Creative Writing at Virginia Tech

Page 1

Creativeat Virginia Writing Tech in service to imagination



Note from the Director

iction writers! Poets! Essayists! Playwrights! People-Who-Journal-a-Lot! Language-Collagists! Saboteurs of all Genres! Are you looking for a varied community of artists with whom you can share your work? Do you wish to hone your artistic talents under the guidance of talented instructors and among like-minded peers? Then consider joining us: the teachers and students of Virginia Tech’s Undergraduate Creative Writing Program. Here’s what we do: we write, and we read. The faculty in our program have published books and essays and interviews, had plays produced in the U.S. and abroad, been in the forefront of experimental, multi-media writing, won or been finalists for major prizes, including the Whitbread Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and been granted fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts foundation. Our students are enthusiastic, community-minded, and innovative. They learn how to brainstorm and experiment, and how to critique stories and poems and plays in workshop settings. They gain experience perform-

ing their work for audiences, and submit their work to magazines. They even create their own literary events: each year, a group of VT creative writers plan and stage a two-day literary festival, which includes readings by undergraduates, MFA candidates, and two established authors. It is, in a word, awesome. Creative writing is the most popular option for English majors. We’re happy about that, for sure, but we’d also like to remind students that you don’t have to be an English major to take or excel in creative writing. And honestly, we don’t care if you’re majoring in chemistry, engineering, or agriculture: if you love writing and reading, you’ll find kindred spirits in our program. If that’s the case, I hope to see you soon.

Matthew Vollmer Director of Undergraduate Creative Writing Program


1 540.231.8322

Contents: Why Creative Writing? ............................................... p.4 Discover the importance of studying creative writing, as well as the career paths available to those who do.

Why Virginia Tech? ..................................................... p.5 Recent graduates reflect on their time at Virginia Tech and the community they became a part of while studying in Blacksburg.

Our Classes ..................................................................... p.6 Explore the various opportunities for Virginia Tech students to showcase and improve their work in workshop classes at all levels and genres.

Our Faculty ..................................................................... p.8 Our accomplished and diverse faculty are passionate educators who work closely with students, creating opportunities for them to experiment with a variety of forms and genres.

Visiting Writers ........................................................... p.10 Through the Creative Writing program’s Visiting Writers Series and Speakeasy series, Virginia Tech and the English department help bring diverse and inspiring voices to campus.

Community ................................................................... p.12 The creative writing community extends beyond the classroom. Explore opportunities to engage in our unique extracurricular activities.

Where We Live ............................................................ p.14 Downtown Blacksburg offers distinctive restaurants and entertainment venues, while the surrounding mountains provide opportunities for a host of outdoor activities.

Recent Graduates ....................................................... p.16 Recent graduates discuss the benefits of the Virginia Tech Creative Writing program and reflect on its importance in pursuing writing as a career.


Why Creative Writing

Why Creative Writing?

Why not creative writing? If you love writing, if that’s your passion, then why wouldn’t you major in it? No matter what you pursue, the only way you’ll be successful is through a lot of hard work. And working hard is far easier when it’s something you actually care about.”

- Scott Loring Sanders English Instructor

The World Needs Words A degree in creative writing may the first step in preparing you for any number of possible careers, including (but not limited to): creative manager, research analyst, technical writer, marketer, publicist, curator, fundraiser, archivist, grant writer, public relations coordinator, communications specialist, recruiter, video game developer, editor, copyeditor, proofreader, fact checker, publisher, web designer/editor, blogger, television writer, literary consultant, documentary filmmaker, greeting card writer, teacher, journalist, reporter, congressional aide, tutor, lobbyist, literary agent, and - of course - author. If you’re a creative person who’s passionate about reading and writing—and if you can envision yourself doing that for the rest of your life - then come talk to us.


Why Virginia Tech?

“ Allison Donohue

English, Creative Writing Clsas of 2012

One thing that I didn’t quite understand while I was at Virginia Tech is how much exposure I had to great poets and novelists. It wasn’t until I graduated and spoke to others that I realized how lucky I’d been to study, as an undergraduate, with graduate professors like Ed Falco, Bob Hicok, Erika Meitner, Lucinda Roy, and Tom Gardner. Currently, I’m a Masters student at Texas Tech University studying poetry. I told fellow grad students and my professors that I’d studied at Virginia Tech and it was like doors were opening. They knew who taught there and I realized how fortunate I’d been to have my poetry workshopped by such wonderful writers and professors.”

The most important thing I learned in the creative writing program was how to appreciate humanity. Whether or not I knew the value of it at the time, the creative writing program at Tech instilled in me a deep rooted search for truth.”

Devin Cornwall Creative Writing, Class of 2011


Our classe

Our Classes From beginner-level to capstone, we offer our students a wide variety of workshops.

What is a Workshop? During our creative writing workshops, you will have the opportunity to share your stories, poems, and essays with your classmates. You’ll offer critiques, compliments, suggestions, and interpretations of your peers’ work, and you’ll receive the same in return. No two workshops will ever be the same, but the end goal of all our courses is to help you improve your writing, while teaching you what it means to spend a lifetime with words.


introduction to creative writing

A workshop for beginning writers who want to explore their talents in poetry, drama, and fiction.


A two semester course in the craft and art of playwriting which emphasizes the development of craft and the nurturing of vision and art. During the first semester, the primary focus is on the writing of original scripts with additional attention paid to the work of influential playwrights and critics. During the second, the primary focus is on the creative process of developing a play with the collaborative influences of a director, actors, designers, and more.

creative writing: fiction

This course is designed for students who want to focus on the writing of various forms of fiction as the short story and novella. Emphasis is on the writing and critiquing of original fiction in a workshop/studio environment, and the analysis of exemplary texts which serve as models. Students produce a body of original fiction in draft and revised forms.

creative writing: poetry

This course is designed for students who want to focus on the writing of poetry. Emphasis in on the writing and critiquing of original poetry in a workshop/studio environment, and the analysis of exemplary poems which serve as models. Students analyze various poetic forms and produce a revised body of original poetry.

creative writing: creative non fiction

This course is designed for students who want to focus on the writing of creative non-fiction in its various forms, including memoir, personal experience writing the lyrical essay, travel narratives, and nature writing. Emphasis is on the writing and critiquing of original creative non-fiction in a workshop/studio environment, and the analysis of exemplary texts which serve as models. Students produce a body of original non-fiction in draft and revised forms.

advanced creative writing: fiction

Designed for senior English majors who have selected the Creative Writing option, this is an intensive, advanced workshop. This capstone course builds on skills students have acquired in creative writing workshops. Primary focus is on the writing and critiquing of original fiction, while paying close attention to the work of established writers who are acknowledged masters of their genres. Students hone their skills as peer reviewers and constructive critics. In the process, they produce a portfolio of fiction.

advanced creative writing: poetry

Designed for senior English majors who have selected the Creative Writing option, this is an intensive, advanced workshop. This capstone course builds on the skills acquired in previous creative writing workshops. Primary focus is on the writing and critiquing of original poems, while paying close attention to the work of established poets who are acknowledged masters of their genres. Students hone their skills as peer reviewers and constructive critics. In the process, they produce a portfolio of poetry.

creative writing: fiction for young people

This course is conducted in a workshop setting in which students compose original stories for young people. Elementary techniques of fiction are emphasized, such as plot structure, point of view, setting, characterization and audience. Must have prerequisites or permission of the instructor.


Showcase of student wor


by Hanna Herdegen

after Paul Klee’s Twittering Machine the bird is a skeleton, a parody of bones, twisting around an axis with a skull made of stones. a lily pad for eyes, a feather in its beak, captured underwater where light cannot reach. a piece of copper rests below a bowtie on a stand, or perhaps a wire hanger with its end stuck into sand. a tapestry of woven lines, a spider web of iron, an inventor’s midnight wonderings, frozen, somehow, in time.


excerpt from


by Alex Moore

A thief can join the clergy and a clergyman can steal the offering plate. It only takes a day for a man to change his ways. Look at them boys serving on their corners and ask yourself something. Which of those boys will live as free men and which will die or end up in prison? Well, let me tell you, only those who change their ways will live to wisdom and to age. At least that’s what Darrel’s Grandma Bernice had told him when he was fourteen years old. Now, ten years later, Darrel turned these words over in his head as he left McDonald’s with a new employee uniform in his backpack. Darrel had reached the top of the mountain, and this was the first step in climbing back down. Shoving his hands into his pockets, he began the walk home. He passed the old 7-11, the apartment his family had lived in until his father went to jail, and the old park where Grandma Bernice had watched him play as a child. On the way, a hooded man sitting on his stoop called out to him. “Yo, D.” “Wassup Juice?” “You got any more of that fine chalk from last week?” “Nah man.” “When you gon’ get some more?” “I dunno man, you might gotta find somebody else.” “Damn mane, you ain’t gone soft has ya?” Darrel unzipped his backpack to reveal his new uniform and said “Even Brett Favre eventually hung up his cleats.” He replaced the plastic-wrapped uniform and started up again toward home. With every step, he felt the weight of a brick lifted from his shoulders. He thought of his girlfriend and business partner, Carla, his baby son, and the other on the way. He thought of trading millions of dollars away for a nineto-five and the safety of his family. It was a good deal. As he rounded the corner of L and 11th to reach the steps of his apartment, he saw Carla pull away in her brown sedan. He waved and entered the apartment. Inside, Darrel planned to flush his goods, smash his pipes, and clean his system. He and Carla were getting out of the game. He went to his room, unlocked his safe, and found – nothing. Someone had taken it all.


Our Accomplished Facult

Fred D’Aguair

Ed Falco

Nikki Giovanni

Bob Hicok

Jeff Mann

Erika Meitner

Lucinda Roy

Matthew Vollmer

Robin Allnutt

Carl Bean

Elizabeth Bloomer

JoAnn Harvill

Aileen Murphy

Scott Sanders

Joe Scallorns

Gyorgyi Voros

Our Accomplished Faculty


The faculty in our program have published books, essays and interviews, had plays produced in the U.S. and abroad, been at the forefront of experimental, multi-media writing, won or been finalists for major prizes, including the Whitbread Award, the National Magazine Award, The Lambda Literary Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and been granted fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Guggenheim foundation. Work by faculty has also appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, Best American Mystery Stories, and the Pushcart Prize Anthology.

You must invent your own games and teach us old ones how to play.”

Nikki Giovanni University Distinguished Professor

recent accomplishments include: > September 2014 - Erika Meitner publishes Copia, a book of poetry, by BOA Editions. > February 2014 - Fred D’Aguair publishes new novel, Children of Paradise, with HarperCollins. > February 2014 - Bob Hicok’s latest book, Elegy Owed, declared a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. > November 2013 - Lucinda Roy’s No Right to Remain Silent: What We’ve Learned from the Tragedy at Virginia Tech chosen as Columbia State University common text. > October 2013 - Nikki Giovanni publishes a new book of poetry, Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid. > August 2013 - Jeff Mann inducted to the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival Hall of Fame; publishes a collection of poetry, A Romantic Mann. > June 2013 - Ed Falco’s The Family Corleone appears in paperback. > December 2012 - Matthew Vollmer publishes two books after receiving fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. 10

Visiting Writer

Visiting Writers With both the Speakeasy and Visiting Writers Series, we give our students lots of chances to hear some of the most critically acclaimed contemporary voices writing today. In addition to readings, our visiting writers conduct lively craft talks that are free and open to the public.

Past writers include: Toni Morrison Maya Angelou Tobias Wolff Rick Moody Junot Diaz Stephen Dunn Vievee Francis Camille T. Dungy Mary Gaitskill Ed Roberson

Rivka Galchen

Where you can find their work: Best American Stories, Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, Best Non-Required Reading, The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, Esquire, The Paris Review and more... 11

Junot Diaz

Awards, prizes & fellowships they’ve won: Guggenheiim, National Book, Pen/Faulkner, National Endowment for the Arts, Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, Pushcart, and more... Heather Christle

Toni Morrison

Visiting Writers Series 2014-2015 Percival Everett C. K. Williams Jamaal May Patricia Engel Rachel Zucker George Saunders 12

Alan Heathcock


Community Meet Up / Read Out The official monthly reading series of the undergraduate creative writing program, held monthly in the Newman Library.

Creative Writing Club A student-run weekly-held workshop open to our majors and students from other disciplines.

The Undergraduate Conference A highly competitive, university-sponsored conference where undergraduates present research that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to their disciplines.

The VT Review Virginia Tech’s digital journal featuring the work of current undergraduate students. (Visit us at:

Glossolalia An annual student-organized literary fesival featuring undergraduates, graduate students, and writers of national acclaim.

PolyPerformance Typically held twice a semester, PolyPerformance is more than a reading; it’s a variety show where undergrads sing, perform stand-up, and do magic.



Glossolalia fest at Virginia Tech was one of the most impressive events I've ever been a part of... Why aren't all colleges doing this?"

Jennifer L. Knox Poet

Recognition and Reward

In addition to various scholarships offered through the English Department each year, we try to give our majors as much incentive to write (and win money) as we can: The Steger Prize An annual poetry competition open to all undergraduates at Virginia Tech, totaling $1,800 in prize money. Poetry in Medicine Competition Established in 2013, an annual poetry competition open to undergraduates, MFA’s and medical students at Virginia Tech, totaling $500 in prize money.


Where We Liv

Where We Live In downtown Blacksburg you’ll find a variety of unique merchants, restaurants, coffeeshops, a weekly farmers’ market, and a historic movie theatre.

Be sure to check out the recently opened Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech (pictured above) for a variety of performances, events and exhibitions in support of the arts on campus and in Blacksburg’s surrounding communities. 15

Outside the 16 Blocks The greater Blacksburg area offers a wealth of outdoor activities for any season. Hike the Cascades, walk the Appalachian Trail, sight-see at Mountain Lake or bike down The Huckleberry Trail, a biking and jogging path located just a block of outside of downtown.


Recent Graduates Reflect

Recent Graduates Reflect “The workshop layout of the classes is extremely beneficial in prepping students for the ‘real world’ in that those skills of gently critiquing and praising someone’s work will come up ALL the time. I probably use that skill every single day, honestly. Being in those workshops, reviewing other students’ work and listening to others scrutinize mine has helped me be a better editor to my own students’ work. And it was a great way to learn to dish out constructive criticism.”

Julia Richberg Creative Writing, Class of 2010

“I honestly do not know what I would be doing now if I hadn’t decided to pursue creative writing. Currently, I am working on a PhD in English with a focus in CW at Texas Tech, where I also teach. I had never considered graduate school or teaching at the university level in any future plans before studying creative writing. I feel like VT’s Creative Writing Program opened the door to all I’m doing now.”

Beth McKinney Art History, Class of 2007 and English, Class of 2009


“Creative Writing classes at Virginia Tech were insightful and allowed me to be authentic. I dearly miss being in a workshop setting with my fellow students. The professors for all of my creative writing classes were really helpful. I was impressed with the dedication of the faculty members within the entire English Department, and their willingness to guide students through the creative process.”

Thomas Beckwith English, Creative Writing Class of 2010

Conor Bracken English (LLC), Class of 2009

“Were it not for the undergrad CWP, I wouldn’t be where I am - studying to get my MFA at the University of Houston. But not only did VT help acquaint me with the existing opportunities and logistics for pursuing poetry further past my writing desk; it also brought me closer to poetry as a genre - as a practice and as a discipline of study.... If there’s anything I really carry with me from my CWP experience at VT, it’s Bob Hicok putting an actuator on a table and telling us to describe it or Erika Meitner having us teach the class about a book of poems we’d just read. I had to use my words to describe strange and gleaming things, and they helped me begin to find them.”


i lied on my college applications by Ariana Mollers the crux between two worlds, i called myself. the balance of dark skin and light eyes, a home divided by a white father and a latina mother. a savior of intertwined cultures. a better person. but— i’m not, i’m not. i’m the embodiment of imbalance. i am a white girl who masters spanish class but speaks with a mouthful of stairs. i am a white girl who’s own mother can’t detect a hint of latina on her skin; i often sound like a tourist and sometimes even the telenovelas go too fast for me. they call me gringa and laugh. i want to be an equinox. i’m afraid of the night that beautiful, beautiful language will ask me, “¿porque nunca me amaste?” i tried to love her… but it was because i didn’t belong, because i cut my hands making this mosaic, because i am not whole. “come back,” i’ll say. she won’t understand me.

visit us online at to learn more. concept and design by Mike Roche and Danielle Buynak


Millions discover their favorite reads on issuu every month.

Give your content the digital home it deserves. Get it to any device in seconds.