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Creative Writing Program

Innovation was a cornerstone of a Kirkland College education. In the 1960s and 1970s, only a handful of colleges in the United States offered an undergraduate degree in creative writing. According to the Associated Writing Programs, 24 colleges conferred a BA in creative writing in 1975. Kirkland was one of them.

More than 20 Kirkland undergraduates concentrated in creative writing. Many of them later earned MFAs or MAs in writing from prestigious programs at the University of Iowa, Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, Columbia University, Vermont College, and others. Some pursued successful careers in magazine and book publishing, journalism, teaching writing and literature, or related fields.

William Rosenfeld and Naomi Cohen (K’78) in a fiction workshop at Kirkland

• Kirkland was one of the earliest members of the Associated Writing Programs, a professional organization founded in 1967 to support and encourage academic creative writing programs and individual writers.

• Carl Beier was the first chairman of Kirkland’s arts division and creative writing program.

• Creative writing was in the Arts Division, not the English Department. This concept was visionary in the 1960s and 1970s. Thirty years later, creative writing at most colleges and universities remains in the English Department.

• Kirkland students who concentrated in creative writing took a minimum of 6 writing workshops, including introduction to writing courses and advanced workshops in prose and poetry, and had to complete a Senior Project.

Read about Kirkland Writing Faculty

Read about Kirkland Authors

Read about “Red Weather”  Kirkland’s Literary Magazine

Read about the Watrous Prizes

Jo Pitkin K’78

3 Comments leave one →
  1. rachelbirds permalink
    February 5, 2010 7:39 pm

    I love that photo. Naomi Cohen was my freshman roommate in B dorm.

    Rachel Dickinson

  2. Isabel Weinger-Nielsen permalink
    February 6, 2010 3:33 pm

    I applied to Kirkland College because of its creative writing program. When I was a senior in high school I went to my guidance counselor and told him that I wanted to be a writer. He handed me the Kirkland catalog and said “well, I only know of 3 undergraduate writing programs in the country. I just got a catalog from this new college; why don’t you take a look at it?” I took it home and read it from cover to cover and announced to my family that this was where I was going to go to college. Not only was creative writing part of the Arts Division, but I would get written evaluations for my work. Perfect!

    When I arrived at Kirkland in the Fall of 1972, I found that I had been closed out of the Intro to Writing course. Someone told me that I should talk to Bill Rosenfeld at Convocation and he generously allowed me to enroll in the class. He also became my advisor and friend for life. One of the best pieces of advice he gave me was to take a variety of courses including sciences and visual arts which would all feed into my writing.

    Some highlights:

    – I wanted to take a course with Natalie Babbitt, but she only taught illustration one year and was a senior project advisor the next. I took a children’s Children’s Lit class (Bev Garland’s senior project) which Natalie advised.By the time my senior year came Natalie was writing “The Eyes of the Amaryllis” and didn’t plan on teaching, but she agreed to be one of my 3 senior project advisors.

    – I came to Kirkland to be a poet, but once I took Bill’s Prose Fiction course I was hooked on short story writing. My senior project (2 semesters) was a collection of five short stories called “Portrait and Self Portrait”.

    – My 3 winter study projects were all independent writing projects which included recording my grandmother’s memoirs and turning them into short stories.

    – Kathy Saltonstall Dewart was poet in residence 1973-74 and one night the whole class got together to play pool at “The Rock”.

    – Bill was such a good friend, teacher and advisor, especially during my junior year when I at home due to illness. Unfortunately for me, he was on sabbatical my senior year, but was such a strong influence that I felt he was with me even when we were many miles apart.

    – Bill “created” a job for me as Arts Liaison to the Kirkland Public Relations Office in 1973, so I got to write press releases and take photos at Kirkland arts events. As a result, I was asked to photograph Kirkland’s last graduation in 1978 for the Alumnae Newsletter.

    – In June 1974 the Arts Division had a Summer Arts Conference for 2 weeks after classes ended. The Arts faculty and 2 students from each arts discipline (writing, music, visual arts, photography, dance, ceramics) were invited. I was asked as one of the writers.

    – Tess Gallagher and Michael Burkhard were writers in residence while Bill was on sabbatical 1975-76. Tess and I had different ways of looking at things so Michael became my advisor.

    – I wanted poet David Rigsbee (Hamilton professor) to be my senior project advisor, but was told that I could only have a Kirkland advisor. So, I had a senior project committee – 3 advisors- which met with me once a month – Michael Burkhard, David Rigsbee, and Natalie Babbitt. Their criticism and encouragement was a learning experience in and of itself.

    At the end of college, I decided that I didn’t want to be a professional writer. But I did develop my photography skills and have had several small exhibits in Vermont, where I’ve live since 1989. I’ve done freelance writing and photography, public relations for local arts groups, editing and book indexing as well as library work. I now work as an Administrative Assistant at Norwich University and try to provide the kind of support to students that Kirkland gave to me.

    The Writing Program and Kirkland College helped me to “think outside the box”, trust my instincts, be a lifelong learner, express my creativity, and know that who I am, not what I do, is what’s important in life.

    Isabel Weinger Nielsen K’76

  3. Joanne Papanek Orlando permalink
    February 25, 2010 11:30 pm

    I was lucky enough to go to a High School that taught Creative Writing. I not only took 2 years of classes, when my teacher was going through a divorce she asked me to teach her class (no doubt breaking many school rules). My first semester at Kirkland I took Creative Writing. My only concern was whether or not I could really make a living being a writer, so I was a Sociology major. I actually went to Divinity School after Kirkland and became a Unitarian Minister, a career well known for NOT making money. (Maybe I should have majored in Creative Writing). Through out my ministry I have found that my Kirkland writing classes shine through. My sermons often come out in an almost poetic form. When I have presided at funerals my Eulogies tend to be poems as well. I thought I avoided the “starving artist in a garret” scenario, only to find myself in another underpaid profession. Nonetheless, my Kirkland writing classes, Independent Study with Natalie Babbitt and lots of literature classes have influenced many aspects of my profession.

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