Get the latest ranking of Top 10 Schools for Aspiring Writers 2018 here.
What will you do with a creative writing major? Prepare for the skeptics—a creative writing major is not for the faint of heart. If you’re serious about your craft, you’ll need a creative writing program that will whip your writing into shape. We’ve uncovered programs with reputable alumni and faculty, scholarship opportunities, inventive writing courses and thriving literary magazines. We’re talking programs so exclusive they often require a manuscript application. No school can guarantee you’ll be the next great American author, but these ten will get you pretty damn close.
10. EMORY UNIVERSITY
You better gear up if you’re looking into the creative writing program at Emory University in Atlanta. On top of a standard application requiring reasons for applying to the program, students must submit a manuscript to secure a spot in the advanced poetry and prose courses. The select few who do get accepted can apply for the Grace Abernethy Scholarship just for being a creative writing major. If you decide to pursue playwriting, you’ll thrive with Emory’s unique joint Theater Studies major. See ya on Broadway.
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What You’ll Actually Learn at the Best Creative Writing Programs
Written by Macey Spensley
You’ve already realized that med school just is not for you – now you have to convince your parents to pay for your MFA in Creative Writing. They might tell you that you cannot make a living being a writer. But an MFA in Writing will go beyond just writing a novel. You’ll pick up these concrete and valuable skills at these killer writing universities.
1. How to write for Broadway
Do you have dreams of writing the perfect drama queen for Rachel Berry to portray in her first Broadway appearance? Emory University wants to help you achieve that dream. With a joint playwriting major, Emory University dedicates much of its resources to helping students develop play scripts. Students hold the Lenaia Festival each year, which allows student plays-in-progress to be shown and critiqued. And with the Creative Writing Reading Series underway, students can meet with and learn from nationally and internationally recognized playwrights.
2. How to truly Master the Fine Arts
Why stop at being the next Hemingway, when you could be the next Spike Lee or Michaelangelo, too? Attending the writing program at the Columbia University School of the Arts offers students a unique opportunity to witness how the arts intersect each other. Other sections of the School of the Arts, like film, theatre and visual arts, enrich the experience of those in the writing program. The administration encourages students to take classes outside of the writing program as electives to combine skills and prepare themselves for writing in any industry. In addition, Columbia offers the Literary Translation at Columbia program. Here, students learn about the art of translation as a literary work. You can finally put those four years of Spanish class from high school to use.
3. How to save money
Mo’ money, mo’ problems? Not at the University of Virginia. The school awards all students in the workshop the same amount of funding. They also don’t have to compete for that funding again in their second year. Nobody will wonder why Jane in their fiction class got more money than them when her short story bore them to sleep, and it fosters a sense of respect and companionship within the workshop. Students don’t teach their first year, which allows them to put all of that energy into writing. When they do begin to teach, they design courses themselves rather than teaching a discussion section. The ability to teach others in the way they want will ultimately allow students to learn more, themselves. Even the experts in the MFA courses can never acquire enough knowledge.
4. What the real experts know
Alicia Keys didn’t lie when she said NYC is what dreams are made of. New York City bubbles over with opportunities no matter what profession you want to enter, and that includes the literary world. Famous writers have found their niche in the Big Apple, and have turned to NYU to pass along those skills to their students. Some of these famous faculty members include poets Ocean Vuong and Anne Carson. The primarily workshop based classes at NYU will help you in learning to both give and receive criticism. “I’ve learned to be a constructive critic of my peers’ work, as well as how to receive criticism while remaining true to my own voice,” said junior Meghan Bennett. “With the encouragement of my teachers I’ve learned to take risks in my fiction and poetry writing, and be unafraid to share them.”
5. Beowulf Who?
Everyone wants to write as famously as Shakespeare, but who actually wants to read him? At Oberlin College, they won’t force you to take those boring literature classes along with your exciting novel-writing workshop. The Creative Writing major at Oberlin stands separate from the English department, and has been that way for 40 years. “Faculty and students work independently to tailor the concentration to the needs of the majors and of all students interested in creative writing,” said Associate Professor of English and Acting Director of Creative Writing DeSales Harrison. “Students are encouraged constantly to test, refine and transcend their skills in the conception, construction and revision of creative work.” You can spend all of that energy you might have put into translating Chaucer on your short story repertoire.
6. How to Get published
Want to know what it takes to get your short story about finding love while coming of age pass the slush pile? Washington University offers a unique opportunity for you. Dorothy, a publishing project, calls Washington U home. The press publishes work by women. Students have the opportunity to apply to become an editorial assistant at Dorothy in their second year of the MFA program. The internship provides students the ability to learn a mix of literary publishing skills, such as editorial work and marketing. “You just learn a whole lot about the publishing industry if you work at Dorothy,” said Hurst Senior Writer in Residence Kathryn Davis. “Washington University offers a sizeable stipend, so you won’t go into debt while learning here.”
7. How to Survive in the Tech World
The print book might not have died yet, but Brown University will prepare you for the potential demise. In response to this increasing technological world, Brown hosts the Digital Language Arts program within the Creative Writing MFA. Students in this program work with multiple different media while still focusing on how writing and language are used to communicate ideas. Brown University websites states that some of the media students can study are “aesthetic computation, creative hacking, computer graphics, animation, electronic music and sound art, digital video and even artificial 3D audiovisual environments.” When a hologram pops out of your electronic book to demonstrate a scene in thirty years, you can probably thank a Brown student.
8. Idiomas Nuevos
John Hopkins University believes in the power of language so much that they want you to learn two. The school requires an intermediate level of knowledge in a second language to “allow a writer the flexibility to experiment with the first language,” as their website states. Students can either pass a placement exam or translation test to show their proficiency in their second language, or can enroll in any level in any language. Readers all over the world will have no problem picking up your work after you leave John Hopkins.
9. The Art of Revision
Students at the University of Texas don’t slack off. Here, the MFA program is three years long instead of the typical two. Only five or six fiction writers gain acceptance each year. Students choose a primary field of study, like fiction and poetry, and typically have a secondary area of study as well. The faculty constantly pushes revising and revising and revising on their students. The industry expects this of writers as well, so this won’t shock you when you graduate and head into the big bad world of literary publishing. The school encourages students to try out another genre of writing with their excess credit hour allowances. The University of Texas will have you prepared for the 3 a.m. binge-writing sessions while ingesting copious amounts of Red Bull that are probably in your future.
10. How to become the publisher
If you mention living in Iowa, people might ask “Oh, the corn state?” But if you mention living in Iowa City, they’ll know you live in one of the literary capitols of America. Iowa City stands as the only UNESCO City of Literature in the United States, and that brings many unique opportunities to students who study here. The renowned Prairie Lights Bookstore attracts writers of all kinds to read during their book tours. Each year, Iowa City holds the Mission Creek Festival. Authors from all over the world come to Mission Creek to read their work and speak on panels. On top of the opportunities to network with famous agents and authors, the University of Iowa has a literary publishing track. Undergrad students get to create their own literary magazine and chapbooks by soliciting and editing submissions, designing the physical copies and marketing them to the community. You won’t have to desperately reach for experience on job interviews when you graduated as a Hawkeye.