Pre-MFA Syllabus

Are you guys getting ready to pack up and head to grad school? Instead of wasting time on pinterest, you can start working ahead so that when you get to school you'll be prepared! Here is a (for fun) pre-MFA syllabus created by Kaela McNiel. You can pick and choose which exercises you do but it might be fun to try them all!  

The Pre-MFA Program

Created by Kaela McNeil June 11 – August 31 [12 weeks]

 

Course Description

Deciding what to write and when to write can be difficult, whether you are starting an MFA program in the fall and want to be prepared, or if you’re just looking to write and learn more about poetry without the pressure of academia. As I prepare to start my first semester as an MFA student, I keep asking myself how much should I write? What should I be writing? What else can I be doing?

 

The core of this 12 week course is to write. In order to make writing your life and to get better at it, you cannot be a weekend poet. You have to write more days than not and have to be able to produce a large volume of publishable or near publishable work. In this course, you will be asked to write, whether an entire poem or 20-30 minutes of free-writing, five days a week, Monday – Friday. Writing is a job, not a hobby, and should be treated as such.  On top of the Daily Writings, you will produce one poem per week from those writings and to heavily revise until you feel as if you cannot revise anymore. Then at the end of the 12 weeks you will revisit 6-8 of the 11 Weekly Poems and to revise them again into a mini portfolio.

 

Because being a writer means being a part of the greater conversation of other writers, you will also be researching current topics on writing and to write a 2-3 page essay per week [for a total of 10] on your own chosen topic. Because this course is for you and self-directed, you will decide what to write about. These discussions can be as informal as an opinion piece on a particular author or as formal as a research paper. It is up to you. The point is to generate ideas and opinions on current topics being discussed by other writers.

 

Lastly, you will write a longer essay of about 5 pages on a poet you admire. Throughout the course, you will generate discussions on their poetry and review criticism on their writing.

 

Course Goals

  • To produce a portfolio of 6-8 poems that you can submit for publication after the course is finished
  • To be able to write on a variety of current topics on writing
  • To develop personal aesthetic by writing a longer essay on a particular poet.

 

Expectations

  • To produce one complete poem each week due Saturdays [11 total]
    • A poem that is “complete” means that the student has revised the poem once or several times to the point where he or she can no longer edit it without the aid of a workshop.
  • One critical essay on a new topic on writing or poetry per week due Mondays [10 total]
  • To write a poem OR a 20-30 minute free-write each day, Monday – Friday [60 total]
  • A 5 page critical discussion on a poet you admire due August 24th
  • Final Portfolio: During the last week of the course, the student must edit 6-8 poems that he or she wrote during the semester to publishing or near publishing quality [use outside help if needed].

 

Where to Begin

  • Start out by writing your first Daily Writing right now. Sit down for 20-30 minutes and write a poem or spend your time writing whatever comes to your mind. Don’t worry about the poem that’s due on Saturday, you will have generated enough material by then to write one poem. Put a tally mark or some other indicator next to the “5 Daily Writings” to show that you completed the writing for today. When the week is over, write the number you completed on the line “__/5.”
  • Decide when you will be doing your Daily Writing. Do you want to write in the evenings? In the morning? Whenever you feel like it [as long as it’s M-F, once a day]
  • Since you do not have an essay due this week, pick your topic for the essay due next week. Do you want to write about how Twilight is an abomination? Do you want odes to come back in style? It’s up to you.
  • Schedule when on Saturday you will be sitting down to complete your poem. Depending on the material you generated, allocate enough time to write and revise said poem.
  • Schedule what day and what time you are free either Sunday or Monday to write your 2-3 page essay
  • On Saturday, dedicate some time to composing a poem from your Daily Writing or expand/edit a poem you wrote during the week.
  • Review your topic for your essay on Sun or Mon, create an outline, and write up your essay. Remember, it can be as formal or as informal as you want it to be.
  • Since this course is self-directed, please make sure to schedule everything ahead of time to fit your schedule. Set email reminders or add it to your agenda to keep track.

 

Can This Course be Adapted for Prose?

YES. Instead of writing a poem or 20-30 minutes of free-writing for your Daily Writing, write at least 750 words a day. By the end of each week, instead of writing a Weekly Poem, set your own goal. This can be a chapter, a work of flash fiction, or a lyric essay. It’s whatever.

 

“Grading”

Want to keep track of how well you are doing? Calculate your own grade based on completion only. If, however, you want to be critical and demeaning towards yourself, feel free to grade yourself more harshly.

 

Weekly poems [out of 11]                                                                   20%

Weekly essays [out of 10]                                                                   20%

Daily writing [out of 60]                                                                                          10%

Final Essay                                                                                                     25%

Final Portfolio                                                                                             25%

 

 

Course Schedule

 

Week 1 [6/11 – 6/17]

__/ 5 Daily Writings

__ Pick new essay topic for next week [due 6/18]

__ Weekly Poem [due Sat] No essay due Mon 6/11

 

Week 2 [6/18 – 6/24]

__/ 5 Daily Writings

__ Weekly Essay [due Mon] __  Pick new essay topic for next week [due 6/25]

__ Weekly Poem [due Sat]

__ Pick author for final essay

 

Week 3 [6/25 – 7/1]

__/ 5 Daily Writings

__ Weekly Essay [due Mon] __ Pick new essay topic for next week [due 7/2]

__ Weekly Poem [due Sat]

__ Write a 1 page discussion on one poem from your selected author

 

Week 4 [7/2 – 7/8]

__/ 5 Daily Writings

__ Weekly Essay [due Mon]

__ Pick new essay topic for next week [due 7/9]

__ Weekly Poem [due Sat]

__ Write a 1 page discussion on one poem from your selected author

 

Week 5 [7/9 – 7/15]

__/ 5 Daily Writings

__ Weekly Essay [due Mon]

__ Pick new essay topic for next week [due 7/16]

__ Weekly Poem [due Sat]

__ Write a 1 page discussion on one poem from your selected author

 

Week 6 [7/16 – 7/22]

__/ 5 Daily Writings

__ Weekly Essay [due Mon]

__ Pick new essay topic for next week [due 7/23]

__ Weekly Poem [due Sat]

__ Read and annotate an article written on your selected author

 

 

Week 7 [7/23 – 7/29]

__/ 5 Daily Writings

__ Weekly Essay [due Mon]

__ Pick new essay topic for next week [due 7/30]

__ Weekly Poem [due Sat]

__ Read and annotate an article written on your selected author

 

Week 8 [7/30 – 8/5]

__/ 5 Daily Writings

__ Weekly Essay [due Mon]

__ Pick new essay topic for next week [due 8/6]

__ Weekly Poem [due Sat]

__ Read and annotate an article written on your selected author

 

Week 9 [8/6 – 8/12]

 

__/ 5 Daily Writings

__ Weekly Essay [due Mon]

__ Pick new essay topic for next week [due 8/13]

__ Weekly Poem [due Sat]

__ Create an outline for your final essay

 

Week 10 [8/13 – 8/19]

__/ 5 Daily Writings

__ Weekly Essay [due Mon]

__ Pick new essay topic for next week [due 8/20]

__ Weekly Poem [due Sat]

__ Write first draft of final essay

 

Week 11 [8/20 – 8/26]

__/ 5 Daily Writings

__ Weekly Essay [due Mon]

__ Weekly Poem [due Sat] __ Revise and finish final essay [YEAH!]

 

Week 12 [8/27 – 8/31]

__/ 5 Daily Writings

__Choose 6-8 poems to put into a “collection”

__ make minor revisions to poems