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8th Annual Creative Writing Studies Conference

At the Nexus: Cross-Disciplinary Connections in Creative Writing #CWSC23

Saturday, October 21 through Sunday, October 22, 2023

Online, with optional meetup at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia, USA

No registration needed for members; Zoom links will be shared with member and presenter emails the week of the conference.

Note: Due to the number of requests for remote participation, we have decided to hold this conference primarily on Zoom. However, we will hold an in-person roundtable session, which all are invited to attend, at Mary M. Henkel Hall at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia, on Sunday morning, October 22 at 10 am. This live session will be broadcast over Zoom for those participating fully remotely.

We welcome those who would still like to travel to Shenandoah University for the weekend to participate in the Sunday roundtable, share meals, network, and enjoy collegial camaraderie with other members. Consider it a Creative Writing Studies Retreat with a day of online programming on Saturday that you can attend either alongside colleagues in Henkel Hall or from your hotel room. Though we will not have official hotel blocks, we recommend staying in either Hampton Inn Winchester-University/Mall Area (across from campus) or The George Washington: A Wyndham Grand Hotel (in downtown Winchester). Staying in one of these two hotels will help us with ridesharing as needed.

Visit Membership – Creative Writing Studies Organization to renew or become a member. The conference itself is free, but all presenters and attendees must have active memberships in the CWSO.

If you intend to travel to Winchester, VA for the weekend, please fill out this form so we can connect!

At the Nexus: Cross-Disciplinary Connections in Creative Writing

Creative Writing Studies lives in community with other fields. Grown out of writing studies, CWS has long made strides drawing on frameworks from literary studies, rhetoric and composition, craft studies, and creativity studies. In our past years’ conferences we have seen creative writing explored in tandem with journalism, cognitive psychology, education, critical theory, and trauma-informed care, and more. Given the ever-increasing interest in the field, however, we now find ourselves asking after the other cross-disciplinary connections that might enrich our work, as well as how our work might enrich these other disciplines from which we draw.

To that end, this year we are calling for papers and presentations that put Creative Writing Studies into conversation with subjects, practices, and disciplines often not associated with our field. CWS has historically located itself at the intersection of multiple branches of knowledge creation, but rather than think about the field’s precarious position or the ways it has often existed in tension with other fields, we might instead focus in on its cross-, multi-, inter-, poly- and trans-disciplinary potentials.

In pursuing these connections, we resist the disciplinary siloing that has resulted from the institutional structures of academia. This is especially important during a time of political tension when access to knowledge as well as the production and reception of creative writing have become issues of contention in the public sphere. We as a field must be continually engaged in the project of intellectual renewal by conversing within and beyond our disciplinary boundaries.


Saturday, October 21

WELCOME // 8:15-8:30 am EDT // Room A

A short welcome from CWSO Chair Graeme Harper.


PROFESSIONALIZATION PANEL // Session 1, Room A // 8:30 – 9:30 am

The Odyssey: Defining Mentorship for Creative Writing Studies, *Brent House

This presentation attempts to craft a mentoring pedagogy for creative writing from the knowledge gained from years of mentoring practices in business, sciences, and education, among other disciplines. 

From the Derived to the Deviant: A Translation-Based Creative Writing Pedagogy, Xia Fang

This paper tries to present a solidly grounded and practice-based creative pedagogy that fully utilizes the practise of translation by drawing on two opposing elements of translation: derivation and deviation. I first investigated the relationship between translation and creative writing by examining various forms of deviance in translation and explaining their creative potential. Then, using Bakhtin’s self and otherness and Huizinga’s play, I investigate the fundamental relationship between deviance and self-expression. Lastly, I will propose a translation-based creative pedagogy while examining works from my poetry project that incorporated the practice of translation.

The Meow Wolf Model for the Marketable Creative, Michael Sheehan

Inspired by Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return, an immersive art installation that is also “a multidimensional mystery house,” I redesigned a creative writing course to include an interdisciplinary collaboration with a sculpture class. By an analysis of this course design, this paper explores how a “postdisciplinary,” project-based approach to creative writing offers expansive opportunities for student creative accomplishment and professional preparation.


NARRATIVE MEDICINE PANEL // Session 1, Room B // 8:30 – 9:30 am

Creative Writing in the Realm of Neuropsychology: Exploring Narrative Before and After Exposure Therapy in Psychogenic Non-epileptic Events, *Sam Meekings

This paper will discuss the results of my recent collaborative research with a neuropsychologist on the links between creative writing techniques and the practices of exposure therapy. It will explore how the tools of creative writing might help shed light on the processes of self-construction and self-fictionalizing enacted in response to trauma, and how an understanding of such narrative techniques might therefore be useful for diagnosis and treatment by medical professionals working with PNEE patients.

Online Expressive Writing as an Approach to Enhance Chinese University English Learners’ Well-Being, Xiaojuan Gao

Writing expressively has proved beneficial to people’s well-being in many previous studies, yet little such research has been conducted in the area of second/foreign language writing. The present study tries to fill the gap by investigating the effect of expressive writing in English as a Foreign Language on Chinese language learners’ psychological well-being. The results showed that students had increased positive emotions, better cognitive framing of their unpleasant experience, enhanced appreciation towards the current life and a more positive attitude towards their EFL writing. 

In Search of Alternative Story: An Analysis of “No Name Woman” Based on the Theory of Narrative Therapy, Jie Liu

This paper aims to discuss how narrative therapy reconstructs one’s self, which offers a new interpretive frame for the genre personal essay. Michael White’s theory stresses replacing the problematic dominant story with a preferred alternative story and indicates that individuals subject to dominant knowledges can rely on alternative knowledges to construct a new narrative. Based on his theory, the paper will analyze Maxine Hong Kingston’s well-known essay “No Name Woman” and reveal that though without successfully completing a real alternative story, Kingston attempts to resist her mother’s thin description and reconstructs the forgotten aunt’s life with a unique outcome.


TWINE WORKSHOP // Session 2, Room A // 9:45 – 10:45 am

Link and Shift to Open up Pedagogical Opportunities through an Interactive Digital Tool: Using Twine in the Creative Writing Classroom, Anna Lee-Popham

Many scholars, educators, and practitioners emphasize the opportunities that arise when introducing digital technologies into the creative writing classroom. This workshop introduces participants to Twine, an interactive storytelling tool through which to tell non-linear and choice based stories, as a pedagogical tool for the creative writing classroom. From a feminist perspective, Twine is particularly interesting as it is accessible, free to use, and, by having a low learning curve (Evans), “challenges mainstream standards by subverting the celebration of difficulty, in both production and play” (Harvey).


NARRATIVE MEDICINE WORKSHOP // Session 2, Room B // 9:45 – 10:45 am

Narrative Medicine Creative Writing Prompts and Positionality Art in Teaching, *Mary Leoson, Finnian Burnett, Jeffery Buckner-Rodas

Participants for this session will write in response to narrative medicine-based prompts and create positionality art (art that helps participants examine how they see the world). As trained Narrative Medicine Facilitators, Dr. Leoson, Dr. Burnett, and Dr. Buckner-Rodas will share how they have integrated writing prompts and positionality art projects in various ways in English courses at the high school and college levels to foster empathy for the self and others. 


DISCIPLINARITY PANEL // Session 3, Room A // 11 am – noon

You Can’t Make a Cake With a Hammer: Disciplinary Awareness in Creative Writing Studies, *Graeme Harper

The session will consider what Creative Writing Studies is, in relation to other disciplines, and explore what Creative Writing Studies is today. Looking both nationally and internationally, it will suggest directions the field is heading, and why, and how and to what results.

(Re)Crafting Writing, Tim Mayers

Creative Writing Studies can–and should–engage in cross-disciplinary efforts to expand students’ and colleagues’ conceptual definitions of what writing is and how writing works in the world. This presentation will outline seven available definitions of writing and offer suggestions about how to use the definitions to spark discussion and debate among students and colleagues.

Rhetorical Genre Theory for Multi-Genre Creative Writing Classes, Khem Aryal

In this presentation, I will demonstrate how familiarizing students with rhetorical genre theory can not only better equip them to produce work within expected genre conventions but also empower them to manipulate those conventions to be more “creative.” This understanding can nurture their ability to channel their creativity more effectively, countering the inclination to resort to unrestricted expression typified by “doing whatever they want to do to be creative.”


PROCESS & PLAY PANEL // Session 3, Room B // 11 am – noon

Mental Health in Creative Writing: Centering Play and Confronting Fear, Leah Hedrick

Looking to the fields of psychology and sociology, this presentation will discuss transforming creative writing classrooms into spaces that prioritize mental-emotional wellbeing. I will present research data that highlights the impact of creative play on overall wellness. Then, we will turn our focus to workshop-related fear, panic, and anxiety. Leaning on the knowledge funds of cognitive behavioral therapists, I will summarize healthy and effective strategies for approaching scary things. As teachers, we can use the insights from these strategies to interrogate and adapt our workshop to be more anxiety-friendly.

Play and Practice for the Artist: A Course Plan, *Rachel Haley Himmelheber

This paper will explore the types of readings and assignments I will include in an upper-level undergraduate course called Play and Practice for the Artist that I will teach this spring. 


LUNCH BREAK // noon – 1 p.m.


WRITING AGAINST POWER PANEL // Session 4, Room A // 1 – 2 pm

Laugh Till You Change: A Feminist Rhetorical Analysis of Difficult People (2015-2017) and Broad City (2014-2019), Amalie Kwassman

Explore how the television shows Broad City (2014-2019) and Difficult People (2015-2019), both written by funny women, expose the patriarchal, ableist, and homophobic norms of our society, one laugh at a time.

Crip Queer Storytelling: An Intersectional Analysis, *Audrey T. Heffers

What is the current state of queer disabled representation? This presentation seeks to outline potential criteria for such representation to highlight the intersections of queer/disabled identity in fiction. The critical framework used here sits at the nexus of Creative Writing Studies, Disability Studies, and Queer Studies.

Imaginative Protest: Climate Crisis Activism through the Creation of Speculative Worlds, Scott Guild

Writers of speculative fiction often create narrative worlds with similar tensions as our contemporary world. In the case of recent eco-fiction novels–such as N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season or Lydia Millet’s A Children’s Bible–speculative worldbuilding acts as a form of protest in the face of the growing climate crisis.


RESEARCH PANEL // Session 4, Room B // 1 – 2 pm

Under or Away from the Umbrella?: Inviting a Discourse around Creative Rhetorics, Jon Udelson

This discussion will invite attendees to consider how a discourse around creative rhetorics—specifically rhetorics of ineffability, of the aesthetic, and of difference—might inform research study design, data gathering procedures, and orientations to both research goals and contexts of research.

Consider the Source: The Interview as a Research Tool in Creative Writing, *Kelly K. Ferguson

Whether interviewing strangers, your family, or a vampire, a few basic tips can go a long way. This skill, a staple of journalism, is rarely taught in the creative writing classroom, but people make the most interesting resources. This presentation will cover the fundamentals of the successful and ethical interview. To be covered: uses for human sourcing in creative writing; social anxiety; tips; ethical concerns for trauma victims. 

What Makes Someone “Good” at Creative Writing? What the Social Sciences are Teaching Me about Creative Writing and Why We Need More Empiricism in Creative Writing Studies, C. Connor Syrewicz

What makes someone “good” at creative writing? In the first half of this paper, I review some empirical research on expert creative writers and offer a few evidence-based hypotheses on what makes them “good” at creative writing. In the second half, I treat my experience of reviewing this research as a case study. Empirical research, I argue, has a lot to offer us as instructors and even as writers, so I conclude by outlining some of the obstacles that stand in the way of creative writing studies becoming more empirical, and by offering some potential ways of overcoming these obstacles.


CW ACROSS THE CURRICULUM PANEL // Session 5, Room A // 2:15 – 3:15 pm

Creative Writing Across the Curriculum: A Systematic Review, Justin Nicholes

This presentation synthesizes primary research studies (N = 130) on creative writing across disciplines from the last 20 years located through library and journal searches into “dialogue across differences of population, context, and in some cases, methodology or research paradigm” (Lorenc et al., 2011, p. 7). The result is a grounded theory of creative writing across the curriculum (CWAC) as meaningful, engaging, inclusive literacy practice.

A Creative Writing Approach in First Year Writing, Brendan Stephens

Who said freshman composition can’t be creative? While the pedagogy surrounding first year writing courses is treated as the exclusive domain of rhetoric and composition, creative writers offer a unique perspective to these required courses.

Tracing Creative Writing Methods as a Way to Track Literate Activity Practices (to Inspire Future Writing), Samantha Moe

A literate activity approach challenges the perception that creative writing is untraceable. Tracing our creative practices as writers, making note of our writing environments, and our writing tools can inform us about our patterns and habits. The research of literate activities, connected with repair and care-work, seeks to unveil creative writing methods. As poet and professor Donika Kelly writes: “I wish people would talk about their writing practices with more of that joy. I just know people love their own work, because why else would you do it?” (rescheduled to this session)


WRITER-SCIENTIST PANEL // Session 5, Room B // 2:15 – 3:15 pm

Writer Scientist or Scientist Writer? Teaching Creative Writing at STEM-Dominant Universities, *Jennifer Pullen, Alyse Bensel, and Sara Henning

Three panelists who teach at STEM-dominant colleges and universities will discuss opportunities for STEM students in the creative writing classroom as well as methods for designing courses, assignments, and curriculum that benefit creative writing programs and increase equitable student outcomes.


CRAFT & PEDAGOGY PANEL // Session 5, Room C // 2:15 – 3:15 pm

Seeing the Story: Techniques of Narrative Perspective in Written vs. Visual Media, Rachel Cochran

Creative Writing Studies can–and should–engage in cross-disciplinary efforts to expand students’ and colleagues’ conceptual definitions of what writing is and how writing works in the world. This paper will draw parallels between dynamic perspectives in visual media–such as film, games, visual art, and graphic design–and creative writing craft approaches to perspective. It will break down components such as framing, focus, transition/juxtaposition, tone, and temporality, engaging in close reading practices to explore the unique registers creators of media can access to achieve these various effects.

Sense and Sensitivity: Sensory Appeals in Storytelling, Rachael Hammond

This presentation considers how sensory appeals can contribute to meaningful storytelling. Specifically, I will discuss some sensory exercises that my fiction writing students have completed. Then I will share observations about how those experiences can foster a sense of classroom community and support students’ efforts to create vivid worlds filled with round, compelling characters. Ultimately, sensory appeals can provide writers with the ability to fulfill our most important obligation –to provide touchstones for human connection.


LOCATING CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP // Session 6, Room A // 3:30 – 4:30 pm

Locating Creative Writing, Eli Goldblatt

Where do we locate CW, among disciplinary or institutional terrains, to ensure that writers can connect with resources and audiences often occluded by the narrow slotting of MFA programs in English departments? After a brief introduction, this workshop will center on the ideas and experiences of the participants.


IMPROV WORKSHOP // Session 6, Room B // 3:30 – 4:30 pm

Improv-ing the Inclusive Classroom, Angela Sorby

This workshop, scaffolded by educational research and grounded in a collective, participatory experience, will explore how improv games might support, not just imaginative play, but also inclusive play. As we learn/play a series of improv games–Mind Meld, I Am a Tree, Kitty-cat Careers, and others–we will also engage in discussions about how each game might work (or not) in a consciously inclusive creative writing classroom setting.


CLOSING REMARKS & DISCUSSION // Room A // 4:35 – 5 pm

Facilitated by CWSO Chair Graeme Harper.


Sunday, October 22

HYBRID PLENARY SESSION // Room A // 10 – 11 am

Join CWSO members online and in-person at Shenandoah University’s Mary M. Henkel Hall to discuss the state of the discipline and highlights from the conference.