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Fax: 202-885-2938

Burgtorf, Michael R
Sr. Administrative Assistant

Battelle Tompkins, Room 237

Literature 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20016-8047 United States

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Hone Your Craft in the Capital City

For more than 30 years, writers have come to American University to develop their work and exchange ideas in the District’s only creative writing MFA program. Our graduate workshops provide a rigorous yet supportive environment where students explore a range of approaches to the art and craft of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

As an MFA student at American, you are free to pursue a single genre or explore several. You will acquire a deeper understanding of your own work and hone your skills in a collaborative setting.

Students sit with their eyes on the work on the table in front of them

A Program of Study That Gets Results

This three-year, 48-credit-hour MFA program integrates writing, literary journalism, translation, and the study of literature to prepare students for a range of career possibilities. Write, give feedback, and receive guidance from a close-knit community of respectful peers and faculty. In the MFA program, you'll find lawyers, military veterans, musicians, teachers, and business executives who are passionate about the written word.

Connect with accomplished professors and the resources you need to reach your goal. Our faculty members have been featured in a variety of media and publications including the New Yorker, the New York Times, National Public Radio, Bill Moyers & Co., and the Washington Post.

Dolen Perkins-Valdez speaking to attendees at an event

Prominent Authors Dedicated To Your Success

Our faculty of award-winning poets, novelists, translators, and nonfiction writers will help you help you hone your craft and pursue your career as a writer. You will receive instruction and guidance from successful authors published by university presses and major publishers, including Houghton Mifflin, Scribner, Vintage Books, Viking Press, and WW Norton. Our active and engaged faculty members are regularly featured in top media outlets such as The New York Times, New Yorker, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and New Republic; in literary journals like Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, and Shenandoah; and on television and radio.

Library of Congress

A City For Writers

Living and learning in the nation's capital provides numerous benefits for MFA students. We partner with organizations like the National Endowment for the Arts, Library of Congress, 826DC, Writopia Labs, and Folger Shakespeare Library to facilitate opportunities for our students.

Our students have recently published books with WW Norton, Copper Canyon, University of Wisconsin Press, and MIT Press. They have been featured on This American Life, Poets & Writers, in Creative Nonfiction, Psychology Today, and more.


Recent award-winning publications by our MFA alumni:

  • Next Stop by Glen Finland, MFA '06
  • I Was The Jukebox by Sandra Beasley, MFA '05
  • Trouble Sleeping by Abdul Ali, MFA '13
  • The Fateful Apple by Venus Thrash, MFA '04


Fatimah Asghar by Cassidy Kristiansen.

Visiting Writers Series

Fatimah Asghar, Teju Cole, and Fady Joudah headline 2018 fall series.

See All


Café MFA is the the online journal of the Creative Writing Program at American University. Produced in conjunction with Visiting Writers Series and other program events, the blog features student, faculty, and visiting author interviews and excerpts.

Folio is a nationally recognized literary journal sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences at American University in Washington, DC. Since 1984, we have published original creative work by both new and established authors. Past issues have included work by Michael Reid Busk, Billy Collins, William Stafford, and Bruce Weigl, and interviews with Michael Cunningham, Charles Baxter, Amy Bloom, Ann Beattie, and Walter Kirn. We look for well-crafted poetry and prose that is bold and memorable.

Student Spotlight

At AU, it's so great to be around others who share my obsessions.

Karan Madhok is known for his sports journalism on basketball in India. His work appears on his own blog, Hoopistani, and in major sports publications in the US and overseas. As an undergrad in the UK, he majored in computer science, but his passion for writing persisted. He enjoys the creative atmosphere his colleagues and professors give AU's MFA program, where he is working on his first novel.

Look inside the Creative Writing MFA


For more than 30 years, writers have come to American University to develop their work and exchange ideas in the District’s only creative writing MFA program.

Frequently Asked Questions

The application deadline is January 15. All applications are automatically considered for merit awards. After January 15, the program continues to consider applications, but cannot guarantee those applicants will be considered for merit awards.

The required MFA thesis consists of an original, book-length manuscript. It may be a novel, a novella, a memoir or collection of stories, creative nonfiction, or poems. The thesis is due approximately a month before the end of the student's final semester.

If you take 12 credit hours a semester, or if you take courses during the summer, it's possible to complete our 48-credit-hour program in two years. Most graduate students, however, find this load to be unnecessarily heavy and choose instead to complete their degrees in five to six semesters so they can work more fully and more deeply on their MFA theses.

The committee regards the writing sample as the most important part of the application. It's therefore important that you pay close attention to the manuscript guidelines (see below). Send what you feel is your strongest work that shows your demonstrated talent. It is not important to the committee whether or not work has been previously published.

Those submitting applications in poetry should send no more than 12 poems or 15 pages (with no more than one new or continuing poem per page). If submitting fiction/nonfiction, please submit 15-25 pages. While the catalog calls for a 25-page writing sample, we value quality over quantity. We are interested in seeing only your very best work, which can consist of one or more stories or works of creative nonfiction or an excerpt from a novel. If you send an excerpt from a novel, please include a brief description of the work as a whole.

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