Creative Writing at St. Olaf College

Applying to Graduate Programs in Creative Writing

Undergraduate Magazine and Journal Links

The Claire Gilbert Marty Visiting Writers Series

With Open Eyes The Sarah E. Ferguson Publishing Award

Creative writing courses converse with a broad range of experiences in literature including cross-cultural studies, cross-disciplinary studies, genre studies, and literary history—the four categories of the English major.

“My two creative writing classes have helped me explore a new side of myself and the English major.”

 – Laurel Kallman 2011

Course Sequence

The creative writing curriculum emphasizes literary craft and begins with English 150—the recommended introduction to creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. Although not required, English 150 provides students with broad foundational knowledge to support their continued study in intermediate and advanced workshops focusing on a particular genre including screenwriting. English 150 and 200-level and 300-level workshops carry WRI credit.

 English 150: The Craft of Creative Writing

This course introduces the craft of creative writing through contemporary readings and writing exercises in three genres–poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Students learn to read and to write literature with attention to how a literary work is made. Emphasis on the elements of craft and revision provide preparation for students who want to continue into intermediate and advanced creative writing workshops. Prerequisite: prior or concurrent enrollment in FYW.

“My experience with creative writing at St. Olaf introduced me to the concept of seeing the world as a writer, which is something I’ll take with me long after I graduate. ”

– Zoey Slater ‘14
Winner of the ACM Nick Adams Short Story Contest

 200-Level Intermediate Workshops focus on developing an understanding of genre conventions. Students read contemporary models of published work and write and revise their own writing.

  • English 291: Intermediate Creative Nonfiction Writing
  • English 292: Intermediate Poetry Writing
  • English 293: Intermediate Fiction Writing
  • English 296: Screenwriting

200-Level Literature and Creative Writing Courses balance reading literature with the practice of writing creatively.

  • English 200: The Personal Essay
  • English 281: Studies in Poetry
  • English 283: Fantasy and Science Fiction Writing

300-Level Workshops in creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry are offered during alternating years and facilitate advanced work in small seminar settings. These courses are open to students who have taken a 200-level workshop in that genre or by instructor permission.

  • English 371: Advanced Fiction Writing
  • English 372: Advanced Poetry Writing
  • English 373: Advanced Creative Nonfiction Writing

For more information about specific courses, please see the course descriptions on the English Department website:

 “I can guarantee that no liberal arts education is complete without a creative writing class.”

– Willa Simmet 2012


Off-Campus Study

St. Olaf College sponsors off-campus study at The University of East Anglia, which specializes in creative writing and film studies with an emphasis on professional development. St. Olaf students have attended writing conferences such as Writers in Paradise sponsored by Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida and the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Students have also participated in HECUA’s Writing for Social Change, a semester-long program based in Minneapolis dedicated to education for social justice.


“The creative writing sequence along with its affiliated campus organizations give students the opportunity to find community in poetry and prose and to keep growing as writers.”

– Clair Dunlap ‘15


St. Olaf College offers students several extracurricular opportunities for writing, publishing, and publicly reading their creative writing:

  • Manitou Messenger, campus newspaper
  • The Quarry, literary magazine publishing student and alumni work
  • The Reed, interdisciplinary journal publishing creative writing, literary criticism, and philosophical essays related to existentialism
  • Student literary societies such as Free Association (poetry) and Defenders of Writeousness (fiction)
  • Women’s Poetry House, an off-campus residential student service project

Students also take part in writing-focused internships with the Northfield News and publishing houses in Minnesota and New York.

The English Department holds annual contests in creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry to recognize student work. Nationally recognized writers who have served as final judges are Todd Boss, Greg Bills, Paul Bogard, Mary Rose O’Reilly, and Juliet Patterson. The department also nominates student writing for the American Colleges of the Midwest’s Nick Adams Short Story Contest and The Associated Writing Programs Intro Journals Awards.

Distinguished Visiting Writers

The English Department has hosted notable writers from around the world who have enriched students’ knowledge of contemporary literature through guest readings and other author events. Recent visitors include Paul Auster, Charles Baxter, Paul Bogard, Lynn Emanuel, Sam Hamill, Christopher Howell, Siri Hustvedt, Douglas Kearney, Kim Ki-Taek, Gerry LaFemina, Ed Bok Lee, Philip Lopate, Dennis Maloney, Susan McCabe, Benjamin Percy, Bao Phi, Nahid Rachlin, A.E. Stallings, Rodrigo Toscano, Derek Walcott, and Kao Kalia Yang.

“The creative writing program at St. Olaf urged me to commit to a draft from start to finish, giving extraordinarily helpful feedback and advice, and now I am amazed at the sort of writing I am capable of producing.”

 – Tom Churchill ‘14

Alumni Achievements

Alumni of our creative writing courses have gone on to win national fellowships and grants such as the Wallace Stegnar and NEA; release books with publishers Harper Collins, Penguin, and W.W. Norton and Co.; edit manuscripts at Tin House and Milkweed Editions; support community programming at The Playwright’s Center and the Loft Literary Center; attend top-ranked MFA programs such as Columbia University, Hollins University, New York University, and University of Washington; and feature at literary festivals across North America, Europe, and Asia.

Creative writing at St. Olaf College— opening up worlds within and beyond!