Program in Creative Writing

drawing by William Bartram

But be advised that some of the very best writing programs around are not yet so celebrated as they ought to be.... No doubt, like restaurants once given good notices, these places will be overcrowded by the time you apply. But the action then may well have shifted to Gainesville, Tucson, Hattiesburg, who knows where....

– John Barth, “Writing: Can It Be Taught,” New York Times Book Review, 1985

Our Program

We are one of the oldest writing programs, begun in 1948 by Andrew Lytle, who later edited the Sewanee Review. John Ciardi, Harry Crews, James Dickey, Donald Justice, Maxine Kumin, Stephen Spender, and Peter Taylor have taught here. You may see our various rankings at Poets & Writers in their annual MFA Index. We require an equal interest in writing and in reading literature. We don’t believe in any particular school of writing; we have no wish to foster or found one. Criticism in the writing workshop here attempts to fulfill the design of a poem or a story on its own terms.

Our aim is to cultivate good writers. When we are successful, you leave here capable of writing a better poem or story or novel than you might have written had you not come here. If we effect this bettering, we do so by admitting that the question Can writing be taught? is best answered Yes and No. Certain aspects of it can be taught, others cannot.

A good writing program replaces the counseling that once obtained privately between writers. Hemingway denigrated the idea of writing schools, but he had in Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound arguably the two best teaching editors in Western letters. Faulkner sought out Sherwood Anderson, Robert Lowell spent a summer with Allen Tate, and we have Famous Pairs: Coleridge and Wordsworth, Melville and Hawthorne, Eliot and Pound, Joyce and Beckett. The writing program is the modern equivalent of this kind of collaboration. A good program also serves to connect its students to the world of publishing, something we work at informally and also through our annual Visiting Editors weekend. (Some of our students go on to work in publishing; graduates of our program include editors at such magazines as New England Review, the Oxford American, and The New Yorker.)

We look for writers whose work is suited to the strengths and interests of our particular faculty. Often the students showing us workable potential are not the most accomplished writers in the applicant pool, and those who are most accomplished may not be so in ways that we can address. The students here are ambitious and modest. They offer their writing in a comfortable atmosphere of rigor and respect, and learn the difficult art of salubrious critique of formative work. They learn from their fellows as much as from their teachers and take their literature seminars from one of the strongest graduate faculties in the country.

We have six writing faculty on staff, all present at least two years, and often all three years, of a student’s tenure in the program. We anticipate two new faculty hires in 2014.

If the work that this faculty publishes appeals to you, we encourage you to apply. Each year, we receive about 500 applications from students around the world. We admit six applicants per year in each genre.

Our Support

A writing program should be easily affordable. All MFA students here receive a full tuition waiver. They also receive a fellowship and teaching-assistantship package for the duration of the three-year program.

Florida has no state income tax, and the cost of living in Gainesville is modest.

Where We Are

We are in relatively undeveloped north Florida, midway between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. If you drive west for an hour, you are at the gulf (no surf). If you drive east for an hour and a half, you are at the beach (surf). The little towns on the gulf are Cedar Keys, Suwannee, Horseshoe Beach, and Steinhatchee, and the towns at the beach are St. Augustine, Crescent Beach, and Flagler Beach. To the northeast is majestic Cumberland Island, and out the panhandle is breathtaking St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. To our immediate south, about three minutes away, is Paynes Prairie, the famous wet prairie that William Bartram visited and drew and wrote about.

The larger cities of Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa are close enough by that air travel from them is sometimes feasible, though one can easily fly in and out of Gainesville too.

Gainesville can be regarded a small city or a large town. In 2004, Esquire Magazine listed it as number five in a list of ten Cities That Rock. It is easy to live in, to get around in (free buses for UF students), to travel out of.

The photos here show our backyard and the things to do and see in it. If you like birding, biking, hiking, swimming, fishing, surfing, camping, or, the most important thing, just being out, in fresh air and a warm climate, come on down. (Click on images for description).

Photographs © John Moran

Our Faculty

Recent Books by Faculty

more publications by faculty

The faculty in poetry includes Michael Hofmann, William Logan, and Sidney Wade; in fiction Jill Ciment, David Leavitt, and Padgett Powell. Ciment and Leavitt are recipients of Guggenheim Foundation Fellowships. Hofmann is a member of The American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Logan is a recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award. Powell is a recipient of the Rome Prize. Wade served as President of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) from 2006–2007. We anticipate two new hires in 2014.

Our Graduates

Recent Books by Alumni

 

more publications by alumni

MFA@FLA has many distinguished graduates. Some of them are listed here:

For an informal record of what our graduates have been up to, go here:

MFA@FLA Newsletter

The MFA@FLA Newsletter seeks to let our graduates know what each is doing literarily, and not. We also want it to show potential applicants what becomes of our people here – the variegated successes our graduates have come to.

Except for the brief headnote, the newsletter is written by MFA@FLA graduates, current students, and faculty. It is annual, topical, and informal.

A more formal record of MFA@FLA accomplishment – book publications, positions in publishing and teaching – can be seen at our page of distinguished alumni:

Our MagazineSubtropics

Subtropics publishes the best literary fiction, essays, translations, and poetry being written today, by established and emerging authors. Writers who have contributed to Subtropics include John Barth, Harold Bloom, Anne Carson, Billy Collins, Ariel Dorfman, Tony D’Souza, Allan Gurganus, Matthea Harvey, Frances Hwang, Sheila Kohler, David Lehman, Les Murray, Joanna Scott, Ben Sonnenberg, Manil Suri, Abigail Thomas, and Charles Wright. Subtropics also publishes, as often as possible, works in translation and important works that have lapsed out of print.

The staff of Subtropics is David Leavitt, editor; Mark Mitchell, managing editor; Sidney Wade, poetry editor. Subject to faculty approval, MFAs may work on the magazine as editorial assistants or readers.

Our Readings & Visitors

MFA candidates in the program give public readings in a student-run series that features the FBI (Friskily Bogus Introduction). When we can, we integrate distinguished alumni on book tour into this reading series.

Editors and agents visit the program to hold manuscript conferences with students; these visits often lead to important professional contacts for students. Our editors have come from such publishing houses as Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, Harcourt, HarperCollins, Houghton-Mifflin, Alfred A. Knopf, Viking-Penguin, and W.W. Norton; such magazines as Field, The Georgia Review, the Gettysburg Review, New England Review, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Partisan Review, Poetry, Salmagundi, the Southwest Review, Tin House, Virginia Quarterly Review, and The Yale Review. We also have visiting literary agents.

Writers who have attended our annual Writers’ Festival include Lee K. Abbott, Ai, John Barth, Donald Barthelme, JoAnn Beard, Saul Bellow, Lucie Brock-Broido, Jacqueline Carey, Anne Carson, Amy Clampitt, Billy Collins, Lydia Davis, Ellen Douglas, Tom Drury, Richard Eberhart, Deborah Eisenberg, Paul Engle, Jeffrey Eugenides, James Fenton, Carolyn Forché, Ian Frazier, Jorie Graham, Allan Gurganus, Robert Haas, Barbara Hamby, Barry Hannah, Seamus Heaney, Anthony Hecht, Oscar Hijuelos, John Hollander, Richard Howard, Josephine Humphreys, Gish Jen, Donald Justice, Cynthia Kadohata, David Kirby, Joseph Langland, James Lasdun, Alison Lurie, Alice McDermott, Thomas McGuane, Heather McHugh, Larry McMurtry, James Merrill, Lorrie Moore, Paul Muldoon, Les Murray, Carol Muske-Dukes, Howard Norman, Grace Paley, Michael Parker, Marie Ponsot, Marilynne Robinson, Norman Rush, Gjertrud Schnackenberg, Joanna Scott, Jim Shepard, Karen Shepard, Charles Simic, Mona Simpson, Lee Smith, W.D. Snodgrass, Scott Spencer, Stephen Spender, Meredith Steinbach, David St. John, Robert Stone, Mark Strand, Peter Taylor, D.M. Thomas, Derek Walcott, Edmund White, Richard Wilbur, C.K. Williams, Joy Williams, Charles Wright, and Lisa Zeidner.

See the Department’s online Calendar of Events for the current schedule of readings.

Requirements for the MFA Degree

The MFA takes three years to complete, nearly all course work in the first two years, the third year spent writing the thesis. The degree requires 54 credit hours, by this distribution:

Applying to MFA@FLA

Follow this link for information regarding procedures and deadlines for application to the MFA program:

Contact:

Carla Blount
Program Assistant to the Director of Creative Writing
Department of English
University of Florida
P.O. Box 117310
Gainesville, FL 32611-7310
(352) 392-6650, ext. 225
email: <crw@english.ufl.edu>

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Department of English

4008 Turlington Hall
P.O. Box 117310
Gainesville, FL 32611-7310
P: (352) 392-6650
F: (352) 392-0860

 

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

2104 Turlington Hall
P.O. Box 117300
Gainesville, FL 32611-7310
P: (352) 392-0780
F: (352) 392-3584