Creative Writing

The University of Missouri’s Creative Writing Program is known for its commitment to literary study as an essential component of literary production. The department offers the M.A. and Ph.D. in English with a concentration in creative writing.

All of our graduate students receive assistantships or fellowships and teach composition, literature and/or writing workshops. As a result, graduates do well in competing for teaching positions, which increasingly seek versatility.

The program is under the direction of Professor Anand Prahlad.

Professor William Peden founded MU’s Creative Writing program in 1946, with the vision of combining creative writing and serious literary scholarship. His mission continues today. Our M.A. program has been in existence since the 1970s, and the Ph.D. with an emphasis in creative writing was established in 1988.

Ph.D. students in the creative writing program are required to complete nine workshop hours in their respective genres at the 8000-level; if they wish, they may take an additional three-hour workshop in another genre at the 8000-level.

M.A. students in the creative writing program are required to complete 12 workshop hours in their respective genres at the 8000-level.

For more information, please visit our Graduate Program page. To learn more about undergraduate coursework in creative writing, go here.

Internships and Associated Organizations
Many of our creative writing students take advantage of internships in publishing at The Missouri Review (TMR) and Persea BooksFounded in 1978 here at Mizzou, the Missouri Review is one of the premier literary magazines in the United States and has a reputation for finding new talent first. Graduate students who complete TMR's internship class can go on to a paid position as poetry editor, contest editor, or technology fellow. Persea Books, founded in 1975 and based in New York City, publishes a wide range of literary works, and offers an internship in poetry book publishing.

Our students have also been given the opportunity to participate in workshops with The Missouri Audio Project, an audio storytelling initiative spearheaded by Julija Šukys and Andrew Leland and co-sponsored by the Department of English, Mizzou Advantage, the Murray Center for Documentary Studies, the Missouri School of Journalism, KBIA, and the Digital Storytelling Program.

Visiting Writers Series
Our program boasts a thriving Visiting Writers Series of established and up-and-coming writers. Early visiting writers included Katherine Anne Porter, Joseph Heller, and John Gardner. More recent visitors have included Maggie Nelson, Colson Whitehead, Carolyn Forché, Karen Russell, Deborah Eisenberg, Joan Silber, Natasha Tretheway, Lorrie Moore, Robert Pinsky, and many others. This year’s Visiting Writers are Jami Attenberg, Michael Czyzniejewski, F. Douglas Brown, Tyehimba Jess, Ryan Van Meter, Willis Barnstone, Steve Tomasula, Deb Olin Unferth, Roxane Gay, Christian Bök, and Alicia Ostriker. More information can be found on the English department calendar, and via our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Annual Awards
The creative writing program offers a number of prizes through our annual writing contests. Yearly deadlines fall in mid-February. A list of prizes and entry guidelines is available here

MU Creative Writing Program Contests: Information for Student Contestants

Deadline: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2016
With the exception of the McKinney Short Fiction Award and the Margaret Leong Children’s Poetry Prize (which allow entries from students enrolled at any of the four campuses of the University of Missouri), these competitions are open to students currently enrolled at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Judging is done anonymously by outside writers of national reputation. Manuscripts will not be returned. Winners will be announced in late April. 


  • Manuscripts must be typed, with a header containing 1) the name of the contest: “McKinney Story Contest,” “Mahan Poetry Contest,” etc., and 2) author’s student ID number. The author’s name must not appear on the manuscript.
  • Entries for the McKinney Short Fiction Award should also indicate male or female, graduate or undergraduate.
  • Attach a sealed, business-sized envelope containing a slip of paper listing title(s) of entry(ies), author’s name, email address, local address, phone number, and student ID number. The outside of the envelope should contain the student ID number only.
  • Submissions to multiple contests from one student require only one identifying envelope.
  • All entries must be received in 114L Tate Hall no later than Friday, February 19, 2016.

Short Story
:  No more than two stories per person. Stories should not exceed 7,000 words. No restrictions on subject matter or literary method. Stories submitted for this award may not be submitted for the McKinney Award.

  • 1st place $175,  2nd place $100

Poetry:  No restrictions on subject matter or literary method.  No more than five poems.

  • 1st place $175,  2nd place $100

English 1000 Essay: Information available from the composition office (114J Tate Hall or

The Academy of American Poets sponsors a prize for the best poem or group of poems by a student currently enrolled at MU.

  • Maximum of three poems may be entered.
  • No restrictions on subject matter or literary method. 
  • One $100 first prize

Although some preference will be given to women and undergraduates, this competition is open to any student currently enrolled at any of the four campuses of the University of Missouri.

  • Story should not exceed 7,000 words.
  • No restrictions on subject matter or literary method.
  • No more than one story per person. Stories submitted for this award may not be submitted for the Mahan Short Fiction Award.
  • Two $250 prizes

This award was established in 1961 by Sybil Pommer of Columbia, Missouri. The competition is RESTRICTED TO FRESHMEN currently enrolled at MU.

  • No more than four poems per person.
  • One $200 first prize

This award was established in 2000 by Margaret Leong of Columbia, Missouri. The competition is open to all students currently enrolled at any of the University of Missouri campuses.

  • Competition limited to poems which are either addressed to children, or written in collaboration with children, or which incorporate children’s thoughts and emotions.
  • No more than three poems per person.
  • $350 first prize, $250 second place prize, $150 third place prize

The Creative Writing Program sponsors prizes in creative nonfiction submitted by students currently enrolled at MU.

  • No restrictions on subject matter or style, though all submissions must fit within the general descriptions of creative nonfiction.
  • $200 first prize, $100 second prize

Kerr Creative Writing Awards- Information for Nominators

Call for Nominations

Frances W. Kerr Awards for Excellence in Writing

—Deadline: Friday, February 19, 2016—

Creative writing instructors may nominate outstanding work by undergraduate students for prizes in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and playwriting.

First place ($250), second place ($150), and third place ($100) will be awarded annually to undergraduates in each genre.


  1. Each instructor of 1500-, 2500-, and 4500-level undergraduate workshops will be allowed to make nominations.
  2. The nominations per section will be limited as follows:
    1. Fiction: 2 stories per section taught
    2. Poetry: 2 poems from one student in each section taught
    3. Nonfiction: 2 nonfiction pieces per section taught
  3. You may nominate student work from fall and/or spring semester.
  4. This contest will be judged anonymously. Manuscripts should be identified only by a header containing prize name (Frances W. Kerr Awards), genre, and student number.
  5. The title of the piece, author’s name, address, phone number, and email address, as well as the name and email address of the nominating instructor, should be placed in a business size envelope with only the student’s ID number on the front of the envelope.
  6. Judges will be appointed by the Director of the Creative Writing Program.
  7. Instructors should deliver nominations in person to creative writing program assistant Sara Strong (; 884-7773) in 114L Tate Hall by Friday, February 19, 2016.

Don’t miss this opportunity to get your undergraduate students’ best work recognized!