campus news and events

On Being a Creative Writer

Colby-Sawyer College students Lisa Ray '13 and Ian Whippie '15 share their perspectives and experiences as students in the Creative Writing program. Read more...

The Creative Writing Program To Graduate Its First Students

Colby-Sawyer College will celebrate the graduation of its first class of Creative Writing majors, when three members of the Class of 2013 cross the stage to receive their Bachelor of the Arts degrees at Commencement on May 11.

The program's origins began in 2007, when the topic of introducing new majors to the curriculum was under discussion. Faculty, staff and students were asked to consider what kinds of programs would best benefit the school.

“A number of the departments and faculty groups came forward with a number of different proposals,” says Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculty Deborah Taylor. “The Creative Writing major was one that emerged from those discussions.”

Any time new curricular changes are proposed, whether it's a new program of study or alterations to the current programs, the proposal must go through a review process.

“Generally, a new curriculum proposal gets discussed, either within a disciplinary group or within a whole department, and is developed, and then forwarded to the Academic Policies Committee,” explains Taylor.

In the case of Creative Writing, the proposal began with small discussions centered on core elements and the overall focus of the major.

“A professor who is now retired, Professor Michael McMahon, started the conversation,” recalls Assistant Professor of Humanities, Ewa Chrusciel, who teaches many of the current courses in creative writing. “We discussed technical aspects, what courses would fit in, and what should be required of students.”

After the Academic Policies Committee, a group made up of administrators and one faculty representative from each academic department, reviews a proposal, and it is presented to the entire faculty, who can weigh in, and then is subject to a vote. The committee votes to approve all proposals, both new curriculum and changes to existing curriculum. The Creative Writing major was approved, and Taylor clarified why the program made sense as a new major at Colby-Sawyer.

“We had faculty strength in the area of creative writing, student interest--with some students interested in majoring in it--and others just interested in taking creative writing courses. We also had the sense that there was interest on the part of incoming students,” Taylor explains.

Incoming students have played a key role in the program's growth, as the major has expanded from the three students in the current senior class to a total of 23 students collegewide, according to the Registrar's Office. The number of applicants to the Creative Writing program has remained steady.

The college's Creative Writing Merit Award, which ranges from $2,000 to $4,000 in financial assistance, continues to garner interest. Forty-two students applied for consideration in 2012 and 37 students in 2013, according to Colby-Sawyer's Admissions office.

The growth can also be seen in on-campus groups dedicated primarily to the study of English, creative writing and the celebration of writing as an art form. Solidus, the college's literary magazine, publishes a new issue twice a year, showcasing mainly student-created poetry, fiction and artwork. There is even a one-credit course offered that meets weekly to review submissions and participate in the editorial and production processes involved in producing an online magazine.

“I see much more interest now in the literary magazine,” observes Chrusciel. “When I started that course as a one-credit elective, it was hard to even pull a group together. We started with three or four people, and now I have nine or ten people taking that class.”

Another campus club, Word Order, focuses on giving students a place to freely share their writing with peers and have fun with writing through exercises and creative prompts. The group also brings professional writers to campus for readings and workshops, which gives students and faculty the opportunity to experience new writers, ask questions, and learn from professionals about different areas of the writing business.

The college's course catalog states that the Creative Writing program “prepares students to publish their use creative writing and literature as tools to understand themselves and their world...and to enter professions that require excellent communications skills.”

Assistant Professor Michael Jauchen, who teaches creative writing and English literature courses, elaborated on those goals.

“We want to give students an opportunity to study creative writing in-depth, for instance, to learn what narrative is, how narrative is structured, all the different parts of poetry—so as to give students four years of focused study in creative writing,” explained Jauchen. “We also want to give students the type of experience they would need if they wanted to become professional writers after college, both in and outside of the creative realm."

The Creative Writing curriculum consists of about 50-percent English literature-based courses and the other 50-percent focuses on creative writing. The writing courses highlight specific writing forms and genres and include Poetry, Prose and Scriptwriting, and English courses dedicated to specific literary periods and topics such as The Romantic Rebellion, British Literature, and Images of Women in Literature. This curricular structure allows students to strengthen not only their creative writing skills, but also develop their abilities as critical thinkers through in-depth reading and analysis of many types of literature and poetry.

The Creative Writing faculty seek to ensure that students gain knowledge, experience and inspiration over four years and develop and strengthen their writing and analytical skills, which will serve them well in whatever they choose to pursue.

"What I want most of all,” admits Jauchen, “is that we churn out students who are great writers.”

“I want to see the students I teach conceive of writing as a way to see the world anew,” adds Chrusciel. “I want to see them estrange reality, take risks to recreate reality, and on a grammatical level, be able to construct a sentence, but also be able to deconstruct it.”

The Creative Writing Program has expanded since becoming a part of the college's curriculum, and stanis likely to continue developing into the future. "You can see how it's grown in the literary magazine finding its footing. We have our first official class of creative writers graduating in May,” observed Jauchen. “I think it's still finding its feet, but it's gaining a sense of momentum.” That momentum will be carried forward by the steps of its first class of graduates in May.

Lisa Ray '13 will continue writing short fiction for teenage readers after graduating, possibly turning one of her longer pieces into a novella. She will take a year and a half off to gain experience outside of an educational environment, and then plans to attend Simmons College in Boston to obtain her master's degree in creative writing.

After graduation, Jessica Casey '13 will continue working on her novel, which she hopes to one day turn into a series. She also wants to explore the world of film and television by writing a screenplay. A job working with books, whether in a bookstore, a library, a publisher, or as a writer for television and movies, is what she hopes to find.

As a member of this first graduating class in creative writing, I, Thomas Buckley, plan to continue writing poetry and short fiction after graduation, while searching for a way to finish writing the ever-elusive novel. I plan to take two years to experience the world and find a job within the publishing or journalism fields, before resuming my educational pursuits at graduate school. I hope to someday live in Savannah, Ga., after falling in love with the city's history, architecture and charm while visiting a university in the area.

-Thomas Buckley '13

Thomas Buckley is a Creative Writing major and writing intern in College Communications.

Colby-Sawyer College is a comprehensive college that integrates the liberal arts and sciences with professional preparation. Founded in 1837, Colby-Sawyer is located in the scenic Lake Sunapee Region of central New Hampshire.

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