Creative Writing

The Department of English offers several creative writing courses for qualified students. This information can also be found in the department’s Creative Writing Information Sheet (PDF). Please note that all creative writing courses may count toward all ENGL Plans, but students do not have to be registered in an ENGL Plan to take these courses.


Armand Garnet Ruffo
Armand Garnet Ruffo (Photo courtesy of Pearl Pirie)

Armand Garnet Ruffo is the author of a creative/poetic biography Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing Into Thunderbird (Douglas & McIntyre, 2014), At Geronimo’s Grave (Coteau Books, 2001), winner of the Archibald Lampman Award for Poetry, Grey Owl: The Mystery of Archie Belaney (Coteau Books, 1997), and Opening In The Sky (Theytus Books, 1994). In 2010, his feature film A Windigo Tale, which he wrote and directed, won Best Picture at the 35th American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco, among other awards. His work has appeared in numerous anthologies and journals, including Literature: A Pocket Anthology (Penguin Academics 2008), The Best Canadian Poetry (Tightrope Books, 2010), An Anthology of Native Canadian Literature in English (Oxford U Press, 2013), and Poetry Ireland Review (2014).

Armand Garnet Ruffo offers the following comments about his teaching:

My goal is to provide a safe environment, where students feel comfortable sharing their work. My objective is to guide students through a “toolbox” of techniques, which will invariably make for better writing. For this reason I have students analyze the poetry of established poets to understand the technical devices open to them, while they are concurrently writing their own poetry. Because I believe that one learns to write by writing, I assign weekly writing exercises in which the students employ the techniques discussed in class. In this way students will go through the workshop process. As facilitator, I contribute my own constructive feedback, while encouraging participants to do the same in an informed and respectful manner. As for what exactly students write about, I encourage students to stamp their writing with their own interests, experiences and personality.

Carolyn Smart
Carolyn Smart

Carolyn Smart’s publications include Hooked: Seven Poems (Brick Books, 2009), At the End of the Day (Penumbra Press, 2001), The Way to Come Home (Brick Books, 1993), Stoning the Moon (Oberon, 1989), Power Sources (Fiddlehead, 1984), Swimmers in Oblivion (York Publishing, 1983), as well as poems and essays in over 150 magazines in Canada, the US, Britain, India, and Australia. She has given public readings across Canada and the US, and has made radio and television appearances. She is one of four poets profiled in That’s Why I’m Talking (dir. Chris Whynot).

Carolyn Smart offers the following comments about her teaching:

My approach to teaching is both simple and evolving: to provide an encouraging and challenging environment within which a student’s creative talents may be fostered. I tend not to dominate a class; rather, my approach is one of (mostly) quiet enthusiasm whilst keeping a close eye on possible negative or destructive influences.

I encourage and expect students to read broadly and write as often as possible both from a directed standpoint in terms of genre and form, as well as freely chosen creative explorations. I discourage self-censorship and promote individuality and originality. My aim is for a group that relishes intense and productive discussion which leads to fine individual writing. I do whatever is necessary to support an emerging talent. Yet I do not shirk from pointing out weakness in terms of derivative, mannered or insubstantial work: only the truth can help a young writer advance, both technically and emotionally.

Enrolling in CWRI Courses

All creative writing courses are limited-enrolment courses for which students may not pre-register. Admission is by permission of the instructor, based on his or her assessment of students’ writing samples.

CWRI 293, 295 (online and in-person), and 296: Submission materials should include either a recently-completed short story or non-rhyming poem depending upon which courses you are applying for, and your student number, and should be e-mailed as an MS Word attachment to Carolyn Smart. Because competition for these courses is fierce, the student is encouraged to submit their very best work, exhibiting a marked degree of polish and an attempt at logical, creative control of the material. Sloppy, incomplete writing and clichés are frowned upon. Early submission is encouraged. Successful applicants will be notified by the instructor.

CWRI 294: To gain entry into this workshop, applicants are asked to submit a portfolio that includes eight to ten poems of varying lengths, which indicate your talent for writing poetry. The portfolio should also include a brief biographical note, mentioning the poets whom you enjoy reading and any other relevant information pertaining to your writing (publication, other workshops, readings you have attended, etc). The instructor will examine the submissions and select those students who are ready to take this course.

Submission material should be emailed as an MS Word document to Carolyn Smart. Please include a cover with your name, Queen's student number, email address (the one you check regularly), and telephone number. The deadline for submission is 1 June 2015. Students are strongly advised to make an alternative course selection, as there are often more applicants than space in the course. If there are any questions about the course, students can email me at the above address.

Courses Offered

CWRI 293/3.0 Creative Writing in Prose

An intensive workshop course focusing on the writing and editing of short fiction. Students attempt several approaches to the writing of short fiction and complete the course with a formal submission for publication in a magazine. There are in-class discussions on editing and publishing. By the end of the term, students will be able to bring more sharply refined skills to the reading of their work, and edit themselves with a more clearly intuitive, finely practiced eye. They will have an intimate look at contemporary Canadian writers and writing, learned first hand through interaction with their instructor, an award-winning professional writer, as well as through public readings and personal interaction with authors visiting the class.

Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor, based on writing samples.

CWRI 294/3.0 Creative Writing in Poetry

An intensive workshop course focusing on the writing and editing of poetry. Students attempt several forms of poetry and complete the course with a formal submission for publication in a magazine. There are in-class discussions of editing, publishing, and ongoing practice of public performance as all the poems are read aloud by the authors to the class. Several Canadian poets will visit the class during the term for workshopping and public readings. This course is offered every second year, alternating with CWRI 296.

Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor, based on writing samples.

CWRI 295/3.0 Creative Writing I

A practical creative writing workshop, concentrating on short fiction and poetry. Students may concentrate on short fiction or poetry all term, or they may choose to alternate between the two genres in the writing workshops and assignments. Part of the final assignment will be a submission to a literary magazine.

Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor, based on writing samples of either a short story or a non-rhyming poem.

CWRI 295/3.0 Creative Writing I (Online)

An online introduction to the art of composing fiction and poetry. Students submit independent creative work to the instructor and to their classmates for feedback and read and respond to their classmates’ writing. All writings and course materials are shared electronically via website and email. The course is designed to help students write regularly and to enjoy writing. By sharing work in progress, students learn from and support one another and develop critical judgment. They also practice computer and internet skills and become comfortable working online.

Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor, based on writing samples.

CWRI 296/3.0 Creative Writing II

This course is offered every second year (alternating with CWRI 294) and is structured entirely around the creative writing workshop. The concentration is on short fiction and poetry, though memoir and creative non-fiction are options. There is intensive focus on publication and editing in a class-produced anthology, launched at the end of term with a public reading.

Prerequisite: One or more of CWRI 293, 294 and 295, plus permission of the instructor.