On-Campus MFA Courses

The official UBC descriptions of all Creative Writing Program courses can be found here

UBC online course calendar

The Course schedule showing dates & times is available through the UBC Course Schedule. Be sure to select the correct term when viewing this, as it defaults to the current term (so in summer it will show summer courses rather than fall/winter courses).

MFA courses are all at the 500-level. During the course of the MFA, students must take at least three credits each in three separate genres (the cross-training component of the degree). We recommend a six credit course in each of the three genres chosen to get the most out of the experience. There are typically no prerequisites for MFA courses (unless noted on the calendar). Once accepted into the program, a student may take any course, in any genre offered.

Optional-Residency MFA courses are separate from on-campus courses. They share the same course numbers, but all sections of the distance education courses are distinguished by a section number beginning with “D”. For example, CRWR 509-001 is an on-campus section and CRWR 509-D01 is a distance education section. See our Optional-Residency Courses for more details.

Expanded Course Descriptions – 2016/17 Academic Year

CRWR 501Z-001 – Advanced Writing of Poetry (6 credits)
Karen Solie (term 1), TBA (term 2)

This is a graduate workshop in which participants will have the opportunity to discuss and critique students’ poetry with an eye to revision. Students will work towards preparing a final manuscript of a maximum of approximately 20 pages.

The workshop will explore aspects of technique such as syntax, the poetic line, structural possibilities of free verse and established forms, and procedural and found poetry.

Emphasis is placed on a respectful attitude towards the work of others. However, students are also expected to provide evaluative critiques which will help workshop colleagues revise as well as help sharpen students’ own self-criticism skills.

CRWR 502Y-001 – Advanced Writing for New Media: Podcasting (3 credits, term 1)
Bryan Wade

Writers in this mixed graduate/undergraduate workshop who are undertaking this course as an introduction to podcasting will learn about formatting, dialogue, character development, plot and the importance of sound effects and music for this genre. They will be expected to complete several short assignments and for the final project to develop and complete two ten to fifteen minute scripts or produce a short ten minute feature or dramatic piece.

Writers will also be expected to research and provide feedback to the class about recent audio podcast series or shows such as: Chatterbox Audio Theater, Serial, The Kitchen Sisters, The Truth (Radiotopia), Welcome to Night Vale and We’re Alive.

Regular attendance and participation in the workshop are essential for it to succeed.

CRWR 503Z-001 – Advanced Writing for Children (6 credits)
Maggie de Vries term 1 / TBA term 2

This is a workshop-based course in writing for children and teens. Over the course of the year, you will be asked to write for two different age groups and in two different genres, but that leaves space for sharing three parts of the same novel if you wish. Note that this course is defined by audience rather than form or genre; you will be encouraged, though not required, to try your hand at something new at least once.

As they arise, we will review genres, from fantasy to realistic fiction, and forms, from early readers to graphic novels to contemporary picture books. Throughout, we will address questions of audience and the challenges inherent in writing for people at a stage of life that for us is past.

CRWR 505Z-001 – Advanced Writing of Creative Nonfiction (6 credits)
Andreas Schroeder

This course covers four of the most popular forms of creative nonfiction: autobiography, commentary, literary journalism and the personal essay. Since most MFA students are working toward a professional writing career, I’ve structured this course to emulate  the concerns and responsibilities of an actual freelance writer in the real world. We’ll maintain a productive balance between high literary standards and current market opportunities; wherever we can satisfy both, we’ll combine them, pitching our assignments to the likes of The Walrus, Atlantic Monthly, The Tyee, Globe & Mail or Maisonneuve. Most students should be able to get at least one of their year’s assignments published in this way. You’ll learn how to interview, profile, deal with editors, handle commercial deadlines and build your CV. Regular attendance is required and submission deadlines are sacred, but if you can handle that, you’ll have an enjoyable and productive time of it in this class.

CRWR 506Z-001 – Advanced Writing of Drama for Screen  (6 credits)
Sharon McGowan

Students are welcome to write short film scripts or feature-length scripts. My goal is to help each student reach their full potential in their work.  Students from this workshop have gone on to make films and work in the industry.  Many fiction writers take this workshop to help them with dialogue and story structure.

We follow the industry model so all projects, whatever length, begin with a pitch in class and then an outline before proceeding to a draft.

We work on story, plot, dialogue, theme and many more elements of the screenplay form. In the workshop I encourage an exchange of ideas and we read the screenplays or parts of them out loud.

There is a minimum page count of 30 pages a term.  In class, we workshop two to three scripts per week.

CRWR 507Z-001 – Advanced Writing of Drama for the Stage (6 credits)
Bryan Wade

Writers in this mixed graduate/undergraduate workshop are welcome to write one-act plays or develop the first draft of an original full-length stage play.

We will work on story, plot, dialogue, character development, theme and many other elements involved in the stage play form. In the workshop productive feedback and the exchange of ideas are encouraged. Stage plays (or excerpts) are read out loud, allowing enough time for discussion.

As part of the course, writers are required to submit a short play (ten to fifteen minutes long) for the Brave New Play Rites festival. Now in its 31st year, Brave New Play Rites showcases new student plays in a series of staged readings and full productions. The festival is held annually in March in a theatre venue off-campus. Please note that only ten to twelve plays are given full productions; there is an adjudication process in November of the fall term.

Overall, a minimum of eighty (80) pages should be completed. Grades will be based on your written work and your attendance, active participation and the quality of the critical feedback you give to your writing classmates

CRWR 508Y-001 & 508Z-002 – Advanced Writing for Graphic Forms (3 credits per section)
Sarah Leavitt

This course is a combined undergraduate and graduate course, designed to give students a strong foundation in comics creation. Because it is a small workshop class, assignments can be modified as needed for students who are already familiar with comics theory and craft. Through readings, lectures, class discussion and workshops, students will:

  • Acquire an understanding of the elements of comics ­ writing, drawing, composition, etc and how they work together;
  • Learn about the history and present practice of comics, and be exposed to a wide range of comics by diverse cartoonists;
  • Become familiar with key theoretical approaches to the form and acquire tools to analyze their own and others’ work;
  • Write and draw their own short comics.

Students who have taken the course previously or who are already experienced at creating comics will have the opportunity to further hone their skills and work on ongoing longer projects during the class. Students who are new to comics can find it intimidating, particularly if they don’t think of themselves as “good artists.” In comics class, we build a respectful atmosphere in which students can both support and challenge each other, with thoughtful analysis and honest feedback on the part of readers, and openness and determined effort on the part of the writer/cartoonist.

You do have to draw your own comics for this class. BUT I’m not concerned with whether you can or “can’t” draw, and it doesn’t matter how much experience you have as a cartoonist. The focus for this class is building coherent, compelling narratives with comics and the goal is to push yourself to improve your own work, in your own style, starting where you are right now.

CRWR 509K-003 – Advanced Writing of Fiction (3 credits, term 1)
Annabel Lyon

This 3-credit course will focus on creating a viable novel outline in any genre.  Classes will alternate weekly between online and on-campus coursework.  By the end of term, students will have completed a detailed novel outline.

Online classes will run every other week, and can be taken from anywhere you have an internet connection. These will consist of written lectures, videos, discussions, and cumulative assignments.  In class, we will workshop those bi-weekly assignments.  Because the assignments are cumulative, absences will be particularly problematic.  Please do NOT sign up for this course if you know ahead of time you’ll be missing classes.

Students working in all genres (literary, fantasy, spec, thriller, etc.) are welcome.  This class will emphasize a respectful, constructive, and collegial environment that reflects working standards in the publishing industry.

NOTE: there is now an online version of this class for optional-residency students: CRWR 509K-D03.

CRWR 509P-003 – Advanced Writing of Fiction (3 credits, term 2)
John Vigna

This 3-credit workshop will focus on deep revision (process, technique and practice) in your work and will accommodate all forms of adult fiction writing. Through discussions, readings, assignments and workshopping, you will explore and develop revision strategies for works in progress. Discussions will focus on advanced topics in revision, character, structure, prose style, voice, image patterns, point of view, etc. The goal is for each writer to push themselves out of their comfort zones by looking deeply at their own work and taking risks in style, theme, subject, etc, while working toward their own artistic intention. You will submit at least one substantial revision of a story either workshopped or discussed in consultation with the instructor.

CRWR 509Z-001 – Advanced Writing of Fiction (6 credits)
Timothy Taylor

This workshop is designed to nurture writers at advanced stages in their development of various fiction projects. In a supportive and encouraging environment, fiction will be shared and critiqued, and discussions encouraged to draw out collective insights into the successes and potential improvements possible in submitted material. Students should expect to actively participate in discussions about characterization, the use of dialogue, narrative structure, tone, thematics and other areas. There will also be, as time permits, the inclusion of work by better known writers – Mavis Gallant, Richard Ford, Janet Frame, Wells Towers and others – which will be used to stimulate discussion and critique.

CRWR 509Z-002 – Advanced Writing of Fiction (6 credits)
Keith Maillard

This workshop is designed to nurture writers at advanced stages in their development of various fiction projects. In a supportive and encouraging environment, fiction will be shared and critiqued, and discussions encouraged to draw out collective insights into the successes and potential improvements possible in submitted material.

CRWR 511Y-001 Advanced Writing For Lyric Forms (3 credits, Term 1)
Tariq Hussain

This class will focus on the craft of songwriting through a process of critical analysis in a workshop setting. In addition to sharing songs and providing helpful feedback to your peers, you will have the opportunity to actively participate in the discussions on advanced topics ranging from song structure, to scene setting, to working with point of view. Through readings, workshopping, short exercises and assignments, you will learn about strategies for revising material with the goal of creating more effective songs that have the power to connect with listeners. You will be challenged to look deeply at your own work and hopefully find ways to break out of your comfort zone and take risks in terms of style and content, while still staying true to your artistic vision. Playing an instrument is not a prerequisite for this class though having some sense of musicality and a passion for songs will go a long way. In addition to submitting lyric sheets for workshopping, you will be expected to submit an audio recording of your song—as simple an iPhone recording, even. You will also complete one revised song for the course.

CRWR 511Z-001 – Advanced Writing for Lyric Forms (3 credits, Term 2)
Tariq Hussain

This course focuses on both the craft of songwriting as well as the art of collaboration in the creative process. The course will consist of students from both the Creative Writing program and Music programs and students will be paired with cross-disciplinary collaborating partners in order to broaden their skills in the craft and composition of songs. Through a process of creation, and workshopping over the term, students will have an opportunity to stretch their ideas and find ways to include new insights, drawing from each other’s wide-range of knowledge and perspectives. Analysis and discussion will fuel this class and students should expect to actively engage and participate in discussions on topics such as song structure, point of view, character, tone, theme, abstraction in lyrics, and prosody where the music serves the words and the words serve the music. Students efforts over the term will culminate in the production and presentation of a five-ten minute interdisciplinary work inspired by the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, to be performed at the end of the term.

CRWR 514Z-001 – Advanced Writing for Television & Web Series (6 credits)
Sara GraefeLinda Svendsen

In this demanding workshop, writers create, over both terms, two web or TV series from pitch/concept, through beat sheet, to pilot script (Term 1: 30 minutes max, Term 2: 60 minutes max). The course supports the writer in developing a dynamic understanding of script structure and series architecture, and of working in a highly collaborative arena.

In Term 2, writers may form writers’ rooms to:

  • develop a new series collaboratively and write individual scripts OR
  • work independently

CRWR 530-001 – Preparation for a Career in Writing (3 credits, Term 2)
Deborah Campbell

Looking to publish your work? Wondering how to find an agent, a career path—the meaning of existence? This popular lecture-based course exposes the emerging writer to career advice in a wide variety of genres, introducing them to successful working writers and publishing professionals  who will visit the class to share their hard-earned wisdom, relate their stumbles, and reveal what they wish someone had told them when they were starting out. Issues such as book proposals, contracts, taxes, grants, author websites, agents and editors are also addressed. Students have a chance to meet professionals working in today’s tough market and emerge from the course with their own career plan and an industry-standard proposal in the genre(s) of their choice. They also conduct an interview with an established writer for publication in the online magazine, Nineteen Questions (nineteenquestions.com).

FIPR 534 – Advanced Producing / CRWR 570P-001 (3 credits, Term 1)
Sharon McGowan

A course for filmmakers and writers who want to become more involved in getting their projects professionally produced. 

Students in this course will work with the instructor to conduct research and analysis of the creative and business aspects of producing projects for film, television and the Internet. They will apply this research and analysis to create producing plans for their own film, television and Internet projects.

Students taking this course must have a project or projects they wish to work on and for which they hold the creative rights. This project must be at least at an outline stage.

Topics that will be covered include: analyzing the opportunities and challenges for getting your specific project to the screen, finding appropriate funding sources and developing funding and marketing strategies, identifying and building business relationships with suitable producers, sales agents, broadcasters, distributors, publicists and festivals.

The course will follow a workshop format with weekly tutorials as well as student presentations of research findings for discussion and feedback. In addition to the workshop, the instructor will also meet individually with students to address the unique producing goals and challenges of each project.

There will be short, focused assignments throughout the course. These will provide the building blocks for the final assignment in which you will combine the knowledge gained into a detailed producing plan and strategy for your project.

CRWR 555Z-001 – Advanced Writing of Non-Fiction II (Hazlitt – 6 credits)
Deborah Campbell

This creative nonfiction workshop, funded by Random House’s online magazine Hazlitt, welcomes all sub-genres of nonfiction (narrative features, personal essay, lyric essay, memoir, rhetoric) grounded in research components such as interviews. Through lectures and assignments you will explore and develop research strategies and story-telling approaches for your long-form feature or book, turning the results into compelling nonfiction. The intent of the course is not to narrowly define what you do, but to send you into the wilds with street smarts. Class readings are drawn from the best of national and international nonfiction writing. Assignments will move from shorter pieces that build your skills to a final long-form assignment. You will also learn to write book and story proposals and gain an understanding of the publishing landscape and the editor-writer relationship. Pieces written for this class have been published in all of the major national publications and won regional and national literary awards.

Prerequisite note: although the UBC system will send a warning about this course requiring a prerequisite, you can ignore this and continue to register. You do not need to have taken a previous nonfiction course to take 555Z.

CRWR 570M-001 – Advanced Special Projects in Creative Writing: “Craft” (6 credits)
Keith Maillard

Ours is a multi-genre program, and this is the only course we offer in which all genres are considered. You may submit in any genre and may even submit pieces that defy genre definition. This is a workshop in which to try new things–to be inventive, experimental, and daring–but you will not be forced to be experimental, and if you wish to submit in the traditional genres, thats okay too, and many students in the past have done exactly that.

Here is the perfect chance to consider genres that are not your specialty. If, for instance, you have never written a poem in your life, you will still need to consider poetry because poems will be submitted, but there will certainly be poets in the workshop and you will learn from them. By the end of the year you might want to write a poem yourself. The same goes for any other genre.

In previous workshops students have submitted short stories, novel outlines and chapters, poems, song lyrics, scenes from stage plays or screen plays, comic book scripts, young adult fiction, research-driven non-fiction, personal essays, and memoirs. They have also submitted drawn comics, sound pieces, blog posts, website designs, scripts for mixed media, and mash-ups between narrative prose and photography. We once spent an hour walking in circles around the big tables in the seminar room staring at the poems laid out there, each of us deciding the best order for a sequence. What it comes down to is this: if you’re working on something that excites you, no matter what it is, bring it in and let us see it.

This workshop is called craft because its about making things well. The idea that brings it all together is a simple one: all genres inform each other.

Enrolment Note

We use the UBC enrolment system through the Student Service Centre for all workshop enrolment. Thesis enrolment must be carried out directly through the program secretary, Pat Rose, with the prior permission of your thesis advisor.