Best Creative Writing Programs In Europe

“Most of us are still walking around amazed we got in,” says Drew Keenan, a 34-year-old former software engineer from San Francisco who gave that life up to spend the two years in Iowa’s M. Determining which writing programs are best is an alchemy of hearsay, tenuous connectors, certain measurable facts, and one’s own predilections about the art of writing.

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Boston University has the estimable Ha Jin, along with Robert Pinsky and Derek Walcott in poetry. Many of the top writers at the top programs teach infrequently (one class in a year or year and a half seems typical), because their published works are believed to do more than their teaching for the program’s image.

This is because writing programs must contend with the authorial “star system.” While the stars in most other disciplines are known chiefly to specialists, many of the big names in writing are cultural celebrities; having written The Book They Made Into That Movie, a famous author might even have currency with high-school seniors or alumni donors. program admitted only two fiction writers out of 260 applicants.

It was published in 1999, a year after she graduated; she followed it with her best-selling novel, The Lovely Bones.

Irvine, already a top program, could not have been hotter. grad Elizabeth Kostova earned a $2 million advance for her novel, The Historian, a year after she finished the program.

Richard Ford, an early product of the University of California at Irvine writing program, eventually won a Pulitzer for his novel Independence Day. This measure often seems more meaningful when a newly minted writer has a quick success that seems directly related to having been in a particular program.

But Ford didn’t really break through as a writer until he published The Sportswriter in 1986, some 16 years after getting his M. (Chabon won the 2001 Pulitzer for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.) Alice Sebold’s memoir about being raped, Lucky, began as a 10-page writing assignment in an Irvine class.

In writing, more than in almost any other academic discipline, “the content walks through your door,” says the novelist Christopher Tilghman, who teaches at Virginia.

There and at Irvine and Michigan and Texas, to name a few, the numbers of applicants are staggering—often 500 or more.

Upstairs, in an unused office, are 16 large boxes of alumni books for which no shelf space is yet available.

In a wire basket, on the desk of program associate Connie Brothers, are dozens of clipped reviews of recent books.

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