Creative Writing Program Requirements

The Creative Writing MFA program requires 48 credit hours, including:

  • A minimum of 20 credits of writing workshop courses (16 credits of which must be in the chosen thesis-genre)
  • 12 credits of literature courses
  • 12 credits of department electives
  • 4-credit master’s thesis

Students are admitted into the program in a particular genre: poetry, nonfiction, or fiction. Students may explore other genres by using their remaining 4-credit required workshop and elective credits. Students can take courses in any of the following areas: poetry, fiction, nonfiction, drama, or screenwriting.

At the conclusion of their coursework, students submit and defend a manuscript in one genre to be approved by a thesis committee. MFA students must complete at least 16 credits (four courses) of their required 20 credits of workshops in the genre of the thesis. Students are expected to complete the degree requirements within seven years.

Required Workshop Courses


Poetry students are required to take 16 credits in any of the following workshops (students may take genre workshops more than once):

WR 605 Poetry Workshop
WR 610 Form in Poetry


Nonfiction students are required to take 16 credits in any of the following workshops (students may take genre workshops more than once):

WR 613 Nonfiction Workshop
WR 655 Writing the Nonfiction Book
PB 687 Column Writing
PB 676 Magazine Writing
WR 515 Topics in Nonfiction


Fiction students are required to take 16 credits in any of the following workshops (students may take genre workshops more than once):

WR 606 Fiction Workshop
WR 607 Advanced Fiction Workshop
WR 652 Novel Workshop
WR 629 Playwriting Workshop
WR 640 Screenwriting Workshop

MFA Thesis

For completion of the MFA degree, students are required to write a thesis of “near publishable” quality. The thesis may consist of a collection of poems, short stories, essays, a script or play, a novel or novel excerpt, or a nonfiction book or excerpt. Minimum required lengths for MFA theses vary according to genre.

It is strongly suggested that the student begin planning the thesis early and develop a work that approaches a publishable book in concept and form. When nearing completion of the program, a student applies for a thesis committee with a chair who works closely with that student to make a work plan, develop the final manuscript, and schedule a thesis defense.



APR '14

Megan MarshallThe WLP Department and MFA Program extend congratulations to Associate Professor Megan Marshall, who has won a 2014 Pulitzer Prize for the biography Margaret Fuller: A New American Life (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Read more »

Laura van den Berg

Laura van den Berg, MFA alumni and part-time WLP faculty, has been recognized by The American Academy of Arts and Letters for her collection of short stories, The Isle of Youth. She received the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award, given to a “young writer of considerable talent for work published in 2013,” and a prize of $10,000.

Read more »

MAR ’14

Bill Knott, teachingBill Knott, poet and professor at Emerson for over 25 years, passed away on March 12, 2014 from complications with surgery. Here, John Skoyles, Associate Chair of the Department of Writing, Literature, and Publishing, remembers Bill.
Read more »

Michelle Bailat-Jones has won the inaugural Christopher Doheny Award for her novel Fog Island Mountains. The award recognizes a book-length work of fiction or nonfiction exploring the experience of serious illness.It is awarded by the Center for Fiction in New York.
Read More »

JAN ’14

Kirsten ChenJanuary 2014 brings the publication and early acclaim for three debut novels by Emerson MFA alumni: Kirsten Chen (Fiction, 2009), James Scott (Fiction, 2007), and Andrew Ladd (Fiction, 2010).
Read More »

DEC ’13

Alexandria Marzono-LesnevichAlexandria Marzano-Lesnevich (Nonfiction, 2009) wins a National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellowship and receives a Notable Essay selection in Best American Essays 2013.
Read More »

The WLP Department and the MFA Program extend congratulations to Matt Rasmussen (Poetry, 2003) for the outstanding success of his debut poetry collection: National Book Award Finalist, Walt Whitman Award and Pushcart Prize.
Read More »

NOV '13

Lauren JohnsonLauren Johnson (Nonfiction, 2014) is the winner of Glamour magazine nonfiction essay contest for writing about her service in the military and Afghanistan. Lauren received $5000, publication in the November 2013 issue of Glamour, and a meeting with a literary agent in New York. Pulitzer-prize winning novelist Jane Smiley was a judge.
Read More »