Conditions of Use
I decided to adopt Write or Left: an OER Book for Creative Writing Classes for my Introduction to Creative Writing classes for multiple reasons. The clarity and conciseness of the textbook makes it an excellent tool for college students who are... read more
I decided to adopt Write or Left: an OER Book for Creative Writing Classes for my Introduction to Creative Writing classes for multiple reasons. The clarity and conciseness of the textbook makes it an excellent tool for college students who are approaching writing creatively for the first time. I have used a few commercial textbooks and anthologies throughout the years, and while I found them to be extremely detailed and exhaustive, students seem to struggle with theoretical sections and they expressed difficulty understanding some of the anthologized readings.
While most creative writing textbooks and anthologies might be extremely helpful for teachers, some of the selected readings might not be particularly accessible for students who are approaching reading literature as writers for the first time. However, the editors of Write or Left chose readings that seem to align with the taste and aesthetic that young writers find enjoyable or at least approachable.
Introduction to Creative Writing is a class mostly based on workshops and lively discussions, but the students also need a foundational element — they need to familiarize themselves with a vocabulary that allows them to discuss writing. Write or Left provides brief and concise definitions that help the students navigate the vocabulary surrounding the particularities of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and dramatic writing.
While the book does not provide a wide or particularly updated range of readings for each genre, it covers the main concepts that students need to know to start talking about writing and workshopping each other’s work — which is, I think, the main purpose of the basic Introduction to Creative Writing course.
Write or Left is an excellent tool for students who are approaching creative writing for the first time and need to familiarize themselves with the most important terms to use during reading discussion and workshop. Notably, this book also covers more innovative aspects of creative writing — flash fiction and multimodal writing — to avoid a banal and cut-and-dry institutionalization of the four main genres, and show once again the fluid, regenerating, and ever-shifting nature of creative writing.
The textbook offers very clear and consistent definitions of terms that students of creative writing should get familiar with during an introductory course.
I am very excited with the briefness of the "theoretical" chapters, as students usually struggle with long chapters that break down the elements of craft in the four genres of creative writing. I would be happy to assign a whole chapter for the introductory class of each genre (each module).
I found it hard to make most commercial textbooks approachable for the students, who seem often confused by the readings or bored with the lengthy theoretical explanations of creative writing terms. This textbook might be implemented with readings chosen by the instructor, allowing the course to benefit from a personalized, unique approach to creative writing, which might feel more dynamic and adventurous than following a textbook or an anthology page by page. Write or Left might be a great tool for sections of Introduction to Creative Writing with a high student count, as instructors might struggle to find the time to workshop every student in each genre, and also cover the readings from a commercial textbook to make it worthwhile for students who spent a lot of money on it. In fact, a lot of Introduction to Creative Writing students might have to take Creative Writing as a requirement and not an elective course, so having them buy expensive textbooks that they might not really use throughout the semester and then ever again might be a waste.
The textbook is extremely easy to access. I think the students will be very happy to access their book online for free.
I haven't found any grammatical errors.
The readings used as example might represent a wider range of experiences and identities, but overall I'm satisfied.
This book’s ambitious attempt to cover so much ground—fiction, poetry, nonfiction, drama, experimental fiction, and specialized genres like fantasy, science fiction, horror, and romance—is ultimately its biggest weakness. There is no way a single... read more
This book’s ambitious attempt to cover so much ground—fiction, poetry, nonfiction, drama, experimental fiction, and specialized genres like fantasy, science fiction, horror, and romance—is ultimately its biggest weakness. There is no way a single textbook can adequately cover all of these areas (and especially a slim volume like this one). As a result, the book is only the most cursory exploration of these multiple creative forms, barely scratching the surface of the field of creative writing. I could not imagine assigning this book in any course that I teach at the college level. Even my introduction to creative course—which covers fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction in one semester—requires a text that goes more deeply into these genres and that offers more substantial content.
I would like to see more precision and thoughtful wording, especially in defining terms. For example, the glossary definition of “fantasy” that is offered at the end of the book is, “the kind of writing that cannot take place in real life.” This is imprecise and even potentially confusing; doing the simplest internet search will yield a much a better definition. For much of the book, the information is not so much inaccurate as it is general and incomplete.
The general topics included in the book are certainly relevant, but an instructor using this text would need to supplement every step along the way. Not only are the explanations in some of the chapters too basic and brief, but the examples (when they exist at all) leave much to be desired, being limited mostly to older texts (nineteenth-century texts like an excerpt from Frankenstein or a story by Kate Chopin) or texts written by the instructor’s students (which are very typical of works produced by beginning creative writers). What students need most are high-quality, recent models for their own work. There are thousands of such works available online. While I understand that Priebe cannot reproduce these texts in her book, readers could still be pointed towards online literary journals that publish excellent creative writing.
The writing is generally clear, though as I noted elsewhere, definitions of terms could be more precise. The tone of the book is informal and friendly, making it easy to follow. I think that most student would find the book clear and accessible.
The book seems somewhat inconsistent in the depth of treatment it gives to different genres. For example, in the chapter on drama, there is an exhaustive discussion of the proper way to format a screenplay (the correct font and margins, rendering action and dialogue, and so forth), which makes up the majority of the chapter and strikes me as an unnecessary level of detail for beginning students (and the student example that is offered at the end of the chapter does not even adhere to these “proper formatting” rules). Meanwhile, other chapters are woefully lacking in necessary content. In the poetry chapter, for example, the poetic “forms” that are included seem arbitrary, and there is no real discussion of poetic meter. An introduction to poetry is incomplete without a basic overview of metrical feet.
In principle, it would be possible to use any of the chapters in this book as stand-alone readings for a course. Instructors could easily switch the order of the chapters around to suit their own progression through genres. The most useful chapter, in my option, is Chapter 10: Assignment and Project ideas, which offers a sizable collection of writing prompts, reading response activities, and portfolio ideas. While these are of varying usefulness and I would not offer them all as options for my students, some do stand out as excellent exercises.
I did question the order of some of the chapters. For example, why does the chapter on flash fiction (a sub-genre of fiction) come before the general fiction chapter? And why does flash fiction have a chapter of its own, when there is barely any content? (The chapter is all of two and a half pages long.)
The font in the pdf version that I read is not at all reader friendly and is hard on the eyes, in my opinion. I also found the screenshots of Tweets that lead off most chapters to be distracting and confusing, and the text offers no explanation or discussion of these, which adds to the impression that the book is a superficial hodgepodge, dropping in content without engaging with it.
While Priebe’s portion of the text is largely free of errors, the student texts that she includes do sometimes contain grammatical errors. While I understand the urge to present student writing as it is written, in a textbook I would expect writing that has been proofread.
This is a book that is at least aware of diversity/and inclusivity. In the opening chapter, Priebe lists the steps she has taken: “Most of the he/she pronouns have been flipped for they/them pronouns,” “‘White-sounding’ names have been replaced by more diverse ones,” “‘Husband’ or ‘wife’ have been replaced by ‘partner,’” and “The majority of examples in this book, by students or otherwise, are not written by white, heterosexual, cisgender men.” While I commend Priebe for her efforts, some of these moves strike me as cosmetic fixes, and the example published and student-written texts do not obviously reflect diverse perspectives (that is, they don’t explicitly tackle issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, etc.). I would imagine that as Priebe continues to gather more information for future editions of this book, the diversity of voices represented will increase.
While I would not use this book in my college courses in its present form, I do think that is has a lot of potential and that future iterations of the book are likely to have enhanced content. As Priebe collects more student writing samples and as students fill in the numerous empty “Questions/Activities” sections that occur at the end of many chapters, this book may very well grow into a rich resource for creative writing instructors. I am planning to revisit this book in future editions to see what new material it has to offer.
This book offers a useful, concise guide for beginning creative writers. While many of the topics could be expanded upon, it fulfills its promise to offer only condensed snapshots of each subject. It would make a helpful addition to readings... read more
This book offers a useful, concise guide for beginning creative writers. While many of the topics could be expanded upon, it fulfills its promise to offer only condensed snapshots of each subject. It would make a helpful addition to readings chosen by a professor and to selective texts about elements that may require more insightful approaches and in-depth discussions. Chapters that may require additional readings for most introductory classes include the chapters about flash fiction and drama.
The content offers accurate, up-to-date information about creative writing.
The chapter topics are highly relevant and up-to-date. I particularly enjoyed that the author chose to incorporate a chapter on multimodal works, which is something I have found numerous authors either glance over or fail to explore. Likewise, the choice to conclude with a section about how to get published offers relevant and significant points that students should be made aware of at an early stage.
Priebe implements small doses of humor throughout the book that are engaging (I do wish there were more, though!) and utilizes Plain Language to make the reading accessible.
Each chapter is structured identically, beginning with readings about the chapter's topics and ending with exercises.
Each chapter is short and could, in itself, be an easy reading assignment. However, chapters have smaller reading sections that can be assigned. Instructors should be aware that many exercises are written as thoughts to instructors rather than students and, thus, may require editing.
Each chapter offers concise readings over topics followed by exercises. Multiple exercises are listed so teachers can find one or two they would like to employ, and many are creative and effective at reiterating learning objectives.
The book is offered in multiple formats, including PDF, Word, and Google Doc. In the PDF version I perused, there were no interface issues.
There are a very few small mechanical and/or grammatical mistakes.
The author makes it a point to offer a variety of works in this textbook rather than canonical works that are oftentimes the labor of White male authors. Non-binary language also makes the text more inclusive.
The strongest element of this work is its suggested exercises, many of which may be used as in-class activities to further explore topics.
The discussion of key writing areas is organized in a smoothly flowing manner. From Poetry to Experimental and Children's Literature, the content was well organized and indexed efficiently for understanding and analysis. The book is neither too... read more
The discussion of key writing areas is organized in a smoothly flowing manner. From Poetry to Experimental and Children's Literature, the content was well organized and indexed efficiently for understanding and analysis. The book is neither too long or too short (page length) to still be quite effective.
While I'm not a Creative Writing expert, I found the book quite accurate regarding the elements of idea formation and flow from an author or writer's perspective. I've written three historical fiction books and am currently working on a ten novella set in the same category. In choosing to review this book, I found it's accuracy in how an author thinks, organizes, and creates scenarios to be very helpful. The many quotes and references helped me greatly in forming new ideas and writing strategies, even in one chapter or sub chapter of my current book. I found no bias in any chapters, however, the informative proved was both relevant and useful.
I feel this book is not only relevant, but highly useful as a handbook companion piece. Although the title refers to a textbook, I found its organization to be formatted in a more usable sense as a handbook. A reader could focus on one chapter, a few chapters, or the entire book as a strong and handy reference. Although I read the entire book, a particular focus for me were the Fiction, Drama, and Flash Fiction chapters. Each provided much needed guidance and advice for idea creation and tips to improve elemental writing.
The chapter organization was clear throughout the book. Each chapter utilized an introduction of the key topic, self-questions, reading strategies, and exercises. I also enjoyed the dispersed quotes throughout the chapters that helped to support the key points within the chapter.
As noted above, the consistency of each chapter (organization) helped ensure a stronger understanding and immersion into the specific area of writing by chapter. The author cleverly injects quotes, references, and definitions to combine an effort to improve the reader's ability to apply these concepts. Additionally, this allows for a more even flow of information, even in chapters that may not be in the reader's interest.
Each chapter is distinct, however, the coordination and organization of the entire book creates a crescendo effect for the reader. Although each chapter is specific, it can be both compartmentalized and utilized as a complete handbook. This modularity further enables a reader to use the book as a specific reference or a complete handbook/guide.
The book was well organized and logical. The reading was made easier by the flow of information and the combination of data, quotes, and references used throughout the book.
I did not note any interface issues.
I did not note any grammatical errors.
The text is neither culturally insensitive or offensive. I noted that the character/third person student examples were mostly benign which helped to decipher the author's intent. In Chapter 2, a section noted as 'Your Voice' spoke to holes in diversity when writing. I found this helpful for students to understand that not all areas of writing interest are not interesting to everyone. However, one should write to increase the value to the audience and the writer. I found this to be excellent advice and guidance.
I found the book to be an excellent resource for a creative writer. The final chapter discussed Children's Literature and how the previous chapters were applicable to this specific genre. The final chapter (Assignment and Project Ideas) was quite useful for a writer experiencing a block or one simply working a new idea. One recommendation would be to title the book as a Handbook or Reference Guide as the Table of Contents and structure is formatted to provide specific and detailed information on specific creative writing elements. At 168 pages, it has the length for a small textbook, but a better fit as a Handbook for creative writers of all genres. There are many ideas, strategies, and helpful tips throughout the book to help most writers think and write more clearly and effectively.
The book’s overall intention is to present condensed chapters on the various genres of creative writing, and while condensed, the content is too terse. Chapters one through eight are generalized approaches that provide basic information with some... read more
The book’s overall intention is to present condensed chapters on the various genres of creative writing, and while condensed, the content is too terse. Chapters one through eight are generalized approaches that provide basic information with some examples few and far between. The chapter on flash fiction is brief, only lasting from pages 53-57. The textbook also appears to be incomplete, missing student writing examples in addition to other literary recommendations. In chapter nine, the large overview of different genres such as horror, young adult, etc. provides some recommended writers for students, but this is not consistent throughout the textbook. In order for students to improve their creative writing skills, they need to read. A recommended reading list would make this textbook more effective.
The index is well-done and easy to read. The glossary could benefit from additional terms added, but it’s a good start for students to grasp the terminology.
The content is accurate. For a college-level course, however, some of the content is quite juvenile. For example, a writing prompt on page 100 asks the writer to “Tell the story of a dragon who owns a jelly bean factory in an experimental way.” This prompt seems far more appropriate for elementary and middle school students. If the author suggested this prompt as an activity for how to write a children’s book, I could understand its inclusion.
The content of the book is expansive but basic. Overall, the textbook will remain relevant, though a teacher using this book would need to find supplemental material to increase student understanding of the different categories of creative writing. In addition, chapter nine briefly discusses publication opportunities and includes instructions on how to publish directly through Amazon. I found this to be an odd inclusion and question if it is necessary.
The author uses a conversational and informal tone throughout, which students tend to appreciate. Terms are well-defined for a basic understanding, though more context or examples would deepen student learning. The author tends to share more of her own personal experiences with writing rather than those of her students, which I think misses the mark for her intended audience. In addition, her humor ranges from childish to lewd, which I found at times to be off-putting.
Terminology is included in each chapter, though due to the condescending nature of the textbook, instructors may consider using supplemental material. In chapter two, the author covers a few fundamentals of creative writing such as point of view, character, setting, etc. For an introduction to creative writing class, it may be necessary to expand these definitions as some students may not have prior knowledge of understanding of these terms. The framework is fairly solid though lacking in student examples. I do appreciate the ample inclusion of creative writing prompts as students tend to find these useful and fun.
The author effectively uses subheadings to organize information. Information was well-displayed, avoiding larger blocks of text. Each chapter was clearly laid out, and the index was easy to follow.
The text is very self-referential to the author. In example 2 of chapter zero, one of the activities states the following: “When we write, we’re using the alphabet. Duh. Yet, how many times have we used these letters to organize or brainstorm? Try using the alphabet to brainstorm different things characters could say in different pieces of fiction and drama and nonfiction.” The author uses herself in this example, including statements such things as, ‘J = “Jeezus Marth and Mary… will you please hurry up?’ (p. 16). I think the exercise would have been more effective if a character bio was given and then examples were provided rather than assuming the reader knows anything about the author. In addition, phrases like ‘Duh’ and other slang can be confusing for students who do not speak English as a first language.
I do not think the chapters are effectively organized. The fiction chapter should come before the flash fiction chapter, and I would personally place nonfiction after fiction instead of drama coming next. In chapter two of the review of the elements, I would personally discuss character first before point of view. I also ponder if it would be better to know these terms first before doing creative exercises to have a basic foundation before students start writing.
The inclusion of Twitter screen captures at the beginning of each chapter is grossly unnecessary. They do not add anything to the chapter context and do not fit well into the design. Without a caption to explain these pictures' inclusion, I do think students could find them confusing. As far as I can tell, there’s no text over the image or note that the images are decorative.
The charts included in chapter zero may be useful to some, but I did not find them overly beneficial.
Finally, I found the textbook fonts to be hard on the eyes while reading.
The text was mostly free of grammatical errors. The author sometimes uses internet text speech or ALL CAPS, which I find to be inappropriate for a college textbook. In one of the dialogue examples, the author writes, “’Oh.My.God. For real?’” (p. 16). In another example, the author writes, “Writer’s block can happen to ANYONE” (p. 22). There are other ways to create emphasis, and if we want students to be published, they should know how to emphasize their work without gimmicks.
The book does contain adult language which may not be appropriate for all readers. As far as inclusion goes, the author has made a point to be inclusive, stating on page 12: “'White-sounding’ names have been replaced by more diverse ones … ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ have been replaced by ‘partner’ … and ‘the majority of examples in this book, by students or otherwise, are not written by white, heterosexual, cisgender men.’” In addition, the author discusses “holes in diversity” in chapter two, which is an incredibly important topic to address.
Write or Left: an OER textbook for creative writing classes is the kitchen sink of creative writing books, and unfortunately, is too broad in scope to be effective. While the author clearly states this is an introductory textbook for creative writing classes “with condensed chapters,” the notion that a student should learn poetry, flash fiction, fiction, drama, nonfiction, and experimental writing in a single semester is haphazard. Rather than developing a solid foundation of each type of creative writing, students and teachers alike are expected to blitz through each chapter, complete some creative writing prompts, and miraculously be competent. Combine this with the notion that students shouldn’t be assigned grades for their creative writing (p. 13), and it’s no wonder academia often sneers at creative writing as a field of study. While I do applaud the author’s efforts to make this textbook more diverse and inclusive in its examples, I found the overall book greatly lacking in content to be effective in the classroom.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: Intro to Creative Writing
- Chapter 2: Review of Elements
- Chapter 3: Poetry
- Chapter 4: Flash Fiction
- Chapter 5: Fiction
- Chapter 6: Drama
- Chapter 7: Nonfiction
- Chapter 8: Experimental Literature
- Chapter 9: Final Chapter
- Chapter 10: Assignment and Project Ideas
About the Book
In this book, we'll go over some of the general principles of writing practices as well as advice and tips on how to write creatively, but mainly, you’ll be introduced to as many genres and categories as possible. We won’t get bogged down in doing the writing process “perfectly” or creating “perfect literature.” The goal is to learn about as many genres as possible, practice writing in those genres, and get feedback.
About the Contributors
Sybil Priebe lives in the upper Midwest with her partner-in-crime and crabby old cat. She teaches various composition courses at the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, ND. She likes books, bicycles, and blasphemy.