Define your voice and explore your creative practice—fiction, nonfiction, and poetry—alongside writers, designers, and visual artists.
At CCA, you’ll join a writing community that truly sees and supports you.
We’ve grown an MFA Writing program at an arts college with 116 years of history in the San Francisco Bay Area. The workshops and seminars where we gather are places of inventiveness, self-discovery, and exuberance. Together we’ve created a close-knit community for diverse writers who are making their mark on the world.
We believe creativity is sparked when you have space to develop your ideas, and from your first to your final semester at CCA you’ll have close, sustained support from your professors through one-on-one mentorships. Our award-winning faculty includes Faith Adiele, Tom Barbash, Dodie Bellamy, Rita Bullwinkel, Jasmin Darznik, Joseph Lease, Trisha Ya-wen Low, Aimee Phan, Denise Newman, and Leslie Carol Roberts.
The Bay Area, a site of rich literary history, is our home. You’ll have access to resources and literary institutions you won’t find anywhere else, like City Lights Publishers, Litquake, and the Bay Area Book Festival. In the fall semester, we offer Tuesday Seminar, a course that brings illustrious professional writers right into the classroom with you.
An exciting blend of the emergent and established
Our MFA Writing program recently celebrated its 20-year anniversary, and we embrace the rich literary history of the Bay Area, from the Beat poetry movement and the Language poets, to the annual Litquake literary festival, to the Slam/Spoken Word scene.
Follow MFA Writing@ccamfawriting
Oct. 4, 2022
Huge thanks to Rebecca Foust for sharing her publishing wisdom today in the studio. Some takeaways:
Aim high—it’s better than the alternative.
Be like Tom Petty—study the person a step or two ahead of you and follow their lead.
Nothing’s ever finished, so you may as well send it out.
Students who couldn’t make it, you are in luck! She shared some fantastic handouts and you can find extra copies in the studio.
Oct. 3, 2022
Our first free all-program field trip takes us to City Arts & Lectures this Thursday to hear Leila Mottley talk about her new book Nightcrawling. We meet outside the Sidney Goldstein Theater at 7. See you there, MFAW.📚🤓
Sept. 29, 2022
By popular demand, we're devoting next week's Tuesday Coffee Hour to a practical, in-depth conversation about getting published in literary magazines. On 10/4 from 3-4 pm Rebecca Foust, poet and assistant editor of fiction at Narrative Magazine, will join us in the garden to talk about specific submission strategies and answer your questions about the publishing process.
This is for writers of all genres, so come one, come all!
Sept. 27, 2022
October Happenings! Check out the fabulous upcoming events we’ve got lined up. ✍🏻📖💫
MFA students are at home in the Humanities and Sciences Graduate Center on CCA’s main San Francisco campus. Outside the studio, we write and meet alongside redwood trees in our beautiful garden. Inside, we hold our workshops, readings, and craft talks. We also host our famed Tuesday Talks series in the Humanities and Sciences Graduate Center. Today’s most dynamic writers, including Hanif Abdurraqib, Camille Dungy, Andrew Sean Greer, R.O. Kwon, sam sax, 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.
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.
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.
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 prepare a full-length manuscript; and how to collaborate with painters, filmmakers, illustrators, photographers, and more.
Your community of mentors
- Memoirist and travel writer Faith Adiele
- Novelist Tom Barbash
- Novelist Rita Bullwinkel
- Novelist and memoirist Jasmin Darznik
- Poet Joseph Lease
- Poet and performer Trisha Low
- Poet and translator Denise Newman
- Novelist Aimee Phan
- Eco-memoirist Leslie Carol Roberts
More studios, shops, and labs
MFA Writing faculty have received major prizes, fellowships, residencies, and grants. Their books have been New York Times bestsellers and award-winning collections in fiction, hybrid essay/memoir, poetry, literary criticism, creative nonfiction, and memoir. Together they offer unique voices across multiple genres, aesthetic traditions, and vibrant writing communities.
Chair Jasmin Darznik is a New York Times-bestselling author of three books, The Bohemians, Song of a Captive Bird, and The Good Daughter. Born in Iran, she immigrated to America as a child and is a first-generation college graduate. After receiving a Ph.D. in English from Princeton University, she obtained an MFA in fiction from Bennington College, broadening her academic scholarship to tell stories about women who've been left out or obscured from the historical record. Her forthcoming novel, American Goddess, takes on themes of celebrity, gender, and ethnic identity in Old Hollywood.
MFA Writing Faculty
Our two-year, 48-unit MFA Writing program includes workshops, craft seminars, literature courses, and mentorships. Courses like Experiments in Life Writing, Contemporary International Fiction, and Writing As An Act of Witness will inspire you to take risks and try new styles as you hone your craft and deepen your writing practice.
One of the many perks of being at an art school is the chance to take courses outside of the writing discipline as well as to collaborate with painters, photographers, filmmakers, bookmakers, and more. This unique opportunity allows you to move in new directions as you find and express your unique voice. Preview our workshops and courses.
MFA in Writing program alumni have impressive success getting their work out in the world, publishing books across genres. Recent publications include:
- Tom Comitta, The Nature Book, Coffee House Press, 2023
- Dior Stephens, Cruel/Cruel, Nightboat, 2023
- Alka Joshi, The Perfumist of Paris, Harper Collins, 2023
- Sonja Swift, Echo Loba, Loba Echo, Rocky Mountain Press, 2023
- Jessamyn Violet, Secret Rules to Being a Rock Star, Three Rooms Press, 2023
- Alka Joshi, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, Harper Collins, 2021
- Julie Lythcott-Haims, Your Turn: How to Be An Adult, Henry Holt, 2021
- 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
- Julie Lythcott-Haims, Real American, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2017
- Molly Prentiss, Tuesday Nights in 1980, Simon & Schuster, 2017
- Catie Jarvis, The Peacock Room, Hyperborea, 2016
- Andrew Nicholson, A Lamp Brighter Than Foxfire, Colorado State, 2015
- 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
- Freelance writer
- Content strategist
- Arts administrator
- Social activist
- Technical writer
- Publication and production assistant
- Small press publisher
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.
Start your application
You’ll apply to CCA and submit all required application materials via SlideRoom. Afterward, you may be contacted for an interview with a faculty member as part of the application process. Being selected for an interview doesn’t indicate applicant status or increase or decrease an applicant’s chances of being admitted into their desired graduate program. Interviews are conducted at the program’s discretion and are used to gain more insight into an application.
MFA Writing application requirements
- Application and $70 nonrefundable application fee
To be completed and submitted on SlideRoom.
- Resume/curriculum vitae
Please outline your educational and professional background and relevant experiences and activities, including community work. Resumes/CVs must be in PDF document format.
- Two recommendation letters
You’ll request two letters of recommendation from academic or professional sources in SlideRoom by entering the contact information for your recommenders/references. They will then receive an automated email from SlideRoom with instructions for uploading their letter of recommendation.
- Unofficial college transcripts
You are required to provide your complete undergraduate academic history. Students who have already taken graduate courses are encouraged to submit those transcripts, too. For international applicants, all transcripts must be in English or accompanied by a certified English translation.
Please provide an unofficial transcript from the college where you will receive or have received your bachelor’s degree, as well as unofficial transcripts for all other undergraduate coursework. Unofficial transcripts will be used for review purposes.
Once you have been admitted and enrolled, all students will need to submit official, sealed transcripts showing the completion of a bachelor’s degree to our graduate admissions office by August 1 of the fall semester they begin enrollment at CCA.
- Proof of English proficiency (international applicants only)
Review and plan to meet our English proficiency requirements for graduate students.
- Personal essay
In a personal essay, submitted as a PDF, write 500 to 1,000 words about your writing experience, why you want to study writing at the graduate level, your educational objectives, and any critical influences on your work.
Your portfolio, submitted as one to two PDFs (up to 10 MB each), should consist of a selection of writing samples (totaling no more than 25 double-spaced pages) that reflect your main areas of interest.
You may include poems, short stories, a section of a novel, text for performance (include video, if available), creative nonfiction, or writing for new genres. You’re welcome, but not required, to submit visual materials in support of your application, including book arts and videos.
Please note: We do not accept co-written material.