Writing program unveils new offerings

Politics blogging and screenwriting classes provide specialization for students

The Daily Pennsylvanian
March 27, 2008

From class visits by Karl Rove to Los Angeles field trips, the Creative Writing Program plans to kick off the next academic year with an exciting array of new courses.

During Dick Polman's journalism course on the 2008 Presidential Election, for example, students with a passion for both writing and politics will have the opportunity to track and critique the news as the election unfolds.

And in Andy Wolk's Advanced Screenwriting workshop, students can develop a screenplay with a working Los Angeles writer/director.

"If journalism is going to be increasingly migrating to the new journalism online, it's very important to make sure that the best of our traditional journalistic standards migrate as well," said Polman, who has a daily political blog with The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Polman explained that each student will have to write a 750-word blog every other week about some aspect of the election. The class itself - which filled up during the first few minutes of advance registration - is dedicated to critiquing and discussing the blogs.

"The beauty of it is we don't know right now what's going to be in the news," he said. "I don't assign books and I usually don't even assign magazine articles to read … I say to everybody … 'we're going to live off the news.'"

College sophomore Michael Katz, who is currently enrolled in Polman's course on the primary election this semester, said the class is probably his favorite at Penn so far.

"It's just fun to take a small class with someone who has such insightful knowledge," he said.

College junior Kiley Austin-Young who is taking Polman's primaries course along with Katz, also voiced excitement for next semester.

"It's important that everyone keep abreast of political news on a day-to-day basis," he said.

This semester's curriculum has featured guest speakers such as Karl Rove and Polman is already lining up visitors for next semester.

The other new class will be taught by Wolk, a professional screenwriter/director in L.A. who has directed episodes of shows like The Sopranos. He will make four extended visits to Penn during the semester to teach the course. For each of these long weekends, students will attend two three-hour seminars and two individual meetings.

When Wolk is in L.A., he will communicate with his students by phone and e-mail. He plans to have students work on only one screenplay over the course of the semester.

Wolk added that he would love to have students come and observe him on set in LA, and is "sure that will happen in the future of the course."

In the weeks during which he is not at Penn, the class will meet on Fridays with Wolk's teaching assistant.

He taught the course for the first time at Penn last fall. More than half the class continued through the spring in an independent study. He added that he was amazed at the talent and energy of his students and the professional quality of their screenplays.

"The idea of the course is to find people who are really excited and curious about screenwriting," he said. "You can't teach talent, but what you can do is teach people how to write."