The department offers many opportunities to students interested in creative writing. We treat the study of creative writing not as an alternative to rigorous scholarly engagement in the reading of and writing about literary and critical texts nor as an exercise in easy self-expression. Rather, it is a discipline whose students practice the techniques and strategies of close reading and whatever writing is appropriate to a given genre: poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and playwriting. The English Department offers electives in each of these genres, as well as one course that introduces students to the writing of nonfiction and another that introduces them to the writing of poetry, fiction, and plays. Throughout the Creative Writing curriculum, students learn to see the crucial interrelationship of reading and writing practices, as they begin to note and to take part in the myriad choices a poet or essayist or novelist or playwright makes at the level of, for example, the word, the sentence, the poetic line, the line of dialogue, the scene, the stanza, the paragraph.
Over the past several years, undergraduate English majors have been admitted into seven of the top ten MFA Creative Writing programs in the U.S.; they have published novels and volumes of poetry; and their nonfiction has appeared in publications ranging from Rolling Stone to The New York Times. These students attended equally to creative and scholarly studies, following the English Department’s curricular emphasis on the critical intersection of these disciplines. Many majors primarily interested not in creative writing but in literary criticism find that creative writing courses add a valuable dimension to their experience of and knowledge about literature, and many non-majors also take creative writing courses.
Utopia PKWY, the undergraduate literary journal, is an outlet for students to publish their own and each other’s work, and an opportunity for English majors and students from other disciplines to work together toward a community project that involves staff meetings, public readings, practice in the editorial demands and obligations of producing a literary journal, and interaction with faculty advisors. The journal is published once a year, usually in the Fall semester, and while it takes submissions from all Queens College undergraduates, it is selective in deciding on what student work to publish. Many students whose work was included in a recent edition of the journal were accepted into nationally known MFA Creative Writing programs, including the Queens College MFA. Active engagement in the production of our literary journal provides students with the opportunity both to socialize with their classmates, and to gain insight into the editorial processes and business concerns involved in publishing an annual literary journal.
There is, additionally, an online literary journal, Ozone Park, produced by students enrolled in the MFA program. Constructed, edited, and maintained entirely by MFA students, not as an opportunity to publish their own work but as an online site to encourage new and innovative writing, it complements Utopia PKWY as a further expression of the vitality of the Queens College writing community.
As an English major, you may take as many as three creative writing courses among the six electives for the major. You may take more, and you may take any of the 300-level workshops more than once, but only three creative writing courses (and three different ones) may be applied to the major. Additional credits may be applied to the 120 needed for graduation. The courses, all of which feature reading and writing assignments in the strategies and techniques of a specific genre and the extensive use of peer review, are as follows:
English 200W: Essay Writing
The writing and criticism of formal and informal essays, various types of articles, reviews, and reportage, with an emphasis on the fundamentals of style and structure and the development of effective expression. This course is recommended for majors and non-majors who wish more work in the basics of essay writing.
201W: Essay Writing for Special Fields
Practice in writing appropriate to a particular field, such as medicine, law, business, music, or film. The course is regularly offered as a BALA class on business writing, with enrollment limited to students in that program. When it is offered on a different topic, it is open to all students who have completed 110.
English 210W: Introduction to Creative Writing
An introduction to the writing of poetry, fiction, and plays, with related readings. This course is a prerequisite for English 301W, 302, and 304.
English 211W: Writing Nonfictional Prose
An introduction to the writing of nonfiction an art form, in such modes as the personal essay, the review, new journalism, the memoir, and the postmodernist pastiche, with related readings. This course is the prerequisite for English 303W.
English 301W: Fiction Workshop
Intensive practice in the writing of fiction, with related readings.
English 302: Playwriting Workshop
Intensive practice in the writing of plays, with related readings.
English 303W: Nonfiction Workshop
Intensive practice in the writing of nonfiction as an art form, with related readings. In some semesters, the course focuses on one mode of nonfiction, such as the memoir or environmental writing.
English 304: Poetry Workshop
Intensive practice in the writing of poems, with related readings.
Note that the prerequisite for 301W, 302, and 304 is a grade of B in 210W or permission of the instructor and that the prerequisite for 303W is a grade of B in 211W or permission of the instructor.