Welcome to the Creative Writing Program


The undergraduate Creative Writing Program at UNC-Chapel Hill is—and has long been—one of the best in the country. Its first-rate faculty and students have published widely, won many prizes, and played a major role in shaping the contemporary literature of North Carolina, the South, and the nation.

The fact that other schools in the state university system (UNC-Greensboro, N.C. State University, and UNC-Wilmington) offer graduate writing programs has challenged Carolina to concentrate on excellence for undergraduates. There are over 250 creative writing programs in the United States, mostly for students at the masters' level, but very few offer as much breadth, variety, and professionalism at the college level as UNC-Chapel Hill has for decades.

In the words of the late Doris Betts, Alumni Distinguished Professor of English emerita and mainstay of the Creative Writing Program for decades:

“When the Harvard faculty was considering hiring Nabokov to teach literature, one professor objected that such an appointment would be like hiring the elephants to teach zoology. Fortunately, Carolina's English Department has embraced its writers and we, like elephants, never forget. The staff of dedicated novelists, poets, and non-fiction writers has had a congenial professional history here, in an atmosphere that has encouraged many young writers and rewarded many readers. During my 35 years on campus, the program has grown larger and more varied, but without losing its selectivity and without weakening its focus on genuine talent.”

And in the words of Holden Thorp, Chancellor of the University from 2008 to 2013:

“It is hard to imagine an endeavor that has shaped the narrative of Carolina more than creative writing. It demonstrates our ideals of originality, equity and democracy.”

For more information, contact:  


Daniel Wallace
Director- Creative Writing Program
Department of English and Comparative Literature
Greenlaw Hall, CB #3520
UNC-Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3520 
Phone: (919) 962-4052


Anita Braxton
Program Assistant, Creative Writing
Department of English and Comparative Literature
203 Greenlaw Hall
Campus Box 3520
Chapel Hill, NC  27599-3520
Phone:  919-962-4000
Fax:  919-962-3520

First Year Seminars Program

Many English and Comparative Literature faculty at UNC create and teach engaging first year seminars.

"First-year seminars are designed and structured for incoming first-year students with no prior college experience. Students join distinguished faculty members who are active scholars and accomplished teachers in small classes that offer an introduction to the intellectual life of the university and focus on how scholars pose problems, discover truths, resolve controversies, and evaluate knowledge.

First-year seminars go beyond the traditional lecture and discussion format. They invite students to explore new and old ideas, engage with complex issues, and become active learners through inquiry, analysis, discovery, and action."

See http://fys.unc.edu for more information, and check out the video below, featuring our own Professor Jane Danielwicz!

Lecture and Discussion with Renisa Mawani

The Komagata Maru, Anticoloniality, and the Itinerant Politics of Indigeneity
A public lecture by Renisa Mawani


Thursday, February 19 • 4-530pm • Donovan Lounge, 2nd Floor, Greenlaw Hall, UNC-Chapel Hill


The ship Komagata Maru – which carried 376 Punjabi migrants from Hong Kong to Vancouver – was the first vessel to be deported from North American waters in 1914. Thus, its journey has come to signal a high mark in immigration prohibitions and racial exclusion in Canada. While this historical narrative is significant in illuminating Canada’s long history of legalized racism and its ongoing politics of settler colonialism, the ship’s journey must also be viewed as a global transoceanic voyage, one that made visible the political, juridical, and racial unevenness of the British Empire. As the ship crisscrossed the Pacific and Indian Oceans it facilitated connections between India, the Dominions, and other British colonies and outposts (including Hong Kong, Malaya, and Singapore). Importantly, its voyage also galvanized support from British Indians across the empire, most notably in India and South Africa.

Drawing from her book, Across Oceans of Law, Professor Mawani's lecture will foreground one effect of the Komagata Maru’s journey: the emergence of a transoceanic anticolonialism that engendered a global and itinerant indigenous politics.




The Atmospherics of Race

A discussion with Renisa Mawani

Friday, February 20 • 4-6pm • Donovan Lounge, 2nd floor, Greenlaw Hall, UNC-Chapel Hill


This seminar will explore the relationship of postcolonial and critical race theories to recent scholarship on affect, species, and new materialisms. In preparation for the seminar, please read the two articles available at https://planetarities.web.unc.edu/events-2/



Renisa Mawani is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of British Columbia, where her research focuses on colonial legal history, critical race studies, oceanic studies, and colonial India and its diaspora. She is the author of Colonial Proximities: Crossracial Encounters and Juridical Truths in British Columbia, 1871-1921.



For more information on these events, please contact Neel Ahuja at nahuja@email.unc.edu. Professor Mawani's visit to UNC is sponsored by the South Asia Faculty Working Group, with the support of the Center for Global Initiatives and the Carolina Asia Center. Co-sponsored by the Institute for Arts and Humanities and the Department of English and Comparative Literature.

Critical Speakers Series 2015



KATE MARSHALL (University of Notre Dame)

— Seminar: “Contemporary Fiction in Geological Time”

February 23 (Monday)

3:30 pm

Gaskin Library, 524 Greenlaw Hall

—  Talk: “Novels by Aliens: Nonhuman Narration and American Realism”

February 24 (Tuesday)

3:30 pm

Toy Lounge, Dey Hal

LISA LOWE (Tufts University)

— Seminar: “Liberalism and Empire” 

March 19 (Thursday)

3:30 pm

Donovan Lounge, Greenlaw Hall

— Talk: “Colonial Difference and the Neoliberal Present”

March 20 (Friday)

3:30 pm

Toy Lounge, Dey Hall


For more information on Visiting Speakers and Faculty Talks, please contact David Baker.

2014 Distinguished Writer-in-Residence: Stewart O'Nan

“’American’ is the most apt way to describe Stewart O’Nan’s work,” proclaimed Randall Kenan when he introduced O’Nan as the 2014 Distinguished Writer-in-Residence.  Kenan, a writer and Creative Writing professor, observed that O’Nan “sees America with x-ray vision and an understanding heart.  His prodigious body of work can be read as an investigation, story by story, into what it means to be an American.”

O’Nan shared his literary talents with the Carolina community when he visited February 23 to 28 as the 2014 Distinguished Writer-in-Residence.   His interactions with students were characterized by geniality, good humor, and a focus on the young writer. In turn, our creative writing students helped O’Nan enjoy two of his loves:  good writing and good sports.  He read our students’ excellent writing in workshops and fielded their questions about the writing process in conversational sessions.  In a break from teaching and mentoring, the sports enthusiast relished watching a Carolina basketball game with the Creative Honors Fiction students and their professor, Daniel Wallace. 

Carolina’s larger literary community had several opportunities to explore O’Nan and his work.   The program provided a public screening of the movie Snow Angels, based upon O’Nan’s 1994 novel, at the Varsity Theater on Franklin Street, followed by a discussion with the novelist.

Additionally, O’Nan’s great love of baseball prompted one of the week’s highlights, a panel discussion on “Baseball: The Great American Story.”  O’Nan wrote Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season, along with Stephen King, which became a New York Times Bestseller.   Other panel members included Mike Fox, Carolina baseball coach; William Leuchtenburg, Carolina Distinguished Professor Emeritus and enthusiastic baseball fan; and Gabby Colvocoressi, poet and creative writing faculty member, also a baseball fan. The well-attended and spirited session explored topics ranging from the cultural role of baseball to the power of the narrative of sports in our lives.

The week culminated in the 2014 Distinguished Writer-in-Residence Reading on Thursday evening, February 27. Chair Beverly Taylor warmly welcomed the audience and declared herself a new fan of O’Nan’s work. Randall Kenan’s introduction of O’Nan left no one doubting his significant place in contemporary American literature and culture.  He described O’Nan’s “preoccupations” as “human beings at their best and their worst, tragedy, the quiet struggle of everyday people against the backdrop of conflagration.”  O’Nan’s powerful reading followed, confirming Kenan’s accolades:  “With humor and grace, he shows us ourselves, the grit, the horror, the quotidian boredom, the loneliness, the beauty.”

O’Nan is a “working writer” from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a city and people that figure centrally in much of his work. He was trained as an engineer, but after a few years in the field went to Cornell where he received his MFA in 1992.

His works include fourteen novels, a collection of short stories, two books of non-fiction, and a handful of screenplays.  His short novel Last Night at the Lobster (2007) prefigured the economic meltdown of that same year and the effect it had on millions of Americans. Other novels include The Speed Queen (1997), A Prayer for the Dying (1999), Wish You Were Here (2003) and its sequel Emily, Alone (2011), Songs for the Missing (2008), and The Odds (2012).  The Circus Fire: A True Story of An American Tragedy (2001) chronicles the story of over 8000 people trapped under a big tent in Hartford, Connecticut in 1944. Jonathan Evison of Salon said of O’Nan’s productivity: “Unlike anyone else, O’Nan delivers a new book every year that speaks directly to the anxieties of our fearful times.”

The Department of English and Comparative Literature thanks the generous donors who made the 2014 Distinguished Writer-in-Residence Program possible.  First, it extends thanks to the late Frank Borden Hanes, Sr. (Class of 1942) and his family for their support. Mr. Hanes, himself a passionate writer, has long been a gracious supporter of Creative Writing at Carolina and has made gifts with powerful lasting impact.  The Department is also grateful to the Hibbits Family for its support. Richard Hibbits (Business, Class of 1971) and his wife Ford live in Raleigh where Richard is a commercial real estate developer with Carolantic.  He is a member of the Chancellor’s Working Group on Entrepreneurship, the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center Advisory Board, and a former member of the UNC Board of Visitors. These families’ generosity greatly enriches Carolina’s literary culture.


Pictures from top to bottom:
1. Stewart O'Nan dons a Carolina cap, to the delight of the audience, during his Distinguished Writer-in-Residence Reading. (photo by Graham Terhune)
2. Creative writing faculty member Jim Seay speaks with Stewart O'Nan (photo by Graham Terhune)
3. Distinguished Writer-in-Residence program donors Richard Hibbits (left) and his wife Ford Hibbits (right) with Weldon Thornton, Professor Emeritus of English (photo by Graham Terhune)
4. Daniel Wallace with his senior honors fiction students (photo by Graham Terhune)
5. Stewart O'Nan speaks with creative writing students (photo by Graham Terhune)

Past Distinguished Writers-in-Residence

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Event Date: 

Thu, 02/27/2014 - 7:30pm