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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. Application Deadline: January 5, 2015

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. Our M.A., like an M.F.A. emphasizes the workshop process and students take at least four workshops during their course of study, just as they would in an MFA.  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: We emphasize close student-faculty relationships and the development of individual artistic sensibilities in a supportive and engaged community of writers. Typically, 12-14 writers of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction are admitted each year into the program, and we regularly offer workshops in nonfiction and seminars in poetics and the theory of fiction.  Our faculty (Joshua Clover, Lucy Corin, Lynn Freed, Jack Hicks, Pam Houston, Katie Peterson, Joe Wenderoth, and Yiyun Li) represents extraordinary variety of aesthetic sensibilities and ways of leading a literary life.  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 brings.  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 concentrate in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or, occasionally, mutli-genre forms. During the two years you'll take at least 4 workshops (3 in your genre and 1 outside  your genre). Students take seminars in poetics and/or theory of fiction, 3 literature courses (at least two at the graduate level), and also have the opportunity to take courses across the university. A series of thesis units, which is time allocated to working with thesis committee members, will complete the required 36 units.

In the spring of the first year students form a thesis committee consisting of a Thesis Director and two additional readers from the faculty. During the second year, students work closely with their committee to create a book-length creative work which is presented at an intimate-yet-public defense/celebration in May.

Funding:  For first year students, funding comes in the form of Teaching Assistantships (TAships) in literature courses, and Graduate Student Research (GSR) positions helping professors with research projects.  We are able to guarantee first-year funding to a limited number of students upon admission; students admitted without guaranteed funding will receive the department's help in searching for positions on campus.  The Englund Fund is awarded to assist one or two selected first-year students.

For in-state students, tuition is covered as part of the terms of employment.  For out-of-state students, a limited number of tuition waivers are available.

During their second year, all students have access to funding in the form of teaching introductory undergraduate creative writing workshops (ENL 5F or ENL 5P) in their genre or by working as literature Teaching Assistants or Graduate Student Researchers.

Additional Highlights:


Creative Writing Program Reading Series: Typically, each year the program brings several writers to campus for public readings and class visits.  Recent visitors include Elizabeth McCracken, Juliana Spahr, Christine Schutt, Brian Evenson, 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 fund supports attendance at any single writer's workshop or conference. Students have used their funds to defray the the cost of attending conferences like AWP, Writing By Writers, and Tin House.

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 for the best poem and best short story is open to current UCD creative writing graduate students.

Our Alumni

Our graduates have gone on to top M.F.A. programs, PhD programs in Creative Writing and in Literature; to Fulbright scholarships, Stegner and Michener fellowships; to teach at community colleges and secondary schools; to careers in editing, screenwriting, and journalism; and they're certainly publishing their work

Facebook Page:  University of California at Davis Creative Writing Program

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 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) to get to Berkeley and 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.


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