MFA Creative Writing Program
This innovative interdisciplinary creative writing program is designed for students who seek to experiment with form and content and to engage in thoughtful dialogue about the artistic, conceptual and political contexts of contemporary writing.
Unlike students in conventional "tracked" creative writing programs, our students are free to take courses and to write in any genre; unlike students in strictly craft-oriented creative writing programs, our students are encouraged to think as deeply about what they write as how; unlike students in university creative writing programs, at CalArts writing students have the opportunity to engage with the visual and performing arts on a daily basis. We believe this freedom, criticality and artistic cross-pollination is vital to the creation of strong, innovative and alive writing, whether one ultimately considers oneself a poet, novelist, essayist or something in between (or else). We also believe in helping our students develop discipline and artistic integrity, supplying active mentorship and substantial support for the long form thesis project required for graduation. And we believe in nurturing community and professional development, through faculty and student-run reading series on campus and in LA; small press and journal internships; and opportunities to teach on and off campus.
Key aspects of the program are highlighted below and expanded upon in the pages of this website, but our alumni page is perhaps the best indicator of what it means to study writing at CalArts. Whether producing work in one genre or medium or several; whether solo practitioners or collaborators (or both); whether publishing at large houses or indie presses or founding their own imprints; whether Ph.D. students, professors, journalists, editors or arts administrators, our alums consistently demonstrate the creative innovation, critical capacity and autonomous motivation that are the hallmarks of the CalArts Writing student. If you can see yourself in the program and are interested in learning more, please contact our Admissions Coordinator, Seth Blake, at email@example.com.
All of our award-winning faculty members have multidisciplinary practices, and together represent a wide range of experience in writing, publishing, editing, reviewing, criticism, scholarship, translation and collaboration. Writing Program students receive individual mentoring in each semester of their residency, culminating in an independent study devoted to their thesis. In CalArts' unique environment, Creative writing students also have the opportunity to work with faculty and students in the Schools of Art, Music, Film, Theater and Dance.
Our distinctive curriculum combines the rigors of training in established genres with opportunities to explore the fertile territories between and beyond genres. Thus, in addition to workshops in Poetry, Nonfiction, Short Fiction and the Novel, and the required first year course Textual Strategies, we offer courses such as Adaptation and Appropriation, Narrative Construction and Deconstruction, Parafiction and Digital Writing. Students can also take courses that explore a particular theme or trend in contemporary writing, such as the Poetics of Indigeneity, Writing Bodies/Embodied Writing or Tiny Press Practices. In addition, MFA Writing students are encouraged to take elective courses throughout the Institute. Alongside this wealth of opportunities to expand their aesthetic, conceptual and political horizons, students face the challenge of defining and honing their practice through the development of their long form thesis project. Writing students with a profound interest in interdisciplinary study are encouraged to pursue Interschool degrees or participate in the Integrated Media program - two exciting options that exist only at CalArts.
Writing Program students have opportunities to teach composition to undergraduate students as paid teaching assistants; to learn the ins and outs of publishing (for academic credit) as Black Clock interns; and to curate two readings series: the on-campus "Sprawl" and the off-campus "Next Words," designed to introduce graduating students to LA's lively and diverse literary scene. They also have the opportunity to participate in the CalArts Community Arts Partnership, teaching creative writing to underserved youth in venues around Southern California.
Throughout the academic year, the Writing Program maintains a vibrant slate of readings, conferences and professional development panels, which introduce students to a broad spectrum of voices in writing today. In addition, our nationally renowned literary journal Black Clock hosts a number of public readings annually. Beyond the program, writing students have access to the impressive roster of visiting artists, composers, musicians, filmmakers, directors and choreographers to be found on campus and at REDCAT, CalArts' exciting Frank Gehry-designed theater in downtown Los Angeles.
Recent Visiting Writers and Black Clock Guests
Daniel Alarcon, Aimee Bender, Alison Hedge Coke, Bernard Cooper, Mark Danielewski, Monica De La Torre, Dolores Dorantes, Latasha N. Diggs, Heidi Durrow, Danielle Dutton, Brian Evenson, Thomas Glave, Myriam Gurba, Jack Halberstam, Suheir Hammad, Brian Kiteley, Wayne Koestenbaum, Sueyeun Juliette Lee, Ali Leibegott, Jonathan Lethem, Joseph McElroy, Rick Moody, Eileen Myles, D.A.Powell, Richard Powers, Arianna Reines, Gail Scott, Joanna Scott, David Shields, Eleni Sikilianos, Susan Straight, Abdellah Taia, Justin Torres, Catherine Wagner, Rebecca Wolff
Recent Visiting Faculty
Amy Gerstler, Veronica Gonzalez, Claire Phillips, Michelle Tea