Study Creative Writing with our Oxford Summer School 2018 | Students aged 16-18

Also available for students aged 13-15.

Class Summary

This Creative Writing course aims both to inspire students to come up with ideas that would otherwise not have occurred to them, and to provide students with an overview of techniques and processes available to writers. Students are encouraged to experiment with their own writing, as well as engaging in literary reviews of writing that has preceded them. Based around advice and examples from famous literary figures, students will encounter the obstacles and opportunities that present themselves when writing – including learning ways to overcome the dreaded writer’s block.

The first reading students will do in class is an opening excerpt from Philip Pullman’s short book Lyra’s Oxford, which explores the central character and parallel universe of his popular His Dark Materials trilogy. Pullman himself attended the University of Oxford in 1963, and throughout their course students are immersed in the city’s rich literary heritage: in lesson 5 they read an article on the Eagle and Child, an Oxford pub made famous for being the creative hub of the ‘Inklings’, a group of writers that included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien.

Students explore texts that use interesting and unusual styles of narration, and consider which styles might be best for their own narrative purpose. They engage extensively with literature from a wide range of genres and styles in order to explore the different ways that writers overcome common problems and identify what they themselves can learn from the techniques they choose. The techniques discussed will range from the pre-Victorian era right up to 21st century postmodern and mixed-medium writing; students will learn from long-standing traditions and from brand-new ideas.

The course is necessarily interactive: students share their writing with the group and giving constructive feedback on the work of others. Students will thereby learn about how to edit their work and respond well to criticism, while also learning how to assess and comment on the work of others in a polite and helpful way. The giving and receiving of constructive criticism is a crucial part of this course, as is the case in most degree-level creative writing courses.

The teaching of this course will include lectures, multi-media clips, workshops and reviewing literary texts, but at its heart will be individual writing and class discussions. ‘Quickwrites’ – short unedited pieces of writing – will be produced every day to stimulate creativity and form a basis for discussion, as well as helping students conquer the fear of a blank page. While the course will focus primarily on prose, students will get the chance to experiment with other forms, notably poetry.


The only prerequisites for this course are creativity, enthusiasm, and imagination. Students should expect to read and write a lot, both in and outside the classroom, and to take part in critical and analytical debate about their own writing and that of others.

Suggested Reading

Students interested in this class may wish to read the following texts before arrival, though it is by no means essential:

  • Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott