Reading Lists

The CWSO Board of Directors and its advisory group is eager to introduce scholars young and old to the field of creative writing studies. To this end, we compiled the following reading lists, all limited to five books each (okay, we bent the rules for one area) that represent excellent starting points for these topics in the field of creative writing studies. Each list has a short forward written by a creative writing studies scholar with expertise in each of the subfields: introduction to creative writinghistory of creative writingcreative writing pedagogydigital creative and writing; and diversity and inclusion. We expect and hope to see these lists change over time as the body of scholarship in the field of creative studies continues to grow and deepen.


Introduction to Creative Writing Studies
Forward forthcoming

  • Key Issues in Creative Writing, eds. Dianne Donnelly and Graeme Harper
  • Establishing Creative Writing as an Academic Discipline, Dianne Donnelly
  • What Our Speech Disrupts: Feminism and Creative Writing Studies, Katharine Haake

History of Creative Writing in Higher Education

Creative writing studies (CWS) is a “new” academic field, so much so that it probably was not even given a name until the first decade of the twenty-first century.Nonetheless, it grew out of creative writing (CW), which itself has been institutionally embedded within English studies, and thus it has roots that reach back at least into the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—and arguably even further than that.

D.G. Myers’s book has been regarded as the standard history of CW since its original publication in 1996. McGurl and Bennett, both literary scholars, examine CW’s relationships to literary culture and geopolitics, respectively. Mayers’s focus is institutional: i.e. on the relationship between CW and composition—that “other” kind of writing often housed within English departments.

Once interested readers have gotten some sense of creative writing’s institutional histories, they would be well advised to contextualize those histories within broader histories of English studies (here represented by Scholes’s book), as English departments are often the institutional home of both CW and CWS. CW—and the intellectual and pedagogical concerns that eventually led to CWS—can often be teased out from “between the lines” of disciplinary histories of English that mention creative writing only in passing, or sometimes not at all. – T. Mayers

  • The Elephants Teach: Creative Writing Since 1880, D.G. Myers
  • The Program Era: Post-war Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing, Mark McGurl
  • Workshops of Empire: Stegner, Engle, and American Creative Writing During the Cold War, Eric Bennett
  • (Re)Writing Craft: Composition, Creative Writing, and the Future of English Studies, Tim Mayers
  • Rise and Fall of English, Robert Scholes

Creative Writing Pedagogy

To deeply investigate creative writing pedagogy, you would want to read texts in these other categories as well. For example, Dianne Donnelly’s Does the Writing Workshop Still Work? and David Mura’s A Stranger’s Journey: Race, Identity, and Narrative Craft in Writing are both vital texts in the field. The five books in this list do offer a place to begin. Seminal texts in the field such as Released Into Language: Options for Teaching Creative Writing and Colors of a Different Horse: Rethinking Creative Writing Theory and Pedagogy are good entry points, while Can Creative Writing Really Be Taught?: Resisting Lore in Creative Writing Pedagogy (10th Anniversary Edition) offers readers a sense of the original groundbreaking work along with updates to reflect how pedagogical discussion has grown and shifted over the last decade. If you are interested in a guide to different pedagogies in the field, Creative Writing Pedagogies for the Twenty-First Century includes essays on rhetorical, process, and feminist pedagogies, among others. And Toward an Inclusive Creative Writing: Threshold Concepts to Guide the Literary Writing Curriculum is another excellent entry point since it synthesizes much of what has come before, while also pointing the field towards new approaches.

-R.H. Himmelheber     

  • Colors of a Different Horse: Rethinking Creative Writing Theory and Pedagogy, eds. Wendy Bishop and Hans Ostrom
  • Can Creative Writing Really Be Taught?: Resisting Lore in Creative Writing Pedagogy (10th Anniversary Edition), eds. Stephanie Vanderslice, Rebecca Manery
  • Power and Identity in the Creative Writing Classroom: The Authority Project, ed. Anna Leahy
  • Creative Writing Pedagogies for the Twenty-First Century, eds. Alexandria Peary and Tom C. Hunley
  • Toward an Inclusive Creative Writing: Threshold Concepts to Guide the Literary Writing Curriculum, Janelle Adsit

Digital Creative Writing

It’s fair to say that creative writing in the academy historically has been resistant to engaging with types of texts other than print literature and that the creative workshop’s default assumption has been that creative writing instructors were training the next generation of literary writers. To a large extent we might even say this has been true, but as the years have rolled on, newer generations of writers often have less interest in print publishing and increasingly come to creative writing classes to learn about language and elements of craft that they can employ in the media of their choice. Creative writing lags behind our adjacent fields of writing studies of composition/rhetoric and professional writing when it comes scholarship addressing the use of digital tools, social media, and media production as a means for writers to express themselves, but this too might be changing. The number of panels on digital writing have steadily increased at both AWP and the Creative Writing Studies Conference and the books below all promote creative writing as an interdisciplinary, if not transdisciplinary, enterprise that benefits greatly when we draw from a variety of sources for our inspiration, and explore creative output across many different forms of media. My hope is that this list will soon be able to replace some of the older books predicting a turn toward media and the digital with those that are describing writer/educators’ adventures and experiments in having already done so. – T. Hergenrader 

  • Composition, Creative Writing Studies, and the Digital Humanities, Adam Koehler
  • Creative Writing in the Digital Age: Theory, Practice, and Pedagogy, eds. Michael D. Clark, Trent Hergenrader, and Joe Rein
  • Creativity Market: Creative Writing in the 21st Century, Dominique Hecq
  • Reforming Creative Writing Pedagogy: History as Knowledge, Knowledge as Activitism, Joe Amato and Kass Fleisher [online]
  • Creative Writing and the New Humanities, Paul Dawson

Diversity and Inclusion in Creative Writing

Texts in this section explicitly address race, ability, culture, class, language, and gender/sexuality difference from an intersectional perspective, charting how inequities are reinforced in the classroom and in literatures that creative writers produce. Several of the books in this list are edited anthologies; many of the contributors to these anthologies have written online essays on diversity, equity, and inclusion in creative writing that can allow for further reading in this topic. – J. Adsit

  • A Stranger’s Journey: Race, Identity, and Narrative Craft in Writing, David Mura
  • The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind, eds. Claudia Rankine, Beth Loffreda, and Max King Cap
  • How Dare We! Write: A Multicultural Creative Writing Discourse, ed. Sherry Quan Lee
  • Critical Creative Writing: Essential Readings on the Writer’s Craft, ed. Janelle Adsit
  • Borrowed Power: Essays on Cultural Appropriation, ed. Bruce Ziff
  • Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, eds. Jennifer Bartlett, Sheila Black, and Michael Northen
  • Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics, eds. TC Tolbert and Trace Peterson