Creative Writing

Faculty & Staff

Faculty profiles | Staff Profiles

master of fine arts in creative writing



Candace Eros Diaz

Coordinator of Admissions and Student Services

Candace Eros Diaz is a San Francisco Writer’s Grotto Fellow and a VONA/Voices alum. She received her MFA in both creative nonfiction and fiction from Saint Mary’s College of California. She is a recipient of a Vermont Studio Center residency and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in MARY: A Journal of New Writing, The East Bay Review, and Huizache, among others. She lives in Oakland, CA.

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s mumolo

Sara Mumolo

Program Manager

Sara Mumolo is the author of the poetry collection Mortar (Omnidawn, 2013) and the chapbook March (Cannibal Books, 2011). She is the recipient of a Vermont Studio Center residency, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Lana Turner, Action Yes, Volta, Volt, and the Pen Poetry Series, among others. 

[email protected]

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Novel by MFA Alum Garnering Rave Reviews

Gutenberg's Apprentice, HarperCollinsGutenberg's Apprentice, a novel by Alix Christie (MFA, fiction, 1999), has been garnering rave reviews since its publication in late Se

Creative Nonfiction


Joyce Maynard (Workshop and Tutorial)


Writing Workshop

This course gives students the opportunity to explore material in various areas of nonfiction, such as memoir, personal essay, or travel writing. The course addresses issues of voice, scene, point of view, and theme, as well as any other elements of nonfiction writing that will emerge from individual manuscripts.  By the end of the course, students should develop the terminology and the critical skills for revising nonfiction, and should develop a good understanding about issues and trends in the genre.

Learning Outcomes

Students will:
  • produce a significant amount of original work;
  • learn through the practice of reading, annotating, and discussing the work of their peers;
  • develop the vocabulary and critical skills necessary for revising creative nonfiction.


Students will meet over the course of the semester at mutually agreeed upon times with the instructor of the workshop for individual sessions to review strengths and areas for revision of manuscripts. The instructor will suggest additional reading, ideas for revision, writing exercises, and specific areas where a student might improve his or her craft.

Learning Outcomes

Students will:
  • move toward a sophisticated knowledge of revision and the craft of creative nonfiction applicable to the participation in workshop;
  • gain a greater understanding of their own strengths and areas for improvement;
  • receive advice and instruction on the professional aspects of publishing the work and/or selections from it.

Contemporary Creative Nonfiction

This course is a literary survey of contemporary nonfiction, including the personal essay and narrative nonfiction.  Students will investigate the relationship between art and culture, between the writer and his or her society. The course will place special emphasis on formal analysis of themes and patterns in contemporary writing.  Writers likely to be included are Jo Ann Beard, Joan Didion, Dave Eggers, Lucy Grealy, Pico Iyer, Mary Karr, Philip Lopate, Richard Rodriguez, Terry Tempest Williams, and Tobias Wolff.

Learning Outcomes

Students will:
  • read contemporary creative nonfiction as writers, analyzing the variety of movements,  aesthetic trends, and techniques important to creative nonfiction in recent decades;
  • study the historical and cultural context of the creative nonfiction at hand;
  • connect contemporary trends with earlier texts, particularly the literature of the modern period;
  • relate contemporary creative nonfiction to its professional context, attending to publishing markets and other trends in the field.

Craft Courses

These courses focus on issues that influence the writing of nonfiction. Some seminars may focus on issues of craft of aesthetics—narrative structure, point of view, or dialogue—and others may be thematic in nature or explore a subgenre of nonfiction—personal essay, memoir, nature writing, travel writing, humor, the review essay, the lyric essay, literary reportage, biography, etc. Readings may include a wide range of nonfiction from diverse backgrounds and historical periods as well as the students' own works-in-progress.

Learning Outcomes

Students will: 
  • read creative nonfiction with attention to the particular craft in question;
  • create original creative nonfiction within the described parameters of the seminar, using the seminar’s theme as a means for practice and experimentation;
  • relate the particular theme/craft of the seminar to their own work and to the practice of writing creative nonfiction in our time.
Students may:
  • read secondary texts or texts outside of the genre (e.g., texts in poetry, literary theory, history, or philosophy);
  • workshop and/or share original work in class.
Core Faculty for Creative Nonfiction are Marilyn Abildskov and Wesley Gibson. Students also get the opporunity to study with at least one Visiting Writer per year, as well as meet with editors and agents. 
Study with Marilyn Abildskov and Wesley Gibson
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California Book Awards honor Brenda Hillman

The ceremony for the California Book Awards on June 9th will honor Brenda Hillman for her book Seasonal Works With Letters On Fire.

Gold Medals Awarded to:

FICTION: Karen Fowler: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Putnam/Marian Wood

FIRST FICTION: Anthony Marra: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Hogarth

NONFICTION: Eric Schlosser: Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, Penguin Press

POETRY: Brenda Hillman: Seasonal Works With Letters On Fire, Wesleyan University Press

Support the MFA Scholarship Fund

The Creative Writing Scholarship Fund supports the emerging writers of the MFA in Creative Writing at Saint Mary's College. It is sustained by generous donors, foundations, community partners, and corporate sponors. This financial support substantially influences an emerging writer's quality of life, propelling them to contribute to a culture that is thirsty for imagination. All donations to the Creative Writing Scholarship Fund go directly toward supporting students. Please join us in the mission of alleviating debt for emerging artists.

Celebrate 20 Years of Supporting the Arts
Advisory Board
Thank you to our hard-working advocates!

The MFA in Creative Writing relies on its Advisory Board not only to secure scholarships for its students, but to also provide strategic guidance for the Program. Saint Mary’s considers the Board an integral part of the MFA in Creative Writing's mission.

Executive Committee: Marilyn Abildskov, John Briscoe, Shirley Cookston, Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman, Brenna McNab (2011) (Vice Chair), Kelsay Myers (2013, Board Chair), Christopher Sindt, Carol Sayers, and Judith Taylor. 

Alumni Committee: Lily Brown (2007), James Scott Donahue (2014), Germana Fabbri (2015), Mia Fassero (2013), Clare FitzPatrick (2013), Jillian Kurvers (2010), Maria Roden (2006), Susan Sasson (2011).

Celebrate 20 Years of Mentorship & Support Year 21 


Join us for an evening of "literary toasts" with Daniel Handler, Robert Hass, Cristina García, Yiyun Li, Joyce Carol Oates, and Al Young. Hosted by Faculty Director, Matthew Zapruder.

Wine, beer, hors d'oeuvres, music, Italian villa raffle, silent auction, and door prizes!

All funds raised provide scholarships for MFA students.

Saturday, February 27, 2016 

RSVP Now. Limited Space Available.

Dolby Chadwick Gallery
210 Post Street, Suite 205
San Francisco, CA 94108
Map  |  Parking Information

Options for Purchase: 1) calling 925-631-8810 2) download the order form 3) in person at Orinda Books.

Tickets are $50. Save $30 on a bundle of 10 tickets. 

All raffle proceeds benefit the MFA Scholarship Fund. You do not need to be present at the Benefit to win


Grand Prize

A week's stay at La Quercia Villa in Tuscany, Italy

La Quercia at Altabella Italian Villas sleeps 8 people. Booking is subject to availability and valid for two years from the date of the drawing. Subject to taxes. It has two levels and two kitchens, so it's welcoming for larger groups or families. You can hire a chef to come to the villa, bike the hillsides, or sip wine by the pool. To explore this beautiful Italian Villa inside and out, visit the image galleryPrize valued at $4,200.00

      upstairs kitchen


Runner up Prize

A Retreat in Inverness

Four days and three nights in the Hass Hillman residence in beautiful InvernessCalifornia. Prize valued at $1,000. This home sleeps 4. For the visitor, Inverness marks the last settlement before entering the mass of the Point Reyes National Seashore, 72,000 acres of wilderness and beach and ranchland from which one can still see San Francisco.




2nd Runner up Prize

Foursome of Golf at Sequoyah Country Club

The golf course at Sequoyah is as difficult to master as it is verdant and beautiful, with hilly terrain and small, sloping greens to challenge the most skilled golfer. The course is a challenging par 70 for men and par 72 for women, with one of the highest slope/yardage ratios of any layout in California. 

golf course

Raffle Ticket Price

$50.00 each
You do not need to be present to win.
Purchase 10 tickets and receive a $30 discount!

How to Purchase Tickets

Please call 925-631-8556 to purchase tickets or download the order form

(You do not need to be present to win)

The Twentieth Anniversary MFA Scholarship Fund Benefit

Saturday, February 27, 2016
6-9 p.m.
Dolby Chadwick Gallery 
210 Post Street, Suite 205  
San Francisco, CA 94108

All raffle proceeds benefit the MFA Scholarship Fund. You do not need to be present at the Benefit to win. 


20th Anniversary Benefit Presented by: 


AltaBella Italian Villas

Dolby Chadwick

Headway Chairtable Fund



Avant Garde Sponsors:

Robin and Curt Caton

Steven Nightingale


Beverage Sponsors:


North Coast



Community Sponsors:

Whole Foods                        

VJB Vineyards & Cellars


Media Sponsor:


Indie Sponsors:

John Gourhan

Orinda Books









City Lights Books













University Press









The SMC MFA Experience

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Graduate and Professional Studies

The College’s rigorous education engages intellect and spirit, awakening the desire to transform society. Working with the College’s outstanding faculty, our students gain the knowledge and skills necessary to make meaningful and relevant contributions in a rapidly changing world.

Creative Writing Reading Series

FALL 2011



Yiyun Li grew up in Beijing and came to the United States in 1996. Her fiction has been published in The New Yorker and Best American Short Stories, among others.    Her debut collection, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, won the PEN/Hemingway Award, and the California Book Award for first fiction. Li’s novel, The Vagrants, also won the California Book Award’s gold medal for fiction. Her latest book, Gold Boy, Emerald Girl is a collection of short stories. Li has received fellowships from Lannan Foundation and Whiting Foundation, and MacArthur Foundation named her a 2010 Fellow. She is a contributing editor for the Brooklyn-based literary magazine, A Public Space and teaches at University of California, Davis.




Ryan Van Meter’s essay collection If You Knew Then What I Know Now was published in 2011 by Sarabande Books. His essays have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Indiana Review, Gulf Coast and Arts & Letters, and have been selected for anthologies including Best American Essays 2009 and Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction. He is an assistant editor at Fourth Genre magazine and currently teaches creative writing at The University of San Francisco.







Clayton Eshleman’s publications include Jupiter Fuse: Upper Paleolithic Imagination & the Construction of the Underworld; The Complete Poetry of Cesar Vallejo; and The Grindstone of Rapport/ A Clayton Eshleman Reader. He recently published co-translation of Aime Cesaire’s Solar Throat Slashed and Bei Dao’s Endure, and a translation of Bernard Bador’s Curdled Skulls. He has received the National Book Award in Translation, a Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry, and multiple grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He founded and edited the two seminal poetry magazines, Caterpillar and Sulfer. He is Professor Emeritus at Eastern Michigan University and lives in Ypsilanti.

For More information on The Creative Writing Reading Series please contact Sara Mumolo, (925)631-8556 or [email protected].
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The Creative Writing Reading Series brings the literary world's brightest lights to campus to read their work and discuss their craft with you.

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Academic Programs

We offer Graduate Programs in Education/Counseling, Business, Leadership, Fine Arts in Creative Writing and in Dance, and Kinesiology. In addition, the College offers teaching and administrative credentials as well as two Bachelor completion programs, one in Leadership & Organizational Studies and another, known as LEAP, designed particularly for current or retired professional dancers.

Saint Mary's graduate and professional students come from all areas of business, education, the arts, industry, and government. Their lives and their communities are enriched through scholarship and service.

Students leave Saint Mary's with more than just a degree. They leave transformed - with real-life experience in their fields, with a network of mentors and colleagues, with a better understanding of themselves; and with the capacity to improve their lives and the lives of others.

Graduate and Professional Studies offer the knowledge, skills, and personal attention adults need to develop both personally and professionally. Our programs span a wide variety of diverse educational areas.
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