MFA Creative Writing

I came to Western, a newly minted English major, and soon learned the attentive and engaging faculty at WWU would help me write the future of my own writing and teaching life. With small classes, provocative assignments, and opportunities for both cross-genre study and intensive, pedagogical training, I left Western knowledgeable, confident, and empowered to forge ahead in the literary and academic world.

—Julie Marie Wade, Lambda Literary Award winner and author of Wishbone: A Memoir in Fractures

In our versatile MFA program, you will gain fluency in single genre, multigenre, cross-genre, or hybrid writing, as well as an understanding of the way diverse genres can inform one another. Our creative writing courses are coupled with in-depth literary study and analysis, making you a multifaceted scholar, writer, and teacher.

You may gain teaching experience (if awarded a teaching assistantship or internship), as well as professional editing experience with scholarly and creative writing journals, such as the award-winning Bellingham Review.

Our Distinguished Alumni…

Kate Christie is the author of Gay Pride & Prejudice, Beautiful Game, and Leaving LA, published by Bella Books. She is the author of 15 titles and now writes full-time under her own imprint, Second Growth Books.

Jai Dulani was featured in Best New Poets 2020. His work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, The Offing, and Waxwing. He has received fellowships from Kundiman, VONA/Voices, and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. He is co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence in Activist Communities.

Spencer Ellsworth is the author of the Starfire Trilogy, which begins with Starfire: A Red Peace, published by TOR, Macmillan’s science fiction division.

Julie Marie Wade is the author of Wishbone: A Memoir in Fractures, winner of the Colgate University Press Nonfiction Book Award and the Lambda Literary Award. Her latest book, Catechism: A Love Story, was selected by C.D. Wright as the winner of the AROHO/To the Lighthouse Prize in Poetry.

Caroline Van Hemert is the author The Sun is a Compass, published by Little Brown Spark, which won the Banff Mountain Book Award for Adventure Travel and was cited as one of the best outdoor books of 2019 by Outside, Bustle, and Forbes. Her writing has been featured in the New York Times, Audubon, Outside, Washington Post, and others.

Soham Patel is a Kundiman fellow and an assistant editor at Fence and The Georgia Review. She is the author of four chapbooks of poetry including ever really hear it, winner of the 2017 Subito Prize.

Dayna Patterson is the author of If Mother Braids a Waterfall (Signature Books, 2020), and the founding editor of Psaltery & Lyre, an online literary journal dedicated to publishing literature at the intersection of faith and doubt.

Urban Waite is the author of The Terror of Living, The Carrion Birds, and Sometimes the Wolf (Harper Collins), which have been named to various Best Book of the Year lists, such as Esquire, The Boston Globe, LitReactor, and Booklist. His novels have been translated into nine languages.


Program Requirements: 55 credits

CORE COURSES: (20 credits total, each course is 5 credits) in creative writing to be taken in at least two different genres from the following:

  • English 502: Seminar in the Writing of Fiction (repeatable)
  • English 504: Seminar in the Writing of Poetry (repeatable)
  • English 505: Seminar in the Writing of Nonfiction (repeatable)
  • English 506: Seminar in Creative Writing: Multigenre (repeatable)
  • English 520: Studies in Poetry (repeatable)*
  • English 525: Studies in Fiction (repeatable)*
  • English 535: Studies in Nonfiction (repeatable)*

*These courses may be taken as either creative writing or literature credits, depending on the nature of your final project. To use them as part of the creative writing core requirement, you must take them as creative writing courses.

ELECTIVES: (20 credits total, each course is 5 credits) in literature, composition/rhetoric, pedagogy, or critical theory, to be taken from the following:

  • English 500: Directed Independent Study
  • English 513: Teaching Composition (required for Graduate Teaching Assistants)
  • English 509: Internship in Writing, Editing and Production (repeatable)
  • English 510: Seminar: Topics in Rhetoric (repeatable)
  • English 515: Studies in Literary and Critical Theory (repeatable)
  • English 540: Studies in Global Literatures (repeatable)
  • English 550: Studies in American Literatures (repeatable)
  • English 560: Studies in British Literature (repeatable)
  • English 570: Topics in Cultural Studies (repeatable)
  • English 575: Studies in Women’s Literature (repeatable)
  • English 580: Studies in Film (repeatable)
  • English 594: Practicum in Teaching
  • English 598: Research in the Teaching of English (repeatable)

English 520, 525, and 535 (see creative writing courses) may also be used for literature credit, depending on the nature of the final project. The same class may not be used for both literature and creative writing credit.

THESIS: (10 credits granted upon program completion)

  • English 690 Thesis Writing

Note: A student may, with permission, take up to 5 credits in approved 400-level courses. A student may have only 10 credits total/combined 400-level and/or 500 (Independent Study) credits. Students are encouraged to fill out their two years of study with electives that stress creative writing, pedagogy, editing/publishing, literature, or rhetoric, as dictated by the student’s interests and career goals. Must be enrolled each quarter for a minimum of 8 credits as a TA (Teaching Assistant) or 10 credits for Financial Aid.


  1. Successful completion of the Creative Writing Graduate Exam:
  2. A successful creative thesis, with a critical preface, approved by the student’s Creative Writing Thesis Committee and the Graduate School.