&NOW Festival
M. NourbeSe Philip, reading at the &Now Festival
The Creative Writing MFA was designed to get over the division between 'creative' and 'critical.' Here, writing is understood as an art form best practiced alongside the other arts, and students benefit from having access to the CalArts community of artists as their peers and fellow travelers.

A defining feature of the Creative Writing Program is hybridity and experimentation, so students are free to take courses in, and to write in, any genre they wish. Poets may take prose workshops to learn narrative conventions and how to deploy or challenge them; fiction and nonfiction writers may benefit from poetry workshops that hone their use of and engagement with language; and still other students may develop multidimensional writing practices. All students graduate with the ability to comprehend and critique work across genres, and an expanded sense of possibilities for their own work.

Students are encouraged to situate their creative practice in a critical context—to engage with the history, theory and politics of contemporary writing, and to think hard about what and why they write. The Program offers graduate students the chance to further develop both their craft and their knowledge base, and workshops combine attentive critique of student work with the discussion of readings on and in the various genres—or on special topics particularly relevant to writing today.

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Program Faculty

Alumni Story

Anne-Marie Kinney
Anne-Marie Kinney Critical Studies MFA 08 Kinney’s first novel, Radio Iris was published in 2012 by Two Dollar

The two most important things about the Writing Program for me were the mentorship—being pushed by, and being championed by, faculty—both while I was at CalArts and after I graduated. Also, the peer group with which I’m still in contact. We had daily workshops; a handful of people working on the same projects for two years, who knew each other’s work really well. Taking criticism and learning how to communicate better based on that feedback, is important, because most of the time you’re trying to write on your own; you’re in a vacuum. You have no idea whether readers are going to pick up what you’re putting down. It’s valuable to learn that you can build from that criticism rather than being destroyed by it.

CalArts is a great place to be if you’re not sure exactly what you’re doing yet, and you want the room to grow and find your style or your niche. You’re encouraged to experiment, and there are some great faculty members that say, ‘What you've done here is good, but you need to go further.’ Or, maybe, ‘What you’ve done here isn’t so good.’ I gained a lot of confidence. When I came out of the Program I felt like I was no longer a dabbler. It also taught me discipline and good habits–having to produce work on a weekly basis.

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