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Undergraduate Creative Writing

Undergraduate Creative Writing

The introductory and advanced courses in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as TV script writing, are some of the most sought-after offerings in the Penn State English Department.  Our undergraduates have their poems, short stories, and essays published in the student-run literary journals produced on campus by their peers, and honored by the many University-wide creative writing contests.  And they learn from the greats as they attend readings by some of America’s most exciting novelists, short story writers, poets, and nonfiction writers, who also visit their classes and answer their questions as part of The Mary E. Rolling Reading series, the Emily Dickinson Lectureship in Poetry, and the Steven Fisher Writer-in-Residence program.

Career Paths

Creative writing courses place a particular emphasis on the craft of language and original thinking, skills that have propelled alumni into careers in journalism, internet communications, law, public relations, publishing, advertising, teaching, and professional writing.  If you’d like to make your mark by your clear, original approach to communication, our courses are right for you.  Penn State’s creative writing alumni are versatile, adaptable employees who know how to think outside the box.  You’ll find them working all over the globe–in the consulate in Madrid, Spain, in a supply station in Antarctica, in web design in New York City, and in their own publishing companies in Philadelphia and in Alabama.

If your dream is to pursue graduate study in creative writing, we can help you shape a manuscript that presents your creative work at its best.  Our undergraduate creative writers have gone on to graduate programs at the University of Iowa, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Oxford, Syracuse, Brown, Emerson College, the University of Florida, Florida State, Arizona, Arizona State, Ohio State, the University of Alabama, the University of North Carolina, the University of Wisconsin, the Michener Center at the University of Texas, and many other institutions.

Notable Alumni

Novelist Jillian Cantor, whose seven books have been lauded for their inventive narratives and reviewed in Oprah, Time, and People magazines, used to dazzle us in her undergraduate fiction writing classes.  Poet, Stegner Fellow, and National Endowment for the Arts grantee Ryan Teitman perfected his editing chops on Kalliope before going on to serve as poetry editor of The Indiana Review. Writers Diane Ackerman, Nomi Eve, Ruth Ellen Kocher, Jane Miller, and Chinelo Okparanta also caught the interest and earned the respect of their professors and fellow students as they crafted their early work in our classes.

Core Creative Writing Faculty

In poetry:

  • Julia Kasdorf and
  • Shara McCallum;

In prose:

  • Elizabeth Kadetsky,
  • Samuel Kọ́láwọlé, and
  • Toby Thompson.

Creative Writing Concentration in the Major

English Majors can pursuse a Concentration in Creative Writing. Visit the Creative Writing Concentration page to learn more.

BA/MA Program in English, with a focus in Creative Writing

Undergraduate students at Penn State are also eligible to apply the the BA/MA Program in English, with a focus in Creative Writing. With an additional year of study, students earn both a BA and an MA in English, polish their writing, gain teaching experience, and prepare for the next step in their writing careers. For information visit the BA/MA in Creative Writing page.

Minor in Creative Writing

Students who are not English majors may be interested in pursuing a Minor in Creative Writing through the Department.

For more information on any of these possibilities, please contact Julia Kasdorf at