Guidelines for Undergraduate Students in English:
Creative Writing Option
Welcome to the undergraduate Creative Writing Option at CSUN, the place where writing happens. The following information has been prepared to help you move easily and successfully through the program. If you have questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to ask them.
The BA Degree
- Make yourself official: Declare yourself an English major, Creative Writing Option by filling out—and filing—the forms available in ST 709.
- Pick up an undergraduate advisement checklist there, read it, and follow it carefully.
- If you still have questions about GE requirements, meet with your undergraduate GE adviser, in JR 240: Shelly Thompson, x4767, or Mario Lopez, x4784.
- Think ahead. Reading the catalogue and this document all the way through. Plan out a course of study that works for you, and follow it.
- If you have questions about the option, please meet with the Creative Writing Adviser: Professor Rick Mitchell, ST 733, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Undergraduate Course of Study
This is not a mystery. When you review the English major, please note that there are some requirements all students share in common—English 355: Writing About Literature, for example, or the dreaded (just joking, it’s fun—and you’ll learn something too) 436: Major Critical Theories—and that, in addition, the Creative Writing Option consists of a systematic sequence of required courses. That sequence includes three creative writing workshops, one class in theory, and one senior seminar, also a workshop. You can do it two years, if you really try. Also, taking courses in the proper sequence will go a long way to ensure that you are happy and successful in your major here.
- English 308/309/310: These are intermediate level “workshop” classes in specific genres—308, Fiction (we call it “narrative”); 309, Poetry (we call it “verse”); and 310, Playwriting. Here you will begin to concentrate on writing, and reading, in a single genre. Workshop means that you will bring your own work to class, and discuss it with others. You may repeat this class once for credit.
- English 208: A multi-genre, lower division class where students from many majors first experience creative writing in college. You’ll write and read poetry, fiction, and plays. This is a prerequisite for all our upper level classes so take it first, ideally, before you are a junior.
- English 408, 409, 410: These are single genre advanced “workshop” classes. Here you will continue and extend work you began at the 300-level. You may anticipate more rigorous writing assignments, and a greater expectation that you will be working in complete forms. You may repeat this course once for credit, but you should not take it until you have successfully completed at least one 300-level course in that genre. Exceptions can be made, but only with the permission of the particular instructor.
- English 464/465: Theories of Poetry/Theories of Fiction. Here you will study a wide variety of ways that writers, scholars, and theorists have thought and talked about, among other things, the practice of writing, the medium of language, and ways in which writing moves through the world. The earlier you take this, in some sense, the better.
- English 490/491: Senior Seminar in Narrative/Senior Seminar in Verse. Here you will produce a senior thesis in the genre of your concentration, and you will also be asked to think about yourself as a writer and to produce, along with the thesis, a statement of your poetics.
Some Helpful Tips for Success in the Major
- It’s not a mystery: Courses are designed in a sequence, and you should do your best to take them that way—one creative writing workshop each semester, beginning with a 300- level workshop, and ending with your senior seminar.
- Begin as soon as you decide to make creative writing your option. That way, you won’t find yourself in a position of having to “double up” and take more than one workshop in a semester.
- Strongly consider taking classes in more
than one genre. All the genres inform and enrich one another, and
what you can learn
about language in verse writing class, for example, will serve
well in a narrative class, just as what you can learn about
in a playwriting class, may serve you well in a poetry class.
think you’re especially good at one genre, all the more
to try another.
Please note: If it does happen that, despite your best efforts, you end up having to take more than one workshop in any semester, that is the time to branch out into another genre. Every workshop class is designed to take up all your writing energies in that genre for that fifteen week period, so doubling up in a genre just sells you, your work, and your peers in both classes short.
- A word on playwriting. You are right—we do not currently offer a class on theories of drama and/or performance, nor do we offer a senior seminar in playwriting. We are working on this. In the meantime, if playwriting is your primary area of interest, please be aware that we will work with you to try to accommodate your writing needs.
- A word on theory. Ok, it’s true. Theory does give some creative writers hives, but there is a cure for this. Take a theory class—either 436 or 464/465—early enough in your undergraduate sequence to learn how not to be afraid. Theory’s just a way of thinking systematically about what you are doing when you are writing, or reading, or engaging in the study of writing, or reading, and because a large number of our undergraduate courses rely to one degree or another on such systematic thinking, it’s a good idea to join the conversation early, rather than late.
- Vary your experience to that you take classes from a wide range of instructors. One of the greatest strengths of the CSUN Creative Writing program is our diversity. With four full-time fiction writers, two full-time poets, one playwright, and host of accomplished adjunct faculty, we represent a wide range of ideas and practices regarding both the writing we do, and the way we teach it. It is to your advantage to experience as many of these approaches as you can, so that you are better positioned to determine how you want to proceed in your own work. The creative writing faculty at CSUN is, to a one, award-winning and well published, and you can’t go wrong.
- Take advantage of all of our offerings. Look for special topics courses in creative writing, sign up for the literary magazine (see below), and if you still have writing energy left over, be aware that writing classes can also count for your two major electives.
- Be involved. The creative writing faculty and program at CSUN, along with its various classes, hosts a number of readings and performances each term to provide both a means of dissemination of writing and the opportunity for writers and people interested in writing to gather. In addition, other such events occur in the region every night of the week. Take advantage of these opportunities. Join other writers in their celebrations of the written and spoken word, and have some fun at the same time.
- Don’t get discouraged. Sometimes it may seem impossible to get the classes you want, but it may be easier than you think. Enrollment figures always fluctuate at the beginning of any term; students drop and add classes; some never even show up. If you really want a class, be a nag—contact the professor ahead of time, get on the waiting list, show up for every session, and haunt TTR. Try it—it works.
- Talk to us. We do want to hear from you, and we—every member of the creative writing faculty—is happy to meet with you to discuss your work, your concerns, your education in general or in particular, and what your plans for the future may be. Don’t be afraid to come see us. A list of creative writing faculty can be found in the box at the end of this document, and current office hours can always be found on the English Department website, or by contacting faculty directly.
The Northridge Review
The Northridge Review is our award-winning undergraduate literary magazine, and anyone can work on it by signing up for English 412: The literary Magazine. Recently recognized by the top award in a national undergraduate literary magazine competition in the category of design, a runner-up in content, this magazine class provides you with excellent hands-on experience in editing, design, and desk-top publishing, which are great things to have on your resume when you get out of here. Published twice a year.
Submit your work to The Northridge Review. In addition to the opportunity to have your work published, you may also be considered for several awards. All submissions are considered anonymously (really, they are—the blind reading process is carefully designed and observed), and cover sheets for submission are available in the English Department office, ST 709. this is also where you can submit your work, by placing it in the appropriate Northridge Review box.
Support The Northridge Review. Read it. Buy it. Come to The Northridge Review publication readings held each term—good work, company, and fun for all.
Graduate Options in Creative Writing
Pick up information about our program from Janaki Bowerman, English Graduate Secretary, Janaki Bowerman, ST 705. For information regarding other programs or options, please come to the noon colloquium held each semester by creative writing faculty to discuss what might happen after CSUN.
* * * Who We Are * * *
Professor Rick Mitchell
Playwriting, Performance Studies
Office: ST 733
Professor Dorothy Barresi
Office: ST 824
Professor Katharine Haake
Fiction, Creative Writing, Theory
Office: ST 827
Professor Jack Lopez
Fiction, Creative Nonfiction
Office: ST 832
Professor Leilani Hall
Office: ST 820