Creative Writing: Journalism & Nonfiction

I - June 28–July 16, 2021
II - July 20–August 6, 2021
Modality, Day & Time:
Monday–Friday, 10:00–11:00 a.m., 11:15 a.m. –12:45 p.m., and 3:15–4:45 p.m., with optional elective 2:00–3:00 p.m.

See representative biographies below.

Interested applicants are required to submit one or more samples of journalism or any type of creative writing (three pages minimum). The program may request additional writing samples as needed to determine the appropriate student level.

This class is intended for current 10th, 11th, and 12th graders. Younger students should apply for Creative Writing: Intro to Journalism and Non-Fiction.

“I definitely learned how to improve the clarity of my points and I feel like my writing in general drastically improved.” — From a program course evaluation 

Course Description

What creative possibilities do true stories hold? How can truth telling and storytelling work together? How can we turn ourselves—and other real people—into compelling characters? This class considers the possibilities of journalism and creative nonfiction. We will explore sub-genres ranging from news and magazine writing to memoir and personal essay; from science writing and profiles to humor, food writing, and lyric essay. Students will learn research and reporting skills essential to all forms of nonfiction writing, as well as how to incorporate techniques traditionally associated with fiction writing into journalism and nonfiction. We will engage with a range of nonfiction prose and quality journalism, and use workshops to develop skills as editors and as writers.

Interested applicants are required to submit one or more samples of journalism or any type of creative writing (three pages minimum). The program may request additional writing samples as needed to determine the appropriate student level.


Students may choose an optional elective as a supplement to the three required daily class meetings. Please note that participation in an elective will prevent students from partaking in most other midday activities

Comedy Writing: Students spend class time reading, writing, and performing comedy.

Genre Fiction: Students spend class time reading and writing different types of genre fiction, including science fiction, horror, crime, fantasy, and mystery.

Journalism: Students produce a news blog, including but not limited to campus and neighborhood news, book/music/art/restaurant reviews, interviews/profiles, and op-eds.

Publishing House: Students work as editors to create their own literary magazine, which is published at the end of the program.

Write What You Don’t Know: Students read authors who have perfected the art of writing in persona; exercises are designed to help students practice writing from points of view that are distinctly not their own.

Exquisite Corpse: Students wishing to focus more on poetry read a wide and stimulating selection of poems, and work toward finishing a chapbook at the end of the program.

Independent Project: Students complete an additional writing project and take part in extra conferences.

Courses in creative writing are offered in conjunction with the Writing Program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. Overseen by Chair of Creative Writing Timothy Donnelly, Professor Alan Ziegler, and Director of Creative Writing for Pre-College Programs Christina Rumpf, the creative writing courses are designed to challenge and engage students interested in literary creation, providing them with a substantial foundation for further exploration of their creative work.


Jessica Colley Clarke

Freelance writer Jessica Colley Clarke covers travel and food for publications including the New York Times, AFAR magazine, SAVEUR, and Conde Nast Traveler. Recent favorite assignments include exploring a trail of lighthouses on the coast of Ireland, swimming with sharks in the Galapagos Islands, and infiltrating members-only gastronomic societies in the Basque Country. As an MFA candidate in creative nonfiction at Columbia University, she is working on a travel memoir. 

Kristen Martin

Kristen Martin recently received an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University. She is at work on a collection of essays that explores and meditates on grief. Her personal and critical essays have been published in Literary Hub, Catapult Magazine, Real Life, The Hairpin, Guernica, The Toast, Google Play Editorial, Public Books, Saveur, The Grief Diaries, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Cleaver Magazine, and elsewhere. She teaches first-year writing at Columbia University and Baruch College.

Corinne Lestch

Corinne Lestch is a New York-based writer and MFA candidate at Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Daily News and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was named a finalist in Narrative Magazine's "30 Below" Story & Poetry Contest in 2017.

Daniel Penny

Daniel Penny writes about art and culture at The New Yorker, the Boston Review, the Paris Review, and elsewhere. He teaches writing and visual culture at Parsons School of Design.

Sasha von Oldershausen

Sasha von Oldershausen is an Iranian-American journalist, who specializes in reporting on the U.S. - Mexico border. She has reported for the New York Times, the Paris Review, the Nation, the Guardian, and Texas Monthly, among others. She is an MFA candidate in Columbia's nonfiction writing program. 

Back to the Course Guide

Specific course detail such as hours and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.