Beginning fall semester 2015, the English Department will offer a minor in creative writing, a welcome opportunity for students within and beyond the College of Humanities.
PROVO, Utah (March 4, 2015)—From Orson Scott Card to Brandon Sanderson, Brigham Young University has produced best-selling authors and boasts a faculty that is regularly featured in nationally respected literary publications. Now, all signs point to an increase in output.
Beginning fall semester 2015, the College of Humanities will offer a minor in creative writing. Finally, students with a passion for fiction, nonfiction and poetry will a have a formalized track of study (19–22 hours) culminating in official recognition for their work.
Every year, nearly 400 students sign up for ENGL 218, the introductory creative writing course. Many of these students go on to take advanced courses, while others do not, due to the lack of a formal program of study for creative writers. Joey Franklin, professor of creative writing, said, “There are some students who don’t take creative writing beyond ENGL 218 because they can’t get anything out of it in terms of aligning their curriculum vitae. They can’t say, ‘I have a minor in creative writing,’ so they’re going to take a minor in something else that they can put on their résumé.”
In January 2014, Franklin volunteered to head up the initial proposal for a creative writing minor. The proposal’s goal was twofold: first, to provide a formal program of study for those students who have – until now – had to create their own creative writing emphasis piecemeal through elective credits; second, to make creative writing studies more attractive to students outside the major looking for a formal minor to include on their academic record. With the help of other creative writing professors, Franklin set about organizing the minor so that students would not only get plenty of opportunities to write, but a solid literary foundation as well.
The minor will require that students take certain classes in genre studies, such as ENGL 336 (The American Novel) or ENGL 294 (Transatlantic Literary Theory). While the majority of these classes are preexisting, some had to be made from scratch. Franklin explained, “The idea was that you take ENGL 366 and study poetry as literature, and then you take ENGL 319 and study it from the creative writing side, creating a nice balance. But there wasn’t a course for nonfiction, so we created ENGL 339, which is studies in nonfiction.”
Also new is the capstone class, ENGL 401. Modeled after the rhetoric and writing minor capstone, this pass/fail course will require students to organize a portfolio of their writings that demonstrates what they have learned during their time in the minor. Rather than meet in a class, students will meet one-on-one with an advisor who will help them prepare the portfolio for their final interview.
Of course, many juniors and seniors have already taken many of the offered creative writing courses, but being so close to graduation, adding the required literature courses may be impractical. Humanities Advisement and Careers will work with these students on a case-by-case basis to consider substituting other courses for the needed credit.
While the minor will belong to the College of Humanities, it will provide a much needed opportunity for students from outside the college. Lance Larsen, who contributed to the minor’s development, recognizes that many students would have taken the offered classes anyway. “The minor will attract new students who would benefit from greater breadth,” he said.
Larsen and other professors involved feel that the minor will act as a bridge between the humanities and other colleges on campus, as it will allow students to broaden their faculties. Through exposure to world literature and exercises in developing their creative voices, students are encouraged to think about how other people see the world and to learn empathy.
Franklin said, “That’s an essential skill whether you’re an artist or a businessman, a doctor, a lawyer, a housewife, a painter or a schoolteacher.” He further explained that many of his students come into creative writing not knowing what they really believe or how strongly they feel about it. By writing it all down, they are ultimately confronted with the truth of their own personality. “Creative writing studies helps you become a better teller of your own story. It helps you understand who you are as an individual more clearly.”
—Samuel Wright (B.A. American Studies ’16)
Photography by Dave King