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Program Overview

Creative Writing

MA/MFA in Creative Writing

The part-time graduate program in creative writing provides students the opportunity to grow as artists within the specializations of fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction. The small-group workshop format allows for individual attention from published, award-winning faculty. Flexible scheduling gives students the opportunity to balance their professional, personal and writing lives. While earning their degrees, students connect with other writers at readings and other events in an artistic community that extends beyond the University into Chicagoʼs vibrant literary scene. This program is also the home of literary journal TriQuarterly.



About the MA/MFA in Creative Writing

Stuart Dybek

In class, I've had cops, bankers, teachers, librarians, musicians, and journalists. That diversity among adults who are so passionate about writing is enormously valuable. Everyone learns something from everyone else.”

Stuart Dybek, faculty member

Creative Writing Program Goals

  • To help students determine the strengths and weaknesses of their writing, and learn how to evaluate criticism of their work
  • To teach students how to take their writing apart, re-think and revise it
  • To show students how to experiment with different styles and forms
  • To guide students in creating a publishable manuscript or portion of one
  • To teach students how to read literature as a writer and a critic
  • To train students to teach creative writing, informed by current pedagogy and classroom experience
  • To give students the opportunity to edit an international literary magazine with their peers
  • To provide students with the tools to create strong applications for jobs in teaching, publishing, and editing

Curriculum for MA and MFA in Creative Writing

MA in Creative Writing

Core Courses (6 courses)

  • 3 workshops in one genre: MCW 411 Poetry Writing Workshop, MCW 413 Fiction Writing Workshop, or MCW 461 Nonfiction Writing Workshop
  • 1 cross-genre course: MCW 479 Poetry for Prose Writers or MCW 480 Prose for Poets
  • 2 graduate-level literature courses

Electives (3 courses)

  • 3 courses drawn from MCW special topics courses, internships in teaching and publishing, literature courses or liberal studies courses. Students can take a maximum of 2 independent study courses as electives

Thesis (1 course)

  • MCW 590 Capstone Writing and Revision
MFA in Creative Writing

The 18-course curriculum includes seven workshops in a concentration, six electives and two thesis courses to complete the MFA program experience

Core Courses (10 courses)

  • 7 workshops in one genre
  • 1 cross-genre course: MCW 479 Poetry for Prose Writers or MCW 480 Prose for Poets
  • 1 seminar on teaching creative writing
  • 1 practicum in teaching or publishing

Electives (6 courses)
6 courses drawn from the MALit program, special topics courses and internships in publishing

  • Must include 3 literature courses (LIT or ENG)
  • Maximum of 2 optional independent study courses

Thesis (2 courses)

  • MCW 589 Capstone Preparation and Writing
  • MCW 590 Capstone Writing and Revision

Electives are chosen from the graduate course offerings in the Master of Arts in Literature program, creative writing special topics courses (MCW 490) and the seminars and internships (practica) in teaching and publishing. Since good writers also need to be good readers, students must take electives in literary studies. Recent electives include courses on reading poetry; the narrator in fiction, nonfiction and poetry; and writing humor. Independent studies round out the program and provide an opportunity to strengthen writing portfolios.


The final project of both the MA and MFA programs is a creative thesis, an original work of high literary merit (judged on the basis of art as well as craft). The creative thesis is structured and revised under the supervision of a faculty member (or faculty mentor) and a second reader. The project may be one long piece or a series of shorter pieces. It may include or be an expansion of work written during the student's course of study as long as it represents a culminating effort to shape stories, prose pieces, a long piece, or a group of poems into a coherent, self-sufficient work. This large-scale project supplements the smaller-scale study of craft with the invaluable experience of creating a larger work. And for students who plan to pursue book-length publication after graduation, the master's creative thesis may be the first version of a work in progress.

MA and MFA in Creative Writing Courses

Explore MA/MFA Creative Writing Courses. You can narrow your course search by day, location or instructor.

Creative Writing Faculty

Learn from a faculty of esteemed writers in small-group workshops where instructors facilitate discussions that help students examine and address strengths and weaknesses in their writing as well as open up possibilities for re-thinking and revising. Get to know the instructors on our Creative Writing Faculty page.

Master's in Creative Writing Admission

Candidates for admission to the MA and MFA programs must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution or its foreign equivalent and possess a strong academic record, preferably in English, writing or related fields. In evaluating MFA applicants, the admissions committee will look for evidence of the ability to create a more sustained final project, for interest in an interdisciplinary program and for interest in learning how to teach.. For a complete list of requirements, see the Master's in Creative Writing Admission page.

Tuition and Financial Aid for Creative Writing

Tuition for the MA/MFA in Creative Writing program at Northwestern is comparable to similar US programs. Financial aid opportunities exist for students at Northwestern. Complete details can be found on the Creative Writing Tuition and Financial Aid pages.

Registration Information for Creative Writing

Already accepted into the Master's in Creative Writing Health program? Get ahead and register for your classes as soon as possible to ensure maxium efficiency in your progress. 

Careers in Creative Writing

Northwestern University’s MA and MFA in creative writing degrees are arts degrees. Students pursue the degrees in order to become better writers, able to create prose and poetry that draw on a full range of the craft. On a more practical level, MA/MFA students become better writers, which prepares them for a variety of careers. For details visit the Creative Writing Career Options page.

Since I started the program I’ve seen all of my poems get published, I’ve applied for a Fulbright and PhD. I was a writer before the program, but I definitely feel like more of a professional writer now. I have that feeling now when something is good enough to be published.”

— Tara Stringfellow, MFA in Creative Writing student

No one knows who the next writer is going to be. They can come out of anywhere, but an MFA helps guarantee that you’ll be serious about reading and writing during your time there. I think that’s one of the greatest things about the program.”

Ross Ritchell, MFA alumnus, author of The Knife
Ross Ritchell

Find out more about Northwestern's MA and MFA in Creative Writing

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