Creative Writing Concentration and Curriculum

The English Department has a Creative Writing concentration within in the major on which students can focus their study. In addition to workshops and courses in the three primary genres—Fiction, Poetry, and Nonfiction—students can take complementary workshops in other departments (e.g. Theater, Education, and Writing & Rhetoric). HWS has a rich, diverse, and innovative creative writing curriculum.


Creative WritingCourses

Fiction Workshop | Poetry Workshop | Creative Nonfiction Workshop | Trias Workshop | Creative Writing (Intro Workshop) | Intermediate Craft of Fiction Workshop | Hybrid Forms Workshop | Lyric Essay Workshop | Intermediate Poetry Workshop | Advanced Poetry Workshop | The Craft of Fiction Workshop | Fiction Workshop II: Theory of Fiction | Playwriting Workshop | Children’s Literature | Creating Children’s Literature | Adolescent Literature Workshop | Literary Journalism Workshop | Small Press Book Publishing | The Video Essay | Travel Writing Workshop | Trias Tutorial

Experiential EducationTrias Workshop, Reading Series, and Residency

The Trias Program for Creative Writers 

The Trias Residency, a gift of Peter J. Trias '70, brings a renowned author to campus each year to work closely with students in the fall's Trias Workshop and spring's Trias Tutorial. The resident also curates a reading series. Past Trias writers include Mary Ruefle, Jeff VanderMeer, Chris Abani, Mary Gaitskill, Donald Revell, John D’Agata and Jenny Boully. This program complements the rich creative writing curriculum offered by permanent faculty.

The Trias Workshop

Each year, 12 students from across campus are selected to join the Trias Workshop and work directly with that year’s resident. Workshops take place in the Trias Classroom, where students develop their skills around creative topics selected by the resident, such as the lyric essay or environmental fiction. Your teacher, a nationally-renowned fiction writer, essayist, or poet, will help you develop in their genre toward publication or graduate school. Students apply to the workshop and are selected on the basis of their writing sample but need not be English majors. The Workshop is open to all. In the spring, 3-4 students will continue to work independently with the writer in a specialized tutorial. Students at HWS can take the workshop multiple years, and Trias graduates have gone on to publication and to enroll at some of the best graduate schools in the country.

The Reading Series

Each Trias Writer-in-Residence gives a public reading and curates a reading series of other renowned authors to spark a campus-wide literary conversation. Students, faculty and staff from across campus attend these events, have the opportunity to ask questions, and have the chance to have their books signed by the visitor following the reading. Past visitors have included winners of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and MacArthur "Genuis" Fellowship. Writers in the series have been New York Times Bestsellers, have had their work turned into major studio films, and work at the cutting edge of their crafts. 

Small Press Book Publishing &Seneca Review Books


In Small Press Book Publishing, students help publish a book. We focus on small press acquisitions editing through the facilitation of Seneca Review Books’ biennial Deborah Tall Lyric Essay Book Prize. The editors of Seneca Review Books will have narrowed down manuscript submissions to approximately 15 semifinalists. Over the course of the semester, students have the opportunity both to learn about and to engage in the acquisitions editorial process by reading, discussing, and evaluating each of the semifinalist manuscripts and by ultimately helping select five finalists. A nationally renowned writer (sometimes the TRIAS resident) will meet with the class several times and serve as the contest judge. Students will work in small groups to pitch one of the finalist manuscripts to the judge. By engaging in the book publishing and acquisitions process, students will grapple with such questions as: How do lyric essays and hybrid texts work in conjunction with one another in a book-length manuscript? What makes a creative manuscript good and how do we weigh it against competing manuscripts with different strengths? And how can we distinguish between manuscripts that cross the threshold into the realm of literary excellence and those that do not?

Students will have the opportunity to meet the winning author the following fall semester when they will come to HWS to give a reading from the winning book as part of the Trias Reading Series. Students are named in the beginning of the book as members of SRB’s Acquisitions Editorial Board. Many students who go on to careers in publishing start familiarizing themselves with the field by taking this course.

Seneca Review &Campus Publications

Seneca Review—published by Hobart and William Colleges Press—is a top-tier literary journal of international renown, with a history of more than 50 years of publishing innovators who create truly groundbreaking work and writers of the very highest caliber. The writers we’ve published have won every major honor under the sun—including the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Bollingen Prize, Nation Book Critics Circle Award, Lenore Marshall Award, National Poetry Series, Yale Younger Poets Prize, Lannan Literary Fellowship, and so on. We are known as the birthplace of the Lyric Essay and as early champions of multimodal and hybrid-forms writing. We have published special issues on translation, on writing about disability, and on writing that is “beyond category.” Our anthology We Might As Well Call it the Lyric Essay is a seminal text in creative nonfiction, a must-have on virtually every graduate exam reading list in the field.

Students eager to work in literary editing may become involved with Seneca Review. Past students have worked with the journal on social media editing, website curation, and manuscript selection.

In addition to Seneca Review, which is faculty-run, there are also student run publications—Thel, The Herald, The Martini, and Echo & Pine.

MFA/Graduate Program Placement

Our students have gone on to attend some of the top MFA and graduate programs in the country, including the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Colorado State University, SUNY Buffalo, UNLV, UMASS Amherst, UMASS Boston, Sarah Lawrence, U of Utah, and more.


Creative WritingFaculty

Melanie Conroy-Goldman (fiction)

Professor of English and Creative Writing

Melanie Conroy-Goldman is the author of The Likely World, a novel from Red Hen Press, and her fiction has been published in Southern Review, StoryQuarterly, in anthologies from Morrow and St. Martin’s and online at venues such as She has volunteered as a teacher at a maximum-security men’s prison with the Cornell Prison Education Program.

Kathryn Cowles (poetry)

Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing

Her second book of poems is Maps and Transcripts of the Ordinary World (Milkweed Editions). Her first book, Eleanor, Eleanor, not your real name (Bear Star Press), won the Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize. Her poems and multi-media work have appeared in such places as Best American Experimental Writing, Boston Review, Colorado Review, DIAGRAM, Georgia Review, Gulf Coast, New American Writing, Verse, and the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, and have been awarded the Larry Levis Academy of American Poets Prize and the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award for a manuscript in progress. She earned her doctorate from the University of Utah.

Geoffrey Babbitt (nonfiction)

Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing

Geoffrey Babbitt is the author of Appendices Pulled from a Study on Light. His poems and essays have appeared in North American ReviewPleiades, Colorado ReviewDIAGRAMNotre Dame ReviewTYPOBen Jonson Journal, Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere. Babbitt holds a Ph.D. from the University of Utah and serves as Editor-in-Chief of Seneca Review & Seneca Review Books.

Ben Ristow

Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric

Ben Ristow’s fiction has been published in BOMB, AMBIT, Indiana Review, Southwest Review, Gray's Sporting Journal and has been noted in Best American Nonrequired Reading and podcasted for Fiction for Driving Across America (BOMB).

Daniel Schonning

Director of HWS Debate

Daniel Schonning’s writing has appeared in Orion Magazine, Poetry Magazine, The Yale Review, Poetry Daily, and elsewhere. He is the winner of Crazyhorse’s 2020 Lynda Hull Memorial Prize, judged by Cyrus Cassells, and winner of Omnidawn’s 2023 Single Poem Broadside Contest, judged by Nathalie Khankan. He lives in Geneva, New York, where he serves as the Director of Debate at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.