MFA in Creative Writing

Welcome to the M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Southern Connecticut State University. We are a full-residency, terminal-degree program, preparing students for careers as publishing writers, teachers, editors, and professionals in the publishing world. While our curriculum focuses heavily on the writing workshop and the creative thesis, the M.F.A. also requires students to study literature at the graduate level and provides opportunities for students to train for teaching collegiate-level writing.

English graduate students in MFA workshop

Ours is a group of students and teachers who not only read each other's work, but who are also deeply invested in each other’s writing and efforts to publish, who hold informal reading groups during the summer months, who regularly socialize with one another and with visiting writers, and who forge relationships as friends and writing peers, even after completing the program.  We are a supportive community. What drives our community is the writing and the unified work, helping one another to become better writers. For most writers, the time they spend getting an M.F.A. at Southern provides the closest attention and most concentrated writing time they'll ever have. 

Funding and Admission

Admission to the MFA in Creative Writing at Southern is separate from the general English Master’s admissions process. Each year, we select a maximum of six graduate students in fiction / memoir writing and six students in poetry writing. For instructions on how to apply, see the English Graduate Admissions page.

For every incoming class, we are able to offer a limited number of Graduate Assistantships that waive all fees and provide $9600 for the year. However, we work hard to find other means of financial support, including administrative graduate assistantships (20 hours of work each week in an administrative or support office), competitive graduate assistantships, fellowships (available during the second year, with fees waived and an award of $12,000), and adjunct teaching positions. At times, as many as 20 of our students at once have held funding. So, although we are unable right now to offer conventional tuition-waiver-plus-stipend GTAs to all incoming students, we are able to offer significant opportunities for funding and are dedicated to helping our students.
See Graduate Assistantships and Scholarships for additional information on English graduate student funding.

About our Creative Writing Faculty

Rachel Furey

Rachel Furey
  - Fiction Writing. Rachel Furey’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in several journals. She’s a winner of Sycamore Review’s Wabash Prize for Fiction, The Briar Cliff Review’s Creative Nonfiction contest, and Hunger Mountain’s Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing.


Jeff Mock

Jeffrey Mock
– Poetry Writing. Jeff Mock is the Coordinator of the MFA program and the author of Ruthless (Three Candle Press, 2010). His poetry has appeared in dozens of literary periodicals.


Tim Parrish

Tim Parrish
– Fiction Writing. Tim Parrish has taught at Southern for twenty-six years and is one of the architects of the MFA program. He is the author of three books: Fear and What Follows: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist, a Memoir (U Press of Mississippi); The Jumper, a novel (winner of Texas Review Press's 2012 George Garrett Prize for Fiction); and Red Stick Men, a short-story collection set in his hometown of Baton Rouge (U Press of Mississippi).


Vivian Shipley

Vivian Shipley
– Poetry Writing. A Connecticut State University Distinguished Professor, Vivian has published eight books of poetry and five chapbooks, including Hardboot: Poems New and Old (2005) and All of Your Messages Have Been Erased (2010. She received the 2006 Patterson prize for Sustained Literary Achievement and the Connecticut Press Club prize for best creative writing.


The MFA Curriculum

MFA fiction workshop in 2015


The M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Southern is a 48-credit, terminal degree that can be completed in two years of full-time study, or several years of part-time study. The M.F.A. culminates in the completion of the thesis, a book-length manuscript of either fiction or poetry. The M.F.A. degree at Southern requires fourteen classes and a thesis: 

  • Four workshop classes in major genre (fiction or poetry writing) (12 credits)

  • One workshop class in minor genre (fiction or poetry writing) (3 credits)

  • Thesis: Book-length manuscript of original fiction, memoir, and/or poetry (6 credits)

  • Five classes in literature or literary theory (Ideally, two classes in contemporary literature (ENG 517 may be included here) (15 credits)

  • Twelve elective credits (minimum of six in English) (12 credits)


  • ENG 502  Prose Fiction Writing I - The craft and art of creating plot, character, scene, conflict, and style.  Scheduled fall and spring semesters. Prerequisite: ENG 406 or departmental permission.  Always scheduled.  3 credits.

  • ENG 503  Prose Fiction Writing II - Further practice in the craft and art of creating plot, character, scene, conflict, and style.  Scheduled fall and spring semesters.  Prerequisite: ENG 502 or departmental permission.  This course may be repeated for credit.  Always scheduled.  3 credits.

  • ENG 506  The Writing of Poetry I - The craft and art of writing poetry.  Scheduled fall and spring semesters. Prerequisite: ENG 402 or departmental permission.  Always scheduled. 3 credits.

  • ENG 507  The Writing of Poetry II - Further practice in the craft and art of writing poetry.  Scheduled fall and spring semesters.  Prerequisite: ENG 506 or departmental permission.  This course may be repeated for credit. Always scheduled. 3 credits.


For completion of the M.F.A. degree, each student produces a creative thesis, a book-length manuscript of original, imaginative work under the advisement of a member of the creative-writing faculty and the consultation of a second reader.

This manuscript may consist of a novel, a novel excerpt, a memoir, a collection of stories or poems, or a combination of the above as agreed upon by the advisor and the second reader. The thesis process culminates with a thesis defense, a rigorous questioning and investigation of the student's thesis by the advisor and second reader.

The production of the creative thesis typically takes at least a year and consists of multiple drafts and revisions based on meetings with the advisor and second reader, but may take longer if necessary to attain the quality of work required by the faculty readers. 

For detailed thesis guidelines that apply to theses for all graduate programs in the English Department, see English Graduate Handbook and FAQ and Master's Exam and Thesis

Literary Review and Visiting Writers Series

Narrative 4 speakers on stage in 2014

Southern is home to the national student-run graduate literary magazine Noctua Review as well as the Visiting Writers and Editors Series, which brings nationally-renowned writers to campus to read from their work.

Recent visiting authors have included: Xhenet Aliu (SCSU graduate), Steve Almond, Julie Barton (SCSU graduate), Brock Clarke, Billy Collins, Oliver de la Paz, Ryan Leigh Dostie (SCSU MFA graduate), Camille Dungy, Benjamin Grossberg, Kathryn Miles, Marilyn Nelson, Stewart Onan,Tom Perrotta, Melissa Scholes Young. Editors from such prestigious national publications as Sou'wester, Louisiana Literature, Cincinnati Review, Southern Review, and The Gettysburg Review also come to campus to hold workshops and meet individually with students.


Student and Alumni Publications

Former MFA student Ryan Dostie author of Formations

Students and alumni of the MFA program are prolific and actively publishing authors. Here is a sample of the publications that have emerged from the program:

Nancy Antle, Ordinary Albert (Harper Collins); Christine Beck, Blinding Light (Grayson Books); Chris Grillo, Heroes' Tunnel (Anaphora); Meg Cowen, Elastic Shriek Machine (Knut House Press); Lori DeSanti, Saltwater Under Brittle Sky (Swimming with Elephants Press); Ryan Leigh Dostie, Formation: A Woman's Memoir of Stepping Out of Line (Grand Central Publishing); Lynn Houston, Mauled Keeper (Main Street); Lisa Mangini, Perfect Objects in Motion (Red Bird Chapbooks); Joy Mlozanowski, Night Flying (Port Yonder Press); Patricia Mottola, Under the Red Press (Five Oaks); Nancy Manning, Undertow of Silence (TAG Publishing); Martina Powell, chronicle the body (Honeysuckle Press); Ira Rosofsky, Beautiful Nerve (Hardcore Press); Shelley Stoehr, Saving Bone (Outsider Girls Press) and Cross (Bantam Doubleday); Teresa Twomey, Kings Row (Hidden River Press); David Walker, Blue Tooth (Bottlecap Press); Brendan Walsh, Buddha vs. Bonobo (Sutra Press)