Since its inception in 1975, York's Creative Writing Program has brought together established and apprentice writers in the study and practice of the literary arts. Many of Canada's most significant literary figures have taught in the Program, such as Eli Mandel, Irving Layton, Don Coles, Frank Davey, Miriam Waddington, Clark Blaise, Matt Cohen, and bp nichol. The work of its graduates has appeared in many prominent Canadian and international journals.
The Program's faculty and former students have been finalists for or winners of many major awards: the Governor General's Prize, the Scotia Bank Giller Prize, the Griffin Poetry Prize, the W.H. Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Emily Dickinson Prize for Poetry, the Chalmers Award, the Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Prize, the Commonwealth Prize, the CBC Canadian Literary Awards, the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers, and many others.
Through an annual reading series, the Program's has brought many poets and fiction writers to campus, among them, Mavis Gallant, Rohinton Mistry, Marie Claire Blais, Dionne Brand, Anne Carson, Barbara Gowdy, A.F. Moritz, Ken Babstock, Karen Solie, and Jen Bervin. The series also invites graduates of the program to read from their published work.
With the office of York's President, the Program offers and administers its own annual awards, open to York undergraduates. The President's Prizes recognize excellence in the categories of short fiction, poetry, screenplay, and stage play.
Creative Writing students are also eligible for the Judith Gewurtz Memorial Poetry Award; the bp nichol Award for the graduating major who demonstrated the most promising development in Creative Writing studies at York; the Sorbara Award for achievement among third year majors; the Stanley Fefferman Prize for the best portfolio in an introductory creative writing course; and the Sylvia Ellen Hersch Memorial Award, which offers financial assistance to a fourth-year student majoring in Creative Writing who has demonstrated talent, commitment, and achievement.