Master of Arts in Creative Writing

Starting Fall 2021

Master of Arts in Creative Writing

The Master of Arts in Creative Writing is a two-year program with a focus on preparing students who are teaching or who want to teach creative writing and/or composition at the Community College level. The Master of Fine Arts is a three-year program and is considered the terminal degree in creative writing. California community colleges often prefer the M.A. degree over the M.F.A. and a number of M.A. students who also complete the English Composition Certificate acquire teaching positions in those disciplines at community colleges. 

The M.A. degree, like the M.F.A., provides students with the inspiration and guidance of a faculty of professional writers in developing the student's own potential as a professional writer. The curriculum emphasizes the primary importance of the study and practice of imaginative writing in the genres of creative nonfiction, fiction, literary translation, playwriting, and poetry. The degree combines an intense workshop requirement and a variety of special topic creative process classes as well as courses that expose students to a wide range of writers and community service learning opportunities. The creative writing courses reflect our commitment to a variety of styles, subjects, and approaches, recognizing the complexity and breadth of contemporary writing. Graduates of the M.A. Program are instructed in literary analysis and develop their craft to constructively critique their own work and that of others. As a culminating experience, the student submits a thesis of creative work in their chosen genre.

In addition to the workshop and process courses, students in the M.A. in Creative Writing elect one of two teaching pathways. The pathway leading to an emphasis in teaching creative writing includes a rigorous course in the pedagogy and philosophy of teaching creative writing (TCW 860); a Teaching Practicum Course (859), in which the student gains in-class undergraduate teaching experience as a Graduate Instructional Aide while continuing their study of pedagogy with a seasoned faculty member and a group of peers; and, Projects in Teaching Creative Writing (785), a course that allows students to deepen their teaching experience as a Graduate Instructional Aide under faculty supervision. This teaching curriculum makes our M.A. unique within the nation of creative writing graduate degrees. The pathway leading to the teaching of composition allows students to earn the English Composition Certificate, offered by the English Department, by electing to take four courses (12 units) in English composition. Students on this path would earn an M.A. in Creative Writing along with the English Composition Certificate.

This course of study would lead students to a Masters of Arts degree in creative writing. The combination of workshop and process courses ensures that students would be prepared should they wish to continue on as an M.F.A. candidate in a creative writing program.

All students in the M.A. Creative Writing degree program would be eligible to apply for a Graduate Teaching Associate (GTA) position in their second year of study. A GTA is hired to teach a 101/301 Fundamentals of Creative Writing course. The GTA must be enrolled in at least one unit of study with the university to be eligible. Students in the M.A. also may apply for admission to the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (54 units) either to switch to the terminal degree program or to complete both degrees, with a separate thesis for each. In no case will a student be admitted to both programs simultaneously.

Program Learning Outcomes

  1. Creative Work:  Students will produce a publishable written creative work that demonstrates individual and universal vision and a high level of craft skills.
  2. Professional Preparation: Students will demonstrate professional level skills in fields related to literature and/or creative writing, including publishing, writing, teaching, editing, book arts, and/or arts management.
  3. Literature: Students will read, discuss, analyze and learn to teach the work of a broad range of writers,  as well as explain how literature in general, and their own genre in particular, relates to larger human experience.
  4. Craft Elements: Students will write and revise creative nonfiction, fiction, plays, and/or poetry using the elements of craft as well as analyze and discuss craft elements in their peers’ creative work.

Admission to the Program

Students interested in this program must submit, via Cal State Apply, a meaningful sample of their writing (15 to 20 pages of creative nonfiction or fiction, or 15 to 20 pages of literary translation, or a full-length stage play or two short plays, or 15 to 20 poems), three letters of recommendation, and transcripts. All application materials are to be uploaded by January 15 for the fall semester. Applicants from graduate creative writing programs at other colleges or universities may transfer six units to the M.A. program, on review and recommendation of the Creative Writing Admissions Committee and approval of the Division of Graduate Studies. For further clarification, contact the Creative Writing Department. Students accepted into the program with an undergraduate major that is not English are accepted conditionally. Admission to the M.A. does not imply admission to the M.F.A. Students who wish to earn both degrees must finish the M.A. before beginning the M.F.A. degree.

Written English Proficiency Requirement

Level One (Pre-admission)

Statement of purpose (500–1500 words) and writing sample (15 to 20 pages of creative nonfiction or fiction, or 15 to 20 pages of literary translation, or a full-length stage play or two short plays, or 15 to 20 poems) scored 8.0 or higher on a scale of one to ten based on the following criteria:

  1. fluency and precision of expression;
  2. ability to embody and illustrate ideas creatively; and
  3. appropriateness of the applicant’s interests, life experiences and goals to the program.

Level Two

Satisfactory completion of C W 893MA on the following criteria: thesis deemed by two faculty readers to be publishable in part or whole (book, chapbook and/or literary journals).

Selected upper-division courses offered by the department may be used for the master's degree upon approval of a departmental advisor. Enrollment is not required in the semester of graduation.

Creative Writing (M.A.) — Minimum 30 units

Writing Courses (3-6 units)

Select from:

C W 803Advanced Short Story Writing3
C W 807Developing the Novel3
C W 808Novel Writing3
C W 852Workshop in Creative Nonfiction3
C W 854Workshop in Poetry3
C W 855Workshop in Playwriting3

Special Topic Creative Process (3-6 units)

Select from:

C W 810Seminar in the Creative Process3
C W 814Contemporary World Poetry3

Process (3-6 units)

Select from:

C W 806The Business of Creative Writing3
C W 809Directed Writing for Graduate Students3
C W 820Writers on Writing3
C W 825Playwright's Theatre Workshop3
C W 840Fourteen Hills Literary Magazine 13
C W 850Poetry Center Workshop3
C W 866Craft of Translation3
C W 875Community Projects in Literature 13
C W 899Independent Study1-3

Teaching Courses Guided Electives (9-12 units)

Select from:

C W 785Graduate Projects in the Teaching of Creative Writing3
C W 859Practicum in Teaching3
C W 860Teaching Creative Writing3
ENG 700Introduction to Composition Theory3
ENG 704Pedagogical Grammar for Composition3
ENG 709Seminar in Teaching Integrated Reading and Writing3
ENG 710Course Design in Composition and Post-Secondary Reading3

Culminating Experience (3 units)

C W 893MAWritten M.A. Creative Project3