Creative Writing



Annotated Assignment Guidelines

By Sunday, November 3 [REVISED], students will submit a short creative writing exercise (4 to 6 pages, typed) which attempts to recreate the voice of a historical figure from the Dickinson & Slavery exhibit. Students are encouraged but not required to use the same subject from their earlier biographical essay.   

  • Now is a good time to try to decide whether you find your current subject rewarding and worth pursuing for the rest of the semester.  If you choose to switch subjects, just make sure to email with Prof. Pinsker and explain.

Most students will attempt to recreate a fictional letter, speech, diary entry, or reminiscence, although other types of creative formats (such as poem or short story) are possible. 

  • You can also combine these formats and you can experiment with using voices about your subject from people who knew them well.  For example, you can create snippets of letters to and from your subject with family members.  Or you can create excerpts from recollections of enslaved people who were held by your subject.  You can also attempt to create four short poems (perhaps one page each), or a couple short pieces of fiction, in order to cover the page requirements.
  • Please note that you can format your pages in any way that you feel best suits your creative writing effort.  Double-spacing, for example, is not required.  There is no word count either, so six poems might occupy only portions of six pages.

Examples of primary sources and models of relevant historical fiction are available within the Dickinson & Slavery exhibit and through the 1619 Project. 

  • See Dickinson & Slavery index page
  • See examples of fiction & poetry at the 1619 Project
    • Clint Smith, “Middle Passage” (p. 28)
    • Yusef Komonyakaa, “Crispus Attucks” (p. 29)
    • Reginald Dwayne Betts, “Fugitive Slave Act of 1793” (p. 43)
    • Barry Jenkins, “Gabriel’s Rebellion” (p. 46)

Exercises should be formatted in a Word or PDF document with title page.  No footnotes are required, but students should include an analytical “Sources” section at the end that briefly describes (in full sentences) the array of sources used to help inspire their particular ideas about fictional voice. 

  • You may also choose to add a headnote or brief explanatory overview at the beginning of each document if you feel it would help the reader.

Exercises will be graded on creativity in applying research, character development and prose.  Late exercises will be penalized up to 5 points per day.