Metro: Journeys in Writing Creatively

Hans Ostrom / Wendy Bishop / Katharine Haake  
Total pages
July 2000
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Metro: Journeys in Writing Creatively
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Metro is a unique multi-genre creative writing text that provides exercises and prompts to help students move beyond terms and concepts to active writing. By using 'guided writing,' the authors help students through the creative processes in fiction, poetry, drama, and creative nonfiction. A mini-anthology with relevant exercises makes this sourcebook complete.


  • Multi-genre organization consolidates genres into one complete text. Creative nonfiction is included. Pg.___
  • Mini-Anthology of Works offers readings that tie into the text. Pg.___
  • Exercises for writing in various genres offer professors a wealth of creative ideas. Pg.___
  • Boxed Summaries, which introduce each exercise, show what genres and concepts the exercise will address. Pg.___
  • Alternate Contents organized by genre makes it easy for instructors to choose exercises in a particular genre.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Concerning Writing-Exercises and Ways to Approach Them.


1. Riding the Blue Line—Reading.

Getting Started.

Of Reading.

Fitting Yourself into the Conversation of Writing You Love.

Reading Yourself.

And How About Your Reading Habits?

Your Own Canon.

Reading Your Times: When You Came to Be.

Reading Home: Organizing and Developing Memories.

Correspondences: Imitation and Inspiration.

Collecting Epigraphs for a Textual Mosaic.

Writing Provocations: Responding to Other Writing.

Eight Steps for Inhabiting and Transforming a Poem.

Travels With the Essay.

Reading and Writing Out of Other Art.

History as a Collaboration of Fact and Imagination.

Shadows, Doubles, and Others.

Can You Name That Epiphany?

The Narrow Road to Mixing Genres.

Reading Form as a Product of Perspective.

Reading and Writing in the Workshop.

Responding to, Evaluating, and Grading Alternative Style.

2. Riding the Green Line—Invention.

Getting Started.

Dislodge the Icon of 'The Writer'.

Narrative Anxiety Cure-All (Not Sold In Stores).

Coming to Our Overlooked Senses.

Taste: Writing About Food and Family.

Sounds and Smells.

Places and Things.

The Familiar Place as Frontier: Seeing the Rare in the Ordinary.

Beginning with Nostalgia: Lost Childhood Places.

Places, Memories, Desires.

The Text(ure) of Public Places.

Writing About or With Objects.

Writing from Expertise, Not Just From Experience.

Language and Form.

The Power of Names.

Writing From Your Name: An Introductory Poem (an Acrostic).

First Words of Stories: This Sentence, These Words.

The Perfect Grammar of Form: Finding Your Own Ideal Form.

Nonsense and Sound Poems: Demystifying Formal Verse.

Burrowing: Writing That Springs from Language Itself.

There's Something About a Sonnet: Easing Into a 10 X 14 Poem.

Piecemeal Fictions.

Comparison vs. Contiguity: Using Metaphor and Metonymy.

Working With Metaphor.

Premises, Assumptions, Hypothetical Situations.

Y and X-land: Dropping Characters into Places They Don't Belong.

Under What Circumstances Would Someone...?

Against the Grain: Ignoring Conventional Wisdom.

Against the Grain, Part Two.

The Nonexistent Relative: Viewing 'The Facts as Malleable.

Ambiguity Is Certainly Useful.

Drama = Conflict = Power.

Story Spinning: 51 Prompts for Story Ideas.


Listing and Memory.

The Most Important Spectator in Your Writing Life-You.

How New Writing Grows Out of Old.

3. Riding the Orange Line—Development and Improvisation.


Playing With Time: Some Basic Moves.

Telling Time 1: Order.

Telling Time 2: Frequency.

Telling Time 3: Duration.

Telling Time: Down and Dirty.

Developing Characters, Points of View, and Other Elements.

Character Witness: 20 Questions.

Building Character.

Pardon Me, Your Nemesis Is Showing.

Turning the Lens: Framing Narrative Perspective.

Narrative 'Voice and Listeners Within Stories.

Using Delay as an Organizing Principle.

Writing What Cannot Be Filmed.

A Certain Conventional Element.

Deconstructing and Reconstructing.

Things Are One Way, Then They Are the Other.

Fiction Backwards and Forwards: Interlocking Narratives, Prequels, and Sequels.

When Losing Control Is About Finding It Again.

More Work with Language Itself.

The Fat Draft and the Memory Draft: When Energy Runs Out.

Thinking Poetically to Develop and Improvise.

Word-Surfing Safari: Playing with Language.

4. Riding the Red Line—Revision and Editing.

Strategies: Different Approaches to Revising and Editing.

The Executive Summary: How to Respond to Workshop Criticism.

The Voices of Revision: What to Do with Advice.

Radical Revision: A Strategy of Risk.

Sentence Sounds: Exploring the 'Conjunctive' and 'Disjunctive'.

Getting Unstuck: Slowing Down to Pay Attention.

Quickness as Complementary to Complexity.

Forms Within Formlessness: Seeing the Potential Shapes of a Poem.

Old Faithfuls: Some Enduring Approaches to Revision.

Tactics: Specific Tasks of Revision and Editing.

The Arbitrary Reviser Looks at Fiction.

Paper, Tape, Scissors: The Arbitrary Reviser Acquires Tools.

Directed Revision and Editing: Variations on Arbitrary Revision.

Writing Between the Lines: Revising as 'Adding To' Not 'Taking Away'.

'Blowing Up' Your Poems: Large-Font Revision.

Revising Openers in Prose Genres: Eight Options.

5. Union Station—Alternative Guided-Writing Scenarios.

Multiauthored Texts.

Coauthoring-Some Whys and Wherefores.

Dream-Wandering: Writing with a Group.

Public Poetry.

Video-Poem: Let Each Medium Teach the Other.

Experimental Forms and Less Familiar Modes.

Writing from Your Autobiography Box.

Parodies-Pushing Imitation to the Edge.

Palimpsest: Writing 'Over' the Forbidden Story.

The Possibility of Play and the Play of Possibilities: Trying Writing Games.

Multimedia, Cross-Cultural Writing.

The Virtual Hypertext Game.

Fortuitous Textual Coincidences; or, When Fragments Collide.

What the Words Grow Out Of: Building Multidimensional Collages.

Flooding Yourself: A Strategy to Gather, Freewrite, Assemble, Construct.

Vantage Points on Language.

The Center Holds: Weaving Multiple Discourses in a Single Text.

Warp and Weft: More on Weaving.

What Hands Make: Using 'Instructions' as a Model for Other Writing.

In the Same Breath: Rewriting as Part of the Conversation.


6. Exact Fare—Guided Writing Related to Selected Matters of Grammar, Precision, Style, and Punctuation.

Behold the Sentence.

The Care and Feeding of Sentences.

Sentence as Style.

What's In a Sentence: The Possibilities Exposed by Breaking the Rules.

Building-Block Stories: Practice Mixing Sentence Styles.

Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral? Writing Using Only Question Sentences.

Dueling Banjoes: The Use of Parallelism.

Sentence Economics.

Grammar, Punctuation, and Creativity.

Grammar-Check Your Favorite Author.

This Adventitious Music: Exploring Grammar with Nonsense Writing.

By All Devious Means (But With Grammatical Consistency).

The Problem (Okay, One Problem) With Punctuation.

In Praise of Punctuation.

Word-Choice in Particular, Language-Awareness in General.

Words: Choice and Precision.

Figures of Speech.

The Opposites of Everything.

Poetry Phobia Cure-All (Not Sold in Stores).

Scavenger Hunt.


Audre Lorde, Learning to Write (poem).

Marilyn Hacker, Elektra on Third Avenue (poem).

Hunt Hawkins, Mourning the Dying American Female Names (poem).

Langston Hughes, Harlem (poem).

Emily Dickenson, #712 ( Because I could not stop for Death-) (poem).

John Keats, Ode to a Gregian Urn (poem).

Marilyn Chin, Where We Live Now (poem).

Peter Meinke, (Untitled) (poem).

Pablo Neruda Arte Poetica (poem).

Pablo Neruda The Art of Poetry translated from the Spanish by Robert Bly (poem).

Hans Ostrom, Of Reading (poem).

Sylvia Plath, Metaphors (poem).

Anonymous, [Early English riddle] (poem).

Karl Shapiro, Drug Store (poem).

Marie Silkeberg, from Black Mercury translated from the Swedish by Hans Ostrom (poem).

William Carlos Williams, The Children (poem).

William Wordsworth, Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey (poem).

W. H. Auden, Muse des Beaux Arts (poem).

Wendy Bishop, Horoscope Imperatives: A 'Found' Ghazal (poem).

Anonymous, Go Down, Moses (song lyric).

Five Sonnets:

William Shakespeare, My Mistress' Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun.

Robert Frost, Design.

Floyd Skloot, My Daughter Considers Her Body.

Robert Pinsky, Sonnet.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Windhover.

Pico Iyer, In Praise of the Humble Comma (essay).

Mary Paumier Jones, Meander (essay/creative nonfiction).

Rick Moody, Primary Sources (essay).

Hans Ostrom, Anomalies in Relief: Notes of a California Expatriate (essay).

Richard Wright, Library Card (essay).

Will Baker, My Children Explain the Big Issues (essay).

Jill Carpenter, Consanguinity (essay/creative nonfiction).

Nancy Krusoe, Landscape and Dream (short story).

Jack Matthews, A Questionnaire for Rudolph Gordon (short story).

Tim O'Brien, How To Tell a True War Story (short story).

Sheila Ortiz-Taylor, Street Map and Imaginary Parents (short stories).

Grace Paley, A Conversation With My Father (short story).

Grant Cogswell, Paris in '73 (short story).

Katharine Haake, Arrow Math (short story).

William Shakespeare, excerpt from Hamlet (drama).

Diane Marre A Really Big Shoe (performance piece).

Suggested Reading.

Reference Books.


Criticism and Theory.

Books on Writing.