In early October, 158 students applied for 84 available slots in seven application-only creative writing classes for spring 2016.
“Every year, just about every one of us is confronted with an overwhelming number of hugely qualified, talented writers who wanted to be in these seminars,” Katharine Weber, the Richard L. Thomas visiting professor of creative writing, said. “And we do not have enough places for all of them.”
Kenyon plans on offering eight creative writing classes in the spring: three sections of Introduction to Fiction, two sections of Introduction to Poetry, two multigenre creative writing classes and one section of Advanced Fiction Writing. All but one of the multigenre classes require an application, and each class has 12 seats available.
“The classes are deliberately small,” Jennifer Clarvoe, professor of English, said. “They need to be small because they’re about individual attention and every student’s response to others.”
Small class sizes ensure each student receives personal attention, but high interest means only about 54 percent of applicants will be accepted into creative writing classes for next semester. Since more students apply for introductory classes than for advanced classes, the acceptance rates are lower for introductory-level classes.
However, the application was never intended to exclude students from classes.
“This is just so we can put people into a class for reasons better than the arbitrary registrar’s listing,” Clarvoe said. “Either way, there’s not going to be enough room.”
Still, for some, especially those attracted to Kenyon because of its reputation as a writing school, rejection can be disheartening.
“I’ve dedicated my entire life to writing and I came here specifically to learn how to write,” Anna Russell ’18, who was waitlisted twice for Introduction to Fiction, said. “That’s what I want to do with my life. It was especially frustrating just because I couldn’t get into just the intro level of what I wanted to do.”
Rejection from creative writing classes could also change a student’s academic plans. Admittance to introductory and advanced writing workshops is required for the creative writing emphasis. However, Matz knows of no specific students who have been unable to do the emphasis because of rejected course applications.
Weber believes creative writing faculty would support expanding course offerings.
“I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but my guess is that, without exception, the creative writing faculty would each agree that we should offer more classes,” Weber said.
Limitations exist on the number of classes the department can offer. Matz said the department currently has no plans to increase the number of creative writing courses it teaches.
“The constraints are mainly the faculty available to teach those courses, the number of creative writing faculty we have on staff, and then the number of classes they can teach in creative writing,” Matz said.
“We are a big department with a lot of competing needs,” Clarvoe said.
Application results for spring creative writing classes are planned for release on Nov. 3.