SFU English department launches creative writing minor
By Rebecca Saloustros
This September, SFU students can minor in creative writing for the first time. They don’t have to be English majors; they just have to love writing.
“Many students, and not just English students, write—poetry, fiction, screenplays—and want to get better at it,” says professor Clint Burnham, the English department’s graduate chair and member of the creative writing faculty.
The creative writing minor gives students an opportunity to improve their writing because classes go beyond the traditional workshop approach, in which students discuss each other’s work and offer constructive criticism.
“We add a critical-theoretical dimension—reading what established and emerging writers have to say about writing,” says Burnham. “In this way, students learn to situate their practice in the context of what people who are published, who are accomplished, have to say. They join the conversation.”
The creative writing minor will ultimately supersede the creative writing certificate that the English department currently offers. The new minor is more flexible and streamlined which makes it easier for non-English majors to study creative writing. The department has also introduced ENGL 272: Creative Reading, which will be a second-level required course for the minor.
“ENGL 272 combines readings where writers talk about writing, fiction, and poetry, writing a ‘pitch’ for a creative project, and a final portfolio,” says Burnham. “So, students learn that writing doesn’t take place in a vacuum, that it’s a social activity, and that there is a context. That writing matters, and that whatever level one is at, you will improve your writing in a creative writing class.”
In addition to professor Burnham, the department’s current creative writing faculty includes professors David Chariandy, Stephen Collis, and Jeff Derksen. All members of the creative writing faculty are published authors. Most recently, Chariandy won the 2019 Windham-Campbell Prize for excellence in writing and Collis won the 2019 Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize.
Also joining the faculty for the 2020–2021 year is Carleigh Baker, the department’s former writer-in-residence. In September, Baker will teach ENGL 374: Creative Writing II: Fiction and ENGL 472W: Advanced Creative Writing, which are mainly short fiction seminars.
“We will be primarily focused on the craft of writing, but there are opportunities for discussion about performance, publishing and the industry in general,” says Baker. “In addition to craft discussions, students will write, workshop, and revise a short story.”
Baker also plans to work with global Indigenous literatures in her classes, and in the Indigenous literatures reading circle. Baker originally held the circle in-person on the Burnaby campus during the spring term, but this fall she will offer it online in a discussion format. The circle will be open to all SFU students.
Students will also be able to book consultations and receive feedback on their work from the department’s 2020-2021 writer-in-residence, Otoniya Juliane Okot Bitek, an award-winning poet.