Creative Writing

Statement of Values

Michael White and Rebecca Lee at Thirsty Tome 2012

Statement of Values
(download the pdf)

1. We are practicing literary artists: our authority to teach arises directly from the discoveries we make in our own writing, daily and over a lifetime.

According to diverse aesthetics, we use words to engage the world and create works of beauty and significance. We cultivate an artistic sensibility through language, on the page and out loud, both for its accuracy and for its music. We strive for artistic excellence through the diligent practice of craft. Our collective goal is to inspire each other and our students to our best creative work-expressed in writing that is technically proficient, clean, and professionally presentable. Grammar, diction, and syntax are the paint and brushstrokes by which we build drama and artistic meaning. We believe in helping our students establish sound, professional working habits so they will approach their craft with respect. We also actively encourage their engagement with other arts.

  • CRW offers courses in the creative process, which incorporate other arts.
  • Faculty members integrate film, music, and visual art into craft classes, workshops, and performances.
  • Faculty members write and teach across genres.
  • All faculty instructors and GTAs grade undergraduate work both for "artistic merit" and "presentation," the latter including all aspects of grammar and usage.
  • A required course in Editing for Publication is now offered for our BFA majors.

2. We believe in the book as an essential endeavor.

The book expresses a whole, sustained vision. Short forms all have their undeniable virtues, but the literary marketplace is first a marketplace of books. We write them and teach our students to write not only short stories, essays, and poems, but unified books. Reading, a lifelong engagement with books of literary quality, is central to the writer's life and our individual and collective identity. Reading books helps a writer calibrate an original aesthetic and challenges the writer to grow beyond comfortable certainties and habits.

  • All BFA seniors produce a chapbook or anthology in the Pub Lab.
  • The MFA curriculum includes semester- and year- long courses in the book-length prose narrative and poetry collection.
  • The Publishing Laboratory explores the artistic as well as the practical facets of designing, editing, and printing books.
  • All tenure-track faculty members are expected to publish books for promotion and tenure.

3. We value research as a creative act.

Broadly conceived, research means going into the world and finding out what is necessary to know in order to write about a chosen subject perceptively, knowledgably, and imaginatively. The value of research lies not only in its product but in the very act of discovering one's truest self in the context of public subjects. Research at its best enlarges the writer's vision and the scope of subjects available, challenging the writer to develop new structures and forms with which to address them. Finally, it helps a writer achieve an effective balance between self-awareness and awareness of the world.

  • CRW offers a graduate course in "Research for Writers," organized around direct experience pursuing creative projects.
  • CRW integrates the practice of research-as a deliberate attempt to enlarge and deepen knowledge of a subject-into writing in all genres.
  • CRW requires BFA students in creative nonfiction to write beyond memoir and autobiography, using what they already know to explore subjects they passionately want to find out about.
  • CRW supports the research of MFA students and CRW faculty members with travel grants.

4. Teaching is a complementary and parallel art.

Our faculty members are engaged and available. For us all, teaching our craft and mentoring new writers is an important way to become better writers ourselves, for the act of articulating one's aesthetic requires exploring it, continually testing basic assumptions, and evolving as an artist. We are part of a tradition, and our students' experience and work are a significant part of our collective legacy. This legacy extends to the larger community of writers and readers beyond campus.

  • All faculty members share the teaching and mentoring of BFA and MFA students and rotate by turn serving as master teachers in CRW 201, our Basic Studies introductory course.
  • The CRW Department has developed a culture of community and ongoing informal mentoring. Teaching is closely observed; excellence and innovation are rewarded.
  • Through outreach programs such as Writers in Action, the Young Writers Summer Camp and workshops sponsored by the Osher Lifelong Learning Center, we expand opportunities for MFA students and faculty members to teach in non-traditional settings and reach writers who normally would not have access to a university.

5. A work of poetry, fiction, or creative non­fiction completes itself in the imagination of the reader.

Creative Writing is, at heart, an act of extraordinary communication. Just as we as faculty writers strive to find the right audience for our work, so too we encourage our students to find their readership, rather than write merely for therapy or self-expression. The publishing process is one more stage in the writer's apprenticeship.

  • CRW conducts workshops for MFA and BFA students in performing creative writing for an audience.
  • The Publishing Laboratory offers a Certificate in Publishing for BFA majors. Other courses for BFA and MFA students de-mystify the process of shepherding work into published form and address both artistic concerns and practical challenges.
  • Faculty mentors help their advisees-when they are ready-to find representation and to place their best work in appropriate venues.

Department of Creative Writing Policy Manual (PDF)