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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.

Washington, DC
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A Program of Study That Gets Results

This two-year, 36-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.

We Know Success

97% of graduates are employed, in grad school, or both 6 months after graduation.

Our alumni have gone on to work for organizations including:

  • Amplify
  • Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington
  • Clutch
  • EEO ClassIn
  • Fulbright Association
  • Goodwin University
  • Macmillan
  • PEN/Faulkner Foundation
  • Shout Mouse Press
  • Street Sense Media
  • The Building People
  • W. W. Norton & Company, Inc


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.

News & Notes

Jordan Pérez on Undercover Underage

Alumni ·

Bringing Child Predators to Justice: The Work of Poet Jordan Pérez

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Recent award-winning publications by our MFA alumni:

  • Valzhyna Mort won the 2021 International Griffin Prize for her third poetry collection, Music for the Dead and Resurrected (FSG, 2020), which was named one of the best poetry books of 2020 by The New York Times.
  • Field Study by Chet’la Sebree won the 2020 Academy of American Poets James Laughlin Award; Mistress won the 2018 New Issues Poetry Prize.
  • "The Niece" by Yohanca Delgado was selected for the Distinguished Stories list in Best American Short Stories 2020.
  • Trouble Sleeping by Abdul Ali won the 2014 New Issues Poetry Prize.
  • Daydreamers by Jonathan Harper was named a Kirkus Indie Books of the Month Selection.


Rachel Louise Snyder recounts how her mother’s death left her unmoored and untoward in her new memoir.

Kyle Dargan served as editor for The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer with Janelle Monáe.

Dolen Perkins-Valdez (Literature) won the 2023 NAACP Image Award for fiction for her most recent novel, Take My Hand



Ralvell Rogers

Ralvell RogersMFA, Creative Writing

MFA Creative Writing candidate Ralvell Rogers is making his mark on the literary world.

My time at AU has been brilliant in the fact that I've already learned much about what it means to be a Writer with a capital "W" and more importantly, a literary scholar. Though there is an obvious focus on our course work, it's been made clear to me that our work isn't exactly all that matters in the classroom. We are continuously connecting our work in class to the lives that we live on a daily basis and the world that we all live in, and I think that is very important for writers and entrepreneurs in the publishing sector because we are essentially the historians of our respective generations.

He is the author of The Kansas City Boys Choir: Providing Hope for Tomorrow, which has been endorsed by luminaries Kevin Powell, G.S. Griffin, and Congressman Emanual Cleaver II. Ralvell has also established his own publishing company, Ambitious Stories, LLC, out of Kansas City, MO. He founded it earlier this year to focus on "often unheard, yet riveting and inspiring stories from the heart."

Valzhyna Mort, credit: Tanya Kapitonava

Valzhyna Mort MFA Creative Writing

Alumna Valzhyna Mort has gained international acclaim for her third poetry collection, Music for the Dead and Resurrected (FSG, 2020), which won the 2021 International Griffin Prize and was named one of the best poetry books of 2020 by the New York Times. Publishers Weekly called this work in their starred review, "poems of reclamation and resurrection; to live in them is to confront the hard work of witness." The New Yorker wrote in its review, "Memory, metaphor, and myth intermingle to sometimes nightmarish effect in this collection by a Belarus-born poet. Mort excavates the individual and communal traumas wrought by a violent and repressive national history, and calls herself 'a test-child exposed to the burning reactor of my grandmother’s memory.'" Mort teaches poetry, literature, and translation at Cornell University.

Look inside the Creative Writing MFA


For more than 40 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 February 1. All applications are automatically considered for merit awards. After February 1, 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.

Most students complete the 36-credit degree in 2 years. Full-time study is 9 credits (3 classes) per semester. Others pursue their degree part-time, taking 1-2 classes per semester as best fits their schedules. All workshops, and many literature courses, are offered at night, so that students with full-time jobs can still complete their coursework.

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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