For fans of Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, the Iowa school system has a special place in its heart. The school system was one of the first to create a creative writing program, and it still leads the way in 2020 as to why it’s one of the best.
Designed for talented high schoolers who are looking to build their writing portfolio, or just want to learn something new, this year’s crop of incoming freshmen should feel right at home.
With the right guidance and support, they’ll be able to flourish and create some amazing short stories, poems, or novels that will stay with them forever.
For years, University of Central Missouri has lead the way in the creative writing program category, with the Iowa school system following close behind. In fact, Iowa is the only other state besides Missouri to even be nominated for any awards in this category. In an interview with The New York Times, Dr. Todd Feinberg, Iowa School District administrator, said, “We know that the arts improve student performance, and we also know that having a well-rounded education is more important than ever these days. So we try to cover as many bases as possible.”
While other schools might be tempted to cut corners in order to make a budget work, Dr. Feinberg went on to say, “If we have to choose between academics and the arts, we’ll always choose the arts.”
That’s exactly why Iowa has created its creative writing program. The school system values both breadth and depth of student growth, which is why they’re so determined to offer a variety of courses and activities.
The Benefits of a Creative Writing Program
According to the National Endowment for the Arts, creative writing programs across the country have experienced a resurgence in popularity, with around 60,000 students enrolled across the country in 2019. This is a +3.7% increase from the previous year, and it shows that students see the value in these programs as a way to both develop their writing portfolio and learn something new.
While other states have seen some resistance to the idea of investing in creative writing programs, particularly given the pandemic, Iowa has taken the opportunity to grow its program and get more students involved. At the same time, they want to make sure that students are writing for a variety of reasons, so they’re including creative writing courses alongside traditional English courses like writing for newspapers and magazine, and creative nonfiction.
As previously mentioned, one of the biggest draws of a creative writing program is the opportunity to build a writing portfolio. By taking a variety of courses, students will be able to display their versatility as a writer and show off all of their previous work experience.
In an interview with the Omaha World-Herald, Grace Simmons, a 19-year-old senior at the University of Nebraska, said, “I think it’s really cool that my high school offers a creative writing program. It’s something that you can do while still in high school that can help you in the future. It’s something that can help you explore new ideas and help you express yourself better.”
While having a writing portfolio might not seem all that important to some, for others it’s the entirety of their employment prospects. The ability to write creatively and critically with no restrictions is something that many employers are looking for, and it creates a dynamic that can’t be replicated by just about any other skill.
A Variety of Courses to Fit Every Writer
As previously mentioned, the Iowa school system understands the benefits of a variety of courses for the student body, and that’s exactly why they offer so many creative writing courses. Whether you’re an aspiring journalist looking to gain some experience or are just looking for an opportunity to explore your creative side, Iowa has something for you.
In an interview with The New York Times, Dr. Feinberg said that writing is a varies of skills, and it’s something that anyone can do regardless of experience or training, which is why they include a creative writing course in their high school curriculum.
Traditional & Non-Traditional Media
Traditional publishers might not be the most modern of industries, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve stopped evolving, and in fact, they might be one of the best industries to revive long-dormant creative writing skills. If you’re looking for a way to expand your creative writing skills, traditional publishers like Fiction Arts and Red House have you covered with some of the best paying jobs in the industry. Traditional publishers might not be for everyone, but if you’re looking to make a name for yourself, they can’t help but notice.
Non-traditional media, or independently-owned publications, have also evolved alongside the industry, providing a second option for writers who might not want to go the traditional route. In 2020 alone, independent publications have seen a 19% increase in their annual revenue, according to the American Association of Advertising Agencies. More and more writers are seeing the value in being freelance writers, so if you’re passionate about writing and feel that you have something unique and valuable to offer, this might be the option for you.
With the job prospects in this industry looking so good, it’s no wonder that students are flocking to build their writing portfolios. If you’re looking for a way to make your high school experience meaningful and earn some extra cash, consider looking into a creative writing program at your local university or community college.