The Creative Writing Honors Program, 2018-2019

Application deadline: Friday, September 14, 2018
Final thesis submission deadline: Monday, April 8, 2019

Each year, the Creative Writing Program gives approximately 15 students the opportunity to write a creative thesis for consideration of Honors in English. The goal is to for students to envision and complete a substantial project that serves as the capstone of their creative writing careers at Penn. Students wishing to write the creative writing thesis apply the fall semester of their senior year with a robust and substantive proposal that includes a writing sample and supporting bibliography. The writing sample can be (but is not required to be) the beginnings of the final thesis project. Students then complete the thesis in consultation with an advisor during the spring semester of their senior year. The main body of the thesis consists of an extensive piece of creative writing: a novel or novel excerpt, collection of stories, collection of poems, long poem, play, screenplay, sequence of essays, long-form nonfiction, documentary nonfiction, photojournalism, creative monograph, etc. The thesis is prefaced by a substantive critical commentary of 8-10 pages that describes the intellectual, theoretical, and/or aesthetic contexts or backgrounds to the work and narrates the procedure or methodology used to create the thesis. Admission to the Creative Writing Honors Program is selective, and successful thesis projects are conferred the distinction of Honors in English at graduation. Enrollment in the Honors Program does not guarantee that the final project will earn Honors. To merit this distinction, final theses must receive the enthusiastic approval of both the student’s thesis advisor and a second reader.


A student is eligible to apply if they a) will be a senior in fall 2018; b) are declared as an English major with a concentration in creative writing; c) have a 3.7 or higher GPA in the major; and d) have taken one, and preferably two, workshops in the genre of their projected thesis. Students outside the creative writing concentration and students with a creative writing minor are also eligible to apply, and will be considered on a case by case basis. Completed applications are due Friday, September 14, 2018, via email to Julia Bloch, Director, Creative Writing Program. Applications should include the following:

1. A completed Creative Writing Honors Program Application Form, which includes the name of your proposed thesis advisor [download here]

In one single document:

2. A 500-word proposal outlining the scope and ambitions of the project

3. A sample of writing of up to 15 pages in the genre of the proposed project

4. A bibliography of at least 5 sources that inform your project: these can include primary text or media sources; secondary sources that provide historical, theoretical, or aesthetic context; or materials that otherwise inform your proposal, including literary and journalistic texts, films, artworks, performances, or other media

Candidates are responsible for confirming their own thesis advisors; you should send that faculty member a draft of your proposal in advance of the application deadline (by the end of the spring semester or very beginning of fall).

Candidates will be notified of their application status before spring semester advance registration.

Upon admission

In the spring semester, candidates whose applications are approved either a) enroll in a creative writing workshop in the appropriate genre, in which case the faculty member teaching the workshop serves as the thesis advisor; or b) enroll in English 199 (Independent Study) supervised by the thesis advisor. Candidates are required to attend an informational session in the fall with the Director of Creative Writing, at which we will discuss deadlines and tools for completing the thesis. So that they can pace themselves during the thesis writing term, candidates should plan to send the beginnings of a draft to their advisors by the beginning of the spring semester.

The final draft of the Honors thesis is due Monday, April 8, 2019, and is read by both the thesis advisor and a second reader, both of whom must agree before conferring Honors on the project. Projects that do not receive Honors will still be eligible for course credit.

Students receiving Honors will be invited to read excerpts from their work at a public event at the Kelly Writers House in late April, where the Program will announce a prize for the most outstanding creative thesis, determined by a panel of judges.

If you would like to discuss your candidacy for Honors or have questions about your project, please contact Dr. Julia Bloch.

For information on writing a critical thesis in English, visit the English Department website.