Define your voice and explore your practice—fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and screenwriting—alongside writers, designers, and visual artists.
Our two-year MFA Writing program provides a rigorous yet flexible curriculum that emphasizes individual exploration of writing as form and art. We encourage you to try many different genres and forms, including memoir, short story, creative nonfiction, travel writing, lyric essay, fiction, and poetry. As part of a vibrant top art and design college, our program offers the freedom to explore sculpture, film, printmaking, and other disciplines you might want to incorporate into your work.
An exciting blend of the emergent and established
Our MFA Writing program celebrates its 20-year anniversary in 2020. 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. We’re also deeply contemporary in our teaching—thinking about and writing about climate change, as well as the writer’s role of articulating, with power and precision, their thoughts on shifting social ecologies and environments.
MFA students are at home in our Writers’ Studio 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 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.
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 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
More studios, shops, and labs
The faculty of the MFA Writing program are not only well-known figures in American letters, but also committed teachers who have spent their careers teaching and advising emerging writers. Each year, visiting writers teach nonfiction, poetry, and fiction, as well as sound and screenwriting. This brings fresh voices and diverse experience to our community.
Chair Leslie Carol Roberts’ work as an author and journalist explores the materiality of ecologies through the lens of the personal essay. Her books include Here Is Where I Walk: Episodes from a Life in the Forest (University of Nevada Press, 2019) and The Entire Earth and Sky: Views on Antarctic (University of Nebraska Press, 2008). Leslie writes a regular column for The Believer, called Eco-Thoughts, where she interviews humans across disciplines on ecologies and climate change. She’s lived and worked in Australia, Antarctica, New Zealand, and Thailand. Her writing has appeared in Ascent, The Christian Science Monitor, Fast Company, Sydney Morning Herald, Bellevue Literary Review, The Iowa Review, and Fourth Genre, among others. She’s received an NEA and a Fulbright. As a research scholar, she’s affiliated with both the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) Humanities and Social Sciences group and the Architectural Ecologies Lab at CCA.
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. To get a feel for what awaits, view sample courses.
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
- 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. After you submit all materials, you may be contacted for an online or on-campus interview with the chair or a faculty member.
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.