Creative Writing: Literature Studies for Musicians

Author: Suzanne Cope   •   Course Code: OLART-201

“I began it as an investigation. I turned silences and nights into words. What was unutterable, I wrote down. I made the whirling world stand still.” — Arthur Rimbaud

Creative writing, like music, is about expressing yourself, connecting with others, and finding meaning in the world around you. Creative Writing: Literature Studies for Musicians is designed to strengthen your writing skills and creative expression by exploring and learning from the works of musician-writers and those for whom music has had a profound influence.

Each week presents a different facet of creative writing, from nonfiction, such as autobiography and biography, to fiction, poetry, playwriting, and music reviews. You will explore compelling examples of how music infuses writing, examples from Langston Hughes, Theodore Roethke, James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, Billy Collins, and others. You will also examine how musicians have written about their lives and shared their unique perspectives on the world, from reading Charles Mingus’s Beneath the Underdog to Patti Smith’s Just Kids.

The goal of the course is to use these examples as springboards to further develop your own writing. Throughout the course, you will practice writing in these various creative genres and for various audiences and purposes. To support this work, the course covers such topics as the elements of narrative, point of view, how the background of an author influences his or her writing, setting, character development, scene analysis, assessing and writing about live performance, and subjective versus objective writing, among others.

The course is inspired by a traditional in-person course taught at Berklee College of Music, in which students collaborate in a supportive writing-workshop environment, so that they can benefit from the insights of their classmates and instructor. As such, this course will hone your ability to critique creative works constructively and use feedback on your own work to improve your craft. This knowledge will inform your broad creative practice, whether in writing, music, or other artistic pursuits.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Understand the craft of creative writing in various genres
  • Recognize the connections between creative approaches to writing and music
  • Discuss critically various genres of literature, including creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and playwriting
  • Strengthen your writing skills in various genres of literature, including creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and playwriting
  • Give and receiving constructive criticism in a writing workshop environment

Lesson 1: Narratives

  • Exercise: What's Your Story?
  • What is a Narrative?
  • Basic Elements of a Narrative
  • Workshop: Narrative Elements
  • Critical Thinking about Narratives within Creative Works
  • Workshop: Literary Narrative
  • Exercise: Getting Beyond the Basic Narrative Facts
  • Assignment 1: Narratives

Lesson 2: Background and Point of View in Creative Nonfiction

  • Defining Creative Nonfiction
  • Creative Nonfiction Examples
  • Workshop: Identifying Types of Creative Nonfiction
  • Vocabulary of Literature
  • Narrative Craft: Point of View
  • How the Background of an Author Influences His or Her Writing
  • Workshop: Mingus and Beneath the Underdog
  • Workshop: Terms & Definitions
  • Assignment 3: Elements of Nonfiction Literature

Lesson 3: Setting and Character in Creative Nonfiction

  • Development of Setting in Literary Creative Nonfiction
  • Just Kids
  • Development of Character in Literary Creative Nonfiction
  • Exercise: Character Sketch
  • Development of Characters
  • Exercise: Character Development
  • Development of Setting and Verisimilitude
  • Exercise: Freewriting and Verisimilitude
  • Assignment 3: Character Study

Lesson 4: Structure and Reflection in Creative Nonfiction

  • Common Terms and Options for Structure
  • Exercise: Just Kids
  • Elements of Scene
  • Exercise: Identifying a Scene
  • Structuring Your Own Creative Nonfiction Pieces
  • Exercise: Freewriting
  • Reflection in Creative Nonfiction Writing
  • Assignment 4: Personal Story

Lesson 5: Writing, Critiquing, and Revising Creative Nonfiction

  • Knowing When a Piece Is Done
  • Soliciting Feedback
  • Guidelines and Techniques for Critiquing Others' Pieces
  • Critiquing Your Classmate's Pieces
  • Exercise: Nonfiction Narrative and Soliciting Feedback
  • Options and Techniques for Revising Your Own Work
  • Exercise: Revision
  • Assignment 5: Revising Your Memoir

Lesson 6: Analyzing Fictional Narratives

  • Use of Point of View in Fictional Narratives
  • Fiction and First-Person Perspective
  • Fiction and Second-Person Perspective
  • Exercise: A Moment's Notice
  • Use of Setting in Fiction
  • Use of Character in Fiction
  • Workshop: Character in A Visit From the Goon Squad
  • Exercise: A Visit From the Goon Squad
  • Assignment 6: Comparing Narrative Elements Fiction and Nonfiction

Lesson 7: Writing Fictional Narratives

  • Developing Character in Fictional Narratives through Guided Exercises
  • Workshop: Archetypes
  • Workshop: Character Study
  • Developing Setting in Fictional Narratives
  • Exercise: Setting
  • Understanding the Use of Scene, Plot, and Action
  • Exercise: Scene or Short Story
  • Assignment 7: Fictional Scene or Short Story

Lesson 8: Poetry

  • Workshop: Vocabulary
  • The Basic Elements of Poetry
  • Analyzing Poetry Using Introduced Vocabulary
  • One Art
  • Exercise: One Art Poem Analysis
  • Element of Sound in Poetry
  • More Sound in Poetry
  • Exercise: Audio
  • Assignment 8: Poetry Writing and Analysis

Lesson 9: Playwriting

  • Basic Elements of Playwriting and Overview of Terms
  • Exercise: The Aliens
  • Development of Character, Action, and Motivation
  • Activity: Development of Character, Action, and Motivation
  • Scene Analysis
  • Exercise: Character's Action and Motivation
  • Development of Conflict
  • Act of The Aliens
  • Discussion: Act of the The Aliens

Lesson 10: Objective versus Subjective Writing in Music Reviews

  • Elements of a Written Review of a Performance or Work of Art
  • Assessment of Live Performance
  • Personal Response and Artistic Merit
  • Objective and Subjective Writing
  • Review of a Performance
  • Assignment 10: Critique of a Live Performance or Work of Art

Lesson 11: Incorporating Research

  • Identifying Areas for Research
  • Workshop: Conducting Research
  • Citing Outside Sources in MLA format
  • Exercise: Three Resources
  • Assignment 11: Using Outside Resources

Lesson 12: Music to Words Project

  • Artistic Intent and Effect
  • Workshop: Whitey on the Moon
  • Artistic Context, Merit, and Craft of Cross-Genre Art
  • Workshop: Works of Cross-Genre Art
  • Manipulating Music or Words in a Multi-Media Work of Art
  • Assignment 12: Combining a Written Work with Music

Suzanne Cope

Author & Instructor

Suzanne Cope is an author and scholar of food studies and narrative with a PhD in Adult Learning and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction. Her most recent book is Small Batch: Pickles, Cheese, Chocolate, Spirits, and the Return of Artisanal Food (2014, Rowman & Littlefield). Recent conferences contributions include Association of Writers and Writing Programs, Northeast Modern Language Association, Food + Tech Connect/ Cookbook Conference, and Association for the Study of Food and Society and recent and upcoming articles and essays include academic publications in Italian American Review and New Directions in Teaching in Learning; articles in Edible Boston, Edible Cape Cod, Edible Buffalo, and Culinate; and essays and stories in New Plains Review, Blue Lyra Review, Foliate Oak Magazine, among others.

English Proficiency Requirements

All students enrolled in this course, must know English well enough to:

  • Easily understand recorded videos and written class lessons
  • Participate successfully in written and oral class discussions
  • Read, write, and study without being hindered by language problems
  • Possess intermediate or advanced grammar skills related to punctuation and verb conjugation

Required Textbooks

Beneath the Underdog by Charles Mingus, Vintage

Just Kids by Patti Smith, Ecco

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, Anchor


Software Requirements

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Hardware Requirements

  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed (http://www.speedtest.net to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)

Comments

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  • Level
  • Duration
    12 weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
    $1,479
  • or
  • Non-Credit Tuition
    $1,229

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