Creative Writing for Undergraduates

Creative Writing for Undergraduates

The English Department is pleased to offer two creative writing concentrations for English majors who wish to specialize in creative writing. Students interested in poetry writing can apply to the Area Program in Poetry Writing (APPW), which allows undergraduate writers to pursue serious study of the craft of poetry writing and poetics within the context of the English major. The Area Program in Literary Prose Writing (APLP) is our fiction and nonfiction equivalent of the APPW, allowing English majors to specialize in the craft of narrative writing.

But you don't have to be an English major to take our courses. Undergraduates can take a full spectrum of elective poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, beginning with ENCW 2200, 2300, and 2600, introductory classes usually taught by MFA students in our graduate program. These 2000-level classes introduce students to poetic and narrative techniques, teach close reading of literary texts, and employ a workshop model of peer critique. The target audience for our 2000-level classes is mostly first- and second-year undergraduates (who can enroll directly in SIS) though we also create some sections in each genre open to third- and fourth-year registration. In addition, we sometimes feature themed introductory sections, ENCW 2530 or 2560, that we also keep open to third- and fourth-year registration.

As students hone their writing skills, they move into intermediate 3000- and 4000-level courses. While we prefer that students start in our 2000-level courses, students can also enroll directly in a 3000 or 4000 section. Advanced third- and fourth-year students can also take 5000-level workshops, which mix undergraduates and graduate students in the same classroom. All of these intermediate and advanced courses are taught by full-time English faculty members. For details on how to apply to these intermediate and advanced creative writing courses, see the FAQ section below. In recent years, our department has also begun to offer a number of creative nonfiction courses at the 3000- and 4000-level.

Undergraduates should also take advantage of our scheduled visits by Rea Writers and Lecturers and our Kapnick Distinguished Writer-in-Residence by attending public readings and other private sessions open to undergraduates


There is usually a high demand for seats in creative writing courses. Students who register for creative writing courses in SIS but who fail to attend the first class meeting after their registration may be dropped from the roll so that we can free up seats for other students on the waitlist. Students who cannot attend the first class meeting after their registration in SIS must, before the class meeting occurs, email their instructor with a valid excuse as to why they cannot attend, but the instructor is under no obligation to accept the excuse. Bottom line: for creative writing courses, go to the first class after you register in SIS to ensure you stay on the roll.


Q: I can’t register for a 2000-level section, even though there are open seats. What gives?

A: If you have tried to add an open ENCW 2000-level section and cannot, you are most likely a third- or fourth-year student (or are a rising third-year student). This is because we initially configure most of our 2200/2300/2600 sections with the seats reserved for first- and second-years. The reason we tilt the early enrollment toward first- and second-year students is because it helps us create a large pool of undergraduates ready to take our intermediate and advanced coursework in their later years at UVA, as well as apply to our APPW and APLP concentrations in the English major. However, we do usually create some sections of 2300 and 2600 open to third- and fourth-year students, and we sometimes have themed ENCW 2560 (fiction) and ENCW 2530 (poetry) courses that are open to third- and fourth-years. ENCW 2560 and 2530 do not have any prerequisites and are open on a first-come, first-served basis.

Once all first- and second-years have had time to register in SIS, we try to remove the restrictions from our sections. This usually happens in the first weeks of August or November, so keep checking in SIS. We have to maintain the course restrictions over the entire summer to allow first-year students a chance to register for open seats. Transfer students who arrive at UVA in their third year and other special cases can email the instructors for ad hoc permission to join a section. Please do not email more than two instructors.


Q: Why does a fall section have just a few open seats available? I thought your classes took 15 students but only 8 seats are available. Why is that?

A: This situation usually happens in spring/summer semesters when students are trying to register for next fall. Because many first-years take our courses, the undergraduate registrar temporarily lowers the seating capacity of our fall courses. This is because the incoming first-year students come to grounds over several summer enrollment sessions, and the registrar is trying to make sure students in the later sessions have similar class choices to those in early sessions. So our 2000-level ENCWs may have restricted seats in the early part of summer, and the seating capacity rises throughout July as more first-years have a chance to register. Once all first-years have had a chance to register, we try to lift all our course restrictions, making them available to everyone. 


Q: What should I do if cannot register for ENCW 2300/2600?

A: If the section is restricted right now to first- and second-years and you are a third- or fourth-year, you likely cannot add that class or get on the waitlist. You should look for other unrestricted sections and check back when we lift the restrictions on our classes. If you are eligible for a section but there are no seats, we recommend you add yourself to the waitlist. Students on class waitlists might want to use the waitlist "Edit Enrollment" feature to configure SIS to drop another course if a slot in ENCW 2300/2600 opens. Remember: SIS takes the first eligible student off of a waitlist, not the first student on the waitlist. So configure SIS to drop other courses if adding out course would give you too many hours.

In addition, students with some writing experience and ready manuscripts can also consider registering for one of our intermediate or advanced classes; we prefer that students take a 2000-level class first, but they are not a firm prerequisite. See below for details.


Q: How do I apply for intermediate and advanced courses in creative writing?

A: To apply to one of our intermediate or advanced courses (ENCW 3000 and higher):

  • In SIS, request permission to take the class, and
  • Send the instructor a manuscript and cover letter.

Please email the instructor only one document. First, create a cover page that has your name, email, phone, year at UVA, major, and a brief explanation of why you want to take the course. If you are applying to other ENCW 3000+ courses for the same semester, please note that too (this does not hurt or help your application—it just helps us distribute students among our sections). Poetry applicants should then append up to ten pages of poetry, which is generally single-spaced. Please compile your poems and your cover sheet into ONE document/attachment. Fiction and nonfiction applicants should append up to fifteen pages of prose to the cover letter. The prose must be double-spaced. Please use traditional fonts in the 12-point range and save the file as one document in a .PDF or MS Word .doc or .docx. For full consideration, email your application as soon as possible, but before noon on December 15 for spring courses, or by August 5 for fall. The instructor will let you know by mid-January for spring courses, and by late August for fall courses. Of course, submitting earlier than these deadlines is encouraged, and our classes do sometimes fill before the final submission deadline—so send early if you can. Once the instructor grants you permission in SIS to add the class, you must also log in and accept the course to your schedule. If you fail to accept the course into your schedule promptly, the permission request goes "stale" in SIS, and you must delete your original permission request in SIS and submit a new one.


Q: I’m not a humanities student, or even in the College of Arts & Sciences. Can I take your courses?

A: Yes, if SIS allows you to register, you can enroll just like any other student. If SIS will not allow you to enroll, contact our office to see if course action might be an option. Our ENCW courses often satisfy humanities requirements from other schools. See your local registrar.


Q: Do your ENCW courses satisfy academic requirements?

A: All ENCW courses can satisfy three credits under artistic, interpretive, & philosophical inquiry under the new curriculum, and for a few more senior undergrads who started here under a different curriculum, three credits of their humanities area requirement (fine arts). See the Arts & Sciences General Education Page. ENCW 2300 and 2600 courses can satisfy the first writing requirement for some UVA first-years on an exception basis as determined by the UVA Writing and Rhetoric Program. At present, the only ENCW course that satisfies the second writing requirement is ENCW 2200. Our courses may satisfy humanities and/or writing requirements for other schools like Engineering, Architecture, or Nursing. Please contact your school's registrar for confirmation.


Q: Can I take one of your courses more than once?

A: In most cases, yes. This includes our 2000-level courses. We generally encourage students to try higher-level ENCW courses, but we understand that some students do not feel ready to move on, and sometimes the day/time of a lower-level course just fits a student's schedule better. Second enrollments generally do not satisfy very many requirements. See your advisor or our office for additional details.


Q: Do you offer independent studies in creative writing? There's a novel I want to write ...

A: Yes, we do offer independent studies, but we generally only set them up for APPW and APLP students and advanced English majors who have exhausted our standard course offerings and have a well-defined semester-length project in mind. We rarely agree to independent study requests from non-English majors. Those students are encouraged to try our intermediate and advanced coursework first. In any case, students hoping for independent studies must begin negotiating with our creative writing faculty members at least one semester before their independent study actually starts. Ad hoc requests made at the beginning of a semester will almost always be rejected.


Q: I’m a local resident. Can I take your undergraduate courses?

A: Yes, but usually at the 3000-level or higher. Our 2000-level ENCW courses are primarily for UVA undergraduates in their first few years at the university. Citizen scholars have usually been writing on their own for a while, and 3000-level and higher courses are typically a better fit (this includes 5000-level courses, which are open to undergraduate and graduate enrollment). To enroll, first email the instructor* and ask if they would consider your application. If they are willing, ask them to reserve a seat in the course for you. Then contact the School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS) at to officially enroll in the course and pay your fees. SCPS may ask you to have the instructor email them saying you have permission to enroll. 

You can view current and historical course offerings in our Student Information System (SIS). Click on "Search for Classes by Semester" and enter "ENCW" into the "Subject" box. Undergraduate classes are 5000 and lower.


Q: Can I audit or enroll in one of your graduate-level workshops?

A: Yes, but only at the 5000 level. Our ENCW 7310 and 7610 courses are reserved for our current MFAs only, and we do not currently allow others to audit or take the courses. You can, however, enroll in some of the same graduate-level literature courses that our MFA students attend.


Q: But what if I’ve tried all this (or most of it) and can’t get into any of your classes?

A: Remember that Charlottesville is blessed with a vibrant creative writing community. UVA is not your only option. Piedmont Community College offers wonderful courses, some of which may be transferrable to a UVA degree. The UVA School of Continuing and Professional Studies ( offers shorter-duration fiction/poetry/nonfiction writing courses in the evenings. And local organizations like WriterHouse also offer excellent programs.


Q: Can I sit in on a workshop course to see what it is like?

A: In general, no. Workshops require a level of intimacy and trust that is disrupted by visitors, however quiet or well-intended they might be.


Q: Will taking undergraduate creative writing at UVA help me get into your MFA Program?

A: Probably not. By the time an undergraduate takes our upper-level creative writing courses, they are working with the same faculty who teach in our MFA Program. We generally believe these students are better served by experiencing teachers and writers beyond our university rather than continuing their studies in Charlottesville.


Q: I want to go to the Young Writers Workshop. Is that you?

A: No, the Young Writers Workshop is a wonderful program for high schoolers run out of UVA's Curry School. Several of our MFA students and APLP/APPW graduates have worked there, but we are unaffiliated.