Indiana University Creative Writing Program
Creative Writing Program
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History of MFA

Indiana University has offered courses in creative writing throughout most of the twentieth century. Robert Frost, Marguerite Young, Robert P. T. Coffin, Robert Penn Warren, and John Crowe Ransom, among others, taught courses in poetry and fiction writing at Indiana University as early as 1941. Our graduate creative writing program is one of the nation's oldest and most distinguished, having been founded in 1948 by short-story writer Peter Taylor. Indiana University was among the first North American universities to grant a creative writing M.A., awarding its first graduate creative writing degree in 1949 to poet and novelist David Wagoner. In 1980 Indiana University began granting the M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Since that time our resident tenured faculty has included such distinguished and prolific writers as Philip Appleman, Roger Mitchell, Yusef Komunyakaa, Cornelia Nixon, David Wojahn, and Dana Johnson. We feel that we offer students not only an exceptional Faculty but also access to an outstanding Department of English, annually ranked among the top fifteen English departments in the country.

Our graduate program is relatively small, currently enrolling forty-six Students. We normally accept ten new students each year (five in fiction, five in poetry), and work to recruit as strong and diverse an entering class as possible (see Diversity Resources). Each student in our program receives financial aid, usually in the form of a graduate teaching assistantship, and all or nearly all incoming students are awarded supplemental fellowships, which reduce the teaching load during the first year.

Teaching Assistantships and Fellowships

We're particularly proud of our graduate teaching assistantships and believe they're the best in the country. Our aid is typically for three years, during which time our associate instructors (A.I.s) teach nine courses (three courses annually), not factoring in fellowship considerations. At least six of those possible nine courses taught are in creative writing (100- and 200-level), with the remainder in freshman composition and/or literature or a creative writing A.I. consultantship. We also offer our graduate students the opportunity to teach summer sections of 100- and 200-level creative writing workshops and, during their third year, a course in Literary Editing and Publishing. We know of no other creative writing program that is able to offer as attractive and varied a teaching package to its graduate students.

Indiana University is one of the few universities to offer its students a graduate-level course in creative writing pedagogy: Teaching Creative Writing. Our A.I.s teach creative writing under the direction of our graduate faculty and with the support of our Director of Creative Writing Pedagogy. A.I. Teaching Support offers further details as well as a profile of our Director of Creative Writing Pedagogy. When our A.I.s teach freshman composition, normally in the second year of their appointments, they take another course in pedagogy, the Teaching of Composition in College. Our department also offers a graduate course in the Teaching of Literature in College. A complete list of our program's course offerings, along with information about admissions and degree requirements, can be found at Admissions.

We offer students of exceptional merit first-year fellowships in fiction and poetry, as well as third-year (thesis year) fellowships and a variety of other awards designed to give distinction to their writing, their public service, and their teaching. We also offer Neal-Marshall Graduate Fellowships in Creative Writing to all incoming students of color, and we nominate all qualified students for Chancellor's University Fellowships, Chancellor's Minority Fellowships, and Educational Opportunity Fellowships. For further information see Fellowships and Awards.

Why Three Years?

Why is our M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program three years long? Our MFA program is a studio/academic program, including academic coursework; we encourage prospective applicants to review recent graduate literature course offerings here. We believe that while it usually takes only two years for writers to do the requisite course work for the M.F.A., our support of our students' work shouldn't end there. We offer our students a third funded year to allow them to devote the bulk of their time to the writing of their graduate thesis, which we hope will be a strong step toward their first published book. Writers need time, ideally funded time, and we offer it. In fact, many of our graduates in poetry and fiction have gone on to publish books that began as thesis projects written largely during their three years in Bloomington.

Books by Our Graduates presents a list of books, both published and forthcoming, by our M.A. and M.F.A. graduates since 1980. More detailed information about our graduates' publications, awards, and literary and professional activities can be found at Alumni News, and information about activities with our program can be found at Program News. These links are updated frequently, as are the specific student and faculty links.

Other Opportunities

All Indiana University graduate students have the opportunity to work with the Indiana Review as well as the summer Indiana University Writers' Conference.

The Indiana Review is completely student-edited and offers unique experience in every aspect of literary publication. The IR has four funding lines for graduate students, generally for students in their second or third year.. The IR Associate Editor assists the Editor and teaches one creative writing course per year while still receiving the full A.I. stipend. The IR Editor receives a full A.I. stipend for her or his work on the magazine and does no additional teaching. Both editors also receive a summer stipend, which allows them to work on the magazine and read submissions throughout the calendar year. In addition to the Editor and Associate Editor positions, we offer students the opportunity to serve as Genre Editors, for which they receive a one-course reduction in their annual teaching load. All creative writing students are eligible to compete for these positions, and everyone is encouraged to join the fiction and poetry staffs, read and evaluate submissions, and assist the editors in planning future issues of the magazine.

Creative writing students also have the opportunity to work with the Indiana University Writers' Conference, serving in the capacity as assistant director. While the IUWC offers the Bloomington community a week of free readings during the summer months, our M.F.A. students give readings throughout the rest of the year; these readings are complemented by additional readings by our faculty and readings and occasional informal talks or lectures by visitors to our campus. See our Calendar of Readings for a complete schedule of events.

For more details about the IR and the IUWC as well as information about Indiana University's Lilly Library and internationally renowned School of Music, and a variety of other cultural opportunities available in the Bloomington community, see Additional Opportunities.