Autumn 2018 Courses

Attendance on the first day is mandatory for all classes. Participation in creative writing courses may include attendance at events that take place outside of class time. Please note that workshops in which student produce and critique original work comprise a major component of all Creative Writing workshop courses.

To bid on Beginning and Core Creative Writing classes, simply go to my.UChicago and bid on them as you would for any other class. If the class is closed and the instructor is listed as "Staff," please contact Jessi Haley for a spot on the waiting list.

For Advanced Workshops, please submit a writing sample through our online submission form. Submissions should be 3-5 pages for fiction and nonfiction classes, and 3-5 pages of poems for poetry classes. The writing sample is a mandatory component of all workshop applications.

For Technical Seminars and Fundamentals in Creative Writing courses, please fill out the online application form. A writing sample is not required for applications to these courses. Please note that Fundamentals seminars are only open to students who have declared the Creative Writing major.

Please note: All sample submissions should be double-spaced (except poetry) in Word documents using a 12-point standard font. 

Please review your full application before you submit to be sure that AutoFill has not replaced any of your answers. We cannot take factors affecting your admission into account if the information is not on the application form.

Students may apply for no more than 2 workshop courses in each genre. Please clearly indicate your preferences if you are applying to multiple courses.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: September 14, 2018

The course instructor will contact you before the quarter begins to let you know whether you've been accepted.

Email the program manager with questions.

Arts Core & Beginning Workshops

Visit for the current list of open-entry CRWR courses. This space will be updated later in August 2018. 

Fundamentals & Technical Seminars

Fundamentals in Creative Writing: Testimony (CRWR 17001)

To give testimony is to bear witness and to provide evidence. To give testimony is also to draw the reader or listener into an individual point of view. In this course, we will study the first-person voice in various forms of personal testimony. Drawing from a mix of memoirs, personal essays, letters, fiction, and other first-person narratives, we will analyze the techniques and rhetorical devices used by writers, standup comedians, memoirists in transporting the listener or reader into unknowable, unfamiliar experiences. Expect to engage with texts by authors such as Franz Kafka, Patricia Lockwood, Richard Pryor, and William Maxwell. We will compose our own personal writings through creative exercises. A critical paper is also due.

Instructor: Ling Ma
Day/Time:  Wednesday, 12:30-3:20

Students must be a declared Creative Writing major to enroll. Apply via Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

Technical Seminar in Fiction: Characterization (CRWR 20200/40200)

This reading and writing seminar will acquaint students with one of the essential tools of fiction writers: characterization. We will read primary texts by authors including Baldwin, Flaubert, Munro, and Wharton, as well as critical work by Danticat, Forester, and Vargas Llosa, toward exploring how some of literature's most famous characters are rendered. How do writers of fiction create contexts in which characters must struggle, and how does each character's conflicts reveal his or her nature? Students will complete both creative and analytical writing exercises, reading responses, and a paper that focuses on characterization in a work of fiction.

Instructor: Rachel DeWoskin
Day/Time: Wednesday, 1:30-4:20

Instructor consent required. Apply via Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

Technical Seminar in Nonfiction: Narrative Structure (CRWR 20402/40402)

In this class we’ll analyze the architecture of nonfiction. We’ll start by studying the primary elements of composition: the sentence, paragraph, and section. (Or chapter, in the case of a book.) We’ll begin with Verlyn Klinkenborg’s treatise, Several Short Sentences about Writing; also, because the sentence has so much in common with the line and thus poetry, lyric essays, which verge on verse. Sentences accrete into paragraphs, each with its own internal structure, one that leads to the next paragraph and eventually to the overall structure, one composed of every previous element, like a set of Russian nesting dolls. We’ll take apart those structures. If it’s a chain of events we’ll study their order, and ask why they’re often better out of chronologic order. If the piece is a train of thought we’ll look at the way each paragraph forms a boxcar, so to speak, in that train, one pulled along by a central, sometimes unspoken, question or conflict. In some cases—Didion’s White Album—we’ll analyze the absence of any meaningful structure. Other readings include Katherine Boo, David Grann, Natalia Ginzburg, and theoretical texts such as John McPhee’s Draft Number Four.

Instructor: Dan Raeburn

Day/Time: Tuesday, 9:30-12:20 am

Instructor consent required. Apply via Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

Advanced Workshops

Advanced Fiction Workshop: The Love Story (CRWR 22113/42113)

This advanced fiction workshop will examine the ways we write about love in fiction: romantic love, familial love, unconventional love, etc.  Our basis will be the notion that love is ultimately self-knowledge, which lies at the core of all great fiction, and like self-knowledge it involves an endless and inexhaustible act of seeking.  We will read and discuss stories centered on the topic of love, this act of seeking, and we will do writing exercises that help us write compellingly, convincingly, and unsentimentally about deeply sentimental things.  Every student will also complete and workshop a full-length story that explores the idea of love on some level.  They will additionally write a significant revision of this story, which they will either present for a second workshop or turn in at the end of the quarter.  Please expect a rigorous but constructive workshop environment where being a critic and an editor is as essential as being a writer.

Instructor: Vu Tran
Day/Time: Tuesday, 2:00 - 4:50 

Instructor consent required. Apply via (include writing sample). Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

Advanced Fiction Workshop: Music in Fiction & Improvised Composition (CRWR 22119/42119)

This workshop-based course is suitable for any student wishing to refine and expand their understanding of how fiction gets made, and will be of particular interest to those exploring new stylistic possibilities or working in both the disciplines of prose writing and music. We'll look at the Modernists' experiments with refrain, repetition, and pure verbal music, their attempts "to find out what's behind things," as Woolf put it. We'll consider literary improvisation as Ellison meant the term: the gathering of seemingly disparate materials to synthesize something wildly new. We'll explore how musicians are often allowed (or forced) to cross cultural boundaries through texts like Baldwin's "This Evening, This Morning, So Soon" and interviews with Wendy Carlos and Fred Hersch. We'll also look at the burgeoning field of rhythmology, and use it as a bridge to examine how music also borrows from fiction, through storytelling in song and a guest lecture from a Pulitzer-Prize-nominated composer. 

Instructor: Will Boast
Day/Time: Monday, 1:30 - 4:20

Instructor consent required. Apply via (include writing sample). Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

Advanced Fiction Workshop: Novel Writing, The First Chapters (CRWR 22128/42128)

In this workshop-focused class we will focus on the early stages of both developing and writing a novel: choosing the POV, establishing the setting, developing the main characters and the dynamics between them, setting up the conflicts and seeding the themes of book, etc. As a class we will read, break down and discuss the architecture of the openings of several published novels as you work on your own opening chapters, which will be workshopped during the course.

Instructor: Augustus Rose
Day/Time: Monday, 10:30 - 1:20

Instructor consent required. Apply via (include writing sample). Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

Advanced Poetry Workshop: Vocabularies (CRWR 23120/43120)

In this workshop, students will explore ideas about what constitutes a poet's "voice," with particular interest in vocabularies. Where do poets find their language, and how do they change it (or how does it change them)? What constraints have poets put on themselves in order to create interesting vocabularies? We'll read work by Tracy K. Smith, Geoffrey Hill, Aaron Kunin, Catullus, Federico Garcia Lorca, Emily Wilson, Jack Spicer, Aimé Césaire, Paul Celan, Anne Carson, Jeffrey Yang, Charles Baudelaire, poets in The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry, and others. Students will keep notebooks of language gathered in different locations and culled from different media. They will also make work in other media to explore different notions of vocabulary.

Instructor: Joshua Edwards

Day/Time: Friday, 10:30 - 1:20

Instructor consent required. Apply via (include writing sample). Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

Advanced Nonfiction Workshop: Writing Lives (CRWR 24009/44009)

Certain lives catch and keep our attention - they seem magnetic, illustrative, confusing, broken off, revelatory. Sometimes we suspect that through studying a life we will be able to understand a scientific discovery, an artistic creation, a political issue or an historical period; sometimes we are drawn by the drama of the life the subject lived, or by the person's introspection or testimony. This is a course for students interested in writing lives - and might be of particular interest to a variety of students: creative writers from nonfiction, fiction, and playwriting with an interest in profiles, group portraits, documentary work, or historical meditation; graduate and undergraduate students of history, art, politics, medicine, or law who imagine one day writing a biography, or who are interested in oral history, portraits, medical narrative writing, testimony, case histories, or writing for general / magazine audiences. We'll work to learn methods and techniques of interviewing, quotation, portrayal and documentation from historians and journalists, and also from playwrights, psychoanalysts, documentary photographers and archivists. Students will write weekly exercises in a variety of forms, and will complete one longer essay to be workshopped in class and revised.

Instructor: Rachel Cohen

Day/Time: Monday, 10:30 - 1:20

Instructor consent required. Apply via (include writing sample). Attendance on the first day is mandatory.