or instruction manuals.
- Note: This course is for all levels, but it does assume some previous familiarity with creative writing. Unlike an Intro to Poetry or Fiction class, it will not systematically discuss building blocks like line breaks or characterization; instead, the focus is more on exploration and experimentation. We will absolutely talk about those fundamental craft elements in the weekly workshops, though!
Cross-Genre Writing Class: Syllabus
Week 1: Blurring Genre Boundaries.
In this first week, we’ll explore the idea of “genre” in writing. We’ll start at the highest level—poetry vs. prose, fiction vs. nonfiction—and work our way down, focusing especially on what happens when the lines between genres get blurred. What happens when a piece of writing is partly a poem, partly a story, for instance?
In the writing assignment, we’ll write prose poems / flash fiction—experimenting with writing at the borderline between broad genres.
Week 2: Literary Genre Fiction and Conventions as Writers’ Tools.
In this unit, we’ll investigate the supposed differences between “genre fiction” and “literary fiction.” We’ll look at ways that “genre” fiction—sci fi, fantasy, mysteries, thrillers, etc.—can accomplish “literary” goals in unique ways.
We’ll also look at what happens when works combine two (or more) sets of genre conventions to create a new hybrid—a sci fi Western, for instance, or a horror comedy.
In the writing assignment, we’ll experiment with using the conventions of chosen genre(s) in order to accomplish literary goals.
Week 3: The Strictest Conventions—Working with Specific Stories.
In this unit, we’ll look at ways of making use of specific stories, poems, and so on to create something new. We’ll treat this as a “zoomed in” version of the previous week’s experiment: instead of working with the conventions of an entire genre, we’ll work with the even tighter constraints of a particular story. Put another way: instead of working with fairy tales (the genre), we’d work with the elements of, say, Cinderella (a specific story within that genre).
We’ll look at various ways different authors have done this, in both fiction and poetry, making use of stories ranging from Greek myths to Jane Eyre to action movies. In the writing assignment, we’ll try working in this mode.
Week 4: Deconstruction, Metafiction, and Other Ways to Break Stuff.
This week, we’ll explore how works can subvert the genres they’re a part of—what happens when a love poem is at the same time a critique of love poetry itself? Or when a story refuses to follow the “rules” of its genre?
Next we’ll zoom out even farther, to look at writing that explores the idea writing itself. What happens when a story is also about the process of writing a story, or when the subject of a poem is the reading of another poem? How about when the characters in a story realize they’re characters in a story?
In the writing assignment, we’ll explore what happens when we purposefully break (down) the rules.
Week 5: Found Objects—Inspiration from Unlikely Sources.
In this unit, we’ll look at examples of literature that borrows from decidedly non-literary kinds of writing. What happens when a poem takes on the form of a furniture assembly instruction manual? When a story takes on the form of a multiple-choice quiz? Or when an essay is organized around a physics equation?
We’ll look at less extreme examples too: a poem borrowing the format of a “man walks into a bar” joke, a story told via footnotes to a poem, a story in the form of a review of a made-up writer’s book, and more. In the writing assignment, we’ll experiment with drawing on such unusual forms for literary inspiration.
Week 6. Crossing Media Boundaries.
In the final unit, we’ll explore works that draw not only on other forms or genres, but on entirely different kinds of media. This is genre in the broadest sense, in which “writing,” “painting,” and “dance” are all genres of “art.” What happens when, for instance, a poem attempts to translate the motion of dance, the physical act of painting, or the sonic qualities of music into printed words? In the writing assignment, we’ll explore this process of translation across different media.
Bonus Unit: On Publishing.
This bonus unit provides an introduction to the process of submitting work for publication and introduces students to key tools.
I've taken many classes with writers.com and Jonathan's class was one of the best. The material was interesting, his feedback always very thorough and to the point. It was obvious that he put a lot of thought, time and effort into making this class satisfying and engaging. Ariela L Zucker
The Literary Essay course was delightful. Jonathan's knowledge, getting to the point with his comments, treating his students with attention and respect, and his sense of humor are at the core of his tutoring gift. The week on building strong sentences was of an absolutely revelatory quality for me. I've had a great writing experience with Jonathan again and wish to take the next step if possible. Please share this info with him. Joanna Kania
This was the best class I've taken! Jonathan gave us detailed lessons, packed with useful information. He gave us assignments designed to increase our understanding and they did...Jonathan was generous with his feedback, pointing out both the strengths of our work and opportunities to strengthen it. He always explained why something wasn't working or could be improved and gave examples of how. His suggestions really helped me to see how I could improve, not just that particular poem, but others as well. He was encouraging as well as constructive. He was excellent in every regard. Just want to thank you for this great learning experience. Barbara Ireland
Jonathan was an amazing teacher. The level of critique he offered was way beyond what I thought I’d get in an online course. He was a close and careful reader and his comments on our work were sensitive and insightful. GREAT lectures, clear, concise but in depth, with fantastic poetic examples. Yes, very happy. Chloe Coventry
This course has been fabulous: each week a great lecture with a twist, splendid sample of poems from known and less known poets, supportive and constructive tutorial feedback, phenomenal language. I'm still savoring the course contents. I appreciate your sense of humor, too ;). I've loved every minute spent here. I'm definitely taking part two of this course (or its sequel). In the meantime, I'll read your poems (I wish you'd shared more of them during the course). Looking forward to writing with Writers.com again. Joanna Kania
I find you guys run great classes and this was no exception! I felt Jonathan was very thoughtful in setting up the material. He was engaged, thorough, and responded in a timely fashion. Andrea Sauder
Lovely! Very well structured and fascinating course. Very! Felt that [Jonathan] knew his stuff and felt safe with the commentary. Maren Bodenstein