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Capstone In Creative Writing

ENG 497: Senior Capstone Class in Creative Writing, Spring 2018


Meeting Time: MWF 10:00-10:50a

Meeting Place: Smith Hall 216

Course Overview

Welcome to this capstone class for BFA majors in creative writing. To take this course, you first have to pass ENG 304, and then also must be a senior. The capstone classes are run as conference courses, meaning that for the majority of the semester you will meet individually with me in my office to develop an e-portfolio of your work, due at the final exam period. There will, however, be some weeks that we will meet as a group to discuss publishing, and to share some of our work. We will meet as a class during the first and last week of regular class sessions, as well as planned workshop session. Your individual conferences with will be scheduled during the first week of classes.

I want this course to act both as reflection point for your four years (or more) of undergraduate education and time in the creative writing program, and as the first step in your post-college career as a writer. As such, your time in 497 will be unique to your experience and goals as a writer—we’ll talk about your past, present, and future writing, we’ll talk about your craft, we’ll talk about careers. I’m committed to helping you grow into the writer you wish to be, as long as you’re committed to the work of being that writer.

The following course work, designed by Professor James Blaylock and I, is meant to help you in achieving these goals:

The Capstone Portfolio

E-Portfolio: This represents the writer you’ve developed into over the last four years, and does so through organization and arrangement, through professional quality of writing and editing, and through metacognition. It can be presented as a PDF document or a website.

  • Table of Contents: indicate each work title, new or revised, and page number in the portfolio. You may organize your work in sections, themes, chronologically…however you see fit to best represent the entire work as a whole. Feel free to include brief summaries of the work with titles.
  • Introduction: 1000-1500 words. We can think of this as a personal essay “on writing.” Using the artifacts presented in your portfolio, you should address this central question: how and why are you a writer? What did you learn from your major courses? Minor? GE? Workshops? Internships? Extra-curricular influences? Reading? Writing? Was there a moment of realization or change? Was the price of a CW major worth it? Anything is game, but it can’t just be a rant; it must be reasoned, supported, proven, elegant, and persuasive. The audience should be those in the professional writing capacity: me, CW faculty, editors, agents.
  • The Work: 20,000 words prose (approx. 80 pages), or 40 pages of poetry, or an appropriate mix of the two. Prose can include short fiction, short creative non-fiction, new chapters in a book-length work. For book-length work, you’ll need to provide a short summary of the book that puts the work into context.
    • At least 50% of the work should be new, as in written this semester. The rest may be revised work. ALL work must have been submitted for discussion for the individual conference.
    • Multimodal work is encouraged, and can change the page-count requirements based on complexity and platform.
    • All work in the completed portfolio is expected to be revised and polished based on discussions in individual conferences and class workshop sessions.

The Portfolio Grade: Your grade will be assessed holistically, taking into account your commitment to the capstone course, your professionalism, and the quality of your writing (not what you write, but how you write and revise). In general,


An “A” student will never miss a class session, individual conference or deadline; will always bring high quality drafts (little to no errors in mechanics, well-conceived and executed content, even if rough); will engage in thoughtful and sustained revision; and will submit an e-portfolio that is of the highest quality and professionalism. In short, there will be no doubt that you are a professional writer, even if you aren’t being paid for it.


“B” students will meet all of the requirements listed above, but will not demonstrate the same commitment to professionalism as the “A” student.


“C” students will show a marked lack of commitment to professionalism, missing deadlines or turning in work that is lacks in quality and effort. However, even the “C” student will complete ALL the requirements of the e-portfolio: page requirements, ToC, introduction.


Failure to meet the minimum requirements of the portfolio will result in an automatic “D” grade. Gross failure to meet those requirements will result in an “F”.


Individual Conferences

You will have three opportunities to submit the ongoing work of your portfolio, both new and for revision. All work that appears in the portfolio must have first been submitted to one of our three individual conferences.


Submission requirements: each submission should equal 1/3 of your proposed portfolio work. As such, it can include several different pieces, chapters, or elements of a project. New vs. old work needs to be clearly indicated. In order to give me time to read and comment, you need to email me your submission 48 hours in advance of our scheduled conference.


Conference grade: each conference will receive a grade, and the average will be your grade for this area of evaluation.

“A” = on-time submission, meets requirements, student is on-time for schedule conference.


Grade reductions:

Late submission = 1 letter grade deduction

Fails to meet requirements = 1 letter grade deduction

Tardy for meeting = 1 letter grade deduction

Failure to submit work or make meeting = F for that conference session


I understand that there can be extenuating circumstances, and am will to work with you to resolve those, but you must contact me in advance of any due dates and meeting times in order to make possible arrangements. I reserve the right to assess a grade penalty based on the circumstances.



Three times during the semester, you will make a selection from your conference submission to workshop with the full class. This selection should not be more than 15 total pages, so consider which work would best benefit from a workshop discussion. You must post your workshop piece in the Blackboard Workshop Forum 48 hours in advance of your scheduled session. All class members are required to download, read, and constructively critique each submission, both in the oral discussion, and in writing. Written critiques must be posted as a reply to Blackboard forum thread prior to the start of the workshop session.


Workshop grade: your total workshop grade will be calculated based on your timely submission of work, constructive contribution to the workshop discussion, and constructive written feedback.

Submission: 30%

Oral critiques: 35%

Written critiques: 35%


Late written submissions—work or critiques—will result in a “0” for that session. An absence will be a “0” for Oral critique.


Course Grade

Portfolio: 60%

Individual Conferences: 20%

Workshop: 20%


Course Calendar

A brief overview of what we have planned for the semester, subject to change based on the needs of the class.

WEEK 1 (1/29-2/2) – Course introduction, setting of goals, establish individual conference dates. Meet MWF


WEEK 2 (2/5-2/9) – Individual conferences—First Submissions


WEEK 3 (2/12-2/16) – Individual conferences—First Submissions


WEEK 4 (2/19-2/23) – Workshop Week MWF—First Submissions


WEEK 5 (2/26-3/2) – Workshop Week MWF—First Submissions


WEEK 6 (3/5-3/9) – Individual conferences—Second Submissions


WEEK 7 (3/12-3/16) – Individual conferences—Second Submissions


WEEK 8 (3/19-3/23) – Spring Break


WEEK 9 (3/26-3/30) – Workshop Week MWF—Second Submissions


WEEK 10 (4/2-4/6) – Workshop Week MWF—Second Submissions


WEEK 11 (4/9-4/13) – Individual Conferences—Third Submissions


WEEK 12 (4/16-4/20) – Individual Conferences—Third Submissions


WEEK 13 (4/23-4/27) – Workshop Week MWF—Third Submissions 


WEEK 14 (4/30-5/4) – Workshop Week MWF—Third Submissions 


WEEK 15 (5/7-5/11) – Publishing Week, MWF. Discuss publishing, prepare query letters, assemble final portfolio


WEEK 16 (5/14-5/18) – Finals Week. Combined Capstone Reading Event. Portfolio due via Blackboard by 11:59pm, Monday May 14.