The Language and Literature department has added a creative writing major and minor, which started this fall. It is the first new major to be added in nearly ten years according to Dr. John Estes, director of Creative Writing. Already, nearly a dozen students have taken interest in the new program, switching from a previous major when the program was added.
The official goal of the program is “to offer not only a curriculum conducive to the study of writing, but to build a culture where writers are supported and challenged to grow as artists,” according to the creative writing learning objectives.
Estes is currently teaching most of the classes required for the creative writing major and minor but hopes that as the program grows, more staff will be hired.
“I can’t be all things to all students,” Estes said.
The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) talks about a group of core teachers and Estes does not consider one professor a core. Also, he said he can write all genres but his focus is on poetry. A larger staff would allow for students to have classes with a writer of their chosen genre to work with.
Estes said the decision to hire a writer was a result of students wanting more writing classes, and in particular, more creative writing classes. He suggested that this is a trend across the nation.
“On one hand we see colleges moving towards more vocational and technical training but at the same time, and I think as a response to that, we see more and more people wanting to take creative writing,” he said.
The Writers Series began when Estes was hired in 2010 and the major grew out of that momentum, he said. In the process of its creation, creative writing programs at other schools were taken into consideration. The Language and Literature department adapted those models to fit what was best and most feasible for Malone.
Estes said that you have to look at “what’s possible with our resources (both people’s resources and financial resources), what is it that schools similar in size and scope to us do, and… here are the components of a creative writing major.”
He said it is suggested by the AWP that, at the undergraduate level, creative writing students should not specialize.
“I like how it’s structured so that students get experience in all the genres and styles,” Estes said.
In the creative writing core for both the major and minor are classes in poetry and fiction writing. Also required is a course in essay writing. Estes said it isn’t until the later literature electives that students can choose an area of focus. This category of classes includes studies in genre, authors, women writers and advanced studies in literature.
Estes also stressed the importance of reading for a writer and said the curriculum should require more reading for students.
“We are sort of trusting that people who are serious about writing will take more literature than what is prescribed,” he said.
The major allows students to have time to take on a double major or, if they are very serious, spend plenty of time reading and writing.
Britney Redpath is a junior who switched over to the creative writing major.
“If writing is what you like to do there are a lot of seminars and visiting writers who give you an outside perspective on things. Dr. Estes is trying to get a children’s summer writing camp,” Redpath said.
She hopes to become involved in this opportunity.
“I think it’s a solid enough program, or at least will be once it’s established a little more, that creative writing majors would be prepared enough through Malone’s program from what I’ve seen so far,” Redpath said. “There’s a wide enough variety of classes that you get experience in a lot of different genres. The faculty is passionate about it so they are always pushing for new programs and writers to come in.”
Sione Veikoso, a sophomore creative writing major, said Dr. Estes is encouraging and takes time to talk to individual students about their writing.
“There’s so much that goes on in that class and it helps me grow as a writer,” Veikoso said.
He said he enjoys the surprising aspects of the major. Going into it, Veikoso expected to read a lot of Shakespeare. However, he found that the classes are “out of the box and had things which I enjoyed more, like contemporary poems.”
“I think of the program as the culture,” Estes said. “Creating a place where people feel supported and nurtured and challenged will help writers grow and be strong.”
Estes mentioned that the creative writing program offers a fellowship for incoming students, sponsors the Writers Series, publishes Sightlines and has plans of opening a café in the library.
“We’re visible,” he said. “That’s part of the culture building. Students can get excited about being a part of something that is young. They have the opportunity to build this thing and come and make a mark.”
Kaitlyn Stump is a staff writer for The Aviso AVW.