Creative Writing Certificate Program

Writers who are serious about their craft can create a custom course of study to prepare for graduate programs in creative writing. In this post-baccalaureate certificate program, students hone their craft, formalize their training and build a solid portfolio of work for application to MFA and MA/PhD programs in writing. Courses are conducted as writing workshops to allow for valuable feedback from a community of fellow writers. As students analyze and write creative work and learn about the publishing world, their creative development is guided by instructors who are respected writers themselves. Students can explore a variety of writing areas, or they may specialize their course of study based on experience and discipline — fiction, creative nonfiction or poetry. Classes meet on campus in Chicago or Evanston.

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About the Creative Writing Certificate Program

Creative Writing Goals and Courses

Program Goals

Creative Writing post-baccalaureate certificate students will:

  • Explore a range of literary works and aesthetic approaches
  • Gain a rigorous background in the fundamentals of creative writing by working with established poets and prose writers
  • Learn about the literary publishing industry and develop a sense of the writer's position within it
  • Build a solid portfolio through the development of a regular writing practice

Required Courses

Four from the following:

  • ENGLISH 206 Reading/Writing Poetry*
  • ENGLISH 207 Reading/Writing Fiction
  • ENGLISH 208 Reading/Writing Creative Nonfiction
  • ENGLISH 307-A Advanced Fiction I
  • ENGLISH 307-B Advanced Fiction II
  • ENGLISH 308-A Advanced Nonfiction I
  • ENGLISH 308-B Advanced Nonfiction II
    *course availability varies year to year

In addition to the minimum of four required courses, students may complete literature courses in SPS.

Students should have some academic writing experience before starting the Creative Writing post-baccalaureate certificate.

The recommended start time for this program is fall quarter.

View Creative Writing Courses

 

Creative Writing Tuition

Post-baccalaureate students at Northwestern's School of Professional Studies pay per course. For more information about financial obligations and tuition, visit the Tuition page.

Admission for Creative Writing

In addition to completing an online application, you'll also need to submit a few supplemental materials. A list of requirements for admission including application deadlines and tips on how to apply can be found at the Admission page.

Creative Writing Registration Information

Whether you're a first-time registrant or current and returning student, all students register using our online student registration and records systems. Important information about registering for courses at SPS, including registration timelines and adding or dropping courses in which you are already enrolled, can be found at the Registration Information page.

Find out more about the Creative Writing Certificate Program


Program Courses:Course Detail
Reading and Writing Poetry <> ENGLISH 206-CN

Intended for students with little or no formal training in the elements of writing poetry, this course combines both seminar and workshop methods and includes extensive reading of poetry. Students use analytical skills presented in the course to critique each others' drafts of poems written during the quarter. May not be audited or taken P/N. Advanced composition course or equivalent writing experience strongly recommended.


View ENGLISH 206-CN Sections
Reading and Writing Fiction <> ENGLISH 207-CN

Intended for students with little or no formal training in the elements of writing fiction, this course emphasizes the processes and assumptions unique to fiction writing and the development of a personal voice. Students analyze technique and form in works of various authors. Writing assignments include at least two stories developed and revised in a workshop format. Lectures, workshops, and individual conferences. May not be audited or taken P/N. Advanced composition course or equivalent writing experience strongly recommended.


View ENGLISH 207-CN Sections
Reading and Writing Creative Nonfiction <> ENGLISH 208-CN

This course is for students who want to improve their writing skills and explore the fundamentals of creative nonfiction. Creative nonfiction borrows techniques from fiction—strong characters, captivating narration, and compelling scenes—and bears a certain allegiance to journalistic practices—a faithfulness to “the facts,” sharp descriptions, and dialogue that rings true. By learning the craft of creative nonfiction, you’ll discover how to interest, amuse, entertain, move, persuade, and instruct your readers.

In this course, students can take their writing to a new level. The focus will be on three forms of creative nonfiction: the personal essay, think pieces (which is most of the nonfiction you encounter on the internet), and the lyric essay. Students will learn how to read as writers, learning from the old masters and new voices, and will experiment with a new form and submit a written assignment each week. All classes will be conducted in seminar and workshop formats.

May not be audited or taken P/N. Advanced composition course and strong basic writing skills highly recommended.


View ENGLISH 208-CN Sections
British Literary Traditions II <> ENGLISH 210-B

This course is an introduction to the major traditions in British literature from the late 18th century to modernism. It is also an introduction to the idea of literary traditions and counter-traditions in their historical context, to specific major writers and texts, and to a range of historical and literary terms. This class is primarily a literature class, but we will also be examining significant trends in the social and cultural history of Britain from the late 18th-century to the present. Music, images, and discussion about religion, politics, economics, and other important aspects of life will be part of the course.

Previous literature course strongly recommended. Students should have fulfilled the SPS writing requirement or taken equivalent writing courses.


View ENGLISH 210-B Sections
Seminar: Crime in American Narratives <> ENGLISH 300-CN

In this writing-intensive course, we will read canonical and non-canonical American texts (novels, films, graphic novels) in order to develop some theoretical sophistication in reading narrative and crafting literary arguments. We explore different methods of interpreting narrative in terms of genre (What happens to us as readers when we place a text in a specific genre, such as the detective story or Great American Novel? How do generic expectations work on our interpretive experience?); aesthetic form (What do we mean when we call a writer's prose "beautiful" or a plot well-constructed? How do literary standards work to constitute values?); and ideological content (How do we judge a text's position in relation to historical and contemporary political issues, including-but not limited to-matters of gender, race and class?). Our focusing lens is the theme of criminality: What counts as transgression against norms, both within texts (Who are the criminals? Who makes the laws? What are appropriate punishments for crimes?) and in our wider literary culture (What makes a text worthy or not worthy of being considered literature? Who makes these literary "laws"?) As an introductory seminar and requirement for English majors, the course focuses deeply on the composition and revision of effective literary arguments.

Students who enroll should have fulfilled the SPS writing requirement or taken equivalent writing courses. This course was formerly ENGLISH 298.

As of 9/20/21, the Fall 2021 section of this course has been cancelled.


View ENGLISH 300-CN Sections
Advanced Poetry I <> ENGLISH 306-A

For students who have taken courses in poetry writing or who have been writing poetry on their own, this course offers further practice and study in the development of poems. Students create and refine poems; student writing is discussed in a workshop format and individual conferences. Readings of published poems and writing exercises are also part of the course. The course will be comprised of three major components: in-class writing exercises; discussion of contemporary poetry/poets and of our own works; and a collaborative group performance at the end of the course. Assignments will include: participation (lab, homework, workshop discussion, impromptu readings, oral presentation, attendance), collaborative group performance, final portfolio "book," and assigned texts. May not be audited or taken P/N. Prerequisite: ENGLISH 206 or permission of instructor. Students should have previous poetry writing experience in an academic setting. Instructor's consent and confirmation of the prerequisite course or appropriate writing experience is required for enrollment in this course.


There is no available section.
Advanced Fiction I <> ENGLISH 307-A

Some stories run uninterrupted from start to finish, like the exhalation of a single breath or—as George Saunders likes to say—a toy car zipping under the couch. Other stories seek to delay, linger, or meander using various devices, one of which is breaking the narrative into sections or parts. This class will explore some of the different ways that authors have used this strategy, why they did so, and how the strategy affects a story’s structure, pace, and ambition. Students will draft two new stories using one method or another for dividing the narrative into parts. Other writing will include exercises and feedback for workshop stories. Published short stories and brief craft lessons will supplement our focus on student work.

There will be synchronous sessions (shorter than the scheduled three hours), and  students will meet separately in pairs or groups for discussions or small workshops, scheduled as they prefer. Note that all stories should be either literary realism or magical realism; no fantasy or sci-fi.

 

Must attend the first class. May not be audited for taken P/N. 

Prerequisite: ENGLISH 207, previous introductory level fiction writing course, or similar writing experience. Students who have not completed ENGLISH 207 should obtain instructor's consent and confirmation of appropriate writing experience. Please send an email to the professor with your writing background to request a permission number once registration for winter quarter has opened.


View ENGLISH 307-A Sections
Advanced Fiction II <> ENGLISH 307-B

For students who have completed at least one course in fiction writing, this course will provide further study of matters of technique and structure, with an emphasis on the exploration of character and discovery of plot through the process of revising. Short stories by contemporary authors will be read as models. The course builds on the premises, assignments, and goals of English 307-A, but students may enroll without having completed that course. May not be audited for taken P/N.

Prerequisite: ENGLISH 207 or 307-A or comparable courses in creative writing with permission of instructor. Students who have not completed ENGLISH 207 or 307-A should obtain instructor's consent and confirmation of appropriate writing experience. Please send an email to the professor with your writing background to request a permission number once registration for spring quarter has opened.


View ENGLISH 307-B Sections
Advanced Nonfiction I <> ENGLISH 308-A

This workshop course is for students who have taken courses in creative nonfiction or who have been writing creative nonfiction on their own. Students apply their developing command of creative writing techniques and forms to frequent short writing exercises and essays. Class discussion of published essays and excerpts from longer works and student drafts may address such topics as voice, style, structure, the uses of research, and truth.

May not be audited or taken P/N. Prerequisite: ENGLISH 208 or permission of instructor. Students should have previous creative writing experience in an academic setting. Students who have not completed ENGLISH 208 should obtain instructor's consent and confirmation of appropriate writing experience. Please send an email to the professor with your writing background to request a permission number once registration for winter quarter has opened.


View ENGLISH 308-A Sections
Advanced Nonfiction II <> ENGLISH 308-B

The goal of this Advanced Creative Nonfiction course is to help you embark on a new level of professionalism in your writing. The emphasis will be on structure, technique, and style. It will also be on getting your work out there, i.e., published. We'll revisit the macro elements of writing creative nonfiction via close readings and discussions of published works. Readings will include short forms—personal essays, narrative essays, food writing, reviews, longform journalism, and interviews and profiles. We'll also examine the potential that book-length forms offer, e.g., memoirs. You'll complete weekly assignments, continue or embark on a work-in-progress, and submit a final piece of writing that's been revised, edited, and proofread. We'll discuss publishing opportunities and go over the submission process, including how to choose websites and journals to submit to, write email queries and cover letters, and pitch reviews and features. May not be audited or taken P/N.

Prerequisite: ENGLISH 208 or 308-A, or comparable courses in creative writing with permission of instructor. Students who have not completed ENGLISH 208 or 308-A should obtain instructor's consent and confirmation of appropriate writing experience. Please send an email to the professor with your writing background to request a permission number once registration for spring quarter has opened.


View ENGLISH 308-B Sections
Advanced Reading and Writing Creative Nonfiction I <> ENGLISH 308-B

This course is for writers who seek to further develop voice, skill, and technique in writing various forms of creative nonfiction, including the personal essay and literary journalism. Students will engage in close reading and study of well crafted, published creative nonfiction essays to expand their awareness of the range of subject and technique in creative nonfiction writing. Emphasis will be placed on the artful use of language. This course is discussion and workshop-based. Students will write two full-length creative nonfiction essays, one of which will be a literary journalism piece. Any student who is already working on a creative nonfiction piece and would like to continue working on it in this course, please feel free to bring it. Toward end of quarter, the instructor will talk about publishing opportunities for creative nonfiction essays, including how to submit work, write a cover letter, and how to best determine which journals will like your work. May not be audited or taken P/N.

Prerequisite: ENGLISH 208 or 308-A, or comparable courses in creative writing with permission of instructor. Students who have not completed ENGLISH 208 or 308-A should obtain instructor's consent and confirmation of appropriate writing experience. Please send an email to the professor with your writing background to request a permission number once registration for spring quarter has opened.


View ENGLISH 308-B Sections
Studies in Medieval Literature: King Arthur ENGLISH 324-CN

One of the prevailing myths of western European culture is King Arthur. Arthur represents the ultimate expression of chivalry, courage, culture, refined love, and social stability, yet he and his entire establishment fall cataclysmically. In many ways, Arthur’s story is the image of the morality and ideals of each society that recasts the legend – what were his accomplishments and, ironically more importantly, why does he fail. This course is a survey of the major texts representing the Arthurian tradition from its putative inception in the late fifth century to its retelling in modern times. Participants will trace the development of the principle Arthurian themes. The course will engage a number of texts including histories, romances, narrative poems, novels and films, which represent the development of the Arthurian tradition over the last 1400 years. This course meets the pre-1830 literature requirement for English Writing majors.

As of 9/15/21, this course has been cancelled.


View ENGLISH 324-CN Sections