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Penn state creative writing course

Undergraduate Creative Writing

The introductory and advanced courses in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as playwriting and 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 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

  • Julia Kasdorf and
  • Shara McCallum;
  • William J. Cobb,
  • Charlotte Holmes
  • Elizabeth Kadetsky, 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 William J. Cobb at [email protected]

Creative Writing at PENN STATE

Professor Charlotte Holmes to Retire After 35 Years at Penn State

Professor of English & Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, Charlotte Holmes joined the faculty at Penn State in 1987. Throughout her 35 years here, she served as thesis director for over 40 MFA writing students and acted as second reader for over 25 additional MFA students. She directed scores of undergraduate honors theses and graduate […]

English Course Gives Students Deeper Awareness of Local History and Place

Julia Spicher Kasdorf, Liberal Arts Professor of English, designed and taught a course during the spring 2022 semester, entitled “Reading and Writing Place in Central Pennsylvania.” Funded by the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence in Penn State Undergraduate Education, the course has students read literature set in or describing life in Centre County; they then […]

Kalliope 2022 & KLIO 2022 Released!

Kalliope & KLIO 2022 hosted a joint release party and reading on Sunday, May 1, at Abba Java Coffeehouse, to celebrate the publication of their print and online literary and creative arts journals. You can pick up your copy of Kalliope 2022 in any of the following locations: HUB-Robeson Center, Webster’s Bookstore (downtown), Burrowes Building […]

Kalliope/KLIO Release Party & Reading: May 1

Next Sunday, May 1, 5-6:30 pm, the student staff of Kalliope and KLIO–print and online literary and creative arts journals–are pleased to co-host their first-ever joint release party and reading. Food, open mic, celebration! Join us! Abba Java Coffeehouse is downtown, just off College Avenue, at 299 Locust Lane.

Congratulations to BA/MA Class of 2022!

Last Friday, April 22, the eight graduating BA/MA students celebrated the culmination of their master’s theses by reading from their creative projects to an audience of family, friends, faculty, as well as continuing and newly admitted BA/MA students. The event was our first in-person student reading since 2019. Congratulations and best wishes to the graduating […]

Mary E. Rolling Reading Series to present poet Tim Seibles April 7

Poet Tim Seibles will offer a reading at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 7, the final event in this year’s Mary E. Rolling Reading Series. The reading, which is free and open to the public, will be held in Paterno Library’s Foster Auditorium and will also be available via livestream. Born in Philadelphia in 1955, […]

Fiction Writer Samuel Kọ́láwọlé to Join Creative Writing Faculty

We are delighted to announce that fiction writer Samuel Kọ́láwọlé will join the creative writing faculty as an assistant professor in the English Department at Penn State this fall! Samuel Kọ́láwọlé’s debut novel The Road to Salt Sea is forthcoming from Amistad/Harper Collins. Kọ́láwọlé was born and raised in Ibadan, Nigeria. His work has appeared […]

Fisher Family Writer-in-Residence Paisley Rekdal to Read March 17

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA — Award-winning essayist and poet Paisley Rekdal will visit Penn State as the Fisher Family Writer-in-Residence during the week of March 14-18. As part of her visit, Rekdal will give a free public reading at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 17, in Paterno Library’s Foster Auditorium on the University Park campus. The […]

KLIO 2022 Staffed Up & Seeking Submissions

Students in this semester’s ENGL 209/Literary Journal Practicum are preparing to roll out the newest edition of KLIO, an online creative arts journal, sister to our long-running print journal, KALLIOPE. Read all about what the staff has in store in this introductory letter from the editor-in-chief, Julia Mertes: “Welcome Back: Developing KLIO 2022 with New […]

Mary E. Rolling Reading Series to present Grace Talusan 2/24

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Memoirist and fiction writer Grace Talusan will offer a reading as part of this year’s Mary E. Rolling Reading Series at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 24. The reading, which is free and open to the public, will be held in Paterno Library’s Foster Auditorium and will also be available via […]

Creative Writing, B.F.A.

The major allows students to develop their writing skills through craft classes, literature classes, and writing workshops, in preparation for a variety of post-graduation options, from continuing on to M.F.A. degree programs to working in the professional fields of publishing, editing and education. The program recognizes students must understand the relationship between tradition and individual talent, and provides a required sequence of literature courses designed to give students an overview of the historical literary traditions, especially modern and contemporary prose and poetry. It also provides options for sequences of writing workshops, requires a course in creative writing theory, and requires a course that fosters professional development and features live reading by visiting authors. The program culminates in a capstone experience, the senior thesis, a collection of poetry or prose of publishable quality that includes a critical preface demonstrating the students’ ability to analyze and contextually their own writing.

What is Creative Writing?

Creative writing is a liberal arts discipline concerned with the practice of literary art, the life of the imagination, and the capacities of language. Creative writing students analyze masterworks of fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction from different periods and cultures; compose their own original works; develop editing and communication skills; and explore the world of contemporary publishing.

You Might Like This Program If.

  • Your nose is always in a book.
  • When you’re not reading, you’re writing.
  • You enjoy the editing and revision process.
  • You can see yourself working on the editorial staff of Lake Effect, Penn State Behrend’s international literary journal.

Entrance to Major

In order to be eligible for entrance to this major, a student must:

  1. attain at least a C (2.00) cumulative grade-point average for all courses taken at the University; and
  2. have third-semester classification.

Degree Requirements

For the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing, a minimum of 121 credits is required:

Program Requirements

Requirement Credits
General Education 45
Requirements for the Major 76

Per Senate Policy 83.80.5, the college dean or campus chancellor and program faculty may require up to 24 credits of coursework in the major to be taken at the location or in the college or program where the degree is earned.

Requirements for the Major

A student enrolled in this major must earn at least a grade of C in each 300- and 400-level course.

To graduate, a student enrolled in the major must earn a grade of C or better in each course designated by the major as a C-required course, as specified by Senate Policy 82-44.

Students planning to major in creative writing should enroll in this course every semester (typically 8 semesters). A student is required to take this course a minimum of four times.

In addition to the requirements above, for enrichment, students in the B.F.A. degree program have the opportunity of taking ENGL 209 , Literary Magazine Practicum, and serving as genre editors or assistant editors on the staff of Lake Effect, the national literary journal published by the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. This is a 1-credit course in which students may enroll for up to 8 credits over their time in the degree program.

General Education

Connecting career and curiosity, the General Education curriculum provides the opportunity for students to acquire transferable skills necessary to be successful in the future and to thrive while living in interconnected contexts. General Education aids students in developing intellectual curiosity, a strengthened ability to think, and a deeper sense of aesthetic appreciation. These are requirements for all baccalaureate students and are often partially incorporated into the requirements of a program. For additional information, see the General Education Requirements section of the Bulletin and consult your academic adviser.

The keystone symbol appears next to the title of any course that is designated as a General Education course. Program requirements may also satisfy General Education requirements and vary for each program.

Foundations (grade of C or better is required.)
  • Quantification (GQ): 6 credits
  • Writing and Speaking (GWS): 9 credits
Knowledge Domains
  • Arts (GA): 6 credits
  • Health and Wellness (GHW): 3 credits
  • Humanities (GH): 6 credits
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences (GS): 6 credits
  • Natural Sciences (GN): 9 credits
Integrative Studies (may also complete a Knowledge Domain requirement)
  • Inter-Domain or Approved Linked Courses: 6 credits

University Degree Requirements

First Year Engagement

All students enrolled in a college or the Division of Undergraduate Studies at University Park, and the World Campus are required to take 1 to 3 credits of the First-Year Seminar, as specified by their college First-Year Engagement Plan.

Other Penn State colleges and campuses may require the First-Year Seminar; colleges and campuses that do not require a First-Year Seminar provide students with a first-year engagement experience.

First-year baccalaureate students entering Penn State should consult their academic adviser for these requirements.

Cultures Requirement

6 credits are required and may satisfy other requirements

  • United States Cultures: 3 credits
  • International Cultures: 3 credits
Writing Across the Curriculum

3 credits required from the college of graduation and likely prescribed as part of major requirements.

Total Minimum Credits

A minimum of 120 degree credits must be earned for a baccalaureate degree. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 credits. Students should consult with their college or department adviser for information on specific credit requirements.

Quality of Work

Candidates must complete the degree requirements for their major and earn at least a 2.00 grade-point average for all courses completed within their degree program.

Limitations on Source and Time for Credit Acquisition

The college dean or campus chancellor and program faculty may require up to 24 credits of course work in the major to be taken at the location or in the college or program where the degree is earned. Credit used toward degree programs may need to be earned from a particular source or within time constraints (see Senate Policy 83-80). For more information, check the Suggested Academic Plan for your intended program.

Program Learning Objectives

  • Demonstrate familiarity with representative literary texts from a significant number of historical, geographical, and cultural contexts, with particular focus on Modernist and contemporary literature.
  • Apply knowledge of critical, theoretical, and technical traditions to the production of original literary works.
  • Articulate the relationship between their own original literary works and the traditions of literature.
  • Demonstrate familiarity with the contemporary literary publishing milieu.
  • Effectively present their own literary work in public forums.

Academic Advising

The objectives of the university’s academic advising program are to help advisees identify and achieve their academic goals, to promote their intellectual discovery, and to encourage students to take advantage of both in-and out-of class educational opportunities in order that they become self-directed learners and decision makers.

Both advisers and advisees share responsibility for making the advising relationship succeed. By encouraging their advisees to become engaged in their education, to meet their educational goals, and to develop the habit of learning, advisers assume a significant educational role. The advisee’s unit of enrollment will provide each advisee with a primary academic adviser, the information needed to plan the chosen program of study, and referrals to other specialized resources.

Tom Noyes, Ph.D.
Professor of English and Creative Writing
141 Kochel
Erie, PA 16563
[email protected]

Suggested Academic Plan

The suggested academic plan(s) listed on this page are the plan(s) that are in effect during the 2022-23 academic year. To access previous years’ suggested academic plans, please visit the archive to view the appropriate Undergraduate Bulletin edition (Note: the archive only contains suggested academic plans beginning with the 2018-19 edition of the Undergraduate Bulletin).

Creative Writing, B.F.A. at Erie Campus

The course series listed below provides only one of the many possible ways to move through this curriculum. The University may make changes in policies, procedures, educational offerings, and requirements at any time. This plan should be used in conjunction with your degree audit (accessible in LionPATH as either an Academic Requirements or What If report). Please consult with a Penn State academic adviser on a regular basis to develop and refine an academic plan that is appropriate for you.

First Year
Fall Credits Spring Credits
First Year Seminar 1 ENGL 6 1
ENGL 15, 30H, or ESL 15 ‡ 3 General Education 1.5
ENGL 6 1 CAS 100, 100A, 100B, or 100C ‡ 3
General Education 3 ENGL 212 or 213 3
General Education 3 General Education 3
World Language Level 1 4 World Language (Level 2) 4
15 15.5
Second Year
Fall Credits Spring Credits
ENGL 6 1 ENGL 6 1
ENGL 200 3 ENGL 100 3
200-400 level course in ENGL or CMLIT 3 200-400 Level Course in ENGL or CMLIT 3
ENGL 212 or 213 3 CMLIT 10 3
General Education 3 ENGL 202A or 202B †‡ 3
World Language Level 3 4 ENGL 412 or 413 3
17 16
Third Year
Fall Credits Spring Credits
ENGL 6 1 ENGL 6 1
ENGL 312 * 3 ENGL 422 or 423 * 3
ENGL 412 or 413 * 3 ENGL 433 * 3
General Education 3 General Education 3
ENGL 444 or 443 * 3 General Education 3
ENGL 458 * 3 General Education 3
16 16
Fourth Year
Fall Credits Spring Credits
ENGL 6 1 ENGL 6 1
ENGL 401W * 3 ENGL 437 * 3
ENGL 436 * 3 General Education 3
ENGL 494 * 3 ENGL 494 * 3
General Education 3 General Education 3
General Education 1.5 ENGL 420 * 3
14.5 16
Total Credits 126


Course requires a grade of C or better for the major

Course requires a grade of C or better for General Education

Course is an Entrance to Major requirement

Course satisfies General Education and degree requirement

University Requirements and General Education Notes:

US and IL are abbreviations used to designate courses that satisfy University Requirements (United States and International Cultures).

W, M, X, and Y are the suffixes at the end of a course number used to designate courses that satisfy University Writing Across the Curriculum requirement.

GWS, GQ, GHW, GN, GA, GH, and GS are abbreviations used to identify General Education program courses. General Education includes Foundations (GWS and GQ) and Knowledge Domains (GHW, GN, GA, GH, GS, and Integrative Studies). Foundations courses (GWS and GQ) require a grade of ‘C’ or better.

Integrative Studies courses are required for the General Education program. N is the suffix at the end of a course number used to designate an Inter-Domain course and Z is the suffix at the end of a course number used to designate a Linked course.

Additional Notes

Academic Advising Notes: The course series listed about is only one of many possible ways to move through this curriculum. Please be sure to consult with an adviser about your intended plan.

Career Paths

As a Creative Writing major, you’ll enhance your knowledge and sharpen your skills through a variety of literature courses and writing workshops. Additionally, you’ll interact with established writers who visit campus as part of the Smith Creative Writers Reading Series, and you’ll have the opportunity to help edit Lake Effect, an international literary journal. Penn State Behrend has a comprehensive support system to help you identify and achieve your goals for college and beyond. Meet with your academic adviser often and take advantage of the services offered by the Academic and Career Planning Center beginning in your first semester.


A B.F.A. in Creative Writing can lead to a variety of careers. Graduates of Penn State Behrend’s program publish their writing widely. They also work as technical writers, communications coordinators, copy editors, editors of presses, marketing directors, project managers, media associates, university professors, teachers, lawyers, librarians, and freelance writers and editors.

Opportunities for Graduate Studies

Recent Behrend B.F.A. graduates have earned advanced degrees at the University of Utah, Bowling Green State University, Ohio State University, Indiana University, the University of Minnesota, Wichita State University, George Mason University, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the University of Southern California, Northeastern University, the University of North Dakota, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Northern Michigan University, Duquesne University, and Syracuse University.

Professional Resources


170 Irvin Kochel Center
4951 College Drive
Erie, PA 16563
[email protected]