MFA in Creative Writing - Mission & History


Reading and writing to change lives.

Our MFA in Creative Writing program is a full-time residential degree program in the San Francisco Bay Area, offering students the chance to devote two years to the study of poetry, fiction or creative nonfiction alongside award-winning faculty and a devoted community of literary artists. 

Mission & History

Founded in 1995, our program combines studio writing workshops and literary analysis, including courses in the craft of writing in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

To date, more than 380 students have received degrees from the SMC MFA in Creative Writing. Alumni have published more than 60 books, appeared in countless journals and magazines, and won many distinguished literary prizes. Others have started internationally known presses and publications like Omnidawn and the East Bay Review, and founded important reading series in the Bay Area such as Woolsey Heights, East Bay Poetry Summit, Literary Arts & Wine and the Studio One Reading Series.

After nearly 30 years, the SMC MFA in Creative Writing continues to thrive, distinguishing itself by its award winning faculty and its opportunities for students in the areas of teaching, publishing, and community engagement. We welcome students from all backgrounds and walks of life to our mission style campus each fall—a setting that feels like a writing retreat with easy access to Oakland, San Francisco and all the Bay Area has to offer. 

SMC MFA Core Values

We are committed to maintaining an inclusive community built upon diversity and multiculturalism in which all members of our community are valued. Our faculty and staff support our students as artists and as individuals, guiding their creative work and their development as emerging writers.

We welcome all styles of writing. We emphasize a craft-oriented approach, acknowledging that writing is an ongoing process helped along by shared reading.

We are dedicated to making the writing workshop a place where all students can come together in good faith, with the intention of helping one another become the best writers and readers they can be. The writing classroom is a place where all participants are respected as artists and as individual in our shared community. It is also a space where writers can take necessary (though not gratuitous) artistic risks, make inevitable mistakes, and learn from them in a supportive and forgiving environment so that they become more informed artists and individuals.

As a literary community, we understand the power of language and that, in the context of literature, it can be charged, volatile, and even upsetting. While we do not police language in creative work, we understand its impact both in and outside the classroom, and encourage ongoing dialogue about its power and effect in literature and the world.

Values to Hold While in Community

  • respect for all persons
  • respect for divergent points of view
  • exploring conflicts with care
  • active listening
  • recognizing our privileges
  • owning our intentions and impact within the group dynamic
  • no direct attacks on our fellow classmates or their creative work

Statement of Solidarity

We believe our program is made stronger by the diverse communities that call our nation home. We recognize the cultural, artistic, and economic contributions of immigrants and refugees. We cherish and will defend fundamental Constitutional rights, like due process and religious freedom, that are foundational for our democracy. We stand in solidarity with immigrants, refugees, and marginalized peoples—our neighbors, friends, and family members.


Engage in an intense study of poetry and poetics alongside a dedicated community of writers who aspire to break new ground in the literary arts.

Whether your fiction is set in a recognizable present day, the distant past, a dystopian near future, or a world as yet unimagined, our faculty are here to help you bring your characters and their stories to life on the page.

Our community welcomes creative nonfiction in all its hybrid forms, including lyric and personal essays, literary journalism, autotheory and criticism, and new forms that you are inventing to tell your singular story. 

Matthew Zapruder listening to a student

Mentors who make a difference.

Our award-winning faculty work closely to support students as artists and as individuals, guiding their creative work and their development as emerging writers. Core faculty include Marilyn Abildskov, Chris Feliciano Arnold, and Matthew Zapruder.

MFA in Creative Writing students discussing

Classmates who inspire.

"The writers I’ve met in this program have become my confidantes. They taught me that every author is unique; each of them has a voice so wonderfully their own that I learned there’s no comparing our styles. We are learning to embrace not just different perspectives, but our own words as being derived from our experiences."—Kiran Bains Sahota, Fiction '21

"Though sharing your work with others is always nerve-wracking, my first semester of workshop has been truly transformative. The environment is always helpful, supportive, and light-hearted. The Creative Nonfiction cohort is enthusiastic about my work and genuinely wants to help me become a better writer." —Hannah Wohlenberg, Creative Nonfiction '22

A student writes in the redwood grove.

Alumni who lead literary lives.

MFA Degree alumni have gone onto publish novels, short story collections, memoirs, graphic novels, young adult, fantasy, and middle grade novels, poetry collections and more, but more importantly, they have graduated prepared to lead a sustainable life in the literary arts.

Here are some of the jobs MFA alumni are doing now: Bookseller, Copywriter, Creative Director, Creative Writing Instructor in Higher Ed, Curriculum Developer, Deputy Director in Nonprofit, Director of Content, Development Officer, Editor, English & Humanities Teacher, k-12, Grant Writer, Novelist, Publicist, Publisher, Screenwriter, Story Editor, Writing Center Director, and Vice Principal, among others.


School and Department Information

Chris Feliciano Arnold
Director, MFA in Creative Writing

Collin Skeen
Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruitment