putting fingers to keys

once opon a time, creative writing was something bored, rich people did locked away from the world on typewriters while chainsmoking french cigarettes and binging on brandy. while such people likely still exist, writing is now the domain of coffee shops and laptops. in much the same way, traditional language has given way to modern english and abstract confusion to characters’ daily lives. the modern novel was born in the twentieth century from the ashes of an artform whose life-support was quickly being eliminated by a world no longer interested in artificial romances and aristocrats.

can you study creative writing?

as with any art, studying creative writing is a process of the possible, not the perfect. my classes won’t take you from illiteracy to professional in twelve easy steps or teach you to write a bestselling first novel in seventeen minutes a day. neither my classes nor anyone else’s. what i will teach you is a system of organization and a method of writing that will take you from having ideas to publishing books. the ideas, while they may be inspired by the class, will have to be yours, as will the words. and, most importantly, the hard work, day after day. but i promise you, if you put in the work, someday you’ll look in the mirror and finally be comfortable calling yourself a writer.

what about talent?

talent is a myth. of course you don’t have any. neither do i. nobody does. when you see someone who is amazingly good at writing, that’s because they’ve been exposed to a lot of literature and spent hundreds, thousands, often tens of thousands of hours practicing. would you expect anyone to pick up a paintbrush and duplicate the sistine chapel? how about picking up a violin and in a few short hours playing stravinsky or schoenberg? so why do people have the silly notion that because you’ve spent your educational time vaguely holding pens and pencils but never really being taught anything about writing as a discipline, you have any chance at all of writing a perfect novel without practice, instruction and assistance? talent is just a curious misspelling of the word “practice”. want to be a good writer? write a lot. want to be an amazing writer? write a lot for a long time. i make my students write every day all semester. by the end of a twelve-week term, each will have written at least 80-100k words, about the length of a modern novel. and that’s in each course. if you commit to working, learning and practicing, your writing will improve. wherever you are, next month you’ll be better and next year you’ll be far better than that. don’t forget that perfect isn’t a destination, only a direction. we aim there. but if there are problems in your writing, join the club. i’ve never written a perfect story and neither has anyone else.

so you want to write a novel…

i teach various types of creative writing, primarily fiction, non-fiction and poetry. if, like most creative writing students, you are here because you want to write the english-speaking world’s next great novel, you are both in the right place and shit-out-of-luck. let’s explore that for a second. here you will learn all the skills and methods for writing an amazing novel and you may well be able to. i have faith it’s possible as long as you truly work at it. as your instructor, i will be here every step of the way to guide and assist. sadly, though, the world isn’t looking for a great novel. gone are the days when city populations eagerly awaited the next great masterpiece from dumas, hugo and dostoyevsky (no there’s never been an english novelist of that level of public attention). that’s the bad news. but the good news is that with the elimination of most of the population from general readership, what we’re left with is a far more interested and devoted audience for our work. you may not write a book that 90% of the population will be interested to read. but if you create something worth reading, those who read it will certainly make sure you know how much they appreciate your hard work. there are two great moments in my life, repeated from time to time. one is when a student tells me what they learned from my classes that really helped them later in life. the other is when i am at a literary event and a reader comes up and tells me how much they enjoyed a book i wrote. if that’s a future you’re looking to join, as i said, this is the place.

courses outside the classroom

if you are an independent student wishing to study creative writing, you are welcome to use any of these materials. if, however, you are looking for instruction but are not part of the program, i am always happy to engage in individual instruction and have quite often in the past. please contact me if you are seeking these types of courses as supplementary to your current program of study.

1. general

  1. undergraduate
    1. creating your writing voice 1 [cw3036]
    2. creating your writing voice 2 [cw3037]
    3. character creation & development [cw4126]
    4. writing for video games [special non-credit seminar cw49xx]
    5. writing & gender [cw4215]
  2. graduate
    1. mashups — writing across genres 1 [cw8031]
    2. mashups — writing across genres 2 [cw8032]
    3. podcasting & contemporary monologue [cw8034]
    4. experimental writing [cw8021]
    5. writing in a post-gender world [cw8215]
    6. writing & gender [cw8215]
    7. spoken-word & improv writing [cw7180]
    8. dialog & visual fiction writing [cw7184]

2. poetry

  1. undergraduate
    1. writing free poetry [cw3045]
    2. writing formal poetry [cw3041]
    3. modern poetry 1 [cw4045]
    4. modern poetry 2 [cw4046]
    5. formal poetry 1 (western) [cw4041]
    6. formal poetry 2 (eastern) [cw4042]
    7. experimentation in poetic forms [cw4049]
    8. critical analysis of poetic movements [cw4224]
  2. graduate
    1. poetry composition 1 [cw7041]
    2. poetry composition 2 [cw7042]
    3. poetry translation 1 [cw7255]
    4. poetry translation 2 [cw7256]
    5. composing and exploring poetry 1 (epic) [cw8043]
    6. composing and exploring poetry 2 (short forms) [cw8044]
    7. composing and exploring poetry 3 (long forms) [cw8045]
    8. experimental poetry [cw8049]
    9. poetic voice [cw8224]

please note, there is no outline or course detail page for practical poetry composition projects as these are specific to the individual student who has proposed the project.

3. long fiction

  1. undergraduate
    1. introduction to novel writing [cw3010]
    2. writing long fiction [cw3011]
    3. creative composition (long) 1 [cw4011]
    4. creative composition (long) 2 [cw4012]
    5. novel writing [cw4016]
    6. writing genre fiction [cw4096]
    7. theory and analysis of popular fiction writing [cw4244]
  2. graduate
    1. novel writing 1 [cw7011]
    2. novel writing 2 [cw7012]
    3. methods and practices of long fiction [cw7018]
    4. style in long fiction [cw7019]
    5. genre fiction seminar [cw7096]

4. short fiction

  1. undergraduate
    1. writing short fiction [cw3021]
    2. creative composition (short) 1 [cw4021]
    3. creative composition (short) 2 [cw4022]
    4. creating story collections [cw4026]
    5. writing flash fiction [cw4029]
  2. graduate
    1. crafting short fiction [cw7026]
    2. flash fiction [cw7029]
    3. short fiction writing 1 [cw7021]
    4. short fiction writing 1 [cw7022]
    5. character development in short fiction [cw7027]

5. nonfiction

  1. undergraduate
    1. memoirs & personal writing [cw4188]
  2. graduate
    1. biography [cw7111]
    2. methods and practices of nonfiction [cw7118]
    3. science writing [cw7191]

there are courses divided between creative writing and journalism but, as i only collaborate on those courses, they do not have outlines here and are classified as interdisciplinary with a grading panel.

6. theory

  1. undergraduate
    1. writing & gender [cw4215]
    2. critical analysis of poetic movements [cw4224]
    3. theory and analysis of popular fiction writing [cw4244]
    4. critical translation theory [cw4861]
  2. graduate
    1. experimental writing [cw8021]
    2. writing & gender [cw8215]
    3. poetic voice [cw8224]
    4. writing in a post-gender world [cw8815]
    5. critical translation theory [cw8861]

these courses exist within the other disciplines but are listed here, too, as they are essentially a concentration of their own.

7. translation

  1. undergraduate
    1. literary translation [cw4251]
    2. critical translation theory [cw4861]
  2. graduate
    1. literary translation [cw7251]
    2. poetry translation 1 [cw7255]
    3. poetry translation 2 [cw7256] 
    4. creative translation [cw7851]
    5. critical translation theory [cw8861]

8. independent study

if you are not studying in the creative writing (or joint creative-writing-modern-literature) program and wish to study with me or collaborate on writing, please let me know. i (occasionally) take private students from outside the program. the benefit is that your entire study will be one-on-one. the downside is that you won’t benefit from collaborative seminars and peer editing.

if you are in the interdisciplinary humanities program and are looking for an advisor, i am happy to talk to you about it. please come to me with ideas for your project (creative writing or translation) or thesis (modern literature, translation or critical theory), even in a very embryonic stage, and i will be happy to look at it. if i am not a good fit for your work, i will try to point you in the right direction. my first masters degree was interdisciplinary so i am a strong supporter of such programs.

a note on missing outlines

if you are currently enrolled in a course that i am teaching and the outline is not here, please let me know immediately as this is a huge problem. if the course is next semester, even if it’s not here, there’s an interim version of the outline and, if you ask, i will email it to you, as long as you understand it may change before the course begins.

if you’re looking for future or past outlines, i apologize that the majority are not yet updated and linked here but i am working on it. if there is a course you’re specifically interested in, reach out and i’ll send you whatever materials i have in their current state if that’s useful to you.


if you’re a creative writing instructor (or if you’re an english teacher looking to include creative writing in your program), let me know. i will happily work with you to take the materials that i have developed for my courses and students and make them suitable for your students and teaching approach. education is a collaborative exercise, as is creative writing. of course, you can also download outlines and reference materials here and use them as a base for your own. but i hope there might be more assistance i can offer.

i am currently working on an instructional book (not a textbook, just a book of instruction and exercises) for both modern and traditional-style poetry. if you teach poetry, i can’t tell you when the book will be available for public use but i am happy to share much of its interim contents to help your students. i know all too well just how little quality reference and instructional material there is on poetry composition.