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.

The program is under the direction of Professor Phong Nguyen.


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.


PhD students in the creative writing program are required to complete nine workshop hours at the 8000 level; six hours in their primary genre, and three hours in a second genre of choice. Students are also required to take six hours of 8000-level seminars whose content includes in-depth analysis of literary texts. 7000-level courses, or courses outside of the English department, may be substituted with the approval of the Director of Creative Writing and the Director of Graduate Studies.

MA students are required to complete six workshops hours at the 8000 level in their primary genre, nine hours of 8000-level literature seminars, and three hours in critical theory.

Full requirements for MA and PhD students can be found through the menu to the left.

Many students choose to minor in a complementary field, such as Women’s and Gender Studies, or College Teaching, while working toward their degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing.

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

Teaching Opportunities

All of our graduate students receive assistantships or fellowships and teach a variety of courses in the department. As a result, our students leave with a diverse teaching portfolio and do well in competing for teaching positions, which increasingly seek experience and versatility. Graduate students in the English department usually begin teaching courses other than composition in their second year. Students can apply to teach a wide range of courses in literature, for example, World Literature, American Literature, British Literature, Themes in Literature; writing courses, such as Composition, Professional Writing, and Honors Composition; creative writing workshops such as Introduction to Fiction, Introduction to Poetry, Introduction to Nonfiction, Intermediate Fiction, Intermediate Poetry, Intermediate Nonfiction; and courses in Film Studies, such as Introduction to Film.

English Department Internships and Other Professional Development Opportunities

Publishing Internships

Many of our creative writing students take advantage of internships in publishing at The Missouri Review (TMR) and Persea Books.  Founded 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.

Unbound Book Festival

Creative Writing Students have the opportunity to serve on the Student Programming Committee for the annual Unbound Book Festival. As committee members, they help to develop ideas for panels, lists of authors to invite as readers or panelists, and may serve as panel moderators.

The Missouri Audio Project

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.


Through the English Graduate Student Association (EGSA), graduate students can serve as representatives to departmental and university-wide committees. As a representative, students gain a better understanding of faculty roles outside of teaching and see larger conversations across the university. EGSA offer representative positions for the Graduate Studies Committee, Undergraduate Studies Committee, Graduate Professional Council, Diversity Committee, and others. Additionally, each year two EGSA representatives are elected to serve on the Creative Writing Committee and they plan the Monica A. Hand Graduate Memorial Reading Series, serve subcommittees, and serve as liaisons between the students and faculty.  

Job Market Workshop

A Job Market Workshop is offered each year, and is usually taken during the last year of study. workshop provides a space for graduates to draft, assemble, and receive feedback on their job market materials.

Assistant to Directors of Study

Students have the opportunity to apply for three assistant-to-directors-of-study positions each year: Assistant to the Director of Creative Writing, Assistant to the Director of Graduate Studies, and Assistant to the Director of Composition. Each of these positions offer one course release during the year in which the student holds the position.

Support for Travel to Conferences

The English Department offer competitive scholarships to support graduate student traveling for conferences and professional development. The department awards three, competitive, $700 scholarships each semester. Students can also apply for travel reimbursements through EGSA, and through Creative Writing for travel to AWP.

University Professional Development Opportunities

Certificates and Minors:

The University of Missouri Graduate School also offers certificates and graduate minors. Recent students of our program have pursued minors in Women’s and Gender Studies, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and College Teaching.

Professionalization Courses, Workshops, and Opportunities

The University of Missouri Graduate School offers courses and workshop to help students across disciplines for future faculty roles, including the Preparing Future Faculty Program, workshops for inclusive and diverse teaching, and training in CV compilation and drafting. A full list of Graduate School programs/workshops can be found here

Visiting Writers Series

Our program boasts a thriving Visiting Writers Series of established and up-and-coming writers. Recent visitors have included Maggie Nelson, Colson Whitehead, Carolyn Forché, Karen Russell, Deborah Eisenberg, Joan Silber, Natasha Tretheway, Lorrie Moore, Robert Pinsky, Terrance Hayes, Maggie Nelson, Joy Castro, Jami Attenberg, Michael Czyzniejewski, F. Douglas Brown, Tyehimba Jess, Jose Orduna, Jericho Parms, Ryan Van Meter, Willis Barnstone, Steve Tomasula, Claudia Rankine, Roxane Gay, Christian Bök, Susannah Mintz, and Alicia Ostriker. More information can be found on the English department calendar, and via our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages.

Annual Awards
The creative writing program offers a number of prizes through our annual writing contests. Yearly deadlines fall between March and April. A list of prizes and entry guidelines is available below.

MU Creative Writing Program Contest Guidelines

Call for Nominations

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 both outside writers of national reputation and internal Creative Writing faculty. Winners will be announced in late April.

General Guidelines: Take note of the specific directions for the prize(s) you are entering and format according to the Awards Flyer located on the right-hand side of this page.


March 15th Deadline:


Short Story: No more than two stories per person. Stories should not exceed 7,000 words. Please include word count on manuscript. 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 may be entered. Poems submitted for this award may not be submitted for the Academy of American Poets Prize.

  • 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 by a student currently enrolled at MU.

  • Maximum of three poems may be entered per person.
  • Poems submitted for the Mahan Poetry Award may not be submitted for this award.
  • 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. Please include word count on manuscript.
  • 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



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


April 1st Deadline:

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



Frances W. Kerr Awards for Excellence in Writing in Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, and Drama

March 15th deadline for students to request instructor nomination; April 1st deadline for instructors to submit works 



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:

Fiction: 2 stories per section taught

Poetry: 2 poems from one student in each section taught

Nonfiction: 2 nonfiction pieces per section taught

3) You may nominate student work from the current speing semester and prior spring, summer, and fall semesters.

4) This contest will be judged anonymously. 

5) Judges will be appointed by the Director of the Creative Writing Program.


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