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.

To register, go to the Student Service Centre. We recommend new students watch the help videos to learn how to create a worklist of courses in advance. Do not wait until registration day to begin your course registrations.

Expanded Course Descriptions – 2018/19 Academic Year (some details TBA)

CRWR 501P D01: Advanced Writing of Poetry (3 credits, term 1)

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

Advanced Writing of Poetry workshop. Course description and instructor name to come.

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

Tuesday 9am – Wednesday 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 503P D01 (term 1) / 503Q 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 505P D01: Advanced Writing of Creative Non-Fiction (3 credits, term 1)
Wayne Grady

Thursday 9AM – Friday 12PM PST

An intermediate-level workshop course in creative nonfiction, in which students submit and then revise work in two creative nonfiction forms: Memoir and Travel.
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 505P D03: Advanced Writing of Creative Non-Fiction (3 credits term 1)
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 505Q D02: Advanced Writing of Creative Non-Fiction (3 credits, term 2)

Wednesday 9AM – Thursday 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.

CRWR 505Q D04: Advanced Writing of Creative Non-Fiction (3 credits, term 2)

Wednesday 9AM – Thursday 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.

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

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 507P D01 (term 1) / 507Q 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 508P D01: Advanced Writing for Graphic Forms 1 (3 credits, term 1)
Sarah Leavitt

Wednesday 9AM – Thursday 12PM PST

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 D01: Advanced Writing of Fiction (3 credits, term 1)
Annabel Lyon

Thursday 9AM – Friday 12PM PST

Students are encouraged to submit short stories. Any excerpts from longer fictional works (novella, novel) should be freestanding, without need for additional context or an outline. You will submit two assignments in the term, totalling 5000-7000 words.

Always taking student work as the primary text, we will examine various elements of craft, including character, plot, structure, prose style, point of view, voice, symbol and metaphor, etc. Becoming a conscious reader makes you a more conscious writer; the tools we apply when we’re editing our peers’ work are the exact same tools we should be using when we shape our own work. It’s through thoughtful, detailed constructive criticism that we learn to become more attentive to our own work, more familiar with the many aesthetic choices facing us, and more able to take informed, intelligent, effective artistic leaps in our fiction.

CrWr 509P D03: Advanced Writing of Fiction (3 credits, term 1)
Anosh Irani

Thursday 9AM – Friday 12PM PST

A graduate fiction workshop is an intimate situation in which we share our recent adventures in fiction:  a short story or novel excerpt.   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 something that offers insight into the human condition.  The workshop thrives when participants inhabit the work under discussion and respond with generous, incisive feedback 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: Rohinton Mistry, John Cheever, Anton Chekov and your own valued companions.

CRWR 509Q-D02 – 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, dialogue and so forth, and I will ask you to participate in exercises that will address these aspects, so that we can enhance our understanding of craft. We will investigate the revision process, and you will be expected to deeply consider a revision of your own work. Excellent works of fiction will be our texts for analysis and discussion. We will explore the writing process and getting published.

This is a workshop about taking creative risks while honoring your unique potential, literary aims, and writerly voice. My hope is that you will leave this workshop with more tools and a more deeply felt understanding of your work, and its strengths and challenges, and that you will take this forward in all your writing.

CrWr 509Q D04: Advanced Writing of Fiction (3 credits, term 2)
Charlotte Gill

Thursday 9AM – Friday 12PM PST

From just a handful of basic ingredients—eggs, flour, milk, sugar—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 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 (plus alternative designs).
  • conflict and the reversal.
  • narration and point of view.

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 and novel chapters. No matter our literary predilections, the goal is to provide a clear, compelling reading experience, and to achieve a style that’s authentically our own.

CrWr 514R D01: Advanced Writing for Television (6 credits, both terms)
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 and much more. 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. Keep in mind it’s not necessarily easier to write a half-hour of television than it is to write an hour of it. We’ll go step-by-step from the beginning: pitch to beat sheet to outline to draft. Before classes begin, students should have in mind several options for shows they’d like to spec; these should be shows you like to watch and you know fairly well. Shows from specialty channels (like HBO) or streaming services (like Netflix or Amazon, as long as the show is on-going) are just as welcome as regular network TV. Prior to the start of classes, I’ll send out a note that will help narrow down your choice.

In the following semester, students will create an original project. This project can be for TV or it can be a web series. 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 550P-D01 – Teaching Creative Writing (3 credits, Term 1)
Nancy Lee

Tuesday 9AM – Wednesday 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 our 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 creative process. Other topics include the perils of workshop, how to support diversity in the classroom, how to mediate sensitive topics and deal with difficult classroom situations, 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 support, Alexandra Tsardidis, with the prior permission of your thesis advisor.