Department of English

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

A group of people seated around a table with notebooks and text books.

Creative Writing

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 faculty members who specialize in poetry, short stories, novels, screenwriting, 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.

Program Requirements:

Advising Contacts

Program OverviewApply NowCourse DescriptionOakland Arts Review


The OU Creative Writing Program 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.

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 create opportunities for students to work closely with professors and peers building a vibrant community of writers and artists. Majors are also required to take courses in other genres (this can include courses in play-writing,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.

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.

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.


Jeff Chapman, Fiction and Comics
Jeff is Associate Professor of 
English and Creative Writing and the director of the Creative Writing Program. 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.

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 advisor
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 Hartsock, Poetry (
Katie is an Associate 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 Markus, Fiction
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, Memoir and Essay
Susan is Associate 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 PfeifferMemoir and Essay (
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, Bateau, 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 contradictions of feminism and stepmotherhood. 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, 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 Powell, Poetry (
Alison is Associate 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 Associate 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.

Creative Writing Internships
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 Internship list, but they still must fill out the paperwork in the semester before the anticipated internship to receive credit.

Please email Professor Annie Gilson for forms and information about an internship for credit.

Student Intern Testimonials

Baldwin Center

“I went in to this internship hoping to make a difference in a few kids’ lives, but I didn’t realize how much they would make a difference in mine—both personally and professionally. Before my internship, I had never taught in a group setting before; today, I am a graduate assistant in my Masters program, teaching writing and rhetoric to college freshman. Leading workshops at the Baldwin Center helped prepare me for this. On a more personal level, the kids enriched my life by sharing their thoughts, poems, and stories. I will always look back fondly on my year at Baldwin.”
— Megan Jones

“My time at the Baldwin center was essential for my growth as a writer. I met students who had so much to say without a way to say it, and working with them helped me figure out why I loved poetry so much. When you see disenfranchised students pour their emotions out on the page, you see yourself in each and every word. I realized during teaching at the Baldwin Center that writing poetry was never for me, but for them."
— Robert Laidler

Common Ground

“My internship at Common Ground was transformative. I put craft and theory from coursework into practice, and I developed my own creative pedagogy. I journeyed with my students toward acceptance: of ourselves and each other, our brains and our stories. By encouraging people to wholly express who they are, I started to create in ways I never had. OU gives so many opportunities to its writers, and appreciates your and others’ singular abilities to make connections—classroom-community, pen-paper, present-future.”
— Paige Lalain

Student-Led Creative Writing Workshops at the Thumb Correctional Facility

“I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that my experience with this internship was life-changing, not only in terms of growing my teaching and writing skills, but the mutual respect shown between the inmates and us students gave me a ton of confidence in myself. My public speaking skills grew rapidly. I can’t stress enough how emotionally impactful, and rewarding, the whole experience was. This was the only internship I’ve done during my time at OU that truly felt like a journey, and one I wish didn’t have to end so soon.”
— Nate Zachar

Detroit Zoo Internship Program and OU/Inside Out/Zoo Literary Partnership

"Interacting with such skilled young poets honed my communication skills and gave me an opportunity to not only share my love for the craft but also emphasized the importance of a free and open exchange of ideas through which art and society can grow and thrive. I believe that the program helped to further not only the students' confidence in their writing capabilities but my own as well. This internship provided a unique experience that forced me to truly consider the connections between us, our community, and the environment."
— Marissa Casolari

“As a writer, I realized through the Detroit Zoo/Inside Out/OU program that I still censor my writing to some extent when presenting my work in public. From a professional/mentor standpoint, the program showed to me that I must become a better listener, and motivator, and not try to relate my experiences to individuals who have lived far different lives than my own. You must listen first before you can even begin to teach, and you must give an effort to think outside of yourself."
— Nick Marinelli

OU Pen America Fellows and OU Immigration Allies

“I did not know what to expect when joining OU PEN America, but I ended up learning so much from the experience. It allowed me to write about issues and topics I do not often get to discuss as a chemistry major, as well as form many collaborations with other students. Additionally, it provided an enriching connection to the Hispanic community of Southeast Detroit that has helped to shaped my views on local issues."
— Nicholas Garza
Student Engagement

Keep up with current events such as readings and contests by liking the program on our Creative Writing Department Facebook page. Please also consider applying for one or all of the scholarships that Creative Writing offers:

Creative Writing Scholarships

  • Carpenter Scholarship in Poetry
  • Iodice Scholarship for Creative Writing majors
  • McCloskey Scholarship in Creative Nonfiction

You can find out more by visiting Oakland University Scholarships.

Opportunities for Engagement

OU Creative Writing Club
The vibrant OU Creative Writing Club, advised by Prof. Kathy Pfeiffer, gives our students a weekly meeting place to discuss their work, the work of writers who inspire them, and to share ideas that can help strengthen the program. Check out our website or join us on the Creative Writing Club Facebook page.

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. 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 Professor Susan McCarty. Students interested in working on the journal should complete the Intern and Volunteer Form and submit to Contact Susan McCarty to request the Intern and Volunteer Form.

Submit materials for publication to the Oakland Arts Reviews.

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-garde to traditional. We regularly host round-tables 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 and information is available on The Creative Writing Facebook page.

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.

Department Awards and Contests

Four contests run yearly:

  • OU Flash Fiction Contest: Two separate contests, one open to current undergrads, and one to everyone who is not an undergrad
  • OU Literary Non-fiction Contest: Open to undergrads, faculty, staff, and alumni
  • OU Ekphrasis Poetry Contest: Two separate contests, one open to current undergrads, one to everyone who is not an undergrad
  • OU Screenplay Award: Open to undergrads

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.

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.