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Graduate Creative Writing :: Degrees

Graduate Creative Writing: Master of Fine Arts

USF's Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program offers small classes, friendly fellow students, dedicated faculty, a lively reading series, and a supportive atmosphere. Each year we accept between six and nine students in creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. Our MFA students receive a 100 percent tuition waiver, a teaching assistantship, and eligibility to enroll in group health insurance. All graduate assistants teach composition in the first year of the program, but in the second and third years, they are eligible to teach lower-level creative writing courses and may work as tutors in the USF Writing Center.

Writers Series Readers

Readers Trauth, Benson, Purificato, & Shea

Here are some highlights of our program:

We strive to help all our students achieve their maximum potential as writers. All writing workshops and craft courses are conducted in a positive atmosphere.  

Students may concentrate solely on their chosen genre, or they may take workshops outside of their genre. For instance, fiction writers may take creative nonfiction courses, and poetry students may enroll in fiction writing.  We encourage our students to push boundaries.  

Our teacher training is superb. First-Year Composition training prepares our graduate students to enter the classroom with confidence. We also are one of the few programs in the country to offer training in creative writing pedagogy. Graduates of our program are well-prepared for the difficult academic job market.

The Department of English offers job placement sessions that guide students through every step of the job interview process. Students receive assistance crafting effective CVs and cover letters and writing teaching philosophy statements. The placement committee also runs mock interview sessions.  

Our students are publishing in top journals--the Sun, Quarterly West, and Epoch, to name just a few--and have won prestigious national prizes such as the O. Henry Award and the AWP Intro Award. Our alums include Karen Brown, author of Pins and Needles (winner of the AWP Grace Paley Award in Fiction) and Little Sinners and Other Stories (Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction); Ric Jahna, author of True Kin (Ohio State University Prize in Short Fiction); poet and translator Daniele Pantano, author of The Oldest Hands in the World and translator of The Possible Is Monstrous: Selected Poems by Friedrich Dürrenmatt and The Collected Works of Georg Trakl (all published by Black Lawrence Press); Alicia Thompson, author of The Psych Major Syndrome (Hyperion); poet John Nieves (Indiana Review Prize in Poetry, work published widely in prestigious journals such as Minnesota Review and Harpur Palate); and memoirist Adriana Paramo, author of My Mother's Funeral (CavanKerry Press) and Looking for Esperanza (Benu Press).

Our online journal, Saw Palm, gives graduate students a chance to gain valuable editorial experience.

Students may gain administrative experience--and sharpen their own presentation skills--through participation in Blank Pages: Creative Writing Symposium, National Poetry Month Festival, Writers Harvest fundraiser, and the 6 X 6 Student Reading Series. The Department of English offers modest assistance to students who are selected to present at national conferences such as AWP.  

The Department of English, the USF Lecture Series, the USF Humanities Institute, and the Florida Literary Arts Coalition bring in many guest speakers for readings, master classes, and day-long workshops. Recent guest speakers include Robert Pinsky, Galway Kinnell, A. Manette Ansay, Kim Addonizio, David Leavitt, and many others.  

The English Graduate Student Association hosts student-run symposia during the academic year.

Our Faculty

Rita Ciresi (MFA, The Pennsylvania State University, Fiction) is the author of the short-story collections Mother Rocket and Sometimes I Dream in Italian, and the novels Bring Back My Body to Me, Pink Slip, Blue Italian, and Remind Me Again Why I Married You. Her awards include the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction and the Pirate's Alley Faulkner Prize for the Novel. She has won support for her work from the Ragdale Foundation, the Hawthornden International Retreat for Writers, the American Academy in Rome, the Santa Fe Art Institute, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, the Sozopol Fiction Seminars, and the state art councils of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida. Visit her website at

John Henry Fleming (PhD, University of Louisiana-Lafayette, Fiction) is the author of The Legend of the Barefoot Mailman, a novel, and Fearsome Creatures of Florida, a literary bestiary. His short stories have appeared in journals such as McSweeney’s, the North American Review, Mississippi Review, Fourteen Hills, and Carve. His work has been anthologized in 100% Pure Florida Fiction and in The Future Dictionary of America.  His awards include a Literature Fellowship from the State of Florida.  He has a PhD in Creative Writing from The University of Louisiana-Lafayette, an MA in Creative Writing from The University of Southern Mississippi, and a BA in Psychology from The University of Virginia. At USF, he teaches graduate and undergraduate fiction writing courses, directs graduate theses, and is advisory editor of Saw Palm: florida literature and art. Visit his blog at and his website at

Hunt Hawkins (PhD, Stanford University), earned a B.A. from Williams College, where he was Phi Beta Kappa, and M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. Previously he was Chair of the English Department at Florida State University where he held the title of James M. McCrimmon Professor. His academic specializations are Modern British Literature, Postcolonial Literature, and poetry writing. He has published many articles and poems and two books: Teaching Approaches to Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” and “The Secret Sharer” with the Modern Language Association and The Domestic Life (poems) with the University of Pittsburgh Press. The latter won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize. He has served as President of the Joseph Conrad Society, the South Atlantic Graduate Education Consortium, the South Atlantic Association of Departments of English, and the South Atlantic Modern Language Association.

Jay Hopler (PhD, Purdue University; MFA, University of Iowa, Poetry) is the author of Green Squall, which was chosen by Louise Glück as the winner of the 2005 Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. Green Squall also received the 2007 Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, a 2006 Florida Book Award, a 2006 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award and a 2007 National “Best Books” Award from USA Book News. The Killing Spirit: An Anthology of Murder-for-Hire, his first book, was published in the United States and Europe by The Overlook Press and Canongate Books in 1996. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in numerous magazines and journals including the American Poetry Review, the Kenyon Review, the New Republic and the New Yorker. In 2009, Jay received a Marfa Residency Fellowship from the Lannan Foundation and a Whiting Writers' Award from the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation. In 2010 he was the recipient of a Rome Fellowship in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters/the American Academy in Rome. Visit his website at

Jarod Roselló (MFA and PhD, The Pennsylvania State University, Fiction/Comics/Graphic Narrative/Digital Storytelling) is a Cuban-American teacher, cartoonist, and writer, born and raised in Miami, Florida.  His comics and fiction have appeared in the delinquent, Cause & Effect Magazine, Gulfstream Literary Magazine, Sonora Review, Neon Literary Journal, Fast Forward Flash Fiction, Volume 3, Sorry Entertainer, and Gin Palace. His chapbook of fiction, This is Not Where You Belong, was published in 2012 by Aestel and Acanthus.  He is co-founder of Bien Vestido, a small press dedicated to publishing comics and zines by latina/o cartoonists and artists.  His full-length graphic narrative, The Well-Dressed Bear, is forthcoming from Publishing Genius.  Visit his website at .

Heather Sellers was born and raised in Orlando, Florida. She is the author of You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know, a true story of family, face-blindness, and forgiveness (Riverhead), an O, Oprah book of the month club selection also featured on Good Morning America, Rachel Ray, NPR's All Things Considered, and Dick Gordon’s The Story. Her essays appear in The Sun, Good Housekeeping, O Magazine, The London Daily Telegraph, Brevity, and The New York Times. She is at work on a second memoir and two collaborative projects.  Sellers is also the author of three volumes of poetry: Your Whole Life, Drinking Girls and Their Dresses, and The Boys I Borrow. Recent poems appear in Prairie Schooner, The North American Review, Field, The Bellingham Review, and The Sun. Her current manuscript is titled The Vine and features a sequence of poems about growing up in Florida entwined with poems on the death of her father. In 2001, Sellers published Georgia Under Water (Sarabande) a collection of linked short stories that won a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers award. She’s written a children’s book, Spike and Cubby’s Ice Cream Island Adventure (Henry Holt), two books on craft, Page after Page and Chapter after Chapter (Writer’s Digest), and a textbook for the multi-genre creative writing classroom, The Practice of Creative Writing (Bedford St. Martin’s), newly out in its second edition.

Ira Sukrungruang (MFA, The Ohio State University) is a Chicago-born Thai-American and the author of the memoir Talk Thai: The Adventures of Buddhist Boy. He has co-edited two anthologies about obesity: What Are You Looking At: The First Fat Fiction Anthology and Scoot Over, Skinny: The Fat Nonfiction Anthology. Ira has published his essays, poems, and short stories in many literary journals and anthologies, including Creative Nonfiction, the Bellingham Review, North American Review, Isotope, Crab Orchard Review, Post Road, and Tilting the Continent: Southeast Asian American Writing. He has received the New York Foundation for the Arts Nonfiction Fellowship, The Just Desserts Fiction Prize, an Illinois Arts Council Literary Award, and he's received support from the Ragdale Foundation, Blue Mountain Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow. Currently he is at work on several projects: The Talk of Butterflies: A Memoir of Siam, Buddha’s Dog: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Southside Buddhist: Essays, The Golden Mix: Stories, and an untitled novel.

Our undergraduate instructors include fiction writer Karen Brown, playwright Mark Leib, and poet Katherine Riegel.

The MFA in Creative Writing

The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is a graduate-level program offering concentrations in fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. The program emphasizes the craft of writing and concentrates on the student's original work. The MFA requires 45 hours of coursework and typically will take three years for the student to complete. Our goal is to help MFA students produce publishable theses and secure teaching or editing positions upon graduation. To complete the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, students must satisfy the following requirements:

  • Earn 45 credit hours with an overall grade point average of 3.0 or better in the required courses. The distribution of the requirements is as follows: 18 hours in writing workshops and craft seminars, 3 hours in Intro to Graduate Studies, 15 hours in literature and pedagogy, and 9 hours in thesis studies (taken in the final year of the program).
  • Complete a book-length manuscript in fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry that will meet departmental and university requirements for the thesis. The thesis shall consist of 48-64 pages of poems or at least 100 pages of fiction or creative nonfiction.

    Course of Study for the MFA in Creative Writing

    • 6 courses (18 hours) chosen from the following:
      • CRW 6130 Fiction Writing (3)--may be taken up to three times for a maximum of 9 credits
      • CRW 6331 Poetry Writing (3)--may be taken up to three times for a maximum of 9 credits
      • CRW 6236 Nonfiction Writing (3)--may be taken up to three times for a maximum of 9 credits
      • CRW 6164 The Craft of Fiction (3)--required for students admitted on the fiction track, optional for students admitted on the poetry track
      • CRW 6352 The Craft of Poetry (3)--required for students admitted on the poetry track; optional for students admitted on the fiction track
      • CRW 6025 Special Topics in Creative Writing: The Craft of Nonfiction (3)--required for students admitted on the creative nonfiction track; optional for students on the poetry or fiction track
      • CRW 6025 Special Topics in Creative Writing (3) This new course might concentrate on screenwriting, translation, editing, creative writing pedagogy (with a community service component), or study of a particular genre or technique.
    • 1 course (3 hours) in graduate studies:
      • ENG 6009 Introduction to Graduate Studies (3). This course must be taken in the student's first semester of graduate studies.
    • 5 courses (15 hours) in any combination of the courses listed below:
      • ENC 6745 Practice in Teaching Composition (3)--required of all first-year teaching assistants in composition
      • CRW 6025 Practice in Teaching Creative Writing (3)--required of all teaching assistants in creative-writing courses. This course may be taken more than once, but will only count for a total of three credits toward degree requirements.
      • CRW 6940 Literary Editing and Publishing (3)--required of all students working on Saw Palm, USF's creative writing journal. This course may be taken more than once, but will only count for a total of three credits toward degree requirements.
      • Graduate-level (6000 and above) literature courses offered by the English Department. These courses are coded AML 6---, ENL 6---, and LIT 6---. Sample courses include:
        • AML 6017 Studies in American Literature to 1860 (3)
        • AML 6018 Studies in American Literature 1860-1920 (3)
        • AML 6027 Studies in Modern American Literature (3)
        • AML 6608 Studies in African-American Literature (3)
        • ENL 6206 Studies in Old English (3)
        • ENL 6216 Studies in Middle English (3)
        • ENL 6226 Studies in Sixteenth-Century British Literature (3)
        • ENL 6228 Studies in Seventeenth-Century British Literature (3)
        • ENL 6236 Studies in Restoration and Eighteenth-Century British Literature (3)
        • ENL 6246 Studies of the English Romantic Period (3)
        • ENL 6256 Studies in Victorian Literature (3)
        • ENL 6276 Studies in Modern British Literature (3)
        • LIT 6096 Studies in Contemporary Literature (3)
        • LIT 6105 Studies in Continental Literature (3)
        • LIT 6934 Selected Topics in English Studies (on a literature topic) (3)
    • 3 courses (9 hours) in thesis work:
      • ENG 6971 Thesis: Master's (3-6 hours per semester). Taken in the student's final year of study. The student must be registered in at least 3 hours of ENG 6971 during the semester prior to graduation.
    More information on policies and procedures of our MFA program may be found in our handbook here.