Selected Course Descriptions

The English Department offers a wide variety of Creative Writing courses on range of exciting topics.  We welcome you into our curriculum, where you might enjoy some of the classes below.

Slam Poetry  

Professor Daemond Arrindell

Slam Poetry is a term used to describe the style of writing and performance that has taken the world of poetry by storm since the inception of the "Poetry Slam" in the late 80's. But what is the slam style of poetry? And what is a poetry slam? In this course, we will dive deep into those questions and their answers. A main focus of this class will be to discuss, evaluate and analyze past and present slam poems, poets and styles both on the page as well as in performance. To observe what makes these poems effective, powerful, and moving within the craft of writing and what skill the poets employ to bring those poems to life on the stage. The goals of the course will be to for you to gain the skills to write well-crafted poems (imagistic, personal, and evocative) and to then employ the performance style that will best serve the theme and voice of each piece.

Graphic Novel

Professor Peter Bagge  

While combining words and pictures to tell a story dates back to the ancient Egyptians, the combination of the two has developed rapidly since the turn of the last century, in the forms of comic books and comic strips.  Moreover, the last few decades has seen a huge expansion in the use of this distinct medium, especially in the form of long term story telling (i.e.: "graphic novels"). 

This course will go over the history of comic art over the last century in order to familiarize the students with its many achievements and applications, while also providing inspiration for your own ideas.  We'll also discuss the basic language and techniques employed by comic writers and artists to better prepare you for your own assignments.

Young Adult Fiction

Professor Stephanie Lewis  

Writers and readers are drawn to Young Adult fiction for a variety of reasons: the compelling plots of books like The Hunger Games , the unique characters that bring John Green's novels to life, Melissa Marr's exquisitely-built fantasy worlds, and the stories like Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak  and Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why  that help teens survive a sometimes dark and troubling world. In this class, we'll examine all of these aspects of YA Fiction. We'll read YA books from multiple genres as models and for inspiration. Through a variety of writing exercises and discussion, we'll explore character, point-of-view, plot, construction of scene, setting, theme, and teen voice. You will begin to work on your own Young Adult novel in the genre of your choice. There will also be time spent on peer review and workshopping, revision, and an in-depth discussion of the business of publishing YA books. By the end of the course, you will have at least two revised chapters and a synopsis to guide you toward completion of a publishable quality YA novel.

Writing Scripts  

Dr. Sean McDowell    

This course takes a practice-based approach to screenwriting, engaging the Aristotelian foundations of story, plot, character, dialogue, and conflict within the framework of the individual writer's lived experiences. You will write scenes on a weekly basis and we will read and critique these scenes during workshop. This scene work prepares you to produce a final short film screenplay. With the filmmaking tools of the 21st century taken into account-inexpensive video cameras and audio recorders, self-promoted internet distribution, and handheld devices that literally put cinematic experiences in our hands-you will write screenplays that can be independently produced on a low/no-budget basis. Your final scripts will have the option of getting produced (either by you or someone else) in subsequent sections of Narrative Filmmaking and Filmmaking I. 

Travel Writing: Stories Near and Far  

Dr. Susan Meyers  

Foreign lands and faraway places have captured the minds of readers and writers for centuries. In this creative writing class, we will explore the methods, styles, and ethical dimensions of writing about people and places around the world. From foundational stories like The Odyssey  and Gilgamesh  to spiritual journeys from Dante to Margery Kempe, travel-and the new insights that it can bring-has been a seminal means of intellectual and scientific discovery in western civilization. Recently, with the smashing success of bestsellers like Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love , travel writing has become so popular that major New York publishing houses have begun to devote entire imprints to a steady supply of tourism-based work from "writers who travel." At the same time, cultural critics caution writers-particularly those from countries with relatively more economic and political power-about the potential dangers of typecasting or misrepresenting the people and practices that they encounter abroad. In this class, we will examine both historical foundations and contemporary trends in tales and testimonies of travel, and we will practice writing about places near and far. As part of this work, we will explore various motivations for travel writing-journey, discovery, politics, storytelling, meditation, commerce, and self-discovery-as well as the ethical complexities that accompany them. Students will be introduced to the pertinent craft components of storytelling as they relate to travel, and they will be invited to write about place, travel, and community in a variety of formats. In addition, we will consider commercial aspects of travel writing, including publication venues, paying markets, and the lifestyle of a travel writer.


Writing Fiction: Longer Forms

Dr. Susan Meyers     

The idea of writing a full-length book can be exciting, intimidating, and mind-boggling. You might ask yourself, "How do I begin?" Or, "How much is enough?" What is  the process for planning and completing a book-length work of fiction, and how should such a work ultimately be put together? This class takes on these and other related questions in order to introduce you to the process, craft, and industry of writing longer fiction. Through analysis of craft essays by working writers as well as several book-length works, we will consider core principals related to structure, time, theme, and characterization. Alongside these discussions, we will survey the principle forms that longer fiction takes in today's market: novels, novellas, multi-perspective novels, vignette-driven novels, and story cycles. Your own work in this course will include original writing that will contribute to a larger work-in-progress that you will summarize and outline by the end of the term. Full-class workshops will provide you with feedback on your work, and additional professionally-oriented assignments will introduce you to the process of seeking publication for book-length works of fiction.  

Global Poetry   

Professor Maged Zaher  

Poetry is a global and diverse practice. In this class, we will explore a diverse set of poets--across languages, cultures, poetic practices--from ancient Arabic love poets, to modern and postmodern lyricism, to dirty conceptualism. The aim of this class is to expand both our reading and writing practices. We will contrast different poetic practices that will redefine and open up our understanding of what poetry is.


Contact Us

Kate Koppelman, Ph.D.

Bridget Hrybiniak
Senior Administrative Assistant