Graduate Creative Writing

Graduate Creative Writing M.A. and Ph.D. Programs

The Department of English offers an M.A. and Ph.D. as part of its Creative Writing Program. Students accepted into the program take creative writing workshops along with courses in literary studies and composition and rhetoric. The M.A. thesis consists of creative activity and scholarship; Ph.D. students complete a dissertation that includes a book-length work of poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction, and a scholarly component.

Creative Writing Program Genres

Every year, the Creative Writing Program accepts applications to the M.A. or Ph.D. programs only in a specific genre. Admissions in "poetry" or "fiction/nonfiction" alternate in each subsequent year.

Fall 2018


Deadline: Dec 4, 2017

Fall 2019


Accomplished Alumni

Alumni of the Creative Writing Program have gone on to shape and influence the national literary voice, their work reviewed everywhere from the New York Times to People magazine, the Wall Street Journal to Vogue, the Washington Post to Vanity Fair. They've published their work in Harper's, the Guardian, the Nation, the New York Times, and the New Yorker. They've received recognition from the Pulitzer Prize, the National Endowment for the Arts, National Public Radio, The Today Show, Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, and Best American Stories, among others.

In 2017 alone, our alumni published more than three dozen books. Among recent successes:


Difficult Women

This short-story collection by Roxane Gay (who received her M.A. in creative writing from UNL in 2004) was #1 on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list; her New York Times bestselling memoir, HUNGER, was also released in 2017.

Cover of CARRY ON

Carry On

The latest young adult novel by Rainbow Rowell (who studied creative writing as an undergraduate at UNL in the 1990s) was a #1 New York Times bestseller; Rowell is also the author of the YA classic, Eleanor & Park (also a #1 New York Times bestseller), and Fangirl, set partly in a creative writing class at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

Filming completed on the adaptation of The Miseducation of Cameron Post, a novel by e. m. danforth (who received her Ph.D. in creative writing from UNL in 2010); the film premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and received the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic.

Current Ph.D. candidate Maria Nazos saw her poem published in the New Yorker magazine. "Cape Cod Pantoum" appeared in the Oct 31, 2016 issue.

Four books by alumni have been recognized as finalists for the 2018 Lambda Literary Awards: Constance Merritt's Blind Girl Grunt (in the category of lesbian poetry); SJ Sindu's Marriage of a Thousand Lies (lesbian fiction); and Roxane Gay's Difficult Women (lesbian fiction) and Hunger (bisexual nonfiction).

Award-Winning Faculty

English graduate students have the opportunity to work closely with a devoted and accomplished faculty. Among the awards won by the Creative Writing faculty and their literary works: the Pulitzer Prize; Guggenheim fellowship; National Endowment for the Arts fellowships; PEN America prizes; International Latino Book Award; and the NAACP Image Award. Books by faculty have also been recognized and spotlighted by: the Man Booker Prize; the Oprah 2.0 Book Club; Barnes and Noble Discover series; and the New York Times Notable Books of the Year.

Faculty Directory

Information for Current Graduate Students

Most of the information you'll need is available in the English M.A. and Ph.D. handbooks, which include the specifics of supervisory committees, thesis/dissertation readers, field and focus lists, comprehensive exams, thesis/dissertation defense, teaching assignments, etc.

Master's and Ph.D. students must remain aware of deadlines and timelines for completion of the program. This involves forms that need to be completed, and signed by faculty, throughout the program of studies. When you are in your last year/semester of your program, you'll want to be especially alert to dates, and to the intricacies and demands of required forms.

A number of online resources can help you keep to deadlines and provide links to necessary forms. These include the following very useful pages of the Graduate Studies and English websites:

Degree Planning for M.A. Students

M.A. Deadlines

M.A. Timeline

Degree Planning for Ph.D. Students

Ph.D. Deadlines

Ph.D. Timeline

Creative Thesis and Dissertation

For M.A. students:

Creative Writing Thesis. As early as possible in her or his program, but by the end of the second semester of study, the student chooses 3 graduate faculty members for the thesis committee (they need not all be members of the Creative Writing faculty) and then files the CW Thesis Committee Form with the English Graduate Office. The Thesis Committee will guide the student as to the format of the thesis, but a creative thesis will generally be based on an original work of substantive creative activity by the student: a collection of poetry, a collection of short stories, a novel, a novella, a creative nonfiction project, or a mixed-genre collection.

The M.A. thesis in Creative Writing will be based on a minimum number of pages (40 for poetry, 75 for prose), but these pages will not be submitted as the thesis. The thesis, therefore, will consist of:

  1. a critical introduction of literary influences and thematic and formal issues of craft the student addressed in her or his writing
  2. an introduction to the work
  3. a sample of the creative activity

The advisor will assist the student in selecting the prose or poetry for the sample. The Department of English requires that members of thesis committees have adequate time to read and offer suggestions on the final draft of any thesis. Therefore, the final draft of the thesis must be given to committee members at least one month before the deadline for approval of the manuscript.

For Ph.D. students:

Creative Dissertation. The dissertation is based on the student's own book-length creative work completed while in the graduate program in consultation with a Supervisory Committee. The creative work, when completed, is submitted to the committee but does not serve as the dissertation.

The dissertation consists of:

  1. a critical introduction that is in response to, and support of, the creative activity
  2. a description of the project overall
  3. a sample of the creative work