dCourse Duration: 5 weeks

Instructor: Shawna Ayoub

Course Description: This five-week course delves into the transformative power of expressive writing, with a specific emphasis on crafting true and difficult stories. Participants will explore how expressive writing serves as a therapeutic outlet for release and recovery. Through engaging readings, interactive discussions, and hands-on writing exercises, students will develop the skills needed to articulate and navigate personal and challenging narratives.

Week 1: Introduction to Expressive Writing

  • Overview of expressive writing as a tool for emotional expression
  • Understanding the psychological benefits of expressive writing
  • In-class writing exercises to initiate the creative process
  • Introduction to ethical considerations in writing difficult stories

Reading: "Pawn" by Starr Davis

TW for domestic violence.

In this essay, Davis redacts portions of text. These redacted passages are doing visual work when it comes to storytelling, as well as protective work when it comes to the writer. Reflect on Davis' decision to tell this story and in this way for discussion in our next class session.

Week 2: Exploring Personal Narratives

  • Analyzing examples of true and difficult stories across genres
  • Techniques for developing authenticity and vulnerability in writing
  • Peer review sessions for constructive feedback
  • Weekly writing assignment: Crafting a personal narrative opening

Reading: "The Unspeakable Things Between Our Bellies" by Lidia Yuknavitch

TW for infant death

Yuknavitch nests multiple difficult stories in an overarching narrative. What symbolism is she using to stitch this essay together? Which revelations do you feel are the most personal or intimate and why? We will discuss in class next week.

Week 3: Narrative Structure and Voice

  • Understanding the importance of structure in storytelling
  • Exploring narrative voice and point of view
  • In-class exercises on experimenting with different narrative styles
  • Developing individual writing styles

Reading: How Native American Is Native American Enough? by Tommy Orange

This essay is a departure from the other two we've read. It's shorter and argues a point while exploring characteristics of the author and what it means to be "enough." What work are the statistics Orange introduces doing in this essay? Come prepared to discuss in our next class.

Week 4: Confronting Challenges in Writing

  • Addressing emotional challenges in writing difficult stories
  • Strategies for self-care and managing emotional well-being
  • Peer support and sharing coping mechanisms
  • Weekly writing assignment: Navigating through challenging aspects of personal narratives

Reading: "I Choose to Be Fat" by Laura Bogart

Bogart addresses the pressure she receives from the medical system to be "healthy" and proceeds to define what "healthy" means to and for her. What challenges do you think she faced in writing and pitching this work? What do you think the response has been?

Week 5: Revising and Refining Stories

  • Techniques for revising and editing personal narratives
  • Workshop-style sessions for peer feedback and revision
  • Polishing writing style and refining narrative elements
  • Weekly writing assignment: Revised draft of personal narrative

Required Materials:

  • Writing materials (notebooks, pens, etc.)
  • Selected readings provided by the instructor
  • Access to a computer or writing device for drafting and editing assignments

Note: This syllabus is subject to adjustments at the discretion of the instructor. Students are encouraged to actively participate in class discussions and seek feedback on their writing throughout the course.