Demand for creative writing courses outpaces supply

It might seem that putting words to paper is hard, but for those interested in creative writing classes, it might be more difficult to get into a class.

Many creative writing courses are known for their long waitlists and enrollment caps, but the root of the issue lies with a low supply of lecturers and courses to meet the high student demand for courses. The low supply of lecturers stems from an even larger problem: funding. 

For Kathaleen Mallard ’25, it was incredibly difficult for her to get into the creative writing classes she wanted, even as an English major with a creative writing emphasis. 

“I feel like the demand was obviously much greater than the amount of classes that there were, so it was hard to get into anything,” Mallard said. Some of her courses required course enrollment forms, but seniority remained a large factor of selection, making it difficult to enroll into the classes that were part of the core major requirements. 

Mallard believes that this could affect students in the future who wish to pursue an English major with a creative writing emphasis or a creative writing minor, who may not get to explore classes in the department because of low enrollment caps. She also raised the waitlist experience for creative writing courses. Since most people are unlikely to drop their spots in class, it’s really hard to get off the waitlist for these classes, Mallard said. 

Dean Wiley ’26, an English major with an emphasis in creative writing, echoed this sentiment. Wiley referred to his experience taking a creative nonfiction class last year that was 70% seniors. With the implementation of staggered enrollment, Wiley worries underclassmen won’t have access to many creative writing classes, deterring them from pursuing a creative writing minor.

“Why would I want to put this amount [of work] into a minor and then eventually just do half the [minor] because I wasn’t able to [enroll], or I have to carry it into another quarter or some other semester because … there’s just not enough professors,” Wiley said, using a hypothetical example. 

Tom Kealey, a lecturer in creative writing, acknowledged Mallard and Wiley’s concerns.

“Definitely, if students can’t get into creative writing classes until their junior year, then most won’t be able to fulfill the creative writing minor requirements, or even the English major requirements,” Kealey wrote in a statement to The Daily. 

Kealey wrote that the reason for the inability to meet student demands comes from insufficient funding within the creative writing department. 

Edward Porter, a lecturer in creative writing, said that in the past, when there was increased enrollment in the creative writing program, the University adjusted by increasing their funding. In the face of high student demand, he said, the program is currently underfunded and students who are interested in taking creative writing classes, majoring or minoring in creative writing are not being served. 

Many of the lecturers in the creative writing department come in originally as Stegner Fellows, which is a two-year fellowship for five writers in fiction and five in prose. Stegner Fellows spend their time at Stanford writing and attending workshops under the guidance of faculty. After completion of their fellowship, Stegner Fellows are invited to apply for a Jones lectureship.

Austin Smith, a lecturer in creative writing, wrote that in the past they “had one-year renewable contracts that would be extended indefinitely as long as we were effective teachers and wished to stay.” 

However, Smith wrote that a four-year cap on lectureships was implemented, meaning that new Jones lecturers hired after the cap would be terminated after their four years, contributing to the lack of lecturers. 

The 2022-2023 academic year was the first time lecturers with the four-year cap in their contracts were not given lecturer positions. “In the spring of this year, we just had, I believe, the first group of lecturers [let go] after their four years,” said Keith Ekiss, a lecturer in creative writing. At the same time, Ekiss said hundreds of undergraduate students were on waitlists and unable to get into classes. 

In a written statement, Elizabeth Tallent and Nicholas Jenkins, co-directors of the creative writing program, wrote that the program is seeking to find a long-term solution: “As a significant step, in December the Program will host a listening session for undergraduate minors in creative writing and for English majors with a creative writing emphasis, whose voices and perspectives will play a crucial role in the program’s planning for the future.”