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The department of English and Comparative Literature’s Creative Writing program is – and has long been – among the best in the country. Hundreds of alumni have gone on to write books, films, albums, plays, and television shows, pursue graduate study in creative writing, and publish stories, poems, and essays in the world’s best journals, magazines, and newspapers. The English and Comparative Literature (ECL) major’s concentration in Creative Writing was established in 2018 to allow students the chance to graduate with comprehensive skills in narrative development, critical thinking, textual analysis, and creative expression.

The Creative Writing concentration has five tracks: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, musical writing, or a combination of genres.

Click here for Current Concentration Requirements

Choose a Track

About: The short story has long been the mainstay of American fiction. Our greatest writers have produced some of their greatest work in this genre: from Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe, to Flannery O’Conner, John Cheever, Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, Tobias Wolff, George Saunders, and Lorrie Moore. Part of the short story’s power and potential resides in its ability to be so many different things. It’s a literary chameleon, taking on whatever shape the writer cares to – or dares to – bring to it. Its ideal length allows the young writer – and the old writer, for that matter – to learn the elements of storytelling, and then, once skills are acquired, it provides a manageable space in which to experiment and refine. Fiction workshops at UNC begin with an introductory class, in which the student learns how to use tools and tactics for creating a fictional world. These include clarity of language, plot, character, setting, and how to create conflict and drama that is not predictable, sentimental or dry. In the intermediate and advanced levels, the classes become smaller, and more challenging. A senior pursuing a major concentration or a minor in Creative Writing may apply for the year-long Honors Seminar, during the course of which a short book of approximately 25,000 words is written, or may complete any five courses listed below. Enrollment in any classes beyond the intermediate level require instructor and/or program director permission. In all of our classes we are engaged in what is known as the workshop method. A student’s work is shared with the class; it’s discussed, admired, and diagnosed, re-worked, re-written, re-imagined. What we do in our classes is no different from what every writer does all of her writing life. In other words, there’s a lot of work, some heartache, periodic joy. It can even be fun. There comes a point when writers create something so good that it surprises everybody, themselves most of all. This is called, variously, inspiration, talent, or the product of a student’s hard work under the direction of wonderful teachers. It may be the product of all these things, but this is something that happens every semester, in all of our classes. Although some would argue that it’s the opposable thumb, moral agency, or the ability to manufacture plastic that makes us human, we believe it’s storytelling; that’s our secret sauce. It’s a craft that, as we learn it, makes us human in ways we never would have imagined possible.

Courses: ENGL 130 or 132H. ENGL 206 or ENGL 210 or ENGL 211 or ENGL 212, ENGL 406, ENGL 693H & 694H

About: “I too, dislike it,” Marianne Moore begins her poem, “Poetry”: “however . . . if you demand, on the one hand, / the raw material of poetry in / all its rawness and / that which is on the other hand /genuine, you are interested in poetry.” That’s the paradoxical pleasure and mystery of this radically rigorous, deeply joyful, and endlessly shifting genre. The possibility of using words in original ways, as we do our best to get to the heart of the matter, is what brings us to poetry: the personal and the political, the private and the public, the local and the universal merge into a distilled vision of our specific world that, perhaps, has the possibility to change the world at large, a line at a time. Our classes are laboratories, part workshop and part literature discussion. A rigorous study of poetics informs the intensely collaborative workshop environment where we look at each other’s poems with a keen eye to technical mastery and emotional depth. A poetry workshop—where we focus on the work written by classmates, commenting as helpfully as possible—is a community. We praise and question and always push each other to find the edge of our ability, then move beyond it. Since everyone has likely written a poem at some point, it’s not surprising our classes are filled with students from every part of the university. Curiosity, passion, a love for image and language, an ear for rhythm and movement, and a dedication to hard work bridge the gap between every major. We are as proud of our poets who end up in medical school as we are of those who get into the finest MFA programs in the country, every year. Whether you end up taking the entire poetry track (Intro, Intermediate, Advanced, and the two-semester senior Honors class) and spend your last year at Carolina writing a full-length book of poems, or take Intro and then keep exploring through Stylistics or other Creative Writing classes, the act of composing and revising poems, and workshopping them together, is a commitment to your voice and your vision, as—in this undergraduates-only program—you discover what you really need to write, and do, and be.

Courses: ENGL 131 or 133H, ENGL 207, ENGL 407, ENGL 693H & 694H

Choose 5 from the fiction, poetry, nonfiction, or musical theatre options, or a combination of courses from those options and ENGL 307 ENGL 309 COMM 330 COMM 433 MEJO 356
About: This track will focus on the writing and analysis of song lyrics, collaborative songwriting (composer & lyricist teams), musical compositions, plays (with particular emphasis on scripting plays for music, musical revues, and book-musical uses) – in short, an emphasis on songs, music, and scripts intended for various sorts of concert, musical, and theatrical performances.

Courses: choose 5 from: ENGL 306, ENGL 308, ENGL 408, ENGL 409, ENGL 490 (in relevant topic), MUSC 166, MUSC 381, DRAM 231, DRAM 292

About: Memoirs. Travelogues. Lyric Essays. Literary Journalism. Food Writing. Nature Writing. Testimonios. Whether you are conducting an internal excavation or an external investigation, creative nonfiction is your genre. In this track, we’ll start with an exploration of our own world: our childhoods and our families; our fans and our enemies; our lovers and our friends; our quirks, our fears, our desires. Next, we’ll investigate other worlds. Like roller derbies. Bail bond agencies. Halfway houses, carnivals, funeral parlors. Then we’ll create new worlds by reinterpreting the ordinary as extraordinary—through graphics, lyricism, mosaics, and objects lost and found. Along the way, we’ll read scintillating works that take risks both in content and in form, and then we’ll strive, strive, strive to do the same. In workshop, we will ask: Where is the pulse of this essay? How can it beat louder—or deeper? Should the story follow a classic rise-fall arc or be a fractured narrative with a scrambled chronology? And as we progress through the track, we will discuss ways of feeding ourselves as artists, both figuratively and literally. We will share our motivations and strategize on sustainable ways of funding our practice. For our ultimate goal is to build a community of life-long readers with whom we can continue trading work far after our Greenlaw Hall departure. So join us. Together, we will be pilgrims wandering the wilderness of memory. Arbiters of the dynamic Fourth Genre. We will elevate life into art. We will write words that matter.

Courses: ENGL 138 or ENGL 283, ENGL 208, ENGL 404, ENGL 693H & 694H

Choose 2 from:

    • Any courses in ENGL and/or CMPL (excluding first-year seminars)

    • Among these 10 required courses: no more than 2 can be outside ENGL/CMPL


    • Contact the Concentration Coordinator: Prof. Ross White,

Career Spotlight

Mary Pope Osborne

Author of children’s books, including the Magic Tree Series, Class 1971

“Long ago, in a poetry class in the English department at UNC, I gained the confidence to put thoughts and images on a page and share them with others. In that class, I began my love affair with the English language, with the magic and mystery of words. Since then, I’ve published over a hundred children’s books.”