Most English students study great writing. Those enrolled in a new writing degree program at U of T will try to create it, too.
This fall, the English department launched an MA in creative writing, and selected faculty member and award-winning non-fiction author Rosemary Sullivan to head up the program. “There’s been a long-term demand for a creative component to our graduate work,” says Sullivan. Case in point: this year drew 70 applicants for just seven slots.
The two-year program will mix coursework (to provide students with an understanding of literary tradition) and workshops (to enable them to hone their literary craft). Students will be matched for one-on-one mentorships with such writers as poet A. F. Moritz, and novelists Lynn Crosbie (PhD 1996), Margaret Atwood (BA 1961 VIC, DLitt Hon. 1983, DLitt Sac Hon. 1987) and David Adams Richards.
The budding writers will also receive an introduction to the book industry, meet with agents and editors, and attend events such as the International Festival of Authors. The exposure is invaluable, says student Debra Veira (BA 2004 UTSC). “U of T is giving us the opportunity to be seen.”
Most of the students who enrolled in the program this year hope to sign a publishing deal, but instructor and poet George Elliott Clarke says his main wish is for students to create “ideas to change the literary scene, to make noise, to start fires based on what they have learned here.”
Jonathan Garfinkel has already enjoyed some success with a play and a book of poetry, but joined the program to learn about other literary forms and techniques. “I hope to improve my chops as a literary writer,” he says.
Who knows? One day Garfinkel or his fellow students could end up on the curriculum themselves.