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Rapid Growth in Creative Writing Courses in the US

22 July 2002

When the University of Iowa set up the first, rather controversial, American creative writing programme in 1936, no-one would have guessed what was in store. There are now 99 such programmes available in American colleges and no less than 330 universities offer creative writing degrees, nearly double the number of a decade ago. The best courses are also difficult to get into: Iowa estimated that it had almost 700 applicants for only 20 places.

Many of these students are hoping to become writers when they graduate, although no-one appears to claim that, in order to become a writer, you need to study creative writing. Many of the students appear to enjoy the courses and, whether or not you eventually become a published writer, 'you'll learn a lot about language and people... This knowledge will be helpful to our graduates in whatever occupation they choose' says Mike Magnuson of Southern Illinois University.

This surge in creative writing has been mirrored elsewhere in the world, although not yet on anything like the American level. But the demand is probably there, as many writers do feel they benefit from working with other writers to improve their craft in a more structured academic environment. Stephanie Kuehner, studying at Columbia, said: 'It's good to have other writers around to discuss your work with. I've had my writing improve by leaps and bounds. It's invigorating to hear other people's ideas. It's helped me find my best voice.'