Department of English

Concentration in Creative Writing

As a student pursuing the Creative Writing Graduate track, you’ll receive an in-depth education in the writing and revising of poetry, fiction, and prose. You’ll be guided in developing an original voice, knowledge of the craft of writing, and the ability to read classic and contemporary models of published work from a writer's perspective. Our courses are small, interactive writing workshops that combine attentive discussion of your original work with an emphasis on reading critically to observe and understand the elements of literature.

Our students work toward developing and refining a portfolio of fiction or poetry. This final portfolio is presented to an advisory committee for approval before graduation. You’ll also be invited to participate in sharing work from this portfolio in a graduate reading that completes your semester.

Other opportunities for graduate students in Creative Writing include serving as editors for the Southern Humanities Review, a nationally recognized literary journal. We encourage students to attend and present at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) national conference.

Many of our graduates go on to attend MFA and PhD programs, or pursue successful careers related to writing.

Students interested in the Creative Writing track must get approval from the Creative Writing faculty; consult with the Director of Graduate Studies.

Table of course requirements
Requirements Courses    
GTA req.
(2 hrs)

ENGL 7940: GTA Practicum

   
Distribution Courses
(9 hrs)
Literature pre-1800 LinguisticsorTPCorRhet/Comp Special: Technology and Culture, Globalism Sustainability, Diversity
Major Area Courses (9 hrs) 7130: Fiction Writing (repeated as needed - offered annually) 7140: Poetry Writing (repeated as needed - offered biannually)  
Minor Area Courses (6 hrs) 2 graduate courses in English or another discipline relative to the student’s professional & academic goals; approved by the student’s Graduate Advisory Committee    
Elective Courses (3 hors) 1 graduate course in English    
Capstone Portfolio and oral exam    

32 credit hours:

  • 9 credits major area courses
  • 9 credits distribution courses
  • 6 credits in minor area courses
  • 6 credits in elective coursework
  • 1 credit Literature Practicum
  • 1 credit Rhetoric and Composition Practicum
  • Portfolio/exam (this requires significant research and revision of work originally completed in courses taken for the MA under the supervision of the student’s graduate advisory committee)
  • Foreign language requirement

Concentration in Creative Writing Portfolio

Portfolios must include the following:

  • A craft essay. This essay may include the following:
    • An explanation of the thematic concerns evident in the portfolio.
    • A discussion of the stylistic techniques employed in the portfolio.
    • A narrative of the evolution of the work in the portfolio, especially in regards to the changes each piece underwent at the draft stage, and the reasons for the changes.
    • A description of the literary influences that have shaped the writer’s work, and the portfolio, specifically.
  • An updated résumé or curriculum vita.
  • A 30-50 page portfolio of creative work. The portfolio itself may be composed of short stories, poems, or a mixture of both. Much of this work will have been initiated in classes at Auburn, although it will be significantly revised and developed for the portfolio.  

    The decision to mix genres should arise from a discussion between the advisor and student.  Because we don’t yet offer courses in creative nonfiction, drama, or screenwriting, the addition of these genres will be left to the discretion of the advisor.

There are numerous reasons why an undergraduate creative writer might be better off applying to an MA program in creative writing rather than an MFA. All of the following benefits of such a choice are certainly true for Auburn’s MA in creative writing:

            - The first and most obvious is financial: the MFA applicant pool is increasingly competitive, and as Professor Dinty W. Moore of Ohio University notes, “Many students are coming up blank when they first apply. A younger student might not be ready for a top MFA program and may be wasting time and money applying.” Those programs aren’t going anywhere—working on your craft for two years could very well mean that you end up in a much better MFA program in the long run. Auburn’s MA students have gone on to some of the top MFA programs in the country, and they’ll be the first to tell you that they couldn’t have done it without their two years at Auburn.

            - There’s also the consideration of time: Moore argues that the MA program “allows an extra two years to focus on enhancing a writing portfolio. A hard-working student can write a lot of poems, stories, and essays in two years.” If your goal is to write as much as you can before beginning fulltime employment, then an MA program provides an additional two years of writing time. Why rush? Take your time writing that first novel! Those two years in an MA program could be free of charge (unlike many expensive MFA programs). Auburn offers all of its MA students full funding, along with university teaching experience—two things that many MFA programs fail to provide.

            - Academic rigor comes into play, as well: Moore makes clear that the wider range of course work and the academic challenge provided by an MA program catering to a diverse range of student interests will better prepare a writer not only for the more typical studio MFA, but for the PhD in creative writing, too. And as the PhD becomes a more common terminal degree among creative writers, the MA’s value will only increase in terms of the preparation it provides for such a program. Auburn’s MA students graduate from our program with a portfolio of creative work that will gain them entry to publication and an MFA program. However, the scholarly work they complete at Auburn puts them step ahead of the competition they’ll face on the academic job market.

            - Finally, many MFA program professors prefer to accept writers who have had a life beyond the undergraduate experience. Two years in an MA program provides time to mature your talent and voice, and to gain valuable life experience that can be translated into compelling art. Auburn’s MA students travel to conferences, host a reading series, run community writing programs, edit the pages of the Southern Humanities Review, and enjoy life in a beautiful Southern town with a football team that isn’t half bad. There’s a lot to learn here—on and off the page!

Professor John Poch of Texas Tech backs up many of these points in his insightful article for AWP. As he says, “While an MFA in creative writing is considered by most to be the terminal degree for those writers seeking academic training and the rewards thereof, many English departments and writing programs offer an MA in English (magister artium in the Latin) where creative writing can be chosen as a specialization area rather than technical communication, rhetoric/composition, literature, linguistics, or even film. In general, a student working in a creative writing MA program tends to follow a more rigorously structured degree plan than an MFA, fulfilling more scholarly/literary studies requirements… Auburn, UC Davis, the University of Chicago, Western Washington, and many other programs still offer the MA as their signature writing degree.”

The MA in creative writing at Auburn is a program with a rich history and a formidable reputation. Come join us as we continue to do the rich and rewarding work of growing great literary talent!

From Garrard Conley, author of Boy Erased: A Memoir, Riverhead Books, 2016:

“Auburn was a fantastic place to focus on craft and theory. My classes helped me think critically about the choices I wanted to make in my stories. “Ownership” is probably the best word for what I felt at Auburn. I wanted to own my stories in the sense that I wanted to be responsible for the work they might do in the world, and I believe Auburn's unique focus on theory and creative writing helped me reach this insight.

Because the program is relatively small and supports its students financially, I felt very nurtured during my two years at Auburn. I had the opportunity to be on the staff of an excellent literary magazine, Southern Humanities Review, and the process helped me learn not only what it means to run a magazine but also what people across the country were writing at that time, seeing where my work fit in the cultural narrative. 

I look back on my experience at Auburn as a golden moment in my literary life. I was surrounded by books and loving, devoted readers who opened my eyes to many different ways of writing and thinking.” 

During your time at Auburn, you can be involved our literary scene in many ways.

Some of the writers who have given readings and offered workshops at Auburn include Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams, Dan Albergotti, Molly Antopol, Brian Barker, Elizabeth Bradfield, Tina Mozelle Braziel, Jericho Brown, Nickole Brown, Robin Behn, Jennifer Chang, Jessica Cornelson, Tom Crawford, Geffrey Davis, Kendra DeColo, Natalie Diaz, Hali Felt, Beth Ann Fennelly, Tom Franklin, Cristina Garza, David Gessner, Richie Hoffman, John Hoppenthaler, Peter Kline, Michael Knight, Cecilia Llompart, Joanie Majkowski, Taylor Mali, James Davis May, Michael Martone, L. S. McKee, Brittany Perham, Kirstin Valdez Quade, Janisse Ray, Steve Scafidi, Martha Serpas, Lauren Slaughter, Matthew Siegel, R. T. Smith, Darin Strauss, Jeanie Thompson, Richard Tillinghast, Natasha Tretheway, Jon Tribble, Jean Valentine, Adam Vines, Frank X. Walker, Kevin Wilson, and Ann Fisher-Wirth. 

Our students have gone on to attend graduate programs at University of California - Los Angeles, University of Florida, University of Indiana - Bloomington, University of Iowa, Seattle University, University of Tennessee - Knoxville, University of Miami, University of North Carolina - Wilmington, University of South Carolina, University of Illinois, and University of Washington, among others.

For more information

Jonathan Bolton

Jonathan Bolton
Hollifield Professor of English Literature
Director of Graduate Studies
boltojw@auburn.edu
8058 Haley Center
(334) 844-9015

Last Updated: August 17, 2016