Online 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 taking six credits 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.

A Note on Online Course Scheduling

Students are expected to spend a total of 3 hours online participating each week. Class preparation, reading and writing time is not included in this number. The class runs across 27 hours to accommodate the schedules of students in different time zones. All classes run from 9:00AM Pacific time on day one to 12:00PM Pacific Time on day two. Please note that if there is a course time listed in the UBC SSC, it is most likely in error. Our internal scheduling takes precedence.

Courses are scheduled as follows:

Note: The Hazlitt Nonfiction class meets on-campus Fridays from 1PM-3PM. Limited space is set aside in this class for Opt-Res students who can come to the Vancouver campus.

Expanded Course Descriptions – 2017/18 Academic Year


CRWR 501I D01: Advanced Writing of Poetry (3 credits, term 1)
Ian Williams

Monday 9am – Tuesday 12pm, PST, Term 1.

This graduate course takes the workshop beyond a place for editorial feedback and instead locates it as a place of production, exploration, and experiment. Its primary goal is to strengthen capacities essential to the creation of poetry, those of perception, emotion, analysis, truth, and courage, while improving technique. In order to accomplish these goals, a number of artistic and personal interventions will be necessary. There are exercises that may be demanding in ways that are unfamiliar to academic settings, and while you can always opt out without retribution, I encourage you to engage with difficulty while the opportunity is present in the safety of our community. Poetry is a record of those engagements.

Our workshops take place on various scales: in pairs, small groups, and the full class. The final project prepares a chapbook-length collection of poems, possibly for digital consumption.

Additionally, given our online format, this course allows us to consider key questions in the reception of our work in a digital age. How is our work tested without the interruption of the body? How are we both connected to and disconnected from our readership? How can writing (and publishing) online open up our poems to media and contemporaneity?


501K D01: Advanced Writing of Poetry (6 credits, two terms)
Susan Musgrave

Monday 9AM – Tuesday 12pm, PST

In this workshop my aim is a) to help those who have grown up in fear and loathing of poetry change their minds, and b) to pass on what I know about line breaks, the meaning of life, a good title (one that has sex, power and travel in it) the meaning(lessness) of death, sadness and injustice, why rhyme must include some element of surprise, the abecedarian and other forms, anti-depressant medications, the economy, the ‘found poetry’ of Donald Rumsfeld, dragonflies mating at sunset on Haida Gwaii, why most cereals are killers, the misuse of adverbs, the afterlife, truth, beauty and much much more (Deeply-engaging discussion topics and entertaining writing assignments galore).


CRWR 503I D01 (term 1) / 503J D02 (term 2): Advanced Writing for Children / YA (3 credits per section)
Maggie de Vries

Wednesday 9AM – Thursday 12PM PST

Whether young people are a new audience for you, or you have published several books for children or teens, this course is a place for you to explore and grow with the enthusiastic support of your peers and me. In this workshop-based course, you will be asked to submit two substantial pieces of writing (which can both be from the same project, but must be new, never workshopped before), and you will have the opportunity to be a peer editor once. As they arise, we will review elements of craft as well as genres, from fantasy to realistic fiction, and forms, from early readers to graphic novels to contemporary picture books. Alongside your work for the course, you will be expected to read the best books out there, and to let your reading inform your own work and your feedback to others. 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, and the barriers to getting that writing past the gatekeepers and into readers’ hands. At the end of the term, you will submit a revision of one of your pieces along with a reflection on your revision process.


CRWR 505I D01 (term 1) & 505J D03 (term 2): Advanced Writing of Creative Non-Fiction (3 credits, per term)
Wayne Grady

Thursday 9AM – Friday 12PM PST

An intermediate-level workshop course in creative nonfiction, in which students submit work in several forms of the genre, including Memoir, Travel, Third-Person Narrative, and the Personal Essay.
This course is normally a pre-requisite for CRWR 555. However, this pre-requisite may be waived by permission of the 555 instructor, and 555 may not be offered every year, depending on enrolment.

CRWR 505J D04: Advanced Writing of Creative Non-Fiction (3 credits term 2)
Charlotte Gill

Thursday 9AM – Friday 12PM PST

Narrative nonfiction. Literary journalism. The literature of fact. No matter what we call creative nonfiction, this style of fact-based writing is composed of two basic elements: real-life events + killer storytelling. Creative nonfiction, or CNF for short, comprises dozens of hybridized forms including the personal essay, family memoirs, adventure narratives, investigative reporting and popular science, to name just a few. We will look at four kinds of CNF, styles you might find in places like The Walrus, The Atlantic, or Longreads. Each has been selected to introduce you to essential nonfiction skills. Through supplementary lectures and workshops we will cover:

•    an intro to four CNF forms: memoir, the personal essay, the biographical profile and the short feature article.
•    the reconstruction of real-life events into truthful, compellingly readable narratives.
•    the development of cinematic, true-to-life story worlds borrowing from the classic techniques of fiction.
•    how to incorporate reporting (such as interviews and research) into your work.
•    issues particular to nonfiction such as insufficient source material or the ethics of writing about others.

You’ll workshop two nonfiction submissions in a collegial, supportive setting. The first submission is memoir, and the second is your choice. This course is open to all graduate levels, and CNF experience is not required.


CRWR 506K D01: Advanced Writing of Drama for Screen (6 credits, two terms)
Sara Graefe

Tuesday 9AM – Wednesday 12PM PST

This advanced screenwriting workshop focuses specifically on writing for film. Students will explore techniques of creating, developing and writing a long-form screenplay, from initial pitch to treatment to draft.  Students will work on the first draft of a new feature-length project (90-120 minutes) over the fall and winter terms. Original stories only please; no adaptations, as this goes beyond the scope of the course. We will also screen movies and examine screenwriting structure, formatting and craft, working from the age-old adage that a writer must first know the rules in order to break them.


CRWR 507I D01 (term 1) / 507J D01 (term 2): Advanced Stage Playwriting (3 credits per term)
Stephen Hunt

Wednesday 9AM – Thursday 12PM PST

During the course, you will explore playwriting through working on a script of your own, whether one-act, musical, monologue or full-length play. In the weekly workshops, you’ll participate in peer critiques, write reviews and each student will take a turn hosting a forum discussion. Students learn dialogue, how to develop complex characters, scene endings and other elements of effective stage storytelling.  You’ll also read a sampling of some contemporary drama, by a variety playwrights, including Michael Healey, Carmen Aguirre, Tennessee Williams, Tony Kushner, Sarah Ruhl, Djanet Sears, Anna Deavre Smith, Tomson Highway, Wajdi Mouawad and others. In past classes, some of the plays read included Angels in America, Scorched, Blue Box,  Kim’s Convenience, The Drawer Boy,   Another Home Invasion, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cloud Nine, The Clean House, The Romeo Initiative and Harlem Duet.


CRWR 508I D01: Advanced Writing for Graphic Forms 1 (3 credits, term 1)
Sarah Leavitt

Monday 9AM – Tuesday 12PM PST, Term 1.

This course is 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 509I D01: Advanced Writing of Fiction (3 credits, term 1)
Linda Svendsen

Tuesday 9AM – Wednesday 12PM PST

A graduate fiction workshop, in my experience, is an intimate situation in which we share our recent adventures in writing or re-writing fiction:  a story or a chapter, sometimes a novel outline or a portion of the manuscript, or even a brainstorming session about an idea.  While together, we share everything we think we know about what we’ve written before, where we’re writing to next, what we’ve read, what we wished we’d read, and everything in between with the goal of writing what we most want to necessarily read.  The workshop thrives when humans inhabit the work under discussion and respond with generous insight and empathy from their experience and ambition—while always valuing the work and the writer. Diligent listening and the stewardship of extraordinary written response, often happily amended during the conversation, are required.

With us on this journey:  Rachel Cusk, Kazuo Ishiguro, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Yiyun Li, Zadie Smith, Richard Wagamese and your own valued companions.


CrWr 509I D02: Advanced Writing of Fiction (3 credits, term 1)
Charlotte Gill

Thursday 9AM – Friday 12PM PST

From just a handful of basic ingredients—eggs, flour, milk—a thousand different cakes can be made. Just like this, infinite plots and fiction styles may be devised from just a handful of narrative building blocks. That’s our starting point. We will break down the storytelling process into comprehensible fundamentals, using a variety of reverse-engineered examples from contemporary fiction. Through workshops and supplementary lectures, we will cover:

•    the four pillars of fiction: character and plot, scene and exposition.
•    classic story structure in three acts.
•    conflict and the reversal.
•    narration and point of view.
•    beginnings and endings.

This course is open to all graduate levels. Over the course of the semester, you’ll workshop two fiction submissions in a collegial, supportive setting. The focus is workshop with short stories, although novel chapters are acceptable with permission. No matter our literary predilections–traditional, realist, satirical or fantastic—the common goal is to provide a clear, compelling reading experience, and to achieve a style that’s authentically our own.


CRWR 509J-D03 – Advanced Writing of Fiction (3 credits, term 2)
Maureen Medved

Thursday 9AM – Friday 12PM PST

This is a workshop for graduate writers of all forms of short and long fiction. During this workshop, you will complete two submissions (adding up to approximately 40 pages) of either short stories, narrative fragments or chapters from a novel or novella.  This course accommodates all forms of fiction writing (short stories, novels, novellas, flash, micro-fiction, genre-crossover, and others).  While content is the writer’s choice, strong literary prose is the standard. You are welcome to explore any form of fiction with the exception of formula or genre writing – romance, science fiction, crime, mystery – unless you spin the genre and make it new.

We will explore advanced aspects of craft – fiction techniques, including structure, point of view, character development, voice, and dialogue. We will investigate the revision process, and you will be expected to revise your work. Excellent works of fiction will be our texts, and we will read, analyze, and discuss a few of these. We will discuss the writing process and getting published. At some point, I will ask each student to post to the workshop a brief analysis (200 – 500 words) of one of these works, addressing such writerly concerns as structure, form, style, or anything else that you think may enhance our understanding of craft. This is a workshop about taking creative risks while honoring your unique potential, literary aims, and writerly voice.


CRWR 509J-D04 – Advanced Writing of Fiction (3 credits, term 2)
Timothy Taylor

Thursday 9AM – Friday 12PM PST

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 514K D01: Advanced Writing for Television
Sioux Browning

Tuesday 9AM – Wednesday 12PM PST 

Television has evolved from being the “idiot box” to providing us with a “golden age” of storytelling. This two-term class is for anyone interested in writing for the small screen; no previous screenwriting experience is required (but it is helpful). We will cover the essentials: units of action, plotting, story structure, dialogue, formatting. We will also look at how series are structured, and the business and process of writing for TV.

In the first semester, students will deconstruct a current, scripted TV show (half-hour or hour) and write a spec episode for it. We’ll go step-by-step from pitch to beat sheet to outline to draft. Before classes begin, students should have in mind a few choices for shows they’d like to spec; these should be shows you like to watch and you know fairly well. In the following semester, students will create an original project, suitable for either television or the web. For those who desire, these original projects can be written in pairs or teams. Over the course of the class, we will also watch and discuss episodes of TV (access to a subscription service like Netflix or Crave will likely be necessary)

I expect discussion of each others’ projects to be thoughtful and merciful. Just as in a professional writers’ room, deadlines are taken seriously. Before class starts, I recommend students read a few recent TV scripts on-line to get a sense of how they look and feel. This class has a sharp learning curve and it’s busy, but it also tends to be a lot of fun.


CRWR 515J-D01: Advanced Literary Translation
Rhea Tregebov

Tuesday 9AM – Wednesday 12PM PST.
Course open to on-campus and Optional-Residency MFA students.

This workshop is intended to provide students with the opportunity to practise and study literary translation into English. Prerequisite is proficiency in a second language. Students will translate poetry, fiction, playscript or literary creative non-fiction from the work of published literary authors of their choice (selections with the professor’s approval). During this workshop, participants will have the opportunity to discuss and critique students’ translations. In addition to the workshop discussions, the course will include required texts and recordings on topics such as the linguistic underpinnings of translation and on various approaches to translation. In addition to contributing translations for workshop, students will be required to hand in assignments on these topics. Part of the value of the course is the opportunity it provides for students to learn aspects of literary craft and technique as they become evident in the process of translation (and revision).


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 support, Alexandra Tsardidis, with the prior permission of your thesis advisor.