Department of English

O'Dowd Hall, Room 544
586 Pioneer Drive
Rochester, MI 48309-4482
(location map)
(248) 370-2250
fax: (248) 370-4429

"Oakland Arts Review" Magazine cover with bison head drawing

Creative Writing Course Descriptions

Happy spring, writers! The opening of William Carlos Williams’s “Spring and All” feels about right for these times in this place:

By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast-a cold wind.

As we look forward to those cold winds turning warm, it’s time to think again about registering for classes. In this Creative Writing (CW) Program Course Bulletin for Summer 2022 – Winter 2023 you’ll find a list of the courses offered by the CW program for the next three terms.

For the first time, we are offering CW 2100 Intro to Prose/Poetry Writing and CW 2500 Intro to Memoir & Essay in Summer I and continue to offer CW 2400 Screenwriting in Summer II.

Don’t forget about our internship option, CW 4950. Contact Professor Gilson to learn more at gilson@oakland.edu.

If you have any questions about these classes, please reach out to us!

Useful Links:

Summer I 2022

Summer I (May3-June 24)

CW 2100: Intro to Creative Writing Workshop
taught by Professor McCarty
Contact at smccarty@oakland.edu.
(Online via Zoom MW 1-4:20 p.m.)

Whether you’ve been writing your whole life, never or somewhere in between, you will find something inspiring, beautiful, innovative and interesting in this introduction to fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction writing. We’ll explore creative writing on the page (tension in fiction, images in poetry and the meaning of “truth” in creative nonfiction) and off the page (slam poetry, Twitter fiction and podcasting). All students will share their writing in peer-led workshops. Other assignments include weekly creative writing experiments and reading responses. No previous experience in writing or workshopping is necessary. Prerequisite: WRT 1060 with a grade of C or higher. Also offered: Fall 2022 and Winter 2023


CW 2500: Intro to Memoir and Essay
taught by Professor Pfeiffer
Contact at pfeiffer@oakland.edu.
(Online via Zoom Tues and Th 1-4:20 p.m.)

“True stories, well told,” the catchphrase of “Creative Nonfiction,” the magazine, also describes the goals of memoirists and essayists, and it will be our guiding principle this semester. Students will explore the creative potential of memoir and essay through the study and practice of various techniques, styles, voices and variations. We will read and discuss writing which illustrates the range of possible topics for “true stories,” and we will practice a variety of approaches to craft which demonstrate how many ways our stories can be “well told.” Student writing will be shared in the workshop with a strong focus on revision. Lecture, discussion, workshop, with attendance and active participation required. Prerequisite: WRT 1060 with a grade of C or higher. Also offered: Winter 2023

Summer II

Summer II (June 27-Aug 16)

CW 2400: Intro to Screen/TV Writing
taught by Professor Shaerf
Contact at shaerf@oakland.edu
(Fully online/asynchronous)

This course will provide a historical and theoretical understanding of narrative screenwriting as both a storytelling format and an integral part of the cinematic production process. We will begin with an overview of the history of screenwriting and the development of industrial practices. This context will illustrate how the development of screenwriting for film and television narratives has evolved to its present- day formatting and style. We will see how screenwriters develop and progress paradigms as we push boundaries of how film stories are told. There will be creative projects throughout the semester to help give you the opportunity to experiment creatively with the screenplay format. Much of CW 2400 in this summer online course relies on forum discussions and live chat sessions around the topics of the week. You will be required to be an active participant in all discussions throughout the seven weeks of the course. Prerequisite: WRT 1060 with a grade of C or higher. Also offered: Fall 2022 and Winter 2023

Fall 2022

Fall (Sept. 1-Dec. 5)

CW 2100: Intro to Prose/Poetry Writing
taught by Professor Markus
Contact him at markus@oakland.edu
(Section 1: MW 3:30-5:17 p.m.)
(Section 2: M 6-9:20 p.m.)

Do you like to write? Are you creative? Do you like to tell the truth? Do you like to make things up? If you've answered yes to any of these questions, then this class will be a good fit for you. In this class students will be given the time, space, inspiration and guidance to write the poems and stories (true and invented) that you want to write. There is no mistake here in CW 2100. There is only the world that we make and the world we make believe in where the rules of others are yours to break. Prerequisite: WRT 1060 with a grade of C or higher. Also offered: Summer 2022 and Winter 2023


CW 2400: Intro to Screen/TV Writing
taught by Professor Chappell
Contact at jchappell@oakland.edu
(Tues 5:30-8:30 p.m.)

Students will table read industry screenplays, develop loglines, pitch ideas, review podcasts, as well as screen WGA-recognized films and television episodes. For the final, students will deconstruct the film or television script of their own choice to present a multi-media analysis that includes a detailed beat-by-beat scene breakdown. Lecture topics include the differences between screenwriting and other literary forms, visual storytelling techniques and industry formatting. Lectures will also explore how to subvert genre expectations, Aristotle’s three act structure, The Hero's Journey, character arcs and Jungian archetypes. Students will learn about scene construction and dialogue tools in the craft. Additionally, students will be given tools to plan how to launch a career as a screenwriter through personal anecdotes and true stories about working within the Hollywood studio system. Prerequisite: WRT 1060 with a grade of C or higher. Also offered: Summer 2022 and Winter 2023


CW 3200: Workshop in Fiction (intermediate level)
taught by Professor Gilson
Contact at gilson@oakland.edu
(Tues 6-9:20 p.m.)

What brings a story alive? In this second class in the workshop sequence for the fiction track, we will begin to explore that question by writing pieces that focus on different key elements of fiction, such as character and setting, narrative voice and dialogue, conflict and pacing. We will also work on exercises designed to help writers develop their understanding of basic elements of narrative. Students will present three to five  full stories to the class for the workshop (the first will be a flash fiction piece.) It’s three to five stories because everyone has the option to opt out of one or two stories if they like. At the end of the semester, students will workshop a revision of any story they did for the class. Throughout the semester we will do in-class exercises designed to help students find their voices and to surprise themselves. We will analyze stories by published authors from a number of craft approaches, to help students understand how writers achieve their particular narrative effects. In addition, we will spend time in each class talking about the process. Students will learn how to develop their subjects and to understand their strengths as writers. At the same time, they will explore their new identities as members of a writing community. That involves learning how to engage with other writers in the classroom and learning about how an audience responds to their work. Tending to these matters will help students to build a sustained writing practice and will help them in the future when they go out into the world to tell their own stories. Prerequisite: CW 2100. Also offered: Winter 2023.


CW 3300: Poetry Workshop
taught by Professor Hartsock
Contact at hartsock@oakland.edu
(Wed 6-9:20 p.m.)

The poet Henri Cole writes, “A poem is like a bottled genie. The bottle makes the genie stronger.” Following Cole's emphasis on craft, you will practice not only writing new genie-poems, but imagining new bottles for them too. You will read and compose in a variety of poetic forms, from sonnets to free verse. Meetings will include in-class writing exercises, discussion of assigned readings, introductions to literary movements and poetic forms and workshops of fellow students’ poems. Geared towards poets, but instrumental for any aspiring creative writer, the class gives you the opportunity to slow down with language and dwell with words, developing a sense of your own creative voice as you provide feedback on your fellow writers’ work. Prerequisite: CW 2100.


CW 3400: Screenwriting
taught by Professor Chappell
Contact at jchappell@oakland.edu
(Thurs 5:30-8:30 p.m.)

This intermediate screenwriting course is a writers workshop, where students give and receive critical feedback as they develop, pitch, draft and revise three short screenplays: a low budget realistic short, a collaborative adaptation and a genre short. Students will also learn from master screenwriters, including Quentin Tarantino, David Mamet, Aaron Sorkin, Joel and Ethan Coen and Jordan Peele, among others, by brainstorming “riffs” off of exemplary mentor scenes. The instruction emphasizes the correct application of industry formatting, the turning of scenes and advanced dialogue techniques. Prerequisites: CW 2400 and either FLM 1150 or FLM 2100. Also offered: Winter 2023


CW 3500: Workshop in Memoir and Essay
taught by Professor McCarty
Contact at smccarty@oakland.edu
(Tues and Thurs 3-4:47 p.m.)

True Crime: In Memoir and Essay, we focus on the crafting of the true story. But what if that true story is a crime? This semester, we will read true crime essays and memoirs written by both survivors and observers. We’ll talk about true crime as a genre and cultural phenomenon that has particular characteristics and pitfalls. We’ll think about the ethical imperatives of writing about crime and violence and ask questions like: how do we write about something that is “unspeakable?” and what do writers owe victims? We’ll read works such as “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote, “The Red Parts” by Maggie Nelson, “Son of a Gun” by Justin St. Germain, and essays and excerpts by Charles Bowdoin, Ross Gay, Claudia Rankine and others. We’ll also listen to true crime podcasts such as “My Favorite Murder” and examine the expectations of the genre. We’ll discuss both content and structure, and the ways different authors approach writing the crime. Students will workshop their own writing, but are not required to write about crime. We will discuss craft techniques (such as imagery, setting and style) and do formal writing exercises to practice these techniques through the lenses of personal experiences, memories, and interests. Prerequisite:  CW 2100 or CW 2500.


CW 3600: Playwriting
taught by Professor Dubin
Contact at dubin@oakland.edu
(Tues and Thurs 1-2:47 p.m.)

The first part of this course will focus on the craft of playwriting: structure, character and dialogue. The rest will function as a writing workshop where students read each other’s work aloud in class and exchange feedback. Course objectives include learning the basic elements of playwriting, analyzing these elements in existing works and writing several short plays that incorporate these elements. Professor Kitty Dubin provides a fun and supportive atmosphere where creativity can flourish. Playwriting is a four credit course that fulfills English, Theatre and Creative Writing credit. Prerequisite: WRT 1060 with a grade of C or higher. Also offered: Winter 2023


CW 3800: Editing and Publishing a Literary Journal
taught by Professor Powell
Contact at powell@oakland.edu
(Online via Zoom Tues and Thurs 10-11:47 a.m.)

Literary magazines are a crucial player in the field of creative writing and literary publishing today. In this class, students learn about the exciting history of literary magazines in Britain and America and explore the current literary magazine landscape. They also will gain hands-on experience in the field by working to produce one issue of the “Oakland Arts Review,” OU’s undergraduate international literature and arts journal. This class offers a unique opportunity for students in English and other disciplines to learn the process of editing and publishing a literary journal. Students will apprentice in the practical business of publishing— managing a submission database, advertising and marketing the journal, maintaining an online presence, etc. They will evaluate the quality of individual submissions that they themselves solicited, discussing aesthetic choices the authors are making and considering which pieces should be accepted. Finally students will edit and proof the final draft of the journal, according to the style of previous issues. Prerequisite: WRT 1060 with a grade of C or higher.


CW 4200: Advanced Workshop in Fiction
taught by Professor Chapman
Contact at chapman4@oakland.edu
(Tues and Thurs 8-9:47 a.m.)

This fiction capstone workshop will focus on taking you a step closer to being a published author. You will develop strong writing habits. You will write several stories and, through workshop and revision, develop one of these stories into a strong draft, ready to be submitted to literary journals. In the process, we will study the marketplace for short fiction and find a journal to which you will submit your story. Prerequisite(s): CW 2100, CW 3200. Also offered: Winter 2023

Winter 2023

Winter 2023 (Jan. 5-April 18)

CW 2100: Intro to Prose/Poetry Writing
taught by Professor Markus
Contact at markus@oakland.edu (Section 1: MW 3:30-5:17 p.m.)
(Section 2: M 6-9:20 p.m.)

Do you like to write? Are you creative? Do you like to tell the truth? Do you like to make things up? If you've answered yes to any of these questions, then this class will be a good fit for you. In this class students will be given the time, space,  inspiration and guidance to write the poems and stories (true and invented) that you want to write. There is no mistake here in CW 2100. There is only the world that we make and the world we make believe in where the rules of others are yours to break. Prerequisite: WRT 1060 with a grade of C or higher. Also offered: Summer 2022 and Fall 2022


CW 2400: Intro to Screen/TV Writing
taught by Professor Chappell
Contact at jchappell@oakland.edu
(Tues 5:30-8:30 p.m.)

Students will table read industry screenplays, develop loglines, pitch ideas, review podcasts, as well as screen WGA-recognized films and television episodes. For the final, students will deconstruct the film or television script of their own choice to present a multi-media analysis that includes a detailed beat-by-beat scene breakdown. Lecture topics include the differences between screenwriting and other literary forms, visual storytelling techniques, industry formatting, how to subvert genre expectations, Aristotle’s three act structure, The Hero's Journey, character arcs and Jungian archetypes, scene construction, dialogue tools, how to launch a career as a screenwriter, as well as personal anecdotes and true stories about working within the Hollywood studio system. Prerequisite: WRT 1060 with a grade of C or higher. Also offered: Summer 2022 and Fall 2022


CW 2500: Intro to Memoir and Essay
taught by Professor Pfeiffer
Contact at pfeiffer@oakland.edu
(Online via Zoom MW 1-2:47 p.m.)

“True stories, well told:” the catchphrase of “Creative Nonfiction,” the magazine, also describes the goals of memoirists and essayists, and it will be our guiding principle this semester. Students will explore the creative potential of memoir and essay through the study and practice of various techniques, styles, voices and variations. We will read and discuss writing which illustrates the range of possible topics for “true stories,” and we will practice a variety of approaches to craft which demonstrate how many ways our stories can be “well told.” Student writing will be shared in the workshop with a strong focus on revision. Lecture, discussion, workshop, with attendance and active participation required. Prerequisite: WRT 1060 with a grade of C or higher.  Also offered: Summer 2022


CW 3200: Workshop in Fiction (intermediate level)
taught by Professor Gilson
Contact at gilson@oakland.edu
(Tues and Thurs 3-4:47 p.m.)

What brings a story alive? In this second class in the workshop sequence for the fiction track, we will begin to explore that question by writing pieces that focus on different key elements of fiction, such as character and setting, narrative voice and dialogue, conflict and pacing. We will also work on exercises designed to help writers develop their understanding of basic elements of narrative. Students will present three to five full stories to the class for the workshop (the first will be a flash fiction piece. three to five stories because everyone has the option to opt out of one or two stories if they like. At the end of the semester, students will workshop a revision of any story they did for the class. Throughout the semester we will do in-class exercises designed to help students find their voices and to surprise themselves. We will analyze stories by published authors from a number of craft approaches, to help students understand how writers achieve their particular narrative effects. In addition, we will spend time in each class talking about the process. Students will learn how to develop their subjects and to understand their strengths as writers. At the same time, they will explore their new identities as members of a writing community. That involves learning how to engage with other writers in the classroom and learning about how an audience responds to their work. Tending to these matters will help students to build a sustained writing practice and will help them in the future when they go out into the world to tell their own stories. Prerequisite: CW 2100. Also offered: Fall 2022


CW 3300: Workshop in Poetry
taught by Professor Powell
Contact at powell@oakland.edu
(Online via Zoom Tues and Thurs 10-11:47 a.m.)

In this class, students are asked to complete a number of different writing prompts, producing poems that are then workshopped—read and commented on—by other students. The focus of each class is on honing particular skills, such as the writing of image and use of figurative language, becoming comfortable with poetic form and experimenting with different creative approaches to the writing of poetry. We will read from the Vintage Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, as well as selected essays by poets including Richard Hugo, Philip Levine, Gregory Orr and more. Prerequisite: CW 2100.


CW 3400: Screenwriting
taught by Professor Chappell
Contact at jchappell@oakland.edu
(Thurs 5:30 pm-8:30 p.m.)

This intermediate screenwriting course is a writers workshop, where students give and receive critical feedback as they develop, pitch, draft, and revise three short screenplays: a low budget realistic short, a collaborative adaptation, and a genre short. Students will also learn from master screenwriters (including Quentin Tarantino, David Mamet, Aaron Sorkin, Joel and Ethan Coen, and Jordan Peele among others) by brainstorming “riffs” off of exemplary mentor scenes. The instruction emphasizes the correct application of industry formatting, the turning of scenes, and advanced dialogue techniques. Prerequisite(s): CW 2400 and either FLM 1150 or FLM 2100. Also offered: Fall 2022


CW 3600: Playwriting taught by Professor Dubin
Contact at dubin@oakland.edu
(Tues and Thurs 1-2:47 p.m.)

The first part of this course will focus on the craft of playwriting: structure, character and dialogue. The rest will function as a writing workshop where students read each other’s work aloud in class and exchange feedback. Course objectives include learning the basic elements of playwriting, analyzing these elements in existing works and writing several short plays that incorporate these elements. Professor Kitty Dubin provides a fun and supportive atmosphere where creativity can flourish. Playwriting is a four credit course that fulfills English, Theatre and Creative Writing credit. Prerequisite: WRT 1060 with a grade of C or higher. Also offered: Fall 2022


CW 4200: Advanced Workshop in Fiction
taught by Professor Gilson
Contact at gilson@oakland.edu
(Thurs 6-9:20 p.m.)

This is the capstone course in the fiction track. Students will build on the work they did in the intermediate course, workshopping one flash fiction story, two to four stories (or, if students prefer, short novel excerpts), and at least one revision. We’ll consider different approaches — Robert Olen Butler’s claim that writers must write from where they dream, Flannery O’Connor’s insistence that writers must pay careful attention to the world, Ursula K. Le Guin’s claim that fantasy writers must go inside and write from their deepest selves. George Saunders says, “An artist works outside the realm of strict logic. Simply knowing one’s intention and then executing it does not make good art. Artists know this.” As Donald Barthelme notes, “The writer is that person who, embarking upon her task, does not know what to do.” Toni Morrison agrees, saying, “I always get up and make a cup of coffee while it is still dark — it must be dark — and then I drink the coffee and watch the light come…For me this ritual comprises my preparation to enter a space that I can only call nonsecular . . . Writers all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make the contact, where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process. For me, light is the signal in the transition. It’s not being in the light, it’s being there before it arrives. It enables me, in some sense.”

This class will focus on writing stories and exploring craft through short exercises, as well as on developing the vocabulary and skills to critique others’ stories. All this work will help you understand when your own story is working, when you need to revise to try to take it further and when you need to put your current draft aside and start again. We’ll also explore the process, to help students remember that every writer has ups and downs and that every writer has strengths to write to and weaknesses they can work on. One journal submission required, to familiarize students with some of the professional dimensions of being a writer. Also required are self-evaluations of the student's own progress and performance. Prerequisite: CW 3200. Also offered: Fall 2022


CW 4300: Advanced Workshop in Poetry
taught by Professor Powell
Contact at powell@oakland.edu
(Online via Zoom Tues 6-9:20 p.m.)

This class is for advanced poetry students. It is devoted to further refining the skills of poets by prioritizing the production of work (we write! A lot!) and the close reading of some, four to six,full length collections of poetry by contemporary poets writing today. Students are expected to offer thorough, thoughtful feedback to each other’s creative work and to participate in in-class writing prompts and class discussion. Prerequisite: CW 3300.


CW 4400: Advanced Screenwriting
taught by Professor Shaerf
Contact at shaerf@oakland.edu
(T 6-9:20 p.m.)

This course is the capstone for the screenwriting track. Students will take the tools learnt throughout the track, and with them write a feature film script along with a treatment of a story concept which details the plot developments for the film in its entirety. This class will help students enhance their ability to write both cinematically and dramatically, to see their work clearly and find their voices as writers. Prerequisites: CW 3400 and permission of instructor.


CW 4500: Advanced Workshop in Memoir and Essay
taught by Professor Pfeiffer
Contact at pfeiffer@oakland.edu
(MW 3:30-5:17 p.m.)

This advanced workshop will explore the craft choices that distinguish memoir and essay writing, with special attention paid to the ethics of nonfiction writing. What are the writer’s obligations to the truth when memory disagrees with the facts, or when the facts themselves are elusive or contradictory? What even counts as a fact? How does one responsibly protect the “innocent bystanders” in nonfiction narrative? Who “owns” a story when different points of view yield different truths? We will also explore the assumptions about race and gender in the narrative construction of identity through reading and discussion of craft in Alex Marzano-Lesnevich’s “How to Write a Genderqueer Story” and David Mura’s “A Stranger’s Journey.” Prerequisite: 3500 or permission of instructor.


CW 4600: Advanced Playwriting
taught by Professor Dubin
Contact at dubin@oakland.edu
(Tues and Thurs 10-11:47 a.m.)

A continuation of Playwriting I, structure, character, development and dialogue will be studied in greater depth. Students will be required to read and attend several plays. The class will function primarily as a writing workshop where, over the course of the semester, students will write a ten minute play as well as a full-length play. Learning how to market your work is an important component of this class. Professor Kitty Dubin provides a fun and supportive atmosphere where creativity can flourish. Advanced Playwriting is a four credit course that fulfills English, Theatre and Creative Writing credit. The class is only offered during the winter term. Prerequisites: Playwriting (CW 3600 or THA 3040) and instructor permission.

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”  – Joan Didion