MFA Creative Writing | English | SIU

Southern Illinois University



College of Liberal Arts

Master of Fine Arts

The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is a studio-academic program designed to assist talented students in developing their skills as poets or fiction writers. While the MFA is the accepted credential for teachers of creative writing, our program gives primary emphasis to the development of students as writers. There are also a number of opportunities to gain experience in literary publishing while interning at Crab Orchard Review or SIU Press as well as opportunities to teach in the community. Students may even join an organization like Graduate Writers Forum and work on organizing our spring literary festival, Little Grassy.

The fundamental elements of the program are writing workshops, in which students read and critique the writing of their peers under the guidance of a faculty writer; intensive tutorial work with the thesis director on the student's writing; and the study of the traditions, forms, and theories of literature from a writer's stance. The faculty work closely with the students and ensure that each student will have exposure to a variety of styles and personalities, from traditional to experimental.

The fiction program at SIUC focuses on professionalization without regard to subject matter or genre. SIUC fiction writers have found success in literary journals and at literary publishing houses, as well as at large commercial houses, with literary fiction, science fiction, fantasy fiction, slipstream fiction, horror fiction, and crime fiction. The fiction program also supports podcasting, audiobook creation, game narrative, virtual reality narrative, 360-degree video-making, Twitter fiction, subreddit fiction, and other forms of technological narrative. You need not be versed in these new approaches to storytelling, but you'll need to be open-minded, given the wide opportunities available with these novel venues.

Our small program size provides an excellent student-teacher ratio, and encourages both formal and informal apprenticeship and tutorial relationships. While no academic program can promise to create writers, our MFA program strives to provide committed, talented writers the guidance, instruction, support, and community that will help them produce their best work. 

Applicants to the MFA program should submit their application along with samples of their work (10-15 pages of poetry, 15-30 pages of fiction or non-fiction), transcripts, GRE scores, and letters of recommendation. Most MFA students hold graduate assistantships, which provide stipends for the academic year and full remission of tuition. For 2012-2013, the stipend was $12,600 for nine months. The application deadline for admission with assistantship support is February 1, with notification by April 1.

SIU Carbondale offers a number of competitive fellowships to full-time graduate students. Awards are made by the Graduate School on the recommendation of the English program's Graduate Studies Committee. For further information, contact the Graduate School.

Most graduate assistants are assigned to the University's first-year writing program, in which they have full responsibility for two sections of composition each semester. An extensive series of pre-semester workshops, a semester-long seminar in the teaching of college composition, and a mentor system complement graduate work and assure professional development. In addition, some graduate assistants serve as tutors in the program's Writing Center, while others are eligible to teach Core Curriculum literature courses and English 119, Introduction to Creative Writing. Limited summer teaching is also available to graduate students.

The MFA in Creative Writing requires satisfactory completion of 48 semester hours. MFA students may elect to focus their studies either in fiction or poetry, or in a combination of the two genres. The curriculum includes:

  • Core or Required Courses: teaching composition
  • Writing workshop: four in major genre, one in second genre
  • Forms course (contemporary literature): one in major genre
  • Thesis: two semesters

The remainder of a student's program is designed in consultation with the Writing Faculty, and may include literature or other university offerings, as well as individually designed independent studies.

Students with teaching assistantships are required to take a course in the teaching of composition. All students must pass an oral examination entailing both course work and a defense of the creative thesis.

See what our current students and alumni have been publishing on SIU Creative Writing accomplishments page.