Creative Writing

Director’s Note

Welcome to Princeton’s legendary Program in Creative Writing. We look forward to meeting you.

From September to May, we host and co-sponsor readings by some of the most vital and engaging writers of our time—writers like Martin Amis, Lucille Clifton, Teju Cole, Lydia Davis, Nathan Englander, Seamus Heaney, Aleksandar Hemon, Sharon Olds, Gary Shteyngart, and Kevin Young to name just a few who have visited campus in recent years. Each of these events is free, open to the public and designed to inspire and delight our undergraduate writers. If you are a lover of the written word, you are by all means central to our ideal audience.

If you are a Princeton undergraduate, you are also eligible to enroll in one of our workshops. There, you’ll immerse yourself in published poetry, short stories, novels, screenplays, or literary translations. You’ll learn to read like a writer. And, with the guidance and encouragement of your professor and your peers, you’ll produce your own original creative work.

Why take a poetry, fiction, screenwriting, or translation workshop? As I see it, there are many reasons.

If you’ve always known you want to be a writer, this place might feel like the home you’ve always dreamt of, a place to talk about what makes great work great, and about how your own writing might grow to resemble the kinds of writing you revere. But if that’s not you—if you know, for instance, that Physics is your passion—the regular practice of tapping into your own imagination might be a perfect counterbalance to your more quantitative pursuits.

I happen to think that looking at the world through a writer’s eyes, even just for a single semester, can change your life. It can lead you away from the things you think you know, and the voices you’ve learned to recognize and regard, and into a world where everything is new, strange, full of vital potential. It is a means of fashioning worlds you may never before have considered possible.

That can happen in one semester, sure. But having witnessed the astounding growth that can take place over a few years, I’m inclined to say: take a workshop in your freshman year, just in case you get the bug. It’ll give you the chance to work with more members of our world-class faculty, and to write in more than one genre. It might also give you the opportunity to become a certificate student and write a book-length thesis of original work.

No matter where they land after graduation, our graduates consistently cite their Creative Writing workshops as among the most enriching and transformative features of their time at Princeton. So I’ll say it again: don’t wait. Take a workshop now. Don’t put yourself in the position of falling in love with a new course of study just as your course work is drawing to a close.

Our faculty is remarkably generous with their time and insight. They have been honored with an array of Pulitzer Prizes, National Book Awards, Guggenheim Foundation Fellowships, and a host of other awards. Our core faculty includes Jeffrey Eugenides, Jhumpa Lahiri, Chang-rae Lee, Paul Muldoon, James Richardson, Susan Wheeler, and Edmund White.

Each year, our faculty grows to include 15-20 distinguished visiting writers. Past visitors include television writer David Kelley, short story master Lorrie Moore, poet Mark Doty, and Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa. Joyce Carol Oates, who retired from the core faculty in 2015, will continue to teach one workshop per year as an Emerita.

All of our courses are limited to 10 or fewer students, and every member of our faculty is committed to teaching and mentoring student writers, and to working one-on-one with seniors writing creative theses. Princeton does not offer graduate study in Creative Writing; our program exists solely for the benefit of undergraduate writers. There is no other program in the world with a faculty of this size and caliber that can say the same.

All of this exists for you. You are our target audience. You are invited to be a part of this extraordinary community. Application instructions and updated materials are posted to our website each semester.

By all means, join us!

Tracy K. Smith
Director, Program in Creative Writing