The Practice of Creative Writing: A Guide for Students / Edition 2

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Designed for all students in the introductory course, The Practice of Creative Writing has a simple message: you can do this, and it’s worthwhile to try. Heather Sellers, who writes in multiple genres herself, has developed an approach that focuses on the habits and strategies that produce good writing in any genre: Images; Energy; Tension; Pattern; Insight; and Revision. She teaches students how to focus, to generate lots of writing, and to get to the good stuff — the powerful imagery and the stories they really want to tell. She provides opportunities to be playful and to experiment at the same time she teaches students the importance of discipline and craft. This new edition gives students even more support and encouragement, with earlier attention to structure — because students struggle with this strategy — and with expanded coverage of revision and a wider range of genres they can use as generative tools.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[This text] is engaging, idiosyncratic, smartly-written, amusing, informative and dead-on."

— John Walser, Marian College of Fond du Lac

"The tone and energy are fantastic, as is the continual implication that creative writing and student writing are important and vital. I also like the implication that students CAN do this. It's difficult and they must practice — but they can do it if they work hard . . . ."

—Barbara Griest Devora, Northwest Vista College

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312676025
  • Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's
  • Publication date: 8/10/2012
  • Edition description: Second Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 161,940
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Heather Sellers

HEATHER SELLERS (Ph.D., Florida State University) is professor of English at Hope College in Michigan, where she teaches fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Fiction and a Barnes and Noble New Discovery Writers Award, she has published widely in a variety of genres. Her books include Georgia Under Water, a collection of linked stories; Drinking Girls and Their Dresses: Poems; Page After Page, a memoir of the writing life; and Spike and Cubby's Ice Cream Island Adventure, a children's book.

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Table of Contents


What Creative Writers Do

Questions Creative Writers Ask

The Four Parts of Creative Writing Writing: Your Audience and Your Tools

     Writing for Yourself

     Writing for Others








     Working With Other Writers



1. Finding Focus

The Mind’s Eye

     Write What You See

     Moving Images

Subject: Focus on What?

     Write What You Know

     Explore What Makes Us Human

Practicing Focus

     The Writing Habit

     Writing Rituals


Lack of Focus

     Writer’s Block




Writing Projects

2. Reading to Write

Reading Work in Progress Workshop



Reading Finished Work

Types of Creative Writing


     Creative Nonfiction


     Prose Poems

     Plays, Screenplays, Teleplays

     Graphic Novels, Comics, and Experiments

Reading to Write: The Art of Imitation

     Imitation: Guided Practice

     Types of Imitation

          Scaffolding: Writing Between the Lines

              Scaffolding a Poem

               Narrative Scaffolding

          Filling in the Blanks

Writing Projects


*Bob Hickok, A Primer (poetry)

*Betsy Sholl, Genealogy (poetry)

*Greg Allen, Title (drama)

Lorraine Lopez, The Night Aliens in a White Van Kidnapped My Teenage Son Near the

Baptist Church Parking Lot (fiction)

*Lynda Barry, Super Marlys Guide to Running in the Sprinkler (graphic narrative)

Sebastian Matthews, Buying Wine (poetry)

Billy Collins, Introduction to Poetry (poetry)

A. Van Jordan , af.ter.glow (poetry)

Jamaica Kincaid, Girl (fiction)

Amy Fusselman, from The Pharmacist’s Mate (nonfiction)

3. Building Blocks

Parts of Narrative Sentences



     Building Narratives Using Conflict-Crisis-Resolution

     Pulling it All Together: Writing Scenes for Narrative

Parts of Poems

     A word on words


          *Ciara Shuttlesworth, Sestina [poetry]

          Gwendolyn Brooks, We Real Cool [poetry]



     Playing with Poetry

Writing Projects

Building Blocks Workshop


     *Kim Addonizio, First Poem for You (poetry)

     *Sherman Alexie, Bird-watching at Night (fiction)

     *Gregory Corso, Marriage (poetry)

     Wesli Court, The Obsession (poetry)

     Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night (poetry)

     Brenda Miller, Swerve (nonfiction)

     Raymond Carver, Cathedral (fiction)


4. Images

The Principles of Images

     Images are Active

     Reading is Image Viewing

     The Opposite of Thought

     Generating Images

Creating With Images

     Focus on People in Action

     Think From Within Images

     Use Specifics

     Move Around in Images

     One Sentence, One Action

     Summary Images


A Word on Ideas

Writing Projects

Images Workshop


*Tony Hoagland, Personal (poetry)

Gary Soto, Everything Twice (poetry)

*Sufjan Stevens, Casimir Pulaski Day (song lyrics)

*Suzan-Lori Parks, Father Comes Home from the Wars (Part 1) (drama)

*David Owen, The Dime Store Floor (nonfiction)

*Mary Robison, Pretty Ice (fiction)

Akhil Sharma, Surrounded by Sleep (fiction)

5. Energy

The Principles of Energy

Subject: Focus on What’s Fascinating

     Guidelines for Increasing Energy Using Subject

     Leaps: The Power of Gaps

          David Chase, excerpts from The Sopranos






Manipulating Energy

     Pace: Choose when to "go for it"

          Slow Down to Increase Energy

          Vary the Pace to Sustain Energy

     Camera Work

     Too Much Energy?

Troubleshooting: Energy

Writing Projects

Energy Workshop


Rick Moody, Boys (fiction)

Brian Arundel, The Things I’ve Lost (nonfiction)

*Brian Turner, What Every Soldier Should Know (poetry)

6. Tension

The Principles of Tension

     Desire + Danger = Tension

     Setting the Thermostat: The Four Elements of Tension

Maintaining Tension

     Work With Two or Three Characters

     Match Your Opponents

     Stay Specific

     Write From Close Up

Manipulating Tension

     Thermostat Control: Adjusting the Temperature

      Layers: Adding Dimension

          Layering Images

          Layering with Triangles

          Layering Dialogue and Action


Writing Projects

Tension Workshop


*Aimee Nezhukumatahil, Dog Custody (poetry)

*Theodore Roethke, The Waking (poetry)

*Agha Shahid Ali, Even the Rain (poetry)

Marisa Silver , What I Saw From Where I Stood (fiction)

Jessica Shattuck, Bodies (fiction)

Peter Morris, Pancakes (drama)

7. Pattern

Pattern by Ear Rhyme and Echoes

     Consonants and Vowels

     Word Order

          ee cummings "me up at does"



          Iambic Pentameter

          Free Verse

Pattern by Eye



     Pattern on the Page

Layering Patterns

Writing Projects

Pattern Workshop


*Gregory Orr, The River (poetry)

Ellen Dore Watson, Ghazal (poetry)

Carolyn Kizer, Parent’s Pantoum (poetry)

*Marion Winik, from The Glen Rock Book of the Dead (nonfiction)

*Amy and David Sedaris, Relationship Quiz (nonfiction)

Lorrie Moore, How to Become a Writer (fiction)

Dinty Moore, Son of Mr. Green Jeans: An Essay on Fatherhood, Alphabetically Arranged (nonfiction)

8. Insight

Principles of Insight





     Trust Your Experience

Ways to Be Wise: Creating Insight





     Go Big

     Go Tiny

     Sneak Up

Ways to Be Unwise: What Not To Do

Writing Projects

Insight Workshop


*Kevin Young, Ode to the Midwest (poetry)

*Gerald Stern, Strauss Park (poetry)

Lynne McMahon, Carpe Diem (poetry)

*Amy Lee Scott, This is Not to Say (nonfiction)

*Marjane Satrapi, The Veil (graphic narrative)

*Amy Krouse Rosenthal, from Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life (nonfiction)

Michael Cunningham, White Angel (fiction)

9 Revision

     Revision is Seeing Again

     Writing is Seeing and Seeing Again

     Conquering Common Blocks

          What if I make it worse?

          I’m overwhelmed. I love my piece, sort of, and I know it could be better. But where do I start?

          What if I don’t want to change it?

Principles of Revision

     Limit your time

     Sketch It, Then Write It

     Read to get unstuck

     Revise by hand

     Don’t start at the beginning

     Delete, don’t Fix

     Play with Questions

Approaches to Revision: Student Writers Use the Strategies

     Energy, Images, and Tension as Revision Strategies: Meghan Wilson Revises

     Images Plus Scissors: Charlie Walter Revises


     Questions to Ask: Editing for Flow

     Questions to Ask: Editing for Common Grammar Errors

     Questions to Ask: Editing for Presentation

Principles of Revision

Writing Projects

Revision Workshop


Charlie Walter, I’ve Never Been Here Before (memoir)

Jack Ridl, Repairing the House (poetry)

Jack Ridl and "Repairing the House," The Poem and I Have a Little Conversation (interview)


10. Recipes


Showcase the Strategies

Abecedarius Reading Abecedarii

          David Lehman, Abecedarius (poetry)

     Writing an Abedcadrius


     Reading Anaphora

     Writing an Anaphora


     Reading Braids

     Writing a Braid


     Reading Ghazals

     Writing a Ghazal


     Reading Graphics

          *Matthew Baker and Susanna Kwan, excerpt from The Dinner Party (graphic narrative)

     Writing a Graphic


     Reading Journeys

     Writing a Journey


     Reading Manifesto

          Elaine Sexton, Manifesto (nonfiction)

     Writing a Manifesto

One-Act Play

     Reading One-Act Plays

     Writing a One-Act Play


     Reading Pantoums

     Writing a Pantoum


     Reading Sestinas

     Writing a Sestina


     Reading Sonnets

          David Livewell, Fatigues (poetry)

     Writing a Sonnet


     Reading Villanelles

     Writing a Villanelle


Appendix A Publication Public Readings

Literary Magazines

     Research a Wide Range of Publications

     Submit Your Work to Literary Magazines

          Decide Where to Send your Work

          How to Send Your Work Out

     Accept Rejection

Chapbooks and Portfolios

     Creating a Chapbook

     Writing An Artist’s Statements

Appendix B Resources for Writers

Smart Searching

General Resources

     Creativity and Inspiration

          In Print


     Images: Seeing More Closely

     Self -Expression and Personal Writing

          In Print


     Literary News

Instruction in Specific Genres


          In Print


     Short Short Stories

          In Print

          On line


          In Print

          On line

     Form Poetry

          In Print

          On line


          In Print

          On line

     Plays and Screenplays

          In Print

          On Line

     Children’s Books

     Graphic Narratives

          In Print

          On Line

     Teaching Creative Writing

          In Print

          On Line

     The Business of Writing: Agencies, Freelancing, Book Proposals, Publishing

          In Print

          On Line

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