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Honors Guidelines for the Creative Writing Major

Effective Spring 2010

Students who are completing the advanced year-long Theory and Practice sequence in their major genre (poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction), and who have kept up with their other Creative Writing Major requirements, may apply to work toward honors during their senior year. The final project is a significant creative writing, creative media, or literary translation work, sustained over two quarters of 399 Independent Study, one in fall, the other in winter quarter.

During these two quarters, admitted students have the opportunity to work one-on-one with a faculty mentor and to engage more deeply with their forms and materials as they complete an ambitious original undertaking, which may be submitted for departmental honors.

The application form is available here. Applications will close on April 29th, 2024 at 11:59pm.

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In the spring of junior year, eligible Creative Writing Majors may apply for the opportunity to spend two quarters of senior year immersed in a challenging writing project of their own design. Students must apply to and be accepted into the first term of independent study, and at its close be approved by the committee for further work on the project in the winter (a second independent study).

The application form is available here. Applications will close on April 29th, 2024 at 11:59pm.

Students who are completing the year-long sequence in one genre may apply to do a manuscript project in that same genre, in a different genre, or in a mix of genres, particularly if they submit, as part of the application, work which crosses genres.

Students will choose their best work, indicate the genre in which they wish to work, and provide a preliminary list of writers and artists for further study. No extended description or “plan” is needed.

Eligibility Requirements

  • a 3.5 minimum GPA in English department course work
  • a demonstrated potential to produce a finished creative manuscript worthy of honors consideration
  • the demonstrated seriousness, dedication, and discipline necessary to complete an ambitious and sustained creative project

Project Requirements

The final project must be a finished, polished manuscript of original creative work complete unto itself. The final manuscript may be new work or a combination of new work and revised work from the year-long sequence or other courses. The coherence and arrangement of the whole manuscript will be evaluated in addition to the merit of its individual parts. The manuscript’s actual accomplishments will be considered both independent of and in relation to its ambitions.

Finished manuscripts must comply with the following guidelines:


One long poem or coherent group of two or more poems totaling 15-20 pages of verse, 1.5-spaced.


One piece or a coherent group of two or more pieces, totaling 30-60 pages, double-spaced.

Creative Nonfiction

One piece or a coherent group of two or more pieces, totaling 30-60 pages, double-spaced.


Students with knowledge of another language may propose a project in translating poems, fiction, or creative nonfiction. Final manuscript length may depend on genre, but for poetry should comprise approximately 15-20 pages (space-and-a-half, as above), and for prose, approximately 30-60 pages (double-spaced) of finished prose translation.

Cross-genre Work

Students who want to pursue a project that straddles two or more genres or to produce a media work should be able to show work in the proposed mode. Video Essays should fall between 3 and 5 minutes. The final script should be submitted along with a disc.

Faculty Assignments

Owing to the limited number of Creative Writing faculty, and the need to limit each faculty member's total of 399s, students will be assigned to a particular faculty advisor. Students may be working with the faculty member for the first time. Every effort is made to match students with the best advisors for their work.

Fall Quarter 399

During the first 399 Independent Study, students meet on a regular basis with their assigned faculty mentor. Students are expected to show consistent progress in writing or revision throughout the quarter, as well as evidence of continued outside reading, when pertinent. The kind and amount of outside reading is decided between the faculty member and the student.

Fall Review

Complete first drafts are due on the last day of fall quarter classes for Weinberg College. A committee of readers will read and report on the project by the last day of reading week. Each faculty reader writes a considered evaluation of the student work, including its completeness as a draft. The Creative Writing Director will excerpt these evaluations for the students and convey the committee’s decision about continued work in the second 399.

Discontinued students will not enroll in the winter quarter 399. They will still receive a final grade and (if passing) a credit for the fall quarter, but they will no longer be eligible for honors.

If the committee believes the project, while incomplete, is within hailing distance of completion, in some cases students are given the opportunity to enter probation over winter break while they revise and supplement the project. These revised projects must be turned in to the program assistant by noon of the first day of classes for winter quarter. By the end of the fourth day of classes (24 hours before the end of Add Week), the committee will advise the student of their continuation.


399 grades will be assigned by each individual faculty advisor, with the approval of the committee of readers. The grade of A- is for students who have matured considerably as writers, who have developed real subtlety as readers and critics, and who are writing superior original creative work. The grade of A will be given only to students whose work is genuinely first-rate in all of these categories. A final grade below A- in either quarter will make the student ineligible for honors consideration. A grade of A- does not guarantee honors nomination.

Final Project Deadline

The final project manuscript of the second term is due to the program assistant in the English office on the last day of WCAS classes in winter quarter, no later than 4 p.m. The student attaches a 400-600 word Project Rationale Letter which gives the history and scope of their submitted project; describes the readings, any research, and what use was made of them; and which defends the manuscript's accomplishments. This letter must be attached at the back of the final manuscript.

Conferral of Honors

Honors consideration is not automatic. A student’s final manuscript must be supported for honors nomination by their faculty advisor. If the advisor cannot support the manuscript, then the advisor so informs the Director of the program and the student, and the process, for this student, ends there. Honors consideration is not possible without the support of the student’s faculty advisor.

The committee of readers make a determination about the suitability of the project for honors. The committee’s decisions are final. Nominations are forwarded to the College's Committee on Superior Students and Honors, which makes the final honors determination.

Honors Nominations Committee Process:

  • As in the fall, each student manuscript proposed for honors consideration will be read by the student’s instructor and two other committee faculty.
  • Each proposed manuscript will be distributed to the assigned committee readers accompanied by the student’s descriptive letter and a letter from the faculty advisor describing and evaluating the project. These letters are attached at the back of the manuscript.
  • After carefully considering the proposed manuscript, each reader will prepare an independent and substantive judgment of the student’s work.
  • If all faculty readers agree about honors, the Director so informs the student. If the vote is not unanimous, additional faculty may be brought in as readers.
  • Approved nominations will be forwarded to the CSSH for final review, accompanied by a more detailed letter written by the sponsoring faculty advisor, which argues the merits of the manuscript for departmental honors.

Students with first-rate projects but weaker academic records must be argued for with particular force. (It is assumed that weak or incomplete projects will not have been approved for the second term of honors work, and thus would no longer be eligible.)

The Director of the Creative Writing Major will inform each proposed student, in writing, of the committee’s decision. Students nominated to the College Committee on Superior Students will be notified of the CCSS’s decision in late May, when the College makes its final determinations of honors.

Student Appeals and Recourse

If a student believes that their 399 faculty advisor is not providing proper supervision, the student should discuss the situation with the Creative Writing Director. If the student prefers, they may instead discuss the situation with any other Writing Major faculty, who will then discuss the situation with the Director to seek a solution. In every case, a student should feel welcome to discuss a difficult situation with a Creative Writing faculty member of their choosing.

Important Dates in the Honors Program

Spring Quarter - Junior Year

Application to the honors program due.

Following notification, the student arranges to meet with the instructor. They meet as often as needed, during the final weeks of spring term, to plan for the months ahead--including the summer months when reading and drafting begin.


Depending on the decision reached by each student-instructor pair, progress is often made before fall begins.

Fall Quarter

First two weeks of classes: students again arrange to meet with faculty advisor.

Last day of Weinberg classes: students provide program assistant with complete draft of honors work.

Exam week: Students given results of the evaluation by committee of the instructor and two readers.

Winter Quarter

Last day of Weinberg classes: students submit completed, polished final projects and their Project Rationale Letter.

Students notified of committee decision in the early days of spring quarter.

English 399 is a full credit course. The course cannot be substituted for any Creative Writing Major or Minor requirements.  It cannot be taken P/N. Students who want to take an independent study with a creative writing professor should submit a proposal to both the Director of Creative Writing and the Director of Undergraduate Studies. When the proposal is approved, a permission number for English 399 can be obtained from Ashley Woods.