Masters in Creative Writing
The English Department at the University of California, Davis offers an M.A. in English with emphasis in creative writing in fiction or poetry. Deadline to apply: January 2, 2014.
Traditionally, the difference between a Master of Arts (M.A.) and a Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) is that the former is rooted in an English department so that the emphasis is on the study of literature and how literary study informs creative work. An M.F.A. is a studio degree situated among M.F.A.s in the other arts (visual arts, music, etc). However, as you might have discovered in your research, the actual courses of study required for an M.A. vs. an M.F.A. are sometimes virtually identical and sometimes have almost nothing in common. Both degrees make you minimally eligible for the same academic appointments (although it should be stressed that in the current academic market no degree is meaningful without an impressive publication record and the market is currently in a great deal of flux) and both degrees prepare you for Ph.D. programs in creative writing (the terminal degree in the field).
One of the main benefits of our M.A. program is that our creative writers take literature courses right along with Ph.D. candidates; this means there are close relationships among students across disciplines. Our writers never have to fight for a seat or attention from their professors in literature courses, which admit a maximum of 15 students. More generally, this approach to the study of creative writing seeks to erase any divide between writer as artist and writer as reader and critical thinker. An M.A. in English, because of its emphasis on the study of literature, is also a good choice for students who might want to pursue a Ph.D. in Literature.
Faculty: Typically, 12-14 writers of fiction and poetry are admitted each year into the program. With nine creative writing faculty members (Joshua Clover, Lucy Corin, Lynn Freed, Jack Hicks, Pam Houston, Joe Wenderoth, Alan Williamson, and Yiyun Li) we emphasize close student-faculty relationships. Our faculty comes with an extraordinary variety of aesthetic sensibilities and career paths, and a great way to get a sense of what's available to you at Davis is to look into the range of experiences our faculty bring. Some schools do an excellent job of collecting like-minded writers and thinkers; Davis thrives on variety, so you should be excited by the idea of having your own sensibilities challenged as well as finding mentors who can nurture your core beliefs.
Course of Study: This is a two-year program on the quarter system (our academic year consists of three sessions of ten-week courses that run from the end of September until mid-June). Students are accepted in either Fiction or Poetry. During the two years you'll take at least 4 workshops (3 in your genre and 1 outside your genre). In addition, students take seminars in the theory of poetics and/or theory of fiction, and 3 literature courses (at least two at the graduate level). You'll also have the opportunity to take literature courses across the University that will enrich your own craft. Lastly, a series of thesis units, which is your writing time guided by your thesis committee members, will fulfill the required 36 units.
In the spring of your first year you will form your thesis committee consisting of a Thesis Director and two additional readers from the faculty. During your second year you'll work closely with your committee to create a book-length work in your genre which you will present at an intimate-yet-public defense/celebration in May.
Funding: Each year we are allotted a specific number of tuition waivers, Teaching Assistantships (TAships) and Graduate Student Research (GSR) positions. We have been extremely successful in keeping our students out of debt by providing them with the kind of work that can support their studies. Some first-year students are offered positions as TAs in literature courses or as GSRs helping professors with research projects. Students admitted without funding will receive the department's help in searching for TA positions in other departments on campus. Students offered 25% to 50% appointments have their in-state tuition paid for by the hiring department. Non-Resident Tuition is offered to a limited number of newly admitted out-of-state residents during the first year. The Englund Fund, funded by the English Department, is awarded to one or two selected first-year students.
During their second-year, students are offered teaching appointments to teach introductory undergraduate creative writing workshops (ENL 5F or ENL 5P) in their genre or are hired as literature TAs or GSRs.
Creative Writing Program Reading Series: Typically, each quarter the program brings two or three writers to campus for public readings. We often choose writers who are early in their careers or who are celebrated within specific writing traditions or communities. Recent visitors include Rebecca Brown, Juliana Spahr, Christine Schutt, David St. John, and Daniel Alarcon. Again, the goal is to expose students to a wide range of writers and writing lives. In addition, one of the advantages of being part of a large university is that we also have access high profile campus-wide events (recently, Toni Morrison, Michael Chabon, Octavia Butler).
Graduate Reading Series: Each class organizes a series of public readings by current students. While faculty often attends, the character of these events is entirely determined by each group of writers and functions in some ways as the core of the creative writing graduate community.
Miller Funds: This one-time $300 fund supports attendance at any writer's workshop or conference. Students have used their funds to attend conferences like AWP, Sewanee, Tin House, and Writer's Edge. This fund may be used during your first or second year in the creative writing program.
Maurice Prize in Fiction: This $5000 prize is awarded annually for a fiction manuscript written by a UCD Creative Writing Program Alumni.
Elliot Gilbert Prize: This contest is open to current UCD creative writing graduate students. The winners of the best poem and best fiction short story each receive $100.
Our Alumni: Our graduates have gone on to PhD programs in Creative Writing and in Literature, to Fulbright scholarships, to teach at community colleges and secondary schools, to careers in editing, screenwriting, and journalism, and they're certainly publishing their work. Here are samples:
- Jodi Angel (2013), You Only Get Letters From Jail, Tin House Books; (2006),The History of Vegas Chronicle Books
- Mark Pearson (2013), Famous Last Lines, Main Street Rag Publishing Company
- Austin Smith (2013), Almanac: Poems, Princeton University Press
- Erica Lorraine Scheidt (2013), Uses for Boys, St. Martin's Griffin
- Thomas Heise (2013), Moth: or how I came to be with you again, Sarabande Books; (2006) Horror Vacui, Sarabande Books
- Melvin Stern (2012), Zara, Ink Brush Press
- Stephan Clark (2012), Vladimir's Mustache and Other Stories, Russian Life Books
- Uyen Hua (2012), a/s/l new poetry, ingirumimusnocte
- Melanie Thorne (2012), Hand Me Down, Dutton
- Megan Kaminski (2012), Desiring Map, Coconut Books
- Melinda Moustakis (2011), Bear Down, Bear North: Alaska Stories, University of Georgia Press
- Murray Dunlap (2011), Bastard Blue, Press53
- Angie Chau (2010), Quiet As They Come, IG Publishing
- Martin Woodside (2009), Stationary Landscapes, Pudding House Press
- Kirsten Sundberg Lundstrom (2008), Swimming with Strangers, Chronicle Books; (2005), This Life She's Chosen, Chronicle Books
- Matt Silady (2007), The Homeless Channel, AiT/PlanetLar
- Spring Warren (2007),Turpentine, Grove Press
- Lindsey Crittenden (2007), The Water Will Hold You: A Skeptic Learns to Pray, Harmony
- Shauna Ryan (2007), Locke 1928, Thomas Farber; republished as Water Ghosts, (2009), Penguin
- Christien Gholson (2006), On the Side of the Crow, Hanging Loose Press
- Maria Melendez (2006), How Long She'll Last in this World, University of Arizona Press
- The Chronicles of Narnia (screenplay) and The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (teleplay): Chris Markus and Steve McFeely
Location: Davis is a small, safe, friendly city with a thriving downtown that borders campus. It's a great place to hole up and write: cute shops, bookstores, coffeehouses, a wide range of restaurants, a recently restored Deco movie theater. Davis culture is dominated by the twice-weekly farmers' market and omnipresent bicycles, and trails for biking and hiking are abundant in and around the city. You can also take Amtrak (there's an historic station right downtown) and get to Berkeley or San Francisco . In under two hours you can drive to Lake Tahoe, Sonoma and Napa (wine country), the breathtaking California coast. Sacramento and its small, easily accessible airport are only 20 minutes from Davis.