DeShara Darshell performs her poetry at the Wattis Institute during the 'Black Light' exhibition

DeShara Suggs-Joe performing her poems at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art.

MFAWriting

Focus on craft and innovative ways to make stories, poems, and essays while exploring experimental genres.

Overview

Writing at CCA is expansive

Our two-year MFA Writing program is an inspiring environment within a top art and design college. We encourage you to try many different genres and forms, including memoir, short story, creative nonfiction, travel writing, lyric essay, fiction, and poetry, rather than focus on just one. You’ll also have the freedom to explore sculpture, film, printmaking, and other disciplines to help you incorporate visual art into your work.

Margaret Randall gives intimate lecture to CCA MFA Writing cohort_event feature_MB

An exciting blend of the emergent and established

Our program draws inspiration from the Bay Area’s rich literary history, including the San Francisco Renaissance, Beat poetry movement, New Narrative, and the art of Slam/Spoken Word. From Litquake to readings and performances in cafes, the Bay Area’s literary experiences make it a center for writing. This tight-knit community supports and inspires many of our students to embark on wide-ranging careers with writing at the center, from publishing to teaching to performing stand-up comedy.

Studios + Shops

Practice critique, readings, and performance

MFA Writing students and faculty together in the CCA Writers Garden_feature_MB

MFA students are at home in our Writers’ Studio on CCA’s main San Francisco campus. Outside the studio we have a beautiful garden. Inside, we hold our workshops, readings, and craft talks. We also host our famed Tuesday Talks series in the Writers’ Studio. Today’s most dynamic writers, including R.O. Kwon, Andrew Sean Greer, and Tracy K. Smith, read and discuss new work and lead craft talks during masterclasses. There are endless opportunities to share your writing with peers, get constructive feedback, and nurture your craft.

Students in MFA writing studios

Support to tell your stories

We help our students locate and tell their stories; we write what we want, how we want. We embrace all forms of writing, from literary novels and poetry to science fiction and mysteries. Our MFA Writing program is designed to make sure each student finds their voice. You can explore nonfiction, fiction, and poetry during supportive workshops that celebrate voice and form. We believe in grounding our work in craft so we emphasize close reading and individualized instruction.

Writing faculty meets with student_humanities + sciences feature_MB

Expand your creative practice

In addition to our vibrant writing workshops and dynamic seminars, we encourage graduate students to immerse themselves in our diverse art and design culture. Want to learn how to design beautiful publications, paint, or make a children’s book? Access CCA’s phenomenal resources, including Risograph printers for making broadsides, audio suites for recording podcasts, and a letterpress studio for making books and zines. You’ll work with top practitioners in their fields across the college’s faculty, grow as a writer, and learn to turn your research passions and written works into literal art objects.

CCA Viewbook 2017-0355_SF Writer Studio_horizontal feature_AK

Frame and finish your book

You’ll get regular feedback during writing workshops and meetings with full-time faculty who believe in meeting one on one—not as part of any requirement, but because personalized attention is how you grow as a writer. Close reading, editorial guidance, and individualized reading lists all push our writing students toward success. We teach you craft as well as how to establish and maintain a serious writing practice.

Your creative life at CCA and beyond

From studying one-on-one with faculty mentors to participating in craft workshops with visiting writers—among the best and brightest working today—you’ll be exposed to myriad forms. You’ll learn the elements of podcasting; how to make audio stories; how to craft a screenplay; how to prepare a full-length manuscript; and how to collaborate with painters, filmmakers, illustrators, photographers, and more.

Your community of mentors

  • Eco-memoirist Leslie Carol Roberts
  • Memoirist and travel writer Faith Adiele
  • Novelist Tom Barbash
  • Poet Joseph Lease
  • Novelist and memoirist Jasmin Darznik
  • Novelist Aimee Phan
  • Poet Tonya Foster

Faculty

Study with award-winning writers

Our faculty are recipients of prestigious grants, awards, and prizes, including NEAs and Fulbrights. They write creative nonfiction, literary criticism, memoirs, hybrid essays, fiction, and poetry. They challenge MFA students to be their own best critics. This kind of mentorship culture helps students take risks, try new approaches, and shape their thesis into a polished manuscript.

Leslie Roberts, Chair of MFA in Writing

Leslie Carol Roberts, Chair of MFA Writing

Chair Leslie Roberts is an author, journalist, research scholar, writer, and historian. Here Is Where I Walk (Nevada, 2019) is a memoir of San Francisco’s Presidio National Park. Her first book, The Entire Earth and Sky: Views on Antarctica, was funded by a Fulbright Fellowship to New Zealand. As chair of MFA Writing, Roberts evolves course offerings toward opportunities for 21st century writers—storytelling and poetry as books of all stripes, as well as the teleplay, the screenplay, and the audio story. An active scholar of ecologies and poetics of place and protest, Roberts speaks at conferences in the U.S. and abroad on her Antarctic humanities research.

Curriculum

Two-year intensive program

Our two-year program follows the traditional MFA writing footprint, with workshops and craft seminars each semester. In addition, we engage in practica or labs in areas such as sound, printing, and screenplays. Electives across the arts and design, and one-on-one work with a faculty member, round out your schedule as you work toward a final written thesis manuscript.

MFA Writing

Year 1: Fall Semester

Writer’s Workshop
3 units
Elective or Mentored Study
3 units
Seminar
3 units
Tuesday Talks: Fall Visiting Writers Series
3 units

Year 1: Spring Semester

Writer’s Workshop
3 units
Elective or Mentored Study
3 units
Seminar
3 units
Elective
3 units

Year 2: Fall Semester

Writer’s Workshop
3 units
Elective or Mentored Study
3 units
Seminar
3 units
Elective
3 units

Year 2: Spring Semester

Writer’s Workshop
3 units
Elective or Mentored Study
3 units
Seminar
3 units
Thesis Project
3 units

Total 48 units

Careers

Publish your dream project

MFA in Writing program alumni have impressive success getting their work out in the world, publishing books across genres:

  • Alka Joshi, The Henna Artist, Mira Publishing, a division of Harper Collins, 2019
  • Rheea Mukherjee, The Body Myth, Unnamed Press, 2019
  • Adam Nemett, We Can Save Us All, Unnamed Press, 2018
  • Sonia Belasco, Speak of Me As I Am, Philomel Books, 2017
  • Andrew Nicholson, A Lamp Brighter Than Foxfire, Colorado State, 2015
  • Molly Prentiss, Tuesday Nights in 1980, Simon & Schuster, 2017
  • Catie Jarvis, The Peacock Room, Hyperborea, 2016
  • Julie Lythcott-Haims, Real American, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2017
  • LaTasha Nevada Diggs, TWerk, Belladonna Press, 2013

In addition to becoming published authors, our students find traction at established and emergent platforms like Medium, and also work as educators; performance artists; editors; and writers for newspapers, magazines, and marketing agencies.

Potential career paths

  • Novelist
  • Poet
  • Memoirist
  • Freelance writer
  • Journalist
  • Editor
  • Playwright
  • Content strategist
  • Copywriter
  • Arts administrator
  • Social activist
  • Technical writer
  • Publication and production assistant
  • Small press publisher
  • Librarian

News + Events

What’s happening for MFA Writing students?

How to Apply

Make writing your top priority

Our two-year program welcomes students of all ages, career profiles, and backgrounds, including law, advertising, tech, music, and academia. We focus on your writing sample and your letters of recommendation in making admissions decisions. After you submit all materials, you may be contacted for an online or on-campus interview with the chair or a faculty member.

Application fundamentals

You’ll need to submit three components that are common to all CCA graduate applications:

  • Resume/curriculum vitae
  • Two recommendation letters
  • Unofficial college transcripts

Additionally, you’ll submit a portfolio and personal essay that are tailored to your specific master’s program.

MFA Writing submissions

Portfolio

You’ll need to submit writing samples that best reflect your main area of interest. Please note that we don’t accept co-written material. Your writing samples may include poems, short stories, a novel selection, creative nonfiction, or other genres. Our admissions committee will review your portfolio on a computer, so please make sure it adheres to the following specifications:

  • Must be a SlideRoom submission
  • All samples should be in one PDF file
  • 25 double-spaced pages maximum
  • 10 MB maximum

You may provide links to relevant external materials, such as videos and websites, within the PDF file. Once your portfolio has been uploaded and submitted via SlideRoom, nor further changes can be made.

Personal Essay

In 500 to 1,000 words, write a clear statement about your writing experience and why you want to study writing at the graduate level. While personal essays may vary, it’s generally a good idea to mention any critical influences on your work and include your educational objectives.

Contact our program chair with questions

Leslie Carol Roberts

Chair of MFA in Writing and MFA in Writing Internship Coordinator

+1 415-551-9237

[email protected]

Join a studio culture focused on innovation

Apply now