Creative Writing in Europe Nov2011 Sd R Def 2


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Creative Writing in Europe; Kunstfactor november 2011; survey by Sofie Cerutti and Sieneke de Rooij

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Creative Writing in Europe Nov2011 Sd R Def 2

  1. 1. C e t e in i E rp rai Wr ig n u o e v tA it d c o :ec ig rai Wr ig n1 E rp a cu t e n nr ut n tahn C et e in i 1 uo en o nr s o i v t iU rc t t h eK nt c r u s at f o
  2. 2. ColophonResearch and text: Sofie CeruttiCreative Writing Consultants Kunstfactor: Sieneke de Rooij, Diana Chin-A-Fat© Kunstfactor Utrecht, October 2011Creative Writing in Europe is a publication of Kunstfactor, the national institute for the voluntaryarts. Unless otherwise agreed upon, Kunstfactor allows you as reader to download and print thispublication for your own use. It is not permitted to make any changes to the content, text orotherwise. When quoting from the publication it is compulsory to acknowledge the source. It is notpossible to transfer the right of use to third parties. The transfer of intellectual property rights,including copyright, on the work composed or created by Kunstfactor is not included in the right ofuse.Kunstfactor is the national institute for the voluntary arts in the Netherlands. The national instituteis a key discussion partner for governmental bodies, policy makers and opinion leaders, andstimulate the debate on the voluntary arts. We advise, inform, research, initiate and inspire. Weestablish connections within and outside the voluntary arts sector, both nationally andinternationally.
  3. 3. IndexPreface 4Introduction 51. Creative Writing in Europe 71.1 Austria 71.2 Belgium (Flanders) 71.3 Czech Republic 81.4 France 81.5 Germany 91.6 Italy 91.7 The Netherlands 91.8 Norway 101.9 Poland 101.10 Spain 101.11 United Kingdom 111.12 Informants 11‘Writing? You learn that at age six!’ 131.13 Government policy on Creative Writing 131.14 Authors and Creative Writing 141.15 Certified writers? 141.16 New media 151.17 International cooperation 151.18 Funding a Creative Writing school 171.19 Do graduates succeed in becoming professional writers? 171.20 Conferences 18Conclusion: A Creative Writing Future 20Appendix: original survey questionnaire 21 Creative Writing in Europe | Teaching Creative Writing in 11 European Countries | Kunstfactor 2011 | p. 3
  4. 4. PrefaceAs of 2009, ‘Writing in an international perspective’ has been one of Kunstfactor’s activities.Focussing on international relations, Kunstfactor aims to initiate an exchange betweenprofessionals, organisations and schools involved in teaching Creative Writing in differentcountries.In 2011, in line with this activity, Kunstfactor consultants carried out a survey in cooperationwith their international relations operating in the field of Creative Writing. This survey dealtwith questions such as the role of Creative Writing in higher and lower education, the role of thegovernment in supporting Creative Writing and the resources that are available for CreativeWriting professionals to practice their work as well as for creative writers to participate in theirhobby.Creative Writing professionals from Austria, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland,Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and the Czech Republic have contributed to thisinventory to inform Creative Writing teachers, consultants, policy makers or other interestedprofessionals about the position of Creative Writing in their country. The goal of this survey is toprovide a snapshot of Creative Writing in Europe today and, consequently, to reveal thecommon thread that connects all professionals in Creative Writing throughout the continent.Kunstfactor would like to invite European partners to add to this first inventory of CreativeWriting in Europe, in the hope of producing future updates.In this survey you will find good examples that may inspire you, or differences between fellowEuropean countries that will amaze you. It will also offer you an overview of your internationalcolleagues that may be useful, now or in the future.OnlineFor a good online view on European Creative Writing, take a look at to see howan organization called ‘the European Association of Creative Writing Programmes’ promotesnetworking and organizes international events and the exchange of students, teachers, scholars,information, ideas and knowledge in the field of Creative Writing, especially in Europe.ConferencesIn 2009-2010, also in line with the activity ‘Writing in an international perspective’, Kunstfactorconsultants visited three international conferences on Creative Writing. One in Finland – theInternational Conference on Creativity and Writing – and two in the United Kingdom, theNAWE Conference and Great Writing.Kunstfactor’s Creative Writing consultants found these conferences to be enormously inspiring,and encourage Creative Writing professionals from every country to visit them. Conferences onCreative Writing that will inspire your writing process as well as your view on, for example,teaching and writing methodology are held from the United States to Australia, fromScandinavia to Africa.With this publication, you will find a short list of links to the most informative websites aboutsome of these international conferences on Creative Writing in Europe. On these sites you willsoon discover who organizes these conferences, what happens there, and how they can benefityou. As sites and their content continually change, we advise you now and then to google(creative) writing conference and enjoy the new surprises that you will undoubtedly find.Wies RosenboomHead of the Staff, Dance and Writing Departments Creative Writing in Europe | Teaching Creative Writing in 11 European Countries | Kunstfactor 2011 | p. 4
  5. 5. IntroductionCreative Writing has always been – and still is – a disputed subject in most European countries.Whether it is a regular subject, taught at a great number of universities or colleges, as in GreatBritain, or a rather neglected (or, on the contrary, quite exclusive) field of interest taught only insome private schools or institutions – as for example in Poland or Italy, it seems to be anextraordinary subject everywhere. It is not the same as studying mathematics or history, or evengraphic design, dance or sculpture.Is Creative Writing an art or a craft, or is it a calling? Can it be taught in regular classes, and canone learn to be a writer at school? These questions seem to be asked over and over again toanyone involved in teaching Creative Writing who is trying to set up or run a school in this field,or who is trying to convince politicians or policy makers to invest in it.Language, of course, plays a crucial role in teaching and studying Creative Writing. Therefore,unlike in many other areas, internationalization is not so obvious here. However easily studentsnowadays visit universities or colleges in other countries as part of their studies, this is stillcomplicated in the field of Creative Writing. Prose, poetry, drama or essays are written best, ifnot only, in one’s own mother tongue, and it is very hard, if not impossible, to write in a foreignlanguage. Even passively it is a complex matter: reading a text in a different language might bean attainable goal, but to comment on or judge a text that is written in what is to you a foreignlanguage is almost as difficult as writing.Some international cooperation is certainly taking place. The European Association of CreativeWriting Programmes (EACWP), founded in 2005, offers a platform for international exchangeand networking in the field of Creative Writing. The EACWP organizes events, annualconferences, seminars and student exchanges. In 2011 the international course ‘Fundamentalsof Poetry’ took place. This was a pilot programme in which six writing schools from differentcountries participated, and was designed to compare methodologies and writing techniquesinternationally. Apart from such formalized contacts, individual teachers and coordinators inwriting schools in different countries sometimes know each other and learn from each other’spractices.Still, a deeply felt lack of knowledge of the international situation on Creative Writing existsamong Creative Writing professionals throughout Europe. By means of a survey of thedifferences in Creative Writing education between several European countries we have made astart to bridging this gap.I spoke with professionals of eleven different countries, asking them to fill out a questionnaire,and interviewed them on the specific situation in their country or school. In this article I try toprocess their answers and sketch the outlines of the field of Creative Writing in these Europeancountries. This survey is neither complete nor very profound – there are many more countries,schools, academies and universities in which Creative Writing is taught. Therefore, as Iinterviewed only one person from each country, the information I received often concerns oneschool or institute. Some questions we asked, could not be answered in most countries (forexample: How many amateur writers in your country, which web communities for writers, etc.).Hence, this survey serves mainly as a first, brief exploration.For this article I spoke with Alain André (director and founder of Aleph Ecriture, Paris, France),Graeme Harper (director of the National Institute for Excellence in the Creative Industries andprofessor of Creative Writing, Bangor, UK) Claudius Nießen (manager of Deutsches Creative Writing in Europe | Teaching Creative Writing in 11 European Countries | Kunstfactor 2011 | p. 5
  6. 6. Literaturinstitut Leipzig, Germany), Gianluca Pallaro (didactic director of Scuola Holden, Turin,Italy), Javier Sagarna (director of Escuela de Escritores, Madrid, Spain and president ofEACWP), Sabine Scholl (professor at Institut für Sprachkunst, Universität für AngewandteKunst, Vienna, Austria), Hanna Sieja (president of the Association of Graduates, Lecturers andStudents of Literary Artistic Studies at Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland), Hans Skaare(Creative Writing teacher at Nansen Academy, Lillehammer, Norway), Daniel Soukup (teacherand vice rector at Josef Skvorecky Literary Academy, Prague, Czech Republic), Frank Tazelaar(coordinator of bachelor Creative Writing at ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnhem, theNetherlands) and An Leenders and Erik Vanhee (director and didactic coordinator of CreatiefSchrijven, Antwerp, Belgium). I thank them all very much for their time, efforts and theirwillingness to cooperate in this survey. I would also like to thank Mónica Crespo (Spain) andMarlen Schachinger (Austria) for sharing their thoughts on this subject in an earlier stage of thissurvey. Creative Writing in Europe | Teaching Creative Writing in 11 European Countries | Kunstfactor 2011 | p. 6
  7. 7. 1. Creative Writing in EuropeTo describe the differences and similarities between different European countries, I will start byoutlining the education in Creative Writing in eleven European countries. This is based oninterviews I conducted with representatives of Creative Writing schools, academies anduniversity departments.1.1 AustriaIn Austria the Schule für Dichtung (School for Poetry) has been located in Vienna since 1992.According to their website, they do not provide a full education to become a poet. But they dooffer courses, literary encounters with well-known authors, and practical training for thoseinterested in developing their poetical abilities. The school does not offer a fulltime or long-termprogramme or a diploma for graduates.Since 2009 the Universität für Angewandte Kunst Wien (University for Applied Arts Vienna)hosts the Institut für Sprachkunst (Institute for Language Art), which offers a three-year coursein Creative Writing. This is the first university in Austria to offer an official course in the subject.As it has just recently started, the institute is still relatively small, with 28 students currently inthe first two years. Some 380 students applied for a place in 2011-2012; a maximum of 20students will be accepted.1.2 Belgium (Flanders)As in most other European countries, Creative Writing is not a regular component of primaryand secondary education in Flanders (the Dutch speaking part of Belgium, autonomous inCulture and Education). There is, however, an organisation that offers courses in CreativeWriting for children, young people and adults: DKO, Deeltijds Kunst Onderwijs or Part-time ArtEducation. These are non-commercial courses, aimed at amateurs rather than professionals, butthe complete programme could be as intensive as a weekly training of three years, leading to anofficial diploma.Some colleges and universities have Creative Writing elements in their curriculum (ofjournalism, or audiovisual arts, for example), but only as a small part of the programme.Flanders has no formal education to become a professional writer.Several private initiatives offer courses in Creative Writing, or a complete education. There is‘WEL’, an organisation based in Leuven which offers a four-year education with freelanceteachers. ‘Wisper’ organises individual courses for (young) adults in several Flemish cities andin several disciplines: children’s books, columns, poetry, chicklit. The non-profit organisationCreatief Schrijven (Creative Writing), which is supported by the government and centre for non-professional writers, merged with SchrijversAcademie (WritersAcademy) a few years ago andunder that name offers a full four-year programme in Creative Writing. Literary publisher DeBezige Bij Antwerpen, together with Creatief Schrijven / SchrijversAcademie, held a ninemonths’ masterclass in novel writing for the first time in 2011, for ‘advanced writers’. In 2012 asimilar masterclass in poetry is planned. Quite special is the possibility to be educated as a Creative Writing in Europe | Teaching Creative Writing in 11 European Countries | Kunstfactor 2011 | p. 7
  8. 8. writing teacher (every other year, by Creatief Schrijven), which is certainly not available in everyEuropean country.1.3 Czech RepublicAs of 1999 it has been possible to establish private schools and universities in the CzechRepublic. Since then about 45 private academies have been founded, of which two are art-oriented. In 2000, the Joseph Skvorecky Literary Academy was founded, with the only fulleducation in Creative Writing in the country. The academy offers a Bachelor’s, and since a fewyears also a Master’s programme.The academy has about 250 students, but many of them major in subjects other than literarywriting. Students become translators, editors, scriptwriters, writers for new media, etc. Only asmall minority has the ambition to be a literary writer, and an even smaller number actuallysucceed in this.As a private university the institute is mainly dependent on students for its income. Unlike manycomparable art schools in other countries and in the Czech Republic itself, there is not a verystrict admission selection procedure – when 60 students apply, around 50 actually get a place inthe school. Due to a slight demographic decline, there are fewer students than a few years ago,and universities and schools are competing quite fiercely at the moment to attract the limitednumber of students available to them.1.4 FranceAt present, no university education in Creative Writing exists in France, nor is there anystructural attention for the subject in primary or secondary education. There is, however, somemovement in the right direction. Violaine Houdar-Mérot, lecturer at the University of Cergy,near Paris, organized an inquiry into creative writing workshops in French universities. Thisrevealed that nearly half of French universities now organize workshops in this area, althoughmostly with a condensed content and marginal status.The institute Aleph Ecriture in Paris, which was founded in 1985, offers courses to some 3000people throughout France. It provides a long-term training of four years, but students can alsofollow one or two-year courses, part-time sessions or individual courses and workshops. Around16 permanent staff and 30 part-time teachers currently work at the institute.In France, there are currently (and have been for many years now) discussions between thegovernment (Ministry of Employment) and author societies aimed at developing theprofessional training of authors.At a different level, people – taking part or not in these institutional talks – are unofficiallydiscussing the foundation of something like a private school. Teachers in Creative Writing wouldbe trained in that school as well. What the goals of such a school would be, whether it wouldoffer a strictly technical curriculum or a more creative one as well, is still under debate. Creative Writing in Europe | Teaching Creative Writing in 11 European Countries | Kunstfactor 2011 | p. 8
  9. 9. 1.5 GermanyIn Germany there are a few possibilities to receive an education in becoming a writer. The oldestand most renowned institute is the ‘Literaturinstitut Universität Leipzig’. Founded in the GDRin 1955, it was shut down after the fall of the Wall and reopened in 1995 after being completelyrenewed. From the approximately 600 applicants each year, they select around 25 students fortheir Bachelor’s and Master’s programme. Between half and two-thirds of the graduates actuallysucceed in becoming a published writer. Others work as editors at publishing houses anduniversities or as journalists. Quite a few well-known German writers attended the institute inLeipzig. Nevertheless, like almost everywhere else, an on-going debate is taking place inGermany on the question of whether you can teach someone to be a writer.Besides Leipzig, the University of Hildesheim offers a course in ‘Kreatives Schreiben undKulturjournalismus’ (Creative Writing and Cultural Journalism), the University of Arts in Berlinoffers a course in writing for theatre (‘Szenisches Schreiben’) and in Tübingen the universitydesigned the ‘Studio Literatur und Theater’ with workshops and seminars in Creative Writing,open to students of all different departments.1.6 ItalyItaly does not have an extensive tradition in creative writing. There is no formal education in thesubject in primary or secondary schools, nor at universities or academies. There are quite a fewprivate schools, institutes and individual authors who offer courses, masterclasses or tutorials inCreative Writing, all over Italy.Scuola Holden in Turin, for example, has offered two-year courses since 1994 and claims to haveone of the most extensive programmes in Creative Writing available in the country. The schoolplaces 30 students each year, who pay a considerable tuition fee compared to some otherEuropean schools (over 4,000 Euros), but receive a comprehensive education in exchange.There are meetings, seminars and working groups every day, certainly in the first year.The school also offers shorter courses and online tutorials for older students (there is an agelimit for the regular programme) who live away from Turin or have other reasons not to want tojoin the fulltime education. The school trains not only professional writers, but also scriptwriters, editors, web writers, scenarists and other professionals in the field of storytelling.1.7 The NetherlandsUntil recently, the Netherlands offered no formal full education in Creative Writing at collegesor universities. In September 2011, a four-year education in Creative Writing started at artschool ArtEZ in Arnhem, which will result in a Bachelor’s degree. Of the around 200 studentsthat applied some twenty have been accepted.Even though the Netherlands lacked formal courses, it did manage to offer students thepossibility of being trained as a writer. Private schools like ‘de Schrijversvakschool’ have offeredcourses and full education in creative writing since the 1980s. There are several colleges (HvA)and universities (Fontys) that offer courses in Creative Writing as part of minors for Bachelors Creative Writing in Europe | Teaching Creative Writing in 11 European Countries | Kunstfactor 2011 | p. 9
  10. 10. programs. The Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht (Utrecht School of the Arts) offers theprogramme ‘Writing for Performance’ as part of a Bachelor of Theatre. ‘Scriptplus’, a writingschool related to the Hogeschool van Amsterdam, created a 1.5-year education to become aCreative Writing Teacher. But all of those are mainly part-time programmes, with nine to tenmeetings each semester.1.8 NorwayIn Norway there is no full-length education for aspiring writers, but there are quite a few otherpossibilities for studying Creative Writing. There is the Nansen Academy in Lillehammer whichoffers a one-year course in philosophy, cultural history and contemporary subjects, and in whichhalf the hours are dedicated to Creative Writing. The Skrivekunstakademiet in Hordaland offersa one-year course, as does the University High School of Telemark as well, as part of aBachelor’s degree. The University of Tromsø offers a two-year course in the Department ofLiterature, leading to a Bachelor’s degree. There are several other ‘folkehøgskole’ (college-likeschools) that offer courses in Creative Writing, without a formal diploma afterwards. All of theschools are state funded, as is the custom in Norway.As in most other countries, there is hardly any room for Creative Writing in primary orsecondary education. As elsewhere, it depends mostly on the amount of attention an individualteacher gives to the subject.1.9 PolandIn Poland there is no full-time education in Creative Writing at a university or art school.Several universities offer courses in the subject, as part of courses in journalism, philology orother courses. Jagiellonian University in Krakow offers a course in ‘Artistic Literary Studies’since 1994, which is a postgraduate course, with classes every two weeks on weekends. Thespecialization takes two years of study, and does not result in any title or official degree inCreative Writing. Opole University also offers a postgraduate creative writing course, similar tothat of Jagiellonian University. In Opole, the programme is taught by the same lecturers everyyear, but in Krakow they change the teachers on an annual basis.The University of Wroclaw has Journalism and Social communication with a Creative Writingspecialization. The University of Łódź and Opole University also offer classes with elements ofCreative Writing, but only as a part of other courses.There is a tendency to create more courses in Creative Writing, mostly online, but those coursesstand outside the ‘official’ educational system. The courses are run by journalists or authors anddiffer from each other in aim, quality and literary pretentions.1.10 SpainIn Spain, there are several languages outside ‘Castilian’ Spanish, and that makes the CreativeWriting situation a bit different from other countries. Main schools, like Escuela de Escritores Creative Writing in Europe | Teaching Creative Writing in 11 European Countries | Kunstfactor 2011 | p. 10
  11. 11. de Madrid, teach mostly in Spanish, the common language for the whole country. BasqueCountry houses the only university in Spain to offer an education in Creative Writing, but that isa very special situation. Basque Country does not have a strong creative writing tradition (as faras the Castilian source was concerned), but supporting and promoting the language is part of theminority language position that Basque occupies in Spain.Besides that, there are some private schools, for example Escola d’escriptura del AteneuBarcelonés that have courses in Catalan (a language that has a strong literary tradition), usuallyas a part of a double offer, in Spanish and Catalan, that reflects the bilingual situation inCatalonia.Apart from that, the number of Spanish-speaking people all over the world exceeds that ofcountries like the Netherlands, Poland or France by far. As a result, the potential market foronline creative language courses is larger than in many other places.An official university or college education in Creative Writing is non-existent in Spain, and thereare no concrete plans to change that. But there are quite a few writing schools, both small andlarge. They do not get any government support, neither financially nor in any other way. As theschools have to generate their own income, many of them offer in-company courses in writing,in addition to their Creative Writing classes for individuals.1.11 United KingdomThe United Kingdom is, of course, a country that most of the other countries in Europe look upto in awe when it comes to the subject of Creative Writing. Since the 1970s a vast tradition ofCreative Writing departments and researchers has been established in almost every universityor academy in the UK, from Oxford to Aberystwyth. They offer full programmes or singlecourses in Creative Writing. There are Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, and at some places eventhe possibility to continue to PhD level. Outside formal school settings there are also plenty ofopportunities to study Creative Writing at a private school or institute.While in many of the other European countries Creative Writing as a subject is, if it exists at all,under threat or at least under discussion, in the UK it seems undisputed. The subject is popularwith students to such an extent that most universities and academies have strict admissionselection procedures – without which they would not be able to cope with the numbers ofapplicants. Creative Writing is part of the humanities, which are not the most popular part of thegovernment’s policy at the moment, as in many other European countries. But it is in line withthe government’s agenda on creativity and it is relatively cost-effective. Universities and schoolsdo not question its necessity at all.1.12 InformantsAustria: Sabine Scholl (professor at Institut für Sprachkunst, Universität für Angewandte Kunst,Vienna)Belgium: An Leenders and Erik Vanhee (director and didactic coordinator of Creatief SchrijvenBelgië, Antwerp)Czech Republic: Daniel Soukup (teacher and vice rector at Josef Skvorecky Literary Academy,Prague)France: Alain André (director and founder of Aleph Ecriture, Paris)Germany: Claudius Nießen (manager of Deutsches Literaturinstitut Leipzig) Creative Writing in Europe | Teaching Creative Writing in 11 European Countries | Kunstfactor 2011 | p. 11
  12. 12. Italy: Gianluca Pallaro (didactic director of Scuola Holden, Turin)The Netherlands: Frank Tazelaar (coordinator of Bachelor of Creative Writing at ArtEZ Instituteof the Arts, Arnhem)Norway: Hans Skaare (Creative Writing teacher at Nansen Academy, Lillehammer)Poland: Hanna Sieja (president of the Association of Graduates, Lecturers and Students ofLiterary Artistic Studies at Jagiellonian University, Krakow)Spain: Javier Sagarna (director of Escuela de Escritores, Madrid and president of EACWP)United Kingdom: Graeme Harper (director of the National Institute for Excellence in theCreative Industries and professor of Creative Writing, Bangor) Creative Writing in Europe | Teaching Creative Writing in 11 European Countries | Kunstfactor 2011 | p. 12
  13. 13. ‘Writing? You learn that at age six!’Creative Writing as an education subject is treated very differently in the various Europeancountries. The same topics, however, are discussed everywhere.1.13 Government policy on Creative WritingGenerally speaking the policy of most governments of European countries in times ofeconomical and financial crisis is not in favour of arts and humanities, but is more likely to befocused on sciences, technology or medicine. It is interesting to see that, in spite of thesedevelopments, some universities and art schools are still taking the risk of launching newcourses in that field. In Austria, for example, a university (Universität für Angewandte KunstWien) recently developed a full course in Creative Writing, which is heading towards its thirdyear now. In the Netherlands, apart from private schools and courses offered by colleges as partof another programme, a full-time education at art school ArtEZ is starting this year (2011).Sabine Scholl, one of the founders of the Institut für Sprachkunst at the Vienna University, saysit has taken a lot of effort to get this far. “It was very difficult to find a university that wanted toinvest in such a new curriculum. This university is focused on art – digital art, transformativearts, performative art, traditional art forms – and probably hopes our institution could interactwell with all those art forms.” Of course, the university is trying to put itself in the spotlight bydeveloping a new, successful study. But the new course has to prove itself like all others. “Thereshould be some clear results within three years.”Art school ArtEZ, in Arnhem, started the first formal Bachelor’s course in Creative Writing inthe Netherlands recently, in September 2011. Three years of intensive preparations havepreceded this – years in which the new Dutch government introduced huge cutbacks in the arts,including substantial reductions of student numbers at art schools. This, however, did notdiscourage coordinator Frank Tazelaar. “Literature and the way texts are made, distributed andread, have changed enormously over the last ten years. It’s not enough to have skills as a writer– you have to be able to present your work, you need to have a network among writers,publishers and festivals; you need to know how to reach your audience. At the same time,publishers have less and less money to support and coach their authors; literary magazines thatused to coach authors as well are withdrawing one by one. There is definitely need and room foran education like this, especially now.” The director of ArtEZ announced that the school willreduce the number of students in the visual arts radically, by almost 30%, to invest in the newBachelor study of Creative Writing.In the UK, Creative Writing departments don’t have to prove themselves like that anymore. TheBritish/Australian writer Graeme Harper, who taught Creative Writing at several universitiesand who wrote critical works on the subject, as well as a great many novels, thinks CreativeWriting will not be in danger. “It’s a strongly recruiting subject with students, and it’s gettingbigger every year. It’s able to apply to the research councils here for research funds. And it’s aneasy subject to maintain. As an art subject it’s relatively low-cost – it’s not like theatre or mediastudies, as it doesn’t require huge facilities. It might be on the wrong side of the tracks, beinghumanities, it’s not a subject the government is supporting right now. However, creativity is oneof the government’s particular interests.” Creative Writing in Europe | Teaching Creative Writing in 11 European Countries | Kunstfactor 2011 | p. 13
  14. 14. 1.14 Authors and Creative WritingStrangely enough, some of the fiercest opponents of courses in Creative Writing are literaryauthors themselves. “A lot of authors now are autodidactic, self-made writers,” says SabineScholl (Vienna). “Many authors in Austria fear a division between writers who went to universityand those without a diploma. They would have disadvantages. That was the main thrust of theopposition. Other writers, however, disagreed with this, saying they would have liked to havehad the opportunity to study Creative Writing when starting as a literary author.”Many authors see writing as a gift, not as an art or craft that can be taught. Alain André (Paris)often met this kind of attitude. “Many writers see their profession as a vocation. ‘You don’t learnto be a writer, you are born one,’ they say.” André thinks a more American approach is needed,where writing is seen more as a craft, a profession in which you can be trained. “But manyFrench writers revolt against such an American approach. They think there would be too muchemphasis on techniques, and not enough on talent and genius.”Claudius Nießen, manager of the Literatur Institut Leipzig, recognizes this attitude. “ ‘Whoneeds to learn to write?’ people often say. ‘We learn to write in primary school, at age six!’ Itprobably has to do with the Romantic German notion of ‘genius’, which is still very distinct inthe public opinion.”Even in the UK the idea that writing can’t be taught pops up occasionally. “It’s a funny sort ofargument,” says Graeme Harper. “It doesn’t make any logical sense. No one would say that ofany other subject. Couldn’t you teach music? Or chemistry?”“At Polish Universities, they purposely avoid handing diplomas that say you’re a writer,” saysHanna Sieja, who graduated from Jagielonnian University, Krakow. “They dont want to giveanyone a paper which states that writing is a profession. Also in Poland many people have theRomantic idea writers should have a gift and that it cannot be learned.” Of course you needtalent to become a writer, but that’s the same with visual arts or theatre, to name but a few.“Creative Writing courses can give you the necessary skills to write a proper text. Without talent,it will remain craftsmanship only, but people with talent might improve their skills, and developtheir abilities.”1.15 Certified writers?But is there a difference between writers who have had a formal education and writers who havenot? “I don’t think there is such a difference,” says Claudius Nießen. “And I would never say youneed to have an education in Creative Writing. The question is: what can you accomplish as aschool? Not much, really: we can try to find talented young people and teach them a few things,and give them feedback on their work. We work as a catalyst, at best.” He is convinced thatstudents learn a lot from each other, and that there lies part of the value of such an education.“It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to spend a few years amidst a small group ofcongenial minds, reading and writing and commenting on each others’ work. Where else wouldyou find a place where something like that is possible?”Hans Skaare, of the Norwegian Hansen Institute in Lillehammer, has the impression that theCreative Writing programmes are being well regarded nowadays, and that young would-beauthors are quite eager to attend them. “Since the start of these programmes in Norway, a new Creative Writing in Europe | Teaching Creative Writing in 11 European Countries | Kunstfactor 2011 | p. 14
  15. 15. generation of writers skilled in their craft has become visible, also internationally. They seem touse language and storytelling tools more consciously than previous generations.”“Young writers-to-be who graduate from a Creative Writing education are not necessarily moretalented than others,” says Frank Tazelaar, from ArtEZ in the Netherlands. “But they know howto apply and employ their talents better.”1.16 New mediaWith a limited number of Creative Writing academies spread throughout Europe, and languageas the main vehicle for this art form, you would think that there would be quite a few onlinecourses. However, there seem to be varying opinions regarding this among institutes. TheEscuela de Escritores in Madrid offers many online courses and classes, not only for Spanishstudents, but for Latin Americans as well. “Internet is our biggest area right now,” says JavierSagarna, of the private school in Madrid. “We have a wide range of online courses: prose, poetry,screen writing, writing for TV. About 350 students use our services every month, 30 percent ofwhom are Latin American.” The online courses of the Spanish institute include online classes.“It works a bit like Facebook. We create a virtual campus, with communities. The materialstudents write goes to the whole group. Teachers comment on the work and there are regularchats. It works very well and we’re definitely going to expand it.”Others are less convinced about the benefits of the new media. In Norway, Belgium, theNetherlands and Germany, online teaching methods do not form a major part of the education,or are even completely absent. Daniel Soukup of the Josef Skvorecky Literary Academy inPrague thinks students as well as teachers prefer face-to-face contact. “We do have an internetplatform for our distance learning BA students. But even those students come to the schoolevery now and again, about five times per semester. The in-house classes are most important.You may see it as technological conservatism. But we prefer to be a small school with a familyatmosphere. And with real contact between teacher and student.”Scuola Holden in Turin tries to steer a middle course. Didactic director Gianluca Pallaro: “Wehave online courses for people who live too far away from the city, or who for other reasons can’tdo the full-time education. You are given the theory and assigned a personal tutor. You sendyour exercises by email, after which the tutor provides you with feedback. There are no onlineclasses, it’s still one-on-one.” According to Pallaro, there will be more and more online coursesin the future. “We’re in a transition period right now. We want to attract a lot more students,and online courses will be a major part of that.”In Poland there is a tendency to create more online courses in Creative Writing, but all areoutside the national education system – and their quality varies, says Hanna Sieja. Most of themare run by journalists or authors.1.17 International cooperationIn a language-oriented field like Creative Writing, it is hard to work together internationally,and this lack of cooperation is felt deeply. Alain André: “People feel terribly alone in their work.They want to share more than they do now.” Still, even when you meet foreign colleagues, it isdifficult to exchange more than formalities. “We do have international meetings, like the Creative Writing in Europe | Teaching Creative Writing in 11 European Countries | Kunstfactor 2011 | p. 15
  16. 16. meetings the EACWP organizes,” says the director of the Parisian institute. “The problem is thatwe listen to each other and then conclude: ‘What you are doing is fine, but in our school it isdifferent’.”The German Literature Institute in Leipzig organized an international congress in 2005, duringwhich the EACWP was founded – the European network for Creative Writing professionals.“But after that, the network subsided a bit, unfortunately,” says Claudius Nießen. Members ofthe group, however, still manage to organize some activities, like the international pilot course‘Fundamentals of Poetry’, which was organized by six writing schools in six different countries,and was held both in real life and over the internet. “Of course, language is crucial in CreativeWriting,” says Gianluca Pallaro. “In such an international course, you can discuss theory, buthardly the practical part of writing poetry.”Daniel Soukup thinks the course achieved more than just discussing theory. “The creative aspectwent fine. People were very enthusiastic about the different approach of teachers from othercountries. We worked in English, but many of the texts were translated into other languages aswell.” Exchanging texts and experiences over the internet proved far more difficult, as far as heis concerned. “The internet platform that was created for the event didn’t work well. Or at leastpeople weren’t too happy about using it.”Being the country with the most comprehensive Creative Writing education, everybody looks tothe United Kingdom. But according to Graeme Harper schools everywhere need to look beyondtheir borders. “We may have many Creative Writing programmes compared to continentalEurope, but if you look at the United States, what we do in the UK is very small in comparison.But that is not so interesting. We have to be discussing this internationally more than we havedone up until now. And that includes Asia as well. We need to look beyond the borders ofcountries and subjects alike. There are global developments going on and we need to addressthose. Language doesn’t matter too much in that respect.”Within language regions, schools tend to look at each other, also across national borders. TheFlemish organisation Creatief Schrijven looks closely at the Dutch developments. “The Dutchare always a bit ahead of us,” says Erik Vanhee of the institute Creatief Schrijven in Antwerp.“Which is good, because the huge government cuts in the arts in the Netherlands haven’t beenrepeated here yet to such an extent .” In the UK people look at the United States and Australiaand vice versa. Vienna looks at Leipzig, Leipzig at Switzerland (Biel). Although differentlanguage regions, the Scandinavian countries have more contact with each other than with othercountries. The new Dutch education programme in Arnhem was in close contact with DaveEggers and United States institutes, as well as with a few French schools.The Escuela de Escritores in Madrid has a huge international network, as Spanish is spoken inmany countries of the world. “We always try to learn from other people’s practices,” says JavierSagarna. “Also from the broad experience of North American universities, whose CreativeWriting departments know a lot about teaching the craft of writing. The Latin Americantradition is mainly a private one, but some state universities also offer Creative Writing coursesnow. We have regular contact with Creative Writing departments in Argentina and Colombia,for example.” Creative Writing in Europe | Teaching Creative Writing in 11 European Countries | Kunstfactor 2011 | p. 16
  17. 17. 1.18 Funding a Creative Writing schoolThe funding of Creative Writing schools and institutes differs from country to country and fromschool to school. In the UK, Germany, Austria and Norway, Creative Writing education isconnected with universities or colleges and is paid for by the government. In Spain, Italy, Franceand the Czech Republic there are mainly private schools and institutions that teach CreativeWriting. In the Netherlands both forms exist – private schools and government-funded collegeprogrammes. But in more cases there is a mixture: in Turin, ten students receive a grant everyyear, provided by the city government.And many schools pursue commercial activities. Erik Vanhee: “We have writing training forcompanies, which has turned out to be a substantial part of our income.” The Madrid Escuela deEscritores is completely dependent on the income it generates itself. Javier Sagarna: “We getincome from student fees, as well as from the internet courses. And we offer efficient writingtraining courses for companies – around one fourth of our income.”Creatief Schrijven in Flanders, Belgium also tried to raise funds as a charitable organization, butnot with great success. “I can understand that,” says Erik Vanhee. “People tend to donate theirmoney to an organisation like Amnesty International or the Red Cross rather than to a writingschool.”1.19 Do graduates succeed in becoming professional writers?So what happens to students after their graduation? Do they succeed in becoming professionalwriters whose books are published and who can live off their writing?Students attending Creative Writing schools do not always show the ambition to become aliterary author. “At our academy it’s a minority,” says Daniel Soukup. “People want to work inmedia, as an editor, scriptwriter for television, in new media. They join a Creative Writingprogramme to improve their technical writing skills, not because they want to write novels orpoems.”Consequently, most schools teach other subjects besides literary writing: journalism,copywriting, writing for the web. “We do try to send them to work in the field,” says GianlucaPallaro. “Some of them write books, many also work as a scriptwriter, in film, in television, inliterary agencies, in publishing houses. We are not only a school for writing. We want to deliverprofessionals in the field of storytelling.”In Leipzig it’s certainly a majority who succeed in becoming a published author, according tocoordinator Claudius Nießen. “Maybe not everybody succeeds in living off their writing, but halfto two thirds of graduates publish novels or poetry through professional publishers afterleaving.”Hanna Sieja thinks students should be better informed that being successful is dependent notonly on talent, but also on very hard work. “In my opinion, the biggest mistake of most CreativeWriting courses is that they give students the false impression that after the course they willeasily succeed as a writer.” Creative Writing in Europe | Teaching Creative Writing in 11 European Countries | Kunstfactor 2011 | p. 17
  18. 18. 1.20 ConferencesCreative Writing conferences can be found all over the world. In Europe, most take place in theUnited Kingdom. Some well-known conferences that may be interest to professionals in CreativeWriting are listed below. The venues for these conferences vary every year, with some being heldevery two years.As we suggested in our Preface, the best thing to do is just google creative writing conference;this is the most reliable way of finding recent and up-to-date information.As sites and their content continually change, we advise you to google (creative) writingconference now and then and enjoy the new surprises that you’ll find.Great Writing UKs Great Writing international Creative Writing conference is a place to share creativeand critical work, to explore Creative Writing, and to discuss those explorations with CreativeWriting colleagues from around the world. Launched almost 15 years ago, each year theconference welcomes creative writers from all over the world – many of whom work inuniversities and colleges, or are undertaking graduate degrees in Creative Writing.NAWE is the one organization supporting the development of creative writing of all genres andin all educational and community settings throughout the UK.The yearly international NAWE Conference ( is held in November.European Association of Creative Writing Programmes www.eacwp.orgThe relatively young EACWP describes their objectives as follows:‘The existence of this association is to promote networking, the organization of internationalevents, and the exchange of students, teachers, scholars, information, ideas and knowledge inthe field of Creative Writing, especially, but not exclusively, in Europe.’‘The activity of EACWP focuses on Creative Writing in all its forms, such as: theory of CW,teaching of CW, design of CW curricula, mapping of CW in and outside Europe, contextualmatters related to CW (EU and other institutional issues, financing, publicity), research into thehistory of CW, literary translation, CW and multimedia and digital aspects, storytelling, criticalwriting, editing.’Outside Europe: AWP and APWritersNorth America’s Association of Writers and Writing Programmes (AWP, has given the country a boost in CreativeWriting progammes.‘The mission of The Association of Writers & Writing Programs is to foster literary achievement,to advance the art of writing as essential to a good education, and to serve the makers, teachers,students, and readers of contemporary writing.More than any other literary organization, AWP has helped North America to develop aliterature as diverse as the continent’s peoples. This, of course, is also a boost for the democraticvirtues of higher education in North America and the many public universities that compriseAWP. AWP’s members have provided literary education to students and aspiring writers fromall backgrounds, economic classes, races, and ethnic origins.AWP has helped to establish the largest system of literary patronage the world has ever seen.AWP has supported the development of hundreds of educational programmes, conferences, Creative Writing in Europe | Teaching Creative Writing in 11 European Countries | Kunstfactor 2011 | p. 18
  19. 19. reading series, and literary magazines as well as thousands of jobs for writers and new audiencesfor contemporary literature. Academic programmes have mustered hundreds of millions ofdollars to support the study, making, and enjoyment of literature.’The annual Conference ( is held in spring.Browse the extensive website about literary life in North America, richly filled with usefulcontact information.The Asia-Pacific Writing Partnership (, ‘a gathering of writers,scholars and literary organizations in the region’, present an interesting website filled with news,events etc. that serves as a compass for the literary world in the Asia-Pacific region.‘The Asia-Pacific Writing Partnership (‘AP Writers’) brings together writers, literary scholars,writers’ organizations, translators, publishers and others interested in new writing from themany countries in Asia and the Pacific. We support diversity of cultural expression andliterature that crosses borders. The AP Writers’ community champions the notion that literatureenhances understanding between cultures.’ Creative Writing in Europe | Teaching Creative Writing in 11 European Countries | Kunstfactor 2011 | p. 19
  20. 20. Conclusion: A Creative WritingFutureAs we can see from the survey we held among 10 European partners, the situation in CreativeWriting varies enormously throughout Europe. However, we can unravel some common threadsfrom the answers given by our European colleagues. • In most countries, exact numbers of writers are unknown, either for professional or amateur (non-professional) writers. More often than not, no surveys into the actual numbers of people actively involved in writing are available. In most countries, the estimates remain rough and based on ‘educated guesses’; and there’s no way to really tell the exact number of amateur writers. But we do have a few estimates. • In the Netherlands, surveys started in 1997 show that a fairly steady number of 1 million people consider writing a hobby or a way of spending their free time. About 100,000 are really serious about their work, although not all of them strive to be published authors. These numbers seem to be climbing in recent years; presumably because the internet and new media make it very easy to publish (digitally or on demand). This means around one in 17 of the Dutch population of 16.5 million people consider themselves ‘some sort of’ writer; active in creative writing to say the least. In Flanders, the estimated number of non-professionals writers is roughly 600,000 in a population of around 11 million people. • It is an appealing thought to assume that writing is this popular in any country, and it is certainly safe to assume this when we look at the English-speaking writing world on the internet. • About education, we can say that it looks like teaching the teachers as well as the writers-to-be does not seem to be a high priority. Education of teachers is scarce. Creative Writing is not usually a compulsory subject at school, neither in primary nor in secondary education. And with the great exception of the United Kingdom, Creative Writing is not easily considered a subject of studies at universities. Most courses are short and official curricula are often absent. • The funding, too, seems to be a problem almost everywhere. Creative Writing is not heavily sponsored by governments. Subsidies are modest, if there are any at all. This situation certainly does not help the development of Creative Writing studies. • On the other hand, writers of all kinds as well as teachers tend to take matters into their own hands. Their activity is not to be stopped, funding or no funding. Digitally, there are no obstacles to producing literary magazines, platforms, communities for learning and sharing. As in every other subject, sites and blogs come and go. But the growth of digital writing is obvious. Creative Writing teachers, self taught or fully educated, will be active anywhere they can.So where will it all go? Hopefully, towards a rich Creative Writing future where this art form willreceive the attention and support that the other arts enjoy. Support in acknowledging the needfor education and funding, in executing official Creative Writing programmes at all levels ofeducation and creating the infrastructure that goes with it.Support from professionals and policy makers at every level: at ministries, in provinces andcities, at schools, art academies, universities and community art centres, will help to develop thepassion and expertise of an ever growing stream of European writers, trying to connect in theirliterary world.Kunstfactor, Utrecht, the Netherlands; October 2011 Creative Writing in Europe | Teaching Creative Writing in 11 European Countries | Kunstfactor 2011 | p. 20
  21. 21. Appendix:original survey questionnaireQuestionnaireCreative Writing in [country X] – basic factsCreative Writing as a formal part of education• primary education• secondary education• college• universityTeachers• education of teachersGovernment instruction/support• writing in extracurricular programs• writing in community artsFinancing Creative Writing• government support• funding• sponsoring• private fundingCreative Writing ConferencesCreative Writing for non-professionals• estimated number of non-professionals writers• National institute / organisation non-pro writers?• creative writing magazines• creative writing communities on line• creative writing schools• Arts Centres offering CW courses• creative writing contestsInformation (2011) supplied by• (Name and profession, organisation; city and country; e-mail address) Creative Writing in Europe | Teaching Creative Writing in 11 European Countries | Kunstfactor 2011 | p. 21