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BA/MA in English/ Creative Writing

by Daniel Tripp — Posted Mar 25, 2015 09:45 PM

Graduate Creative Writing

by Daniel Tripp — Posted Apr 13, 2015 09:46 PM

At Penn State, we offer an integrated undergraduate/graduate degree in English with a creative writing concentration in Poetry and in Prose (fiction and creative nonfiction). This is a full-residency program that can be completed in two years—the student’s senior year and the additional M.A. year. We have a 2:1 student-to-faculty ratio. We place a special emphasis on mentoring writers who are polishing their portfolios for eventual application to outside M.F.A. programs.

All students complete 30 credits of graduate course work. Under the supervision of a creative writing faculty member, students complete a substantial creative project, due at the end of the M.A. year.

Before their M.A. year, students may apply for some combination of tuition release, teaching stipend, fellowship or scholarship. Students who receive a teaching stipend gain experience teaching first-year composition.

Our program also features a series of readings and residencies by prominent writers, including Elizabeth Alexander, Jo Ann Beard, Aimee Bender, Richard Blanco, Elizabeth Bradfield, Sandra Cisneros, Lydia Davis, Mark Doty, Rita Dove, Stuart Dybek, Robert Hass, Jane Hirshfield, Cary Holladay, Li-Young Li, Sharon Olds, Susan Orlean, Robert Pinsky, George Saunders, David Shields, Melanie Thernstrom, Jess Walter, John Edgar Wideman, and many, many others.

core creative writing faculty

Our creative writing faculty write, publish, and often teach in more than one genre. Robin Becker and Julia Kasdorf primarily teach poetry; William J. Cobb, Charlotte Holmes, Elizabeth Kadetsky, and Toby Thompson primarily teach prose.

notable grads

Writers who received graduate degrees at Penn State include Sarah Blake, Katherine Bode-Lang, Peter Chilson, Rita Ciresi, Morris Collins, Geffrey Davis, Vicki Glembocki, Cary Holladay, Jessica Karbowiak, Rachel Mennies, Cathleen Miller, Sally Pont, Rebecca Rasmussen, Jennifer Richter, Lisa Roney, Sheila Squillante, Lyrae Van Clief Stefanon, and William Kelley Woolfitt.

Writers who studied in our undergraduate program include Diane Ackerman, Jillian Cantor, Nomi Eve, Jane Miller, Chinelo Okparanta, Ruth Ellen Kocher, and Ryan Teitman.

application procedure

Internal applications are vetted in the spring of the student’s junior year (deadline March 15--see "Application for the BA-MA Program"). Once accepted into the program by the English Department and creative writing faculty, students file an official application with the Graduate School. This carries an application fee of $65 and consists of the same materials as submitted for the original application. GRE scores are not required.

Please note: At this time, we only accept applications from current Penn State students. You do not have to be an English major to apply, but if you're accepted into the program and wish to pursue the B.A./M.A. degree, you must add English to your major.


for information please contact

Charlotte Holmes
Director of Creative Writing

for news, events, and reflections related to our creative writing community, please follow us on Facebook, and visit

Core Creative Writing Faculty

by Daniel Tripp — Posted Sep 08, 2014 04:53 PM

Our accomplished faculty writers have earned some of the most prestigious writing awards and honors, including National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Arts Council, Stegner, Dobie-Paisano, D.H. Lawrence, Bunting and Fulbright Senior Scholar Fellowships; Lambda Literary, Whiting Writers and O. Henry Awards, as well as numerous Pushcart Prizes. They have been in residence at places like Breadloaf, Yaddo, Djerassi, Millay and MacDowell Colonies and have had their work published in journals such as The American Poetry Review, Antioch Review, Epoch, Guernica, New Letters, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Poetry, TriQuarterly, Vanity Fair, The Village Voice, and many, many other journals.

Current graduate faculty include fiction writers William J. Cobb and Charlotte Holmes, fiction and nonfiction writer Elizabeth Kadetsky, poets Robin Becker and Julia Spicher Kasdorf, and nonfiction writer Toby Thompson. Their bios follow:

Liberal Arts Research Professor of English and Women’s Studies, Robin Becker has received fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, National Endowment for the Arts, and Bunting Institute at Harvard. Her published collections in the Pitt Poetry Series include All-American Girl, The Horse Fair, Domain of Perfect Affection, and Tiger Heron. Becker serves as Contributing and Poetry Editor for the Women’s Review of Books where her column “Field Notes” appears regularly. During the 2010–2011 academic year, Becker served as the Penn State Laureate.

William J. Cobb
is a novelist, essayist, and short fiction writer whose work has been published in The New Yorker, The Mississippi Review, The Antioch Review, and many other journals. He’s the author of two books of stories, The Lousy Adult (2014) and The White Tattoo (2002), and three novels—The Fire Eaters (1994), Goodnight, Texas (2006), and most recently, The Bird Saviors (2012). He has won numerous awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and has reviewed books for The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, and The New York Times.

Charlotte Holmes
's short stories and essays have appeared in Antioch Review, Epoch, Narrative, New Letters, the New Yorker, The Sun, and many other journals, and her poems in American Poetry Review and Tar River Poetry.  Her collection, Gifts and Other Stories, was a finalist for the Flannery O'Connor Prize and the Southern Review Prize. A former Stegner fellow, Holmes is the recipient of numerous fellowships, including the D.H. Lawrence Fellowship, the Writers Exchange prize from Poets & Writers, and two Pennsylvania Council of the Arts awards.  Her stories have been cited for excellence in Best American Stories, Best American Essays, and the O. Henry Prize Stories, and twice included in New Stories From the South. A new story collection, The Grass Labyrinth, is forthcoming in 2014.

Nonfiction and fiction writer Elizabeth Kadetsky's First There Is a Mountain, a memoir, was published by Little, Brown in 2004 and has been contracted for reprint with Dzanc Books. Her short stories and personal essays have been widely published—in the New York Times, Best New American Voices, the Pushcart Prizes anthologyand honored in Best American Short Stories notable stories, Best Spiritual Writing notable essays, and elsewhere. Her memoir in progress, The Memory Eaters, has been excerpted in Antioch Review, Agni, and several other venues. Her collection of stories, The Poison That Purifies, was published in 2014.

Julia Spicher Kasdorf’s
third collection of poems, Poetry in America, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2011.  With Michael Tyrell, she co-edited the anthology Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn, published by NYU Press in 2007.  She has received a Pushcart Prize and an NEA fellowship, and her poems have been widely anthologized.  She has also published a collection of personal essays, a biography, and worked on new editions of two local color novels set in central Pennsylvania.

Toby Thompson
is the author of five books of nonfiction: Metroliner, Riding the Rough String: Some Reflections on the American West, Positively Main Street: Bob Dylan’s Minnesota; Saloon; and The ’60s Report. He has written for publications as diverse as Vanity Fair, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Gray’s Sporting Journal, GQ, Men’s Journal, Sports Afield, Playboy, Outside, Big Sky Journal, Western Art & Architecture, The New York Times, The Washington Post.

Reading Series, Events, & Publications

by Daniel Tripp — Posted Jun 19, 2014 12:13 PM

Penn State boasts an eclectic and vibrant arts community and is proud to host some of the most acclaimed writers in the world alongside up-and-coming authors as well as our own alumni.

Mary E. Rolling Reading Series
At the hub of this literary excitement is the Mary E. Rolling Reading Series. Previous visitors have included Donald Antrim, Rick Bass, Jo Ann Beard, Aimee Bender, Billy Collins, Lydia Davis, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Mark Doty, Stuart Dybek, Linda Gregerson, Alex Lemon, Ann Pancake, Francine Prose, George Saunders, Charles Simic, Anne Stevenson, Melanie Thernstrom, Michael Waters, Edgar Wideman, and Charles Wright.

Emily Dickinson Lecture in American Poetry

The generosity of alumni donors George and Barbara Kelly allows us to bring in annually a renowned American poet, who either gives a lecture about poetry or reads his or her own work. Previous visitors include Elizabeth Alexander, Richard Blanco, Rita Dove, Robert Hass, Jane Hirshfield, Susan Howe, Li-Young Lee, Sharon Olds, Robert Pinksy, Yusef Komanyakas, and Ellen Bryant Voigt. The Emily Dickinson Lecturer for 2014-2015 will be Marilyn Nelson.

Steven Fisher Writer-in-Residence Program
The Steven Fisher Writer-in-Residence Program brings authors to campus for week-long stays that include classroom visits, one-on-one conferences with graduate students, informal craft lectures, and public readings. Previous residencies have included Sandra Cisneros, Lydia Davis, Susan Orlean, George Saunders, and David Shields. The Fisher Writer-in-Residence for spring 2015 will be novelist Jess Walter.

Red Weather Reading Series
The Red Weather Reading Series invites emerging authors interested in connecting with student writers in an informal environment. Daniel Nester, G.C. Waldrep, Paula Bohince, Chavisa Woods, Vicki Glembocki, John Rowell, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, and Roald Hoffman are among recent visitors.

Graduate Creative Writing Series
The Graduate Creative Writing Series features the work of current students. Readings are casual and lively and serve as important social gathering space as well as a showcase for the works-in-progress of the community.

Creative Writing at Penn State Blog
The Creative Writing at Penn State Blog features events, ideas and enlivening discussion about all things literary at PSU. To access our calendar of events and keep up with our doings, please visit us at, or at and While you’re there, please “like” us on Facebook.

For information please contact:

Cheryl Mohr
814 863 2179

The Creative Writing Blog

by Daniel Tripp — Posted Jan 15, 2014 02:15 PM

The link address is:

M.F.A. Course of Study

by Daniel Tripp — Posted Jun 05, 2014 12:29 PM
The MFA program no longer accepts applications for a stand-alone degree.


Application Form for the BA/MA Creative Writing Program

by Daniel Tripp — Posted Jan 24, 2014 04:46 PM

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