Creative Writing at Normandale Community College


Normandale is one of the largest community colleges in Minnesota with an enrollment of close to 15,000. Home to an extraordinary Japanese Garden which has become a destination and a beautiful community resource, the diverse Normandale campus community provides a small college feel in the world-class city of Bloomington. 


The Associate of Fine Arts (AFA) in Creative Writing involves a concentration in creative writing—poetry, fiction, memoir, or play and screen writing. The AFA is designed to provide the student with a body of work through workshop courses and a Capstone Project. 

The AFA is a combination of liberal arts general education courses and creative writing courses. General education requirements fulfill the creative writing student’s need to develop conceptual and communication skills necessary for successful transfer and completion os a baccalaureate arts degree or a successional professional career. 

The AFA degree in Creative Writing is designed for the student who has selected Creative Writing as a career option and intends to transfer to a fine arts baccalaureate program (BA or BFA) in Creative Writing at a four-year institution. Students who complete this course of study and meet the admission requirements to their selected institution are eligible to apply for admission with junior standing. 

Normandale’s AFA has “junior plus” transfer agreements in place with Hamline University, Augsburg College, Metro State University, Southwest State University, Winona State University, and Goddard College, as well as a transfer option through MnCAP with the University of Minnesota. Our students have also transferred to and graduated from Ivy League schools, and several have gone on to complete MFA degrees in creative writing after their four-year degrees. By completing their first two years at Normandale, our creative writing students ensure that they are ready to succeed academically and creatively at prestigious four-year schools—and save thousands of dollars, too. Our students are sought after by four-year schools, because we have a reputation for preparing students for success.  


The AFA degree is earned by completing 60 credits, which includes completing the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum (MnTC) plus 20 credits of English course requirements. To complete the AFA degree program in Creative Writing in two years, it is recommended that the student take 16 credits per semester each of the four semesters (Fall and Spring). Some courses are offered during the summer session to reduce the course load during the academic year. All required courses are offered both on campus and online, either in synchronous or asynchronous format, to ensure all students have access to courses.  

Students in the AFA degree program are expected to meet with the Director of Creative Writing and their Academic Advisor at least once per year to ensure they are meeting their goals and readying themselves for transfer and/or jobs after graduation. 

Students should consult their intended institution for any additional admissions or general education requirements. 

Required writing courses: (12 credits, 4 classes)
Complete 12 credits from the following:
ENGW 1111    Introduction to Creative Writing
ENGW 2112    Poetry Writing
ENGW 2113    Fiction Writing
ENGW 2114    Play and Screenwriting (*offered only in spring semesters)
ENGW 2115    Memoir/Creative Nonfiction Writing  (*offered only in fall semesters) 

Required literature courses: (11 credits, 3 classes)
ENGL 2130         African American Literature or

ENGL 2133      Native American Literature
ENGL 2151      American Literature 2
One additional ENGL course numbered about 2100

Capstone Project (3 credits, 1 course)
ENGW 2800 Capstone Course (an independent writing project, internship, or combination of project/internship) 


Besides classes in creative writing, Normandale offers students several other opportunities to get involved with the creative writing community. 

Alumni Catalyst Award

Students enrolled in the AFA in Creative Writing program may apply for funding to attend a summer workshop-based conference through the Alumni Catalyst Award fund. Past recipients have attended Juniper Summer Writing Workshop in Amherst, Massachusetts, and The Northwood Writing Workshop in Bemidji, Minnesota. 

Normandale Creative Writing Club and The Paper Lantern literary magazine

The Normandale Creative Writing Club is a Student Life organization that meets regularly to discuss creative writing, to complete fun writing activities, and to plan and edit the current edition of Normandale’s literary magazine, The Paper Lantern

Normandale Reading Series

Throughout the school year, Normandale sponsors readings by published authors in the genres of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry.  

Patsy Lea Core Living Memorial Award in Creative Writing

Each spring, Normandale’s English department sponsors a student writing competition, judged by a distinguished writer from outside the Normandale community. Student winners in poetry and fiction each receive a $250 award. Students must be currently enrolled at Normandale to enter. 

Normandale Writing Festival

Each year, Normandale holds the Normandale Writing Festival, featuring well-known writers and workshops in every form of writing. 

Minnesota State Write Like Us

Minnesota State Write Like Us is an equity-based creative writing program at five Twin Cities metro-area community colleges: Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Century College, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Normandale Community College, and North Hennepin Community College. Write Like Us centers and celebrates the work of BIPOC writers and writing students, fostering literary mentorship and leadership as it builds a platform for shared stories, voices, and lived experiences. 


Alumni of the AFA in Creative Writing program are publishing their work, winning awards, studying creative writing at four-year schools, and going on to complete law degrees and MFAs in Creative Writing. 

Faisal Alahmad is an Arab-American artist originally from Alkhobar, Saudi Arabia. He received an AFA in creative writing from Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minnesota. While attending Normandale, Faisal was featured in the award-winning SWANA lit and art journal, Mizna. He then graduated from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco with a BFA in sculpture, where he won several awards for his pieces, including “Best of BFA” and “Best classical sculpture.” Faisal’s work has been exhibited in Minnesota, California, Washington, as well as Alkhobar, and has been featured in newspapers in Saudi Arabia as well as podcasts discussing his life and career. Recently, he was part of a team at Edge Innovations LLC that created the largest animatronic dinosaur to date for Universal Studios in their L.A. theme park for the Jurassic World ride. Faisal now works on his own sculptures out of his studio at Casket Arts Studios in Northeast Minneapolis, where he is preparing for a solo show in 2022-2023. 

Anna Gergen graduated with her AFA in Creative Writing degree in 2018, and then transferred to Columbia University in New York City, where she is continuing her studies in creative writing. While Anna was at Normandale working on her AFA degree, she won the Patsy Lea Core Award, worked as a PASS Leader for literature and writing classes, and served as a Writing Center Tutor. She also volunteered as a host on the public radio show “Write on Radio” at KFAI-FM, and was active in the Minneapolis literary community at large. 

lukas ray hall was born and raised near the Twin Cities. He is the author of loudest when startled (YesYes Books, 2020). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming from Atlanta Review, The Florida Review, the minnesota review, Midway Journal, Raleigh Review, Moon City Review, Prime Number Magazine, Lindenwood Review, Sierra Nevada Review, along with other journals. He is the winner of the 2013 Patsy Lea Core Living Memorial Award in Creative Writing and holds an MFA from Pacific University, a BFA from Hamline University, and an AFA from Normandale Community College. Lukas currently works as a production editor. He lives with his partner and two pets in St. Paul. Read more about Lukas. 

Paul Patane completed his AFA in Creative Writing at Normandale, and then transferred to Hamline University to get a BFA in Creative Writing/Fiction. While at Hamline, he served on the editorial board and became assistant fiction editor of Runestone Magazine. He went on to complete an MFA in Writing at Pacific University, and is now Associate Editor at at SportsEngine, an NBC Sports company, and founder and managing editor of Interstellar Pop. 

Norhan Qasem graduated from the AFA in Creative Writing program at Normandale in 2019, where she worked as a library assistant and Writing Center tutor. She went on to major in creative writing and social psychology at Augsburg University, where she worked as managing editor and staff writer at the Augsburg student newspaper, The Echo. She has held several positions that have drawn on her strengths in both writing, psychology, and building community, including completing a Community Engagement Manager internship with Springtide Research Institute, an organization promoting collaboration and community building between people of all faiths. She has also worked as a creative writing instructor for adults with disabilities for Cow Tipping Press, and currently works with children with autism at Autism Matters. 


Our faculty are well-published in the genres of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and play/screenwriting. Most have won awards for their work, and are well-respected writers and teachers in the Twin Cities literary community. 

Kris Bigalk serves as Director of Creative Writing at Normandale Community College.  She is the author of the poetry collections Enough and Repeat the Flesh in Numbers (NYQ Books); her poetry and essays have also appeared in many literary magazines and anthologies. She has won two Minnesota State Arts Board grants in poetry, and serves on the Boards of The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) and Rain Taxi Review of Books. Read more about Kris and her work.

Heidi Czerwiec is an essayist and poet, the author of four chapbooks, the full-length poetry collection Conjoining with Sable Books, and of the lyric essay collection Fluid States, winner of Pleiades Press’ 2018 Robert C. Jones Prize for Short Prose, and is the editor of North Dakota Is Everywhere: An Anthology of Contemporary North Dakota Poets (NDSU Press). Recent work appears in River Teeth, Essay Daily, CRAFT, and Hippocampus, and in the anthologies A Harp in the Stars: An Anthology of Lyric Essays and New Poetry from the Midwest. She holds an MFA from UNC-Greensboro and a PhD from the University of Utah, and was a professor for twelve years before absconding to write and teach in Minneapolis, where she is a contributing editor for Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies. Visit her website

The story collection Lives of Mapmakers is Alicia L. Conroys first book and was a fiction finalist for the Minnesota Book Awards. She has received a Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant and a Minnesota State Arts Board fellowship. Her fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, Ontario Review, Puerto Del Sol, Chattahoochee Review and other journals, and she publishes reviews and interviews. Conroy lived for thirteen years in the Boston area and later returned to her hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she now lives. 

Dan Darling is the author of Archaeopteryx: Albuquerque Trilogy Part 1. Obsessed with the desert, Dan was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He studies the people, the creepy-crawlies, and the geography of the sacred dry spaces. Before earning his MFA in creative writing at the University of New Mexico, he worked as a juggler, a bartender, an IRS agent, and a professional magician. Dan has traveled to over 20 countries and speaks several languages. He’s now an award-winning educator of writing and literature at Normandale. Read about Dan

Layla Fitchett graduated from UC Berkeley, and Goddard College with an MFA in Creative Writing.  She is a retired playwright and recently completed a MG novel entitled Lost Boy. Her screenplay, Bridge Jumpers, was in the quarterfinals for the Austin Film Festival. She is the author of six plays, two radio plays, three screenplays, and a literary novel. She is currently at work on a new YA novel, The Boys in Shadows, and a MG novel, Hibo and Justin.  

Deanna Larsen-Quinn is a neurodivergent queer writer who teaches creative writing and literature in prisons. Her poetry has appeared in PANK, The Northeast Review, Neon Magazine, and elsewhere. She received an artist’s grant for her speculative fiction novel, The Fevers, from Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council with support from the McKnight Foundation. Her many passions include street art photography, acrylic pour painting, learning languages, and providing a home for unwanted and abandoned tropical fish. 

Thomas Maltmans first novel, The Night Birds, won an Alex Award, a Spur Award, and the Friends of American Writers Literary Award. In 2009 the American Library Association chose The Night Birds as an “Outstanding Book for the College Bound.” Little Wolves, his second novel, was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award and won the All Iowa Reads selection in 2014. His third novel, The Land, was published by Soho Press in October 2020. He teaches at Normandale Community College and lives in the Twin Cities area with his wife, a Lutheran pastor, and his three daughters. Read more about Tom. 

Matt Mauch grew up in small Midwestern towns between the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, in the wind-chill belt. He is the author of four poetry collections, including Were the Flownover. We Come From Flyoverland., Bird~Brain, and If Youre Lucky Is a Theory of Mine. Founder of the Great Twin Cities Poetry Read and the journal Poetry City, his poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Conduit, The Journal, DIAGRAM, Willow Springs, The Los Angeles Review, Forklift, Ohio, Sonora Review, Water~Stone Review, and on the Poetry Daily and Verse Daily websites. His work has been recognized by the Minnesota State Arts Board and the National Poetry Series. Mauch lives in Minneapolis. Read more about Matt. 

Anna George Meek is the author of two full-length books of poems, Acts of Contortion, which won the Brittingham Prize in Poetry, and The Genome Rhapsodies, which won the Richard Snyder Prize; her chapbook Engraved won the Snowbound Chapbook Competition. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and two Minnesota State Arts Board grants. She has published in journals such as Poetry, The Kenyon Review, and The Yale Review.  Her work has appeared on Garrison Keillor’s The Writers Almanac and has been selected multiple times for both Verse Daily and Poetry Daily. She gives readings nationally and has written numerous commissions for events and choral composers. Several of her previously published  poems have been set to music, and one has been the basis for a ballet.  Meek lives with her husband and daughter in the Twin Cities where she sings professionally with the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers. More about Anna.  

John Reimringers first novel, Vestments, was named a “Best Book of 2010” by Publishers Weekly and won the 2011 Minnesota Book Award for Novel and Short Story. He has been a scholar and fellow at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and a Loft-McKnight Fellow. He lives in Saint Paul’s Hamline-Midway neighborhood with his wife, Katrina Vandenberg, who is also a writer, and their daughter.  

Lynette Reini-Grandell is the author of two poetry collections, Wild Verge and Approaching the Gate (Holy Cow! Press) and also the forthcoming memoir Wild Things: A Dark-Glam Trans Rock Love Story (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2023). Her work has appeared in Alligator Juniper, The Understanding between Foxes and Light,, Poetry Motel, Revolver, Poetry City U.S.A., and Seminary Ridge Review, among others. She has been nominated for a Pushcart and received grants for her work from the Finlandia Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board. Based in Minneapolis, she reads regularly with the Bosso Poetry Company and performs in the jazz/poetry collective Sonoglyph. Her work is often inspired by Finnish folk culture and song, and she frequently collaborates with Nordic Roots artists in multimedia performances. Lynette regularly advises the Creative Writing Club, and assists in the production of The Paper Lantern literary magazine. Read more about Lynette


More information on the AFA in Creative Writing at Normandale, or contact Kris Bigalk, Director of Creative Writing, at