The Columbia University MFA Writing Program is highly regarded for its rigorous approach to literary instruction and for its faculty of acclaimed writers and editors who are devoted and dedicated teachers. The faculty, the students, and the curriculum represent and foster a full range of artistic and literary diversity. Students are encouraged to make the most of their own artistic instincts and to realize as fully as possible, beyond any perceived limitations, their potential as writers.
At the core of the curriculum is the writing workshop. All workshops are small (7 to 12 students), ensuring that all students present work at least three times per semester. Students receive substantial written responses to their work from their professors and classmates; they also have regularly scheduled one-on-one conferences with faculty. The second-year thesis workshops (6 to 9 students) are dedicated to shaping each student’s work into book form.
The Columbia MFA is a two-year program requiring 60 credits of course work to complete the degree and can take up to three years to complete the thesis. Students concentrate in fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction, and also have the option of pursuing a joint course of study in writing and literary translation. Most MFA programs require 48 credits or as few as 36 credits, but the Columbia Writing Program considers the study of literature from the practitioner's point of view—reading as a writer—essential to a writer's education. Every semester, students take a workshop and, on average, three craft-oriented seminars and/or lectures designed to illuminate, inform, clarify, augment and inspire each student’s experience and practice as a writer. New seminars, lectures and master classes are created every year.
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Professor Phillip Lopate is the director of the Nonfiction concentration in the graduate writing program of Columbia School of the Arts. He is the author of 17 books of essays, other nonfiction, fiction and poetry, and he has edited four anthologies.
Emma Cline (’13), a 25-year-old graduate of the Columbia MFA program, has been making global waves in the publishing world this month. Her debut novel, The Girls, was bought by Random House as part of a three-book deal.
Bill Roorbach ('90) has been named a Kirkus Prize finalist for his novel The Remedy for Love, a work that Kirkus Reviews called "a closely observed meditation on isolation and loneliness 'in a world in which no social problem was addressed till it was a disaster.' "
Writing program alumna Molly Antopol ('07) has received her second honor from the National Book Foundation in as many years: She has been longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award in Fiction for her book The UnAmericans.
Two Columbia poets appear among the ten longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award, one of the nation's most hallowed writing honors: Professor Mark Strand for his Collected Poems (Knopf/Random House) and alumna Claudia Rankine ('93) for her book
The Poetry Society of America has awarded both of its 2014 New York Chapbook Fellowships to Columbia writers: student Max Ritvo and Eva Saavedra ('11). Each fellow was selected as a winner by a distinguished poet; winning the awards means that the fellows will have books published by the society and will win a monetary award of $1,000.