MFA in Creative Writing
The MFA in Creative Writing at NAU is an interdisciplinary, full-time, two-year program in fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and hybrid forms. Students participate in writing workshops, undertake coursework in literature, and study critical theory. MFA candidates present a creative thesis of between 45 to 200 pages, depending on genre. Our program’s vibrant literary culture includes the annual literary journal Thin Air and the biweekly Cinder Skies Reading Series. Typically the program cohort comprises 30 and 35 students who hail from every region of the U.S., as well as Fulbright scholars, most recently from Lebanon, Lesotho, Iraq, and Russia.
MODALITY Accordion Closed
Since our founding, we have been primarily a residential, in-person program. Currently we remain primarily in-person and do not offer a fully remote option.
TO APPLY Accordion Closed
The deadline to apply for admission with funding is February 1. Applications after that date may still be considered for admission, but cannot be considered for tuition waivers or graduate teaching assistantships.
The most important part of the application is the writing sample. Your writing sample should be 10 pages for poetry and 20 pages for prose or a multi-genre application. Poetry should be single-spaced; prose should be double-spaced. Submitting a longer sample is acceptable, but the committee might not read beyond the 10- or 20-page minimum—basically, it will neither hurt nor help your chances.
Submit strong, fresh work that best represents your writerly voice and current artistic interests and impulses. It may be in a single genre or multiple. Your application will also include a personal statement, which is typically one to two pages, and at least two letters of recommendation, along with the regular requirements for NAU graduate admission (transcripts, etc.) Recommendations can be uploaded directly from recommenders, or you can use a dossier service such as Interfolio (have them sent to email@example.com and we will get them added to your file). Most people solicit one or both of their recommendations from former professors and teachers, but we are flexible and open to a wide range of life experiences that may draw upon other sources of recommendation who can speak accurately to your intellectual curiosity, your character, and your work ethic. If you are applying for a Graduate Teaching Assistantship, be sure your recommender comments on your ability or potential for teaching.
Information and the link to apply can be found here: https://nau.edu/graduate-college/admissions/. (If you would like a code to waive the application fee, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
THE MFA PROGRAM FACULTY Accordion Closed
Our core faculty of award-winning writers and teachers are all tenured or tenure-track, and we deeply value the art of teaching and mentorship alongside writing and publishing our own ongoing work.
SHERWIN BITSUI (email@example.com) teaches poetry and poetics. He is the author of three collections of poetry, Dissolve (Copper Canyon, 2018), Flood Song (Copper Canyon, 2009), and Shapeshift (University of Arizona Press, 2003). He is the recipient of a Whiting Award, an American Book Award, and the PEN Open Book Award. His poems have appeared in Narrative, Black Renaissance Noir, American Poet, The Iowa Review, LIT, and elsewhere. He is Diné of the Todích’ii’nii (Bitter Water Clan), born for the Tlizílaaní (Many Goats Clan), and has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the Native Arts & Culture Foundation. blueflowerarts.com/artist/sherwin-bitsui
CHELSEY JOHNSON (firstname.lastname@example.org) teaches fiction and writing for television. She is the author of the novel Stray City (Custom House/HarperCollins, 2018), and her writing has appeared in Ploughshares, One Story, Gulf Coast, The New York Times, Elle, and NPR’s Selected Shorts, among others. She is the recipient of a Stegner Fellowship from Stanford as well as fellowships to MacDowell, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and Signal Fire Arts. www.chelseyjohnson.com
LAWRENCE LENHART (email@example.com) teaches creative nonfiction, editing and publishing, and climate science writing. He is the author of the essay collections The Well-Stocked and Gilded Cage (Outpost19, 2017) and Of No Ground: Small Island/Big Ocean Contingencies (West Virginia University Press, forthcoming), and a book-length essay about the black-footed ferret (University of Georgia Press, forthcoming). His prose appears in Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, Gulf Coast, Passages North, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. He is a founding editor of Carbon Copy and the reviews editor of DIAGRAM. www.lawrencelenhart.com
KT THOMPSON (firstname.lastname@example.org) teaches creative nonfiction, critical theory, and climate science writing. KT is the author of Blanket (Bloomsbury, 2018) and Contingent Love, Unsettled Futures (Duke University Press, forthcoming.) The recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, their creative nonfiction has appeared in Tin House, LitHub, and The Atlantic online, and their scholarly articles have appeared in Social Text, ISLE, Avidly, and The Philosophical Salon. KT is the creative nonfiction editor of ISLE: International Studies in Literature and the Environment. www.k-thompson.com
NICOLE WALKER, MFA program founder (email@example.com), teaches poetry, creative nonfiction, and climate science writing. She is the author of, most recently, The After-Normal: Brief, Alphabetical Essays on a Changing Planet (Rose Metal Press, 2019) and the Nautilus Award–winning Sustainability: A Love Story (Mad Creek Books/The Ohio State University Press, 2018). Her previous books include Where the Tiny Things Are, Egg, Micrograms, Quench Your Thirst with Salt, and This Noisy Egg. Her work has been published in Orion, Boston Review, Creative Nonfiction, Brevity, The Normal School and other places. A recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and noted in multiple editions of Best American Essays, she is the nonfiction editor at Diagram and co-director of the biannual NonfictionNow conference. www.nikwalk.com
THE MFA PROGRAM OF STUDY Accordion Closed
Our program balances writing workshops with literary study to build well-rounded writers and readers. The MFA program of study consists of the following 36 units of credit:
• Four graduate workshops—500- and 600-level creative writing courses (which may be repeated up to three times) (12 units of credit total)
• Two courses in literature, critical theory, and/or readings in creative writing (6 units)
• Four electives—additional workshops, lit courses, and other graduate courses across the university—chosen with your advisor’s approval (12 units)
• Two course blocks of thesis hours (ENG 699) for the research, writing and revision of your thesis (6 units; most people take all 6 in the spring of their second year, but some split it 3-3 between fall and spring)
THE MFA THESIS is a creative work of substantial depth and focus that typically spans anywhere from 40 pages (for a poetry collection) to upward of 200 pages (for a long-form prose manuscript.) An accumulation of what you’ve experienced throughout your MFA, the thesis may include new work as well as writing that has benefitted from the workshop experience. It may take the form of a novel, a memoir, an extended nonfiction narrative, a story collection, an essay collection, a poetry collection, or a multi-genre collection.
TUITION AND FEES Accordion Closed
In 2022-23, annual tuition and fees for Arizona residents cost $12,640. For non-residents, tuition and fees cost $27,940. Typically, almost all MFA students receive partial or full funding, and we in the program will do everything we can to help you cover tuition costs.
FINANCIAL AID AND OTHER WAYS TO FUND YOUR STUDIES Accordion Closed
Here are some of the ways our students fund their lives and studies, both within the university system and outside of it. For full information, see https://nau.edu/graduate-college/graduate-assistantships-tuition-waivers/.
- Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTAs) may be awarded for the first and/or second year of the program. In the first year of teaching, GTAs teach one section of the composition class ENG 105 per semester and work a weekly six-hour tutoring shift in the university writing center. The current GTA stipend is $16,000 per academic year. You must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher to apply for a GTA. Full details at https://nau.edu/english/resources/graduate-assistantships/.
In the second year of teaching, GTAs may continue with the 105 + writing center load; or, with approval from the Director of Composition, they may teach two sections of composition per semester, one 105 and one 205; or they may apply to teach introductory creative writing courses. Creative writing teaching positions are limited and competitive.
- At-Large Graduate Assistantships are non-teaching positions offered throughout the university. This is an excellent option for those who do not apply for or receive a GTA. They come with full or partial tuition waivers, benefits, and stipends that vary by office, job duties, and degree-level. Positions are regularly updated at nau.edu/graduate-college/graduate-assistantships-tuition-waivers/
Tuition waivers: A limited number of tuition waivers are available to out-of-state or in-state students who can demonstrate financial need. To present yourself as a candidate for one of these awards, please download the English Department tuition waiver form.
- • If you’re an Arizona resident, apply for a waiver of resident tuition; these waivers cover the cost of in-state tuition for fall and/or spring semester.
- If you are not an Arizona resident, apply for non-resident waivers; these waivers cover only the out-of-state portion of University tuition for fall and/or spring semester. If you are awarded a non-resident waiver, you will still be responsible for paying the in-state portion of tuition.
- Veterans are automatically eligible for in-state tuition, and active-duty military receive Department of Defense tuition assistance. For more info: https://nau.edu/graduate-college/veterans-educational-benefits/
- Full-time employees of NAU and their families receive a full tuition benefit and can take graduate classes at no cost. More here: https://nau.edu/office-of-scholarships-and-financial-aid/employee-tuition-reduction/
- Jobs in Flagstaff: And, of course, graduate students work in the community beyond NAU. Current and recent students hold jobs at bookstores, coffee shops, restaurants, nonprofits, county offices, Grand Canyon river guiding, and more.
THE CREATIVE WRITING CERTIFICATE IN ENVIRONMENTAL NARRATIVE Accordion Closed
Some MFA students choose to incorporate this new certificate into their studies (or even stay a third year to complete it). It can also be taken independently from the MFA as a standalone certificate and/or in conjunction with other graduate programs at NAU.
This new eighteen-credit certificate program trains students to write literary fiction and nonfiction that incorporates scientific inquiry and place-based narratives in order to publish work that speaks to a wide audience interested in ecology, sustainability, and climate change and solutions. Students may work in a wide range of genres, including realism, speculative fiction, nature writing, longform nonfiction, and lyric, braided, and poetic forms. The certificate incorporates writing workshops, literary study, science-centered courses, and field work, and culminates in a capstone writing project.
Note: Although the MFA program can’t offer GTA funding beyond two years, students who begin the GTA in their second year can continue for a third, and environmental certificate students can apply for at-large GA positions and tuition waivers.
WHERE WE ARE Accordion Closed
Writing about place is intrinsic to the practice of many of us in the program, faculty and students alike, and northern Arizona is a unique, complex, and beautiful place in which to live and write. Known as Kinłání in the Diné (Navajo) language, present-day Flagstaff was founded in 1882; Northern Arizona University was founded in 1899, and Arizona was declared a state of the U.S. in 1912. Long before and ever since these settler establishments, this land and its surroundings are the homelands of Diné, Hopis, Apaches, Yavapais, Hualapais, and many other Indigenous people who have always lived and continue to live here, and whose practices and spiritualities have always been tied to the land and continue to develop in relationship to the land and its other inhabitants today. Cultural humility, conscientiousness, and respect are paramount for those of us who are guests in this land.
Located at 7,000 feet, Flagstaff today is a complex and multicultural city of mountains, forests, extensive trails, observatories, independent bookstores, coffee shops, excellent public libraries, craft breweries, a strong and supportive arts community, small theater companies, readings and spoken word series, Indigenous activism, historic Route 66, elite athlete training, and astonishing geological diversity. The temperate four-season climate, proximity to the Grand Canyon, walkable historic downtown, and abundant natural beauty contribute to a substantial summer-resident and tourist population—and thus a fairly high cost of living. A detailed and ever-growing list of community resources, arts organizations, recreation, and volunteer opportunities is compiled in our MFA Student Handbook and is available upon request.
Additional questions? Contact the MFA program director firstname.lastname@example.org or any of the other faculty members listed above.