campus news and events

The Daily Write: On Being a Creative Writing Major

Lisa Ray '13, a member of the first class of Creative Writing majors set to graduate in May, has been hard at work on her Capstone project since the start of the school year.

“Capstone hasn't been too stressful yet,” she explains. “Being part of the first official Creative Writing Capstone feels like a great accomplishment, but at the same time there is added pressure to do a great job because the students who come after me will possibly look to my Capstone for ideas on how to write their own.”

The Creative Writing Capstone calls for students to write a 25-page creative piece and a 15-page analytical essay focused on the in-depth study of a specific topic. Ray's project concentrates on the topic of grief in literature, especially grief brought on by the loss of a spouse, through analysis of The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.

“I chose this topic because in my writing, something tragic normally occurs, but I never delved into the grief that would follow. I decided exploring the grief would be an interesting challenge,” Ray explains.

Ray, a native of New York, originally came to Colby-Sawyer with the intention of majoring in psychology. Drawn to writing as a teenager, she felt the pull again while taking a creative writing course as an elective. One conversation with her professor, Michael Jauchen, later, Ray had chosen to pursue a degree in creative writing.

“While taking the class, I went to Professor Jauchen to talk about switching majors,” Ray reports. “He told me to study what I loved, so I took his advice and haven't regretted it since.” Unlike Ray, sophomore Ian Whippie came to Colby-Sawyer already planning to major in creative writing.

“I was drawn to Colby-Sawyer because, of the three schools I applied to, it was the only school that offered a creative writing program,” Whippie states. “It was never a question of 'why creative writing?' for me, but more of a 'what else'? It's really all I wanted to do and the only thing I could see myself doing.”

At present, Whippie finds himself preparing to work on Major Acceptance, the process through which students are approved to continue study in their chosen major by the head of their respective departments.

Major Acceptance for the Creative Writing Program requires students to complete an application, compile a portfolio of writing samples from their creative writing courses with an introductory cover letter, and meet multiple academic requirements.

Whippie and Ray are part of the growing Creative Writing Program, now in its fifth year at Colby-Sawyer. The program focuses primarily on English literature and creative writing, with classes in both areas allowing students to grow not only as creative writers, but also as critical thinkers.

“English classes help me to analyze writing better,” Ray explains. “When English majors read a book, they appreciate the literature, but they may not understand the time and dedication it takes to write it.”

Creative writing classes are taught in a way that encourages students to work together to improve their writing. Students present their creative work to their peers for review and in return receive praise for the strengths of their pieces, as well as constructive criticism.

“I like how all the creative writing classes have a heavy focus on work-shopping with classmates,” Whippie explains. “With a classroom of my peers offering me feedback, I'm able to use their critiques to further develop my writing.”

Ray agrees. “I enjoy work-shopping in class and hearing feedback on my work from others,” she says. “I also like to read the work of my fellow students. I think work-shopping is the best way to improve one's writing, so I'm glad it is included in every writing class.”

Through the process of work-shopping, students grow more comfortable with sharing their work, reading it publicly, and offering help to one another. The professors who teach the different creative writing classes are another level of support to students.

“The faculty has been very supportive of me, and is fairly open to different styles of writing and genres,” Whippie asserts. “That kind of openness has helped me branch out as a writer.” He enjoys the opportunities to explore writing genres, specifically satire, and expanding on the absurdities of popular culture.

“The faculty has helped me to grow as a writer because they always push me to try and try again,” Ray explains.

Still a relatively small major, the Creative Writing Program continues to grow while its students mature as writers. Ray and Whippie are part of the program's development, each at different stages in their evolution as writers, and part of a closely knit community of writers on campus.

-Thomas Buckley

Colby-Sawyer College is a comprehensive college that integrates the liberal arts and sciences with professional preparation. Founded in 1837, Colby-Sawyer is located in the scenic Lake Sunapee Region of central New Hampshire.

Colby-Sawyer College, 541 Main Street, New London, N.H. 03257 (603) 526-3000