Mission & History

The program that feels like a writing retreat next to major literary cities


Founded in 1995, our MFA in Creative Writing combines a studio writing workshop component with an analytical component, offering courses in the craft of writing in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

To date, more than 360 students have received degrees from the MFA in Creative Writing. Alumni have published over 60 books and have been published in numerous journals and periodicals, and they’ve won many distinguished literary prizes. Alumni have started internationally known presses and publications, including Omnidawn and the East Bay Review, and they have founded many 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 23 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. It remains a major part of the literary culture in the Bay Area and beyond. We welcome cohorts in creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry to our beautiful mission style campus each fall. It's a setting that feels like a writing retreat with world class faculty with access to Oakland and San Francisco just short BART rides away. 

Priority deadline is December 10th (application fee waived) and final application deadline is January 31st.

Alumni on the MFA at SMC

Alumni Books at the MFA Scholarship Fund Benefit

"I was compelled to come to Saint Mary's to become more real. I thought a specialized, genre-specific program that was small and intimate would be a safe place for me to grow as a writer, an artist, an Asian American activist and a lesbian. What I couldn't have predicted was how much I would grow as a person, and that's what becoming 'more real' really meant." - Kelsay Myers, MFA Creative Nonfiction & Poetry 2013 and Advisory Board Chair

"Working closely with the fine poets at SMC, allowed me to mature as a writer in all the ways that I'd hoped for, and in so many that I'd had no conception of. I learned how to keep seeking a wider, deeper rigor in my poetic attention, one which engages my intuition and intelligence equally." Rusty Morrison, Poetry 1999

“I came into St. Mary's as a smart aleck, someone convinced of both my writing and myself. I left a far more mature artist and person. I can't thank the program enough for taking me, shaking me, and waking me to a far better reality." –Allison Landa, Fiction 2006

The Press

Ani Tascian (creative nonfiction), Ryan McKinley (Fiction), Kelly Gemmill (poetry) Reading

MFA Mission

We attend to the individual writer’s relationship to language, giving high-quality, personal attention to each student in a two-year program;

We see the development of the writing project of each student as a powerful part of the development of the whole person;

We emphasize the crafts of writing and reading using pluralistic, imaginative, and practical approaches to aesthetic development;

We model inclusive community both in the classroom and in the larger arts community attending to the powerful role of our developing artists in the culture that is thirsty for the knowledge the arts can bring.


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 to our democracy. We stand in solidarity with immigrants, refugees, indigenous and marginalized peoples—our neighbors, friends and family members.