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
Also, honestly, the text on the website
is so not-full-of-itself, so unpretentious,
and so welcoming, that if the atmosphere
of the program is even half as warm, I’d be
the happiest man in the world.
I swear, so many schools make it sound like
I’ve done something wrong in life—I feel like
I’m being scolded by my mother through the text
on their websites—and just really make it seem
like their program should be a place one gets
sentenced to, not something one chooses.
—from an applicant,
2016, whom we like...
We are one of the oldest writing programs, begun in 1949 by Andrew Lytle, later to famously edit The Sewanee Review. John Ciardi, James Dickey, Maxine Kumin, Stephen Spender, Peter Taylor, Harry Crews, and Donald Justice have taught here, and more recently Marjorie Sandor, Nancy Reisman, Josh Russell, John Holman, Noy Holland, Sam Michel, Debora Greger, Mary Robison, Sidney Wade, and Amy Hempel.
You may see our various rankings at Poets & Writers in their annual MFA Index. Rankings are funny—discredited when low, celebrated when high, volatile, whimsical, often inexplicable. We like our numbers—#1 in job placement (2013), #13 in something called “Four-year Fiction Survey,” and #6 in funding (2014)—but we prefer as a measure of a writing program what its graduates do. What ours do is here.
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.
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.
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.
A writing program should be easily affordable. All MFA@FLA students receive a full tuition waiver and a fellowship and teaching-assistantship package worth approximately $18,067 a year for the duration of the three-year program. Students pay fees of about $750 per semester.
The teaching assistantship is outlined here.
Florida has no state income tax, and the cost of living in Gainesville is modest.
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 listed it as number five in a list of ten Cities That Rock. We has a small regional airport that is easily accessed via Atlanta, Charlotte, and Miami, and the larger cities of Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa are close enough by for our students to use them for air travel. 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
The core faculty with visiting adjunct Johnny Hamm of Huntsville, Texas. Sidney Wade retired in 2016. Amy Hempel abdicated in 2017.
Recent Books by Faculty
The faculty in poetry includes Michael Hofmann, William Logan, and Ange Mlinko; in fiction Jill Ciment, David Leavitt, and Padgett Powell. Ciment, Leavitt, and Mlinko 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.
Recent Books 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:
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:
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, Allegra Goodman, Allan Gurganus, Matthea Harvey, Les Murray, Edna O'Brien, Thomas Pierce, Maggie Shipstead, Ben Sonnenberg, A. E. Stallings, Manil Suri, 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; Ange Mlinko, poetry editor. Subject to faculty approval, MFAs may work on the magazine as editorial assistants or readers.
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, Bloomsbury, Catapult, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Alfred A. Knopf, Overlook Press, Viking, Penguin, and W.W. Norton; such magazines as Field, The Georgia Review, Gettysburg Review, Harper’s, New England Review, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Poetry, Salmagundi, Southwest Review, Tin House, VQR, and The Yale Review. Agents from these agencies have also visited: Cynthia Cannell Literary Agency, International Creative Management, Janklow & Nesbit, Irene Skolnick Literary Agency, Elaine Markson Literary Agency, Writers House, and The Wylie Agency.
Writers who have attended our annual Writers Festival include Lee K. Abbott, Chris Adrian, Ai, Ramona Ausubel, Chris Bachelder, John Barth, Donald Barthelme, JoAnn Beard, Saul Bellow, Lucie Brock-Broido, Jacqueline Carey, Anne Carson, Amy Clampitt, Henri Cole, Billy Collins, Bernard Cooper, Lydia Davis, Ellen Douglas, Tom Drury, Richard Eberhart, Deborah Eisenberg, Paul Engle, Jeffrey Eugenides, James Fenton, Carolyn Forché, Ian Frazier, Mary Gaitskill, Jorie Graham, Lauren Groff, Allan Gurganus, Robert Hass, Barbara Hamby, Barry Hannah, Seamus Heaney, Anthony Hecht, Amy Hempel, Bob Hicok, Oscar Hijuelos, John Hollander, Richard Howard, Josephine Humphreys, Gish Jen, Donald Justice, Cynthia Kadohata, Laura Kasischke, David Kirby, Joseph Langland, James Lasdun, Ben Lerner, 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, Eileen Pollack, Marie Ponsot, D.A. Powell, Craig Raine, Claudia Rankine, Marilynne Robinson, Norman Rush, Kay Ryan, Gjertrud Schnackenberg, Joanna Scott, Jim Shepard, Karen Shepard, Maggie Shipstead, Charles Simic, Mona Simpson, Lee Smith, W.D. Snodgrass, Karen Solie, Scott Spencer, Stephen Spender, Meredith Steinbach, David St. John, Robert Stone, Mark Strand, Peter Taylor, D.M. Thomas, Wells Tower, Derek Walcott, Edmund White, Richard Wilbur, C.K. Williams, Joy Williams, Kevin Wilson, C.D. Wright, Charles Wright, Kevin Young, and Lisa Zeidner.
See the Department’s online Calendar of Events for the current schedule of readings.
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:
Follow this link for information regarding procedures and deadlines for application to the MFA program:
Program Assistant to the Director of Creative Writing
Department of English
University of Florida
P.O. Box 117310
Gainesville, FL 32611-7310