Department of English

O'Dowd Hall, Room 544
586 Pioneer Drive
Rochester, MI 48309-4482
(location map)
(248) 370-2250
fax: (248) 370-4429

Creative Writing

NOTE: Please see the new Creative Writing Course Numbers for 2017 registration.
We all have stories to tell and unique ways of viewing the world. Oakland University's Creative Writing program will provide you with the opportunity to develop your craft and share your vision.

Our focus on literary history will introduce you to current writers who are producing exciting work in your genre, while also introducing you to the history of your genre, a foundation all writers need.  You will work closely with OU faculty members who specialize in poetry, short stories, novels, screen writing, literary nonfiction, comics, and multi-media texts. No matter what you do in life, strengthening your writing skills will provide you with language and editing skills, as well as research and critical thinking abilities, that are easily transferable to any other profession or area of interest.

Advising Contacts

Creative Writing Program at Oakland University

The Creative Writing Program at OU allows students to major or minor in four different genres: fiction, poetry, literary nonfiction, and screenwriting. OU Faculty include novelists, short story writers, poets, creative nonfiction writers, graphic novelists, and film-makers.

The Creative Writing Program is divided into three main areas of focus: 1) teaching, 2) mentorship, and 3) community engagement and professionalization.

  1. Our program’s first priority is to provide students with excellent introductory, intermediate, and advanced-level workshop courses in the genre of their choice. These workshops are small and allow students to work closely with their professors and other creative writing students at OU, building a vibrant community of writers and artists. Majors are also required to take courses in other genres (this can include courses in playwriting, offered through the Department of Music, Theater, and Dance, and in creative nonfiction courses offered through the Department of Writing and Rhetoric). We aim to demonstrate the overlap between various forms of creative writing while also helping students to develop their own voices through the honing of specific literary techniques. And because faculty members work in a variety of genres and styles, students are encouraged to experiment and explore, even as they also learn the traditional tools of craft and revision. Creative writing students also take cognate classes in contemporary literature and cinema in order to be immersed in the important voices of writers today. 
  2. Mentorship is another key to the success of our program. The relationships that our students build with faculty in formal and informal ways help to guide them into the professional realm, while also introducing them to the diversity of employment options. When students enter their junior and senior years, they are encouraged to do internships. They can also request alumni mentors. CW majors who work closely with faculty, internship site directors, and OU graduates are better able to make the transition from school to the working world; they also learn how to capitalize on their skills as talented writers. 
  3. Finally, we encourage and facilitate the engagement of our creative writing majors with the writing and publishing community at large, as they move toward becoming professionals in that community. Numerous innovative and multi-format events and activities support students’ engagement with the larger writing community, both on the OU campus and elsewhere (see Student Engagement section on this website). As a culmination of their writing work, all senior creative writing majors have the option of participating in a capstone reading that is open to the university and larger community. This event takes place in April. Alumni can continue to be involved in our OU English Alumni Association. For a list of careers alumni have gotten, click here.

JEFF CHAPMAN, Fiction and Comics

Jeff is Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing and is currently writing and drawing a graphic novel about the poet Ovid. His interests include comics, mythology, classical Greek & Latin, and contemporary fiction. Thirty of his short stories, graphic stories, and essays have been published in anthologies and magazines, including South Dakota Review, Black Warrior Review, The Florida Review, and Cutbank. He received his M.F.A. in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College, and his Ph.D. in creative writing and literature from the University of Utah. In 2015, he received a Kresge Artist Fellowship.

NATALIE COLE, Creative Nonfiction

Natalie is a scholar of Victorian literature with expertise in Dickens studies and Neovictorian fiction. Her interest in creative nonfiction began in 2003, and she has studied this genre with eminent creative nonfiction writers including John D'Agata, Dinty Moore, Anne Marie Oomen, and J.D. Dolan. She is currently writing a memoir of her sister's life in Louisiana and Texas from the 1950s through the 1990s. She is passionate about teaching how experiences of illness, medical practice, and caregiving shape identity. She received her Ph.D. in English literature from the State University of New York at Buffalo and her M.A. from Michigan State University.

KITTY DUBIN, Playwriting

Kitty is Special Lecturer in Theater and has been teaching beginning and advanced classes at Oakland University for the past eighteen years. In that time, over one hundred of her students' plays have been produced, received staged readings or won awards. Her own plays have been produced at theaters throughout Michigan, including the Purple Rose, BoarsHead, Performance Network, and the Fourth Street Playhouse. She is Playwright-In-Residence at the Jewish Ensemble Theatre where she has had six plays produced. She has also had her work performed in New York City, Austin, Los Angeles, and Chicago and she is a frequent speaker at writers conferences. This August, her play, CUTTING IT CLOSE, will be performed at Boxfest, a one act festival in Detroit where all the plays are directed by women. Kitty got her B.A. from Case Western Reserve University, a M.A. in English from Wayne State University and a M.A. in Guidance and Counseling from Oakland University.

ANNIE GILSON, Fiction (literary and fantasy) (

Annie is Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing and the director of the Creative Writing Program. Her first novel, New Lightcame out from Black Heron Press (second printing, 2010). Annie also writes Young Adult fantasy novels and is represented by Kelly Sonnack of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. She reviews contemporary fiction for a number of periodicals, including Publishers Weekly, Rain Taxi, and American Book Review. She received a B.A. in creative writing from Bard College and a Ph.D. in Twentieth-Century Literature from Washington University in St. Louis.


Katie is an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing. Her debut poetry collection, Bed of Impatiens (2016), was a finalist for the Able Muse Book Award and is a finalist for the 2017 Ohioana Award in Poetry. Recipient of the 2015 Page Davidson Clayton Prize for Emerging Poets, she is the author of two chapbooks, Hotels, Motels, and Extended Stays (Toadlily Press, 2015) and Veritas Caput (Passim Editions, 2015). Her poetry appears in journals such as Arion, Beloit Poetry Journal, Massachusetts Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Midwestern Gothic, RHINO, and Southwest Review, and in the anthology Down to the Dark River: Poems about the Mississippi River. She is interested in combining creative and critical work, as in her blank verse essay published in the spring 2017 issue of The Wallace Stevens Journal. She has received an artist’s residency from the Eastern Frontier Education Association, and won the major Hopwood award in poetry from the University of Michigan, where she earned her MFA. She was the media assistant at Chicago’s Poetry Foundation before beginning her Ph.D in Comparative Literature from Northwestern University. Her scholarly interests include classical receptions and Ancient Greek and Latin epic, lyric, and drama, and she is currently working on a translation of Homer’s Iliad


Peter is Special Lecturer in Creative Writing; he has also taught for 20 years as a writer-in-residence with the InsideOut Literary Arts Project. He is the author of a novel, Bob, or Man on Boatas well as five other books of fiction, the most recent of which is The Fish and the Not Fish, a Michigan Notable Book of 2015. His fiction has appeared widely in anthologies and journals including Chicago Review, Iowa Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Black Warrior Review, Quarterly WestMassachusetts Review, and Northwest Review, among many others. He received his B.A. from University of Michigan and his M.F.A. from Western Michigan University. In 2012, he was awarded a Kresge Arts in Detroit fellowship. Links to Peter’s work:

Novel excerpt: We Make Mud
Short story: Bird with One Wing
Interview: Fiction as Magic Language Spell
Review: Detroit Free Press - "Book of one-syllable words makes Peter Markus notable"

SUSAN MCCARTY, Literary Nonfiction

Susan is Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing. Her first book, Anatomies, was published by Aforementioned Productions in 2015. She was the recipient of a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artists’ Award in 2015 and a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts residency in 2012. Her essays and stories have appeared in South Dakota Review, the Iowa Review, the Utne Reader, Conjunctions, Hotel Amerika, and other journals. She has an M.F.A. from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and a Ph.D. from the University of Utah. Before coming to Oakland, she was an assistant professor of English at Salisbury University on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and before that, she was an award-winning junior editor at Penguin and Avalon Books, a freelance copyeditor for Boston’s Weekly Dig and the Beer Advocate, and an obituary writer at the Eastern Iowa Gazette.

KATHY PFEIFFER, Literary Nonfiction (

Kathy is Professor of English and Creative Writing. Her chapbook,  Ink, won the Michigan Writers Chapbook Competition and was published by the Michigan Writers Cooperative Press in 2018. Her creative work has also appeared in The Sun Magazine, Bear River Review, and Blackberry Winter. In 2012, she was named   Literary Arts Fellow by Kresge Arts in Detroit. She is currently writing a memoir about the challenges of being a feminist stepmother. Kathy's scholarly publications examine matters of identity, such as race passing, interracial friendship, and literary self-invention. Her most recent academic book,   Brother Mine: The Correspondence of Jean Toomer and Waldo Frank, which  has a companion website at, examines interracial friendship, literary ambition, and devastating betrayal. She earned the B.A. in English Literature from Emmanuel College and the M.A. and Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Brandeis University.


Alison is Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing. Her first collection of poems, On the Desire to Levitate, was selected as the 2013 Hollis Summers Poetry Prize winner and published by Ohio University Press in March 2014. It was selected as one of "Thirty Amazing Poetry Titles for Spring 2014" by the Library Journal and reviewed by Scott Russell Sanders for the inaugural issue of Middle West Review. Powell's work and her first collection were recently featured on PBS NewsHour's Weekly Poem. Her poetry has appeared in journals including Boston Review, GuernicaAGNI, Women's Studies Quarterly, Puerto del Sol, Black Warrior ReviewCrazyhorse, Antioch Review and others, and in the anthologies Best New Poets 2006 and The Hecht Prize Anthology, 2005 - 2009.* She has been awarded fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center of Provincetown, Vermont Studio Center, Millay Colony for the Arts, Writers at Work and Byrdcliffe Artist's Guild. Alison also recently served as a Guest Editor at Crazyhorse, Assistant Poetry Editor at the Indiana Review, and performed as an interpreter in Tino Sehgal's "This Progress" at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, New York. She completed her Ph.D. in English at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY) and received her M.F.A. in Poetry from Indiana University.

DAVID SHAERF, Screenwriting

Dave is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and Cinema. His research focuses on narrative studies relative to documentary film and the depictions of niche interest groups in those films. He also works as a screenwriter and filmmaker. He has written, directed, and produced award-winning short films and theatre productions in both the United Kingdom and New Zealand. His first documentary feature film, The Love for the Game, investigates the community of professional Backgammon players in the United States. Currently, he is in production of his second documentary feature film, Call Us Ishmael, a documentary about Moby-Dick and the community of fans who are linked to Melville’s classic novel. He has a Ph.D. in Film Studies from the University of Exeter.


Vanessa is Special Lecturer in English and Creative Writing. She is the author of a chapbook of poems, Cosmology (dancing girl press & studio), and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Literary Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Cimarron Review, CincinnatiReview, North American Review, West Branch, and other journals. Her MFA thesis, Chiaroscuro, was a semifinalist for the Yale Younger Poets prize. She is currently working on a collection of poems about the work of French sculptors Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel. She completed her M.F.A. in poetry and her Ph.D. in creative writing and literature at the University of Houston, where she held Michener, Cambor, and Krakow Poetry Seminar fellowships. In 2014, she was awarded Oakland University's Excellence in Teaching Award.

Creative Writing
The goal of most Creative Writing majors is to enter the writing and
publishing community. Most writers need to have a day job. If you want
to become a professional in the writing community beyond writing and
publishing your work, the best way to start is with an internship (or
two or three).

Internships for credit are available during fall, winter, and summer
semesters. Students should apply for an internship for any particular
semester at least one-to-two months before that semester begins.
Students are free to make their own arrangements to intern with an
organization or a business not on the 2017-18 Internship PDF list , but
they still must fill out the paperwork in the semester before the
anticipated internship to receive credit.

In addition to filling out the forms (which are also available in 544 O'Dowd, the
English Department main office, as well as PDF files), students must
register for the course. Do so by emailing Professor Susan McCarty at Please provide her with an unofficial copy of your transcript pasted into and email, as well as the names of two OU English professors with whom you have studied.

Keep up with current events such as readings and contests by liking the program on our Facebook page.

Opportunities for engagement with larger writing communities include the following:

OU Creative Writing Club

The vibrant OU Creative Writing Club, advised by Prof. Jeff Chapman (, gives our students a biweekly meeting place to discuss their work, the work of writers who inspire them, and to share ideas that can help strengthen the program. Join us on Facebook.

OU Screenwriters’ Guild

The OU Screenwriters’ Guild, advised by Prof. David Shaerf (, brings together aspiring screenwriters and film-makers. It also offers opportunities for those interested in writing film scripts to get together and workshop, attend lectures, and pitch scripts to filmmakers to get made! No experience necessary. Contact faculty advisor David Shaerf ( for additional information.

The Oakland Arts Review (The OAR)

The Oakland Arts Review, also known as *The OAR*, is a journal put out by the Creative Writing Program devoted to undergraduate writing (first issue in Winter 2016). Genres we publish include fiction, scripts, nonfiction, poetry, and comics (can include excerpts of graphic novels). Students may also submit images for cover art. The journal is overseen by Prof. Alison Powell; students interested in working on the journal should complete the Intern & Volunteer Form and submit to

Submit materials for publication to The OAR.

Annual Reading Series

"Every semester the Creative Writing Program sponsors readings and craft talks by fiction writers, poets, screenwriters, and creative nonfiction authors. Readings range from the avant grade to traditional. We regularly host roundtables on publishing and editing as well as workshops on publication and on teaching creative writing in the public schools. These events take place on the OU campus. Up-to-the-minute information is available on Facebook.

Our endowed poetry event, The Maurice Brown Reading Series, is the first event of the year. The event is funded by a generous donation from OU Professor Judith Brown in memory of her husband, OU Professor Maurice Brown, a great lover of poetry. The reading series began in 1988; over the years, we have brought many leading American poets to campus, including those named for Poet Laureate and the Pulitzer Prize. More information, as well as video clips and links to entire readings, can be found here.


Four contests run yearly:

Mentoring Program

Our Mentoring program pairs employed alums with English major juniors and seniors, to help students make the transition into the working world. But our students also maintain a thriving OU English Alumni Association. This network is for you: we could host reading groups on campus, talk shop and job searches, and even set up readings and writing groups for alumni! Alumni are also welcome to attend meetings of the Creative Writing club. Join us on Facebook. For a list of jobs alumni have gotten, click here.


The Creative Writing Program prioritizes student involvement in volunteer and internship activities and in writing groups around the area. Students intern in a wide cross-section of literary venues, including Dzanc Books (small press), Wayne State University Press, 826Michigan (literacy and creative writing outreach program), Midwestern Gothic (literary journal), InsideOut Detroit (creative writing workshops in Detroit public schools), Baldwin Center and Common Ground (community help centers), and Write A House (Detroit literary nonprofit). Students are also free to design their own internships.

Study Abroad Opportunities

Currently, students can take Fiction and Poetry Workshops at The University of London, London, UK and at the University of East Anglia, UK.