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EN261 Introduction to Creative Writing



The module aims to help students to develop practical and creative skills in writing poetry and fiction and also critical skills in exploring the aims and processes involved in their work and that of published practitioners. There will be occasional free events and lectures with visiting writers, which students are expected to attend. Assessment (100% coursework) is by a portfolio of poetry and/or fiction, and an essay that conceptualises students' own writing practices in relation to other writers' work and practice.

How to apply

Demand for this module is very high, so places are awarded selectively on the basis of a) a written statement of 200 words maximum, saying why you want to do the course and what you think you have to offer to it and b) an example of your writing, not more than 3 pages long - e.g. part of a story or some poems. You must submit your portfolio by (date to be determined for 2014/15 academic year) along with your module choices form. No advice will be given as to what you choose to submit within this portfolio. If you do not submit your portfolio with your option form your request will not be considered.

You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you - no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must," then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.
– Rainer Maria Rilke ‘Letters to a Young Poet’

Most students taking this course will be studying creative writing for the first time. Many have never shown their writing to anyone else before. The one requirement for students wishing to take this module is that you are willing to spend time reading and writing. That might sound easy, but many people with ambitions to write, and a lot of potential, don't put that time in.

This module has three ambitions: to introduce students to the writing of poetry, the writing of fiction, and the writing of an essay about the aims and processes of your writing poetry and/or fiction. This is a 100% fully assessed module. Much of what you will do in classes and for assessment will be for the first time - from sharing your work, to being asked to invent new poetic forms, or cross-genres in fiction.


The main purposes of the module are to enable students to develop practical and creative skills in writing poetry and fiction and also their critical skills in exploring the aims and processes in their work and that of notable practitioners. The module will assist the student in:

1. developing a familiarity with poetic and narrative techniques;

2. producing a portfolio of poetry and/or fiction;

3. examining critical concepts in the practice of poetry and fiction;

4. understanding, through practice and discussion why and how you write;

5. writing an essay that conceptualises the students’ own writing practices in relation to other writers’ work and practice;

6. becoming aware of the wider writing industry and the next steps in a writer's development.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module the student should be able to demonstrate a practical and critical knowledge of the construction of contemporary poetry and fiction in terms of language, genre, form, metrics, narrative, character, and description, and of representative examples of published writers.


In Autumn the group will focus on poetry with Peter Blegvad and in Spring on prose with George Ttoouli.


The best writers are also the most voracious readers. Read widely, randomly and in an interdisciplinary fashion. You may find the following text books useful:

Morley, David, The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing (Cambridge University Press, 2007)

Herbert, W N & Hollis, Matthew, Strong Words: Modern Poets on Modern Poetry (Bloodaxe, 2000)

The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers (McSweeneys, 2009)

The Granta Book of the American Short Story, ed. Richard Ford (Granta 1998)

The Granta Book of the American Long Story, ed Richard Ford (Granta, 1998)

And When Did You Last See Your Father? Blake Morrison (Granta 1998)

Sudden Fiction, eds. Robert Shapard and James Thomas (WW Norton, 1996)

Lennard, John, The Poetry Handbook (OUP,1996)

Sudden Fiction (continued), eds. Richard Shapard and James Thomas (WW Norton, 1996)

Hulse, Michael, Kennedy, D. and Morley, David (Eds), The New Poetry (Bloodaxe Books, 1993)

Preminger, Alex, et al (eds), The New Princeton Encyclopaedia of Poetry and Poetics (Princeton University Press, 1993)

The Paris Review Interviews, vols 1-4

You will also be expected to familiarise yourself with contemporary writers writing and speaking about their processes and writing lives, such as in:

The Saturday Guardian's Review section; The London Review of Books; The Times Literary Supplement; The Paris Review; The New York Review of Books; PN Review; Poetry Review; Warwick Review.

This is not an exhaustive list, merely a guideline. Many of these journals are available on a regular basis in the library's periodicals section, any some have online archives.


The submission must consist of the following:

5,000 words of original fiction, or an equivalent poetry submission (you may decide in exceptional circumstances, and via discussion with the convenor, to combine the two genres in an equivalent size) (50%);

a 5,000 word essay on the aims and processes of creative writing (50%).