UB's Creative Writing Certificate: writing in the present

Creative Writing Certificate trains students in fiction and poetry writing


While in class, Conor Clarke felt “it.” He doesn’t know where “it” came from, but somewhere in the discussions of authors, poets and in the writing process, Clarke became inspired.

The Creative Writing Certificate, offered to undergraduate students by the English department, teaches students different modes of creative writing. There are roughly 100 students active in the program, according to Christina Milletti, an associate professor of English.

Students in the program are required to take three mandatory classes and three electives, out of the seven creative writing courses offered, to complete the certificate. The last class is the “Capstone” in which students must complete a major creative project, according to the English Department’s website.

Students not in the certificate program, however, are also able to take these creative writing classes that focus on writing and editing fiction and poetry as well as exposing students to the vibrant writing community of Buffalo.

“The certificate opens up a space for any student who wants to deeply engage with writing poetry and fiction, allowing them to dedicate themselves, with our guidance and with the support of their peers, to writing,” said Dimitri Anastasopoulos, director of the Creative Writing Program and an associate English professor.

The classes are mostly workshops that allow students to explore their own writing capabilities, even when they’re busy with other classes. The goal is to foster a supportive writing community while teaching students to reflect on their work, Anastasopoulos said.

Clarke, a junior English major, said looking at and discussing other writers and their writing processes have been “inspiring.”

He is currently working on his own book to fulfill his dreams of becoming a novelist.

“The classes I’ve been taking probably improved my perception on the writing process as a whole,” Clarke said. “It has opened my eyes to new ways of looking at it, and gives me new ways of editing, and new ways of structuring pieces of my writing.”

The program also encourages students to connect with the writing community through various events like the Exhibit X fiction series, the Poetic Plus series as well as other writing events organized by the English department. They give students the chance to talk to other writers. Published writers read excerpts from their works and then have a Q&A session afterwards for students to ask any questions they have.

Exhibit X brings novelists and fiction writers to Buffalo. Typical meetings take place for an hour and a half for a public reading at Hallwalls in downtown Buffalo. The goal is to provide an inside view into the mind of a writer, according to Anastasopoulos. The spring event will feature Jeff VanderMeer and Karen Yamashita.

“Exposing students to living, breathing writers and writing helps students to think about what it means to write in the present,” said Joseph Hall, a graduate English student and an instructor in the program. “They might start to think about writing in a different way and all of this might keep them writing and thinking about what writing needs to do in the world.”

NAME magazine, an undergraduate literary magazine at UB, helps the creative writing community on campus by giving an outlet for student works.

The magazine is produced and edited by students, with some assistance from the English department. NAMEprints creative fiction and poetry from currently enrolled UB undergraduates. These students not only come from the creative writing program, but other disciplines as well.

Hall is an adviser to the students producing NAME magazine. He said the students look through the Poetry Archives at UB for inspiration, such as “glossy trade style magazines, hand-sewn books, pamphlet manifestos … and even a book that is a bunch of poems stuffed in a shoe.”

NAME magazine last year was distributed in old record cases with their logo spray-painted on it.

“The program emphasizes how the words we write change the conditions of the world we live in,” Anastasopoulos said. “When we understand that the way we use language has an impact on the developing narratives around us, we see ourselves not only as people who write privately and perhaps in small collectives, but also as agents who can create change in the world.”

Students who aren’t an English major see the creative writing classes as an opportunity to venture outside their major, Hall said.

“These classes allow students to exercise that part of their brain, and to exercise their creativity,” he said.

This certificate is designed to encourage young writers to keep writing whether they are studying architecture, engineering, business or computer science.

Daniel McKeon contributed reporting to this story.

Samantha Brenner is a features staff writer and can be contacted at features@ubspectrum.com