Course Syllabus

Finding Authentic Voice

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Do we only have one “authentic” voice? And if one’s writerly voice can be “found,” can it also be lost? 

The concept of voice eludes beginning and established writers alike. How can we balance having an identifiable voice that readers will want to return to with writing in a variety of modes and forms? And if our individual writer’s voices are so unique, then can this essential element of writing even be taught? This course seeks to demystify the concept of a writer’s voice to gain a better understanding of others’ voices as well as our own.  

Students who complete the course will gain access to time-testing writing resources, receive practical tools and tips on voice, and work through exercises they will be able to return to again and again in their careers as writers, whenever their writing voices feel at turns mellifluous or hoarse. This course is designed to help writers of all stages “sing” more enduringly with their authentic voice(s).

How it works:

Each week provides:

  • discussions of assigned readings and other general writing topics with peers and the instructor
  • written lectures and a selection of readings

Some weeks also include:

  • writing prompts and/or assignments
  • the opportunity to submit one or more essays for a total of 3,500 words for instructor and/or peer review
  • an optional video conference that is open to all students (and which will be available afterward as a recording for those who cannot participate)

To create a better classroom experience for all, you are expected to participate weekly in class discussions to receive instructor feedback on your work.

Week One: Outside Voice

Students will stretch their “outside” voices by composing rants/complaints/contrary position statements/challenges to authority.  Readings will model effective uses of “outside voice,” and smaller writing assignments will build to a larger, resounding “outside voice” essay draft.  A broader objective is to create outward-looking pieces that engage the world while incorporating each writer’s particular positionality.

Week two: Inside Voice

Students will learn to modulate their “inside” voices by engaging with more meditative, traditional personal essay prompts that derive inspiration from journal entries, lists, “I remember” prompts and other exercises. Students will explore the long tradition of the personal essay and its many forms; practice basic concepts of inviting identity, history, and cultural touchstones into their writing; and compose a draft incorporating these concepts.

Week Three: Whisper Voice

Students will hone their “whisper” voices by composing lyrical, experimental exercises with exercises in portrait, object, and cross-genre essays, and will practice the art of research and digression as other ways of finding form.

Week four: Throwing Your Voice

Students will discover the art of throwing their voices by imitating the forms/voices of other writers. Students will further warm up their voices by practicing ekphrastic writing and innovative forms like the hermit crab, braid, faux-translation, and flash essay. Students will analyze and practice deeper listening/reading skills as a means of furthering their vocal development.

Week five: Choral Voice(s): Singing it all together

Students will survey the panoply of voices they’ve conjured in the class and compose reflections on their work, practice collaborative pieces with other writers, post a live reading of their work, and compose plans for further voice stretching after the course concludes.