Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

Master Fine Art GraduateThe department offers a graduate program in a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Students participate in writing workshops in fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry. Additionally, students undertake coursework in African American literature and non-African American literature. MFA candidates also present an MFA thesis (minimum 30 poems or 5 short stories [at least 100 pages] or 150 pages of a novel or creative non-fiction), successfully complete a comprehensive examination in African American literature, and a public literary reading/performance of their original work (manuscript). Essentially, the thesis constitutes a volume of poetry, a short story collection or a novel which students may publish after graduation. Students will show competency in the genre of their choice, choosing from the following categories: fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry. Students may take course work in playwriting and scriptwriting for film and television as electives.

The Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is a terminal degree and the appropriate credential for the teaching of creative writing. According to the Associated Writing Programs, the MFA in creative writing is considered the equivalent of the Ph.D. in literature, linguistics, or composition. Holders of the degree from Chicago State University will not only be able to teach courses in creative writing, but courses in African American literature, African literature, Third World literature, as well as non-Black literature. The MFA degree focuses on the study of writing through the practice, performance, and publication of original work.

Visiting Writers

Throughout the academic year, writers of prestige and established literary reputation serve as visiting writers at CSU. MFA students have an opportunity to participate in writing workshops or seminars conducted by established poets, novelists, short story writers, playwrights, and scriptwriters. Visiting Writers include Martin Espada, Honree Fannon Jeffers, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Roger Bonair-Agard, Crystal Wilkinson, Kevin Coval, Frank Walker, Achy Obejas, and Sterling Plumpp. 


Program Objectives

  • Upon completion of the program students will be able to demonstrate:
  • A thorough understanding of literary standards and schools of criterion, as applied in fiction, non-fiction, poetry, play writing, and script writing.
  • The ability to analyze creative literary works using the appropriate dictionary terms and standards.
  • A knowledge of literary periods as well as an understanding of how historical contexts impact a literary work.
  • Technical and artistic skill in crafting their own writing.
  • A knowledge and an appreciation of literature produced by writers of diverse cultural backgrounds.
  • Ability to use technology in producing or critiquing literary works.
  • Skills and knowledge base needed to publish work of literary worth.
  • Ability to teach creative writing at the community college and four-year university levels.
  • Independent work as an active creative writer, i.e., publication and performance as a novelist, poet, short story writer, playwright or screenwriter.

The Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing

The MFA program is housed in the The Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing.  Founded in 1990, The Gwendolyn Brooks Center is a literary and cultural center invested in researching, teaching, and disseminating information about acclaimed Black writers, especially the life and works of Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000), former Poet Laureate of Illinois and Distinguished Professor of English at CSU.  The goal of the Brooks Center is to strengthen the humanities in general and promote the study of Black writers to a local, national, and international community of students, faculty, and the general public.  The Center's broad selection of culturally insightful and academically stimulating programs include the annual Gwendolyn Brooks Writer's Conference, Black History Month Video and Film Festival, and Women's HIstory Month Lecture and Workshop Series, and The Conjure Woman Writing Writing Workshops.  The Center publishes a bi-annual literary journal, Warpland:  A Journal of Black Literature and Ideas, featuring the works of renowned, emerging, and new writers.

MFA graduates have books in print with Simon and Schuster, Main Street Rag, Third World Press, Urban Books and Willow Press, and have received the following awards, fellowships and prizes:  Fulbright and Cave Canem fellowships, Transitions Abroad Narrative Writing Contest, Elixir Poetry Prize finalist, The Guild Complex Nonfiction Award finalist, and The Essence Magazine bestseller list.  Their work has appeared in national juried literary journals such as Crab Orchard Review, Reverie, Caylx and Sage Publications.  Since the first graduating class in 2003, six students have gone to Ph.D. programs.  Half have received their doctorate degrees in English/Creative Writing and three are ABD from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Milwaukee, The University of Illinois, Chicago, and the State University of New York, Albany and Binghamton.  Finally, our graduates hold tenure-track teaching positions/administrative appointments at Wiley College, University of New Haven, The New School in New York, the City Colleges of Chicago, Purdue University, Lane College, DePaul University, and Columbia College, Chicago.

MFA Faculty(and recent publications):

Kelly Norman Ellis, Director

Tougaloo Blues, Spaces Between Us:  Poetry Prose and Art on HIV/AID co-editor, M.L. Hunter.

Brenda E. Aghahowa

Grace Under Fire: Barbara Jordan's Rhetoric, Praising in Black and White.

Sandra Jackson-Opoku

Hot Johnny (and the women who loved him) (2001); Sea Island Summer (2001); The River Where Blood is Born (1998).

Quraysh Ali Lansana

They Shall Run:  Harriet Tubman Poems , Role Call:  A Generational Anthology - Editor.

Nnedi Okorafor

Zahrah the Windseeker, The Shadow Speaker, Long Juju Man, and Who Fears Death.