Creative Writing

Your writing career begins here

Undergrad creative writing


Emphasis on craft

All Creative Writing courses encourage diverse approaches to writing. However, they are not courses in how to get published. They are intended to help you become a better writer. You will study language, structure, form and all the elements of poetry, fiction and creative writing in general. 

Creative writing courses are open to all

You don't have to be an English major to take Creative Writing courses; they are open to any student or member of the community who wants to apply.

All Creative Writing courses are credit English courses.

Enhance your degree with a creative writing honours project

You may choose to undertake a creative writing project in the English Honours program.

Contact the department to learn more about your options. 

View contacts »

View English Honours requirements

Earn an Embedded Certificate in Creative Writing

If you complete 18 units from the Field of Creative Writing, you are eligible to earn an Embedded Certificate. 

View certificate details

Creative Writing faculty

Larissa Lai UCalgary Creative Writing

Larissa Lai

Associate Professor
Social Sciences 1052
403.220.6431

larissa.lai@ucalgary.ca

Larissa Lai has authored three novels, When Fox Is a Thousand (Press Gang 1995; Arsenal Pulp 2004), Salt Fish Girl (Thomas Allen 2002) and The Tiger Flu (Arsenal Pulp 2018)two poetry collections, sybil unrest (with Rita Wong; LINEbooks 2008; New Star 2008, 2013) and Automaton Biographies (Arsenal Pulp 2009); a chapbook, Eggs in the Basement (Nomados 2009)and a critical book, Slanting I, Imagining We: Asian Canadian Literary Production in the 1980s and 1990s (Wilfrid Laurier University Press 2014). A recipient of the Astraea Foundation Emerging Writers' Awardshe has been a finalist for the Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Tiptree Award, the Sunburst Award, the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Award, the bpNichol Chapbook Award, the Dorothy Livesay Prize and the ACQL Gabrielle Roy Prize for Literary Criticism. 

She holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia and a PhD in English from the University of Calgary. She was Assistant Professor in Canadian Literature for seven years at the University of British Columbia before returning to the University of Calgary to take up a CRC II in Creative Writing.

Aritha van Herk UCalgary Creative Writing

Aritha Van Herk

Professor, AOE, FRSC
Social Sciences 1132
403.220.5481

vanherk@ucalgary.ca

Aritha van Herk is both a recognized scholar with a University Professorship, and an internationally recognized Canadian author whose work has been translated into ten languages. Her novels include Judith (1978), winner of the Seal Book Award, No Fixed Address: An Amorous Journey (1986), which was nominated for the Governor General's Award, and Restlessness (1998). Her experiments in creative non-fiction and ficto-criticism are available in A Frozen Tongue (1992), In Visible Ink (1991), and Places Far from Ellesmere: A Geografictione (1990). Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta (2001) served as the inspiration for the Glenbow Museum's permanent exhibition of the same name, launched in 2007. In This Place and Prairie Gothic (with photographer George Webber) develop the idea of geographical temperament as tonal accompaniment. Her most recent work, Stampede and the Westness of West, is a prose/poetry exploration of place and mythology. She is a Member of the Order of Canada, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a member of the Alberta Order of Excellence, and she has received the Lorne Pierce Medal, awarded to recognize achievement of special significance and conspicuous merit in imaginative or critical literature in Canada.

Aritha van Herk's work is particularly recognized for her innovations in creative non-fiction and, in her fiction, for the affirmative images of women resisting societal norms and familial expectations. She is the editor of the “Brave and Brilliant” Series published by the University of Calgary Press. She has been an active editor and strong supporter of her many students' work since the mid 1980s.

See arithavanherk.com

Suzette Mayr UCalgary Creative Writing

Suzette Mayr

Suzette Mayr

Professor
Social Sciences 1048
403.220.4659

smayr@ucalgary.ca

Suzette Mayr holds an M.A. degree from the University of Alberta and a Ph.D. from the University of New South Wales. She is a novelist, the author of the acclaimed novels Moon Honey (Newest, 1995), a finalist for both the Georges Bugnet and Henry Kreisel First Novel Awards, The Widows (Newest, 1998), finalist for the Commonwealth Prize for Best Book in the Canadian-Caribbean Region, Venous Hum (Arsenal Pulp, 2004), longlisted for the ReLit Award; Monoceros (Coach House, 2011), winner of the 2012 ReLit Award and the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Award; long listed for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize; nominated for the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction and the Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction, and most recently, Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall (Coach House, 2017).

Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and in collaborations with visual artists. Her fiction, with its original voice, clipped, deadpan satirical style, is on this country's cutting edge of contemporary explorations into issues of race, sex and identity.

Suzette Mayr is widely versed in contemporary 20th century Canadian literature and particularly in representations of race and ethnicity.

Vivek Shraya Creative Writing Faculty

Vivek Shraya

Assistant Professor
Social Sciences 1046
403.220.3002

vivek.shraya@ucalgary.ca

Vivek Shraya is an artist whose body of work crosses the boundaries of music, literature, visual art, theatre, and film. Her best-selling new book, I'm Afraid of Men, was her­ald­ed by Vanity Fair as “cultural rocket fuel,” and her album with Queer Songbook Orchestra, Part-Time Woman, was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize. She is one half of the music duo Too Attached and the founder of the publishing imprint VS. Books.

A five-time Lambda Literary Award finalist, Vivek was a 2016 Pride Toronto Grand Marshal, was featured on The Globe and Mail’s Best Dressed list, and has received honours from The Writers’ Trust of Canada and The Publishing Triangle. She is a director on the board of the Tegan and Sara Foundation and an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Calgary.

L. Rain Prud'homme-Cranford Creative Writing Faculty

L. Rain Prud'homme-Cranford

Assistant Professor
Social Sciences 1124
403.220.4664
lrain.prudhommecranf@ucalgary.ca

Rain Prud’homme-Cranford (Rain C Goméz), PhD: is a “FATtastic IndigeNerd,” working within Indigenous and Afro-Indigenous Studies (literatures, ecology, gender/sexuality, Métis/Méstiz@/Creole studies, Rhetorics, Indigenous STEM, and Creative Writing). Her book Smoked Mullet Cornbread Crawdad Memory (Mongrel Empire Press 2012) won the First Book Award from Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas. Her forthcoming creative collections include Miscegenation Roundance: Poèmes Historiques, "I oughta know about lonely girls": Essays on Body, Love, & Race, and a third collection of poetry entitled FAT. Rain’s current critical monograph projects include Gumbo Stories: Quantum Relation-Making and Decolonizing the Transnational South (forthcoming) and "Remember the Red River Valley:" Transcontinental Red River Literacies of Métissage/Méstizaje (research and writing stage). She is the editor (along with Andrew Jolivétte, Darryl Barthé, and Carolyn Dunn), of Louisiana Creole Peoplehood: Tracing Post-Contact Afro-Indigeneity and Community (forthcoming University of Washington Press).

Critical and creative work can be found in The Southern Literary Journal, Louisiana Folklife, Undead Souths: The Gothic and Beyond (LSU P), Swamp Souths: Tracing Literary Ecologies (LSU P), Mississippi Quarterly, American Indian Culture and Research Journal, Tidal Basin Review, Yellow Medicine Review, Sing: Indigenous Poetry of the Americas, Plume, and many others. Rain is co-Editor-in Chief (with Carolyn Dunn), of That Painted Horse Press: A Borderless Indigenous Press of the Americas (a press founded by Paula Gunn Allen and Carolyn Dunn). She is an Assistant Professor of English and Affiliated Faculty, International Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Student Access Program at the University of Calgary.

Clem Martini UCalgary Creative Writing faculty

Clem Martini

Professor, Department of Drama
Adjunct Professor, English Department
Craigie Hall D107
403.220.5425

martini@ucalgary.ca

Clem Martini is an award-winning playwright, novelist, and screenwriter with over thirty plays, and twelve books of fiction and nonfiction to his credit, including the W.O. Mitchell Award-winning Bitter Medicine: A Graphic Memoir of Mental Illness, the recently launched The Unravelling, and The Comedian. His texts on playwriting, The Blunt PlaywrightThe Greek Playwright, and The Ancient Comedians are employed widely at universities and colleges. He currently teaches in the School of Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Calgary.

Planning your graduate studies?

The Department of English offers MA and PhD degrees with a creative writing option.

Marlon James for Calgary Distinguished Writers Program

Calgary Distinguished Writers Program

The Calgary Distinguished Writers Program strives to advance the careers of Canadian writers. As a part of the Calgary writing community, it engages the community with the Faculty of Arts and the Department of English.

The current Canadian Writer-in-Residence is Meg Braem.

Learn more

Creative Writing enrolment permissions

The only official prerequisites if you wish to study Creative Writing at the undergraduate level normally are a full first-year English course and permission of the Department of English. However, you do not need to be an English major. Both full-time students and working adults take Creative Writing courses.

To gain permission to enroll in any 400- and 500-level Creative Writing courses, you must submit a writing portfolio, the equivalent of an audition. Because of high demand for most of these courses (they average between 60 and 100 applications for 20 places), we require a portfolio, on average 25 to 40 pages of writing, typed and double-spaced. 

The material you submit in your portfolio should match the genre of the course you are applying to. Note: the highly competitive nature of admission to Creative Writing courses means that not all students get in. If you are not accepted when you first apply, we encourage you to try again another year, and to make an appointment with the Canadian Writer-in-Residence, who is available to provide feedback on your work.

Because you cannot register in portfolio admission courses until you receive permission from the department, you should register in a second-choice course if you are an undergraduate student.

Portfolio considerations

In addition to reading carefully the specific details concerning portfolio submissions for individual courses, you should keep in mind the following general advice:

  • Try to demonstrate as wide a range of your writing abilities as possible. For instance, in fiction a range of narrative possibilities (even if they are fragments) will demonstrate your abilities (a good descriptive scene, a good action scene, a good scene that employs dialogue) better than one or two “complete” short stories that might fail. With poetry, instead of submitting a portfolio of 20 rhymed-stanza “hurtin’” poems about a love relationship you had that turned sour, include poems on other subjects and in other formats. Variety in the form and content of your submission alerts the instructor to the breadth and depth of your engagement with writing to date.
  • Your acceptance into the class (or not) is not necessarily an absolute judgment of your writing ability at this point. We receive many more portfolios than there are places in Creative Writing classes, and if you do not get into one class, you may get into another in another year, or you may gain admission to a class in another genre. If you are not accepted, please don’t be discouraged. Just keep writing (sign up for a Continuing Education Creative Writing class, if you can) and try again.
  • The questions asked on portfolio submission forms regarding your background (previous writing courses taken, which recent literary titles you have read, etc.) have no right or wrong answers. They are intended to give the instructor a sense of what level of previous writing or reading experience the members of the class possess. This is useful information for the instructor in fine-tuning his or her course curriculum. 
  • While our Creative Writing courses encourage diverse approaches to writing, these courses are instruction in literary writing.They are not courses in how to get published. They are about how to become a better writer, with respect to language, image, structure, form and all the other elements of poetry and fiction. These courses focus on the craft of writing well in a literary context. 

New 2020/2021 Creative Writing Courses

Descriptions and applications for portfolio-based creative writing courses

Instructor: Aritiha van Herk

Description:

This Creative Writing course seeks to enable students to work from experience and research toward the writing of an effective and compelling narrative. We will discuss contemporary works of creative non-fiction, including examples of autobiography, memoir, travel narrative, literary journalism and ficto-criticism. The aim of the course is to enable students to research and develop a powerful piece of writing that is both creative and critical, whether a lyric essay, a meditation, or a well-researched dive into an historical or place-based subject.

This is NOT a course in writing critical essays, but a course that will seek to inspire students to stretch their notions of writing as a persuasive or informative incentive in order to create a narrative that informs and pleases.

How to Apply:

Those wishing to take this course must apply for permission with a portfolio of relevant writing (20 pages), attached as a pdf document to vanherk@ucalgary.ca.

Deadline for portfolio: July 20, 2020. You will be notified of your enrollment in the class by August 1st, 2020. 

If you wish to take this course as an Open Studies student, you MUST ensure that you apply for Open Studies status, which is open between June 1 and July 31st.

Download application form

Instructor: Dr. Suzette Mayr

Description:

This course involves the practice and theory of writing fiction, with particular attention to the craft and technique of microfiction and short fiction writing, and with some movement toward a short fiction collection. This class is conducted as a workshop in which students are required to read and critique one another’s work over the course of the semester. Students will also present one stylistic analysis to class, and should be prepared for extensive reading and writing. Prerequisites: Consent of the instructor. A fiction-writing course at the 200- and/or 300- level is ideal preparation for this course, although not required.

How to Apply:

In order to be considered for a place in this course, potential students must email smayr@ucalgary.ca by November 16th, 2020:

a) a completed application form on the reverse of (or following) this sheet, and

b) a portfolio of 10-15 pages (12-point font and double-spaced) for evaluation.

Download application form

Questions?

Undergraduate Program Administrator

Ask me about general undergraduate program advising.

Karen Preddy
403.220.5470
karen.preddy@ucalgary.ca

Associate Head (Undergraduate Student Affairs)

Ask me about courses and the English program.

Dr. Jason Wiens
403.220.5470
adveng@ucalgary.ca

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