MFA Program in Creative Writing

Located in the heart of California, the Fresno State MFA Program is home to The Normal School literary magazine, the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry book contest, and lots of Fresno writers.

The Creative Writing Program enjoys a long history of literary excellence at Fresno State, dating to the late 1950s. Our Master of Fine Arts program was founded in 1995, and it features advanced training in the study of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

Program coordinator: Prof. Steven Church (email)

Administrative staff: Jefferson Beavers (email)

Why Creative Writing at Fresno State?

Our faculty

Our diverse, seven-member MFA faculty has published more than 20 books from a wide range of major publishing houses, university presses, and small indie outlets.

Our alumni authors and professionals

Eighteen of our MFA alumni authors published their first books in the past five years: 8 first books in 2016, 3 in 2017, 4 in 2018, 1 in 2019, and 2 in 2020.

In the MFA program's 25-year year history, from 1995 to 2020, our alumni have published 36 first books.

Our students and alumni continue to earn publishing and editing jobs and internships at Poets & Writers, the Academy of American Poets, The Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, Fourth Genre, Milkweed Editions, CSU Summer Arts, and many more.

Our literary magazine

For six years in a row, from 2014-2019, our national literary magazine, The Normal School, earned high marks for gender parity and inclusion in the VIDA Count report, ranking it among the nation's best literary publications.

The Normal School transitioned to an online publication in the fall of 2019.

Our commitment to service

Many of our students volunteer as workshop leaders and mentors at our English Department's annual Young Writers' Conference, which attracts 400-plus area high school students to visit the University.

Our literary community

The central San Joaquin Valley's low cost of living and proximity to all of California continues to attract writers and artists.

What our MFA students seem to appreciate the most is the supportive atmosphere of Fresno. This is a place where writers meet the friends and the literary community they will have for a lifetime.

Student Support

Fresno State offers graduate students many opportunities for financial support and professional development. The University offers an array of scholarships and financial awards for travel, research, and creative activities.

Getting involved

Students enjoy the chance to get actively involved in the program's professional publishing and editing projects, and we offer many opportunities for students to participate in all aspects of literary events programming.

Qualified students can gain instructional experience through Teaching Associateships in our English Department's first-year writing program and tutor positions in our campus Writing Center.

Our student organizations also produce scholarly and creative events and publications.

Getting the degree

The program offers two 54-unit options: the traditional MFA in Creative Writing, and also an MFA in Creative Writing with Emphasis in Publishing and Editing.

Graduate coursework includes: seminars on genre forms and theories; wide-ranging topics courses in contemporary literature; hands-on, internship-style publishing and editing classes; and of course, writing workshops.

The student's thesis committee works closely with them on style as well as content of their thesis manuscript; it adheres to a high standard of publishable-quality work. Students are also required to give a thesis defense, write a contextualizing narrative for their work, and give a public reading at the end of their program.

Getting publishing experience

Students are encouraged to enroll in our Practicum in Literary Arts course, where they serve on the editorial staff of our national literary magazine, The Normal School.

They can also enroll in our Literary Editing and Publishing course, where they serve as the editorial staff for the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry, our national poetry book contest co-sponsored by Anhinga Press.

Our students make up the editorial boards of four annual campus publications:

  • San Joaquin Review, a journal established by our English Department in 1963;
  • Spectrum, a Young Writers' Conference publication since 1980;
  • Flies, Cockroaches & Poets, a journal established by the Chicanx Writers and Artists Association in 1991;
  • hais journal, a publication started by the Hmong American Ink & Stories club in 2020.

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