Microfiction at Essex

Graphic image of microfiction logo The microfiction project explores a creativity-based approach to academic skills. Microfiction is a story written in ten words or fewer. In the 1920s Ernest Hemingway wrote “For sale. Baby shoes. Never used.” He claimed it was the best story he had ever written. Through workshops where microfiction is written, students learn to write concisely. This skill is vital when writing essays and dissertations and the workshops encourage participants to think about the importance of every word they write, and to consider ways to express themselves in fewer words. We are also trialling staff workshops.

The project is a collaboration between Learning and Development and the Faculty of Humanities and Comparative Studies. Initial project outcomes and a demonstration to the sector will be presented as part of the second annual Higher Education Academy Arts and Humanities Conference.

Microfiction workshops

write.read.think.good is a creative, interactive series of sessions designed to use microfiction as a method to increase students' ability to write concisely, read critically, and manage assignments efficiently. It comprises three one-hour sessions and provides students with a range of tools to engage effectively in the academic writing process, avoid plagiarism, and complete their assignments to a high standard by agreed deadlines.

  • Learning outcomes


    • Improving your academic and creative writing and making their relationship explicit.
    • Inspiring you to approach your studies more creatively.
    • Improving project management and time management.
    • Recognising the potential to gamify and reframe tasks to make them more engaging and allow for more creative scope.
    • Reflecting on personal approaches to study, writing and general development.
    • Developing self-criticality, critical reading skills, and editing skills.
    • Recognising the value of individual and original perspectives.
    • Improving ability to precis, synthesise, paraphrase, and avoid plagiarism.
    • Discouraging an instrumental approach to writing.
    • Encouraging you to develop your love of language irrespective of discipline.

  • Workshop 1: write.good

    Graphic image of microfiction logo write.good is about communicating big ideas in as few words as possible. You will be introduced to the idea of microfiction through explanation and examples. You are presented with a series of artefacts or objects and invited to choose one and describe it in a context (100 words), creating a narrative around it. You will then be challenged to reduce that narrative to its essential elements with the main idea being communicated in a single sentence. The key principles of the programme are introduced: economy; clarity; confidence; control; conviction; explicitness; editing; and creativity.

    Microsummary feedback from previous participants:

    • “Transformed my approach to essay writing.”
    • “It made me look at writing in a whole new way.”
    • “Learnt lots. Had fun. Am more confident.”
    • “Helpful. Satisfying. Can't wait for the next session.”
    • “I gained so much from it.”
    • “Helpful, interesting, and very entertaining.”

  • Workshop 2: read.good

    Graphic image of microfiction logo read.good is about extracting big ideas. You are introduced to the microfiction approach to writing in reverse. You will be provided with a section of a complex text, and invited to express the main idea of each paragraph in a single sentence. You will then condense those sentences into a single sentence that communicates the main argument of the text.

    Microsummary feedback from previous participants:

    • “Helped me understand other's ideas at a much greater level.”
    • “Condensing that which is already condensed is brilliant and beneficial.”
    • “Helpful. Useful. Recommended.”

  • Workshop 3: think.good

    Graphic image of microfiction logo think.good is about organising big ideas. You are introduced to an essay question and asked to choose an artefact from a selection available and write a brief description of it based on the subject of the essay. You will then learn to distill your ideas into three main points and finally distill your argument into one single idea.

    Microsummary feedback from previous participants:

    • “Great for preparing for exams, and helps to make questions easier.”
    • “Helped me to develop plans for essays.”

  • Forthcoming sessions

    The microfiction programme was trialled in spring 2013. We are currently working on plans for a roll-out of regular sessions. Further information will be provided soon.

  • Bespoke sessions

    We can put together bespoke sessions to suit your needs. Examples include:

    • We were asked by colleagues in the School of Philosophy and Art History to put together a training workshop for a team of undergraduate and postgraduate students who had recently taken on responsibility for cataloguing and curating Colchester General Hospital's art collection. The result was art.good. microfiction for critical concision. Through a series of exercises, we used microfiction as a lens to identify the key aspects of an artwork that need to be communicated and how it can be done in an engaging way, as well as developing principles for selecting content and choosing vocabulary. One of the exercises required students to write 100 words about Pablo Picasso's famous painting Guernica and distil them down into 10 words or fewer.
    • We were asked to run a staff-specific version of write.good for colleagues in Human Resources.

    Please contact us if you would like further information.

  • Resources

    University resources:

    External resources:


Microfiction competition

In spring term 2013 we challenged staff and students to write their own microfiction. The competition had four categories: stories, ideas, university and education.

Winners

Stories

It was me. I did it. I'm so sorry.
Georgina Beard, School of Philosophy and Art History - student winner
She ran. He chased. She hid. He ran. She lived.
Lucy McCaul, Library - staff winner

Ideas

Water is taking the shape of the vase.
Andreea Manole, student, School of Biological Sciences

University

Only 300 Words left! *5% battery* NO! SAVE! PLUG! RUN!
Sehrish Khan, student, Department of Language and Linguistics

Education

That inevitable split second when you take criticism personally.
Goedele Caluwe, student, School of Philosophy and Art History

Full list of winning and commended entries (.pdf).