Investigative Creative Writing - Teaching and Practice - Mark Spitzer

Investigative Creative Writing - Teaching and Practice - Mark Spitzer

16. Six Investigative Homework Exercises for Encouraging Literary Citizenship

Investigative Creative Writing - Teaching and Practice - Mark Spitzer

Mark Spitzer [+-]
University of Central Arkansas
Mark Spitzer is Associate Professor of Creative Writing in the Department of Film, Theatre, and Creative Writing at the University of Central Arkansas. He is the author of 18 books, ranging from memoirs to novels to literary translations and collections of poetry. He is the editor of the award-winning Toad Suck Review (, a professor of creative writing, an authority on the notorious gar fish (See River Monsters, alligator gar episode), and the world expert on the poetry of Jean Genet. Other recent titles include the poetry collection, Inflammatosis: Polemic Poetry, Incendiary Prose, and Other Extremes of Love and War (Six Gallery Press, 2018); the young adult and children’s literature title, The Crabby Old Gar (Subversive Muse Press, 2018); the novel, Viva Arletty! Our Lady of the Egrets (Six Gallery Press, 2017); the nonfiction work, Beautifully Grotesque Fish of the American West (University of Nebraska Press, 2017); the literary translation The Genet Translations: Poetry and Posthumous Plays (Polemic Press, 2015), and the memoir, After the Octopus (Black Mountain Press, 2014).


This chapter examines six investigative homework assignments that encourage the idea of literary citizenship and education through investigatory research that draws students out of their bubbles of isolation. Writing about something new in the news is one of these, offered in conjunction with my portrait-writing exercises for intro-level creative writing students. Composite novels by Harriet Beacher Stowe and Ken Kesey et alia provide historical perspectives on collaborative work. I also consider the Gen Ed curriculum at my university which provided occasion for justifying poetry exercises inspired by oppressed Afghan women. To address cultural concerns and critical thinking, POVs on literary citizenship are mentioned in relationship to work by Donna Steiner and Lori A. May. The objectivity of writers in general vs. journalists is discussed via Sanders’ theory of investigative poetry as is switching from the informed rant to the “be-good-for-something” assignment based on a proverb by Thoreau in cahoots with Hunter S. Thompson and bloggers gone viral. My experience with water quality issues is held as an example of how to fight City Hall as is Jean Genet speaking in the voice of the other. Gun safety is utilized to make the book’s final point regarding the use of discovery-oriented investigative writing as an act of literary citizenship. Ultimately, reflections on creative writing power through investigative and discovery-oriented teaching techniques come full circle in relationship to the direction of the future of creative writing pedagogy.

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Spitzer, Mark. 16. Six Investigative Homework Exercises for Encouraging Literary Citizenship. Investigative Creative Writing - Teaching and Practice. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 232-252 Jan 2020. ISBN 9781781797181. Date accessed: 20 Sep 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.34905. Jan 2020

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