Creative writing major launches this fall

It’s an exciting time to be a creative writer at The University of Tulsa! Students can major in creative writing beginning in the fall of 2016. The decision to add a major resulted from growing student interest in creative writing classes, which tend to fill quickly.

At informational events for prospective English majors, roughly 75 percent of students indicate an interest in creative writing. English Department Chair Randy Fuller noticed this trend and wanted to ensure that the university could meet the needs of incoming and current TU students. He worked with English Professor Grant Jenkins and theatre Professor Michael Wright to design an academically rigorous and creatively satisfying program.

The English Department hired fiction writer Keija Parssinen, who started at TU in the fall of 2015. A graduate of Princeton University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Parssinen penned two novels, The Ruins of Us and The Unraveling of Mercy Louis. She is the recipient of a Michener-Copernicus Award, as well as an Alex Award from the American Library Association.

Though the program is housed in the English Department, it will be interdisciplinary in nature, giving students the opportunity to study screenwriting, playwriting, poetry and fiction writing. Each year, the creative writing program will bring in prize-winning writers across genres to meet with students and give public readings and lectures. Majors also have the opportunity to intern at literary publications such as the Nimrod International Journal in order to gain valuable hands-on work experience. The major culminates in a senior project under the direction of one of the creative writing faculty members.

To celebrate the launch of the new major, the creative writing program invited nationally recognized authors, many of them TU alumni, back to campus Sept. 23-24, 2016, for a weekend of panel discussions, workshops, readings and a keynote talk delivered by National Book Award winning author Phil Klay. Joining Klay are Rilla Askew, Vu Tran, Benjamin Lytal, Trudy Lewis, Lindsay Smith, Katie Rain Hill and Eilis O’Neal. Details on the event are available here.

The major is new to TU, but the university has a long history of students, faculty and visitors involved in creative writing and all literary arts.

TU’s illustrious alumni include Askew, S.E. Hinton, William Bernhardt and Ted Berrigan.

  • Askew authored the novels Fire in Beulah, Kind of Kin, The Mercy Seat and Harpsong, as well as the short story collection Strange Business, and is a recipient of an Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
  • Hinton wrote The Outsiders and Rumblefish, both set in Tulsa and adapted to screen by Francis Ford Coppola; she won the 1988 Margaret A. Edwards Award and in 1998 was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
  • Bernhardt is best known for the best-selling “Ben Kinkaid” series of mystery/suspense novels and has been awarded the Southern Writers Guild Gold Medal Award (1998) and the H. Louise Cobb Distinguished Author Award (2000).
  • Berrigan was a member of the “Tulsa School,” a group of four poets from Tulsa (also Ron Padgett, Dick Gallup and Joe Brainard) who became involved in the famed New York School movement in the early 1960s. Berrigan taught poetry across the country, including at the St. Mark’s Poetry Project and at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, but he is best known for his experimental take on traditional form in his 1964 book, Sonnets.

In addition to current faculty, many important writers have taught at The University of Tulsa including Darcy O’Brien, Paul Scott, Germaine Greer, A. G. Mojtabai, Richard Murphy and Alfred Corn. Although he does not teach creative writing in English, Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko has been on the TU faculty for several decades and has inspired many writers, events and artists while living in Tulsa.

Meanwhile, the city of Tulsa possesses a vibrant literary scene. The Tulsa Literary Coalition announced the imminent opening of an independent bookstore, Magic City Books, in the thriving Brady Arts District, and the George Kaiser Family Foundation recently launched the literary arm of its artist fellowships, which will attract more than a dozen highly accomplished writers from across the country. In addition to classes and events on campus, TU students can connect with writers in other inspiring ways.

With a rich history to build on, the creative writing program aims to keeping the literary arts alive through an ongoing conversation between students, faculty, alumni and visiting writers. Please join us on campus for an event. We look forward to meeting you!