ENG 405-2 Special Topics in Creative Writing

Literary Citizenship

R at 6:30-9:00 PM in RB 292

Spring 2014


 Professor Cathy Day

Office: RB 266

Office Hours: Friday 1:30-3, 4:30-6 PM

Signup for Appt: tinyurl.com/DayHours

Phone: 285-8530




The best way to reach me is by coming to my office hours or by the e-mail addresses above (you can expect a reply within twenty-four hours during the week). I keep banker’s hours, which means my email account is usually “closed” in the evenings and on the weekends. I am happy to meet with you by appointment outside of my office hours if necessary; however, if you miss a scheduled appt. without contacting me well in advance to cancel, your missed appointment will count as an absence.

Required Texts and Materials

Betsy Lerner, The Forest for the Trees (Revised and Updated): An Editor’s Advice to Writers, Riverhead

Austin Kleon, Steal like an Artist, Workman Publishing Company

Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, Paladin Timeless Books

At least one of the books by the three In Print Authors

Mario Alberto Zambrano, Loteria, Harper Collins

T. Fleischmann, Syzygy, Beauty, Sarabande Books

Natalie Shapero, No Object, Saturnalia Books


Course Description


“I think the big mistake most writers make is thinking that becoming involved in your community is something you do after your book is published. Instead, I urge writers to become involved as early as possible, in a genuine, non-book-related way. It’s always a little off-putting when a person suddenly becomes interested in book review venues only once they have their own book. In a similar way, it seems false to only be interested in independent bookstores when you’re trying to get your own book stocked. The better solution is, as a part of your daily work as a writer, support the communities you wish to be a part of, by reading books, writing reviews, promoting other writers or bookstores or whatever in your social network. It’s a small but old truth, but the more you give, the more you will receive. And this isn’t any kind of slimy networking. This is every writer’s responsibility, and the writers who create the most buzz for the good work of others will find that same energy waiting for them, when their own excellent book finally comes out.”


–author/editor Matt Bell


A literary citizen is an aspiring writer who understands that you have to contribute to, not just expect things from, the publishing world. This course will teach you how to take advantage of the opportunities offered by your campus, local, regional and national literary communities and how you can best contribute to those communities given your talents and interests. It will also help you begin to professionalize yourself as a writer or writing-related career. You will learn how to:


1.)    create your own professional blog or website

2.)    use social media to build your writing community

3.)    interview writers and publish those interviews

4.)    review books and publish those reviews

5.)    submit poems, stories, and essays to literary magazines

6.)    query agents and editors regarding book manuscripts

7.)    craft a professional résumé.

8.)    successfully interview for a job or internship

Students who complete the course in an exemplary fashion will be eligible to apply for internship positions as Social Media Tutors at the Midwest Writers Workshop in Muncie July 24-26, 2013.




Website/Blog                                                                                 300 points                                 30%

Charming Notes                                                                             100 points                                 10%

Book Review                                                                                  200 points                                 20%

Lit Citizen Campaign                                                                   100 points                                 10%

Professionalism                                                                              200 points                                 20%


                                                                                                            1000 points                               100%


Learning Goals

Because this course fulfills a Tier 2 Humanities requirement, I will also focus on these learning goals. At the end of the semester, I will assess whether or not you learned to:

  • use multiple sources of information to evaluate competing hypotheses, form judgments, and provide your rationale
  • take an inquiring stance toward the world while appreciating the contributions of tradition.
  • develop effective decision-making strategies based on an awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses.
  • consider and understand others’ values as well as your own.



Website/Blog—3 posts at 100 points each or 300 points

The purpose of your blog this semester will be to document and reflect on your acts of literary citizenship and that topic more generally. You will be expected to post to your blog at least every third week; you’ll be divided into three groups and rotate. At the midterm, I will grade one post of your choosing, and for the final, I will grade two posts of your choosing. Your posts will be evaluated by the criteria included on the rubric (attached). They can be however long or short you want them to be, but the posts I grade must be written by you, not solely curated quotes or links, like Matt Bell’s. (You can certainly do these kinds of posts, but NOT only this kind.) Sometimes, you’ll be able to post an assignment, such as a book review. Sometimes, you’ll have to come up with your own topics. The best posts will be reblogged on Literary Citizenship. Posts are due no later than 24 hours before our class, so: 6:30 PM on Wednesdays. Responses to posts are due no later than 3:30 PM on Thursdays. You should post a link (yes, all four) to 1.) your social networks, 2.) our Charming Notes Wiki, 3.) our Facebook group, and 4.) on Twitter with our course hashtag #litcitizen or handle @LitCitzen

What to blog about

I’ve arranged the categories of our course blog “Literary Citizenship” around outward focused topics:


  1. Online Community
  2. Attend/Organize Literary Events
  3. Interview Writers
  4. Review Books
  5. Buy and Read Books


  1. Definitions
  2. Shining Examples

If I think your post is right for LiteraryCitizenship.com, I’ll either reblog (easy if you use WordPress) or invite you to cross-post. Cross posting increases your chances of people following you back to your own blog. When I promote the Lit Cit course blog via my social network, it gets about 130+ views a day, and I hope that number will increase as the semester goes on. That’s a lot of potential eyeballs on YOUR WORDS.

I’ve limited the blogs categories in this way so that you will blog about something other than yourself, so that the mantra of the course will be upheld: Be Interested in What Other People are Doing.

With one exception: you must blog about your Practice Interview. See below

Charming Notes/Network Building—200 points

In her book Living a Literary Life, Carolyn See advises writers to send one “charming note” a day to someone in the publishing field—a writer, editor, publisher, etc. The point isn’t “networking.” The point isn’t to ask for anything, but rather to just make a connection, to feel a part of a community. These days, thanks to social media, it’s never been so easy to make those kinds of connections. And so we’re going to do charming notes this semester. Five times a week, you need to friend or follow or email someone in the publishing field or a young writer like yourself NOT living in Muncie or in Indiana. These are “passive” acts, but at least once a week, you need to commit an act of literary citizenship and actually say something to them! Such as “I enjoy your work,” or “You published one of my favorite books,” etc. So: 4 passive, 1 active charming note every week. Keep track of this work; once a week, (again, anytime before Thursdays at noon) we’ll update each other on the “Charming Notes Wiki” in Google Docs. You must have these posted before class meets.

  • Half of your grade in “Charming Notes” (100 points) will be determined by punctuality and diligence; if you do this work and document it fully every week on time, you’ll receive full credit. Every time you’re late or un-thorough, publish your blog post late, fail to engage with your blog circle, etc., you lose points.
  • The other half of your grade (100 points) will be determined by the results of these “network building” efforts—the quantity and quality of the network you have built by semester’s end. You’ll reflect on this during our final exam.

Lit Citizen Campaign—100 points

During the last month of the semester, we’re going to engage in a social media campaign to raise awareness about the idea of Literary Citizenship. You will each contribute to this campaign. Our goal: 1,000 new friends/followers.

Book Review—200 points

Book reviews play a pivotal role in literary citizenship; the world desperately needs more professional readers, more trusted filters. We’ll study the different types of reviews and review outlets, learn how to request Advance Readers Copies (ARCs) from publishers, write a book review, and ultimately publish it.


Professionalism describes attendance and participation, but it also encompasses other kinds of classroom behavior and expectations, such as your performance in small groups, your full attention in class, your responsiveness and professionalism in class and online. Your active participation in class is expected. This means taking notes and engaging. Merely being a warm body is not enough. We are each of us responsible for keeping the discussion lively and interesting. Please always be on time to class—2 tardies count as 1 absence. In a class that meets once a week, as this one does, you are allowed one absence with no explanation needed. Each subsequent absence will lower your grade by 50 points. I will be using a sign-in sheet this term, and it’s your job to sign yourself in. Documented illness (documented by a note from Health Services or your physician) will count as an excused absence, but will not excuse you from handing in the work assigned. During f2f discussions, I expect you to make at least one comment a day. On the other hand, don’t monopolize the conversation or go wildly off topic and stay there. And do not take advantage of the unstructured time I give you to write/work. This is not a study hall. It’s a seminar, and that’s what I expect you to be doing at all times.


  • Participating in any announced intentions, activities, or experiments
  • Posting to your blog every third week (at least).
  • Responding to at least 3 blog posts a week by those in the other two groups on “off” weeks.
  • Responding to at least 3 blog posts a week by students in other Literary Citizenship courses.

Possible Career Outcomes

The most important thing I can tell you about literary citizenship is this: if you want to be a writer, you must stop seeing the classroom as the center of your literary life. Because when you graduate, bye bye classroom the structure it provides. What I hope happens is that by learning how to be a good literary citizen, you begin to feel like “a real writer,” not just someone taking classes.

But not all of you will become writers—and that’s okay. All too often, creative writing majors think the only possible career outcomes are Full-Time Writer or maybe College Professor/Writer. You probably know this already, but in case you don’t: there aren’t many Full-Time Writers, and the academic job market for creative writers is pretty dismal right now. I don’t think that some of you really want “to be writers,” although right now, you think you do. You know that you love to read. You want to have some kind of literary life but you don’t know how to go about plugging into what comes next. A pre-med or nursing major plugs into med school or nursing school. A theater and dance major plugs into the entertainment industry. A geology major plugs into the energy industry. And so on. What are you supposed to plug into? Yes, there’s a “publishing industry,” but it’s in a huge state of flux right now.

Creative Writing can be a marketable major—as long as you understand that YOU have to figure out how to frame yourself in such a way that appeals to employers. The key: “transferable skills.” Right now, there’s no single, concrete “next thing” for you to plug into. Your best course of action is to develop an artist’s entrepreneurial spirit. Practicing literary citizenship will help you do that.

Most of the time in this class, we’ll operate as if you’re all going to become authors yourselves, but what you might discover is that another career interests you more:

1.) jobs with or as literary agents and publishers

2.) jobs at creative agencies which focus on advertising, publications, marketing, websites, branding, or communication strategies

3.) freelance work offering “author solutions” such as website design, book doctoring, e-publishing guidance, and media consulting.

4.) coordinating social media and other communications needs for a business or nonprofit



BLOGS AND SOCIAL MEDIA: This course will introduce you to the ways in which social media will become a part of your professional writing life. You must friend and follow me, and I will do likewise. I’m making you a part of my professional network, not my private one, and I expect the same consideration from you. Consider your friend or follow request to me to be the moment you begin your transition from using social media for play and personal use to a more professional approach. If you start complaining about your professors or classes, I will unfriend/unfollow you. Please join the group Lit Citizens on Facebook, create a gmail profile, a WordPress profile, and a Twitter account. I encourage you to “live tweet” your experience in the class by using the hashtag #litcitizen or handle @LitCitizen. Consider documenting all your network-building sessions on your blog or sharing them via Twitter or Facebook. I want to show you guys how writers use social media as professionals trying to connect to other writers and potential readers, and I want to observe how skilled you are at this b/c I’m recruiting “Social Media Tutors” for the 2014 Midwest Writers Workshop.


laptops and other electronic devices: This semester, you should think of our classroom as a graduate seminar or a meeting/conference room. How do we behave professionally in that context? Because I want you to tweet and Google, etc., during class, I cannot forbid the use of laptops. However, know that in the real world, people will judge you by how well you pay attention—in meetings, during talks, etc. The temptation to browse, to check Facebook, to check in with friends and family, to multitask are great, but you must learn how to be both online and physically present at the same time. I reserve the right to investigate what applications and websites you have open on your computer or your phone. If you’re playing a game or writing a paper for another class, I will count you absent. This is a small, intimate seminar setting, and I consider it rude and disrespectful if your attention is elsewhere. If you want to tweet from your phone, okay, but absolutely, you cannot text. If I see you using your phone and there’s no corresponding hashtagged tweet or I see that during class, you were talking about unrelated matters on Facebook, I will count you absent. If there is a reason why your phone might ring during class (your sister is in surgery, for example), please inform me before class. 


Amount of Work: According to the American Association of Colleges and Universities, I’m expected to assign you at least two hours of out-of-class work for every hour spent in class. Since we meet for 3 hours a week, that means I’m supposed to give you enough to keep you busy for about 6 hours a week. This includes time for writing your weekly blog posts, reading assigned material for class, completing writing assignments. If it takes you a long time to read the material or write your blog post because you’re often distracted, I’m sorry, but this calculation does NOT include Distraction Time. I also struggle in our Age of Distraction, but the work still has to get done somehow. This is why I no longer watch television.

Plagiarism:  If you don’t know what it is, the “Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities: Student Academic Ethics Policy” describes academic dishonesty and its penalties. Academic dishonesty and cheating are serious offenses. If you have any questions, come see me as soon as possible and we’ll talk about it.


Accommodations: If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, please contact me as soon as possible. Ball State’s Disabled Student Development office coordinates services for students with disabilities; documentation of a disability needs to be on file in that office before any accommodations can be provided. Disabled Student Development can be contacted at 765-285-5293 or dsd@bsu.edu.


Respect: We need to be respectful of one another. Among other things, this means that you are expected to listen respectfully to other students and me when we are speaking and to speak about the work of others with respect.  This does not mean being dishonestly positive with commentary, but try to understand that we are all learning.  Comments that might be taken by reasonable people to be insulting, especially in regards to gender, race, religion, age, and sexual preference, aren’t welcome here.  There may be disagreements in class, but when these disagreements touch on issues of race, gender, religion, sexual preference, etc., we need to be respectful of our differences, even as we are emphatic in our positions.


The Writing Center at Ball State offers free one-to-one writing feedback to all students in all classes. For a face-to-face or online appointment, students should sign up on the Writing Center website. On the website, students can also chat with a tutor, find writing resources, and discover information about other services offered by the Writing Center. Web: http://www.bsu.edu/writingcenter. Email: writing@bsu.edu. AIM: bsuwritingcenter. Phone: 765-285-8387 Room: Robert Bell 291. Mondays-Thursday 10-8 pm, Fridays 10-2 pm


Late Work: While I am a compassionate person by nature, I must be firm on this: late work is unacceptable. Things are due when specified. If you turn in/post something late, it doesn’t count.


CONFERENCE: Don’t let my busy-ness dissuade you. I am available to you, and happy to meet. Always. However, I will not take the initiative. You must learn to do this. Claim your time.


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