Creative Writing (MFA)

Our low-residency MFA in Creative Writing welcomes you to a vibrant community of writers and dedicated faculty, in an unsurpassed San Francisco Bay Area location.

student writing in a journal

Whether you are a poet looking to hone your craft, an aspiring novelist who wants to get that book written, or a memoirist with an urgent story to tell, our MFA program will help you achieve your writing goals.

The MFA program fosters a supportive community of talented writers who are encouraged to experiment across genres and with new forms of writing.

In addition to the genres of Poetry, Fiction and Creative Nonfiction, Dominican offers an optional track in Narrative/Poetic Medicine, which allows students to embrace the special role that creative writing can play in the process of healing. 

I like the vision they have in the MFA program at Dominican. It’s a fabulous resource, this island of calm in the middle of a lot of chaos in this world.” — Catharine Clark-Sayles, MFA 2019

To receive regular updates about our program, please sign up for the MFA Newsletter.

Program Highlights

  • Flexible low-residency format customized to meet your writing goals. 
  • A dedicated mentor and opportunities to publish your work.
  • Two on-campus residencies per year featuring dynamic speakers and workshops. 
  • The only narrative/poetic medicine creative writing track in the country.

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Residencies

Our low-residency format consists of twice yearly residencies and semester-long distance mentorships, allowing students to advance a writing career without disruption to work or family.

The degree consists of five residencies (three summer sessions and two winter sessions) over the course of two years. The 11-day summer residency and the 8-day winter residency consist of morning workshops, afternoon talks and evening readings. Four semesters of distance mentorship provide a personalized academic experience based on each student’s individual writing goals.

Winter Residency January 9-16, 2021
Summer Residency June 5-13, 2021

Creative Writing Master Class

The Master Class provides serious writers the opportunity to develop their work and connect to a writing community. The Master Class dovetails with the MFA residency workshops, craft talks, and panel discussions. Applicants are asked to submit a portfolio of the writing they will develop during the residency. Contact Judy Halebsky for more information.

Learn more about our Residencies

MFA Career Paths

Graduates of Dominican’s MFA in Creative Writing program are ready to pursue a variety of careers as a writer, as well as work in related fields such as education, teaching, editing, marketing, publishing, grant writing, and nonprofit arts organizations.

Special Features

The act of writing can effect powerful change in perception and feeling — our MFA is geared towards this change. Writing for Renewal may be a personal journey of discovery or it may rise from a desire to renew the course of our literary heritage. Whatever your ambitions, our program will deepen your knowledge and move your writing forward.

Our optional MFA track in Narrative / Poetic Medicine grounds students in the art of storytelling and supports them as they take up the subject of the body and express through writing what happens when a physical or mental anguish disrupts a life.

Students will contemplate the differences between being cured and being healed of disease, and the therapeutic role creative writing can play in the process of healing.

History of Narrative Medicine
The term “Narrative Medicine” typically applies to the inclusion of literary study as an integral part of the education of caregivers. In these programs, medical students, doctors, and other caregivers practice the art of attentive listening through the close reading of creative literature.

Close reading trains caregivers to follow clues to a patient’s illness that may not have a physical symptom, to listen for subtexts and hear significant metaphors within the patient’s narrative. Close reading also helps to nurture the qualities of empathy and compassion, qualities that have traditionally been nurtured by the arts and humanities.

Through the MFA program, Dominican offers several opportunities to enrich your educational journey, including international retreats, a literary lecture series and membership in an international honor society. 

Explore partnerships and programs

Visiting Faculty

alicia ostriker

Alicia Ostriker is a visiting Dominican MFA faculty member. She has published sixteen volumes of poetry, including Waiting for the Light; The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog; The Book of Life: Selected Jewish Poems 1979-2011; No Heaven; The Volcano Sequence; and The Imaginary Lover, winner of the William Carlos Williams Award.

She was twice a National Book Award Finalist, for The Little Space (1998) and The Crack in Everything (1996), and twice a National Jewish Book Award winner.

Her poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, The Atlantic, Paris Review, Yale Review, Ontario Review, The Nation, The New Republic, Best American Poetry, The Pushcart Anthology, and many other journals and anthologies, and has been translated into numerous languages including Hebrew and Arabic.

Ostriker’s critical work includes the now-classic Stealing the Language: the Emergence of Women’s Poetry in America , and other books on American poetry and on the Bible.

Poet Laureate Emeritus of Sacramento, Indigo Moor’s fourth book of poetry Everybody’s Jonesin’ for Something, took second place in the University of Nebraska Press’ Backwater Prize and will be published in the spring of 2021. His second book, Through the Stonecutter’s Window , won Northwestern University Press’s Cave Canem prize. His first and third books, Tap-Root and In the Room of Thirsts & Hungers , were both part of Main Street Rag’s Editor’s Select Poetry Series.

In addition to poetry, Indigo has produced award-winning plays, short fiction, and essays. His stage-turned-screenplay Live! at the Excelsior was optioned as a full-length film. He is a former teacher at the Stonecoast MFA Program and a Cave Canem fellow. A 10-year veteran of the US Navy, Indigo divides his time between writing, teaching, and Integrated Circuit Layout Engineering.

ruth ozeki mfa

Ruth Ozeki is a novelist, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest. Her first two novels, My Year of Meats (1998) and All Over Creation (2003), have been translated into 11 languages and published in 14 countries.

Her most recent novel, A Tale for the Time-Being (2013), won the LA Times Book Prize, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, and has been published in over thirty countries. Her work of personal non-fiction, The Face: A Time Code (2016), was published by Restless Books as part of their groundbreaking series called The Face.

Ruth's documentary and dramatic independent films, including Halving the Bones, have been shown on PBS, at the Sundance Film Festival, and at colleges and universities across the country.

marianne rogoff mfa

Marianne Rogoff, PhD, is the author of the Pushcart-nominated story collection Love Is Blind in One Eye, the memoir Silvie’s Life, and numerous travel stories, short fictions, essays, and book reviews.

Since 2018, her writing has been a Finalist in Narrative magazine’s Spring Story Contest, Top 10 for the Tillie Olsen Story Award, on the Short List for the Bath International Novella-in-Flash Award, Top 10 for Sequestrum’s Editor’s Reprint Award, Finalist for ScreenCraft’s Cinematic Short Story Award, Semifinalist for the Tamaqua Award from Hidden River Arts for a book of essays, and Finalist for the Ernest Hemingway Flash Fiction Prize. As adjunct professor at Dominican University, she teaches fiction, creative non-fiction and the personal essay.

David Watts’ literary credits include seven books of poetry, three collections of short stories, two mystery novels, seven western novels, a Christmas memoir, and several essays.

He is a medical doctor, a classically trained musician, inventor and former television personality and commentator for All Things Considered.

He has received awards for his work in media, in medicine, and as a poet and author. He publishes occasionally under the pseudonym, of his alter-ego, harvey ellis, poetry that arises from the deeper levels of consciousness.

Admissions and Aid

A Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent from a regionally accredited institution of higher education is required to apply to our graduate programs.

  1. Completed Application — Apply now!

  2. Official Transcript(s)
    Official transcript of coursework from each college or university attended (undergraduate and graduate). Transcripts must be sent directly in a sealed envelope from the college or university.

    Send to: 
    Dominican University of California
    c/o Graduate Admissions
    50 Acacia Ave. 
    San Rafael, 94901
  3. Resume
  4. Statement of Purpose or Intent
    A brief essay (two pages, double spaced, 12-point font) describing writing background, professional and/or personal goals, and additional life and/or academic experience relevant to your application.
  5. One Letter of Recommendation Optional (elect a Personal Interview to waive this requirement)
  6. Writing Sample
    • Eight poems, not to exceed 20 pages (single spaced)
    • 25 pages of prose; fiction or creative non-fiction (double spaced, 12-point font)
    • Two-to-three-page discussion of your current reading (double spaced, 12-point font)
  7. Personal Interview
    (elect this option to waive the recommendation letter)
  8. International Applicants
    International candidates must meet additional admissions requirements.

Summer Residency 2020

Deadline May 1, 2021

Winter Residency/Spring Semester 2021

Deadline December 1, 2020

Learn about tuition per unit, additional fees and total tuition.

We'll also show you how a Dominican education is more affordable than you might think with support from financial aid, scholarships and loans. 

Tuition and Aid

Frequently Asked Questions

The MFA is designed to support poets and writers who wish to complete and publish a book manuscript. Thus, the focus is on honing your writing skills and learning about the publishing industry.

However, since the MFA is recognized as a terminal degree in academe, you would be eligible to apply for college-level positions. You will also be prepared for jobs that require strong writing skills, such as publishing, editing, marketing, public relations, social media and web content strategy.

 

We offer a tuition discount of $300 for each residency and each semester to all students. In addition, we are home to the Alpha Omicron Rho chapter of the English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta, which offers graduate level scholarships.

 Tuition and Aid

 

Our MFA starts with a residency and runs for two years, for a total of five residencies and four mentorship semesters.

Yes. You have up to five years to complete the MFA in Creative Writing program. Consult with the graduate director to create a degree plan.

Yes, with the approval of a mentor and the graduate director.

Most of the time you will be writing towards the goals outlined in your individualized syllabus. Once a month you will meet with your cohort group for a workshop and one-on-one sessions with your mentor.

Workshops and faculty mentor sessions take place on campus, with video conferencing for distance learning students. Your mentor is always available for support and instruction throughout the semester.

All MFA students attend the winter (January) and summer (June) residencies together. During the Fall and Spring mentorship semesters, students are broken out into smaller groups of three to five students per mentor, in accordance with the AWP guidelines and best teaching practices.

Thank you for supporting the MFA program. Gifts to Dominican University of California have a profound impact on our students. 

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Faculty, Staff and Mentors

Judy Halebsky headshot

Judy Halebsky, PhD

Director of the MFA Associate Professor of English

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Expertises
Joan Baranow headshot

Joan Baranow, PhD

Professor of English
Natalie Babler headshot

Natalie Babler

Administrative Manager
thomas burke headshot

Thomas Burke, MFA

Assistant Professor, Literature & Languages and Social & Cultural Studies

Creative Writing: In the News