Creative Writing Core Curriculum

The Creative Writing division offers a curriculum designed to help young writers cultivate their talents, develop their imaginations, and broaden their command of the writer’s craft at all levels. Students also learn how to read like writers.

For information on graduation requirements and academic curriculum, please visit Academy Academics.

Required Courses: Creative Writing Majors

Workshop is the central component of the Creative Writing Program. It is a seminar-style course in which students focus on producing their own poems, short stories, and essays. Workshops use the literature of both professional models and student models to provide extensive training in the writing process. Through discussion of readings, generative exercises, group critique and exchange, tutorials, feedback on drafts, and discussion of the elements by which a piece of writing may be assessed, the student participates in the development of writing and builds a vocabulary of the writing craft. In the process, the student gains consciousness of writing as a communal and cultural act. Creative Writing majors rotate each term so that students receive instruction and practice in fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and experimental forms. Workshop is a two-part course, with the first part devoted to seminar-style discussion and critique and the second part typically reserved for independent writing time and individual tutorials.

This course introduces students to the stylistic and thematic elements of short fiction through the close reading and analysis of published stories by a diverse range of authors. Students participate in in-class writing exercises and are asked to turn in short written exercises and assignments. Students have the opportunity to meet with their instructor in tutorial sessions to gain insight into the revision process and further hone their stylistic techniques.

This course introduces students to the stylistic and thematic elements of poetry through the close reading and analysis of published poems by a diverse range of authors. Assignments advance students’ skills through intensive attention to imagery, voice, setting, form, and narrative. Students participate in in-class writing exercises and are asked to turn in poems that draw from the techniques discussed in class. They also have the opportunity to meet with their instructor in tutorial sessions to gain insight into the revision process and further hone their stylistic techniques.

This course introduces the concepts of writing for the screen from an analytical and creative viewpoint. Students will learn about screenplay structure and format, explore the creation of character, setting, conflict, theme, tone, dialogue and subtext, and gain an understanding of how to use the tools of the filmmaker to create filmic language and write visually. Students are also given an introduction to some of the professional aspects of screenwriting and available resources including the art of pitching stories and learning how the Writers Guild of America helps screenwriters.

The primary objective of Literary Publications is the production of the creative writing department’s annual online literary journal, the Interlochen Review. This is a collaborative enterprise that requires dedication, organization, flexibility, professionalism and teamwork. In addition to producing the Interlochen Review, students will be creating and presenting their own websites using Squarespace, a website builder; envisioning dream literary journals; researching publications and submitting writing to various journals and magazines; thoughtfully preparing questions for several Skype sessions with editors of literary journals; interviewing Visiting Writers, and helping to produce the Festival Chapbook.

This course is designed as an intense workshop for screenwriting students who are ready to work on projects of their choice. Having learned the basics, students are now expected to further develop their voices as screenwriters, create their own goals, and actively engage in analysis of professional screenplays. There is also further exploration of the professional aspects of being a screenwriter.

This course is designed to engage students possessing any background/interest in experimental writing, orienting that experimentation around a number of challenging questions for any artist. How do genre, form, and medium overlap and diverge? What constitutes a hybrid, what are the various effects of hybridity, and what do our answers to these two questions reveal about us? Do hybrids truly leave genre in the past—or do they actually invest us more deeply in its tangles? Is non-genre a possibility? Students will receive an introduction to aesthetic theory, those writers who, over the centuries, have treated the defining and ranking of the arts as a cultural and ideological battleground. In addition to deep, discussion-based engagement with texts that resist taxonomic impulses, we will track the transformation of Arnold Böcklin’s painting Isle of the Dead and Homer’s tale of Odysseus in the Underworld across a variety of treatments to discuss how media-specific affordances and limitations affect process and product. Assignments will include a live-film narration, a performance score in the style of the Fluxus artists, and an ekphrastic translation of a work of art in one medium into another, preferably of a campus performance or gallery showing. The open-guideline final project, workshopped, will encourage interdisciplinary collaboration with one another and with students in other departments.

This class offers a whirlwind tour of “fantastic” fiction as we explore a wide range of contemporary and classic short stories by “genre-twisters,” authors of literary fiction who appropriate elements of “genre” fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, ghost stories, horror, etc.), as well as those whose work is inspired by fables, myths and fairy tales. How and why these authors choose to interweave fantastic elements into their work, and the place of “fantastic” or “fabulist” fiction in contemporary literature will be a topic of investigation. We will discuss the role of storytellers in an increasingly fantastic postmodern culture, and examine the relationship between the “realistic” and “fabulist” veins of contemporary fiction. Student-created writing prompts and story start assignments will be given on a regular basis, and we will devote a portion of class time to sharing and discussing your own “genre-twisting” tales.

In this course, we’ll be exploring—and writing—the borderlands of poetry and poetics. In Experiments in Poetry, we’ll begin by expanding our definition of what we mean when we say ‘formal’ poetry. Forget the sonnet: we’ll be writing poems in the form of dictionaries, ransom notes, and letters meant for people who can’t write back. What forms can the poem take while still remaining a poem? How do we determine the shape a poem should take? In the second half of the course, we’ll discuss the beauty and obsession of the long poem and the poetic sequence. What makes a subject ideal for a sustained poetic experiment? How does a writer examine a single subject from so many angles? We’ll discuss these topics and others as we study poetic projects by writers like John Berryman, Lyn Hejinian, and Gabrielle Calvocoressi. From this base of knowledge, we’ll plan, build, and workshop your own poetic experiments.

Who says dissecting a joke can’t be funny? This course will focus on reading, generating, and occasionally performing contemporary humor pieces across multiple genres—including fiction, poetry, nonfiction, stand-up, spoken word, web series, podcast, and sketch. We will study a diverse range of humor writers—using their texts as structural/stylistic models for our own writing and performances. We will additionally examine students’ personal relationships to humor, as well as humor's cultural significance and sociopolitical impacts. Due to the sometimes transgressive nature of comedy, this course requires students to engage critically with material that may be considered controversial. Open to all, but ideal for students in Creative Writing, Interdisciplinary Arts, Theater, and Film & New Media. 

In this course, we'll discuss what features and strategies writers can use to create a strong foundation for their novel, whether it be ‘genre’ or literary fiction. The first month of this course will require the intensive generation of the first fifty pages of your novel; during class sessions, we’ll read and study the beginnings of a series of novels (and talk strategies with their authors via Skype Q&A). In addition, we’ll be practicing craft elements through in-class exercises that draw from the material of your novel. Topics to discuss include: what's the best way to invite readers into your world while also hinting at its complexities? What are good strategies for introducing your characters and their wants and needs? How do you plant the thematic seeds that will grow into a strong story? From there, we’ll move into writing a series of scenes meant to further flesh out our characters and our worlds. We’ll end by workshopping novel excerpts, with the intention of providing students with the tools, groundwork, and momentum for students to finish their novels on their own time.

This course explores writing and hybrid work across genres and media that is deeply embedded in place, incorporating and interrogating our connection to landscape and cityscape. Students will explore and discuss a diverse range of authors and artists whose work evokes place in a variety of genres, including fiction, nonfiction, immersion journalism, podcasts, hybrid work, and poetry with a particular emphasis on docupoetics and ecopoetics. Students will experiment with a variety of techniques and modes used to interweave and evoke the complex emotional resonances of the physical world, producing their own place-based texts and collaborative projects. For some of these assignments, students will also conduct fieldwork in various locations on or near campus. Authors/artists explored will include C.D. Wright, Garth Greenwell, Tyehimba Jess, Annie Dillard, Nicole Cooley, Patricia Smith, Louise Erdrich, and Jesmyn Ward.

In this course, students will read contemporary fiction and poetry written for a variety of audiences, from the avant-garde to the literary to writing for young adults, that take as their subject the retelling or the re-imagining of an existing narrative. How do we intelligently and inventively engage with a story that everyone knows? How can you transform familiar characters and settings in ways that surprise and emotionally engage with the reader? How can you engage with existing texts in ways that critique and transform them? Students will write three creative assignments over the course of the semester and will end with a final revised portfolio and artist’s statement.

This course will explore and interrogate the idea of “unreliability” — unreliable narrators, unreliable texts, and the slippery notions of “truth” and “honesty” in first-person narratives. What does it mean for a narrator to be unreliable? Why, when, and how do narrators deceive us? How might we, as writers, channel and utilize our own authorial unreliabilities? Drawing on works by Kazuo Ishiguro, Carmen Maria Machado, Tim O’Brien, Ottessa Moshfegh, David Foster Wallace, Joseph Mitchell, Janet Malcom, Hannah Arendt, and more, students in this course will write both fiction and nonfiction, thinking deeply and critically all the while about subjectivity, intention, voice, form, and the many challenges and opportunities of writing the self in this “post-truth” moment.

In this course students will become conversant in the rich, varied landscape of both traditional and new poetic forms. Every week we will explore a specific verse type or modal form (e.g. pantoum, ghazal, sonnet, burning haibun, villanelle, contrapuntal, golden shovel). We will work in and around various meters, in and with rhyme and other sonic/musical elements, as well as with the complexities of  “free verse.” In the end students should feel more confident of their craft, more flexible and alert to formal choices (especially those of repetition and variation), more attuned to the interesting frictions between sentence and line, and more aware of disequilibrium and stability in resolution. Students will submit a final portfolio of their formal experiments. 

Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and everything in between—this course will explore perhaps the wiliest, most inexhaustible subject in a writer’s reserves: the family. What exactly is a family? What sorts of impacts does the “family unit” have on its constituents, and on society at large? How much of personal identity is bound up in the familial? And how might we, as writers, effectively communicate the complexities of familial life on the page? Together, in pursuit of these questions, we will read Katherine Mansfield, Natalia Ginzburg, Dezső Kosztolányi, Jhumpa Lahiri, Maggie Nelson, Marilynne Robinson, Ocean Vuong, Justin Torres, and others. We will also experiment with multi-genre writing exercises along the way. 

In this course, students will explore the art of the chapbook. This course is designed for students with a growing body of poetry or other short, hybrid work (i.e. flash fiction, micro-essays) who are interested in publishing a small collection. Traditionally, chapbooks have been a way for writers to produce and distribute their work at low cost outside traditional avenues of publication. While this is still true today, the chapbook has also become a celebrated genre in its own right—especially at independent presses, and as a medium for alternative and emerging poets and publishers. In the first half of the semester, students will read and discuss several influential chapbooks in addition to exploring basic book arts (i.e anatomy, sequencing, graphic design, cover art, tools, binding). In the second half of the semester students will immerse themselves in the publishing process by conceptualizing, titling, sequencing, designing, printing, binding, and presenting a 12-32 page chapbook of original creative work.

We live in a world obsessed with “likable” characters—and yet, for better or worse, the antiheroine persists. To delve into this literary reality, we will read a wide range of fiction and nonfiction by Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, Clarice Lispector, Deborah Levy, Raven Leilani, Sheila Heti, Elif Batuman, Ottessa Moshfegh, Annie Ernaux, and Miranda July, all of whom have crafted female characters who disrupt conventional notions of gender and femininity and, in turn, call into question the very idea of “story” itself. Looking closely at literary techniques like voice, subjectivity, and characterization, we’ll think about how anti-heroines might enrich and expand narrative possibility—and we’ll get to work conjuring our own via frequent cross-genre writing assignments.

The goal of the Capstone is to provide an opportunity that caters to students wishing to complete projects that feature conceptual and formal dimensions that would make it difficult to complete in the normal workshop environment, which focuses on individual pieces (poems, stories, essays), not on book-length projects or shorter projects that require extensive research. The Capstone Project is open to any senior who has been enrolled for at least one year at Interlochen Arts Academy.

Curriculum Guidelines: Creative Writing Majors


  • Semester 1 - Elements of Poetry or Elements of Fiction, Writing Workshop
  • Semester 2 - Elements of Poetry or Elements of Fiction, Writing Workshop

Sample Academic Courses 
Algebra I; Biology; English I; French I


New Sophomores

  • Semester 1 - Elements of Poetry or Elements of Fiction, Writing Workshop
  • Semester 2 - Elements of Poetry or Elements of Fiction, Writing Workshop

2nd Year Sophomores

  • Semester 1 - Writing Workshop, one CW elective
  • Semester 2 - Writing Workshop, one CW elective 

Sample Academic Courses
Geometry; World History; English II; French II


New Juniors 

  • Semester 1 - Elements of Poetry or Elements of Fiction, Writing Workshop, one CW elective
  • Semester 2 - Elements of Poetry or Elements of Fiction, Writing Workshop, one CW elective

Returning Juniors

  • Semester 1 - Writing Workshop, two CW electives
  • Semester 2 - Writing Workshop, two CW electives

Sample Academic Courses
Algebra II; U.S. History; English III; Chemistry

Seniors and Postgrads

New Seniors & PG’s

  • Semester 1 - Elements of Poetry or Elements of Fiction, Writing Workshop, one to two CW electives
  • Semester 2 - Elements of Poetry or Elements of Fiction, Writing Workshop, one to two CW electives

Returning Seniors & PG’s

  • Semester 1 - Writing Workshop (option of Capstone project), two to three CW electives
  • Semester 2 - Writing Workshop (option of Capstone Project), two to three CW electives

Sample Academic Courses
Precalculus; Ecology; English IV