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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. 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, and we regularly offer workshops in nonfiction and seminars in poetics and the theory of fiction.  We emphasize close student-faculty relationships and the development of individual artistic sensibilities in a supportive and engaged community of writers.  Our faculty (Joshua Clover, Lucy Corin, Lynn Freed, Jack Hicks, Pam Houston, 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 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. A series of thesis units, which is your writing time guided by your thesis committee members, will complete 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 creative work which you will present 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 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 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, Sewanee, Tin House, and Writer's Edge.

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 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:

  • Naomi Williams (forthcoming, 2015) Landfalls, Farrar, Straus & Giroux
  • Stephan Eirik Clark (2014) Sweetness #9, Little, Brown; (2012), Vladimir's Mustache and Other Stories, Russian Life Books
  • Halina Duraj (2014), The Family Cannon, Augury Books
  • 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
  • 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


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) 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.


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