Creative Writing

Master of Fine Arts (MFA), low-residency graduate program

Nurture your writing to its fullest potential.

Lesley University's celebrated low-residency MFA program nurtures and challenges your creative potential. Attend nine-day residencies in the literary mecca of Cambridge. Pursue interdisciplinary study as a spur for fresh ideas. Cultivate mentor relationships with prize-winning writers. Graduate with the work and connections to publish, win literary prizes and fellowships, and find teaching positions or work related to your writing.

Exclusive partnerships create opportunities for you to put your pieces in front of prominent publishers, agencies, and organizations. You’ll meet literary figures who, as masters of their craft, will give you the tough love you need to achieve your aspirations. Benefitting from our small-group learning, you’ll form bonds with fellow writers from diverse backgrounds, and join in craft seminars, workshops, readings, and publishing events.

You'll balance deep exploration of your chosen genre, one of the six described below, with opportunities to interact with students and faculty from across the entire program.

Program Structure

Low-Residency Program

49 Credits
creative writing students outside in Cambridge

Fiction

Through our Fiction genre, you'll develop and hone your fiction-writing skills while being coached in the practice of constructing, analyzing, drafting, and revising short stories, novellas, or novels. As a graduating student in the Fiction genre, submit a sample from your thesis to acclaimed literary agency Aevitas Creative Management. Gain advice on the publishing strategy of your work and forge meaningful professional relationships.

Accomplished Faculty
You'll be mentored by well-know writers with multiple publications to their credit.

Tony Eprile
Laurie Foos
Rachel Kadish
Hester Kaplan
Michael Lowenthal
William Lychack
Kyoko Mori
Christina Shea
A.J. Verdelle

Distinguished Visiting Writers
As you progress through the program, you'll have the opportunity to work with experienced fiction writers to hone your craft. Recent visitors include:

  • Steve Almond
  • Julia Glass
  • Lolita Hernandez
  • Gish Jen
  • ZZ Packer
  • Tom Perrotta
  • Justin Torres
man speaking on stage to a crowd about comics projected on a screen behind him

Graphic Novels & Comics

Through Lesley’s Graphic Novels & Comics genre, explore how to integrate text and image to create meaning. Take seminars in character design, narrative structure, comic dialogue, and getting published. Develop a greater understanding of the history and possibilities of the medium. Hone your voice as a storyteller and as an artist as you work to produce two 20+ page comics, one 48+ page comic, and four 8-page comics over the course of four semesters.

Accomplished Faculty
You'll be mentored by well-known creators with multiple projects and publications to their credit.

Jesse Lonergan
Pamela Petro

Craft and Technique
Learn the essential tools and skills involved with producing graphic novels and comics.

  • The Tools: pencils (graphite, mechanical, color); pens (nib, technical, pigment, gel); brushes (watercolor, brush pen); paper; ink; erasers; drawing board
  • The Panel: All things within a panel: words & pictures interacting to create meaning; expressive anatomy (exaggeration & caricature); perspective; word balloons; dialogue; Wally Woods 22 panels; gag comics
  • The Page: Comic vocabulary; example scripts; page layouts/page turns; the grid; measuring out panels; pacing/timing; emotional conflict & physical conflict
  • Style & Genre: Line quality, angles, page layouts, layers of meaning
creative writing students in a classroom

Nonfiction

Through our nonfiction genre, gain a foundational approach to craft in genres such as memoir, personal essay, literary journalism, food and travel writing, and research-based narratives. Receive professional guidance through our exclusive partnership with Aevitas Creative Management. Submit a sample of your thesis for an immediate read and publishing advice from the acclaimed literary agency.

Accomplished Faculty
As you progress through the program, you'll be mentored by faculty with extensive experience publishing works of nonfiction.

Jane Brox
Rachel Manley
Roland Merullo
Kyoko Mori
Pamela Petro
Janet Pocorobba

Distinguished Visiting Writers
You'll work alongside successful nonfiction writers as they visit Cambridge during the residencies. Recent visitors include:

  • Gail Caldwell
  • Lewis Hyde
  • Gish Jen
  • Megan Marshall
  • David Rakoff
creative writing student in class

Poetry

Through our poetry genre, learn directly from internationally recognized poets and faculty as you explore the poetic forms and approaches that will serve to establish your aesthetic voice. Graduate deeply read and immersed in a close-knit community that will provide ongoing support as you venture into the professional world.

Accomplished Faculty
You'll be mentored by award-winning poets throughout your graduate program.

Erin Belieu
Sharon Bryan
Steven Cramer
Stephen Haven
Joan Houlihan
Adrian Matejka
Kevin Prufer

Acclaimed Visiting Poets
Make connections with visiting poets, who have included:

  • Patrick Donnelly
  • Martin Espada
  • David Ferry
  • Nikky Finney
  • Louise Gluck
  • Marie Howe
  • Major Jackson
  • Robert Pinsky
  • David Rivard
  • Tom Sleigh
closeup of woman writing in notebook

Writing for Stage and Screen

Through our Writing for Stage and Screen genre, work on scripts with professional actors and directors while enrolled in one of the few university-based programs affiliated with the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Given our location in a major metropolitan area, Lesley is one of the few low-residency MFA programs that offers graduate students staged readings of their scripts with professional actors and directors.

During your first year, write full-length scripts for stage and screen. In your second year, choose to concentrate in either stage or screen, or write another full-length play and another screenplay. During your fourth semester, participate in a Play Lab where your completed full-length play is read to students, faculty, and the public. You'll graduate with four full-length scripts and three ten-minute plays.

Accomplished Faculty
Throughout the program, you'll learn from faculty whose work has been staged by prominent theater companies and presented at film festivals around the world.

Jami Brandli
Barry Brodsky
Ronan Noone
Kate Snodgrass
Sinan Ünel

Distinguished Visiting Writers
You'll connect with visiting playwrights and screenwriters, providing an opportunity to network with industry insiders. Some recent visiting playwrights and screenwriters have included:

  • Constance Congdon
  • Kia Corthron
  • Jonathan Cott
  • Molly Smith Metzler
  • Theresa Rebeck
creative writing student in class

Writing for Young People

Through our Writing for Young People genre, create works of fiction and nonfiction while studying under award-winning faculty in the picture book, middle grade, and young adult genres. Our program maintains an exclusive agreement with Candlewick Press, providing the opportunity for your final manuscripts to be considered for publication by this award-winning publisher. Candlewick's catalog includes picture books, middle-grade, and young adult fiction from hundreds of celebrated authors.

Accomplished Faculty
You'll work closely with faculty who have substantial experience writing for children and young adults, including:

Tracey Baptiste
David Elliott
Susan Goodman
Michelle Knudsen
Chris Lynch
Jason Reynolds

Distinguished Visiting Writers
As you progress through the program, you'll connect with visiting writers who have published a variety of books for young people. Recent visitors have included:

  • M.T. Anderson
  • Elizabeth Bluemle
  • Robie H. Harris
  • Jo Knowles
  • Marilyn Nelson
  • Maurice Sendak
  • Rebecca Stead
  • Jacqueline Woodson
Writing may be a solitary craft, but working within a community of Lesley faculty and fellow writers gave me the inspiration I needed.
Sarah Farizan ’10, Author of If You Could Be Mine and Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel
harvard square cambridge

Residencies in Cambridge, MA

Our residencies immerse you in a vibrant literary arts scene. Your faculty mentor will work with you throughout your residency to create a tailored plan for the upcoming semester. Seminars, lectures, and readings foster discussions about concept and craft. Genre-specific workshops allow you to share work and receive the praise/tough love that fuels you to keep writing, revising, and moving forward.

creative writing students discussing
Interdisciplinary Study

Through our program’s interdisciplinary component, you can design an independent study on a topic vital to your writing, gain professional experience in publishing or education, take courses in subjects related to your concentration, and experiment in other genres.

Dylan thomas summer school in wales
Study Abroad in Wales

Study abroad at the Dylan Thomas International Summer School in Wales, a ten-day residency offering workshops, lectures, and readings with internationally renowned writers.

“I try not to pretend that I have answers (I don't), but work to ask those questions intended to help students find their own answers.”
David Elliott, MFA in Creative Writing Faculty
cassie seinuk
Creative Writing
Cassie M. Seinuk ’13
Cassie M. Seinuk is a playwright and author of From the Deep. Winner of the Boston University Jewish Cultural Endowment Grant, the Latinidad Playwriting Award at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, and the Pestalozzi full-length play prize at the Firehouse Center for the Arts New Works Festival.

Steven Cramer
Creative Writing
Steven Cramer
Steven is the author of five books of poetry, and his work has appeared in numerous journals, including AGNI, The Atlantic Monthly, Field, Harvard Review, Paris Review, Ploughshares, and Slate, among others. Having worked with poetry students for more than 28 years, he prides himself on “teaching with an editor’s eye,” and is interested in the "dispute between free verse and traditional form."
Careers
What Graduates Achieve
Our alumni are accomplished authors, poets, screenwriters, and playwrights with books from major publishers, individual works in prestigious journals, plays staged by prominent theater companies, films featured in international festivals, and more. They have received numerous literary awards and fellowships.

In addition, they also hold teaching positions in writing programs across the U.S. and beyond, such as Boston University, Brandeis University, University of California Berkeley, Manhattan College, University of Arkansas, University of Nebraska, Colorado College, and the University of the West Indies.

Faculty

Total approximate cost for this master's degree program.
Creative Writing
  • Tuition
    $875/credit x 49
    $42,875
  • Fees
    Residency Fee
    $2,000
    Registration Fee
    $280
    Degree Completion Fee
    $75
  • Total
Estimated Cost

Review all graduate tuition and fees, and what they cover. Tuition and fees are subject to change each year, effective June 1.

Each year, the MFA in Creative Writing awards $450,000 in merit scholarships, in amounts up to $10,000.

Apply Now

Ready to get started? We're here to make the application process as smooth as possible. Just answer a few quick questions, and get your customized application guide.

Total approximate cost for this master's degree program. Tuition and fees are for the 2017-2018 academic year.
Use our step-by-step guide to apply for federal, state, and university funding. Scholarships, grants, Work-Study, and loans. It’s all right here.

Next steps to apply

Ready to get started? We're here to make the application process as smooth as possible. Just answer a few quick questions, and get your customized application guide.