Creative Writing for All


The Oxford Experience is a residential summer programme providing one-week courses in a variety of subjects aimed at non-specialists. It offers a choice of seminars each week over a period of six weeks.

Many authors take their own life experience as a starting point for works of fiction. In this discursive course we will be looking at how memory and imagination can work together across a variety of genres to create engaging stories. A combination of writing exercises, text analysis, and group debate will form the basis of our sessions together. Students will discuss classic works of fiction in the context of the lives of their authors: placing famous texts within a social and historical framework. They will also share their own individual pieces of writing. As such, they will gain creative and critical skills which will bring a fresh perspective to the reading experience. Absolute beginners and practicing writers are equally welcome.

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, 09.15-10.45 and 11.15-12.45, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study or exploring the many beautiful places in and around the city.


What We Remember:

We will look at the power of subjective memory: both as a formal, fictional narrative device and as a psychological truth. We use set texts as a stimulus for discussion and then using a series of short writing exercises, students will create an initial personal piece of “real life” writing and thereby get the creative juices flowing.


The Power of Myth:

We will look at the power of the myth in a range of cultures: both in terms of traditional storytelling and modern political “spin.” Using set text and contemporary news media, we will look at how a mythic narrative enacts a set of moral values. We will then discuss how we narrate our personal experiences to fit our sense of our own myths, and how this natural human tendency can be subverted for the creation of original fiction.


Characters We Know:

We will begin with a series of writing exercises, using memory and anecdote as a starting point, to create a range of original characters. We will then discuss the relationship between character and plot, using set texts and visual media. We will then discuss how to create original story outlines for our group of characters.


Beyond Our Selves:

We will begin by discussing the relationship between an author and the writing process: how we can use story to explore ideas that we care about without lecturing the readers. We will look at set text and interviews to examine how an author’s attitude to his subject matter changes as the story develops. Using a combination of writing exercises and text analysis we will learn about the power of the “opposite” point of view.


The Critic vs. The Creator:

We will begin by discussing the difference between the critical and the creative mind, and the importance of separating the two throughout the writing process. We will discuss how to plan an extended story outline. We will also look at the common stylistic mistakes made by new writers and offer tips on how to avoid them. This should give students the skills and the confidence to continue to write, either fiction or autobiography – or a combination of the two.


Description Costs
Programme fee (no accom–incl.lunch and dinner) £1070.00
Programme fee (with single en-suite accom and meals) £1565.00
Programme fee (with single standard accom and meals) £1380.00


Ms Elizabeth Garner


Elizabeth Garner is a writer of fiction and screenplays, and also works as a freelance editor for both the feature film and publishing industry.  She has written two novels, published both in the UK and USA to critical acclaim.

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Online registration closes on Friday, 1 May 2020 but please note that this course may be fully booked very quickly so early registration is recommended.


During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century.

The fee stated includes a bedroom with private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Most are single but a few twins are available*.

There is also a limited number of standard rooms available, which all have their own washbasin and shaver point but shared bath and toilet facilities. Most standard rooms are single but there are a few ‘twin sets’ (two single rooms opening off a sitting room)*.

*If you wish to book a twin en-suite room or a standard twin set room each person should complete an application form and email it to us at as these rooms cannot be booked online. (Forms may also be posted to us at: The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, UK)

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form) together with a note of any mobility problems. Students should note that bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.


If accommodation is unavailable in a particular week, we also offer places on a non-residential basis whereby participants can take classes and have meals at the college, having arranged their own accommodation elsewhere.

If you wish to enrol on a non-residential basis please complete an application form and email it to us at as this option cannot be booked online. (Forms may also be posted to us at: The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, UK)