Writing class to publish book together

Only at PLNU can you earn course credits and publishing rights within the same class.

Last semester literature and writing professor Michael Clark radically changed the structure of his Creative Writing Fiction course in order to give students a chance to develop their writing skills and determine if their efforts would merit publication. The students who enrolled in his fall course were challenged to work collaboratively to have their writings published in an online ebook by the end of the semester.

The forthcoming book, On This Sand, is a compilation of five short stories created by the 20 students who enrolled in his class, unaware of what was to be expected of them. Students were only given the warning that the class would be different from a traditional writing class. Clark created a teaching environment that focused on developing marketable skills with writing fiction.

“I gave the students an impossible task: write something worthy of publication in 9 weeks,” said Clark.

No one, not even Clark himself, knew if the experimental class would succeed in its objective. The class was divided into two distinctive formats: four weeks of in-class lectures, and nine weeks of independent small groups focused on creating their respective stories.

The 20 students were separated into five groups, each group assigned to collaboratively write a short story, and all of the stories had to be written within the same setting. This meant that the stories the students wrote all took place simultaneously within the same location.

At the same time, the members of each group were assigned a weekly role that was meant to focus on a particular facet of working within a writing workplace. Clark explained within the class’s Eclass portal.

“Each week, you will perform one of four jobs in your creative team structure – team lead, communication specialist, writer, or editor,” Clark explained. “Each position has its own set of deadlines and duties, as well as group deadlines that all positions must account for. Your creative team will be responsible for ensuring that all goals are met and that the story you are writing is both artistically in line with the individual vision you have and the larger class project.”

During the nine weeks of independent writing, Clark delivered lectures and curveball assignments via Youtube videos that he filmed prior to the semester. This allowed him to guide the groups remotely as they developed their stories.

Keana Mcgrath, one of the participating students, enjoyed the class.

“It was an interesting new way to write, and interesting to write as a collective group. The class challenged me as a writer,” she said.

By the end of the semester, the groups had written five distinctive short stories and decided on the names of their stories, as well as the book itself. The students also completed multiple evaluations and surveys that identified each student’s strengths, productivity and progress throughout the semester.

Clark says he is proud of the efforts of his students.

“I couldn’t have genetically engineered a better first group.”

If any students are looking forward to taking Dr. Clark’s hybrid writing class, he has expressed interest in retooling the course for writing in other forms, such as literary nonfiction or poetry. On This Sand is currently being edited and readers will be able to download their digital copy early this April.