The Book Dissected by Maria Zytaruk

Creative Writing

Your writing career begins here

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 their 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. 

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. 

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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

2022/2023 Creative Writing Courses

Descriptions and applications for portfolio-based creative writing courses

Instructor: Vivek Shraya

Course Description:

In this course, we will be examining memoir / autobiography work as a popular genre and across genre forms (i.e. graphic novel, celebrity memoir, dog memoir! etc.). Through an emphasis on in-class writing activities and daily group work, this class encourages experimentation beyond literary conventions.

*There is a pre-session REQUIRED reading list to complete prior to the start of the course.

**Available at the UCalgary Bookstore

In The Dream House - Carmen Maria Machado

Decoded - Jay-Z

Afterglow - Eileen Myles

Split Tooth - Tanya Tagaq

Dear Scarlet - Teresa Wong

Application Requirements:

To be considered for a place in this course, students must email an application form to vivek.shraya@ucalgary.ca by July 1, 2022.

IMPORTANT: Please put "English 436.05 Application Portfolio" in the subject line of the email.

How to Apply: Download application form

Instructor: Suzette Mayr

Description

This course is intended to offer the advanced writing student an opportunity to work intensively on prose fiction in a popular genre, although the understanding of “popular genre” will not be considered a fixed or rigid category in this course.

Students at this level must be thoroughly familiar with the various elements 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’ writing.

Application Requirements:

To be considered for a place in this course, students must email an application form to smayr@ucalgary.ca by July 1, 2022.

IMPORTANT: Please put "English 594.02 Application Portfolio" in the subject line of the email.

How to Apply: Download application form

Instructor: Aritha van Herk

Description:

English 436.04, Long Short Stories and the Novella, is a course in creative writing, with a focus on longer works of fiction (long short stories or novella-length pieces), emphasizing well-developed ideas and subtle language, with the goal of enhancing sustained creative effect. The class is conducted as a workshop of the whole, along with analyses and lectures. The course requires that students read their colleagues’ writing with care, write brief critiques of their colleagues’ work, and come to class with constructive criticism, prepared to discuss this writing

Application Requirements:

To be considered for a place in this course, students must email an application form to vanherk@ucalgary.ca by November 1, 2022.

IMPORTANT: Please put "English 436.04 Application Portfolio" in the subject line of the email.

How to Apply: Download application form

Instructor: Uchechukwu Umezurike

Description

English 594 is a senior course in Creative Writing that focuses on the craft of short stories. It offers advanced students an opportunity to deepen their grasp of the mechanics of short fiction and apply them to their writing and to their colleagues’ work. We will read various short stories from different parts of the world, examine techniques, elements, and styles employed by other writers, and apply these elements to our writing. Students will write short stories on themes (agreed upon and approved by the instructor) and explore different approaches. This class aims to encourage students to practise writing short stories and see themselves as an aesthete, a maker of art and beauty. Overall, this class will offer students a space to sharpen their aptitude for reading like a writer and motivate them to work towards producing a short story collection. 

To be considered for a place in this course, students must email an application form to uchechukwu.umezurike@ucalgary.ca by November 1, 2022.

IMPORTANT: Please put "English 594.03 Application Portfolio" in the subject line of the email.

How to Apply: Download application form

Creative Writing faculty

Kit Dobson

Kit Dobson

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Clara Joseph

Clara Joseph

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Larissa Lai UCalgary Creative Writing

Larissa Lai

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Clem Martini UCalgary Creative Writing faculty

Clem Martini

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Suzette Mayr UCalgary Creative Writing

Suzette Mayr

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L. Rain Prud'homme-Cranford Creative Writing Faculty

L. Rain Prud'homme-Cranford

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Vivek Shraya Creative Writing Faculty

Vivek Shraya

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Uchechukwu Umezurike

Uchechukwu Umezurike

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Aritha van Herk UCalgary Creative Writing

Aritha Van Herk

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Joshua Whitehead

Joshua Whitehead

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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 Leah Horlick.

Learn more

Planning your graduate studies? The Department of English offers MA and PhD degrees with a creative writing option. Learn more about our Graduate Creative Writing

Questions?

Associate Head (Undergraduate Student Affairs)

Ask me about courses and the English program.

Dr. David Sigler
adveng@ucalgary.ca

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