Major In Focus: Creative Writing

Major In Focus: Creative Writing

So what do Creative Writing majors study anyway?
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Over the next three weeks, I will be giving a focused look into each of the three majors that I have declared at UPJ. What I describe will be based upon the curriculum at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown specifically, and it may not line up with the curriculums at other schools. I recommend that students interested in studying Creative Writing look up the curriculums used by the schools at which they are applying/transferring to or that they currently attend.

If one wishes to be more specific, this major is actually a major in Writing with the Creative track, as opposed to the Professional track, selected. There are a good number of differences between the two tracks, and I discuss those here as well.

Both writing tracks require that students take both Intro to Creative Writing and Intro to Professional Writing, preferably early on. I took Intro to Creative Writing my first semester. The course broke down into four genre intros: the play, the creative nonfiction essay, the short story, and the poem. Students wrote a ten-page play, a 1,500ish-word essay, a 1,500ish-word story, and three poems during the semester-long course. The textbook we used gave general insight into each of these four genres. While the information presented was fairly basic, most of it went beyond what one is likely to learn in high school English classes. Intro to Professional Writing followed a similar format, but in that course, which I took my second semester, we worked on an action plan, a review, a press release, a group proposal, and a digital portfolio. While both intro courses differ in content depending upon who the professor is, Intro to Professional Writing seems to contain a more diverse array of possible assignments. When I took the course, I was able to cross-pollinate my professional writing with my creative writing, interviewing a creative writer and editor for my action plan, evaluating an SF magazine issue for my review, covering a YA horror novel for my press release, creating an internal editor-to-publisher document for my proposal (working with a partner), and including stories and story-related materials in my digital portfolio. I gained a great number of new skills in these introductory courses. The intermediary tricks afforded by the classes can aid general writing skills when in the right hands. For the layman, Intro to Professional Writing could be a good choice for fulfilling General Education requirements. Composition II is supposed to be a prerequisite to take either intro course, but Writing majors can get around the prerequisite, at least in cases similar to mine.

Three Tier II English Writing courses are required for majors in both tracks, but the lists are different, with the only overlapping course being Creative Nonfiction Writing. Tier II classes are supposed to be taken after both intro courses have been passed, but that need not always be the case. The list of courses for the Creative track is as follows: Creative Nonfiction Writing, Fiction Writing, Poetry Writing, Playwriting, and Digital Poetry. In Fiction Writing, I was required to write four stories in the range of roughly four to 10 pages. Students also read short stories to glean writing tips directly from examples. Workshops within the class occurred for two class meetings prior to stories two through four reaching their due dates. In Playwriting, students write several short plays. The course is cross-listed with Theatre, so it can be taken as an English Writing class or as a Theatre class, but not as both. My enrollment in Playwriting drastically improved my playwriting skills. In Digital Poetry, the focus is placed on skills and theory a bit more than on simple creation. Making digital poems doesn't have to be difficult, but it does require different sorts of skills than are utilized in other writing classes. I learned how to do some basic coding in that class, for instance. The distinction between "traditional poetry" and "digital poetry" can be difficult to navigate, so time must be spent studying that distinction. What is discovered can, to some extend, expand students' understanding of digital works of all kinds. I took Digital Poetry to fulfill a requirement of my Multimedia & Digital Culture major simultaneously with my fulfillment of a Tier II Creative Writing course. Creative Nonfiction Writing and Poetry Writing I will leave to other students. The personal essay is my least-favorite form of expression, and Poetry Writing would be slightly redundant with Digital Poetry and Advanced Poetry Writing already under my belt. Jumping over to the Tier II Professional Writing courses for a moment, I have taken Writing for Digital Media and may take Public Relations I (which is actually a Journalism course) in the future. The former is a requirement for my Multimedia major, and the latter is an option. Writing for Digital Media is probably the course with the most relevance to laymen (that is, students who don't have a serious interest in a major or minor in writing). It can be adapted to a wide range of talents and pursuits.

As for the third and final tier of writing classes, both tracks again require three courses. These lists are a bit longer, with 13 options for Creative and nine options for Professional. Playwriting can actually be counted as a Tier II or a Tier III Creative Writing course, and the amount of work involved seemed to me to be a good bit higher than that found in the other Tier II classes I've completed. Still, there are other Tier III classes I would like to take. So far, I have only taken Advanced Poetry Writing at Tier III. The course required a lot of poetry reading, and the readings were focused mainly on five books from five authors, rather than a smattering from a bunch of different authors. For the class, we wrote poems and workshopped as we went, and at the end of the course, we turned in a portfolio of seven poems or more. My poem-writing skills improved drastically from this course. In the fall, I will be taking Advanced Writing Seminar. From what I can tell, students in the class choose a genre and write in that the whole way through, with class workshops containing pieces out of any or all genres, depending upon those chosen by the class members. Assuming I am indeed required to choose, I will most likely pick fiction as my genre. Advanced Writing Seminar can currently count as a Tier III class for either track. Rumor has it (straight from professors' mouths), the class will actually be a separate required course for incoming students in the fall. For my third Tier III class, I will select a course that will also help me with my Multimedia major. My top choice, at the moment, is Digital Magazine Production.

In addition to writing classes, both writing tracks require several literature courses. Some schools may offer a major titled "English" rather than separate majors in Creative Writing and English Literature, and those English majors may resemble UPJ's Creative Writing major heavily (though they might also allow for more literature classes than writing classes in fulfillment of the major requirements). English Literature majors at UPJ do not have to take a single writing class to graduate, beyond Composition I and Composition II. Well, it is what it is. Survey of English Lit 2 and American Literary Traditions 2 are required by students of both writing tracks, while Survey of English Lit 1 is also a requirement for Creative Writing majors. These survey courses cover spans of time, and the courses labeled "1" do not need to be taken before those labeled "2." While Creative Writing majors must take two additional English literature electives, Professional Writing majors need only take one. Yet Professional trackers are not home free with two fewer required courses than Creative trackers. A 15-credit related area is also needed to take the Professional track to its end.

Creative Writing was the first major that I declared, back when I applied at UPJ. It has challenged me to expand my writing skills ever farther. At this point, I can at least dabble in most forms of writing. In the end, I will come very close to fulfilling the requirements of both tracks. As you may see, one need not have a one-track mind when studying writing, and with as few required courses as there are for either track, it is very possible to cover both, though I'm not sure if one can actually major in both at UPJ.

I hope that this article may serve to illustrate the content and character of a Creative Writing undergraduate program and that it may aid students who are unsure of what program they wish to declare as their first, second, or third major. I have but one disclaimer: while Creative Writing may be less challenging, on the average, than certain other undergraduate majors, it does require rigorous writing skill and the ability to revise on a high level and quickly. It isn't a simple cop-out by any means.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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22 Girl Names Your Random College Roommate Will Have, And The Type Of Roommate They Are

Will she be your BFF?
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Every roommate situation in college is going to be different.

All you can do is hope and pray that they'll just leave you alone for the most part. A lot of the time, you can get a hint about what kind of roommate they'll be just knowing their first name.

1. Hailey

Her dad pays her rent. She can't cook. Litters the kitchen with take out boxes from the local vegan joint.

2. Beth

Totally wants you to go to SoulCycle with her at 6 a.m. on a Saturday. Room is littered with leggings and sneakers.

3. Michelle

Comes home at 3 a.m. after a night of heavy drinking. Loudly makes some sort of frozen meal. Sleeps through her noon alarm.

4. Victoria

Probably has dark hair and an acoustic guitar. Keeps pretty much to herself. Does homework in the living room at obscure hours.

5. Madison

Was on the dance team in high school and has not stopped telling you about how great it was. Does work out videos on the TV in the living room.

6. Kim

Brings her boyfriend over every night of the week. Brings different boys home on the weekends.

7. Megan

Actively avoids cleaning the bathroom. Leaves her dishes in the sink. You haven't seen her shower in four days.

8. Erica

Normal. Quiet. Wants to be a high school English teacher.

9. Erika

Wild. Emotionally distraught always. Is always hosting the pre-game. Never comes home with all of the clothes she left wearing.

10. Sarah

"Definitely should have got into Harvard, but I ended up here instead." Too into trying to get a 4.0 to pay attention to you.

11. Julia

Studies music performance. Screams expletives at her keyboard. Cannot play the trumpet, but still tries really hard.

12. Hannah

So tall she almost hits her head on the doorways. Plays basketball. Raps to old Kanye in the shower.

13. Jenny

Should not be allowed to go out. Goes out every weekend anyway. Throws up in your bathtub and doesn't always address it in the morning.

14. Heather

Stressing about her internship. Is currently failing all of her classes. Will somehow still get a 3.5 GPA this semester.

15. Grace

You never see her, only the hairballs she leaves all around your place.

16. Emma

Only has guy friends because "it's easier." Guy friends who leave empty beer cans out after every sporting event on TV.

17. Caitlyn

Has a 4.0 as a biology major. Is going to med school. Sterilizes her room, the bathroom and the kitchen sink every four hours.

18. Sam

Always has a paper about feminism to write. Rosie the Riveter poster in her room.

19. Alex

Is probably dating her boss. Has straight Ds in all her classes.

20. Taylor

Is somehow always home when you're home. You know nothing about her other than where she's from.

21. Alyssa

Trying to become the next big YouTuber. Has lighting equipment all over the place. You constantly hear the phrase, "Hey guys, welcome to my channel!" She squealed because yesterday she hit 25 subscribers.

22. Jesse

Is probably plotting your murder. Lurks around like a cat.

Cover Image Credit: Morgan Yates//YouTube

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11 Things To Look Forward To After Finals

Need some motivation to push through finals?
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It’s nearly that time when the library is packed and the stores are running out of coffee. That’s right, finals week is approaching! Finals are not fun, but finals week getting closer means that Summer break is also getting closer! Here are 10 things to look forward to after finals to help get you through them!

1. No more homework!

I know that one of the many stressful things about finals is the homework that’s assigned right before. Finals are stressful by themselves, so it’s never fun when professors assign homework that’s due the week before the final or even the week of sometimes. But, I remind myself that after that one last week of finals, I won’t have to worry about any homework at all.

2. Having time to eat

Days spent studying for finals are some of the longest days of the year in my opinion. Sometimes I’ll leave in the morning to go to class and the library to study, and I won’t get back home until late that night. By the time I get home, I don’t have a ton of energy to make anything extravagant for dinner. Just thinking about how I’ll actually have time to eat real meals after finals is a motivator to get them done!

3. Swimming

Besides the people who don’t like hot weather, who doesn’t look forward to Summer because of the outdoor activity-friendly weather? Swimming was always one of the main things that I looked forward to about summer when I was little, and it’s still something that I’m excited for. Whether I’m going on vacation or not, the end of finals means the beginning of being able to go swimming!


4. Getting more hours at work

I know working over the summer isn’t necessarily a highlight of the break, but finals being over with means no more having to work around your class schedule. No more finals means more hours, and more hours means more money to do other fun things over the summer!

5. Change of scenery

Living on campus is fun and exciting, but sometimes a change of scenery is nice. Especially if you live in dorms, getting finals done means no more living in a cube!


6. Seeing family

I don’t know anyone in college who hasn’t gotten even just a little bit homesick at least once. The sooner I’m done with finals, the sooner I get to see my mom and my dog!

7. Getting to see friends outside of college

I love my friends that I met at college, but I’m still close with a couple that I knew before college. Finals week coming to an end means a summer catching up and spending time with old friends is coming to a beginning!


8. Ice cream (and other frozen treats)

When I was younger and people would ask me what my favorite food was, I would say ice cream. Although it might not be my favorite food anymore, it’s definitely in my top 10. Second-semester finals being over with officially marks the beginning of nice enough weather to eat ice cream, or slushies/other frozen treats, without getting cold (or without it dripping onto the study guide you’re cramming the day before the final).

9. Time to travel

I don’t know how many people who have time to travel during the school year, but it’s probably not very high. Finals wrapping up means no more class, and no more class means more free time! Even if it’s just a weekend trip, not having to worry about a class on Monday can make it a lot more fun.


10. Watching Netflix without feeling guilty

I don’t know how many times that I watch Netflix and tell myself that I’ll stop to study after the episode I’m on, and then the next thing I know it’s multiple episodes later. After finals are done, no more feeling bad for binge-watching your favorite shows!


11. Actually having free time

One of the things that I'm looking forward to the most about being done with finals is actually having some free time. Finals week is full of cramming and studying, but just the thought of having some time to sit back and relax makes it all worth it!

Those are just some of the things to look forward to after finals!

Cover Image Credit: Karen Ketay

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