Graduate Creative Writing

The Department of English offers an M.A. and Ph.D. specialization in creative writing. Students accepted into the program can 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.

Graduate Specialization

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.

Graduate Admissions

Fall 2023 Admissions

Fiction / Nonfiction

Fall 2024 Admissions


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.

 Among recent successes:


What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez by UNL Creative Writing alum Claire Jiménez (PhD, 2022) is longlisted for the PEN/Faulkner Award! Additional praise: starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, and Kirkus, among others; a best book of the month by Ms., Time, and Shondaland; a Good Housekeeping Must-Read Book of 2023, and a Standout Book of 2023.

Cover of PLASTIC

Plastic by UNL Creative Writing alum Scott Guild (PhD, 2020) has been called “an inspired allegory” by Publishers Weekly, and “cinematic,” by Booklist, “with tones of Black Mirror’s ethical acuity and the quirkiness of Everything Everywhere All at Once.”


A Kind of Madness by current UNL Creative Writing PhD student Uche Okonkwo, forthcoming from Tin House, is an Oprah Daily Most Anticipated Book for 2024.


Ava Nathaniel Winter, a UNL Creative Writing alum (PhD, 2023) and current lecturer, was named one of the five winners of the 2023 National Poetry Series. Her manuscript, Transgenesis, selected by poet Sean Hill, will be published by Milkweed Editions in August 2024.

This is just a taste of the fantastic writing and editing by our alumni and students. To learn more about our alumni’s accomplishments, visit our alumni page or browse our galleries of books by alumni and students.

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