Creative Writing

Minor, Division of Humanities 

Budding writers find the creative writing community at Washington College inviting and full of opportunities to practice their craft. The minor in creative writing offers a carefully planned curriculum designed to foster the young writer’s creative expression—guidance that is significantly enhanced by exposure to the voices and visions of some of the finest poets and fiction writers in the country.
Each year, thanks to the endowment of the Sophie Kerr Fund, the College brings to campus a succession of distinguished writers, editors, and literary scholars.
Billy Collins, Jane Smiley, Joyce Carol Oates, Jonathan Franzen, Heather McHugh, Li-Young Lee, Junot Díaz, Colum McCann, Nick Flynn, Eamon Grennan, James McBride, Tim O’Brien, Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket), Lauren Groff, Natasha Trethewey, and Ted Kooser are just some of the writers and literary scholars who have come to campus in the last decade to teach, lecture, and conduct writing workshops.

The Sophie Kerr Fund also supports the justly famous Sophie Kerr Prize (at $65,770 in 2016, the largest undergraduate literary prize in the country), as well as various student publications that spring from the imaginations of students who find a welcoming and creative environment in the Rose O’Neill Literary House.

The minor in creative writing can be achieved through the successful completion of five courses—ENG 103 Introduction to Creative Writing and then any combination of four 300/400-level creative writing courses including those indicated below, as well as additional “special topics” courses. Recent “special topics” courses have included The Screenplay, Poetry in Performance, Seminar of the Book, The Art of Biography, and Writing about the Natural World.

  • ENG 454. Creative Writing Workshop: Nonfiction

    This course will use a workshop approach for students who are interested in developing their skills in a kind of writing which combines elements of journalism, such as the feature article, with elements of the literary, such as the personal essay. In addition, students will also develop their essay skills in the form of the personal narrative and travel writing. In essence this course treats the various forms of the essay with a special emphasis on the creative ways the genre can be interpreted and rewritten. Readings of representative essays will be included. Prerequisite: Introduction to Creative Writing. Primarily intended for juniors and seniors.

  • ENG 453. Creative Writing Workshop: Poetry

    This course builds upon student’s previous training in the workshop, asking them to hone their skills not only as writers but also as readers and critics of poetry. Using recently released, debut collections as role models, students will address concepts of diction, the line and line break, figurative language, imagery, rhyme, meter, and narrative. Assignments will include drafting new poems, performing close readings of published texts, and facilitating class discussions. Prerequisite: Introduction to Creative Writing. Primarily intended for juniors and seniors.

  • ENG 452. Creative Writing Workshop: Fiction

    This workshop offers guided practice in the writing short fiction. Using established writers as models, considerable effort is put toward the objective of learning to read as writers and, in the process, becoming better critics of the student’s own work and the work of others in the group. By offering a more intimate familiarity with the elements of fiction, students write and revise prodigiously and, in the process, learn and practice a repertoire of literary strategies in preparation and in support of short stories of their own composition. Prerequisite: Introduction to Creative Writing. Primarily intended for juniors and seniors.

  • ENG/DRA 451. Playwriting II

    An advanced workshop in writing for the stage. Prerequisite: ENG 351 Playwriting I.

  • ENG 353. Contemporary American Literature: Living Write

    This course focuses on the study of American poetry, fiction, and non-fiction from 1945 to the present. (The course alternates among the genres of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction.) Emphasis includes an 

    examination of the work of major American writers of the last half-century. The course is structured in a way similar to a traditional offering in literature with this difference: some of the writers whose work is studied in class will at some time during the semester come to campus to visit the class, discuss their work with participants, and give a public reading.

  • ENG 352. Forms of Poetry

    This course explores the rich literary tradition of received forms in English and American verse. By studying a wide range of formal poems students will discover the adaptability of fixed forms like the sonnet, villanelle, and sestina. Class assignments will include both critical writing and creative “experiments” in poetic forms. Students are strongly encouraged to take Forms of Poetry in preparation for the “Creative Writing Workshop: Poetry.” 

  • ENG/DRA 351. Playwriting I

    Analysis and practical application of techniques and styles employed in writing for the stage.

  • ENG 103. Introduction to Creative Writing

    A workshop introducing new writers to several forms of creative writing, including poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Students will use classic and contemporary literature as models for their own efforts. In the fall semester, this course is only open to first-year students. In the spring semester, beginning writers from all years may enroll in ENG 103.