HUMS 618
The Big Truth in Short Fiction: A Writing Workshop

Rachel Basch


We will begin the semester with brief, weekly writing exercises (1 -2 pages). Later in the term each student will write a short story (at least 12 pages) for workshop discussion.  The final project will consist of an extensive revision of the short story, also to be discussed in class. 

All work is to be typed, double spaced.  Students are responsible for supplying each member of the class with copies of all submitted writing. Student stories are to be photocopied and distributed one class meeting prior to the date the material is to be discussed in the workshop. At the beginning of the semester we will establish a fixed schedule for “workshopping” student stories.


Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, 6th ed. by Janet Burroway. Burroway is indispensable for anyone interested in fiction writing. I will expect you to read a chapter of the book each week.

A course packet consisting of short stories I have photocopied for use in this course. The course packet will be available for purchase from PIP Printing, 179 Main St., Middletown, 860-344-9001

Some of the stories we will read and discuss in the course packet or Burroway:
“House Hunting,” Chabon
“Cathedral,” Carver
“Separating,” Updike
“Child in Leaves,” Dickinson
“The Point,”  D’Ambrosio, Jr.
“The Jewish Hunter,” Moore
“The Writer in the Family,” Doctorow
“Hiding,” Minot
“Trespasses,” Munro
“Where are You Going Where Have You Been,”  Oates
“This Blessed House,” Lahiri
“Passion,”  Munro
“White Angel,” Cunningham
“The First Day,” Jones
“Ralph the Duck,” Busch
“Child’s Play,” Trevor
“Notes to by Biographer,” Haslett 

(This list is subject to change – it’s still August!) 

Reading assignments and writing exercises will be given at each class meeting. If you should miss a class, please contact another student about the reading assignment and the writing exercise. 

A note on the reading: In this course, we will be attempting to read as writers. Our chief aim in examining published work will not be the identification of symbols or the analysis of themes.  Rather, we will be reading in order to learn how to write. We will be approaching stories as apprentice craftsmen.  We will be dismantling stories and inspecting their component parts - voice, tone, mood, character, dialogue, etc. 


This class will be run as a workshop.  As a member of this cooperative, each student is entitled to a careful and considerate reading of his or her work.  Along with that entitlement comes an obligation. Everyone is expected to come to class having read and considered the work to be discussed that day. You will be responsible for a detailed written commentary on each of your fellow students’ manuscripts.  Your job in this course is to function as both writer and editor.    


Given the structure of this course, attendance and class participation are crucial.

If you miss more than one class, your grade will be reduced by five points (e.g., a B becomes a B-). If you miss 2 classes, your grade will be reduced by 10 points, and so on.  If attendance is problematic for you, you could easily end up with a failing grade in this course. 

Class participation will count for 40% of your total grade.  Each student is expected to come to class ready and willing to share her/his ideas on what is to be discussed that day.


Writing can be a lonely business. As you embark on the longer work assigned for the class, you may find yourself in need of some additional guidance. I’m happy to meet with you prior to class and/or to talk with you over the phone or via email.