Decision / Making: Foundations in Literary Arts & Creative Writing

Fall 2020
Winter 2021
Spring 2021
Class Size: 50
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

Kris Coffey
creative writing, historical fiction, ethnic american literature
fiction, nonfiction, and contemporary literature

All writing begins with a series of decisions about genre, intention, words, tone, and structure. Writers develop by learning to critically reflect on the moves we make and how our choices affect our ability to communicate with audiences. Our decisions are also influenced by our own point of view and perspective. As critical and creative writers, one of our tasks is to learn how to reflect on, become aware of, and convey our perspectives. The program centers on authorial choices and artistic decisions. Our wager is that as we become more reflective and aware decision-makers as writers, we will become more reflective and aware decision-makers in other areas of our lives.

Decision/Making: Foundations in Literary Arts & Creative Writing offers three quarters of immersive instruction in literary studies, creative writing, and composition to create a learning community of highly engaged literary practitioners: creative writers, literary scholars, and passionate readers. It is designed to guide students as they develop a strong independent writing and reading practices and a network of support. The program provides both synchronous and asynchronous course content (asynchronous means that students can engage with the material on their own time). It includes virtual one-on-one consultation with faculty, written asynchronous discussions via Canvas, and live remote seminars, lectures, and workshops with faculty and peers. Together we will develop inventive ways to curate and share our original work in the culminating weeks of the program, depending on conditions. To successfully participate in this program, students should have access to a computer and internet access.  

During the fall quarter, Decision/Making will focus widely in prose genres. Expect to build a repertoire of skills and fluencies in the literary arts through regular and repeating practices of analysis and invention. Students will learn narrative techniques, close reading, glossing, annotation, note-taking, textual citation, and other compositional skills for writing essays in the humanist tradition. Students will also explore other prose genres including fiction and creative nonfiction. One area of focus will be on how groups of people and individuals make decisions in crises. This question will be explored through readings in eco-literature, including climate fictions and speculative fictions that function not only as art, but as thought experiments that allow us to imagine and compose alternatives. Longer historical fictions will allow us to explore decision-making over a lifetime.

In winter quarter, Decision/Making: The Essay emphasizes nonfiction forms. We will deepen the practice of creative nonfiction with drafts and intensive revisions of three essays: a personal essay; an essay of place; and a work of literary journalism, a rising form in online publishing. We will also continue to read published works, including essays that represent a diverse range of time periods, regions, and experiences.

In the spring, students will have the option of continuing on with Kris Coffey in Decision/Making: Immersed in Story, which will concentrate exclusively on the art of fiction. This quarter will be divided into a four-week intensive writing unit, followed by a five-week studio project unit and culminate in a public reading of original work created in the program. Alternatively, students with a capstone proposal may opt to join the Literary Arts Capstone program facilitated by Miranda Mellis in spring. The capstone designed to support the completion of a manuscript. It is especially recommended for students intending to go on to graduate school in literary studies and/or creative writing.

To successfully participate in this program fall quarter students should have access to a computer and internet access. Students will have access to alternatives to synchronous (in person or remote) participation if conditions require.


Credits per quarter

Online learning:
  • Fall Complete Online Learning - This offering delivers all of its instruction online.
  • Winter and Spring: Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

$150 in winter quarters for field trips

Class Standing: Sophomore–Senior
Class Size: 50

Scheduled for: Day

Final schedule and room assignments:

First meeting:

Wednesday, September 30, 2020 - 10:00 am

Located in: Olympia