There’s a new MOOC opening from the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa – Moving the Margins: Fiction and Inclusion. Yes, the same university that brings you the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
What’s a MOOC?: It stands for Massive Open Online Course. “The IWP’s massive open online courses (MOOCs) offer opportunities for interactive learning in creative writing and literature to unlimited numbers of participants around the world. MOOCs offer prerecorded video lectures provided by contributing authors, including IWP Fall Residents and University of Iowa professors; live and asynchronous discussion-based instruction provided by highly qualified teaching teams; reading and writing assignments; and inclusive community-based feedback.”
Which means it brings education and an opportunity to learn and be a part of a community to anyone who is interested and has access to the internet. It’s free. This is so important. Higher and further education is expensive. MOOCs like this allow scholars with limited or no financial resources to participate in education. We writers tend to know about what it’s like to have limited financial resources.
What’s so important about the margins?: It’s where we find the voices of the marginalized. Those outside of the mainstream. Those not published in major (high paying, widely read, and therefore normalized) magazines. These stories aren’t published in such places because they lack brilliance or great story-telling; rather, they’re not picked up by these magazines because the characters don’t look like or think like the mainstream stereotypical protagonists, or the story may reference songs or food other than what mainstream popular culture accepts as normal. In short, they’re stories about the rest of us.
This is the perfect place to mention the quintessential story about stories in margins:
Read Sofia Samatar‘s “Ogres of East Africa” at Uncanny Magazine here! It’s in Sofia’s anthology “Tender: Stories”, and it’s the opening story in Long Hidden‘s Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History anthology. And that’s exactly what it is. It’s also brilliant and finely crafted.
Back to the MOOC:
“The International Writing Program (the IWP) at the University of Iowa presents, with generous support from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the US Department of State, the course “Moving the Margins: Fiction and Inclusion.” This course will be given as a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) July 15 – Aug. 31, but the course site will remain open until Sept. 15. You may take the course at your own pace during that window of time.
You as participants will read and listen to writers (many of them former IWP Fall Residents) speaking about and writing about voice, character, setting, style, language, and about “moving the margins” of the known and the expected. And as writers balancing vivid imagination and craft, you will work towards an inclusiveness that allows for different kinds of thinking and different kinds of writing.
The course content includes writers who are both native and non-native English speakers, and we welcome those of you who are working on your own English language skills. Reading and listening to writers from a variety of backgrounds, and locating your own voice and experience through the writing of stories are strong language practice techniques.
I do not know anything about this course other than what is available on their website. But I hope that it is true to its title. The more people who are passionate and interested in learning about writing and inclusion who attend the course, the better the discussions and learning. So I mention it here.
Other titles you might be interested in if you are looking for amazing stories from authors, voices, viewpoints too often marginalized: