Books that Cook
Professor of English Jennifer Cognard-Black's new book, Books that Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal, is being published by NYU Press this August.

Program Information

Ben Click, Chair
Professor of English

Office staff: 240-895-4225

Alumni—where are they now?

Monica Powell

Monica Powell (class of 2011) graduated with an English major and a WGSX minor. She currently lives in Washington DC, where she works in theatre education with the Young Playwright's Theatre and the Shakespeare Theatre Company.


Student Spotlight

Maria Smaldone

Maria Smalldone finds doors opening for her in Oxford, while studying at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

Creative Writing Courses

Although all English courses at St. Mary’s emphasize writing skills, there are specific courses that strive to develop creative writing specifically. These courses are Intro to Creative Writing (ENGL 270); Topics in Writing (ENGL 395) including Advanced FictionAdvanced Poetry, Creative Non-Fiction, Feature Writing, and the Nature-Writing Workshop; and the Advanced Writing Seminar (ENGL 495), which has seen past topics such as Advanced Workshop in Poetry: Writing the Poetic Sequence and The Novella. ENGL 270 is a prerequisite for each of the advanced courses. ENGL 495 requires a 300-level literature course and ENGL 304, Methods of Literary Study, as prerequisites in addition to Intro to Creative Writing. Creative writing is often incorporated into other English courses along with critical writing components, such as Environmental Literature, Woman Word, and Cultural Journalism. Although the advanced courses share the same course codes, it is possible to take all the topics that are offered, as well as repeat a course with a different professor. Karen Leona Anderson, Kate Chandler, Jennifer Cognard-Black, Jeffrey Coleman, Jerry Gabriel, and Jeff Hammond are the professors who often teach these courses in their proper speciality. It is also possible to devise an Independent Study (ENGL 199, 299, 399, and 499) with any of the professors mentioned above that includes a creative writing component.

Finally, as a culmination to your English studies at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, it is possible to complete a St. Mary's Project during your final year. The English SMP can be either a creative or a critical project, or a combination of the two. Fulfilling a creative SMP requires the completion of a body of work of either fiction, non-fiction, or poetry, based on an intensive year of research, reading, and writing. These projects are completed with an English Professor who specializes in your chosen genre as a mentor.

To celebrate the writing life of seniors before graduation, those who have chosen to finish the SMP, either critical or creative, present their project in front other college community.

Below are the class descriptions for creative writing classes at St. Mary’s. All this information, as well as the schedule of classes, can also be found on the English department webpage.


ENGL 270. Creative Writing (4E) This course will consider the nature of the creative process, introduce a variety of approaches to creative writing, and help students discover and develop their own imaginative and analytical resources for telling, through fiction and poetry, the stories they have to tell. This course satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in the Arts. Prerequisite: ENGL 102, CORE 101, NITZ 180, or CORE 301.


ENGL 395. Advanced Topics in Writing (4E) Designed to help students deepen their understanding of writing and develop distinctive writing voices, this course will enable students to explore the types of writing in which they are particularly interested. Various offerings of this course will help students develop skills in scholarly and expository writing, journalism, cultural journalism, fiction, poetry, nonfiction prose, autobiographical writing. Prerequisite: one 200-level writing course or the permission of the instructor.

Advanced Fiction is an advanced course in the theory, practice, and reading of fiction. We’ll read a lot of (mainly) short fiction—both published work and our own exercises and short stories—for all the reasons people usually read: to be entertained, to be surprised or inspired, to learn about the world, to participate in our own print culture. But as writers of fiction, we will also be reading with one eye always peaking under the hood, attempting to glean what we can, to understood how and why an author employed a particular technique or device—and to what effect. Nobody, the truism goes, can teach you how to write: writers learn for themselves how to do it—from example (reading good work), from experiment and practice, and from feedback (listening to and responding to the comments of others). So, in a nutshell, those are things that will happen in this class.

Advanced Poetry The primary purpose of this course is to enhance the gifts you already possess with respect to creating and expressing poetry. Our class will be guided by the fact that most successful poets read poetry and prose, write on a regular and disciplined basis, keep notebooks for jotting down ideas or comments about poetry, observe the social nuances of the world around them, and share drafts with fellow writers. You, too, will cultivate these time-honored habits, in part by submitting and workshopping poetry on a weekly basis. In doing so, you will become part of the informal community of active poets: students of life who relay their knowledge and experiences through carefully crafted lines and stanzas. In this intensive writing workshop you will learn to create, refine, and critique more constructively and deepen your relationship to the creative process. The majority of class time will be spent discussing assigned readings and writings and experimenting with creative and imaginative techniques.

Creative Non-Fiction, a relatively new and increasingly popular prose genre, is (as the name suggests) both “creative” and “nonfictive.” At root, creative nonfiction involves an imaginative engagement with the real. That is, it combines the shaping presence of the imagination with a deep and honest exploration of factuality. The imaginative element demands a strong and consistent point of view, which is why most creative nonfiction is autobiographical in mode. But in its factual dimension, creative nonfiction goes beyond memoir and autobiography in order to make a point, convey information, and/or deliver an insight.

Feature Writing The focus of this course will be on writing human interest or feature stories of the kind that would appear in a newspaper or magazine. By the end of the course, you will be able to identify interesting human interest stories, conduct fruitful interviews with strangers, research subjects, organize your material in effective ways, write compelling titles and leads, and conclude your essays in such a way that your readers will leave feeling they have learned something of significance. Because the course duplicates material that was taught in the English 201: Advanced Composition that Robin Bates taught in fall 2009, it is not open to students who took that course.

Nature-Writing Workshop This course will provide an opportunity to develop and refine writing skills.  You will have four months to immerse yourself in writing, reviewing, and reading what is re-emerging as an important and popular literary prose genre in America—the nature essay. While we will turn to books and essays as models for content, form, and style, this is a writing course; that means that you will write or rewrite for every class meeting.  Writing will be our primary activity and the focus of our discussions.  Since this is a workshop, you will also be expected to comment constructively aloud and in writing on each other’s pieces.  And, since writing about the natural world must be based on your experience, past and continuing, you will keep a field journal of nature observations, working to discover the value of your own perceptions through writing


These courses are usually conducted as seminars with students and professors sharing the responsibility to prepare and present materials. These courses will build on the knowledge and skills acquired in 300-level courses, allowing students to read widely and deeply in a more specialized area of study and to write using more sophisticated research and theoretical techniques. Students may be asked to turn their attention to a highly focused topic, such as the study of an individual author or a particular decade; or they may be asked to broaden their approach and concentrate on a theme, genre, or idea as it is manifested in several historical periods or across national boundaries. The writing projects will generally involve considerable research outside of the texts read in class. Prerequisites for all 400-level courses: ENGL 270, ENGL 304, and one 300-level literature course or the permission of the instructor. These courses may be repeated for credit if the topic or focus changes significantly.

ENGL 495: Advanced Workshop in Poetry:Writing the Poetic Sequence Do you love writing poetry but wonder how to go beyond writing the single, stand-alone poem? In this class, our main task will be to write a longer collection of interconnected poems. We’ll talk about how to come up with an idea for a sequence and how to sustain interest in it over the long haul. And we’ll also explore how to structure the poetic sequence—we’ll read and write groups of poems that “talk back” to other visual artists, musicians, and writers; poems based on travel experiences; poems written in a set form (such as the sonnet); and poems that respond to an important moment in personal or public history. (We will very likely do a collaborative project with Colby Caldwell’s Photobook class as a way to think about responding to visual arts.)

ENGL 495: The Novella In this course, we will examine what makes a novella tick. We’ll spend some time talking about what a novella even is—and how it’s different from the novel and short story. To this end, we’ll read a number of exemplary novellas, a provisional list of which includes William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow, Earnest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez’s No One Writes to the Colonel, James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice, Andrea Barrett’s Ship Fever, Tim Krabbe’s The Rider, Katherine Ann Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider, Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain, Richard Bausch’sPeace, Christine Schutt's Florida, and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. We’ll also of course write our own novellas; along the way, we’ll do exercises that will help in this endeavor. And, through regular workshops, we will provide one another with useful feedback on our works-in-progress.