Creative Writing Research: What, How and Why

  • First Online: 23 July 2023

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what is creative writing studies

  • Graeme Harper 2  

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Creative writing research is actively moving us further toward knowing what creative writing actually is—in terms of our human actions and our responses when doing it. It is approaching such things as completed literary works and author recognition within the activities of creative writing, not mostly as representatives of that practice, and it is paying close attention to the modes, methods and functions of the writerly imagination, the contemporary influence of individual writer environments on writers, to writerly senses of structure and form and our formation and re-formation of writing themes and subjects. We certainly understand creative writing and creative writing research best when we remain true to why creative writing happens, when and where it happens, and how it happens—and creative writing research is doing that, focusing on the actions and the material results as evidence of our actions. Creative writing research has also opened up better communication between our knowledge of creative writing and our teaching of creative writing, with the result that we are improving that teaching, not only in our universities and colleges but also in our schools.

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Mo-Ling Rebecca Leung

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Harper, G. (2023). Creative Writing Research: What, How and Why. In: Rebecca Leung, ML. (eds) Chinese Creative Writing Studies. Springer, Singapore.

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Ph.D. Creative Writing

Ph.d. in creative writing.

A rigorous program that combines creative writing and literary studies, the Ph.D. in Creative Writing prepares graduates for both scholarly and creative publication and teaching. With faculty guidance, students admitted to the Ph.D. program may tailor their programs to their goals and interests.

The creative writing faculty at KU has been widely published and anthologized, winning both critical and popular acclaim. Faculty awards include such distinctions as the Nebula Award, Hugo Award, Osborn Award, Shelley Memorial Award, Gertrude Stein Award, the Kenyon Review Prize, the Kentucky Center Gold Medallion, and the Pushcart Prize.

Regarding admission to both our doctoral and MFA creative writing programs, we will prioritize applicants who are interested in engaging with multiple faculty members to practice writing across genres and forms, from speculative fiction and realism to poetry and playwriting/screenwriting, etc.

The University of Kansas' Graduate Program in Creative Writing also offers an  M.F.A degree .


A GTA appointment includes a tuition waiver for ten semesters plus a competitive stipend. In the first year, GTA appointees teach English 101 (first year composition) and English 102 (a required reading and writing course). Creative Writing Ph.D. students may have the opportunity to teach an introductory course in creative writing after passing the doctoral examination, and opportunities are available for a limited number of advanced GTAs to teach in the summer.

Department Resources

  • Graduate Admissions
  • Graduate Contacts
  • Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)

Affiliated Programs

  • LandLocked Literary Magazine
  • The Project on the History of Black Writing
  • Center for the Study of Science Fiction
  • Ad-Hoc African/Americanists and Affiliates

Degree Requirements

  • At least 24 hours of credit in appropriate formal graduate courses beyond the M.A. or M.F.A. At least 15 hours (in addition to ENGL 800 if not taken for the M.A.) of this course work must be taken from among courses offered by the Department of English at the 700-level and above. English 997 and 999 credits cannot be included among the 24 hours. Students may petition to take up to 6 hours outside the Department.
  • ENGL 800: Methods, Theory, and Professionalism (counts toward the 24 required credit hours).
  • The ENGL 801/ENGL 802 pedagogy sequence (counts toward the 24 required credit hours).
  • Two seminars (courses numbered 900 or above) offered by the Department of English at the University of Kansas, beyond the M.A. or M.F.A. ENGL 998 does not fulfill this requirement.
  • ENGL 999, Dissertation (at least 12 hours).

If the M.A. or M.F.A. was completed in KU’s Department of English, a doctoral student may petition the DGS to have up to 12 hours of the coursework taken in the English Department reduced toward the Ph.D.

For Doctoral students,  the university requires completion of a course in responsible scholarship . For the English department, this would be ENGL 800, 780, or the equivalent). In addition, the Department requires reading knowledge of one approved foreign language: Old English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Greek, Latin, or Hebrew. Upon successful petition, a candidate may substitute reading knowledge of another language or research skill that is studied at the University or is demonstrably appropriate to the candidate’s program of study.

Doctoral students must fulfill the requirement  before  they take their doctoral examination, or be enrolled in a reading course the same semester as the exam. Students are permitted three attempts at passing each foreign language or research skill. Three methods of demonstrating reading knowledge for all approved languages except Old English are acceptable:

  • Presenting 16 hours, four semesters, or the equivalent of undergraduate credit, earned with an average of C or better.
  • Passing a graduate reading course at the University of Kansas or peer institution (e.g., French 100, German 100, etc.) with a grade of C or higher. In the past, some of these reading courses have been given by correspondence; check with the Division of Continuing Education for availability.
  • Passing a translation examination given by a designated member of the English Department faculty or by the appropriate foreign language department at KU. The exam is graded pass/fail and requires the student to translate as much as possible of a representative text in the foreign language in a one-hour period, using a bilingual dictionary.
  • Passing a translation examination given by the appropriate foreign language department at the M.A.-granting institution. Successful completion must be reflected either on the M.A. transcript or by a letter from the degree-granting department.

To fulfill the language requirement using Old English, students must successfully complete ENGL 710 (Introduction to Old English) and ENGL 712 (Beowulf).

Post-Coursework Ph.D. students must submit, with their committee chair(s), an annual review form to the DGS and Graduate Committee.

Doctoral students must take their doctoral examination within three semesters (excluding summers) of the end of the semester in which they took their final required course. If a student has an Incomplete, the timeline is not postponed until the Incomplete is resolved. For example, a student completing doctoral course work in Spring 2018 will need to schedule their doctoral exam no later than the end of Fall semester 2019. Delays may be granted by petition to the Graduate Director in highly unusual circumstances. Failure to take the exam within this time limit without an approved delay will result in the student’s falling out of good standing. For details on the consequences of falling out of good standing, see “Falling Out of Good Standing,” in General Department Policies and Best Practices.

A student may not take their doctoral exam until the university’s Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship requirement is fulfilled (ENGL 800 or equivalent and reading knowledge of one foreign language or equivalent).

Requirements for Doctoral Exams

Reading Lists: 

All students are required to submit three reading lists, based on the requirements below, to their committee for approval. The doctoral exam will be held on a date at least twelve weeks after the approval from the whole committee is received. To facilitate quick committee approval, students may copy the graduate program coordinator on the email to the committee that contains the final version of the lists. Committee members may then respond to the email in lieu of signing a printed copy. Students should work with their committee chair and graduate program coordinator to schedule the exam at the same time as they finalize the lists.

During the two-hour oral examination (plus an additional 15-30 minutes for a break and committee deliberation), a student will be tested on their comprehension of a literary period or movement, including multiple genres and groups of authors within that period or movement. In addition, the student will be tested on two of the following six areas of study:

  • An adjacent or parallel literary period or movement,
  • An author or group of related authors,
  • Criticism and literary theory,
  • Composition theory, and
  • English language.

No title from any field list may appear on either of the other two lists. See Best Practices section for more details on these six areas. See below for a description of the Review of the Dissertation Proposal (RDP), which the candidate takes the semester after passing the doctoral exam. 

While many students confer with the DGS as they begin the process of developing their lists, they are also required to submit a copy of their final exam list to the DGS. Most lists will be left intact, but the DGS might request that overly long lists be condensed, or extremely short lists be expanded.

Review of Literature

The purpose of the Review of Literature is to develop and demonstrate an advanced awareness of the critical landscape for each list. The student will write an overview of the defining attributes of the field, identifying two or three broad questions that animate scholarly discussion, while using specific noteworthy texts from their list ( but not all texts on the list ) as examples.

The review also must accomplish the following:

  • consider the historical context of major issues, debates, and trends that factor into the emergence of the field
  • offer a historical overview of scholarship in the field that connects the present to the past
  • note recent trends and emergent lines of inquiry
  • propose questions about (develop critiques of, and/or identify gaps in) the field and how they might be pursued in future study (but not actually proposing or referencing a dissertation project)

For example, for a literary period, the student might include an overview of primary formal and thematic elements, of the relationship between literary and social/historical developments, of prominent movements, (etc.), as well as of recent critical debates and topics.

For a genre list, the Review of Literature might include major theories of its constitution and significance, while outlining the evolution of these theories over time.

For a Rhetoric and Composition list, the review would give an overview of major historical developments, research, theories, methods, debates, and trends of scholarship in the field.

For an English Language Studies (ELS) list, the review would give an overview of the subfields that make up ELS, the various methodological approaches to language study, the type of sources used, and major aims and goals of ELS. The review also usually involves a focus on one subfield of particular interest to the student (such as stylistics, sociolinguistics, or World/Postcolonial Englishes).

Students are encouraged to divide reviews into smaller sections that enhance clarity and organization. Students are not expected to interact with every text on their lists.

The review of literature might be used to prepare students for identifying the most important texts in the field, along with why those texts are important to the field, for the oral exam. It is recommended for students to have completed reading the bulk of (if not all) texts on their lists before writing the ROL.

The Reviews of Literature will not be produced in an exam context, but in the manner of papers that are researched and developed in consultation with all advisors/committee members,  with final drafts being distributed within a reasonable time for all members to review and approve in advance of the 3-week deadline . While the Review of Literature generally is not the focus of the oral examination, it is frequently used as a point of departure for questions and discussion during the oral examination.

Doctoral Exam Committee

Exam committees typically consist of 3 faculty members from the department—one of whom serves as the Committee Chair—plus a Graduate Studies Representative.  University policy dictates the composition of exam committees . Students may petition for an exception for several committee member situations, with the exception of  the Graduate Studies Representative .

If a student wants to have as a committee member a person outside the university, or a person who is not in a full-time tenure-track professorship at KU, the student must contact the Graduate Secretary as early as possible. Applications for special graduate faculty status must be reviewed by the College and Graduate Studies. Requests for exam/defense approval will not be approved unless all committee members currently hold either regular or special graduate faculty status

Remote participation of committee members via technology

Students with committee members who plan to attend the defense via remote technology must be aware of  college policy on teleconferencing/remote participation of committee members .

A majority of committee members must be physically present for an examination to commence; for doctoral oral examinations this requirement is 2 of the 4 members, for master’s oral examinations the requirement is 2 of the 3 members. In addition, it is required that the student being examined, the chair of the committee, and the Graduate Studies Representative all be physically present at the examination or defense. Mediated attendance by the student, chair and Grad Studies Rep is prohibited.

The recommended time between completion of coursework and the doctoral examination is two semesters.

Final exam lists need to be approved and signed by the committee at least 12 weeks prior to the prospective exam date. This includes summers/summer semesters. The lists should then be submitted to the Graduate Program Coordinator. Reviews of Literature need to be approved and signed by the committee at least 3 weeks prior to the exam date. Failure to meet this deadline will result in rescheduling the exam. No further changes to lists or Reviews of Literature will be allowed after official approval. The three-week deadline is the faculty deadline--the last date for them to confirm receipt of the ROLs and confer approval--not necessarily the student deadline for submitting the documents to the faculty. Please keep that timing in mind and allow your committee adequate time to review the materials and provide feedback.

Students taking the Doctoral Exam are allowed to bring their text lists, the approved Reviews of Literature, scratch paper, a writing utensil, and notes/writing for an approximately 5-minute introductory statement to the exam. (This statement does not need to lay out ideas or any aspect of the dissertation project.)

Each portion of the oral examination must be deemed passing before the student can proceed to the Review of the Dissertation Proposal. If a majority of the committee judges that the student has not answered adequately on one of the three areas of the exam, the student must repeat that portion in a separate oral exam of one hour, to be taken as expeditiously as possible.  Failure in two areas constitutes failure of the exam and requires a retake of the whole.  The doctoral examining committee will render a judgment of Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory on the entire examination. A student who fails the exam twice may, upon successful petition to the Graduate Committee, take it a third and final time.

Students cannot bring snacks, drinks, treats, or gifts for committee members to the exam. Professors should avoid the appearance of favoritism that may occur if they bring treats to some student exams but not others.

The doctoral oral examination has the following purposes:

  • To establish goals, tone, and direction for the pursuit of the Ph.D. in English for the Department and for individual programs of study;
  • To make clear the kinds of knowledge and skills that, in the opinion of the Department, all well-prepared holders of the degree should have attained;
  • To provide a means for the Department to assess each candidate’s control of such knowledge and skills in order to certify that the candidate is prepared to write a significant dissertation and enter the profession; and
  • To enable the Department to recommend to the candidate areas of strength or weakness that should be addressed.

In consultation with the Graduate Director, a student will ask a member of the Department’s graduate faculty (preferably their advisor) to be the chairperson of the examining committee. The choice of examination committee chair is very important, for that person’s role is to assist the candidate in designing the examination structure, preparing the Review of Literature (see below), negotiating reading lists and clarifying their purposes, and generally following procedures here outlined. The other three English Department members of the committee will be chosen in consultation with the committee chair. (At some point an additional examiner from outside the Department, who serves as the Graduate School representative, will be invited to join the committee). Any unresolved problems in negotiation between a candidate and their committee should be brought to the attention of the Graduate Director, who may choose to involve the Graduate Committee. A student may request a substitution in, or a faculty member may ask to be dismissed from, the membership of the examining committee. Such requests must be approved, in writing, by the faculty member leaving the committee and by the Graduate Director.

Reading Lists

Copies of some approved reading lists and Reviews of Literature are available from the Graduate Secretary and can be found on the U: drive if you are using a computer on campus. Despite the goal of fairness and equity, some unavoidable unevenness and disparity will appear in the length of these lists. It remains, however, the responsibility of the examining committee, and especially the student’s chair, to aim toward consonance with the most rigorous standards and expectations and to insure that areas of study are not unduly narrow.

To facilitate quick committee approval, students may copy the graduate secretary on the email to the committee that contains the final version of the lists and reviews of literature. Committee members may then respond to the email in lieu of signing a printed copy.

Comprehension of a literary period (e.g., British literature of the 18th century; Romanticism; US literature of the 19th century; Modernism) entails sufficient intellectual grasp of both the important primary works of and secondary works on the period or movement to indicate a student’s ability to teach the period or movement and undertake respectable scholarship on it.

Comprehension of an author or group of related authors (e.g., Donne, the Brontës, the Bloomsbury Group, the Black Mountain Poets) entails knowledge, both primary and secondary, of a figure or figures whose writing has generated a significant body of interrelated biographical, historical, and critical scholarship.

Comprehension of one of several genres (the short story, the lyric poem, the epistolary novel). To demonstrate comprehension of a genre, a student should possess sufficient depth and breadth of knowledge, both primary and secondary, of the genre to explain its formal characteristics and account for its historical development.

Comprehension of criticism and literary theory entails a grasp of fundamental conceptual problems inherent in a major school of literary study (e.g., historicist, psychoanalytic, feminist, poststructuralist, etc.). To demonstrate comprehension of that school of criticism and literary theory, a student should be able to discuss changes in its conventions and standards of interpretation and evaluation of literature from its beginning to the present. Students will be expected to possess sufficient depth and breadth of theoretical knowledge to bring appropriate texts and issues to bear on questions of literary study.

Comprehension of composition theory entails an intellectual grasp of fundamental concepts, issues, and theories pertaining to the study of writing. To demonstrate comprehension of composition theory, students should be able to discuss traditional and current issues from a variety of perspectives, as well as the field’s historical development from classical rhetoric to the present.

Comprehension of the broad field of English language studies entails a grasp of the field’s theoretical concepts and current issues, as well as a familiarity with significant works within given subareas. Such subareas will normally involve formal structures (syntax, etc.) and history of the English language, along with other subareas such as social linguistics, discourse analysis, lexicography, etc. Areas of emphasis and specific sets of topics will be arranged through consultation with relevant faculty.

Ph.D. candidates must be continuously enrolled in Dissertation hours each Fall and Spring semester from the time they pass the doctoral examination until successful completion of the final oral examination (defense of dissertation).

  • Students enroll for a minimum of 6 hours each Fall and Spring semester until the total of post-doctoral exam Dissertation hours is 18. One hour each semester must be ENGL 999. In order to more quickly reach the 18-hour minimum, and to be sooner eligible for GRAships, it is highly recommended that students enroll in 9 hours of Dissertation in the Spring and Fall semesters. 
  • Once a student has accumulated 18 post-doctoral exam  hours, each subsequent enrollment will be for a number of hours agreed upon as appropriate between the student and their advisor, the minimal enrollment each semester being 1 hour of ENGL 999.
  • A student must be enrolled in at least one hour of credit at KU during the semester they graduate. Although doctoral students must be enrolled in ENGL 999 while working on their dissertations, per current CLAS regulations, there is no absolute minimum number of ENGL 999 hours required for graduation.
  • Students who live and work outside the Lawrence area may, under current University regulations, have their fees assessed at the Field Work rate, which is somewhat lower than the on-campus rate. Students must petition the College Office of Graduate Affairs before campus fees will be waived.

Please also refer to  the COGA policy on post-exam enrollment  or the  Graduate School’s policy .

As soon as possible following successful completion of the doctoral exam, the candidate should establish their three-person core dissertation committee, and then expeditiously proceed to the preparation of a dissertation proposal.  Within the semester following completion of the doctoral exam , the student will present to their core dissertation committee a written narrative of approximately  10-15 pages , not including bibliography, of the dissertation proposal. While the exam schedule is always contingent on student progress, in the first two weeks of the semester in which they intend to take the review , students will work with their committee chair and the graduate program coordinator to schedule the 90-minute RDP. Copies of this proposal must be submitted to the members of the dissertation committee and Graduate Program Coordinator no later than  three weeks prior  to the scheduled examination date.

In the proposal, students will be expected to define: the guiding question or set of questions; a basic thesis (or hypothesis); how the works to be studied or the creative writing produced relate to that (hypo)thesis; the theoretical/methodological model to be followed; the overall formal divisions of the dissertation; and how the study will be situated in the context of prior scholarship (i.e., its importance to the field). The narrative section should be followed by a bibliography demonstrating that the candidate is conversant with the basic theoretical and critical works pertinent to the study. For creative writing students, the proposal may serve as a draft of the critical introduction to the creative dissertation. Students are expected to consult with their projected dissertation committee concerning the preparation of the proposal.

The review will focus on the proposal, although it could also entail determining whether or not the candidate’s knowledge of the field is adequate to begin the composition process. The examination will be graded pass/fail. If it is failed, the committee will suggest areas of weakness to be addressed by the candidate, who will rewrite the proposal and retake the review  by the end of the following semester . If the candidate abandons the entire dissertation project for another, a new RDP will be taken. (For such a step to be taken, the change would need to be drastic, such as a move to a new field or topic. A change in thesis or the addition or subtraction of one or even several works to be examined would not necessitate a new proposal and defense.)  If the student fails to complete the Review of the Dissertation Proposal within a year of the completion of the doctoral exams, they will have fallen out of departmental good standing.  For details on the consequences of falling out of good standing, see “Falling Out of Good Standing,” in General Department Policies and Best Practices.

After passing the Review of the Dissertation Proposal, the student should forward one signed copy of the proposal to the Graduate Program Coordinator. The RDP may last no longer than 90 minutes.

Students cannot bring snacks, drinks, treats, or gifts for committee members to the review. Professors should avoid the appearance of favoritism that may occur if they bring treats to some student exams but not others.

The Graduate Catalog states that the doctoral candidate “must present a dissertation showing the planning, conduct and results of original research, and scholarly creativity.” While most Ph.D. candidates in the Department of English write dissertations of a traditional, research-oriented nature, a creative writing candidate may elect to do a creative-writing dissertation involving fiction, poetry, drama or nonfiction prose.  Such a dissertation must also contain a substantial section of scholarly research related to the creative writing.  The precise nature of the scholarly research component should be determined by the candidate in consultation with the dissertation committee and the Graduate Director. Candidates wishing to undertake such a dissertation must complete all Departmental requirements demanded for the research-oriented Ph.D. degree.

Scholarly Research Component (SRC)

The Scholarly Research Component (SRC) of the creative-writing dissertation is a separate section of the dissertation than the creative work. It involves substantial research and is written in the style of academic prose. It should be 15-20 pages and should cite at least 20 sources, some of which should be primary texts, and many of which should be from the peer-reviewed secondary literature. The topic must relate, in some way, to the topic, themes, ideas, or style of the creative portion of the dissertation; this relation should be stated in the Dissertation Proposal, which should include a section describing the student’s plans for the SRC. The SRC may be based on a seminar paper or other work the student has completed prior to the dissertation; but the research should be augmented, and the writing revised, per these guidelines. The SRC is a part of the dissertation, and as such will be included in the dissertation defense.

The SRC may take two general forms:

1.) An article, publishable in a peer-reviewed journal or collection, on a specific topic related to an author, movement, theoretical issue, taxonomic issue, etc. that has bearing on the creative portion. The quality of this article should be high enough that the manuscript could be submitted to a peer-reviewed publication, with a plausible chance of acceptance.

2.) A survey . This survey may take several different forms:

  • A survey of a particular aspect of the genre of the creative portion of the dissertation (stylistic, national, historical, etc.)
  • An introduction to the creative portion of the dissertation that explores the influences on, and the theoretical or philosophical foundations or implications of the creative work
  • An exploration of a particular technical problem or craft issue that is salient in the creative portion of the dissertation
  • If the creative portion of the dissertation includes the results of research (e.g., historical novel, documentary poetry, research-based creative nonfiction), a descriptive overview of the research undertaken already for the dissertation itself
  • A combination of the above, with the prior approval of the student’s dissertation director.

The dissertation committee will consist of at least four members—two “core” English faculty members, a third faculty member (usually from English), and one faculty member from a different department who serves as the Graduate Studies representative. The committee may include (with the Graduate Director’s approval) members from other departments and, with the approval of the University’s Graduate Council, members from outside the University. If a student wants to have a committee member from outside the university, or a person who is not in a full-time tenure-track professorship at KU, the student must contact the Graduate Secretary as early as possible. Applications for special graduate faculty status must be reviewed by the College and the Office of Graduate Studies. Requests for defense approval will not be approved unless all committee members currently hold either regular or special graduate faculty status.

The candidate’s preferences as to the membership of the dissertation committee will be carefully considered; the final decision, however, rests with the Department and with the Office of Graduate Studies. All dissertation committees must get approval from the Director of Graduate Studies before scheduling the final oral exam (defense). Furthermore, any changes in the make-up of the dissertation committee from the Review of the Dissertation Proposal committee must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Once the dissertation proposal has passed and the writing of the dissertation begins, membership of the dissertation committee should remain constant. However, under extraordinary circumstances, a student may request a substitution in, or a faculty member may ask to be dismissed from, the membership of the dissertation committee. Such requests must be approved, in writing, by the faculty member leaving the committee and by the Graduate Director.

If a student does not make progress during the dissertation-writing stage, and accumulates more than one “Limited Progress” and/or “No Progress” grade on their transcript, they will fall out of good standing in the department. For details on the consequences of falling out of good standing, see “Falling Out of Good Standing,” in General Department Policies and Best Practices

Final Oral Exam (Dissertation Defense)

When the dissertation has been tentatively accepted by the dissertation committee (not including the Graduate Studies Representative), the final oral examination will be held, on the recommendation of the Department. While the exam schedule is always contingent on student progress, in the first two weeks of the semester in which they intend to defend the dissertation, students should work with their committee chair and graduate program coordinator to schedule it.

Although the dissertation committee is responsible for certification of the candidate, any member of the graduate faculty may be present at the examination and participate in the questioning, and one examiner—the Graduate Studies Representative—must be from outside the Department. The Graduate Secretary can help students locate an appropriate Grad Studies Rep. The examination normally lasts no more than two hours. It is the obligation of the candidate to advise the Graduate Director that they plan to take the oral examination; this must be done at least one month before the date proposed for the examination.

At least three calendar weeks prior to the defense date, the student will submit the final draft of the dissertation to all the committee members (including the GSR) and inform the Graduate Program Coordinator. Failure to meet this deadline will necessitate rescheduling the defense.  The final oral examination for the Ph.D. in English is, essentially, a defense of the dissertation. When it is passed, the dissertation itself is graded by the dissertation director, in consultation with the student’s committee; the student’s performance in the final examination (defense) is graded by the entire five-person committee

Students cannot bring snacks, drinks, treats, or gifts for committee members to the defense. Professors should avoid the appearance of favoritism that may occur if they bring treats to some student defenses but not others

These sets of attributes are adapted from the Graduate Learner Outcomes that are a part of our Assessment portfolio. “Honors” should only be given to dissertations that are rated “Outstanding” in all or most of the following categories:

  • Significant and innovative plot/structure/idea/focus. The writer clearly places plot/structure/idea/focus in context.
  • Thorough knowledge of literary traditions. Clear/flexible vision of the creative work produced in relation to those literary traditions.
  • Introduction/Afterword is clear, concise, and insightful. A detailed discussion of the implications of the project and future writing projects exists.
  • The creative dissertation reveals the doctoral candidate’s comprehensive understanding of poetics and/or aesthetic approach. The application of the aesthetic approach is innovative and convincing.
  • The creative dissertation represents original and sophisticated creative work.
  • The creative dissertation demonstrates thematic and/or aesthetic unity.

After much discussion about whether the “honors” designation assigned after the dissertation defense should be for the written product only, for the defense/discussion only, for both together, weighted equally, or eradicated altogether, the department voted to accept the Graduate Committee recommendation that “honors” only apply to the written dissertation. "Honors" will be given to dissertations that are rated "Outstanding" in all or most of the categories on the dissertation rubric.

Normally, the dissertation will present the results of the writer’s own research, carried on under the direction of the dissertation committee. This means that the candidate should be in regular contact with all members of the committee during the dissertation research and writing process, providing multiple drafts of chapters, or sections of chapters, according to the arrangements made between the student and each faculty member. Though accepted primarily for its scholarly merit rather than for its rhetorical qualities, the dissertation must be stylistically competent. The Department has accepted the MLA Handbook as the authority in matters of style. The writer may wish to consult also  the Chicago Manual of Style  and Kate L. Turabian’s  A Manual for Writers of Dissertations, Theses, and Term Papers .

Naturally, both the student and the dissertation committee have responsibilities and obligations to each other concerning the submitting and returning of materials. The student should plan on working steadily on the dissertation; if they do so, they should expect from the dissertation committee a reasonably quick reading and assessment of material submitted.

Students preparing their dissertation should be showing chapters to their committee members as they go along, for feedback and revision suggestions. They should also meet periodically with committee members to assess their progress. Prior to scheduling a defense, the student is encouraged to ask committee members whether they feel that the student is ready to defend the dissertation. Ideally, the student should hold the defense only when they have consulted with committee members sufficiently to feel confident that they have revised the dissertation successfully to meet the expectations of all committee members.

Students should expect that they will need to revise each chapter at least once. This means that all chapters (including introduction and conclusion) are shown to committee members once, revised, then shown to committee members again in revised form to assess whether further revisions are needed, prior to the submitting of the final dissertation as a whole. It is not unusual for further revisions to be required and necessary after the second draft of a chapter; students should not therefore simply assume that a second draft is necessarily “final” and passing work.

If a substantial amount of work still needs to be completed or revised at the point that the dissertation defense is scheduled, such a defense date should be regarded as tentative, pending the successful completion, revision, and receipt of feedback on all work. Several weeks prior to the defense, students should consult closely with their dissertation director and committee members about whether the dissertation as a whole is in a final and defensible stage. A project is ready for defense when it is coherent, cohesive, well researched, engages in sophisticated analysis (in its entirety or in the critical introduction of creative dissertations), and makes a significant contribution to the field. In other words, it passes each of the categories laid out in the Dissertation Rubric.

If the dissertation has not clearly reached a final stage, the student and dissertation director are advised to reschedule the defense.

Prior Publication of the Doctoral Dissertation

Portions of the material written by the doctoral candidate may appear in article form before completion of the dissertation. Prior publication does not ensure the acceptance of the dissertation by the dissertation committee. Final acceptance of the dissertation is subject to the approval of the dissertation committee. Previously published material by other authors included in the dissertation must be properly documented.

Each student beyond the master’s degree should confer regularly with the Graduate Director regarding their progress toward the doctoral examination and the doctorate.

Doctoral students may take graduate courses outside the English Department if, in their opinion and that of the Graduate Director, acting on behalf of the Graduate Committee, those courses will be of value to them. Their taking such courses will not, of course, absolve them of the responsibility for meeting all the normal departmental and Graduate School requirements.

Doctoral students in creative writing are strongly encouraged to take formal literature classes in addition to forms classes. Formal literature classes, by providing training in literary analysis, theory, and/or literary history, will help to prepare students for doctoral exams (and future teaching at the college level).

FALL SEMESTER            

  • GTAs take 2 courses (801 + one), teach 2 courses; GRAs take 3 courses.
  • Visit assigned advisor once a month to update on progress & perceptions. 1st-year advisors can assist with selecting classes for the Spring semester, solidifying and articulating a field of specialization, advice about publishing, conferences, professionalization issues, etc.


  • GTAs take 2 courses (780/800/880 + one), teach 2 courses. GTAs also take ENGL 802 for 1 credit hour. GRAs take 3 courses.
  • Visit assigned advisor or DGS once during the semester; discuss best advisor choices for Year 2.


  • Enroll in Summer Institute if topic and/or methodology matches interests.
  • Consider conferences suited to your field and schedule; choose a local one for attendance in Year 2 and draft an Abstract for a conference paper (preferably with ideas/materials/ writing drawn from a seminar paper).  Even if abstract is not accepted, you can attend the conference without the pressure of presenting.
  • Attend at least one conference to familiarize yourself with procedure, network with other grad students and scholars in your field, AND/OR present a paper.


  • Take 2 courses, teach 2 courses.
  • Visit advisor in person at least once during the semester.


  • Begin revising one of your seminar papers/independent study projects/creative pieces for submission to a journal; research the journals most suited to placement of your piece.
  • Begin thinking about fields and texts for comprehensive examinations.
  • Choose an advisor to supervise you through the doctoral examination process.
  • Visit assigned 1st-year advisor in person at least once during the semester (at least to formally request doctoral exam supervision OR to notify that you are changing advisors).
  • Summer teaching, if eligible.
  • Continue revising paper/creative writing for submission to a journal.
  • Begin reading for comprehensive exams.
  • Attend one conference and present a paper. Apply for one-time funding for out-of-state travel  from Graduate Studies .
  • Teach 2 courses; take 997 (exam prep).
  • Finalize comps list by end of September; begin drafting rationales.
  • Circulate the draft of your article/creative piece to your advisor, other faculty in the field, and/or advanced grad students in the field for suggestions.
  • Revise article/creative piece with feedback from readers.
  • Teach 2 courses; take 997 or 999 (dissertation hours). Enroll in 999 if you plan to take your comps this semester, even if you don’t take them until the last day of classes.
  • Take comps sometime between January and May.
  • Summer teaching, if available.
  • Submit article/creative work for publication.
  • Continuous enrollment after completing doctoral exam (full policy on p. 20)
  • Research deadlines for grant applications—note deadlines come early in the year.
  • Attend one conference and present a paper.
  • Teach 2 courses, take 999.
  • Compose dissertation proposal by November.
  • Schedule Review of Dissertation Proposal (RDP—formerly DPR).
  • Apply for at least one grant or fellowship, such as a departmental-level GRAship or dissertation fellowship. (Winning a full-year, non-teaching fellowship can cut down your years-to-degree to 5 ½, or even 5 years.)
  • Conduct research for and draft at least 1 dissertation chapter.
  • Conduct research and complete a draft of at least 1 dissertation chapter.
  • Revise & resubmit journal article, if necessary.
  • Attend 1st round of job market meetings with Job Placement Advisor (JPA) to start drafting materials and thinking about the process.
  • Research and complete a draft of at least 1 dissertation chapter, if teaching (1-2 chapters if not).
  • Visit dissertation chair  and  committee members in person at least once during the semester.
  • Research and complete a draft of at least 1 dissertation chapter (1-2 chapters if not teaching).
  • Apply for a departmental grant or fellowship, or, if already held, try applying for one from outside the department, such as those offered by KU’s Hall Center for the Humanities or the Office of Graduate Studies. For  a monthly list of funding opportunities , visit the Graduate Studies website.
  • Research and complete a draft of at least 1 dissertation chapter.
  • Attend job market meetings with JPA in earnest.
  • Apply for external grants, research fellowships, postdoctoral positions with fall deadlines (previous fellowship applications, your dissertation proposal, and subsequent writing should provide a frame so that much of the application can be filled out with the “cut & paste” function).
  • Research and complete a draft of at least 1 dissertation chapter (1-2 if not teaching).
  • Visit dissertation chair and committee members in person at least once during the semester.
  • Polish dissertation chapters.
  • Apply for grants and fellowships with spring deadlines.
  • Defend dissertation.

Creative Writing Faculty

Darren Canady

  • Associate Professor

Megan Kaminski

  • Professor of English & Environmental Studies

Laura Moriarty

  • Assistant Professor

Graduate Student Handbook

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what is creative writing studies

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book: Establishing Creative Writing Studies as an Academic Discipline

Establishing Creative Writing Studies as an Academic Discipline

  • Dianne Donnelly
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  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Multilingual Matters
  • Copyright year: 2011
  • Main content: 168
  • Published: November 23, 2011
  • ISBN: 9781847695918

Home › Study Tips › Creative Writing Resources For Secondary School Students

What Is Creative Writing? Is It Worth Studying?

  • Published October 31, 2022

An opened notebook with a handwriiten sentence on it.

Table of Contents

As loose as the definition of Creative Writing is, it’s not always easy to understand. Sure, writing a story is Creative Writing. What about poems or personal essays?

Also, how does Creative Writing even help one succeed in university and career life? We empower our Creative Writing summer school students to grasp the power of creative writing and how to use it.

How? By giving them access to personalised tutorials with expert Creative Writing tutors from prestigious universities such as the University of Oxford and Cambridge.

Creative Writing doesn’t have to be confusing or intimidating. In this article, we’ll take you through a simple explanation of what Creative Writing is and why it’s helpful and relevant.

What is Creative Writing? 

The simplest description of Creative Writing is what it’s not: it doesn’t revolve around facts like technical writing.

Technical Writing vs Creative Writing

You encounter technical writing in your daily life. You’ll find it in newspapers, journal articles, and textbooks. Do you notice how the presentation of accurate information is necessary in each of these mediums? 

Because the goal of technical writing is to explain or relay information as it is .  

But in creative writing, such is not the case. The primary goal of Creative Writing is not to present complex information for the sake of educating the audience. 

Instead, the goal is to express yourself. Should you want to share information via Creative Writing, the objective becomes persuading your readers to think about it as you do.

Hence, if you contrast Technical Writing and Creative Writing within this context,

  • Technical Writing: share information without biases
  • Creative Writing: self-expression of how one feels or thinks about said information.

If reducing personal opinion in Technical Writing is virtuous, in creative writing, it is criminal .

Self-Expression in Creative Writing

One must express oneself in Creative Writing to entertain, captivate, or persuade readers. Since Creative Writing involves one’s imagination and self-expression, it’s common for Creative Writers to say that they “poured a part of themselves” into their work. 

What are the different ways you can express yourself in Creative Writing?

Types of Creative Writing: 2 Major Types

The two major umbrellas of Creative Writing are Creative Nonfiction and Creative Fiction.

1. Creative Nonfiction

“Nonfiction” means writing based on actual events, persons, and experiences. Some forms of creative nonfiction include:

  • Personal Essay – here, the writer shares their personal thoughts, beliefs, or experiences.
  • Memoir – captures the writer’s memories and experiences of a life-changing past event.
  • Narrative Nonfiction – a factual event written in a story format.

2. Creative Fiction

The bulk of Creative Writing literature is found under the Creative Fiction category, such as:

  • Short Story – shorter than a novel, containing only a few scenes and characters.
  • Novel – a full-blown plot line with multiple scenes, characters, and subplots.
  • Poem – uses specific rhythm and style to express ideas or feelings
  • Play – contains dialogue and stage directions for theatre performances.
  • Screenplay – script to be used for film production (e.g. movies, video games.)

In short, Creative Fiction involves stories . Do you want more specific examples of Creative Writing? Then, you may want to read this article called “Creative Writing Examples.”

Why Is It Important to Learn Creative Writing? 

It’s essential to learn Creative Writing because of the following reasons:

1. Creative Writing is a valuable skill in school and work

As a student, you know well why Creative Writing is important. You submit written work in various situations, such as writing essays for assignments and exams. Or when you have to write a Personal Statement to apply for University. 

In these situations, your chances of getting higher grades depend on your ability to write creatively. (Even your chances of getting accepted into a top ranked creative writing university of your dreams!)

What about when you graduate? Do you use Creative Writing in your career? Convincing a recruiter to hire you via cover letters is an example of creative writing.

Once you’re hired, you’ll find that you need to write something up. It depends on your line of work and how often and complex your writing should be.

But mundane tasks such as writing an email response, coming up with a newsletter, or making a PowerPoint presentation involve creative writing.

So when you’ve practised your Creative Writing skills, you’ll find these tasks manageable. Even enjoyable! If you want to study creative writing at university, we put together what a-levels you need for creative writing .

2. Creative Writing enhances several essential skills.

Do you know that writing is thinking? At least that’s what the American Historian and two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, David McCullough said.

Many people find Creative Writing challenging because it requires a combination of the following skills:

  • Observation
  • Critical thinking and analysis
  • Reasoning skills
  • Communication

Many of these skills make you a valuable employee in many industries. In fact, Forbes reports that:

  • Critical Thinking
  • and Emotional Intelligence

are three of the Top 10 most in-demand skills for the next decade. That’s why Creative Writing is a valuable endeavour and if you take it at university there are some great creative writing degree career prospects .

3. Creative Writing Is Therapeutic 

Do you know that Creative Writing has a significant beneficial effect on your mental and emotional health? 

A 2021 study in the Counselling & Psychotherapy Research reports that Creative Writing brought significant health benefits to nine people who worked in creative industries. Writing helped them in their cognitive processing of emotional difficulty. 

Result? Improved mood and mental well-being. 

A plethora of studies over the decades found the same results. Expressing yourself via creative writing, especially by writing in your daily journal, is beneficial for your mental and emotional health. 

4. You may want to work in a Creative Writing-related Career

Creative employment in the UK grows 2x faster than the rest of the economy. In fact, did you know that jobs in the creative industry grew by 30.6% from 2011 to 2018? 

Compare that to the average UK growth of 10.1% during the same period, and you can see the potential. 

How about in the US? The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 4% increase in employment for authors and writers from 2021 to 2031. Resulting in about 15,200 job openings yearly over the next 10 years.

The median yearly salary? It was at $69,510 as of May 2021. 

So if you’re considering a Creative Writing career, now would be a great time to do so!

How To Be A Creative Writer? 

You want to be a Creative Writer but don’t know where to start. Don’t worry! The best way to start is to learn from Creative Writing experts .

That’s why we ensure our Creative Writing summer school students have access to 1:1 personalised tutorials with expert Creative Writing tutors. 

Our Creative Writing tutors come from world-renowned universities such as the University of Cambridge and Oxford. So you’re in excellent hands!

Here you’ll learn creative writing tips and techniques , such as character creation and plot mapping. But the best part is, you’ll come out of the course having experienced what a Creative Writer is like!

Because by then, you’ll have a Written Portfolio to show for your efforts. Which you presented to your tutor and peers for receiving constructive feedback.

Another surefire way to start becoming a Creative Writer is by practising. Check out this article called “ Creative Writing Exercises .” You’ll begin building a writing routine if you practice these exercises daily. 

And trust us, every great writer has a solid writing routine!

Creative Writing is a form of self-expression that allows you to use your imagination and creativity. It can be in the form of personal essays, short stories, or poems. It is often used as an outlet for emotions and experiences. Start with creative writing by reading through creative writing examples to help get you in the mood. Then, just let the words flow daily, and you’re on the road to becoming an excellent Creative Writer!

Related Content

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what is creative writing studies

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what is creative writing studies

The Creative Writing and Literature Major is open to ALL LSA students.

Creative Writing and Literature Majors write fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction under the close guidance of faculty mentors, and may workshop their writing with other student writers in small writing seminars. Majors also study the art of writing through the study of literature. Majors specialize in fiction, poetry, or nonfiction early in their studies.

Creative Writing graduates pursue successful careers as writers, editors, educators, advertising professionals, and many other writing related-fields.  Every year our graduates are admitted to competitive graduate school programs in the fine arts, education, law, business, public policy, social work, and other courses of professional study that demand proficient writing skills and creative approaches to problem solving.

RC Creative Writing students have demonstrated unparalled success in the esteemed U of M Hopwood Awards , winning over 100 awards since the 1994-95 school year.

Students meet with the creative writing major advisor when declaring, making course substitutions, discussing transfer/study abroad credit evaluations, internships, preparing major release forms, and information on graduate school study and career paths. 

Although students may pursue study in multiple genres, most specialize in a single genre:

Fiction / Creative Nonfiction

Digital Storytelling

Advising appointments can be made here or by calling RC Academic Services at 763-0032.

Minimum Credits: 28

The major is structured into four genre tracks. In addition to the Fiction / Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, and Digital Storytelling tracks, students may elect a multi-genre track in consultation with their principal writing instructors and the major advisor.

Each track consists of:

Four elective creative writing courses

Five elective upper level literature courses

Fiction / Creative Nonfiction Track

Students complete a minimum of four creative writing courses, at least three of which must be at the 300 level or above and at least three of which must be taken in the RC. A usual track is an introductory course (Narration) and three upper-level courses. Students may count one non-RC creative writing course towards the writing requirement.

Creative Writing Courses: Students may elect any combination of seminars and tutorials from the following:

RCHUMS 220 Narration: Intro to Fiction Writing

RCHUMS 325, 326, 425, 426 Tutorials: Permission of instructor required

RCHUMS 320 Narration: Advanced Fiction Writing

RCHUMS 334 (Section 005) Memoir: Writing from Within

Other departmental offerings listed under RCHUMS 334 or RCCORE 334. Details here.

Literature Electives: Students complete five literature courses, at the 300-level or above. One literature course must focus on either ancient literature or medieval literature (pre-1600). The ancient / medieval requirement may focus on non-Western or Western literature, but must pre-date Shakespeare if a Western literature course is elected. English 367 – Shakespeare’s Plays does not fulfill this requirement, although the course can count towards the literature requirement.

Students are encouraged to take literature courses in the RC Arts and Ideas Major, the  Department of English  or the  Comparative Literature Program . Students majoring in a second language may count one upper-level literature course in that language, or one upper-level literature course completed during a full semester studying abroad in a non-English speaking country. Upper-level literature courses taken abroad also may be counted. All literature courses counted toward the Creative Writing and Literature Major must be at least three (3) credits.

Courses that have been used to meet the requirement in the past include:

RCHUMS 354 Race and Identity in Music

RCHUMS 344 Reason and Passion in the 18th Century

RCHUMS 342 Representing the Holocaust in Literature, Film and the Visual Arts

Other RCHUMS courses listed in the Arts and Ideas in the Humanities major

English 350 Literature in English to 1660 (for ancient/medieval requirement)

English 328 Writing and the Environment

English 379 Literature in Afro-American Culture

Other English Department courses with a literature focus

CLCIV 385 Greek Mythology (for ancient/medieval requirement)  

Asian 314 Strange Ways: Literature of the Supernatural in Pre-modern Japan and China

MEMS 386 Medieval Literature, History and Culture 

Poetry Track

Students complete a minimum of four creative writing courses, at least three of which must be at the 300 level or above and at least three of which must be taken in the RC. A usual track is an introductory course (Writing Poetry) and three upper-level courses. Students may count one non-RC creative writing course towards the writing requirement.

RCHUMS 221 Writing Poetry

RCHUMS 321 Advanced Poetry Writing

RCHUMS 334 Workshop with Incarcerated Poets and Artists

Literature courses listed above under Fiction / Creative Nonfiction

English 340 Studies in Poetry

English 440 Modern Poetry

English 442 Studies in Poetry

Digital Storytelling Track

The digital storytelling track studies the ways story interacts with technology and the effect of digital media on writing and the creative process. Students electing this track pair writing practice with the study of the theory, ethics, and history of digital media.

Creative Writing Courses: At least 4 courses required over two categories 

Creative Writing Courses: choose a minimum of two Residential College creative writing courses that focus on writing fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry. Only one course in a student’s major plan should be at the 200-level:

Introductory Courses (may elect 1 to count towards major):

Upper-level Courses:

RCHUMS 320 Advanced Narration 

RCHUMS 321 Advanced Poetry Writing 

RCHUMS 325, 326, 425, 426 Creative Writing Tutorials 

Digital Writing / Skills Courses: choose a minimum of two digital storytelling / writing courses at the 300-level or above that focus on digital media and/or electronic literature writing and practice. Courses that have been used to meet the requirement in the past include:

RCCORE 334 (Section 004) Digital Storytelling

English 420 Tech and the Humanities / Electronic Literature

RCSCI 360 (Section 001) Documentary Photography

RCHUMS 325, 326, 425, 426 Creative Writing Tutorials with a focus on writing for, and/or creating, electronic literature or digital media content (permission of instructor required)

Digital Studies Requirement: At least 2 courses required 

Choose a minimum of two digital studies theory courses at the 300-level or above that focus on the theory of digital culture and/or the digital humanities. Courses that have been used to meet the requirement in the past include:

AmCult 358 Topics in Digital Studies

AmCult 360 Radical Digital Media

FTVM 368 Topics in Digital Media Studies

English 405 Theories of Writing

Literature Requirement: At least 3 courses required 

Literature courses must be taken at the 300-level or above. Literature courses should not focus on digital studies but should offer complementary skills and additional context in the art and craft of literature. One course must focus on ancient/medieval literature. For more information on specific literature requirements, please see the Literature section listed under Fiction / Creative Nonfiction.

A student deemed eligible to attempt Honors typically completes the following process:

A student whose overall academic record meets the eligibility criteria for honors and whose creative work models originality and the promise of mastery in their chosen genre may apply for an honors thesis. Honors theses are typically 75-100 pages of polished fiction or creative nonfiction, or a collection of 25 or more poems. The student and their faculty advisor will determine the exact length and content of the final thesis. 

To be eligible to apply for honors, a student must demonstrate exceptional skill in the art and craft of prose, poetry, or creative nonfiction. The student must have completed a minimum of two Residential College creative writing classes, although honors students typically complete three or more by the start of their thesis sequence. The student also must hold a GPA of at least 3.4 overall. 

Students who meet the above criteria are eligible to apply for the honors thesis project in the winter term of their junior year, typically by late March. To apply, students shall submit:

A writing sample (10 pages of prose or 5 poems) that represents the student’s best, most polished work.

A brief statement (1-2 pages) describing the honors project. Applicants should also include the name of a faculty member they wish to request as their thesis advisor.

Questions about the submittal process can be directed to the creative writing major advisor  here

The Honors Committee, consisting of faculty in the Creative Writing program, will judge the student’s work on its quality, originality, and promise of mastery in their chosen genre. The Committee reviews all honors applications after the submission deadline. Students are notified of the Committee’s decision in late March or early April. If the planned project is accepted for honors, the Committee will assign a faculty thesis advisor to the student. 

Honors Theses require a two-semester commitment. Students enroll in RCCORE 490 for the fall term and RCHUMS 426 for the winter term. A passing grade in RCCORE 490 earns a Y grade, indicating that the thesis work will continue into the next semester. At the end of the second term, the Y grade converts to the grade earned in RCHUMS 426. Exceptions to the two-semester requirement are rare but may be discussed with the thesis advisor.

When the honors thesis project is complete (typically the last week of March or the first week of April of the senior year), the student’s honors thesis advisor and one other member of the Residential College’s Creative Writing faculty will determine if the project qualifies for honors and (if so) what level of honors the student receives. Honors thesis students also participate in a public reading with fellow thesis students at the end of the winter term (typically the second week of April).

To download the honors information, click here.

Creative Writing faculty

Laura Kasischke Poetry; Fiction

Christopher Matthews Fiction; Poetry

Sarah Messer Poetry; Creative Nonfiction; Prison Creative Arts Program

Susan Rosegrant Creative Nonfiction; Journalism; Fiction

Laura Thomas Fiction; Creative Nonfiction

A. Van Jordan Poetry, Film Studies

Aisha Sloan Creative Nonfiction, Digital Storytelling

Open to All

You don’t need to be a dedicated major to participate in workshops, tutorials, and classes taught by Creative Writing faculty, which are open to enrollment from all students. If even only for a semester, you wish to explore your interest in writing, consider taking a RC Creative Writing course !

For RC students, creative writing courses fulfill the RC Arts Practicum requirement. For RC and LSA students, RCHUMS 220, RCHUMS 221, and RCHUMS 325 satisfy Creative Expression distribution.

You can participate in the RC Review , our annual student-run journal featuring student poetry, fiction, and visual art. RC students can get a credit for participating in the RC Review.

Or consider joining the RC Creative Writing Forum , which like RC Review, offers RC students a credit, but is open to all for participation.

RC Writers website

Check out the  RC Writers Website,  for the Residential College writing community.

Recent Events

Paths to publication: a conversation with allison epstein and jon michael darga.

Link to the video recording here:

Love & Zombies & Literature: What makes Genre Writing Literary?

Link to the recording of the webinar on our youtube page:

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Creative Writing

About this program.

Have you longed to explore your creative potential?

Embrace the unknown and start your journey here. As part of one of the largest Creative Writing programs in Canada, you can learn the essentials of excellent writing and put them into practice. Whether you aspire to write a novel or short story, explore poetry, pen a script or screenplay, or explore other writing styles, we have the courses you need to improve your skills.

Class sizes and writers workshops are kept small to ensure you receive the individual attention you need to help your writing thrive, whether you take your class in-class or online. 

Courses in the genres listed below can be applied to the Certificate in Creative Writing

  • Creative Non-Fiction
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  • Literary Fiction
  • Multi-genre
  • Poetry and Songwriting
  • Popular Fiction
  • Stage and Screenwriting
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Greater Good Science Center • Magazine • In Action • In Education

How Creative Writing Can Increase Students’ Resilience

Many of my seventh-grade students do not arrive at school ready to learn. Their families often face financial hardship and live in cramped quarters, which makes it difficult to focus on homework. The responsibility for cooking and taking care of younger siblings while parents work often falls on these twelve year olds’ small shoulders. Domestic violence and abuse are also not uncommon.

To help traumatized students overcome their personal and academic challenges, one of our first jobs as teachers is to build a sense of community. We need to communicate that we care and that we welcome them into the classroom just as they are. One of the best ways I’ve found to connect with my students, while also nurturing their reading and writing skills, is through creative writing.

For the past three years, I’ve invited students in my English Language Development (ELD) classes to observe their thoughts, sit with their emotions, and offer themselves and each other compassion through writing and sharing about their struggles. Creating a safe, respectful environment in which students’ stories matter invites the disengaged, the hopeless, and the numb to open up. Students realize that nobody is perfect and nobody’s life is perfect. In this kind of classroom community, they can take the necessary risks in order to learn, and they become more resilient when they stumble.

Fostering a growth mindset

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One of the ways students can boost their academic performance and develop resilience is by building a growth mindset. Carol Dweck, Stanford University professor of psychology and author of the book Mindset , explains that people with a growth mindset focus on learning from mistakes and welcoming challenges rather than thinking they’re doomed to be dumb or unskillful. A growth mindset goes hand in hand with self-compassion: recognizing that everyone struggles and treating ourselves with kindness when we trip up.

One exercise I find very useful is to have students write a story about a time when they persevered when faced with a challenge—in class, sports, or a relationship. Some of the themes students explore include finally solving math problems, learning how to defend themselves, or having difficult conversations with parents.

I primed the pump by telling my students about something I struggled with—feeling left behind in staff meetings as my colleagues clicked their way through various computer applications. I confided that PowerPoint and Google Slides—tools (one might assume) that any teacher worth a paperweight has mastered—still eluded me. By admitting my deficiency to my students, asking for their help, and choosing to see the opportunity to remedy it every day in the classroom, I aimed to level the playing field with them. They may have been reading three or four grade levels behind, but they could slap a PowerPoint presentation together in their sleep.

For students, sharing their own stories of bravery, resilience, and determination brings these qualities to the forefront of their minds and helps solidify the belief that underlies a growth mindset: I can improve and grow . We know from research in neuroplasticity that when students take baby steps to achieve a goal and take pride in their accomplishments, they change their brains, growing new neural networks and fortifying existing ones. Neurons in the brain release the feel-good chemical dopamine, which plays a major role in motivating behavior toward rewards.

After writing about a few different personal topics, students choose one they want to publish on the bulletin boards at the back of the classroom. They learn to include the juicy details of their stories (who, what, when, where, why, and how), and they get help from their peers, who ask follow-up questions to prompt them to include more information. This peer editing builds their resilience in more ways than one—they make connections with each other by learning about each other’s lives, and they feel empowered by lending a hand.

In my experience, students are motivated to do this assignment because it helps them feel that their personal stories and emotions truly matter, despite how their other academics are going. One student named Alejandro chose to reflect on basketball and the persistence and time it took him to learn:

Hoops By Alejandro Gonzalez Being good takes time. One time my sister took me to a park and I saw people playing basketball. I noticed how good they were and decided I wanted to be like them. Still I told my sister that basketball looked hard and that I thought I couldn’t do it. She said,“You could do it if you tried. You’ll get the hang of it.” My dad bought me a backboard and hoop to play with. I was really happy, but the ball wasn’t making it in. Every time I got home from school, I would go straight to the backyard to play. I did that almost every day until little by little I was getting the hang of it. I also played with my friends. Every day after lunch we would meet at the basketball court to have a game. … I learned that you need to be patient and to practice a lot to get the hang of things. With a little bit of practice, patience, and hard work, anything is possible.

Originally, Alejandro wasn’t sure why he was in school and often lacked the motivation to learn. But writing about something he was passionate about and recalling the steps that led to his success reminded him of the determination and perseverance he had demonstrated in the past, nurturing a positive view of himself. It gave him a renewed sense of investment in learning English and eventually helped him succeed in his ELD class, as well.

Maintaining a hopeful outlook

Another way to build resilience in the face of external challenges is to shore up our inner reserves of hope —and I’ve found that poetry can serve as inspiration for this.

For the writing portion of the lesson, I invite students to “get inside” poems by replicating the underlying structure and trying their hand at writing their own verses. I create poem templates, where students fill in relevant blanks with their own ideas. 

One poem I like to share is “So Much Happiness” by Naomi Shihab Nye. Its lines “Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house / and now live over a quarry of noise and dust / cannot make you unhappy” remind us that, despite the unpleasant events that occur in our lives, it’s our choice whether to allow them to interfere with our happiness. The speaker, who “love[s] even the floor which needs to be swept, the soiled linens, and scratched records,” has a persistently sunny outlook.

It’s unrealistic for students who hear gunshots at night to be bubbling over with happiness the next morning. Still, the routine of the school day and the sense of community—jokes with friends, a shared bag of hot chips for breakfast, and a creative outlet—do bolster these kids. They have an unmistakable drive to keep going, a life force that may even burn brighter because they take nothing for granted—not even the breath in their bodies, life itself. 

Itzayana was one of those students who, due to the adversity in her life, seemed too old for her years. She rarely smiled and started the school year with a defiant approach to me and school in general, cursing frequently in the classroom. Itzayana’s version of “So Much Happiness” hinted at some of the challenges I had suspected she had in her home life:

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness. Even the fact that you once heard your family laughing and now hear them yelling at each other cannot make you unhappy. Everything has a life of its own, it too could wake up filled with possibilities of tamales and horchata and love even scrubbing the floor, washing dishes, and cleaning your room. Since there is no place large enough to contain so much happiness, help people in need, help your family, and take care of yourself.   —Itzayana C.

Her ending lines, “Since there is no place large enough to contain so much happiness, / help people in need, help your family, and take care of yourself,” showed her growing awareness of the need for self-care as she continued to support her family and others around her. This is a clear sign of her developing resilience.

Poetry is packed with emotion, and writing their own poems allows students to grapple with their own often-turbulent inner lives. One student commented on the process, saying, “By writing poems, I’ve learned to be calm and patient, especially when I get mad about something dumb.” Another student showed pride in having her writing published; she reflected, “I feel good because other kids can use it for calming down when they’re angry.”

To ease students into the creative process, sometimes we also write poems together as a class. We brainstorm lines to include, inviting the silly as well as the poignant and creating something that represents our community.

Practicing kindness

Besides offering my students new ways of thinking about themselves, I also invite them to take kind actions toward themselves and others.

In the music video for “Give a Little Love” by Noah and the Whale, one young African American boy—who witnesses bullying at school and neglect in his neighborhood —decides to take positive action and whitewash a wall of graffiti. Throughout the video, people witness others’ random acts of kindness, and then go on to do their own bit.

“My love is my whole being / And I’ve shared what I could,” the lyrics say—a reminder that our actions speak louder than our words and do have an incredible impact. The final refrain in the song—“Well if you are (what you love) / And you do (what you love) /...What you share with the world is what it keeps of you”—urges the students to contribute in a positive way to the classroom, the school campus, and their larger community.

After watching the video, I ask students to reflect upon what kind of community they would like to be part of and what makes them feel safe at school. They write their answers—for example, not being laughed at by their peers and being listened to—on Post-it notes. These notes are used to create classroom rules. This activity sends a message early on that we are co-creating our communal experience together. Students also write their own versions of the lyrics, reflecting on different things you can give and receive—like kindness, peace, love, and ice cream.

Reaping the benefits

To see how creative writing impacts students, I invite them to rate their resilience through a self-compassion survey at the start of the school year and again in the spring. Last year, two-thirds of students surveyed increased in self-compassion; Alejandro grew his self-compassion by 20 percent. The program seems to work at developing their reading and writing skills, as well: At the middle of the school year, 40 percent of my students moved up to the next level of ELD, compared to 20 percent the previous year. 

As a teacher, my goal is to meet students where they’re at and learn about their whole lives. Through creative writing activities, we create a community of compassionate and expressive learners who bear witness to the impact of trauma in each others’ experiences and together build resilience.

As a symbol of community and strength, I had a poster in my classroom of a boat at sea with hundreds of refugees standing shoulder to shoulder looking skyward. It’s a hauntingly beautiful image of our ability to risk it all for a better life, as many of my ELD students do. Recognizing our common humanity and being able to share about our struggles not only leads to some beautiful writing, but also some brave hearts.

About the Author

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Laura Bean, M.F.A. , executive director of Mindful Literacy, consults with school communities to implement mindfulness and creative writing programs. She has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and presented a mindful writing workshop at Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference in San Diego in 2016.

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Home » 2023 Conference

8th Annual Creative Writing Studies Conference

At the nexus: cross-disciplinary connections in creative writing #cwsc23, saturday, october 21 through sunday, october 22, 2023.

Online, with optional meetup at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia, USA

No registration needed for members; Zoom links will be shared with member and presenter emails the week of the conference.

Note: Due to the number of requests for remote participation, we have decided to hold this conference primarily on Zoom. However, we will hold an in-person roundtable session, which all are invited to attend, at Mary M. Henkel Hall at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia, on Sunday morning, October 22 at 10 am. This live session will be broadcast over Zoom for those participating fully remotely.

We welcome those who would still like to travel to Shenandoah University for the weekend to participate in the Sunday roundtable, share meals, network, and enjoy collegial camaraderie with other members. Consider it a Creative Writing Studies Retreat with a day of online programming on Saturday that you can attend either alongside colleagues in Henkel Hall or from your hotel room. Though we will not have official hotel blocks, we recommend staying in either Hampton Inn Winchester-University/Mall Area (across from campus) or The George Washington: A Wyndham Grand Hotel (in downtown Winchester). Staying in one of these two hotels will help us with ridesharing as needed.

Visit  Membership – Creative Writing Studies Organization to renew or become a member. The conference itself is free, but all presenters and attendees must have active memberships in the CWSO.

If you intend to travel to Winchester, VA for the weekend, please fill out this form  so we can connect!

At the Nexus: Cross-Disciplinary Connections in Creative Writing

Creative Writing Studies lives in community with other fields. Grown out of writing studies, CWS has long made strides drawing on frameworks from literary studies, rhetoric and composition, craft studies, and creativity studies. In our past years’ conferences we have seen creative writing explored in tandem with journalism, cognitive psychology, education, critical theory, and trauma-informed care, and more. Given the ever-increasing interest in the field, however, we now find ourselves asking after the other cross-disciplinary connections that might enrich our work, as well as how our work might enrich these other disciplines from which we draw.

To that end, this year we are calling for papers and presentations that put Creative Writing Studies into conversation with subjects, practices, and disciplines often not associated with our field. CWS has historically located itself at the intersection of multiple branches of knowledge creation, but rather than think about the field’s precarious position or the ways it has often existed in tension with other fields, we might instead focus in on its cross-, multi-, inter-, poly- and trans-disciplinary potentials.

In pursuing these connections, we resist the disciplinary siloing that has resulted from the institutional structures of academia. This is especially important during a time of political tension when access to knowledge as well as the production and reception of creative writing have become issues of contention in the public sphere. We as a field must be continually engaged in the project of intellectual renewal by conversing within and beyond our disciplinary boundaries.


Saturday, october 21, welcome // 8:15-8:30 am edt // room a.

A short welcome from CWSO Chair Graeme Harper.

PROFESSIONALIZATION PANEL // Session 1, Room A // 8:30 – 9:30 am

The Odyssey: Defining Mentorship for Creative Writing Studies, *Brent House

This presentation attempts to craft a mentoring pedagogy for creative writing from the knowledge gained from years of mentoring practices in business, sciences, and education, among other disciplines. 

From the Derived to the Deviant: A Translation-Based Creative Writing Pedagogy, Xia Fang

This paper tries to present a solidly grounded and practice-based creative pedagogy that fully utilizes the practise of translation by drawing on two opposing elements of translation: derivation and deviation. I first investigated the relationship between translation and creative writing by examining various forms of deviance in translation and explaining their creative potential. Then, using Bakhtin’s self and otherness and Huizinga’s play, I investigate the fundamental relationship between deviance and self-expression. Lastly, I will propose a translation-based creative pedagogy while examining works from my poetry project that incorporated the practice of translation.

The Meow Wolf Model for the Marketable Creative, Michael Sheehan

Inspired by Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return , an immersive art installation that is also “a multidimensional mystery house,” I redesigned a creative writing course to include an interdisciplinary collaboration with a sculpture class. By an analysis of this course design, this paper explores how a “postdisciplinary,” project-based approach to creative writing offers expansive opportunities for student creative accomplishment and professional preparation.

NARRATIVE MEDICINE PANEL // Session 1, Room B // 8:30 – 9:30 am

Creative Writing in the Realm of Neuropsychology: Exploring Narrative Before and After Exposure Therapy in Psychogenic Non-epileptic Events, *Sam Meekings

This paper will discuss the results of my recent collaborative research with a neuropsychologist on the links between creative writing techniques and the practices of exposure therapy. It will explore how the tools of creative writing might help shed light on the processes of self-construction and self-fictionalizing enacted in response to trauma, and how an understanding of such narrative techniques might therefore be useful for diagnosis and treatment by medical professionals working with PNEE patients.

Online Expressive Writing as an Approach to Enhance Chinese University English Learners’ Well-Being, Xiaojuan Gao

Writing expressively has proved beneficial to people’s well-being in many previous studies, yet little such research has been conducted in the area of second/foreign language writing. The present study tries to fill the gap by investigating the effect of expressive writing in English as a Foreign Language on Chinese language learners’ psychological well-being. The results showed that students had increased positive emotions, better cognitive framing of their unpleasant experience, enhanced appreciation towards the current life and a more positive attitude towards their EFL writing. 

In Search of Alternative Story: An Analysis of “No Name Woman” Based on the Theory of Narrative Therapy, Jie Liu

This paper aims to discuss how narrative therapy reconstructs one’s self, which offers a new interpretive frame for the genre personal essay. Michael White’s theory stresses replacing the problematic dominant story with a preferred alternative story and indicates that individuals subject to dominant knowledges can rely on alternative knowledges to construct a new narrative. Based on his theory, the paper will analyze Maxine Hong Kingston’s well-known essay “No Name Woman” and reveal that though without successfully completing a real alternative story, Kingston attempts to resist her mother’s thin description and reconstructs the forgotten aunt’s life with a unique outcome.

TWINE WORKSHOP // Session 2, Room A // 9:45 – 10:45 am

Link and Shift to Open up Pedagogical Opportunities through an Interactive Digital Tool: Using Twine in the Creative Writing Classroom, Anna Lee-Popham

Many scholars, educators, and practitioners emphasize the opportunities that arise when introducing digital technologies into the creative writing classroom. This workshop introduces participants to Twine, an interactive storytelling tool through which to tell non-linear and choice based stories, as a pedagogical tool for the creative writing classroom. From a feminist perspective, Twine is particularly interesting as it is accessible, free to use, and, by having a low learning curve (Evans), “challenges mainstream standards by subverting the celebration of difficulty, in both production and play” (Harvey).

NARRATIVE MEDICINE WORKSHOP // Session 2, Room B // 9:45 – 10:45 am

Narrative Medicine Creative Writing Prompts and Positionality Art in Teaching, *Mary Leoson, Finnian Burnett, Jeffery Buckner-Rodas

Participants for this session will write in response to narrative medicine-based prompts and create positionality art (art that helps participants examine how they see the world). As trained Narrative Medicine Facilitators, Dr. Leoson, Dr. Burnett, and Dr. Buckner-Rodas will share how they have integrated writing prompts and positionality art projects in various ways in English courses at the high school and college levels to foster empathy for the self and others. 

DISCIPLINARITY PANEL // Session 3, Room A // 11 am – noon

You Can’t Make a Cake With a Hammer: Disciplinary Awareness in Creative Writing Studies, *Graeme Harper

The session will consider what Creative Writing Studies is, in relation to other disciplines, and explore what Creative Writing Studies is today. Looking both nationally and internationally, it will suggest directions the field is heading, and why, and how and to what results.

(Re)Crafting Writing, Tim Mayers

Creative Writing Studies can–and should–engage in cross-disciplinary efforts to expand students’ and colleagues’ conceptual definitions of what writing is and how writing works in the world. This presentation will outline seven available definitions of writing and offer suggestions about how to use the definitions to spark discussion and debate among students and colleagues.

Rhetorical Genre Theory for Multi-Genre Creative Writing Classes, Khem Aryal

In this presentation, I will demonstrate how familiarizing students with rhetorical genre theory can not only better equip them to produce work within expected genre conventions but also empower them to manipulate those conventions to be more “creative.” This understanding can nurture their ability to channel their creativity more effectively, countering the inclination to resort to unrestricted expression typified by “doing whatever they want to do to be creative.”

PROCESS & PLAY PANEL // Session 3, Room B // 11 am – noon

Mental Health in Creative Writing: Centering Play and Confronting Fear, Leah Hedrick

Looking to the fields of psychology and sociology, this presentation will discuss transforming creative writing classrooms into spaces that prioritize mental-emotional wellbeing. I will present research data that highlights the impact of creative play on overall wellness. Then, we will turn our focus to workshop-related fear, panic, and anxiety. Leaning on the knowledge funds of cognitive behavioral therapists, I will summarize healthy and effective strategies for approaching scary things. As teachers, we can use the insights from these strategies to interrogate and adapt our workshop to be more anxiety-friendly.

Play and Practice for the Artist: A Course Plan, * Rachel Haley Himmelheber

This paper will explore the types of readings and assignments I will include in an upper-level undergraduate course called Play and Practice for the Artist that I will teach this spring. 

LUNCH BREAK // noon – 1 p.m.

Writing against power panel // session 4, room a // 1 – 2 pm.

Laugh Till You Change: A Feminist Rhetorical Analysis of Difficult People (2015-2017) and Broad City (2014-2019), Amalie Kwassman

Explore how the television shows Broad City (2014-2019) and Difficult People (2015-2019), both written by funny women, expose the patriarchal, ableist, and homophobic norms of our society, one laugh at a time.

Crip Queer Storytelling: An Intersectional Analysis, * Audrey T. Heffers

What is the current state of queer disabled representation? This presentation seeks to outline potential criteria for such representation to highlight the intersections of queer/disabled identity in fiction. The critical framework used here sits at the nexus of Creative Writing Studies, Disability Studies, and Queer Studies.

Imaginative Protest: Climate Crisis Activism through the Creation of Speculative Worlds, Scott Guild

Writers of speculative fiction often create narrative worlds with similar tensions as our contemporary world. In the case of recent eco-fiction novels–such as N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season or Lydia Millet’s A Children’s Bible –speculative worldbuilding acts as a form of protest in the face of the growing climate crisis.

RESEARCH PANEL // Session 4, Room B // 1 – 2 pm

Under or Away from the Umbrella?: Inviting a Discourse around Creative Rhetorics, Jon Udelson

This discussion will invite attendees to consider how a discourse around creative rhetorics—specifically rhetorics of ineffability, of the aesthetic, and of difference—might inform research study design, data gathering procedures, and orientations to both research goals and contexts of research.

Consider the Source: The Interview as a Research Tool in Creative Writing, *Kelly K. Ferguson

Whether interviewing strangers, your family, or a vampire, a few basic tips can go a long way. This skill, a staple of journalism, is rarely taught in the creative writing classroom, but people make the most interesting resources. This presentation will cover the fundamentals of the successful and ethical interview. To be covered: uses for human sourcing in creative writing; social anxiety; tips; ethical concerns for trauma victims. 

What Makes Someone “Good” at Creative Writing? What the Social Sciences are Teaching Me about Creative Writing and Why We Need More Empiricism in Creative Writing Studies, C. Connor Syrewicz

What makes someone “good” at creative writing? In the first half of this paper, I review some empirical research on expert creative writers and offer a few evidence-based hypotheses on what makes them “good” at creative writing. In the second half, I treat my experience of reviewing this research as a case study. Empirical research, I argue, has a lot to offer us as instructors and even as writers, so I conclude by outlining some of the obstacles that stand in the way of creative writing studies becoming more empirical, and by offering some potential ways of overcoming these obstacles.

CW ACROSS THE CURRICULUM PANEL // Session 5, Room A // 2:15 – 3:15 pm

Creative Writing Across the Curriculum: A Systematic Review, Justin Nicholes

This presentation synthesizes primary research studies (N = 130) on creative writing across disciplines from the last 20 years located through library and journal searches into “dialogue across differences of population, context, and in some cases, methodology or research paradigm” (Lorenc et al., 2011, p. 7). The result is a grounded theory of creative writing across the curriculum (CWAC) as meaningful, engaging, inclusive literacy practice.

A Creative Writing Approach in First Year Writing, Brendan Stephens

Who said freshman composition can’t be creative? While the pedagogy surrounding first year writing courses is treated as the exclusive domain of rhetoric and composition, creative writers offer a unique perspective to these required courses.

Tracing Creative Writing Methods as a Way to Track Literate Activity Practices (to Inspire Future Writing), Samantha Moe

A literate activity approach challenges the perception that creative writing is untraceable. Tracing our creative practices as writers, making note of our writing environments, and our writing tools can inform us about our patterns and habits. The research of literate activities, connected with repair and care-work, seeks to unveil creative writing methods. As poet and professor Donika Kelly writes: “I wish people would talk about their writing practices with more of that joy. I just know people love their own work, because why else would you do it?” (rescheduled to this session)

WRITER-SCIENTIST PANEL // Session 5, Room B // 2:15 – 3:15 pm

Writer Scientist or Scientist Writer? Teaching Creative Writing at STEM-Dominant Universities, * Jennifer Pullen, Alyse Bensel, and Sara Henning

Three panelists who teach at STEM-dominant colleges and universities will discuss opportunities for STEM students in the creative writing classroom as well as methods for designing courses, assignments, and curriculum that benefit creative writing programs and increase equitable student outcomes.

CRAFT & PEDAGOGY PANEL // Session 5, Room C // 2:15 – 3:15 pm

Seeing the Story: Techniques of Narrative Perspective in Written vs. Visual Media, Rachel Cochran

Creative Writing Studies can–and should–engage in cross-disciplinary efforts to expand students’ and colleagues’ conceptual definitions of what writing is and how writing works in the world. This paper will draw parallels between dynamic perspectives in visual media–such as film, games, visual art, and graphic design–and creative writing craft approaches to perspective. It will break down components such as framing, focus, transition/juxtaposition, tone, and temporality, engaging in close reading practices to explore the unique registers creators of media can access to achieve these various effects.

Sense and Sensitivity: Sensory Appeals in Storytelling, Rachael Hammond

This presentation considers how sensory appeals can contribute to meaningful storytelling. Specifically, I will discuss some sensory exercises that my fiction writing students have completed. Then I will share observations about how those experiences can foster a sense of classroom community and support students’ efforts to create vivid worlds filled with round, compelling characters. Ultimately, sensory appeals can provide writers with the ability to fulfill our most important obligation –to provide touchstones for human connection.

LOCATING CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP // Session 6, Room A // 3:30 – 4:30 pm

Locating Creative Writing, Eli Goldblatt

Where do we locate CW, among disciplinary or institutional terrains, to ensure that writers can connect with resources and audiences often occluded by the narrow slotting of MFA programs in English departments? After a brief introduction, this workshop will center on the ideas and experiences of the participants.

IMPROV WORKSHOP // Session 6, Room B // 3:30 – 4:30 pm

Improv-ing the Inclusive Classroom, Angela Sorby

This workshop, scaffolded by educational research and grounded in a collective, participatory experience, will explore how improv games might support, not just imaginative play, but also inclusive play. As we learn/play a series of improv games–Mind Meld, I Am a Tree, Kitty-cat Careers, and others–we will also engage in discussions about how each game might work (or not) in a consciously inclusive creative writing classroom setting.

CLOSING REMARKS & DISCUSSION // Room A // 4:35 – 5 pm

Facilitated by CWSO Chair Graeme Harper.

Sunday, October 22

Hybrid plenary session // room a // 10 – 11 am.

Join CWSO members online and in-person at Shenandoah University’s Mary M. Henkel Hall to discuss the state of the discipline and highlights from the conference.

Cassandra Adler ’24: On the Path to ‘Know Thyself’

May 10, 2024

Connections and Careers

August 2020

Joined the “Hamily”

Arrived on College Hill as a first-year student from Bushwood, Md.

ALEX Intern

As one of the first interns with Hamilton’s Advise, Learn, Experience (ALEX) coordinated advising network, collaborates with offices throughout campus to plan and execute programming and events; develops marketing materials to generate student interest.

“ Because I joined the semester before ALEX launched, I had the unique opportunity to be involved with the initial planning and organizing. It was interesting to help provide input into a new, developing program — to get in on the ground floor of something I knew would outlast my time here.”

Sophomore Year

August 2021.

Writing Center Tutor

Works with students in the organization and content of their essays; analyzes grammatical and aesthetic components of written academic work; organized campus-wide microfiction contest and Reading to Write events where tutors work with first-year students to help them prepare for college-level assignments and essay writing.

Spring 2022

Costume Shop Assistant

After taking a theatre class and one on playwriting, I work in the Kennedy Center for Theatre and the Studio Arts costume shop. My responsibilities include designating and cataloging costume pieces, as well as practicing skills in hand and machine sewing to create costumes for theatre productions.

“ At the Writing Center, it’s not just about the work — it’s about the community and how we all learn and work together. Getting to work with students on their papers has taught me so much, not just about writing, but about all types of communication. My fellow tutors are an amazing group of people, and I feel I really had the chance to grow in my position along with my peers.”

Junior Year

Alexander Hamilton Press Club Co-Founder

Along with my roommate Dana Goettler ’24, I co-founded a club for students interested in working with the College’s vintage letterpress. We host weekly meetings and activities, including the annual Valentine’s Day card-making event.

Spring 2023

Academic Year in Spain

Spent the semester in Hamilton’s program in Madrid, enjoying the opportunity to take day trips throughout the country.

“Like my dad, I’m a huge science fiction nerd. I didn’t know what to expect when I first started the internship, but it was a great behind-the-scenes learning experience. When I got my official badge for San Diego Comic Con — that was super exciting.”

Summer 2023-November 2023

Marketing Intern at Paramount

Worked with the Star Trek team to create and distribute executive summaries of events and activations. Assisted in creating and executing marketing campaigns, and monitored press responses to track effectiveness in the marketplace. Contributed to a cross-media experience aimed at exposing the franchise to a younger demographic. Helped manage crowd interactions at San Diego Comic Con Fandom Panel and presented to CBS executive leadership on strategies to appeal to Gen Z.

Senior Year

Elected to Phi Beta Kappa

The honor is a nice bookend to receiving the PBK Book Award after my first year at Hamilton.

Looking for a job in event planning.

“ I came to Hamilton undeclared with little idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I’ve learned so much here and met so many different people. My professors have shaped my intellectual curiosity and encouraged my organizational skills and work ethic. Through the jobs I’ve held, I’ve come to realize that my true passion lies in reaching out and connecting with people by creating experiences that they love.”

Know Thyself

Meet people taking Hamilton’s motto to heart as they discover and explore their passions in an effort to make valuable contributions on College Hill and beyond.

Cassandra Adler ’24: On the Path to ‘Know Thyself’ 

Lauren Reynolds ’02, Behind the News at ESPN 

Meet Eric Seeley ’26: “The Lighting Guy” 

We Do Not Object! 

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Help us provide an accessible education, offer innovative resources and programs, and foster intellectual exploration.

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First-Year Writing Showcase


Each semester, the First-Year Writing program invites program faculty to nominate student writers whose work shines for features like idea development, critical thinking, organization, voice, creativity, language use, and writing and research processes. A faculty panel reviewed the nominated works and selected thirteen pieces reflecting a variety of genres, including Narrative, Profile Writing, and Research Argument. This semester’s selections represent writers enrolled in ENGL 11100 College Writing 1; and ENGL 11200 College Writing 2. We hope you enjoy meeting these writers and listening to their voices and ideas through their written work!


Julianne Bordick “The Therapy of Art"  College Writing 1 - Dr. Jen Consilio

See Author's Piece >>

Maylani Castro “Tik Tik Boom: Inmates Waiting on Nothing but Their Thoughts” College Writing 1 - Prof. Steve Blythe

 Sofia Haro "A path to relearning" College Writing 1 - Dr. Jen Consilio

Miracle Huckabee "ChatGPT Will Change the Platform of +action” College Writing 2 - Dr. Tom McNamara

Izabella Ibarro "One Last Rager Before COVID” College Writing 1 - Dr. Pramod Mishra

Bryce Ilano "The Current Condition of the Illinois Nurse” College Writing 2- Dr. Jordan Canzonetta

Selena Mercado “Spanglish” College Writing 1 - Dr. Ana Roncero-Bellido

Julisa Porcayo “Why Sign Language is Also Important for Language Development” College Writing 1 - Dr. Ana Roncero-Bellido

Denisse Preece “My ongoing journey of literacy” College Writing 1 - Dr. Ana Roncero-Bellido

Olivia Sawickis "The Weight of Wings" College Writing 1 - Dr. Jen Consilio

Sebastian Stoerzer “Mental Health in the Field of Aviation” College Writing 2 - Dr. Jordan Canzonetta

Additional Showcase Nominees

  • Abraham Christian, (Prof. Michelle Lorenzen)
  • Joshua Faulstroh, (Prof. Michelle Lorenzen)
  • Mukhabbat Fayzullaeva, (Prof. Therese Jones)
  • Hayden Forthman, (Prof. Michelle Lorenzen)
  • Alexander Hill, (Prof. Michelle Lorenzen)
  • Dylan Hines, (Dr. Tom McNamara)
  • Cynthia Lopez, (Dr. Jen Consilio)
  • Lucy Malek, (Prof. Michelle Lorenzen)
  • Drew Orr, (Dr. Jordan Canzonetta)
  • Victoria Pindelski, (Prof. Michelle Lorenzen)
  • Christian Roman, (Prof. Therese Jones)
  • Madison Sea-Macak, (Prof. Michelle Lorenzen)
  • Jarrett Schiedemeyer, (Dr. Jordan Canzonetta)
  • Hannah Turro, (Dr. Jen Consilio)
  • Kacper Zalewski, (Dr. Jordan Canzonetta)
  • Macy Zeglis, (Dr. Ana Roncero-Bellido)

Thank you to all of our writers for creating and sharing their work. And thank you to all who directly support our first-year writers: our instructors, the Writing Center staff, and the Library Research instructors. We appreciate all you do to support first-year writers. And many thanks to our program Graduate Assistant, Michelle Lorenzen, for all her help in coordinating the Showcase process.

Congratulations to all of our nominated and selected writers. Keep writing!

Jen Consilio, Ph.D. Professor of English Studies Director of the First-Year Writing Program

"Write, and your world will explode with meaning."

--Donald M. Murray

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katie kitchens, audrey fong

2024 Doti Awards Honor Graduate Students in Education and English The annual award acknowledges outstanding academic accomplishment, scholarly and creative work and service by graduating master's and doctoral students.

Chapman University has announced the recipients of the 2024 James L. Doti Outstanding Graduate Awards, the university’s highest honor for graduate students.

This year’s honorees are Katelyn Kitchens, a doctoral candidate in education , and Audrey Fong, a candidate for a dual Master of Arts in English and Master of Fine Arts in creative writing .

The Doti Awards are bestowed annually to an outstanding graduating master’s and doctoral student with a distinguished record of academic accomplishment, scholarly/creative activity and/or service. The award recipients’ names are permanently inscribed on the Doti Award trophy, which incorporates artist Nick Hernandez’s sculpture Emergence, on display in Argyros Forum. The recipients receive a desk-size copy of the trophy with a cash award of $1,000 and are recognized at their college’s commencement ceremony.

Katelyn Kitchens, Ph.D. Education, Attallah College of Educational Studies

Attallah’s faculty say Kitchens is a brilliant and exceptionally outstanding doctoral student. The faculty describes them as a highly ethical, committed and intellectually rigorous scholar-activist and teacher.

Kitchens successfully defended their Ph.D. dissertation in March 2024 on “New Ways of Being White: White Families Striving to Cultivate Antiracist Familial Cultures,” an expansive work based on a critical ethnographic study of white families committed to raising anti-racist children. The work is important, theoretically grounded and methodologically rigorous. Their chosen dissertation topic reflects their long-standing commitment to anti-racism. As a white person, Kitchens has personal experience with whiteness studies and engaging with others in anti-racist work.

Within the doctoral program, they developed a strong foundation in the theories that frame their work, including Marxist humanism, critical pedagogies and theories of whiteness. Kitchens also has strong instincts toward decolonizing and humanizing praxis. They are well recognized among faculty and peers as highly ethical and collaborative and evidence a commitment to the growth and learning of all those around them. Kitchens is especially committed to equity for racialized students and to the preservation and restoration of the cultural strengths, epistemologies and resources of historically oppressed communities.

These strengths, along with their excellent writing skills, have led to a significant record of emerging scholarship, research and teaching pursuits. Currently, Kitchens is co-authoring several research manuscripts. Kitchens has already published an impressive six publications (one is in press) and is planning a book based on their dissertation. Their scholarship is highly collaborative with Indigenous colleagues and other people of color, evidencing allyship with these communities. Kitchens’ numerous presentations at conferences and community settings exemplify a keen awareness and commitment to engage with the community beyond the academy.

Kitchens is also a gifted educator of children and adults. They have taught numerous courses in higher education, and faculty are certain that this has included challenging coursework, high expectations and humanizing pedagogy. A faculty mentor shared that conversations with Kitchens revealed their tremendous love and empathy for all peoples.

It’s notable that in a world where Indigenous communities are often wary of the dominant group, Kitchens has been invited to teach and work at an Indigenous tribal school. They recognize and value the opportunity that has been given to them and are continuously reflecting on their responsibility as a white person to that community and its peoples. Kitchens’ previous work in Montessori schools has also provided important insights into humanizing, democratic and life-giving pedagogies that inform their development. Furthermore, Kitchens has a strong social justice background. They served on the Montessori for Social Justice Board of Directors for five years.

At Chapman, Kitchens has been an active member of the Paulo Freire Democratic Project, supported guest talks and co-led teach-ins during the Black Lives Matter protests. Attallah faculty believe Kitchens is an outstanding student with a brilliant future ahead.

Audrey Fong, MA/MFA English and Creative Writing, Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

Wilkinson’s faculty say Fong’s academic excellence and professional leadership are exceptional. She has used the dual program to set her own ambitious professional path. Importantly, Fong has used her own ongoing learning growth to contribute to the university and to the larger literary culture. She is the only graduate student who has taught Asian American Studies at Chapman University, and she’s also a graduate student instructor in English. She continues to open students to new ideas and texts and also works with Stephanie Takaragawa, associate professor of sociology, across disciplines on a variety of projects and programming.

Fong’s creative and scholarly achievements are unusually strong for a graduate student. She has presented at the Asian American Studies Conference and the College English Association Conference, in addition to others. She will present again this spring at the Asian American Studies Conference and is making a name for herself in that field. She also has a chapter forthcoming in an anthology about food and memory, an essay published in the literary journal South Dakota Review, and she’s placed several interviews with Asian American writers in Adroit Journal.

This important cultural work and her entrepreneurial spirit led Fong to found her own journal, Soapberry Review. Anna Leahy, director of the MFA in creative writing program, shared that she is awestruck by Fong’s ability to launch this project while excelling at all the other work we expect of graduate students and instructors. This project focuses on reviews of books and interviews with Asian American writers, filling a void in literary culture rather than replicating existing projects. Fong has encouraged other MFA students and alumni to read Asian American books and submit reviews for publication at Soapberry Review.

Faculty point to Fong’s mature understanding of a scholar-writer’s practice. She has a keen ability to turn conference presentations into journal publications, a professional practice that few graduate students in the humanities recognize and embrace. Also, she turns practical experience — the marketing internship with Red Hen Press and the social media work at UCI — into original intellectual and cultural production. She recognizes that her accomplishments as a scholar-writer have the power to change culture.

To continue honing her craft, Fong is entering the Ph.D. program at the University of Southern California, another program that combines creative writing and literature. Wilkinson’s faculty is convinced that will lead to even more achievement.

rachel berns holding cheverton award

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You are here, coh outstanding senior: mason maltbie.

what is creative writing studies

Congratulations to the College of Humanities’ Outstanding Senior for Spring 2024, Mason Maltbie!

Maltbie graduates with a 4.0 GPA, triple majoring in Russian, Religious Studies and Creative Writing.

“Through speaking new languages, forming deeper understandings of others, and visiting places once locked behind the pages of literature, we’ve translated ourselves into the world and come to know people from worlds quite different from ours,” Maltbie told fellow Humanities graduates at Saturday’s convocation. “The true spirit of the Humanities is knowing that the ‘other,’ no matter how seemingly distant, feels and struggles just like you.”

Maltbie served for two years as president of the Slavic and Eurasian Studies Club and received myriad awards over the course of his studies: the SILLC Global Award, the B.G. Thompson, Jr. Study Abroad Award, the Donna Swaim International Award for Religious Studies, the Rombach and Bretall Scholarship, the Donna Dillon Manning and Larry Horner Endowed Humanities Award for Study Abroad and the Fearless Inquiries Abroad Scholarship.

“Mason is one of the finest students—and human beings—that it has been my privilege to teach, and to learn from, over my 16 years of teaching. He is brilliant, but he is humble. As a person, he is thoughtful, caring, collegial, and quick to share. As a budding scholar, he is disciplined, motivated, meticulous, and always curious to probe deeper,” wrote Suzanne Thompson, Assistant Professor of Practice and Undergraduate Advisor in the Department of Russian and Slavic Studies, in nominating him for the award. “I have taught him in many classes—culture, literature, and language—and he has a powerful combination of language aptitude and sophistication in understanding the written word.”

Maltbie’s honors thesis explored how structural forces of poverty and historic discrimination influence gang violence and formation, and how an interdisciplinary approach utilizing psychology, sociology and Religious Studies can help understand the issues and lead to policy reforms.

Maltbie studied abroad in Astana, Kazakhstan in 2023 and will be studying abroad at the School of Russian and Eurasian Studies in Uzbekistan during the summer of 2024.

“Mason's academic journey showcases his exceptional qualities and achievements, and his relentless pursuit of knowledge and his deep-seated desire for immersive cultural experiences,” wrote Assistant Professor Liudmila Klimanova, who led the Kazakhstan program. “The fervor and depth with which he engaged in this program were profoundly inspiring, not only to me but also to our esteemed colleagues at Eurasian National University in Kazakhstan.”

“Mason embodies the qualities of an outstanding senior: academic excellence, leadership, and a deep commitment to embracing the humanities and fostering understanding across cultures and communities.”


  1. Creative Writing For Beginners: Unlock Your Creativity

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  2. What is Creative Writing & How to Get Started

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  5. Creative Writing

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  1. Sensory Experience in Creative Writing

  2. College Writing: A Student's Perspective (Process)

  3. “Toward a Volupology of Literary Fiction,” Connor Syrewicz

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  1. Earning A Creative Writing Degree: All About A Bachelor's In Creative

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  2. Journal of Creative Writing Studies

    Journal of Creative Writing Studies is a peer reviewed, open access journal. We publish research that examines the teaching, practice, theory, and history of creative writing. This scholarship makes use of theories and methodologies from a variety of disciplines. We believe knowledge is best constructed in an open conversation among diverse ...

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    And yet, if Creative Writing Studies is a recognizable field, and if has a research element, some practices and outcomes that ask for an exploration of current knowledge and the expansion and development of that knowledge, then creative writing research needs defining and re-defining as we progress it toward more and more discoveries. ...

  4. Creative Writing Studies: The Past Decade (and the Next)

    Creative Writing Studies, at this current moment, is probably best characterized not as a "disci-pline," but rather as a "field" in the sense articulated by composition scholar Byron Hawk: "A disci-pline is an administrative category based on departments and institutional hierarchies. . . . . A field is a

  5. Creative writing

    Creative writing is any writing that goes outside the bounds of normal professional, journalistic, academic, or technical forms of literature, typically identified by an emphasis on narrative craft, character development, and the use of literary tropes or with various traditions of poetry and poetics.Due to the looseness of the definition, it is possible for writing such as feature stories to ...

  6. One Simple Word: From Creative Writing to Creative Writing Studies

    book-length history of creative writing in the United States. Creative writing studies, on the other hand, is a still-emerging enterprise that has been set in motion by some of the problems and internal contradictions of creative writing. Creative writing studies is a field of scholarly inquiry and research. It can be.

  7. Home

    What is the Creative Writing Studies Organization? The Creative Writing Studies Organization was founded as a non-profit in early 2016. We are dedicated to helping creative writing studies establish itself through increasing the visibility of scholarship that pertains to creative writing and being an inclusive, diverse space that fosters open conversation about topics pertaining to the field.

  8. Research in Creative Writing: Theory into Practice

    to develop a new discipline, Creative Writing Studies. The research reported on and analyzed. here argues for creative writing's disciplinary status by using Toulmin's (1972) definition of dis-. ciplinary as a basis for claiming writers' aesthetic documents as data and reporting those data. in an aesthetic form.

  9. PhD Creative Writing

    A rigorous program that combines creative writing and literary studies, the Ph.D. in Creative Writing prepares graduates for both scholarly and creative publication and teaching. With faculty guidance, students admitted to the Ph.D. program may tailor their programs to their goals and interests. The creative writing faculty at KU has been ...

  10. Establishing Creative Writing Studies as an Academic Discipline

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  11. Journal

    Journal of Creative Writing Studies is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal. We publish research that examines the teaching, practice, theory, and history of creative writing. This scholarship makes use of theories and methodologies from a variety of disciplines. We believe knowledge is best constructed in an open conversation among diverse ...

  12. What is Creative Writing? The Medium of Self-Expression

    Creative Writing is a form of self-expression that allows you to use your imagination and creativity. It can be in the form of personal essays, short stories, or poems. It is often used as an outlet for emotions and experiences. Start with creative writing by reading through creative writing examples to help get you in the mood.

  13. What Is Creative Writing? Types, Techniques, and Tips

    Types of Creative Writing. Examples of creative writing can be found pretty much everywhere. Some forms that you're probably familiar with and already enjoy include: • Fiction (of every genre, from sci-fi to historical dramas to romances) • Film and television scripts. • Songs. • Poetry.

  14. Creative Writing and Literature (Major)

    Creative Writing and Literature Majors write fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction under the close guidance of faculty mentors, and may workshop their writing with other student writers in small writing seminars. Majors also study the art of writing through the study of literature. Majors specialize in fiction, poetry, or nonfiction early in ...

  15. University of South Florida Digital Commons @ University of South Florida

    INTRODUCTION: THE EMERGENCE OF CREATIVE WRITING STUDIES . Creative writing stands once again at a crossroads. On one side of the road is creative writing, a discipline which is unaware of the histories and theories that informs its practice. As such, its "creative writing teachers are, of necessity, implicated in

  16. Critical-Creative Literacy and Creative Writing Pedagogy

    Critical-Creative Literacy and Creative Writing Pedagogy. ABSTRACT: This article builds on psychological research that claims critical thinking is a key component of the creative process to argue that critical-creative literacy is a cognitive goal of creative writing education. The article also explores the types of assignments and prompts that ...

  17. Creative Writing

    Embrace the unknown and start your journey here. As part of one of the largest Creative Writing programs in Canada, you can learn the essentials of excellent writing and put them into practice. Whether you aspire to write a novel or short story, explore poetry, pen a script or screenplay, or explore other writing styles, we have the courses you ...

  18. The science behind creativity

    4. Go outside: Spending time in nature and wide-open spaces can expand your attention, enhance beneficial mind-wandering, and boost creativity. 5. Revisit your creative ideas: Aha moments can give you a high—but that rush might make you overestimate the merit of a creative idea.

  19. How Creative Writing Can Increase Students' Resilience

    Reaping the benefits. To see how creative writing impacts students, I invite them to rate their resilience through a self-compassion survey at the start of the school year and again in the spring. Last year, two-thirds of students surveyed increased in self-compassion; Alejandro grew his self-compassion by 20 percent.

  20. Bachelor's in Creative Writing

    Liberty University's Bachelor of Science (BS) in Creative Writing - Journalism is an exciting and dynamic degree program that can help prepare you for a career in the media industry. With a ...

  21. What is Writing Studies

    An emphasis in Writing Studies invites you to explore and and practice the ways in which writing--and by extension, literacy, language, and rhetoric-- function in society.What we call writing is constantly evolving to meet the needs and adapt to the technologies of the times and places writing is used.

  22. UCSB College of Creative Studies

    The Kathleen Foltz Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Fund. This fund honors UCSB Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) Professor Emeritus Kathy Foltz for her breadth of involvement and depth of commitment to mentoring students for three decades at UCSB. Gifts to this fund provide summer research fellowship support to ...

  23. School of Writing, Literature, and Film

    The School of Writing, Literature and Film is the privileged place at Oregon State University for students, scholars, creative writers, and rhetoricians to gather together to discuss, critique, love, and celebrate the English language in all its diverse forms. We offer a number of degree programs, including undergraduate majors in English and ...

  24. Welcome to the Purdue Online Writing Lab

    Mission. The Purdue On-Campus Writing Lab and Purdue Online Writing Lab assist clients in their development as writers—no matter what their skill level—with on-campus consultations, online participation, and community engagement. The Purdue Writing Lab serves the Purdue, West Lafayette, campus and coordinates with local literacy initiatives.

  25. 2023 Conference

    Creative Writing Studies can-and should-engage in cross-disciplinary efforts to expand students' and colleagues' conceptual definitions of what writing is and how writing works in the world. This paper will draw parallels between dynamic perspectives in visual media-such as film, games, visual art, and graphic design-and creative ...

  26. Stories

    Writing Center Tutor. Works with students in the organization and content of their essays; analyzes grammatical and aesthetic components of written academic work; organized campus-wide microfiction contest and Reading to Write events where tutors work with first-year students to help them prepare for college-level assignments and essay writing.

  27. Lewis University

    THE SPRING 2024 FIRST-YEAR WRITING SHOWCASE. Each semester, the First-Year Writing program invites program faculty to nominate student writers whose work shines for features like idea development, critical thinking, organization, voice, creativity, language use, and writing and research processes. A faculty panel reviewed the nominated works ...

  28. 2024 Doti Awards Honor Graduate Students in Education and English

    Education, Attallah College of Educational Studies. Attallah's faculty say Kitchens is a brilliant and exceptionally outstanding doctoral student. The faculty describes them as a highly ethical, committed and intellectually rigorous scholar-activist and teacher. ... English and Creative Writing, Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and ...

  29. Critical-Creative Literacy and Creative Writing Pedagogy

    Mayers ((Re)Writing Craft 10) and Diane Donnelly proposed terms such as "craft criticism" and "creative writing studies" for the sub-discipline of creative writing reflection, and the latter term seems to be taking over. This field is modelled partially on the discipline of composition, guided by a "pedagogical imperative" to centre ...

  30. COH Outstanding Senior: Mason Maltbie

    Congratulations to the College of Humanities' Outstanding Senior for Spring 2024, Mason Maltbie! Maltbie graduates with a 4.0 GPA, triple majoring in Russian, Religious Studies and Creative Writing. "Through speaking new languages, forming deeper understandings of others, and visiting places once locked behind the pages of literature, we've translated ourselves into the world