Founded in 2003, the Graduate Program in Creative Writing offers a two-year Master of Fine Arts Degree in the areas of fiction and poetry. Though small—we typically admit six new students each year—the MFA is just one part of a vibrant writing community including five or six post-graduate fellows, former fellows and alums, PhD candidates in contemporary literature, and a host of other artists and writers living and working in Madison. Our MFA is unique in that we have an “alternating genre” admissions policy: we accept fiction applications in the fall/early winter of odd-numbered years, and poetry applications in the fall/early winter of even-numbered years. This allows us to provide an almost unrivaled 2-to-1 student/teacher ratio that gives each class of students the full attention of the faculty in their genre for two solid years.
All of our MFA candidates receive generous financial aid, the opportunity to teach courses both in Creative Writing and English Composition, and a semester of teacher-training and support. Our MFAs also have the opportunity to take workshops in other genres, including fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, playwriting, and comics. While cross-genre writing certainly isn’t mandatory, many of our students report that taking workshops outside their primary area not only improves their writing in multiple genres, but also leads to even greater camaraderie among all the writers in the program.
Our MFAs have access to a truly multi-generational community of writers at every stage of their careers. MFAs interact frequently with our Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing fellows, who are some of the best recent MFA recipients in the country, and both the fellows and faculty are always on-hand to provide advice about publishing, teaching, and pursuing a career in writing.
To get some sense of the scope of the Madison writing community, and the diversity of nationally acclaimed poets and fiction writers who cycle regularly through town, we encourage you to take a look at our events and friends pages. Our MFAs have sat down for meals and conversation with visiting writers such as Michael Cunningham, Ayana Mathis, Eileen Myles, Mark Doty, Jonathan Franzen, Terrance Hayes, Adam Haslett, Alice Notley, Tommy Orange, Solmaz Sharif, Tiana Clark, Claire Vaye Watkins, and Lauren Groff, as well as regular visiting editors and agents on the lookout for the next generation of American literature.
Meet Our MFAs
Jackie Chalghin (MFA in fiction) is currently working on a novel. She writes stories too.
Nitya Gupta (MFA in fiction) hails from the Chicago suburbs and holds a B.A. in English from the University of Michigan.
R.E. Hawley (MFA in fiction) is a writer and graphic designer. Her essays and cultural criticism have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Gawker, and other publications. Currently, she is an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Previously, she served as the creative lead of The Chicago Reader. She is a graduate of Northwestern University.
Patrycja Humienik (MFA in poetry), daughter of Polish immigrants, is the author of Anchor Baby, forthcoming with Tin House in 2025. She serves as an editor and teaching artist for literary organizations including The Seventh Wave. Patrycja has developed writing and movement workshops for the Henry Art Gallery, Northwest Film Forum, Puksta Civic Engagement Foundation, in prisons, and elsewhere. She holds an MA in Communication from the University of Colorado-Denver and a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Colorado-Boulder.
Maryhilda Ibe (MFA in poetry) is a Nigerian and holds a B.A. in English and Literary Studies from the University of Calabar. Her works are on Brittle Paper, Blue Marble and elsewhere.
Iqra Khan (MFA in poetry) was born and raised in India. She is a Pushcart-nominated poet, and an accidental lawyer. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Southeast Review, Adroit Journal, ANMLY, Frontier Poetry, swamp pink, Pidgeonholes, Apogee, Four Way Review, HAD, Palette Poetry, and Baltimore Review, among others. Her work is centered around the experiences of the brown Muslim body, collective nostalgia and the aspirations of her community.
Phoebe Kranefuss (MFA in fiction) writes about women struggling privately and behaving badly. Her work has been selected by T Kira Madden as winner of Hey Alma’s first fiction contest; as a finalist for Breakwater Review’s 2023 Fiction Contest; and has been published in The Rejoinder, Slackjaw, The Belladonna Comedy, and elsewhere. She’s at work on her first novel.
Juj E Lepe (MFA in poetry) is a first-generation Mexican American poet from the San Joaquin Valley. They studied Creative Writing and Latin American and Latinx studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Their work has been featured or is forthcoming in Pile Press, The Acentos Review, and TWANAS. Juj is also an auntie, a dancer, a mycophile, and a recovering “no sabo kid.”
Robert Sorrell Bynum (MFA in fiction) is a bi fiction writer who grew up in the Midwest but became an adult in Philadelphia, where he was a member of the Kelly Writers House Writers Workshop. In his fiction, Robert pushes the boundaries of realism while still being deeply engaged in the dynamics, nuances, and politics of the present. His fiction was recently selected for the 2022 Marguerite McGlinn Prize for Fiction by writer Camille Acker, and his nonfiction, journalism, and reviews have appeared in the South Side Weekly, Mosaic: Art and Literary Journal, and The Cleaver.
Jonny Teklit (MFA in poetry) is a recipient of the 2019 Aliki Perroti and Seth Young Most Promising Young Poet Award. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Academy of American Poets, Catapult, and elsewhere. He has an animal fact for every occasion.
Andrew Chi Keong Yim (MFA in poetry) was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. He has been a middle school English teacher in Boston and New York City and holds a B.A. in English from Vassar College and an M.A. in Education from the University of Massachusetts-Boston. His work has appeared in AAWW’s The Margins.
MFA Alumni Spotlight: Lydia Conklin
Lydia Conklin graduated from the UW-Madison MFA Program in 2012, recently served as the Helen Zell Visiting Professor in Fiction at the University of Michigan, and in Fall 2022 began as Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Vanderbilt University. They’ve received a Stegner Fellowship, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award, three Pushcart Prizes, a Creative Writing Fulbright in Poland, a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation, a Creative Writing Fellowship from Emory University, work-study and tuition scholarships from Bread Loaf, and fellowships from MacDowell, Yaddo, Hedgebrook, Djerassi, the James Merrill House, and elsewhere. Their fiction has appeared in Tin House, American Short Fiction, The Southern Review, and The Paris Review and is forthcoming in One Story and VQR. They have drawn cartoons for The New Yorker and Narrative Magazine, and graphic fiction for The Believer, Lenny Letter, and the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago. Their story collection, Rainbow Rainbow, was published in May 2022 by Catapult in North America and Scribner in the UK.
MFA Course of Study
The two-year MFA course of study is designed to provide as much time as possible for independent writing and reading. The degree requires 42 credits as follows:
- 9 credits of writing workshops in the student’s primary genre (fiction or poetry). These workshops are held in the first, second, and third semesters.
- 3 credits of pedagogy, during the first semester.
- 15 thesis credits. Students take 3 credits in each of the first, second and third semesters, then 6 thesis credits in the fourth semester. These are not courses—rather, they’re the means by which the University gives MFAs credit for their independent writing.
- 15 credits of electives drawn from appropriate courses across the curriculum. While students are expected to focus on and produce book-length theses by the end of their two years here, they are also encouraged to pursue other intellectual interests via these electives. In the past, MFA students have fulfilled their elective requirements by enrolling in literature courses, studying foreign languages, pursuing other artistic interests such as dance, book-making, and classical guitar, augmenting research for historical novels by taking appropriate history classes. MFA students may also hone their writing skills in other genres by taking intermediate and advanced undergraduate workshops and graduate level workshops in genres outside the one for which they were admitted, as electives with the permission of the instructor. Students may also take up to 6 elective credits in the form of additional thesis hours in the second and third semesters.