Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing

When you major in creative writing at Brandeis, you will immerse yourself in small writing workshops, literary studies, and studio or performing art, all of which prepare you for a writerly life.

You will emerge with a strong grasp of historical and contemporary literature and culture, as well as a sense of your own creative voice. Within the major you may choose to concentrate on fiction, poetry or screenplay. Those who pursue honors within the major will work closely with a mentor to produce a body of high-caliber creative work. 

Why Brandeis?

Creative writing has a long history at Brandeis: taught since 1951, it has been a major in its own right since 2003.

Unlike other creative writing programs, our workshops are taught solely by established writers. You will learn your craft from working writers who are widely published and also dedicated teachers. Our impressive roster of past visiting writers includes Alice Walker, John Irving and Saul Bellow.

Our workshops are small—14 students maximum. And because they are open to all, you will work closely with a wonderfully diverse group of peers majoring in neuroscience, Judaic studies, African and Afro-American studies, fine arts, law, business, biology and other areas.

Our program is also unusually active, sponsoring reading series, student awards, panel discussions, workshops on publishing and journal and performance opportunities. Our Reading Series brings nationally known poets, novelists and translators to campus for readings and meetings with students. Featured readers have included Tom Perrotta, Jamaica Kincaid, Carl Phillips, Kazim Ali, Adrienne Rich, Sharon Olds, Mark Doty and others.

Academics

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Interdisciplinary Study

As a creative writing major, you may take classes in related disciplines such as theater, comparative literature, African and Afro-American studies and philosophy.

You may also double major, as many of our students have, in disciplines as varied as math, biology, computer science, psychology and more.

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Honors

You may apply to write a senior creative writing honors thesis in fiction or poetry. The honors thesis is a year-long project that results in a full-length collection of stories, novella, or poetry collection. A semester-long honors project, which results in a shorter body of work, is also available.

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Creative Outlets

The Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts sponsors student-run initiatives, such as writer/artist collaborations, installations and spoken-word performances.

There are also many student publications on campus to which you can submit your work and/or for which you may join the editorial staff, including:

  • Laurel Moon ― poetry, fiction, translation

  • Blacklist (formerly Where The Children Play) ― poetry, stories, art, photography

  • The Justice ― weekly newspaper

  • The Hoot ― independent weekly newspaper

Faculty Excellence

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Distinguished Faculty

Our faculty include some of the best writers of fiction and poetry today:

  • Elizabeth Bradfield, Co-director, is the author of three poetry collections most recently Approaching Ice, which was a finalist for the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, and Once Removed. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, Orion, and she has received a Stegner Fellowship, the Audre Lorde Prize, and other honors. The founder and editor in chief of Broadsided Press, she also works as a naturalist on expedition ships around the globe.

  • Stephen McCauley, Co-director, has published nine novels (including "The Object of My Affection" and "My Ex-Life"), as well as articles, personal essays, and reviews in The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, The Boston Globe, Vogue, Harpers, Vanity Fair and other publications. Three of his novels have been made into feature films, and he was named a Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture.

  • Marc Weinberg, Screenwriter, began his career in film as a story analyst working in development for studios and production companies. A graduate of UCLA's acclaimed MFA program in screenwriting, Weinberg transitioned to professional writer with the sale of a supernatural thriller to USA Network. He has sold scripts and story ideas that have been set up at studios and production companies, including Paramount Pictures and Citadel Entertainment. Weinberg’s credits also include several episodes of scripted entertainment for the Discovery Channel.

Every year, two distinguished authors join our faculty as the Fannie Hurst Fiction Writer and the Jacob Ziskind Poet. Past writers include J.M. Coetzee, Lorrie Moore, Li Young Lee, Denis Johnson, Russell Banks, Gish Jen, Grace Paley, Anne Waldman, Li Young Lee, Robert Creeley, Junot Diaz and Elizabeth McCracken.

Internships and Study Abroad

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Internships

Our majors have held internships at such varied places as the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Conde Nast Publications, Poets House and the Rees Literary Agency.

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Study Abroad

Many of our majors spend a summer or a semester studying in one of 70 countries, often in programs focused on literature and writing.

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Other Opportunities

The department awards nearly $1,000 annually for outstanding student work, including:

  • The Dafna Zamarripa-gesundheit Award, awarded for the best fiction published in the literary journal Laurel Moon.

  • The Andrew Grossbardt Award for the best poem.

Several more awards are given for creative honors theses.

Careers, Graduate Study and Alumni

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Diverse Career Opportunities

Many of our majors go on to pursue a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree. Many develop careers in fields related to writing, such as publishing, academia, advertising and copywriting for a variety of businesses, including digital agencies and startups.

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The Writing Life

Many of our graduates and workshop attendees are published writers or work in writing. Many have received fellowships at such prestigious universities as Harvard, Cornell, Syracuse, Michigan, Arizona, Oregon and Washington.

Some of our graduates have gone on to teach at Tufts, Rhode Island School of Design, Columbia, Emerson, The New School, and Bentley College.

Creative writing majors and those who have studied in our workshops include:

  • Award-winning author Ha Jin

  • Poets Linda Pastan, Alicia Ostriker and Mary Leader

  • Playwright and screenwriter Theresa Rebeck

  • Poet, fiction writer and memoirist Shirley Geok-Lin Lim

  • New York Times best-selling memoirist and journalist Daniel Smith

  • Emmy-nominated writer and comedian Josh Gondleman

  • Ethan Mermelstein, script coordinator on “Nurse Jackie” and “Girls”