Students in MFA Classroom

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

AU's MFA Program Rated as One of the Top Programs in Country

Poets & Writers has determined that Ashland University’s low-residency MFA program ranked second in job placement, fourth in fellowship placement, and 11th in selectivity among all 47 U.S. low-residency MFA programs (2012 index).

In addition, an independent agency that ranks higher education degrees for economic return on investment ranked AU’s low-residency MFA as its top value program:  “Of all the low-residency creative writing MFA’s, Ashland University’s is probably the most prestigious,” concluded Iris Stone of “AU has a strong reputation for launching careers in creative writing and publishing.”  

Graduates of the Ashland MFA program already have published some 25 of their own books since completing the program and the list is growing, including the forthcoming short story collection Ancestry by Eileen O'Leary (class of '19), winner of the 2019 John Simmons Fiction Award, Iowa University Press.

Expert Faculty, Supportive Mentors

The MFA faculty at Ashland are active and highly acclaimed writers, as well as strong advocates of our MFA students’ work and growth. See our full list of faculty here. Here are a few examples: 

Marcelo Hernandez Castillo (poetry faculty) is the author of Children of the Land (HarperCollins), Cenzontle (BOA Editions), and Dulce (Northwestern U Press). His book Cenzontle won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize; the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Golden Poppy Award; FOREWORD INDIE Best Book of the Year; and the Great Lakes College Association New Writers Award in Poetry.

Naomi J. Williams (fiction faculty) is the author of Landfalls (FSG), long-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Award. Her short fiction has appeared in journals such as Zoetrope: All-Story, A Public Space, One Story, The Southern Review, and The Gettysburg Review. Her distinctions include a Pushcart Prize, Best American Short Stories Honorable Mention, and Sustainable Arts Foundation grant.

Garrard Conley (creative nonfiction faculty) is the author of the New York Times Best Selling memoir Boy Erased (Penguin), now a major motion picture. Boy Erased was nominated for a Lamdba Literary Award and was featured as a top 2016 nonfiction book by O Magazine, Buzzfeed Books, and Shelf Awareness, among others. It has now been translated in over a dozen languages.

2020 Summer Residency

We are now accepting applications for our 2020 Summer Residency. The residency will feature workshops, readings, and craft classes by our core faculty as well as the following visiting writers. For more about our summer residencies, visit

Jericho Brown, visiting writer in poetry

Jericho Brown, Visiting Writer in Poetry

Jericho Brown is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Brown’s first book, Please (2008), won the American Book Award. His second book, The New Testament (2014), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was named one of the best of the year by Library Journal, Coldfront, and the Academy of American Poets. He is also the author of the collection The Tradition (2019), which was a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award. His poems have appeared in Buzzfeed, The Nation, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New Republic, Time, and The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and several volumes of The Best American Poetry anthologies. He is an associate professor and the director of the Creative Writing Program at Emory University in Atlanta.
Rebecca Makkai, visiting writer in fiction

Rebecca Makkai, Visiting Writer in Fiction

Rebecca Makkai is a novelist and author of The Great Believers, shortlisted for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 2018 National Book Awards and winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal. A phenomenal speaker who is beloved by readers, booksellers, and critics, Rebecca has previously published The Hundred-Year House (winner of the Chicago Writers Association Award), The Borrower, and a short-story collection called Music for Wartime. In her engaging and instructive talks, Makkai discusses the strategies she uses in her writing process, from overcoming writer’s block to turning research into realism. For more information on this Speaker, please visit
Terese Mailhot, visiting writer in creative nonfiction

Terese Mailhot, Visiting Writer in Creative Nonfiction

Terese Mailhot is from Seabird Island Band. Her work has appeared in Guernica, Pacific Standard, Granta, Mother Jones, Medium, the Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. She is the New York Times bestselling author of Heart Berries: A Memoir. Her book was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for English-Language Nonfiction, and was selected by Emma Watson as the Our Shared Shelf Book Club Pick for March/April 2018. Heart Berries was also listed as an NPR Best Book of the Year, a Library Journal Best Book of the Year, a New York Public Library Best Book of the Year, a Chicago Public Library Best Book of the Year, and was one of Harper's Bazaar's Best Books of 2018. She is the recipient of a 2019 Whiting Award, the Electra Quinney Award for Published Stories, a Clara Johnson Award, and she is also the recipient of the Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice in Literature. She teaches creative writing at Purdue University.

Is the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing right for you?

This multi-track, Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing graduate program allows students to pursue a creative writing degree in poetry, creative nonfiction, fiction, and science-fiction/fantasy, with a cross-genre option available to students interested in multiple genres. This program strengthens writers’ craft in all genres and prepares graduates for a career in creative writing.

What you'll learn

For writers at all levels of skill and achievement, this MFA in Creative Writing degree stimulates and inspires your writing whether you choose to specialize in poetry, fiction, nonfiction or a cross-genre degree. This low-residency MFA program synthesizes a built-in writing community with rigorous standards for creative output across all genres.

Students also have the opportunity to gain experience in publishing by editing Black Fork Review and/or working with The Ashland Poetry Press as one of our graduate publishing assistants.

Why earn your MFA in Creative Writing at Ashland?

  • Offering degree tracks in one primary genre: poetry, creative nonfiction, fiction, science-fiction/fantasy
  • Cross-genre options for students interested in multiple genres
  • Single, annual-residency model: two weeks each summer for three summers
  • Six total weeks of intensive residencies on campus during entire program
  • Four nonresidential semesters of study via the Internet
  • Award-winning faculty members
  • Maximum of five students per faculty mentor
  • Writing packets exchanged four times per semester
  • Ongoing, intensive online discussion of assigned books
  • Optional Residency in Paris
  • Editorial experience with the Black Fork Review
  • Graduate Publishing Assistantships with The Ashland Poetry Press.

Flexible, low-residency format

The low-residency format of our creative writing MFA programs is based on mentorship relationships that informed the development of many accomplished writers prior to the establishment of traditional, residential MFA programs. Throughout all aspects of the Ashland MFA program, students will:

  • Connect with and learn from distinguished writers
  • Develop writing relationships to last a lifetime
  • Build a basis in reading for a life of writing
  • Create and revise original materials in chosen genre(s)
  • Complete a book-length manuscript
  • Deepen an ability to assess literature critically
  • Re-energize a commitment to the literary arts

Career opportunities

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, writing jobs will increase 3% between 2012 and 2022. Creative writing MFA programs like this can help you to take advantage of the positive employment outlook in this exciting field.

Get started today!

If you are looking for a creative writing program that offers highly individualized and supportive mentorship, consider Ashland University for your Creative Writing MFA. Simply fill out the Request Info form above, email or apply nowStudents are able to enter the program at the beginning of each semester, including the fall, spring, and summer.