Creative Writing

Creative writing at Luther is messy, lovely, rigorous, alive. It means being immersed in a community of working writers – your classmates and your professor. 

It means poring over a riveting short story, performing your own poetry on stage, drinking coffee and scribbling in your journal. It means stumbling across a metaphor that thrills you. It means finding your own path to the risk, delight, and discovery of the writing life in your own words and your own voice. It also means working with committed faculty mentors and getting to know visiting writers who can look at your work and talk to you about the writing life.

Student writers at Luther are members of a vibrant and supportive community. Many choose to join Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society, which gives them the opportunity to present critical and creative work at the society’s annual conference. Others publish their work in The Oneota Review, Luther’s student literary magazine, or work as staff writers for the student newspaper, CHIPS. Still others enter work in the ACM’s Nick Adams Short Story Contest, present at on-campus conferences like the Student Research Symposium or “The Reformation of Everything” Symposium, or even submit their work for publication to national journals, as Hannah Lund did with her six-word story “Dinner Date,” which appeared in Narrative. When writers visit campus – like Todd Boss, Rob Spillman, and Camille Dungy – students have the chance to talk with these authors in class and in personal conferences. Although you can be a writer without ever publishing a word, many students (and not only English majors) choose to take creative writing courses, earn a writing emphasis, and/or work toward publication while at Luther and beyond. Taking creative writing courses can lead to an MFA program in writing and/or the publication of a book – just ask our alums Keith Lesmeister ('01) author of We Could’ve Been Happy Here or Jill Osier ('96), author of Should Our Undoing Come Down Upon Us White: Poems.  It can also help you develop a range of writing skills to be used in a career as a lawyer, pastor, or teacher, or as a writer for companies, foundations, and newspapers.

Course Offerings

English 212: Introduction to Creative Writing (Poetry and Fiction)

English 312: Advanced Creative Writing (Poetry and Fiction)

Luther’s flagship creative writing courses focus on the principles of delight and design by uniting the genres of poetry and short fiction. In the same semester, students hone their craft by reading, completing workshops, discussions, and a series of experiments, discovering not just how their work in each genre can flower, but also how the genres can cross-pollinate! Students of all majors have found their voices through a variety of activities in the introductory creative writing course; including trips to Decorah’s Vesterheim Museum and the publication of class anthologies. Members of the Advanced course have submitted their work to literary journals and performed their work onstage in an annual concert, “Music in the Shape of a Pear,” staged in collaboration with Luther’s Music Department. Skype chats with the editors of literary journals to which Advanced students are asked to subscribe – such as Tin House and Ploughshares – are a regular feature of the Advanced course.

English 213: Creative Writing: Nonfiction

English 213 explores a capacious and fascinating genre: creative nonfiction. If you’ve read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, Joan Didion’s The White Album, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, or Nick Flynn’s memoir of his alcoholic, homeless father, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, you’ve read creative nonfiction – and if you keep a diary, you’ve written it. You may write anything from personal narratives, literary journalism, and nature writing to spiritual essays or family memoirs in this course. What you learn about writing and about yourself will definitely leave you challenged and changed.

Independent Study and Senior Projects: Students who have completed the appropriate courses in creative writing may register to do an independent writing project with a faculty member. Students who have completed the writing courses in Plan II of the major may elect to complete a senior project in poetry, fiction, or creative non-fiction.