Creative Writing at Pitt

Hello! I am a high school senior looking to apply to Pitt, specifically to their creative writing program. If anyone has any insight to the program such as how many students there are in the major or what the classes/professors are like, that would be greatly appreciated. I am also considering nearby Carnegie Mellon, so information on how the programs measure up to each other would also be very helpful as i decide where to apply and hopefully enroll!

Additionally, I hope to be accepted into the honors college, so any insight to that would also be helpful. Anything from what the housing is like to the rigor of honors courses would be great.

Pitt, while an excellent college, is not well known for its creative writing programs, on the other hand, CMU is better regarded in creative writing. The best list of top creative writing programs, in my opinion, is that of the Adroit Journal:

Good luck!

Hi OP–

CW is a wonderful career but you may need to plan for your apprenticeship period. Graduating with a CW degree is great but because you will need to practice your craft, and everyone needds to practice their craft in order to develop VOICE, you may need 5-10 years more time before you publish well enough to support yourself. In a nutshell, you may want to “plan for your apprenticeship job” – more on that is linked below. I answered at length to other parents and students interested in CW.

VOICE is what subject ignites your passion, and the sound of your writing on the page, the individual voices of your characters, and the genre you write in, all of those things. Gore Vidal said “Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say and not giving a damn.” That’s voice. The only way to get VOICE is to keep writing, every day, for at least an hour. Starting today, strongly suggested. Because the earlier you plant the tree, the sooner it will bear fruit.

To my mind what to look for for CW in a school is whether they offer screenwriting as one of their classes. Screenwriting craft helps novelists while novel-writing craft tends to help screenwriters far less. Screenwriting is all about structure, whereas novel-writing classes as taught in academia tend to be free-form and offer little info about structure. Why? Because most fiction writing in academia is biased towards literary writing. In contrast, most published work and most sold work is genre–children’s, horror, romance, mystery–and all of the sub-genres. Academic programs, with rare exception, ignore genre. I do not know why. Screenwriting will teach you: 1) structure, 2) dialogue and how not to “write on the nose”; 3) genre as virtually all films are in some genre or another; 4) and how to write in images. All of those lessons are vital for CW. But few of those things are taught in other CW classes. So at least pick up a screenwriting course at college or outside of college, someplace. Or do it at home with books and videos.

Don’t trust the lists of “best creative writing programs” as the people compiling the lists have no idea what CW skills are required. CW is an apprenticeship so best to look at the faculty and what they are writing. Do yo love Neil Gaiman? Then go to Bard because he teaches there. That’s the basic idea.

There’s more in the following thread. Also that thread has another link with additional info.

Best of luck to you.

The list I linked was compiled by [Peter Laberge](Masthead: Editor-in-Chief | The Adroit Journal - The Adroit Journal), the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Adroit Journal, and a well known creative writer, publisher, and editor. So I would consider that he has at least SOME idea what CW skills are needed, wouldn’t you think?

There is a difference between being skeptical of something with which you have some familiarity, and being dismissive of something at which you haven’t even looked.

Yes everyone has an opinion, and these days, a blog or a list. IMO, any list that doesn’t have Iowa at or near the top of creative writing programs is highly suspect.

Here’s a list that has Pitt as #1 in Pennsylvania, ahead of Penn and CMU:
…and Niche has Pitt among the top 25 for creative writing (the link appears not to post)…and Pitt is 35th in US News for English

The primary take away, don’t rely on lists and rankings to make a decision on a school or a program.

The truth is Pitt has a very well regarded Creative Writing program with many outstanding alumni, including Pulitzer winner Michael Chabon, NY Times best seller Rebecca Skloot, award winning fantasy novelist Peter Beagle, and national poetry book awarding winners Gerald Stern and Terrance Hayes. It is one of the premier programs for Creative Non-fiction and is also especially strong in poetry. Make a decision after investigating the programs and talking to people in the programs.