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Writing at Smith...?

rosemishrosemish Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
edited November 2011 in Women's Colleges
I've always wanted to go to a women's college (I'm a feminist, queer, love the history/traditions/community etc.) and Smith is my absolute favorite school, but I'm a writer and concerned about the support for writing at Smith because they don't have a creative writing concentration or minor and the offerings are slim. The English major looks wonderful other than that, though. Writing is definitely my deal and I'd like to go to grad school for it, too, so: any Smith writers out there / anyone know if Smith English professors support writing independent majors, independent studies, etc. or if there is a significant writer's community (literary magazine etc.) at Smith?
Post edited by rosemish on

Replies to: Writing at Smith...?

  • gkarlovichgkarlovich Registered User Posts: 27 New Member
    Hi, Rose. I toured Smith last fall and fell in love with the campus, the curriculum, etc., and I'm in a similar position as you. Since Smith has an open curriculum where certain classes aren't mandatory (no math, thank goodness!), you'll probably be in a better place as far as freedom goes than any other non-liberal arts college and be able to focus more on your Creative Writing concentration.
    Also, being a part of the five MA sister schools, you can take a course or two over at any of the other schools like U-Mass, Amherst, Mount Holyoke, and Hampshire. Look at the course catalogs and see if there's a notable professor at any of the other colleges- I was advised by my tour guide when there to make sure to apply for that course early because the coveted ones go fast!
    And as far as literary mag, they have the Sophian, the school newspaper.
    Hope this helped, and good luck!
  • teenage_clicheteenage_cliche Registered User Posts: 3,522 Senior Member
    Here's what you need to know about writing at Smith: you cannot major in it. There are classes in the English department that focus on writing, but they are by far not the majority, and at the end of the day you would still have a degree in English.

    That being said, this isn't a bad thing. You can definitely pursue creative writing academically through those classes, through the new poetry concentration if that's your thing, and through special studies or a thesis once you're a senior. And you could definitely spend junior year abroad/at another college with the specific goals of working on your writing.

    There are also other things you could do: write for the literary magazine, write for the newspaper, get internships during the summer or JTerm at publishing companies or something else that's relevant to your eventual career goals.

    So I would say that if Smith is a great fit for you otherwise, and you're okay with getting a degree in English and like the department, definitely apply and consider it seriously. Your plans might change, and even if they don't there are ways to pursue your interests without having to major in them. Don't be afraid to put together your own academic future instead of following a prescribed path; that's one of the best things about Smith. And with the academic freedom of the open curriculum, you also have lots of space to do other things - learn a foreign language, take art history classes just for fun, take a swg (study of women and gender) class because you really shouldn't graduate from Smith without having taken a swg class, I think.

    PM me if you have any other questions!

    -Anna, class of '14
  • tsitsho90tsitsho90 Registered User Posts: 15 New Member
    I understand that Smith is your school a la mode, but as a fellow queer feminist who loves the traditions and history and legacy of the Seven Sisters and is also a senior looking at MFA programs for fiction, here's a thought: have you considered Bryn Mawr?

    I'm a Creative Writing minor with an English major, and I LOVE my department. Creative Writing is a separate department from English - it's housed in the same building, but it is its own exclusive department with its major, minor, and concentration program. The major is an independent major where each student is allowed to shape (with the aid of their faculty advisor) their major plan of study with the courses that adhere to their interests within writing. For example, one Creative Writing major in my class is based in playwriting. I would have chosen the independent major but I also have a strong interest in Native Studies, which falls under the English umbrella here at Bryn Mawr, and it's been amazing to be able to completely involved in both departments, and see where they overlap in my own work. That said, I know Creative Writing minors who are also Math majors, Chemistry majors, French majors, etc, so if you have other academic interests, you're still able to access the department and fully participate.

    Bryn Mawr's department has become a powerhouse in the last few years, though it has been consistently highly regarded, and we pull in amazing authors every year! This year alone we've seen Jennifer Egan, Nathan Englander, Robin Black, and Karen Russell (Swamplandia!, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves) is on staff all year teaching classes. In my time at Bryn Mawr, I've met and talked to Lorrie Moore, Marilyn Hacker, Amy Hempel, Jhumpa Lahiri, Rick Moody, Jamaica Kincaid, Charles Simic, Ha Jin, Suzan Lori-Parks, Goerge Saunders, Julia Alvarez, Mark Strand, Peter Matthiessen, Jim Shepard, Gerald Stern, and Tobias Wolff. These authors not only came to give readings, but also spoke with us in class and one on one. This is a really, really big deal for an undergraduate department to be able to host a program like this, and at a tiny liberal arts college at that!

    Right now I'm looking at MFA programs and I've got the pick of the top of the programs thanks to my experience at Bryn Mawr. With work I wrote here, I placed into an MFA workshop at the New York Writers' Institute my junior year. My instructors? Mary Gaitskill and Amy Hempel. I could not be grateful enough for this department and the amazing instructors. Our workshops are the same format as MFA workshops, and the program is rigorous, with intensive writing requirements as well as reading and craftwork. Your portfolio looks pretty damn great when you leave here, trust me. My top choice right now is Cornell's double program in MFA in Fiction with a pHD in English, an opportunity that will allow me to be paid to write and workshop, and also get a year of teaching undergraduate workshops at an Ivy League. My plan is to write and get published, but I'd also really like to be a professor of Creative Writing (fellowships and grants that are basically paying you to sit back and write are the perks of the academic world, so if you're already starting to think about career options, it's a great place to consider).

    So yes, Smith is great, but if Creative Writing is your jam, why not consider looking at Bryn Mawr, too? We're also a Seven Sister, we're right outside of Philly, we're super liberal and all about the queer feminist vibes, and I promise you'd feel right at home in our programs. :)
  • alienxyzalienxyz Registered User Posts: 28 New Member
    I agree with tsitsho90 - if you're really that into writing, consider other sisters like Mount Holyoke or Bryn Mawr. You should also consider Sarah Lawrence College. It's not a women's college but I want to say the ratio is something like 70% women, 30% men, and they're known to be incredibly liberal as well.

    I graduated from Mount Holyoke College where (if I'm not mistaken) there is creative writing within the English department, so you can major in English, but focus on creative writing. Also, Mount Holyoke College is part of the 5-college consortium along with Smith, Amherst, UMass, and Hampshire College, and you would be able to take classes at those other campuses as well! I also liked Smith College, but Mount Holyoke College was a better fit for me, so I went to Mount Holyoke (and loved it!) but also took a couple classes at Smith. The feminist/queer vibe is very strong at MHC, so I think you'd love it there as well. Best of luck!
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