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.

On-Campus courses and Optional-Residency courses share the same course numbers, but all sections of the Optional-Residency (online) 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. Please be aware of this when you are creating your course lists in the Student Service Centre so you don’t inadvertently select the wrong course.

Expanded Course Descriptions – 2018/19 Academic Year

CRWR 501P-001 – Advanced Writing of Poetry (3 credits, term 1)
Sheryda Warrener

Through encounters with various comtemporary styles and aesthetics, this workshop aims to expand notions of what shapes and modes are available to us when we set out to make poems. Students will prioritize generating new drafts, as well as critical and creative responses to close readings of peer work and supplementary materials ranging across the lyric tradition. A portfolio of 8 – 10 poems at various stages of the draft process is the hard target for the semester; experiential goals include developing a shared language around the tactics poems have at their disposal (such as: turns, leaps, disorientation as a means of connection). A range of alternative approaches to the traditional workshop model will be offered, with emphasis placed on how close reading informs a dedicated practice.

CRWR 501Q-002 – Advanced Writing of Poetry (3 credits, term 2)
Amber Dawn

An advanced poetry workshop. Full description to come.

CRWR 502Q-001 – Advanced Writing for New Media: Podcasting (3 credits, term 2)
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.

They will be expected to research and provide feedback to the class about the recent following audio podcast series and/or shows: Chatterbox Audio Theater, S-Town, The Kitchen SistersThe Truth (Radiotopia), Blood-Culture, Homecoming, and The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel.

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

CRWR 503P-001 – Advanced Writing for Children (3 credits, term 1)
Alison Acheson

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 503Q-002 – Advanced Writing for Children (3 credits, term 2)
Emily Pohl-Weary

This is a workshop-based course on writing for middle-grade (MG) and young adults (YA). You are free to write for 10-year-olds through to older teens (18/19 years old). Some of the most exciting books today are written for these age groups. They are among the bestselling in bookstores, and they tend to be fast-paced, adventurous, playful, and unpretentious. Great examples combine unique narrative voice, strong plotting, massive amounts of dramatic tension, and compelling characters grappling with personal issues. More and more authors are cracking open the expected “rules” about what’s allowed in MG/YA novels and tackling difficult and/or ground-breaking subject matter. Together we will explore the weird and wonderful world of writing for young readers, question the parameters of its sub-genres, and develop our own writerly voices. We will also consider what sets YA apart from writing for adults or children and discuss advanced writing techniques.

CRWR 505P-001 – Advanced Writing of Creative Nonfiction (3 credits, term 1)
Kevin Chong

An advanced workshop in the writing of creative nonfiction. Complete description to come.

CRWR 505Q-002 – Advanced Writing of Creative Nonfiction (3 credits, term 2)
Timothy Taylor

An advanced workshop in the writing of creative nonfiction. Complete description to come.

CRWR 506R-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 507R-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 33rt 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 plays are given live 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 508Q-001 – Advanced Writing for Graphic Forms (3 credits, term 2)
Sarah Leavitt

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, class discussion, exercises 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 509P-001 – Advanced Writing of Fiction (3 credits, term 1)
Alix Ohlin

In this workshop, we’ll come together as a community of writers to support one another, to listen, and to find ways to take risks, dream big, and stay playful.  We’ll help each other refine our ideas, and work to cross that always-difficult divide between our goals for the work and the execution of it.  The class will include substantial conversations about craft and assigned readings—both fiction and essays about writing.  Among the many things we’re likely to discuss are: structure, point of view, beginnings and endings; techniques to develop and deepen characterization; the management of mood, tone, and voice; the crucial machinery of plot and the moments in which we might, just as crucially, dispense with it; the establishment and maintenance of narrative and stylistic urgency; the pleasures of genre; and the joys of working at the sentence level to make beautiful and moving prose.  At the heart of the class, always, will be your own writing and your ambitions for it.

CRWR 509P-003 – Advanced Writing of Fiction (3 credits, term 1)
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 509Q-002 – Advanced Writing of Fiction (3 credits, term 2)
Keith Maillard

The purpose of this workshop is to help students write excellent fiction. Many fiction workshops move toward polished final draft too quickly and encourage feedback that is largely editorial. We will not do that. We will explore the writing of fiction anywhere on a spectrum from the exploratory stage to polished final draft.

Editorial feedback is not appropriate for story ideas in their earliest stages when they are often incoherent, vague, and fragile. Feedback at this stage should be designed to encourage the author and spark creativity. Early drafts will take shape only gradually, and students will be encouraged to resubmit them, often in entirely new drafts, until they begin to cohere. This method cannot work effectively unless the workshop environment is warm, supportive, and safe, so I encourage a non-competitive and collaborative approach.

Workshop members need to engage with the story as it is emerging rather than talking about the story they would write if they were writing it. A response to a story should always begin with a description of it as it stands: how it is built, how it is working technically, how it fits into the ongoing development of fictional genres, what other voices are in dialogue with it. Because we will have real authors in the room (as opposed to the “implied” authors sometimes studied in the English Department), we will ask them about their intentions. We will not favour any genre over another.

As a story moves closer to completion, higher degrees of editorial feedback become appropriate. During the course of the workshop, students will be required to bring at least one of their stories to final draft or close to it.

Because he has had an enormous impact upon how I write and teach fiction, I will, from time to time, mention the great Russian theorist, M. M. Bakhtin, but I will expect no one to read him. I will also often discuss the three-act structure employed by screenwriters.

Don’t worry about your grade. If you are passionately interested in your own writing, you will get a good grade.

CRWR 509Q-004 – 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. Class will consist of short craft lectures and group discussion about the various aspects of writing and the sustained writing life. The primary topic will be the techniques and tools of revision. We’ll focus on structure, point of view, character, prose style, voice, image patterns, transitions, place & setting, facility of exposition, scene vs summary, dialogue, best & worst use of description, beginnings, endings, use & misuse of flashbacks & dreams.

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. This is a writing, reading and discussion intensive course.

CRWR 514P-001 – Advanced Writing for Television (3 credits, term 1) 

Transparent, Enlightened, Vice, The Office:  the parade of diverse and exceptional half-hour series produced during Peak TV is inspirational.  In this workshop focused upon half-hour series, writers will create a concept, outline/beat sheet, and first draft of an original pilot.  Be prepared to work in mini writers’ rooms, from time to time, to experience the collaborative process, to watch TV and keep a journal, and to read several professional scripts.

CRWR 514Q-002 – Advanced Writing for Television (3 credits, term 2)
Linda Svendsen

The Handmaid’s Tale, Blackstone, Mary Kills People, Babylon Berlin, Oz:  brilliant one-hour TV series challenge the intimacy and scope of the novel. In this intensive workshop focused upon one-hour series, writers will create a concept, outline/beat sheet, and first draft of an original pilot.  Be prepared to collaborate and story edit in writers’ rooms, to independently watch and break down a limited series, and to read produced scripts.

CRWR 530-001 (term 1) – Preparation for a Career in Writing (3 credits)
Kevin Chong

In this undergrad/grad class, we will learn about the realities of furthering and maintaining a writing practice. Lectures will be interspersed with guest speakers–writers who have taken different paths on their careers, and have found different ways to make a living. We will be looking at the nitty gritty of the writing life, including book proposals, grant applications, agent queries. But we will also discuss more intangible ingredients of a writing career, like using social media and informal networking, and coping strategies for balancing financial necessity with your writing needs. Assignments include writing a career plan and proposal and conducting an interview with an established writer for Nineteen Questions (nineteenquestions.com).

CRWR 570P-001 – Advanced Special Projects in Creative Writing: “Craft” (3 credits, term 1)
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 Alexandra Tsardidis, Grad Support (crwr.grad@ubc.ca), with the prior permission of your thesis advisor.