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Keywords in Creative Writing

Wendy Bishop and David Starkey

Publication Year: 2006

Wendy Bishop and David Starkey have created a remarkable resource volume for creative writing students and other writers just getting started. In two- to ten-page discussions, these authors introduce forty-one central concepts in the fields of creative writing and writing instruction, with discussions that are accessible yet grounded in scholarship and years of experience.

Keywords in Creative Writing provides a brief but comprehensive introduction to the field of creative writing through its landmark terms, exploring concerns as abstract as postmodernism and identity politics alongside very practical interests of beginning writers, like contests, agents, and royalties. This approach makes the book ideal for the college classroom as well as the writer’s bookshelf, and unique in the field, combining the pragmatic accessibility of popular writer’s handbooks, with a wider, more scholarly vision of theory and research.

Published by: Utah State University Press

Title Page

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pp. iii


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pp. iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. xi-xvi

The idea for this book occurred to me years ago. One afternoon I was daydreaming. I imagined a nineteen-year-old undergraduate thinking of majoring in English, with an emphasis in creative writing. Throughout her high school years, she has written poetry and short stories, and her friends and family have encouraged her dream of becoming a writer. Yet she’s...

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pp. 1-5

The plight of adjunct (part-time) and temporary (nontenured) faculty has been well documented, particularly by contingent faculty themselves. The experience of Ben Satterfield, a former adjunct, is typical. While teaching at the University of Texas, Satterfield recalls that though they “were not shunned like pariahs, the temporary faculty were distinctly...

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pp. 5-11

For many creative writers—poets, for instance, and writers of experimental literature—agents are largely a nonfactor in their writing careers. There simply isn’t enough money to be made in these genres to warrant an agent’s, or a publisher’s, time and energy. There are exceptions, however. If a client also writes in another, more profitable area, his agent...

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pp. 11-13

A literary anthology is a collection of works by various authors in a single volume. In Greek, the word is a combination of anthos (flower) and logia (collecting). The Greeks used the word to describe a compilation of epigrams which, like a gathering of flowers, brings the loveliest specimens together in one place. In the classroom, the advantages of anthologies are obvious. Teachers...

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pp. 14-15

If you are currently enrolled in a college or university creative writing degree program, you are probably also already a member of the Associated Writing Programs (AWP), “a national, nonprofit literary organization for teachers and writers. Founded in 1967, AWP is dedicated to serving writers, teachers and writing programs” (awpwriter.org/faq.htm).

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pp. 15-18

In his lecture to the Royal Society of Literature in April 1995, novelist Russell Celyn Jones (1995–96) captures both the surprise of British writers that authors should take up residence in institutional spaces and the U.S. construction of creative writer as wild and wooly outlaw of an identifiable sort: Americans do not look on institutionalized creativity as an oxymoron at all.

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pp. 19-25

Death and taxes. Writers and writing blocks. We aren’t writing but we want to write. We hope to (or struggle to) move from one state to the other but we delay. We label those more disciplined than we are as plodders or hacks yet we chastise ourselves for our own procrastination. It’s so easily characterized as either/or: we’re blocked or we’re in volcanic...

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pp. 25-29

Not quite a book. But almost. Collected. Circulated. Contests for. Used in classrooms. Fine press and electronic. Well and poorly produced. Counts for much and counts for little. Published by others. Self-published. Concrete object. Conceptual art space. The creative writing chapbook is a chameleon form. We borrow the name from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and make it our own.

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pp. 29-36

For many, creative writing always has been, is, and always will be a solo art. For others, this assumption has not always—or doesn’t at present—hold true. Consider, however, the entry requirements for the Associated Writing Programs’ annual book manuscript contests: “Each manuscript must include . . . the following typed statement: ‘This is an original work...

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pp. 36-41

Composition is an activity (what we do when we write), an institutional practice (a type of assigned first-year writing within a required undergraduate college course), and, nowadays, it’s also a course of graduate study that represents a field of specialists who call themselves compositionists (and sometimes rhetoricians). Composition is a term that has been...

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pp. 41-44

Because the larger world is generally indifferent to creative writing, places and times where writers can concentrate on their writing lives are infrequent. Always, obligation beckons. Most creative writers must work in jobs outside their field. Many have families to shepherd through the day. The phone rings, the trash must be taken out, a friend e-mails to request a luncheon date.

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pp. 44-48

Publication of most literary novels occurs through a process that has become established over the last half century. Aspiring authors send their completed manuscripts around until they find an interested agent. The agent, working through a network of connections, shows the manuscript to editors he believes will find the novel exciting. Eventually, if the author...

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pp. 48-49

The contributor’s copy is the coin of the realm in the kingdom of the small and literary press. In exchange for the right to publish an author’s work, the editors of a vast majority of literary magazines “pay” the author with one or more complimentary copies of the magazine. While the standard payment is one to three copies, some publishers give their...

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pp. 49-55

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, which was founded in 1970 to promote worldwide protection of industrial property and copyrighted materials: Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce. Intellectual property is divided into two categories: Industrial property, which includes inventions (patents), trademarks, industrial designs, and geographic...

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pp. 55-62

Scene: A Starbucks coffee shop in a university town. Two friends, Amy and Andy, sit at a table drinking latte. Amy: I’m going on for my PhD in creative writing. Andy: (astonished) Why? You hated going to workshop all during our last year. Amy: Yeah. But I went to a writers’ conference and listened to the options the panelists on “Living the Writing Life” gave me. And I decided that—unlike you, Andy—I don’t want to flip burgers and write. And sex,...

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pp. 62-70

The genre du jour in writing programs, creative nonfiction (or cnf, as initiates refer to it) in reality is as old as the hills, or at least the Romans. In The Art of the Personal Essay, Phillip Lopate traces the genre’s background from Seneca and Plutarch to Japanese and Chinese writers such as Kenko and Ou-Yang Hsiu through Michel de Montaigne—“the giant, the mountain of...

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pp. 70-75

We use the term “creative writing” throughout this book, but while we examine various writing processes in some detail, we spend less time discussing creativity itself. Yet the adjective modifying the noun is thought by many of our academic colleagues to make us a discipline apart. (Some of them suspect we are practicing a form of black magic in our...

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pp. 76-84

Marc Aronson locates the emergence of the modern American editor in a single publishing event at the very end of the nineteenth century. Editor Ripley Hitchcock made significant revisions to Edward Noyes Westcott’s manuscript David Harum, which had previously been rejected by a number of publishers. The novel subsequently became “the number one...

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pp. 84-89

The arrival of the computer age has affected creative writers profoundly, and no doubt will continue to do so in ways most of us can’t yet imagine. Indeed, if any entry in this book has the potential to become obsolete overnight, it is this one. “Early” writing about Internet culture, which often focused on MUDs and MOOs, a few years later seems as quaint...

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pp. 89-95

The rise of creative nonfiction—which began in the late 1960s with the New Journalism and became a seemingly unstoppable force in the 1990s—threatens to preempt fiction as the sexiest—that is, the most marketable—literary genre. Yet fiction remains the backbone of the creative writing industry. While the popularity of other genres waxes and wanes,...

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pp. 95-99

”Genre” comes from the French word meaning both “kind” and “gender.” While in English we use genre mostly to refer to categories of literary, musical, and artistic compositions, in the past there has also been a sense that some of these types of work are more “masculine” or “feminine”—more or less privileged—than others. According to M. H. Abrams, since the time of...

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pp. 99-102

As Christine Cassidy notes, “grants come in many forms—cash, time, publication, or a combination of all three” (1996, 17). This entry focuses on the first form: money. Interested readers should also consult the entry on “Conferences, Colonies, and Residencies” for grants that focus on organizations primarily offering time and/or a quiet place to write.

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pp. 102-112

“Not politics again,” sighs the white guy in a gray shapeless sweatshirt on the far side of the table. “I’m here to learn to write a novel.” “Woman poet?” she whispers audibly to her neighbor during the reading. “Not a black poet. Not a black woman poet. A poet.” WHO CARES . . . AND WHAT ABOUT? On tour, at readings, during workshops, the visiting writer fields any number...

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pp. 112-115

”Show, Don’t Tell” is the motto of many a creative writing teacher (and program), and at the heart of that dictum is the primacy of the image, the “mental picture” our mind sees when we read about something that has an analogue in the real world. Interestingly, as Kristie Fleckenstein points out, while we can disconnect image from language—“we do this...

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pp. 115-119

The Master of Fine Arts in creative writing is a studio degree that invites comparison with terminal fine arts degrees in dance, theater, and the visual arts. Consequently, the MFA privileges writers as artists while minimizing their standing as academics. Although nearly all MFA writing pro- grams emphasize participation in workshops (along with enrollment in at...

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pp. 119-125

Pedagogy is the profession, art, and science of teaching. However, for a keyword with such an apparently innocuous definition, pedagogy inspires in many teachers of creative writing a surprising level of fear and loathing. This loathing—perhaps “apathy” is closer to the truth—is rooted to a large degree in American writers’ very real professional knowledge that...

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pp. 125-131

Probably the most significant development in American poetry over the past fifty years has been the eruption of writing by women and people of color. “Eruption,” “explosion,” “outburst”—any of these nouns would be appropriate, suggesting as they do a force long suppressed suddenly finding its way into the open air. The twentieth century, for all its horrors, was...

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pp. 131-134

Defining postmodernism—in imaginative writing or in any field—is a notoriously difficult endeavor, and there are plenty of elitist guardians at the gate telling us we will never succeed. Susan Wheeler in an essay in the Antioch Review is one of the most outspoken. She bemoans the possibility of “successful assimilation” and “trickle-up appropriations,” preferring, instead, to remain...

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pp. 134-139

Writers encounter the term “reading” in a confusing set of contexts. Writing students are exhorted to read. Anything, everything, and lots: particularly in the genre they are affiliating with. They are told to attend live readings. They are told to read past masters of their genre in order to join the tradition. They are taught to undertake close readings of texts...

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pp. 139-141

Rejection is the dark door at the center of creative writing through which all who hope to survive must pass. Even the most successful writers have been rejected many times, and developing a healthy attitude toward rejection is essential to every writer. “Success is distant and illusory,” as Joyce Carol Oates points out, “failure one’s loyal companion, one’s stimulus for imagining the...

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pp. 141-144

A royalty is the payment made to an author for each copy of a work sold by a publisher; depending on their contracts, authors receive varying percentages of the publisher’s profit per book. “Royalty calculations can include escalations that attach higher rates to greater numbers of books sold,” with authors normally receiving a higher percentage of the take...

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pp. 144-145

”Schmooze” comes from the Yiddish shmusen, meaning “to chat,” which in turn is derived from the Hebrew shemu’oth, which means “rumors.” The etymology contains both the harmless aspect of schmoozing—friendly talk—as well as its less appealing side—gossip mongering. The creative writing graduate student at the Associated Writing Programs’ annual conference...

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pp. 146-152

The challenges of the scriptwriter are markedly different from those of the poet, fiction writer, and essayist. Playwriting is one of the oldest forms of creative writing, while screenwriting is among the newest, yet both the playwright and the screenwriter collaborate in a much larger process: control of the final product is out of their hands. Unlike a poem, story,...

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pp. 152-155

“When a reader fancies a particular author,” Ben Yagoda claims, “it could be for any of a hundred reasons. . . . But when one writer falls under another’s spell, it is generally because of the way the progenitor uses language to forge or reflect an attitude toward the world—that is, it is because of style” (2004, 105). Style, the linguist Peter Verdonk tells us,...

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pp. 155-162

Assuming his work isn’t lost in the mail (or in the mailroom), two outcomes await the writer making a submission to a publisher: acceptance or rejection (q.v.). Because the latter outcome is usually the more likely one, we have devoted an entire entry to the process of overcoming the depression and self-doubt associated with a negative response from an...

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pp. 162-170

Creative writers have always been teachers, whether they’ve realized it or not. Perhaps they taught, unaware, through their work, which apprentice writers scrutinized as though studying a textbook on craft. Moreover, for millennia authors have been writing about the art of writing. From Horace to Maxine Hong Kingston, practicing writers have critiqued the style and...

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pp. 170-178

In the shabby linoleum halls of the academy that many creative writers currently inhabit, we have lots of definitions of, attitudes toward, and theories about theory. Indeed, no single key term can change the physical face of a writer as much as this one. For most, the immediate response is—if not hives—then a frown, smirk, toss of the head, grimace, body...

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pp. 178-186

Many writers describe their will to write as springing from a complex mixture of intellectual concerns and activities that support their fascination with language, their desire to investigate or understand thought, their commitment to self-knowledge (spiced by general or even unrelenting human curiosity), their drive to communicate (particularly for the...

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pp. 186-190

Anyone who has taken a foreign language class and attempted to translate either from the source language into English or vice versa knows the difficulties translators face. Even fluent bilingual speakers may have trouble with an accurate rendering in writing, and those who are learning a new language from scratch struggle mightily with grammar and vocabulary, syntax and tone.

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pp. 190-194

Most of the research on creative writing focuses on students enrolled in either four-year colleges and universities or graduate programs. In sharp contrast, there is very little material about teaching creative writing at the community college level, although most two-year college English departments offer creative writing courses. Because there is so much...

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pp. 194-197

According to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) guidelines for fellowship for creative writers, a vanity press publication is defined as one that does any of the following: “requires individual writers to pay for part or all of the publication costs; asks writers to buy or sell copies of the publication; publishes the work of anyone who subscribes to the publication or joins the...

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pp. 197-200

Loosely defined, the workshop model of artistic development is probably as old as art itself. Historians believe that ancient Egyptian sculpture and wall paintings, for instance, were the result of a communal effort involving both skilled artisans and those in training. Certainly, the medieval craft guilds exerted an influence on apprentice-master relations in the...

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pp. 200-202

If we define a writer’s resource as a place where one can find “information on the art, craft and business of writing” (Pack 1998, 24), then Keywords in Creative Writing is itself intended to be one of the best available writers’ resources. Many of the entries in this book answer specific questions creative writers are likely to have about the profession (the reference...

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pp. 202-206

Writing is often a solitary occupation. Granted, our race, gender, and class will shape the things we are likely to say, and the literature we create struggles to find voice amid the deafening din of all the writers who have come before us. Yet when a writer sits down at her computer, she is alone. Even if she writes in the bustle and hubbub of a coffeehouse, once she...


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pp. 207-219

E-ISBN-13: 9780874215335
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874216295

Publication Year: 2006