A group of students sitting around a table at a writing workshop.

Creative Writing (MFA)

  • Master's

About this Program

Hood College’s low-residency MFA in creative writing immerses students in the rhythms of the writing life, while providing them with a solid foundation in literary craft, criticism and publishing.

Program Overview

Tuition & Fees 
Funding Opportunities
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Find your rhythm. Find your community. Find your voice.

Ideal for working professionals and lifelong learners who are serious about their work, the MFA in creative writing appeals to students from a variety of personal and professional backgrounds, all of whom share a passion for literature and a desire to write and publish their own novels, stories and poems. Central to our philosophy is the idea of balance—between writing and the demands of everyday life, between periods of solitude and social interaction—as well as the presence of a diverse and cohesive literary community. By the end of the program, students will have produced a book-length manuscript of fiction or poetry and will be beginning to submit and publish their work.

A 48-credit program in fiction or poetry, the low-residency MFA in creative writing involves four remote mentorship semesters and three on-campus summer residencies. Over the course of the two-year program, students will engage in one-on-one consultations with faculty mentors; participate in intensive writing workshops; attend lectures, panels and readings; begin submitting their work for publication; develop and present a craft lecture; complete a book-length creative project; and give a reading from their work. In addition to summer residences on the beautiful Hood College campus in Frederick, Maryland, students also have the option of attending an international summer residency through the Prague Summer Program for Writers, the nation’s oldest study-abroad program for creative writers in the English language.

The low-residency MFA in creative writing at Hood College will begin accepting applicants in fall 2023 for the inaugural summer 2024 residency (June 13-23). For more information, please contact program director Elizabeth Knapp or email the graduate school admission staff.

Degrees Offered

  • MFA

Department Offering

Prospective Applicants must complete the following for consideration into the program:

  • Complete the online application.
  • Official copies of all college transcripts.
  • A 1,000-word essay in response to a book of fiction or poetry published within the last 10 years. The book you choose to write on must correspond to the genre for which you are applying (e.g., poetry applicants should write an essay in response to a poetry collection).
  • A 500-word personal statement on what you hope to achieve from the program; your reading life and which authors have been especially important or influential to you as a writer; any challenges or obstacles you have faced in your writing life as a result of your background and how you have responded to those challenges; and your current writing projects.
  • A creative writing sample in the genre for which you are applying.
    • Fiction should be no more than 25 double-spaced pages of one or several stories, a portion of a novel, or a combination. If submitting a novel excerpt, please attach a brief plot synopsis.
    • Poetry should be no more than 10 single-spaced pages, with no more than one poem per page.

The course listing for the program is as follows:

CW 500A: First Residency6
CW 500B: Second Residency6
CW 500C: Third Residency6
CW 501F or CW 501P: Mentorship Semester I4
CW 502F or CW 502P: Mentorship Semester II4
CW 503F or CW 503P: Mentorship Semester III4
CW 504F or CW 504P: Mentorship Semester IV4
CW 505: Literary Publishing2
CW 506: Research Project4
CW 507: Creative Writing Thesis4
CW 508: Oral Presentation4
Total Program Credits48


Permanent Faculty

Aaron Angello

Aaron Angello is an assistant professor of English at Hood College, where he directs the theatre program and teaches courses in creative writing, modern and contemporary poetry, film and media, and drama. He is also creative director of the Endangered Species (theatre) Project and founder of the Frederick Shakespeare Festival. His poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals, and he is the editor of The Synergistic Classroom: Interdisciplinary Teaching in the Small College Setting. His genre-defying book The Fact of Memory: 114 Ruminations and Fabrications was published in 2022 by Rose Metal Press.

Amy Gottfried

Amy Gottfried is a professor of English at Hood College and advises the undergraduate literary magazine, Wisteria. She teaches courses in environmental writing, advanced fiction, and American literature, and has twice earned Hood’s Excellence in Teaching award. Her short fiction has appeared in PassagerGlimmer TrainAdirondack ReviewBlunderbuss and Brain, Teen. Awards include Blunderbuss’s 2015 Best Stories and Glimmer Train’s Fiction Open, Family Matters, and Short Short Fiction contests. She is currently working on her third novel and a short story collection.

Elizabeth Knapp

Elizabeth Knapp is an associate professor of English at Hood College and directs the low-residency MFA in creative writing. She is the author of Requiem with an Amulet in Its Beak (Washington Writers’ Publishing House, 2019), winner of the 2019 Jean Feldman Prize, and The Spite House (C&R Press, 2011), winner of 2010 De Novo Poetry Prize. Her other honors include the 2022 International Poetry Prize from Atlanta Review, the 2018 Robert H. Winner Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America and an individual artist award from the Maryland State Arts Council.

Guest Writers

Sandra Beasley
Photo by Andrew Lightman.

Sandra Beasley is the author of four poetry collections: Made to ExplodeCount the WavesI Was the Jukebox (winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize, judged by Joy Harjo); and Theories of Falling (winner of the New Issues Poetry Prize, judged by Marie Howe). Honors for her work include a 2015 NEA Literature Fellowship, the Center for Book Arts Chapbook Prize, the John Montague International Poetry Fellowship and six DCCAH Artist Fellowships. She is also the author of the memoir Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life, and the editor of Vinegar and Char: Verse from the Southern Foodways Alliance. Beasley is currently the Nora Roberts Writer-in-Residence at Hood College. She lives in Washington, D.C.

celeste doaks

celeste doaks is the author of Cornrows and Cornfields and editor of the poetry anthology Not Without Our Laughter. Her award-winning chapbook, American Herstory, contains ekphrastic poems that have been featured at the Whitney Museum of American Art and Brooklyn Museum. doaks is a 2022 Yaddo fellow and has taught for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in Ms. MagazineThe MillionsHuffington PostChicago Quarterly ReviewThe RumpusThe Hopkins Review and others.

Robert Eversz

Robert Eversz is the author of six novels that have been translated into 15 languages. His books have been named to best of year lists at The Washington PostOslo AftenpostenManchester GuardianBookPageL.A. Weekly and January Magazine. A graduate of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, Robert teaches advanced fiction workshops at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and is a member of the permanent faculty of the Prague Summer Program, which he helped found.

James Allen Hall

James Allen Hall is the author of two books of poems and a book of lyric essays. Their most recent book is Romantic Comedy, winner of the Levis Prize selected by Diane Seuss and published by Four Way Books. Their previous book of poems is Now You’re the Enemy (U of Arkansas Press, 2008). They are also the author of a book of lyric personal essays, I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well. They’ve won awards from the Lambda Literary Foundation, the Texas Institute of Letters, the Fellowship of Southern Writers, the New York Foundation for the Arts and the National Endowment of the Arts. They direct the Rose O'Neill Literary House at Washington College in Chestertown, MD.

Donna Hemans
Photo by Shala Graham.

Donna Hemans is the author of three novels, River WomanTea by the Sea and The House of Plain Truth (forthcoming in February 2024). Her short fiction and essays have appeared in SliceElectric LiteratureMs. MagazineThe Rumpus and Crab Orchard Review, among others. She received her undergraduate degree in English and media studies from Fordham University and an MFA from American University. She lives in Maryland and is also the owner of DC Writers Room, a co-working studio for writers based in Washington, D.C.

Steven Leyva
Photo by Chris Hartlove.

Steven Leyva’s poems have appeared in Smartish PaceScalawagNashville ReviewjubilatThe Hopkins ReviewPrairie Schooner and Best American Poetry 2020. He is a Cave Canem fellow and author of the chapbook Low Parish and author of The Understudy’s Handbook, which won the Jean Feldman Poetry Prize from Washington Writers Publishing House. He holds an MFA from the University of Baltimore, where he is an associate professor in the Klein Family School of Communications Design.

Cleyvis Natera
Photo by Beowulf Sheehan.

Cleyvis Natera is the author of the debut novel Neruda on the Park. Her fiction, essays and criticism have appeared in The New York Times Book ReviewURSA FictionAlien Nation: 36 True Tales of ImmigrationThe Brooklyn RailTIMEThe RumpusGagosian QuarterlyThe Washington PostThe Kenyon ReviewAster(ix) and Kweli Journal, among other publications.

Elly Williams

Elly Williams is a senior faculty member of the M.A. in writing at Johns Hopkins University. Her essays, interviews and short stories have appeared in local and national journals, including ConfessionsFact or Fiction?The Missouri ReviewFive Points and CEA Forum. Her novel, Crazy Think, was released as a Penguin Classic in the U.K. in 1997 and under the title This Never Happened in 1998 by Random House.

Summer Residencies

The cornerstone of the low-residency MFA in creative writing is the intensive residency experience. For 10 days in June, students in the program attend residencies on the Hood College campus, during which they participate in rigorous writing workshops and attend lectures, panels and readings by permanent and guest faculty and graduating students. Residencies are designed to immerse students in activities and subjects central to the writing life and to foster a sense of community and fellowship with other writers; therefore, students are strongly encouraged to stay on campus in one of our newly renovated dorms for the duration of each residency. Visits to Frederick’s thriving historic Downtown are part of the residency; restaurants, shops, theatre, bars, art galleries, concerts and a wonderful independent bookstore are all a 10-minute walk from campus. Room and board are included in the residency fees.

At the core of the residency is the writing workshop, in which developing writers share their work for critique and provide commentary on the work of other members. Led by an accomplished writer in each genre, workshops meet daily in the mornings, and students are guaranteed an expert and detailed review of their work.

In the afternoons, faculty and graduating students present lectures and panels on a range of topics within literary history, theory and practice, while evenings are devoted to literary readings. At the end of the residency period, students return to their individual writing lives reenergized and recommitted to the practice of writing. They then commence a period of concentrated reading and writing in the semester between residencies under the close guidance of a faculty mentor.

For the second residency, students may elect to attend the Prague Summer Program for Writers, the nation’s oldest study-abroad program for creative writers in the English language. Approximately 2,000 established and aspiring writers have attended the Prague Summer Program since its inception in 1993. Included among the program’s outstanding permanent faculty are two MacArthur Fellows and a National Book Award winner in fiction. Fees for the three-week program are equal to those for a 10-day on-campus residency. Students are responsible for their own airfare and meals, but breakfast is provided with program housing. Two fully-funded teaching assistantships are available for each residency, one in fiction and one in poetry. Assistantships are competitive.

View the June 2024 residency schedule.

Mentorship Semesters

Along with the residency experience, literary mentorship is a hallmark of the low-residency MFA in creative writing. The mentorship semester is designed to help students develop a close working relationship with an experienced teacher and published author who can direct them in all matters of literary craft, criticism and publishing. As immersive experiences, the mentorship semesters also provide students with a solid foundation in literary history, theory and practice, and students are expected to read broadly and deeply both within their genre and across genres.

Under the guidance of a faculty mentor, students produce original creative work while simultaneously developing their own course of study within the areas of literary history, theory, and practice. At the beginning of each semester, students confer with their faculty mentor to create a reading list, along with a submission schedule for critical essays and original work. Over the course of each semester, students submit to their faculty mentor packets of original fiction or poetry and critical essays. The faculty mentor then provides extensive feedback, including suggestions for revision and further reading. Participation in the residencies is required for enrollment in the mentorship semesters.

Advantages of the Low-Residency Model

The low-residency model for an MFA in creative writing offers several advantages compared to traditional full-residency programs, including: 

  1. Flexibility. Low-residency programs are designed to accommodate students who may have work, family or other commitments that make it challenging to attend a full-time, on-campus program. With the low-residency model, you have the flexibility to continue working or fulfilling other responsibilities while pursuing your degree. 
  2. Geographic Independence. Low-residency programs allow students to participate from anywhere in the world. You are not limited by geographical proximity to a specific institution, which means you can choose a program that aligns with your interests and needs regardless of your location. 
  3. Intensive Residency Periods. Low-residency programs typically include short, intensive residencies on campus or at a designated location. During these residencies, you have the opportunity to engage in workshops, panels, readings and networking events with faculty and fellow students. This concentrated period of interaction provides a focused and immersive experience.
  4. Personalized Attention. In low-residency programs, students work closely with faculty mentors or advisers. One-on-one mentorship allows for personalized attention and guidance tailored to your specific writing goals and needs. This individualized approach will help you hone your craft and develop your unique voice. 
  5. Diverse Perspectives. Low-residency programs attract students from a variety of backgrounds, cultures and experiences. The cohort of students often includes individuals with diverse perspectives and writing styles. This enriches the learning environment, fosters cross-cultural understanding and encourages creative collaboration. 
  6. Cost Savings. Low-residency programs may offer cost savings compared to full-residency programs. Since you are not residing on campus full-time, you can save on expenses such as housing and commuting. This can make pursuing an MFA more financially feasible for some individuals. 

With an MFA in creative writing, you can pursue a variety of career paths related to writing, literature and communication, including:

  • Author. An MFA in creative writing equips you with the skills and knowledge necessary to write and publish your own literary works. Through the mentorship semesters and summer residencies, you will develop your craft and learn about the business of literary publishing.
  • Editor. MFA graduates work as editors for publishing houses and literary magazines, or as freelance editors. You can help writers polish their manuscripts by providing feedback and copy edits.
  • Copywriter. Advertising agencies, marketing firms and businesses hire creative writers to develop persuasive and engaging copy for advertisements, websites, product descriptions and other promotional materials.
  • Content Writer. With the rise of digital media, there is a high demand for skilled content writers. You can create engaging articles, blog posts, social media content and other written material for websites, online publications and businesses.
  • Literary Agent. As a literary agent, you can represent authors and their literary works. You'll review manuscripts, negotiate publishing contracts and guide writers through the publishing process.
  • Writing Instructor/Professor. Many MFA graduates find fulfillment in teaching creative writing. You can work as an instructor or professor at universities, colleges, writing workshops or community centers, sharing your knowledge and helping aspiring writers develop their skills.
  • Freelance Writer. You can work as a freelance writer, taking on a range of writing assignments. This may include magazine articles, blog posts, ghostwriting projects, content creation for businesses or contributing to anthologies and literary journals.
  • Communications Specialist. Corporations, nonprofit organizations and government agencies often employ MFA graduates as communications specialists. You can write press releases, speeches, reports and other communication materials.
  • Writing Coach/Consultant. With your expertise, you can offer your services as a writing coach or consultant. This involves assisting aspiring writers, providing feedback on their work and helping them improve their writing skills.

Many MFA graduates combine multiple roles or pursue a mix of freelance and traditional employment opportunities to build a diverse career in the writing field.

The Elizabeth Peters-Barbara Michaels Scholarship Fund

Established in 1990 by Barbara Mertz, the scholarship is awarded annually to a student from an underrepresented background based on writing ability. Recipients for this scholarship will be identified and nominated by the MFA faculty.

Barbara Mertz, who used the pen name Elizabeth Peters, wrote more than 60 novels. Primarily known for her work in the mystery genre, Mertz won various awards, and her novels have been translated into dozens of languages. Mertz was also a long-time resident of Frederick, Maryland.

The Nora Roberts Foundation Scholarship

Established in 2010 by the Nora Roberts Foundation, the scholarship will be awarded annually to a creative write MFA student, with priority given to those with financial need and academic merit.

Nora Roberts, a Maryland native, is the bestselling author of more than 225 novels. She is primarily known for her work in the romance genre and was the first author to be inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame.

For more information, please contact Program Director Elizabeth Knapp.

A photo of the pergola interior with lights

Pergola Magazine

MFA students will help develop Hood's brand new online literary magazine, Pergola, launching in spring 2025 and featuring original work!

Program Contact

Elizabeth Knapp

MFA Program Director

Nick Masucci

Assistant Director of Graduate Admission & Data Management