Creative Writing

Your writing career begins here

New 2021/2022 Creative Writing Courses

Descriptions and applications for portfolio-based creative writing courses

Instructor: Larissa Lai

Course Description:

This is a class in writing short form poetry. Over the course of the semester, you will learn twelve different forms. Some forms we might address (though we can't do them all): acrostic, ballad, blues poem, dub, calligram, canzone, chant, collaboration, concrete poem, eclogue, elegy, event poem, free verse, ghazal, limerick, list poem, lyric, nonsense verse, occasional poem, ode, pantoum, pastoral poem, performance poem, projective verse, prose poem, quatrain, rap, renga, sestina, sonnet, villanelle. You might invent a form of your own. You will write every week. Each week several of you will submit a small selection of poems for critique the following week, for critique by the professor and your peers. In addition, we will read and discuss the work of several contemporary poets.

Application Requirements:

To be considered for a place in this course, please submit an application form to by Aug. 1, 2021.

IMPORTANT: Please put "English 436.01 Application Portfolio" in the subject line of the email. I receive a lot of email, and this is the only way I can be sure I'll be able to find your application when I'm looking for it.

Download application form



Instructor: Aritha van Herk


The Creative Nonfiction genre has gained considerable traction as a form investigating substantial intellectual questions in contemporary times. Although focused on narrative, it is less a genre in and of itself than a text instigated by voice and research, strong description, evocative images, and powerful revelations. While it relies on the author’s ability to recount or to springboard from actual events, it relies also on imagination and craft to relay important ideas: stories of experience, loss, coincidence, accident, and yes, events. Most of all, the successful work of nonfiction incites reflection on a crucial moment of recognition that the writer can offer the reader.  

This course will examine several contemporary works of creative non-fiction, including examples of autobiography, memoir, travel narrative, literary journalism and ficto-criticism as models to inspire and inform students’ own writing of a work of creative non-fiction. The aim of the course is to enable students to research and develop a powerful piece of writing that is both creative and critical, whether a lyric essay, a meditation, or a well-researched dive into an historical or place-based subject.

The students will be expected to produce, by the end of the course, a 75 page work of Creative Nonfiction.

Application Requirements:

By August 1st, 2021, prospective students should submit a proposal of the long project they wish to undertake, and 20 pages of writing relevant to that project to  Admission to this course is determined by portfolio and is granted by departmental permission.

How to apply: Download application form


Instructor: Larissa Lai


This is an advanced course in creative writing, designed to offer student with strong and longstanding poetry writing practice the opportunity to work on a book length project. Students are expected to already have a regular writing practice. This course will help deepen that practice. Students will receive instruction in the various ways that a coherent and cohesive poetry book can be assembled. Early in the course we will discuss both thematic and formal possibilities in relation to project you have proposed in your application. You will be given advice and guidance to refine these, and then you will produce the book you have mapped out— with plenty of room for deviation and reinvention, but with the goal of a complete manuscript by the end of the course. Since the course is for just one semester, students may bring a project-in-progress or a selection of  5-15 finished/well-drafted poems to use as the basis for their book if they wish. Project thematics are wide open. Form is also wide open: narrative poetry, lyric poetry, sound poetry, concrete poetry, interventionist poetry, language-based poetry, conceptual poetry or digital writing. Students are also invited to invent forms and will be given guidance in how to do so.

Application Requirements: To be considered for a place in this course, students must email an application form to   by December 1, 2021.

IMPORTANT: Please put "English 593/693 Application Portfolio" in the subject line of the email. I receive a lot of email, and this is the only way I can be sure I'll be able to find your application when I'm looking for it.

How to Apply: Download application form

Instructor: Suzette Mayr

Description: English 594 is a senior course in Creative Writing, intended to offer advanced students an opportunity to work intensively on a long prose piece. Students at this level must be completely comfortable with the various practices and theories of narrative intervention, and should be prepared to work creatively and imaginatively in applying those theories to their own writing, as well as to their colleagues’ work.

Students are also expected to read contemporary prose and theory as part of their background work, and give one oral presentation on published texts by other writers.

Texts: TBA

Application Requirements: In order to be considered for a place in this course, potential students must email the following to by November 30th, 2021:

How to Apply: Download application form

Undergrad creative writing

Emphasis on craft

All Creative Writing courses encourage diverse approaches to writing. However, they are not courses in how to get published. They are intended to help you become a better writer. You will study language, structure, form and all the elements of poetry, fiction and creative writing in general. 

Creative writing courses are open to all

You don't have to be an English major to take Creative Writing courses; they are open to any student or member of the community who wants to apply.

All Creative Writing courses are credit English courses.

Enhance your degree with a creative writing honours project

You may choose to undertake a creative writing project in the English Honours program.

Contact the department to learn more about your options. 

View contacts »

View English Honours requirements

Earn an Embedded Certificate in Creative Writing

If you complete 18 units from the Field of Creative Writing, you are eligible to earn an Embedded Certificate. 

View certificate details

Creative Writing faculty

Larissa Lai UCalgary Creative Writing

Larissa Lai

Associate Professor
Social Sciences 1052

Larissa Lai has authored three novels, When Fox Is a Thousand (Press Gang 1995; Arsenal Pulp 2004), Salt Fish Girl (Thomas Allen 2002) and The Tiger Flu (Arsenal Pulp 2018)two poetry collections, sybil unrest (with Rita Wong; LINEbooks 2008; New Star 2008, 2013) and Automaton Biographies (Arsenal Pulp 2009); a chapbook, Eggs in the Basement (Nomados 2009)and a critical book, Slanting I, Imagining We: Asian Canadian Literary Production in the 1980s and 1990s (Wilfrid Laurier University Press 2014). A recipient of the Astraea Foundation Emerging Writers' Awardshe has been a finalist for the Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Tiptree Award, the Sunburst Award, the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Award, the bpNichol Chapbook Award, the Dorothy Livesay Prize and the ACQL Gabrielle Roy Prize for Literary Criticism. 

She holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia and a PhD in English from the University of Calgary. She was Assistant Professor in Canadian Literature for seven years at the University of British Columbia before returning to the University of Calgary to take up a CRC II in Creative Writing.

Aritha van Herk UCalgary Creative Writing

Aritha Van Herk

Professor, AOE, FRSC
Social Sciences 1132

Aritha van Herk is both a recognized scholar with a University Professorship, and an internationally recognized Canadian author whose work has been translated into ten languages. Her novels include Judith (1978), winner of the Seal Book Award, No Fixed Address: An Amorous Journey (1986), which was nominated for the Governor General's Award, and Restlessness (1998). Her experiments in creative non-fiction and ficto-criticism are available in A Frozen Tongue (1992), In Visible Ink (1991), and Places Far from Ellesmere: A Geografictione (1990). Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta (2001) served as the inspiration for the Glenbow Museum's permanent exhibition of the same name, launched in 2007. In This Place and Prairie Gothic (with photographer George Webber) develop the idea of geographical temperament as tonal accompaniment. Her most recent work, Stampede and the Westness of West, is a prose/poetry exploration of place and mythology. She is a Member of the Order of Canada, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a member of the Alberta Order of Excellence, and she has received the Lorne Pierce Medal, awarded to recognize achievement of special significance and conspicuous merit in imaginative or critical literature in Canada.

Aritha van Herk's work is particularly recognized for her innovations in creative non-fiction and, in her fiction, for the affirmative images of women resisting societal norms and familial expectations. She is the editor of the “Brave and Brilliant” Series published by the University of Calgary Press. She has been an active editor and strong supporter of her many students' work since the mid 1980s.


Suzette Mayr UCalgary Creative Writing

Suzette Mayr

Suzette Mayr

Social Sciences 1048

Suzette Mayr holds an M.A. degree from the University of Alberta and a Ph.D. from the University of New South Wales. She is a novelist, the author of the acclaimed novels Moon Honey (Newest, 1995), a finalist for both the Georges Bugnet and Henry Kreisel First Novel Awards, The Widows (Newest, 1998), finalist for the Commonwealth Prize for Best Book in the Canadian-Caribbean Region, Venous Hum (Arsenal Pulp, 2004), longlisted for the ReLit Award; Monoceros (Coach House, 2011), winner of the 2012 ReLit Award and the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Award; long listed for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize; nominated for the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction and the Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction, and most recently, Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall (Coach House, 2017).

Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and in collaborations with visual artists. Her fiction, with its original voice, clipped, deadpan satirical style, is on this country's cutting edge of contemporary explorations into issues of race, sex and identity.

Suzette Mayr is widely versed in contemporary 20th century Canadian literature and particularly in representations of race and ethnicity.

Vivek Shraya Creative Writing Faculty

Vivek Shraya

Assistant Professor
Social Sciences 1046

Vivek Shraya is an artist whose body of work crosses the boundaries of music, literature, visual art, theatre, and film. Her best-selling new book, I'm Afraid of Men, was her­ald­ed by Vanity Fair as “cultural rocket fuel,” and her album with Queer Songbook Orchestra, Part-Time Woman, was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize. She is one half of the music duo Too Attached and the founder of the publishing imprint VS. Books.

A five-time Lambda Literary Award finalist, Vivek was a 2016 Pride Toronto Grand Marshal, was featured on The Globe and Mail’s Best Dressed list, and has received honours from The Writers’ Trust of Canada and The Publishing Triangle. She is a director on the board of the Tegan and Sara Foundation and an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Calgary.

L. Rain Prud'homme-Cranford Creative Writing Faculty

L. Rain Prud'homme-Cranford

Assistant Professor
Social Sciences 1124

Rain Prud’homme-Cranford (Rain C Goméz), PhD: is a “FATtastic IndigeNerd,” working within Indigenous and Afro-Indigenous Studies (literatures, ecology, gender/sexuality, Métis/Méstiz@/Creole studies, Rhetorics, Indigenous STEM, and Creative Writing). Her book Smoked Mullet Cornbread Crawdad Memory (Mongrel Empire Press 2012) won the First Book Award from Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas. Her forthcoming creative collections include Miscegenation Roundance: Poèmes Historiques, "I oughta know about lonely girls": Essays on Body, Love, & Race, and a third collection of poetry entitled FAT. Rain’s current critical monograph projects include Gumbo Stories: Quantum Relation-Making and Decolonizing the Transnational South (forthcoming) and "Remember the Red River Valley:" Transcontinental Red River Literacies of Métissage/Méstizaje (research and writing stage). She is the editor (along with Andrew Jolivétte, Darryl Barthé, and Carolyn Dunn), of Louisiana Creole Peoplehood: Tracing Post-Contact Afro-Indigeneity and Community (forthcoming University of Washington Press).

Critical and creative work can be found in The Southern Literary Journal, Louisiana Folklife, Undead Souths: The Gothic and Beyond (LSU P), Swamp Souths: Tracing Literary Ecologies (LSU P), Mississippi Quarterly, American Indian Culture and Research Journal, Tidal Basin Review, Yellow Medicine Review, Sing: Indigenous Poetry of the Americas, Plume, and many others. Rain is co-Editor-in Chief (with Carolyn Dunn), of That Painted Horse Press: A Borderless Indigenous Press of the Americas (a press founded by Paula Gunn Allen and Carolyn Dunn). She is an Assistant Professor of English and Affiliated Faculty, International Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Student Access Program at the University of Calgary.

Clem Martini UCalgary Creative Writing faculty

Clem Martini

Professor, Department of Drama
Adjunct Professor, English Department
Craigie Hall D107

Clem Martini is an award-winning playwright, novelist, and screenwriter with over thirty plays, and twelve books of fiction and nonfiction to his credit, including the W.O. Mitchell Award-winning Bitter Medicine: A Graphic Memoir of Mental Illness, the recently launched The Unravelling, and The Comedian. His texts on playwriting, The Blunt PlaywrightThe Greek Playwright, and The Ancient Comedians are employed widely at universities and colleges. He currently teaches in the School of Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Calgary.

Michael Chabon visits UCalgary

Planning your graduate studies?

The Department of English offers MA and PhD degrees with a creative writing option.

Marlon James for Calgary Distinguished Writers Program

Calgary Distinguished Writers Program

The Calgary Distinguished Writers Program strives to advance the careers of Canadian writers. As a part of the Calgary writing community, it engages the community with the Faculty of Arts and the Department of English.

The current Canadian Writer-in-Residence is Teresa Wong.

Learn more

Creative Writing enrolment permissions

The only official prerequisites if you wish to study Creative Writing at the undergraduate level normally are a full first-year English course and permission of the Department of English. However, you do not need to be an English major. Both full-time students and working adults take Creative Writing courses.

To gain permission to enroll in any 400- and 500-level Creative Writing courses, you must submit a writing portfolio, the equivalent of an audition. Because of high demand for most of these courses (they average between 60 and 100 applications for 20 places), we require a portfolio, on average 25 to 40 pages of writing, typed and double-spaced. 

The material you submit in your portfolio should match the genre of the course you are applying to. Note: the highly competitive nature of admission to Creative Writing courses means that not all students get in. If you are not accepted when you first apply, we encourage you to try again another year, and to make an appointment with the Canadian Writer-in-Residence, who is available to provide feedback on your work.

Because you cannot register in portfolio admission courses until you receive permission from the department, you should register in a second-choice course if you are an undergraduate student.

Portfolio considerations

In addition to reading carefully the specific details concerning portfolio submissions for individual courses, you should keep in mind the following general advice:

  • Try to demonstrate as wide a range of your writing abilities as possible. For instance, in fiction a range of narrative possibilities (even if they are fragments) will demonstrate your abilities (a good descriptive scene, a good action scene, a good scene that employs dialogue) better than one or two “complete” short stories that might fail. With poetry, instead of submitting a portfolio of 20 rhymed-stanza “hurtin’” poems about a love relationship you had that turned sour, include poems on other subjects and in other formats. Variety in the form and content of your submission alerts the instructor to the breadth and depth of your engagement with writing to date.
  • Your acceptance into the class (or not) is not necessarily an absolute judgment of your writing ability at this point. We receive many more portfolios than there are places in Creative Writing classes, and if you do not get into one class, you may get into another in another year, or you may gain admission to a class in another genre. If you are not accepted, please don’t be discouraged. Just keep writing (sign up for a Continuing Education Creative Writing class, if you can) and try again.
  • The questions asked on portfolio submission forms regarding your background (previous writing courses taken, which recent literary titles you have read, etc.) have no right or wrong answers. They are intended to give the instructor a sense of what level of previous writing or reading experience the members of the class possess. This is useful information for the instructor in fine-tuning his or her course curriculum. 
  • While our Creative Writing courses encourage diverse approaches to writing, these courses are instruction in literary writing.They are not courses in how to get published. They are about how to become a better writer, with respect to language, image, structure, form and all the other elements of poetry and fiction. These courses focus on the craft of writing well in a literary context. 


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