Writing 501

Class title: Writing and the Spirit, (Writing 501, 3 credits)
Class Schedule: Self-paced, recommend 12 weeks
Class Location/Times: On-line. This course is asynchronous, meaning that assignments can be completed and submitted at any time within the limits specified on the enrollment document.

Class Description: An investigation into the source of inspiration, how and where to find inspiration, and how to apply the inspiration we receive.

Class Materials:  Ken Kuhlken, Writing and the Spirit
Welcome! Welcome to the cornerstone course of Perelandra College’s writing and the spirit program. Whether you write fiction, memoir, devotions, sermons, poetry, essays, or any other kind of literature, let it be inspired.

Professor’s Bio:

Ken Kuhlken’s stories have appeared in Esquire and dozens of other magazines and anthologies, been honorably mentioned in Best American Short Stories, and earned a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. He has been a frequent contributor and a columnist for the San Diego Reader.

With Alan Russell, in Road Kill and No Cats, No Chocolate, he has chronicled the madness of book tours.

His novels are Midheaven, a finalist for the Ernest Hemingway Award for best first novel, The Loud Adios (Private Eye Writers of America Best First Novel), The Venus Deal, The Angel Gang, The Do-Re-Mi (a finalist for the Shamus Award for Best PI Novel), The Vagabond Virgins, The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles, (San Diego Book Awards Best Mystery), and The Good Know Nothing, (runner-up for the Los Angeles Book Festival best mystery)

In Writing and the Spirit, he offers a wealth of advice to writers and everyone looking for inspiration.

He has taught creative writing at the University of Arizona, California State University, Chico, San Diego State University, and Christian Heritage College.

Ken resides online at: www.kenkuhlken.net

Class Objectives:

Class Evaluation Criteria
This is a competency based class. In order to receive credit, students must demonstrate the evidence of competency given for each lesson.

Grading is CR (credit) or NC (no credit). At the conclusion of the class, the professor provides a summary appraisal of the student’s work and progress toward meeting his or her writing goals.


Lesson 1: Read Writing and the Spirit —

Assignment: Write an honest review of about 500 words explaining what insights the book offered and how it might have offered more.

 Estimated hours: 20

Lesson 2.
Reread — “What Else Might the Spirit Give Us?”

“The Spirit may even provide a theme or epic narrative that will define our life’s work.

“William Butler Yeats proposed that for each of us there may exist one archetypal story or explanatory myth that, being understood, would clarify all we do and think, and thereby explain our destiny.”

Assignment: With the above quote as a starting point, speculate upon what theme, narrative, or archetypal story could begin to explain or illuminate your life story to this point or your destiny as you imagine it will become.

Estimated hours: 10

Lesson 3
. Reread “Love One and All”

“Or, a writer might discover that she is called to devote more attention to all her story’s characters, not just the heroine, and bring them to life.”

Assignment: For a story you have written or contemplated, write at least three character sketches identifying the uniqueness the characters. Imagine you are actually creating these folks, bringing them to life.

Estimated hours: 10

Lesson 4.
Reread “Go Home”

“Since we all have been children, we’re able to take real or imaginary journeys back to the places of our childhood, and to the people and dreams of that part of our lives. And once we get there, we can let those places, people and dreams refresh our minds and help us cast off jaded parts of ourselves.”

Assignment: Draft a short story or part of a longer narrative that honestly reflects a memorable time in your early childhood (say seven years old or younger). Include important characters and express your feelings, thoughts, fears, and questions about them.

Estimated hours: 10

Lesson 5
. Reread “Find Out What Your Life Means”

“Stephen Olford wrote, ‘If your life doesn’t demand a supernatural explanation, you haven’t earned the right to be heard.’

“When I came across this quote, it struck me as awfully true.”

Assignment: Now that you have speculated about the course of your life in general and of your childhood specifically, take a stab at defining your life in supernatural terms. Some issues might be: What is your purpose? How do you know that? Is recognizing this purpose likely to change the way you live?

Estimated hours: 10

Lesson 6.
Reread “Be Ridiculous”

“In The Brothers Karamazov, a friend asks brother Alyosha, ‘”Karamazov, tell me, am I very ridiculous now?”

‘”Don’t think about that, don’t think of it at all!” cried Alyosha. ‘”And what does ridiculous mean? Isn’t everyone constantly being or seeming ridiculous? Besides, nearly all clever people now are fearfully afraid of being ridiculous, and that makes them unhappy. Nowadays, the very children have begun to suffer from it. It’s almost a sort of insanity. The devil has taken the form of that vanity and entered a whole generation; it’s simply the devil.”’

Assignment: Answer this question: what have I commonly refrained from doing, saying, or writing, out of worry that people would think me stupid, weird, or ridiculous? To what extent have these restraints censored me in potentially harmful ways or held back my self-expression or growth as a person or as a writer.

Estimated hours: 10

Lesson 7
. Reread “Find Out Who You Are”

“Our life stories may become a foundation of our faith. In his essay ‘Faith and Fiction,’ Frederick Buechner maintains that our faith has the same beginnings as our fiction, in ‘the awareness of events in our lives that lead from one to the other and thereby give each other meaning. The ups and downs of the years, the dreams, the odd moment, the intuitions.’”

Assignment: Write a story outline in a cause-and-effect sequence based upon a time or times of your own life. Can be fiction, memoir, or autobiography. Identify what you have learned by this series of events, ideally how they have in some sense charted a course your life has followed.

Estimated hours: 10

Lesson 8
. Reread “Be Quiet”

“Author Anne LeClair chose to be silent for twenty-four hours at least twice a month. She says it helps her hear herself and her characters.”

Assignment: Insofar as you can do so given your responsibilities, spend 24 hours in silence. No talking, no music, no television. Then write an essay about that experience.

Estimated hours: 15

Lesson 9.
Reread “Ask Who You Are”

“The spirit stopped me, with a feeling I might translate as, ‘Who do you think you are?’

“I asked out loud, ‘Okay, so who am I?’

“’You’re a guy who tries to write the truth,’ I heard. ‘Try to reach everybody, the effort will make you a liar.’

Assignment: Ask yourself, Who Am I? Then answer the question and describe the mental process that brought you to the conclusion.

Estimated hours: 10

Lesson 10.
Reread “Pursue Beauty”

“Pleasant is no synonym for beautiful. Remember the words of John Keats: ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all we know on earth and all we need to know.’

“The best synonym for beautiful is true.”

Assignment: For at least a couple days, meditate upon what the word beauty means to you, what you find beautiful and why that might be. Then write short essay on beauty.

Estimated hours: 10

Lesson 11
. Reread “Get Lost”

“Drop the kids with somebody else and go to the desert, I suggest.

“I mean, a couple days may be all you need. Camp out. Stay at the Motel 6, wherever you don’t know anybody.

“Or even an hour a week in the park might be enough, or a monthly walk in the woods or along some lakeshore. Or unplug everything, lock the doors, and invite the spirit to come visit your home.”

Assignment: Decide on some solitary time during which you won’t be actively working, then take the time and note the benefits and difficulties you experienced. Keep everything but thinking and contemplation to a minimum. This is not a getaway for reading or to catch up on emails or movies.

Estimated hours: 10

Lesson 12.
Reread “Quit Making Excuses”

“Why we fail to perform doesn’t matter. Our reasons are of no consequence. Missing classes (or writing sessions) because of working the three jobs I need to send my daughter to college will affect my performance in the same way as if I missed them because of an addiction to Survivor.

“To earn a black belt, I needed to change my habits. Simple.”

Assignment: Consider what habit or habits you would need to change to give yourself more time to write or to be available to listen to the spirit. Then formulate a plan for making a habitual change.

Estimated hours: 10