Course Syllabus

English 350: Introduction to Creative Writing
Syllabus #1532
5 credits


Please read Fall Quarter Deadlines in 'Announcements' for guidelines on completing the course within fall quarter or within the 6 months deadline.  To receive a grade fall quarter you must enroll and begin work within the first 10 days of the quarter and meet all Canvas assignment deadlines. 

Dr. Nancy Pagh
Senior Instructor
English Department
HU 249 | campus 360-650-2265 (Teams message)



WWU English majors/minors may apply up to 10 credits earned through distance learning to their major/minor course of study. Contact the English Department for guidelines.



English 101



This course introduces you to the practice of appreciating, drafting, revising, and polishing imaginative writing. It is designed for new creative writers and for future K-12 teachers of language arts. No prior experience as an imaginative writer is expected; however, college-level skill with expression in English is necessary to comprehend and execute the challenges ahead.

Students in English 350 read and create poems, stories, and personal essays intended for a literary audience, developing a more complex and thoughtful relationship with language. This relationship can lead to all sorts of side benefits. You can become a more attentive reader, able to perceive meaningful nuances and to understand how the writer created them. Through practice, you will develop more control of your grammar and expression skills—useful in academic, corporate, and "real life" circumstances.

But those are the side benefits of English 350. The power to name and define the world, and to define yourself in it, is the essential benefit of an imaginative writing class. Gloria Anzaldúa answered the question "Why write?" this way:

    "By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and hunger. I write to record what others erase when I speak, to rewrite the stories others have miswritten about me, about you. To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy."

This is a class about studying and practicing creative writing; but, more than that, this is a class—as Anzaldúa stresses—about how we use language to define and change our understanding of the world and who we are in it.

        In addition to your own unique goals related to taking this course, the Western student learning outcomes are to:

  • Read accurately, critically, and with curiosity in relation to the study of literary expression
  • Write effectively, using conventions appropriate to the genre of literary creative writing
  • Explore, imagine, and create through the process of writing and revision.





The required textbook is Write Moves: A Creative Writing Guide & Anthology, by Nancy Pagh (ISBN#978-1-55481-226-4). This book is available from your favorite bookseller, Amazon, and through the publisher, Broadview Press: Customer service (705) 743-8990.  Consider purchasing through your local independent bookstore!



Details about all required work are found within Canvas module descriptions. The following is an overview:

Reading Assignments

Lessons 1-7 require you to closely read instructional chapters and literary texts from Write Moves then respond to specific questions or prompts about the readings. Expect that you may need to re-read or “sit with” some readings to understand and form your thoughts about them. Some prompts ask you to express and build upon personal response to readings; other prompts ask you to assess and comment on specific elements of craft (for example, imagery or sonic devices) manifest in example texts.

Read the prompts carefully. Make sure you answer them fully. It is usually best to weave quotation from the assigned readings into your responses about them; this shows that you can connect your ideas to specific examples or moments from the text. You will be graded not only on your creative writing, but on the evidence of your learning through reading and response.

Creative Writing Drafts

This course does not ask you to produce publishable literature. But it does require you to try your hand at literary art, learning by studying and by doing. You will try some poems and stories and essays, using the tools and techniques you discover as we move from lesson to lesson.

With each lesson, you will get feedback about specific skills evidenced (or not evidenced) in your work. You are expected to apply what you learn from this feedback to your writing for the next lesson, then the next.

The last two lessons require you to revise, edit, and polish a portfolio of work that you select as your best or most significant. This is an opportunity to use what you have learned across the whole course—and in this way your evaluation is weighted toward your end-point, rather than start-point, in the course.

Writer’s Memos

You will include half-page memos (reflective notes) with most of your creative writing.  The memo's purpose is to help me understand what you know about your craft and to help you reflect on your learning. Instructions for the memos are the same in each lesson: Describe the process of writing this piece, the difficulties and joys you experienced, and your sense of what this draft does and does not achieve. You can also use the memo to ask your instructor questions about your writing. Be concise but explicit in each memo; these reflective notes are required and are assessed toward your overall grade for each lesson.


When you reach lesson 7 you will review then select drafts from lessons 1-6 to create a 7- to 10-page double-spaced portfolio. Revisions to the portfolio are made in both Lessons 7 and 8: in lesson 7 you select the material and revise it with respect to your intentions and instructor feedback provided in lessons 1-6. Lesson 7 requires you to compose a detailed writer’s memo, spelling out your intentions for each piece in the portfolio and pointing to the specific features you want your instructor to attend to in reading this work. In Lesson 8 you focus on editing and polishing your portfolio—in light of the instructor’s response to Lesson 7—and you compose a final reflection on learning in the course overall.

Please be aware that it will likely take the instructor longer than usual to assess Lesson 7, and that it will probably take you longer to work on these last two lessons.



Some students wish to complete self-paced courses within a single quarter at Western Washington University and, in some instances, — such as those mandated by financial aid—this must be done. IT IS, HOWEVER, NOT POSSIBLE TO COMPLETE THE COURSE WITHIN A QUARTER IF YOU HAVE NOT SUBMITTED LESSON 1 BY WEEK 3. Please do not ask your instructor to "rush" you through or make an exception. Everyone's work is read in the order received, and it is not fair to delay feedback to others, or to stress your instructor, due to poor planning.

It is best to wait for the instructor's evaluation of one assignment before submitting another. However, you may, at a maximum, submit up to two lessons at one time for lessons 1-6. Be aware, though, that you cannot complete lesson 7 and cannot begin lesson 8 until receiving and taking time to reflect on instructor feedback on lesson 7.

To assist students planning to complete the course within a ten-week quarter, here is an optional outline of what could be done during each week of the term to meet such a schedule.  To support you, the instructor has also built in suggested deadlines (see Deadlines announcement in Canvas).

Week of Term
Week One: Register before the term; complete & submit lesson 1 by week's end
Week Two:
Week Three:
Begin lesson 2 while awaiting feedback on 1; send 2 late this week or
  ...send 2 early this week after reading and applying feedback from 1
Week Four: Complete and send lesson 3
Week Five: Complete and send lesson 4
Week Six: Complete and send lesson 5
Week Seven: Complete and send lesson 6
Week Eight: After receiving feedback on 6, complete and send lesson 7 in late week 8
Week Nine:   ...or early in week 9.  Read feedback carefully and send lesson 8 in week 9 or
Week Ten: the end of week 10



Work that is improperly formatted will be returned unread. You will be asked to revise and resubmit it, delaying your progress through the course (your re-submission is now at the bottom of the pile). Please note the following requirements:

  • Put your name, course number, lesson number, and date on the top of page one of your lesson.
  • Arrange your work into the assigned sequence (not out of order).
  • Each lesson is submitted as ONE .doc or .docx document through Canvas modules.
  • All creative writing, including poems, must be double spaced. Memos can be double or single spaced, as you prefer. Memo length is about a paragraph or a half page, if double spaced.
  • All drafts within each lesson must have a title to be considered complete for credit.
  • There is room to play with fonts, margins, and spacing if you choose an experimental form for a specific piece.  Otherwise, use a clearly readable 12-point text (like Times, Calibri, Georgia).
  • Please change the settings on your computer so that it does not automatically capitalize the first word of every new poetry line you write (in MS Word, click "tools," click "auto correct," click OFF the "capitalize first letters of sentences" feature, click "OK").
  • Change your “paragraph” settings to eliminate extra space before/after paragraphs.  This is because the portfolio length is measured by pages and, for fairness, an equal standard applies to all (Canvas doesn’t offer a word count option). This will also eliminate weird spacing in your poem (MS treats a line break like a paragraph).
  • Always save drafts of various stages of your work in multiple systems (hard drive + flash drive, or flash drive + cloud, etc.). You will need your original lesson files (without feedback embedded) to create lesson 7.



You will receive one grade for each lesson (eight total):  each assignment grade reflects your work on every component of the assignment sequence.  Each lesson carries equal weight (a maximum of 100 points) toward the course grade, as follows:

A 100 C 70
A- 95 C- 65
B+ 90 D+ 60
B 85 D 55
B- 80 D- 50
C+ 75 F below 50


Complete lessons are graded according to the following rubric:

"A" – Both the imaginative writing and the analytical writing in response to reading assignments demonstrate advanced understanding and practice.

  • Uses original and insightful examples and details; observations note features that novice creative writers would infrequently recognize; analytical commentary extends beyond the requirements in its depth and precision
  • Writing demonstrates advanced understanding of concepts and techniques taught in the lesson; takes more risks and is more polished than required
  • Responses and memos are detailed and specific
  • Terms/vocabulary are used correctly and professionally

"B" – Both the imaginative writing and the analytical writing in response to reading assignments demonstrates good and developing understanding and practice.

  • Uses “safe” and relatively obvious examples and details;observations note features that novice creative writers would generally recognize; analytical commentary fully meets the requirements
  • Writing demonstrates general or adequate understanding of concepts and techniques taught in the lesson
  • Responses and memos are general but but adequate to demonstrate learning
  • Terms/vocabulary are used in a cursory but correct manner

"C" – Both the imaginative writing and the analytical writing in response to reading assignments demonstrates emerging understanding or practice.

  • Uses few examples or details; observations miss features that novice creative writers would usually recognize; analytical commentary is cursory or may focus on summary rather than ideas
  • Writing demonstrates basic or superficial understanding of concepts and techniques taught in the lesson; takes fewer risks and is less polished than expected
  • Responses and memos are sketchy, general, or partially executed
  • Terms/vocabulary are avoided or used incorrectly

Your final course grade is based on total points on all lessons as follows:

  770 - 800 pts. = A 530 - 560 pts. = C
730 - 760 pts. = A- 490 - 520 pts. = C-
690 - 720 pts. = B+ 450 - 480 pts. = D+
650 - 680 pts. = B 410 - 440 pts. = D
  610 - 640 pts. = B- 370 - 400 pts. = D-
  570 - 600 pts. = C+ 0 - 360 pts. = F



Before submitting your work, please read back through the instructions in the lesson and check that all assigned parts are included in your work. Your grade will be penalized if the lesson is partially incomplete, and you will not have a do-over. Before sending it, make sure it is correctly formatted. Otherwise it could be returned ungraded after a week, delaying your progress. Save a back-up copy of your work.

All 8 assignments must be completed, and finished in order, to receive credit for the course.  Under no circumstances may you submit several lessons at one time, as each lesson builds upon the previous one. All work must be submitted in CANVAS, uploading one .doc or .docx file for the lesson.

Please adhere to the following guidelines:

    • Include ALL of the required writing within an assignment in your lesson submission.  Attach ONE Word document instead of several separate attachments. 
    • Lessons submitted in other formats such as notepad or pdf's will be returned to be re-submitted as a Word document.

Time Considerations – To ensure timely completion of this course you are wise to organize your time so that you spread your work out over 10 weeks, just like a regular academic quarter.  Students most often run into difficulty when they try to rush through a large part of their work just before a personal deadline.

Remember that learning, especially in a writing class, takes time – time for reading, time for reflection, time for writing and rewriting.  Also, keep in mind that instructors have many demands on their time and are often unable to grade assignments immediately, no matter how compelling a student’s problem may be.   During summer months, and between quarters, some instructors travel and may have limited opportunities to read your work.  At the end of the quarter, your instructor is likely to have many finals and others projects in line to grade.  Plan accordingly.



Questions do arise and students should feel free to contact the instructor, Nancy Pagh.  The best way is via e-mail to .  If you do e-mail, note in the subject that you have an ENGLISH 350 QUESTION.  



Nancy Pagh is the author of three collections of poetry (No Sweeter Fat, After, and Once Removed), one book of nonfiction (At Home Afloat), and the textbook Write Moves: A Creative Writing Guide & Anthology.  She earned a Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia in Canada, Master’s degrees in literature and creative writing at the University of New Hampshire, and an undergraduate degree in English with a concentration in Publishing & Printing Arts at Pacific Lutheran University.

Nancy teaches at Western Washington University in Bellingham.  In addition to beginning, intermediate, and advanced writing classes, she has taught courses on food literature, literature of the wild, Victorian women’s travel writing, women and literature, Canadian literature, and literature of the cross-border Salish Sea bioregion.  More at