MFA in Creative Writing

A Center for Literary Arts and Publishing Practice

The perfect combination of creative writing and experiential learning!

Welcome to the Mason Creative Writing community! The most important factor in choosing an MFA program is the faculty with whom you will study. A residential program affords students the time and focus to work on their art and further develop their writerly lives. Check out our highly acclaimed MFA faculty here!

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Pictured (top row l-r): Helon Habila (fiction), Sally Keith (poetry), Tania James (fiction), Alexia Arthurs (fiction), Vivek Narayanan (poetry); (bottom row l-r): Eric Pankey (poetry), Courtney Brkic (fiction), Kyoko Mori (nonfiction), Peter Streckfus (poetry), Tim Denevi (nonfiction).

WATERSHED LIT: Center for Literary Engagement and Publishing Practice

The community joins together the academic MFA program with a new center called Watershed Lit. No other program boasts its own significant book festival, an independent press, a daily online poetry anthology, a center for international writers, a project focused on the teaching of writing, and two highly regarded literary journals.

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Check out these opportunities to engage the literary arts and publishing practice:

Fall for the Book, a nationally prominent multi-day literary festival that annually brings more than 150 authors from a variety of genres to campus and the town of Fairfax for enlightening and entertaining conversation.

Stillhouse Press, a literary book publishing imprint that also serves as a "teaching press" managed by students who gain invaluable experience in acquisitions, editing, marketing, author relations, and project management. 

Cheuse Center for International Writers—named for acclaimed writer, critic, and long-time Mason professor Alan Cheuse—champions dialogue about and study of world-wide literature and hosts writers from around the globe. 

Poetry Daily, a daily online journal that engages readers, poets, and publishers to foster the exploration and appreciation of poetry and its practice by providing access to new poetry every day.

phoebe, which prides itself on supporting up-and-coming writers, whose style, form, voice, and subject matter demonstrate a vigorous appeal to readers' senses, intellect, and emotions.

So To Speak, an intersectional feminist literary journal that advocates for, and amplifies the perspectives and experiences of, marginalized women and nonbinary people.

The Northern Virginia Writing Project, with its Writers in the Schools (WITS) program, is also part of the center. 

Creativity, Culture, and Community at Mason


Founded in 1980, Mason's MFA program boasts a national reputation with internationally recognized faculty who you will work with to develop your literary art. In addition to being regularly published, our faculty are active members in organizations like PEN/Faulkner, the Academy of American Poets, and the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, which are exactly the associations you need to sustain a vibrant writerly life.

This 48-credit-hour, residential program offers concentrations in three genres--fiction, nonfiction, and poetry--and is typically completed in three years. The curriculum is designed to deliver a balance of scholarship and production with a generous amount of electives so that students can chart a path through the program that both adheres to our tradition and is unique to them.

For students of both poetry and prose, the Forms course (3 credits) is intended to provide core learning of written forms and literary traditions, and we advise students to register for the appropriate class in their concentration during their first semester. The course requires extensive and varied reading and considers the historical aspects of each form, frequently progressing across time to contemporary published works. In addition, each Forms course requires that students experiment with style and technique in a workshop-type setting.

Program architecture includes 6 credits of craft lecture (hybrid classes that offer a combination of reading and writing, and focus on a specific aspect of each genre), 6 credits of literature, 15 credits of electives, and 9 credits of workshop, the fundamental MFA experience.  

Unique program requirements include an "other concentration" course (3 credits) and a Visiting Writers course (1 credit). Regarding the former, our philosophy is that experimenting across genres creates more fully-formed writers, bringing together practitioners of different disciplines in order to facilitate a richer artistic dialogue. As for the latter, Mason brings two accomplished Visiting Writers in each concentration to campus each semester for unique in-class exchanges, a public reading, and social time for further conversations to between visiting authors and MFA students. Enrollment for Visiting Writers courses is capped at 10 to ensure highly engaging experiences for our students.

The program concludes with 6 credits of Thesis taken in consecutive semesters and directed by a faculty member in students' appropriate concentration. 

By choosing Mason, you will not only be challenged academically and creatively, but you will have opportunities to engage in publishing practice and literary citizenship. Our program supports several associated efforts: a nationally prominent literary festival (Fall for the Book), a student-managed “teaching press” (Stillhouse Press), a highly regarded online journal (Poetry Daily), a center for international writers (Cheuse Center), an annual writers’ conference (New Leaves), and two acclaimed literary journals (phoebe and So to Speak).

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 37,000 students (undergraduate and graduate students, combined) from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity, and commitment to accessibility.

MFA APPLICATION DEADLINES: January 15 for priority admission and funding consideration, February 15 to still be considered for possible funding, and April 15 to still be considered for fall admission. Please follow this link to start your MFA in Creative Writing application.

INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS: Mason's campus is a richly diverse and dynamic space. We receive several applications from international students each year. For more information that is pertinent to international applicants, click here.

OFFICE OF GRADUATE ADMISSIONS: All prospective students planning to submit an application should also read additional information regarding requirements and policies for all applicants to graduate programs at Mason.

For questions, to request more information, or to schedule a visit (sit in on a class, talk to faculty and current students, check out campus), email


Literature Writing Creativity