Chapel Hill has always been a magnet for writers. Some students come with the goal of becoming novelists or short story writers or poets or dramatists; others discover their vocations while undergraduates.
The University has long had a vigorous writing tradition, beginning when “Proff” Koch, Paul Green, and Samuel Selden were working with Thomas Wolfe, Kay Kyser, Betty Smith, Frances Gray Patton, and Howard Richardson in the early twentieth century. Beginning in 1947 and continuing for almost two decades, Jessie Rehder served as a one-woman program and published several books of her students’ work; upon her death in 1966, Max Steele became director of Creative Writing the program expanded to include such legendary writers as Doris Betts and Daphne Athas. In the years since, Carolina’s Creative Writing program has been home to luminaries like Randall Kenan, Lee Smith, Sarah Dessen, Carolyn Kizer, Algonquin Books founder Louis D. Rubin, Alan Shapiro, Pam Durban, Michael Chitwood, and Marianne Gingher. 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.