About the Undergraduate Creative Writing Program

UCSC, with its history of alternative education, may be a place with a particularly large number of students interested in the expressive arts.  Although some of our students may choose initially to write because of self-absorption, or to get their fifteen minutes of fame, when they begin to study creative writing in earnest they quickly learn that the practice of art is not about the self. It is about the tension between creativity and discipline, experimentation and structure. Whatever the reasons for its popularity, Creative Writing as taught at UCSC is a rigorous immersion in the written word, a program that pushes students to think both creatively and intellectually about language and culture within a literature department engaged in the same project.

The shared work of the literature department at UCSC is, in the broadest sense, as Kafka wrote about the book "to act as an axe to the frozen sea within." We want to wake students up. We go about this project by giving students various methodological tools (political, cultural, psychological, historical, creative), to re-examine and re-vision literatures. Creative Writing, as taught here at UCSC, works in concert with this broad project, by joining the study of literary texts with the act of creating them. In Creative Writing, students study expressive language: the junctures and disjunctures between the word and the world. In Creative Writing the students learn to read as writers, which means that they focus on the multiple strategies that the writer employs to make his or her creative argument about the world and about writing.  Students learn to take responsibility for every word they write in workshops in which their peers discuss/critique thematic, linguistic and structural choices.

In a class called Methods and Materials, students work to bridge their critical and creative thinking through the study of a genre or aspect of literature (historical fiction, memoir, the serial poem, storytelling, film and poetry), and then respond with both critical and creative writing. For many creative writing students their studies in literature (classics, film, world literature and others) complicate their writing in productive ways, and the over 450 students who take beginning and intermediate creative writing each year bring their experiences of struggling to write and rewrite literary texts to their studies in all divisions of the university.

Practical proof of the success of the program is that students in the creative writing concentration tend to succeed in their literature classes (they are a disproportionate number of honors and high honors students in the department), to get into prestigious graduate programs (Columbia, Brown, Iowa, Arizona, etc...) and to succeed in their careers (journalism, publishing, the law, writing).