Back to School

I’ve officially returned for my spring semester at the University of Kansas!

As many of you already know, I’m studying to get my bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing. Because of that, I’m in two writing courses this semester—Poetry and Nonfiction. I’m really excited for what this semester will bring. I’m sure I will have the wonderful opportunity to connect with other passionate readers and writers (just like the magnificent opportunity this website has brought me by introducing us!)

For fun, I thought I’d share what books we’re reading in regards to these subjects. Maybe you’ve already read them, or maybe you’ll think about picking them up. Either way, I’m sure I’ll review them as time passes, and I hope you all can gain as much as I hopefully will from them.

Poetry Writing:

Well Then There Now by Juliana Spahr

The new black by Evie Shockley (I’ve actually already read this poetry collection, and it’s fantastic representation of generational shifts within the black culture.)

The Unmemntioable by Erín Moure

Poetry! Poetry! Poetry!   by Peter Davis

Nonfiction Writing: (I’ve never taken a Nonfiction writing course, so I’m particularly anticipating this one.)

How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One by Stanley Fish

Short Takes: Brief Encounters with Contemporary Nonfiction Judith Kitchen

The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present by Phillip Lopate

Crafting the Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Non-Fiction by Dinty Moore

Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction Works from 1970 to the Present by Lex Williford and Michael Martone

Today I read the first 51 pages of Spahr’s “Well Then There Now” and Sarah Levine’s essay “The Essayist Is Sorry for Your Loss,” (via Touchstone Anthology) and I already love them.

What required readings did you love the most in school? Which ones were the most helpful? I’d love to hear your answers. 

Happy Friday!

On January 24, it was my father's birthday! This (with our creepy glowing eyes) is our surprise party for him.
On January 24, it was my father’s birthday! This (with our creepy glowing eyes) is our surprise party for him.


34 thoughts on “Back to School

  1. Is it bad if I say that off the top of my head I can’t name any required readings that I loved in school? I’m sure there might have been one or two, but I’m kind of lame when it comes to literature. : )

    About the only literature I can rock out to is “The Grapes of Wrath” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

    But I’m super happy you’re finishing up your degree!

    1. Oh, I just remembered that I did fall all kinds of crazy in love with “Watership Down,” which I read in middle school, I believe. I’ve re-read that book many times even as an adult, which arguably should be embarrassing, but since Stephen King says it rocks, I figure I get a pass! I’m in good company. : )

  2. Ooh good luck! As a perpetual student myself, Im often torn in the tension between eye-opening opportunities to learn & experience the world through study – with the ever mounting stress of so much To Do! Your subjects sound interesting, I hope it’s a great semester for you 😀

  3. I’ve found Lopate’s The Art of the Personal Essay to be extremely useful, even for blogging. I keep it on my writing reference shelf for an occasional refresher. I’ll have to look at some of the others you mentioned – thanks!

  4. During my PhD program I took an upper-level poetry class. One book that stuck with me was Roethke’s poetry. I LOVE his work. I also loved learning how to read poetry out loud – those poets have made it an art.

    1. Like a poetry recommendation for someone who doesn’t read poetry? If so, I’d say try Billy Collins. (I just finished “Sailing Alone Around the Room” myself, but I LOVED “Horoscopes for the Dead.”) He’s uses simple language, and it’s very easy to find him in any book store rather than having to order poets online.

  5. I went for a Bachelors in English Writing Arts, but I was never given much in the way of textbooks. The program seemed more interested in helping an author develop a personal style through critique and group work. Though, I could have also simply ignored the textbooks considering what kind of student I was. The one book I do remember was a ‘how to write’ book by Stephen King that we had to read when Horror was chosen as the 400-level Fiction course. It was an okay read, but I got a real sense of ‘my personal experience, so ignore me if you disagree’ vibe from him.

    Favorite books would put me back in high school with ‘Tom Sawyer’, ‘Great Gatsby’, ‘Treasure Island’, ‘Of Mice and Men’, and ‘Call of the Wild’.

    1. We actually mainly do workshops for writing and critiquing others’ work, but we have to do reading on top of that. I have to keep a journal about the readings we do or experiment with others’ writing style in order to find what we’re comfortable with.
      My poetry is 500-level, and my nonfiction is 300-level.
      Interesting pick of high school reads. Curious to know whether you’re planning on seeing Leonardo’s movie of the Great Gatsby.

      1. I went to the highest level of poetry and fiction. Had to do a lot of begging to get into poetry because I had hit my English credit limit for my college career. I think the professors expected us to read on our own and figured a writer is a natural reader.

        I’m not sure about the movie. I’m always nervous about movie versions of books I enjoy. Though, I’m more nervous about the movie version of ‘Ender’s Game’ near the end of this year.

  6. Thanks so much for the recommendations! I really I want brush up on my writing (I majored in Political Science and Creative Writing in college, but I always add that the emphasis should be on the “creative” rather than the “writing!)

    Besides that was 33 years ago.

    Good luck to you and do enjoy yourself!

  7. Flannery O’Connor, Morals and Manners, a terrific book by another fine female writer from the South. Best wishes for a terrific upcoming term, Shannon!

    1. Shannon, I made a mistake–the title is Mystery and Manners. Flannery O’Connor is a top American writer of mid-20th century. Try some of her short work. In Mystery and Manners, she speaks very helpfully on topics like these: The Nature and Aim of Fiction, Writing Short Stories, The Teaching of Literature, The Church and the Fiction Writer. I strongly recommend this work to everybody!

  8. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephan King is a FANTASTIC book. I’m a tenth grader constantly looking to expand my horizons, so when it was on the twelfth-graders AP Lit required reading list, I knew I had to get my hands on it. King gives some really awesome advice on how to improve your writing – and he goes beyond the basic “throw out all the adverbs” and “broaden your vocabulary”. It was truly a fun, entertaining, insightful read!

  9. I hated and still do hate with a fiery passion anything and everything I was forced to read in school. Grapes Of Wrath, Of Mice And Men, etc. I could not stand those classes either, maybe it was the teacher and his awful monotone soul sucking, life killing attitude that removed all oxygen form anyone in the room. I tried to read them later in life, and I couldn’t.

    Have fun at school and try not to party too much! 🙂

  10. Good luck with your new semester! Although I didn’t study creative writing, I remember reading an excerpt from “Des fleurs pour Algernon” for a project in high school (i.e. it is the translated version of Daniel Keyes’s novel “Flowers for Algernon”). It intrigued me a lot, so I had gone to the book store and had purchased the original english version of the novel. What a great science fiction classic it is!

    @potterfan97: I agree with you, last year I read Stephen King’s A Memoir of the Craft and I really enjoyed it!

  11. Your blog looks really interesting! I’m currently pursuing my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with an empahsis in nonfiction. Some nonfiction writers who are of inspiration to me and I suggest reading are: Patricia Hampl, Joan Didion, Jeannette Walls, and Meghan O’Rourke. Always classics to me, though, are Walt Whitman, Virginia Woolf, and Henry David Thoreau. You’re definitely on a good track reading Dinty Moore’s book /Crafting the Personal Essay/. I’m currently perusing his /The Truth of the Matter: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction/. Cheers!

  12. I am going to try and get some of these books at my local library. I really need to learn to write better before my university corse starts in March (we Australians start in March). Thank you very much for sharing these!

  13. My set authors/books (in the UK) included the poems of English poets John Betjeman, Edward Thomas, & Roger McGough, “Return of the Native” — Thomas Hardy, “Cider with Rosie” — Laurie Lee, “Romeo & Juliet” — William Shakespeare, and “The Rivals” — R.B. Sheridan.

    I love Stephen King’s book “On Writing” because it’s by a successful author, rather than somebody who’s not successful but trying to tell you how to write.

  14. Great post! : ) I wish I was that excited about school! I very much love writing and I want to pursue it as I move into college. Many people have advised me against taking any majors that involve writing or English, any advice?

    You can check out some of my writing at cambriacorner.wordpress.com if you’re interested!

    1. English is in the top five most wanted majors (right out of college) currently, because English degrees show that the person can communicate on documents efficiently, so I’d say take English. It’s also the second most used for law students (since you are required to major in poli-sci anymore.)
      If you like writing/reading, major in English. If it’s hard for you to read and write (and a lot) then I’d advise you not to, but since you’re a writer, I’m assuming you love that stuff.
      Hope that helps,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s