Hey guys!

So in the midst of transcribing more notes from the Book Expo, preparing the transcript from my last radio show cast, and also writing up two more installations of the “Myth of Overnight Success”, I had some very dreamy and random thoughts cross my mind. I wanted to write about them, and I figured that there was no better place to post them but here on the blog!

I wondered, “What if I had the money to create a PhD program in Creative Writing? What would it look like? What would be involved?” Well, here are my thoughts on the matter!

Program Set Up

What if…

My program would be a 5-6 year program. FULLY FUNDED at full tuition-remission, full benefits (including health, dental, and eye care) and a 20,000 a year stipend. All genres and all forms are equally encouraged, respected, and supported. There is no “battle of the genres” here.

In order to proceed to the PhD, you must first acquire your MFA in Creative Writing. To do so, you must complete 3 years of coursework and a final portfolio representing the culmination of this coursework. You must also have an oral discussion / defense, as well as a language fluency test in the department of the language that you are taking.

Summer enrollment is also required for writing retreats and teaching symposiums, but this time may also be used for international travel related to writing, going to conferences and conventions, and writing off-campus. This is also a time to begin working on your dissertation creative project, if you already know what that will be.

Required Portfolio for an MFA:

By the end of the ninth semester (the summer of the third year), you should have a polished portfolio of a finished collection of the following:

  • 3 short stories,
  • 3 poems (in different forms, i.e. haiku, epic poem, sonnet, limerick, free verse, etc),
  • an original screenplay,
  • an original stage play,
  • a TV spec script,
  • an analytic paper of the topic of your choice,
  • two first chapters of a creative non-fiction work based on this analytic paper as well as an outline for the rest of the creative non-fiction,
  • a novella or substantial amount of flash fiction,
  • a very rough draft of a novel (or substantial notes and an outline), and,
  • EITHER a collection of photography that tells a story OR a short film.


Language Fluency Test: You must take a written, listening comprehension, and oral fluency exam that is to be administered by a faculty member of the department. In order to be approved for language fluency, the faculty member must sign your final test approval form and send it directly to your committee.

Oral Discussion (Defense)

* You are to pick your form or forms of choice (two maximum) that you would like to focus on for the rest of your tenure as a doctoral student.

* You should also indicate the genre, tradition, or literary form you plan to write in so that you can be matched appropriately with a dissertation committee that can best guide you through the writing process.

* You also need to present a writing career plan, a research career plan, or a teaching career plan, so that you can begin professional development in one or all of these areas. Faculty can best advise you what conferences to attend and put you in contact with the appropriate publishing houses, film studios, or universities that will best serve your future.

* Picking two substantial works such as a novel AND a creative non-fiction is ill-advised unless you’ve made significant progress already with both and have a solid plan for finishing both by the end of 3 years.

* Once you have successfully laid out the next 2.5-3 years with your defense committee, you are officially moved into the PhD status and may begin your final dissertation project.


After you’ve gotten your MFA (upon the approval of your portfolio) and have passed your oral discussion / defense,  the last 2.5 to 3 years would be focusing solely on honing your craft. This is the time where electives can and should be taken in your fields, forms, and genres of choice, and you should be working closely with a committee to write your creative dissertation.

This is also the time to apply for writing fellowships, funding, get professional development, go to conferences and conventions, travel, and you are strongly encouraged to also get published in literary magazines or commercial magazines. Those majoring in drama or film studies (for screenwriters and playwrights) are also encouraged to pitch screenplays and acquire production for their works.

The dissertation will culminate in a creative work (the standards for which will be laid out by genre or by form) as well as a reading, showing, signing, or some other event in which the work can be shared with your colleagues.

Required Core Courses

1. English Composition (3 credits) – grammar, syntax, word choice, analytic & academic writing

2. Literary Devices in Writing I and II (3 credits each) – all of them from A to Z . There are so many literary devices that my school would probably have to have two different courses for it! You must learn to use these devices as well as teach them to others.

3. Four Substantive Literature Courses (12 credits) (from any culture or tradition you choose. I’d offer every type of literature under the sun!)

4. Introduction to Genre (3 credits) – an overview of ALL the different types of genres out there, both literary and commercial

5. Screenwriting (3 credits)

6. Playwriting (3 credits)

7. The Spec Script and Writing for Television (3 credits)

8. Poetry (3 credits)

8. The Novel (3 credits)

9. The Short Story (3 credits)

10. The Novella & Flash Fiction (3 credits)

11. Creative Non-Fiction (3 credits)

12. Storyboarding, Comic Scriptwriting, and the Graphic Novel (3 credits)

13. Filmmaking or Photography (3 credits) – to learn how to tell stories with pictures or film

14. Fluency in at least one foreign language, and if you are a native speaker of a language, you must learn a different language (12 credits)

15. Summer Teaching Symposiums & Writer’s Workshops

16. Research for Writers Workshop


1. Crime & Mystery Fiction
2. Science Fiction & Fantasy (and substantive sub-genre areas)
3. Thriller Fiction
4. Romance
5. Literary Fiction (there are many kinds of this so I’ll just lazily call them all “literary”)
6. Publishing and Editing (including Indie Publishing Workshops)
7. More poetry electives
8. More novel electives
9. Electives that can be taken outside of the department (for research purposes); this can include film & production classes, drama or theater, science, technology, history, sociology, psychology, cultural studies, folklore classes, language classes, ANYTHING that will help you bring authenticity and well-roundedness to you as a person and to your work as a writer.
7. Plot, Narrative, Description, Character, Worldbuilding, Language Building, Culture building, Dialogue, Description & Setting, and more (“craft” courses)
8. And MORE…

I got pooped toward the end of this, so I’d LOVE to hear YOUR voices! If you could design a Creative Writing PhD program, what would it look like? I’d love to hear your thoughts! 🙂

Keep it indie,
<3 Colby