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 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.

A Note on Online Course Scheduling

Students are expected to spend a total of 3 hours online participating each week. 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:

MONDAY: Poetry, Graphic Novel
TUESDAY: Nonfiction, Lyric and Libretto (when offered)
WEDNESDAY: Screenwriting / TV, Playwriting
THURSDAY: Fiction, Writing for Children

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 – 2016/17 Academic Year


501Z D01: Advanced Writing of Poetry
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 501J D02: Advanced Writing of Poetry
Karen Solie

Monday 9am – Tuesday 12pm, PST – 3 Credits. Term 1.

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 503Z D01: Advanced Writing for Children / YA
Alison Acheson

Thursday 9AM – Friday 12PM PST

You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children. –Madeleine L’Engle

This workshop will encourage exploration, risk, and all the rich stuff of apprenticeship. You will become conversant with the many age-groups of literature for children—enough to offer feedback to your peers’ work—even as you focus on the areas that pull you in, gut first. We will review genres, from mystery and fantasy to realistic fiction, and from classic to contemporary picturebook. We will look at the elements of fiction, and the connections between content and form, and between choices and effects…and more…even as we have an ongoing discussion of the challenges of creating for an audience who is not—generally—the purchaser of the story. The development of self-as-writer is also an integral part of the course, and you will be encouraged to keep a process journal and be reflective in your practice.


CRWR 505Z D01: Advanced Writing of Creative Non-Fiction
Wayne Grady

Tuesday 9AM – Wednesday 12PM PST

An intermediate level survey course in creative nonfiction. We will discuss and write CNF forms like memoir, personal essay, rhetoric, cultural criticism, travel writing, and literary journalism.

This course is normally a pre-requisite for CRWR 555. Students are expected to take 505 first, then progress to 555. This prerequisite may, however, be waived by permission of the instructor and program. 555 may not be offered every year, depending on enrolment numbers.


CRWR 505M D02: Advanced Writing of Creative Non-Fiction
Kevin Chong

Tuesday 9AM – Wednesday 12PM PST. 3 Credits. Term 1.

An intermediate level survey course in creative nonfiction. We will discuss and write CNF forms like memoir, personal essay, rhetoric, cultural criticism, travel writing, and literary journalism.

This course is normally a pre-requisite for CRWR 555. Students are expected to take 505 first, then progress to 555. This prerequisite may, however, be waived by permission of the instructor and program. 555 may not be offered every year, depending on enrolment numbers.


CRWR 505J D03: Advanced Writing of Creative Non-Fiction
Kevin Chong

Tuesday 9AM – Wednesday 12PM PST. 3 Credits. Term 2. 

An intermediate level survey course in creative nonfiction. We will discuss and write CNF forms like memoir, personal essay, rhetoric, cultural criticism, travel writing, and literary journalism.


CRWR 506Z D01: Advanced Writing of Drama for Screen
Sara Graefe

Wednesday 9AM – Thursday 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.

Pre-requisites: There are no formal prerequisites. However, priority is given to students with some previous screenwriting experience, including the 10-day summer bootcamp.


CRWR 507Z D01: Advanced Stage Playwriting
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, 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. You’ll read a sampling of some contemporary drama. In past classes, some of the plays read included Angels in America, Scorched, Blue Box,  Kim’s Convenience, The Drawer Boy and Another Home Invasion. Students also will have the opportunity to hear their work via podcasts that are produced by professional actors at the end of each school year.


CRWR 508Z D01: Advanced Writing for Graphic Forms 1
Sarah Leavitt / 3 credit term 2

Monday 9AM – Tuesday 12PM PST – 3 Credits. Term 2.

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 509Z D01: Advanced Writing of Fiction
Wayne Grady (term 1) & Maureen Medved (term 2)

Thursday 9AM – Friday 12PM PST

This course accommodates all forms of fiction writing (short stories, novels, novellas, micro-fiction, etc).  While content is entirely up the writer, strong prose to a literary standard is the expectation regardless of genre. The discussion portion of the course will focus on advanced topics in craft, the writing life, and getting published. Our goal is always to support the submitting writer toward their own artistic intention. We encourage writers to move beyond what they know and use this course as an opportunity to take some risks in their work.


CrWr 509Z D02: Advanced Writing of Fiction
Charlotte Gill

Thursday 9AM – Friday 12PM PST

This is a workshop-based course that accommodates all lengths of adult fiction:  microfictions and short stories, novellas and novels.  Each semester, you’ll be responsible for submitting a total of 5,000 to 7,000 words divided between two writing assignments.

In the workshop, as well as the work in progress, discussion will encompass the interplay of writing techniques, the nuts and bolts of getting published and suggestions for writing exercises or readings to get you out of your comfort zone.


CRWR 509K-D03 – Advanced Writing of Fiction (3 credits, term 1)
Annabel Lyon

Thursday 9AM – Friday 12PM PST

This 3-credit course will focus on creating a viable novel outline in any genre.  Classes will take advantage of the edX novel outlining course materials created by Annabel & Nancy Lee and this course will take place on the edX platform, NOT the normal writing forums.

EdX course material will be used every other week. These will consist of written lectures, videos, discussions, and cumulative assignments. In the online class weeks, 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.


CrWr 514Z D01: Advanced Writing for Television
Sioux Browning

Wednesday 9AM – Thursday 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 choose and 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. In the next 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 550A D01 – Teaching Creative Writing (3 credits, Term 2)
Nancy Lee

Monday 9AM – Tuesday 12PM PST

This hands-on practical course introduces students to the rewards and potential challenges of teaching creative writing. As a foundation, we explore the fundamentals of teaching writing and the practices of planning, programming and performance necessary to thrive and inspire as a creative writing instructor in a variety of settings: continuing education, college and university, and specialized workshops for specific groups. We will examine philosophies and theories around creative writing pedagogy and familiarize ourselves with a variety of teaching methodologies, including: working with writing exercises, workshopping creative work, developing course reading lists, and guiding students through critical analysis. Other topics include the perils of workshop, how to teach thorough editing and revision, sensitive issues in the classroom, and finally, how to find work. Students will leave the course with a concrete set of teaching tools including a teaching philosophy, course outline, syllabus and a bank of writing exercises.


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.