Creative Writing in Siena

Language Requirement: None
Academic Standing by Program Start: Sophomore or above
Location: Europe, Italy
GPA: 2.5
Program Overview

This program will transport a traditional creative writing fiction workshop and seminar examining the literature of Italy to the city of Siena. Students will become better acquainted with the internal workings of storytelling and the vast array of tools available to them as a writer of fiction. You will look closely at language, sentences, narrative voice, point of view, character, detail and structure in the workshop course, and will pay particular attention to the role of setting, through a series of place-based writing exercises, inspired by the sights of Siena as well. You will also have the opportunity to explore how new surroundings can lead to fresh insights into one’s creative work.

In a seminar you will examine the literature of Italy, both through the lens of Italian writers, such as Italo Calvino and Elsa Morante, and through American writers who “self-exiled” to Italy, such as Jhumpa Lahiri and Anthony Doerr.  Coursework will include creative and critical reading responses, three parodic scenes with three accompanying analyses, and a “self-parody,” in which you’ll explore how your own style has changed during this temporary “self-exile.” 

Academic Details

Prerequisites: students must have completed one from CRWR 240, CRWR 244, CRWR 245 with a grade of B– or better prior to the program start. Exceptions to the pre-requisites will be considered, particularly for students from other universities.

Students who enroll on this program will take the following courses:

  • Study abroad seminar: Literature for Creative Writers: Style and Self-Exile in Siena (4 credits)

  • Study abroad creative writing workshop: Intermediate/Advanced Fiction Writing in Siena (4 credits)





Course Equivalencies

Actual credit awarded is determined by the relevant department at your university in consultation with the study abroad office. Check with your study abroad advisor for more information.

UO students, please refer to the UO Course Equivalency Process and the UO Office of the Registrar Course Equivalency Database.

Faculty and Staff

This program is taught by Associate Professor Marjorie Celona and Assistant Professor Karen Thompson Walker.

Marjorie Celona is the author of two bestselling novels: Y, published in 2012, and How a Woman Becomes a Lake, published in 2020. Y was published in eight countries, won France's Grand Prix Littéraire de l’Héroïne for Best Foreign Novel, was a #1 Indie Next Pick, and was longlisted for Canada's Giller Prize. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Marjorie has published stories, book reviews, and essays in The O. Henry Prize Stories, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Southern Review, Harvard Review, The Sunday Times, and elsewhere. Born and raised on Vancouver Island, they teach in the MFA program at the University of Oregon. For more details on Professor Celona, please visit

Karen Thompson Walker is a New York Times bestselling author of two novels, The Dreamers, which was a New York Times Editor’s Choice pick and a finalist for the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction, and The Age of Miracles, which was a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover Award, an Indies Choice Award, and a Goodreads Choice Award and named one of the best books of the year by Financial Times, Publishers Weekly, People, O., The Oprah Magazine, and Amazon. Her work has been translated into 27 languages, and both of her books are in development for television. Her TED Talk about fear and the imagination has been viewed more than 2 million times. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Oregon. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Portland, Oregon.

Housing Description
Experience life as part of an authentic Italian neighborhood, living in apartments with other GEO and/or International/Italian students or students’ residence (small dorm) with other American, Italian or international students throughout the town of Siena. Some apartments are within walking distance of the GEO classroom within the old city walls, while others are in neighborhoods just outside and accessible by public transportation. No matter where you live, close by you can find small local grocers, restaurants, and cafés unique to your neighborhood. Each apartment is fully furnished with beds, desks and a kitchen table and chairs. You will share a bedroom with one or two other students, as well as the common spaces (bathroom, kitchen, etc.). The kitchens are equipped with utensils, plates, glasses, cookware, an electronic oven and a gas stove. You will also receive two sets of linens and each apartment has access to a washing machine and drying rack.
Application process
This program is less than 90 days. Students with a US passport will be traveling to Italy under the Schengen Visa waiver program and do not require a travel visa for this program, and GEO is unable to assist U.S. citizens in obtaining a visa. If you are not a U.S. Citizen: Notify your GEO Advisor. Students who are not U.S. citizens should contact the Italian consulate in their country of residence about visa requirements, no matter the duration of the program of study.
Dates and Deadlines
Term Year Priority Deadline Deadline Arrival Date Departure Date
Summer 2022 2/15/2022 3/15/2022 7/9/2022 8/5/2022

Travel Advisories

For current health, safety, and travel advisory information, search the US Department of State country webpage.