Creative Writing
EnglishCollege of Humanities and Social Sciences

Future Course Descriptions

English 506:002 – Research
Tim Denevi / T 7:20-10:00 / Robinson B 103

In this class, we’ll be focusing on the craft of research as it pertains to the composition of journalistic, essayistic, and fictional work. Students start by selecting a topic for research, and by the end of the semester they can use the information they've found to complete and revise a twenty-page literary work (with endnotes and a bibliography) that’s intended for a general audience. We’ll spend the first part of the semester looking at examples of essays that do exactly this, and we’ll also consider different techniques and methods of research. Eventually we’ll transition to a workshop format. Our ultimate goal is to consider the different avenues toward art that carefully obtained information can offer. 


English 511:002 – Literature of Home, Exile and Migration
Helon H Ngalabak / T 7:20-10:00 / Robinson B 103

This course examines the idea of “exile” and “migration” in their political manifestations, especially in relation to the creative process.  How do authors approach these themes, how do they use their own experience of exile and migration to create literature? The course foregrounds themes like language, alienation, belonging, culture and travel, and attempts to define as well as problematize the concept of "home" in literature and in real life.  Works of fiction and non-fiction will be used in the reading list, with special focus on books that portray America as the promised land and ultimate refuge for exiles. The student is expected to be actively involved in the class process through group presentations and paper writing.

Readings: Alexander Hemon, Chimamanda Adichie, Mohsin Hamid, Eva Hoffman, Dave Eggers, Colm Toibin.


English 608:001 – Experimental Essay
Tim Denevi / T 4:30-7:00 / Robinson B 204

Students will read book-length experimental essays. Our goal will be to look at how these works employ the concept of “form as function” to articulate perspectives on the world that amount to something bigger than the sum of their parts. Students will also write two experimental essays of their own and workshop them in class.


English 608:003 – The Art of the Narrative Arc: Plot and its Developments
Courtney Brkic / M 7:20-10:00 / Robinson A 246 

This course examines how fiction writers move from story/novel concept to realization. Examining both traditional and more experimental examples, we will explore how plot – the unfolding of narrative – functions within storytelling. And how it must necessarily exist alongside character development and worldbuilding. Discussions of selected readings, in-class writing exercises and workshopping are components of this course. 


English 608:004 Poetic Sequence
Eric Pankey / W 7:20-10:00 / Robinson B442

One of the burdens of being a lyric poet is the lyric poem’s dogged, headlong progression toward closure. As a result the writer of short lyric poems is always faces beginning again with a blank page, with endless possibilities, with a whole world to be invented, that within a few short lines will again find a way to end itself.

The poetic sequence provides a lyric writer all the pleasures of such habitual closure and yet allows the poet an ongoing world to return to day after day, as a novelist or a memoirist might the her text. The models we will read employ a variety of strategies that allow the poems to be well-wrought and lyrically dense, while at the same time moving forward by way of narrative, meditation, juxtaposition and/or other methods we will soon discover. The hope is that we will each write at least two lyric sequences over the course of the semester.


Reading list:

Arthur Sze
Redshifting Web 

Harryette Mullen

Eugenio Montale
Collected Poems 1920-1954 

Laynie Browne
Drawing of a Swan Before Memory

Theodore Roethke
Collected Poems

Carolyn Forche
The Angel of History   

Jay Wright
Music’s Mask and Measure

D. Wright
Deepstep Come Shining


English 617:004 – Poetry Writing Workshop – The Poet’s Notebook
Peter Streckfus / R 4:30-7:10 / Robinson B205

This poetry workshop, subtitled THE POET'S NOTEBOOK, emphasizes the generation of new poems by workshop participants. To that end, you will share new writing on a weekly basis, maintain a poet's notebook practice, which will include 100 consecutive days of writing, and devise writing exercises for yourself and others. Required reading will include the somatic writing exercises and poems of C. A. Conrad’s A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon. Keeping somatics (from the Greek, of the body) in mind, I will also assign essays by contemporary poets and thinkers such as Brenda Hillman and Christine Hume on the handwritten poem, walking as composition, and the phenomenology and neuroscience of writing. Poets and prose writers interested in writing poetry are encouraged to enroll.


English 618:003 – Fiction Writing Workshop
Steve Goodwin / T 4:30-7:20 / Robinson A 107

A traditional workshop structured so that participants can develop two new stories (or chapters), one of which will be revised as a final project.  The emphasis will be on close reading, and for all students there will be a weekly writing assignment – one pargraph, as perfect as possible, written so that it “will make music that will melt the stars” (Flaubert).


English 619:001 – Second Year Salon
Courtney Brkic / W 4:30-7:20 / Robinson B 204 

This course is Intended to prepare second-year MFA Fiction students for thesis work, which is typically undertaken during the third year. My hope is that it will act as a creative incubator for the most important project of your degree. Whether or not you have already found your subject matter, decided upon a format or begun work on your thesis, you will define your focus, prepare a proposal you can live with and start/continue writing. Discussions will focus on current issues in fiction, approaches to narrative and a short reading list that each student will devise according to her/his own interests. In-class writing will be a component of this course but our final weeks will be devoted to workshopping thesis excerpts – whether fully-formed or embryonic – so that you can hit the ground running.


English 619:003 – Memoir
Kyoko Mori / W 7:20-10:00 / David King Hall 2054

How is a memoir different from a simple recitation of facts about your life or your “autobiography”?  Do you have to experience a dramatic or traumatic event before you can write a memoir?  What is the relationship between a personal story and its larger context—the historical, political, or cultural setting—of that story?  Which should get featured more prominently in a memoir?  What do novels and memoirs have in common?  What—except that one is fictional and the other is not—makes them different?  These and other questions will be asked; some answers will be attempted.  The first half of the semester will focus on reading a wide range of memoirs.  The book list may include Nabokov,’s Speak, Memory, Frank Conroy’s Stop-Time, Christina Thompson’s Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All, Joan Wickersham’s The Suicide Index, Peter Trachtenberg’s 7 Tattoos: a memoir in the flesh, and Gail Caldwell’s Let’s Take the Long Way Home.  The second half of the semester will be spent on workshopping the first chapter or the prologue of the memoir you hope to write (unless you have already started on one, in which case you’re welcome to workshop any part of it) or an essay you might to expand into a memoir.


English 619:005 – Book Beasts
Susan Tichy / T 4:30-7:10 / Robinson A 447

This is the course where creative writing gets into a big party with visual art, conceptual art, graphic design, handmade books, posters, & maybe even a walk outside. Through reading & your own projects, you’ll explore the visual/verbal boundary, as well as other edges of what constitutes narrative &/or the poetic. Projects may include visual & concrete poetry, fiction or nonfiction with multiple reading pathways, circular texts, altered books, erasures, constrained texts, hand-made books, three-dimensional poem objects, word maps, & on-site text installations. Class time will include workshop critique & discussion of the reading, including the history & theory of what we are practicing. We’ll visit the artist book collection in Fenwick Special Collections, &, if scheduling permits, visit book-arts students in the School of Art. Take a look at the Big Red Cabinet in the hallway by the English Department’s front door: all those objects were produced by grad & undergrad students in Book Beasts.

The reading list evolves a bit each year…but you can expect to encounter such writers & artists as Christian Bök, John Cage, Johanna Drucker, Jonathan Safran Foer, Eugen Gomringer, Noah Eli Gordon, Matthea Harvey, Jane Augustine, Mary Reufle, Ronald Johnson, Karla Kelsey, Jonathan Stalling & Srikanth Reddy, as well as Ian Hamilton Finlay’s garden (Little Sparta), Alec Finlay’s landscape/poetry events, & works by the “walking artist” Hamish Fulton. We also tackle book-length works where artist’s book meets memoir—such as Ann Carson’s Nox & Jill Magi’s Threads—and unique works in text like M. Nourbese Philip’s Zong!, a profound meditation on the slave trade, created via erasure & constraint.

Those with skills in book making, printing, graphic design, or visual arts will find good use for them, but such skills are not required. Works displayed here emphasize the visual, but other projects are made only of words on paper, & you can excel in this course with no artsy-craftsy leanings at all. Bring a sense of adventure & a love of words—including the sound, the look, & the history of words. Grades are based on the depth of your engagement with new forms & new ideas of what “poetry,” “writing,” “narrative,” & “art” might be, expressed via original projects (large & small), creative responses to readings, prose reflections on creative process & historical context, & contributions to discussion.

Book Beasts fulfills the “other genre” requirement for all MFA genres—fiction, nonfiction, & poetry. Prose writers bring a lot to the conversation & many have excelled in this course.

If you are interested, but not enrolled in Creative Writing degree, please send a message to introduce yourself & tell me why you want to take the course.


English 685:001 – 21st Century Novel
Steve Goodwin / M 4:30-7:20 / Robinson B 204 

The novels we’ll read in the course reflect the enormous changes that are changing the private and public lives of Americans, and they display the inventive daring, ambition, and virtuosity of the novelists or ou time..  A partial list of the readings:  Lincoln in the Bardo (Saunders), The Goon Squad (Egan), Fun Home (Bechdel), Africanah (Adichie), How Should a Person Be (Heti), The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Diaz), Roundhouse(Erdrich), Leaving the Atocha Station (Lerner).  Written work will include pastiches, brief response essays, and a longer work of creative criticism.


English 685:003 – C.D Wright: The Art of Crossing Genre
Sally Keith / M 4:30-7:10 / David King Hall 2054

Born in Arkansas and often heralded as a Southern writer, C.D.Wright (1949-2016) is one our most beloved of contemporary poets.  Her work is quirky, idiosyncratic, fiercely engaged in social consciousness, innovative, and consistently referred to as uncategorizable. “I am a serious border-crosser,” C.D.Wright said in an early interview.  And it’s true.  Author of poetry, prose, mixed-genre experiments, and translation, the borders she traverses belong not only to poetry (including the list, the lyric, narrative and epic), but to broader disciplines, including documentary, anthropology, biography and history.   This seminar, which welcomes writers and readers of prose and poetry, will examine Wright’s work against the cultural, political, and aesthetic concerns of this new century. Reading will include writers she championed and from whom she drew inspiration, such as W.S. Merwin, Ron Silliman, Robert Creeley and Bermilr Brigham, as well as examples of work contextually relevant to the genres her work challenged—writers like Mark Nowak and Michael Ondaatje.  Writing assignments will merge the creative and the critical; students will be encouraged to write across genre.

If you are unfamiliar with C.D. Wrights’ work and would like a quick tutorial, please check out: 1) this brief video “Poet C.D. Wright Weaves History, Reporting, Storytelling in Verse,” from PBS News Hour:; 2) C.D.Wright reading “Flame”:


English 751:003 – Advanced Workshop in Fiction Writing
Helon H Ngalabak / R 4:30-7:10 / Robinson B 122

This course focuses on aspects of fiction writing such as plot, character, setting, dialogue, etc., to be discussed in workshop setting. Exemplary short stories and novels will be critically examined to illustrate how writers approach craft. Students will have the chance to workshop at least two short stories or novel chapters—a third story will be developed from scratch through feedbacks and conferences with the professor over the course of the semester. A revised version of this story will be accepted as final submission at the end of the semester. Readings: George Saunders, Junot Diaz, Raymond Carver, Akhil Sharma, Flannery O’Connor, Mary Gaitskill, Lorrie Moore, Zadie Smith.