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4 creative writing programs you should check out

Want to nurture the writer or poet in you? Here’s a list to help you kick off your college search
BY Yana Yadav |   17-02-2017

Creative writing is the fine art of making things up in an attractive, apt and convincing way. Its aim is to reveal illuminating and dark truths about the world and our place in it, through poetry, fiction and plays. Usually, creative writers rely on narrative craft, character development, and the use of literary tropes or traditions of poetry and poetics.

Literary fiction differs from “genre fiction” (such as suspense or romance, for example, which rely on character stereotypes and conventions of plot or setting). Creative non-fiction (also called literary or narrative non-fiction) combines the techniques of fiction and poetry to tell a true story in a way that appeals to the reader’s intellect and emotions.

Regular writing courses concentrate on how to improve one’s writing, but creative writing courses generallydeal with how to write fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

If you are thinking of studying creative writing at the undergraduate or graduate level, here’s a quick list to kick off your college search.

Life in Gotham City: Greenwich Village on a full moon night (image by John Gillespie, used under CC license)

NYU’s creative writing program is located in Greenwich Village, in the heart of New York City. The area has a rich literary heritage. Students get the opportunity to develop their craft while working closely with distinguished and award-winning poets and novelists. The faculty includes such names as Zadie Smith, Junot Diaz, Mary Gaitskill, Jonathan Safran Foer, Sharon Olds, Anne Carson, Charles Simic, and John Ashberry. The literary journal Washington Square calls NYU home.

The program occupies a lovely townhouse on West 10th Street in the Village, which allows writers – both established and emerging – to share their work in an inspiring setting.

The undergraduate program gives students the opportunity to learn through workshops, readings, internships, prizes, and various events. Students also get the chance to attend master classes, and to choose from three month-long summer writing programs in Florence, Paris, and of course New York.

The graduate program offers an MFA degree. The annual application deadline is December 18. GRE test scores are not required for admission. All incoming students get financial assistance.

For more on NYU’s creative writing program, click here.


View of the University of East Anglia (image by mira66, used under CC license)

UEA has played a pioneering role in the UK. It established the country’s first MA in Creative Writing in 1970, and the first PhD in Creative and Critical Writing in 1987. The program remains one of the most prestigious in the UK, and its alumni include the likes of Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan, Anne Enright, Mohammed Hanif, and Neel Mukherjee.

Courses include a BA in English Literature with Creative Writing, a number of MA options (poetry, script-writing, fiction, and crime fiction, to name just a few), and a PhD in creative and critical writing. There are also online study options.

A number of scholarships and bursaries are available for master’s and PhD students. Undergraduate students are eligible for funding too. The university offers around £1 million worth of scholarships each year to support international students. These are based on merit and usually awarded for the duration of the period of study.

For more information on the University of East Anglia’s creative writing courses, click here.

Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa (still from PBS NewsHour video)

The University of Iowa’s creative writing program is more commonly known as the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. This two-year residency program is the oldest creative writing degree program in the US (founded in 1936). It is at the center of a lively literary arts scene.

Over the years its faculty has featured literary stars such as Robert Penn Warren, John Cheever, Philip Roth, Kurt Vonnegut, Jane Smiley, and Marilynne Robinson, to name just a few. The program is also home to The Iowa Review. Its alumni roster includes 17 Pulitzer Prize winners, 6 recent US Poets Laureate, and numerous winners of the National Book Award, MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, and other major honors.

The Writers’ Workshop’s two-year program typically admits up to 50 graduate students a year, and culminates in an MFA degree. It also offers a range of undergraduate courses that can be applied towards an English major. Graduate and undergraduate students can participate in its summer program.

For more information on the Writers’ Workshop, click here.

Sunrise over Warren Wilson College in North Carolina (image by Julia Pethtel, used under CC license)

The history of this liberal arts institution, situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains at the confluence of the Swannanoa and French Broad Rivers, stretches back more than a century. Its well-known MFA Program for Writers, the first low-residency graduate program in the US, was established in 1981. Over the years, the faculty has included names such as Raymond Carver, John Irving, and Tobias Wolff.

Undergraduate students can major or minor in creative writing (a major would result in a BFA degree). Majors are required to complete an internship.

The graduate program is a four-semester course culminating in an MFA degree, and consists. Students alternate between on-campus residency sessions and semesters of independent study under close faculty supervision.  The five residencies, attended by all faculty and students, are 10 days long and take place twice a year (January and July).

Application deadlines are March 1 for the July semester, and September 1 for the January semester.  Applicants are usually informed about their admission status within a month. Financial aid is awarded based on need, rather than merit, so check whether you are eligible before applying.
For more information about Warren Wilson College’s creative writing program, click here.



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