Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

NEWS
Scott CairnsAnnouncing January’s Featured Guest:
Scott Cairns, Acclaimed Poet and Teacher

At our January 2021 writers retreat, we are honored to host Scott Cairns, author of The End of Suffering, Idiot Psalms, and Short Trip to the Edge. An award-winning poet and memoirist, as well as a gifted professor with extensive experience teaching in MFA programs, Cairns brings an incisive and thoughtful perspective to writing, art, and theology. (Read more…)

Join our next cohort, beginning August 2020 — Accelerated, Low-Residency Creative Writing MFA
Earn a terminal degree in creative writing in less than two years with our accelerated, low-residency MFA program. Students can study anywhere in the world, joining faculty, guest authors like Bret Lott and Scott Cairns, and peers at three annual Texas-based writers retreats. (Apply now…)


Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is a 45-credit-hour terminal degree. The workshop-driven program provides students a rigorous creative environment to pursue fiction, poetry, or creative non-fiction writing, building on a rich foundation of apprenticeship and critical studies. A parallel MFA in Screenwriting is also available.

The MFA utilizes an accelerated, low-residency model designed to meet the needs of today’s students, while emphasizing a strong commitment to excellence in craft, analysis, and creativity. Three times per year, students and faculty gather either at HBU’s campus or for a writers’ retreat in cities like Galveston or Austin. Each residency features workshops and extensive interaction with notable professional writers serving as guest instructors, as well as ongoing mentorship from HBU’s exceptional full-time writing faculty.

Between residencies, students work from home, maintaining connections with their cohort through online workshops and ongoing coursework. These long-distance classes preserve HBU’s apprenticeship model, providing frequent feedback and personalized direction from each student’s writing mentors and peers. While the low-residency model allows writers to continue to live and work in their home cities, students should expect to commit considerable time every week to practicing their craft in order to successfully develop and hone their creative skills.

The  accelerated schedule allows students to complete the MFA degree in less than two years. For professional writers, the Master of Fine Arts serves as a terminally qualifying degree, allowing successful graduates to teach at the university level. However, the program’s primary goal is to nurture students’ creative potential, ensuring that their artistic craft is sharpened and developed.

Most importantly, the core of this degree remains HBU’s steadfast commitment to providing a learning experience that instills in students a passion for academic, spiritual and professional excellence as a result of our Christian convictions. Students learn how this faith has guided writers, storytellers, and artists throughout history and will be inspired by this rich heritage as together we seek to craft new works reflecting our Creator’s goodness, truth, and beauty.

Applications for the next cohort (beginning August 2020) are now open.
A writing portfolio is required for admission.

Apply Now


Program Highlights

  • Workshop-Based Mentoring

    The MFA in Creative Writing places a strong emphasis on practice and feedback, using rigorous faculty-led workshops throughout the program. Students will work closely with a writing mentor and receive valuable critiques from their cohort of peers.

  • Study from Anywhere

    The MFA in Creative Writing is offered as a low-residency program, requiring approximately five weeks of Texas-based instruction across six writers retreats, supplemented by year-round online workshops that can be completed from anywhere in the world. (Learn more…)

  • Accelerated Program

    With intense, focused classroom instruction during four Texas-based residencies and year-round online workshops, students earn the 45-credit-hour terminal degree in Creative Writing in less than two years. (Learn more…)

  • Terminal MFA Degree

    The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is a terminal degree. When coupled with professional work in the field, the MFA qualifies graduates to teach Creative Writing at the university-level.

  • Learn from the Best

    Each residency features notable professional writers. The focused retreat structure means students have extensive face-to-face interaction with the visiting authors, while year-round online workshops also facilitate feedback from HBU’s exceptional writing faculty and distinguished adjunct instructors. (Learn more…)

  • Strong Christian Foundation

    HBU is committed to providing a learning experience that instills a passion for academic, spiritual and professional excellence as a result of our Christian convictions. MFA students explore the rich heritage of our faith, which has guided writers, storytellers, and artists throughout history.


Scott CairnsJanuary’s Featured Guest:
Scott Cairns, Acclaimed Poet and Teacher

HBU is pleased to host Scott Cairns, author of The End of Suffering, Idiot Psalms, and Short Trip to the Edge at our upcoming January 2021 writing retreat. An award-winning poet and memoirist, as well as a gifted professor with extensive experience teaching in MFA programs, Cairns brings an incisive and thoughtful perspective to writing, art, and theology. Cairns has written eight books of poetry and his work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Paris Review, The New Republic, Poetry, and elsewhere, and has been anthologized in Best Spiritual Writing and Best American Spiritual Writing. Besides writing poetry, Cairns has also written a spiritual memoir, Short Trip to the Edge, and the libretto for the oratorios “The Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp” and “A Melancholy Beauty.” Spirituality plays an integral role in Cairns’ writing; in an interview, he said, “I’ve come to think of beauty as how God woos us to himself. One doesn’t so much create it or illuminate it as partake of it. Thereafter, one participates, collaborates, in its endless development.”

As the featured speaker during the MFA’s January 2021 writing retreat, Cairns will share his thoughts on the craft of art and writing, while working closely with our creative writing students. In his passion for teaching, excellence as an author, and thoughtful integration of faith, Cairn embodies the ideals at the heart of HBU’s School of Fine Arts and we are honored to have him as a distinguished guest to teach, mentor, and encourage our MFA students.


At the upcoming August 2020 residency, HBU is also pleased to host the multi-talented Nambi E. Kelley, a screenwriter for Showtime’s The Chi and an accomplished playwright and actress. Kelley has penned plays for Steppenwolf and Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Lincoln Center in New York, and internationally. Her adaptation of Sam French’s Native Son has enjoyed productions across the country, from Yale Repertory Theatre to New York City.

Author Bret LottRecent Guests:
Novelist Bret Lott, Poet Kimberly Povloski, and Screenwriter Whit Stillman

HBU was pleased to host acclaimed novelist Bret Lott as the keynote speaker at the first writers retreat for the new Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Lott is the New York Times best-selling author of more than a dozen books, including Letters & Life: On Being a Writer, on Being a Christian and Jewel, an Oprah Book Club novel. He has served as an editor for The Southern Review and the journal Crazyhorse. Currently, Lott teaches creative writing at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. He has also been named a Fulbright Senior American Scholar and served as a member of the National Council on the Arts.

Kimberly PovloskiKimberly Povloski is a poet, educator, and editor from Houston, Texas. She received her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Eastern Washington University. She has spoken on such topics as image and (negative) space at Selkirk College’s A Stone’s Throw Writing Symposium and Houston Baptist University’s Writer’s Conference. She is a former poetry editor of Willow Springs. She currently teaches at the University of Houston and is proud to work with Writers in the Schools.

Povloski’s first book of poetry, hell of birds, was chosen as the winner of the 2018 Adrift Chapbook Contest and published by Driftwood Press. Erica Dawson describes it as “ferocious” and “arresting”. Laura Kasischke writes that the poems within carry “the heaven and the hell” of our lives. Other work appears in Gris-Gris.

Screenwriter and director Whit Stillman is known for The Last Days of Disco (1998), Damsels in Distress (2011), Love & Friendship (2016), and other fantastic films. His directorial debut, Metropolitan, premiered at Sundance in 1990 and earned him an Academy Award nod for Best Original Screenplay. His most recent film, Love & Friendship, returned him to Sundance before being distributed by Amazon Studios. Stillman is one of the most consistently sharp and delightful voices in contemporary cinema, bringing a brilliant wit and incisive perspective to his work.

Brett Lott discusses being an artist of faith in this video about his book Letters & Life: On Being a Writer, on Being a Christian:


Accelerated, Low-Residency Model

Our unique model is tailored to fit the active schedules of today’s writers, allowing students to study from anywhere in the world through online workshops, while not sacrificing invaluable face-to-face instruction with faculty, guest authors, and peers facilitated through three annual Texas-based writers retreats.

With our accelerated, low-residency model, students earn a 45-credit-hour terminal degree in Creative Writing in less than two years. Across six residencies, students will gain 30 credit hours of intensive residential classes, providing essential foundations for the 15 credit hours of online courses that supplement the in-person instruction (learn more about the courses offered).

MFA in Creative Writing — Sample Schedule

August Residency (6 credit hrs)
week-long on-campus residency
August 2–7, 2020
WRIT 6330 or 6340: Poetic Techniques or Fiction Techniques
WRIT 6331 or 6341: Writing Workshop
Featured Guest: Nambi E. Kelley
Fall Semester (3 credit hrs)
online, Aug–Dec
WRIT 6332 or 6342: Writing Workshop II
January Retreat (6 credit hrs)
week-long destination retreat
January 10–16, 2021
WRIT 6310: Faith, Culture, and the Arts
WRIT 6333 or 6343: Writing Workshop III
Featured Guest: Scott Cairns
Spring Semester (3 credit hrs)
online, Jan–May
WRIT 6334 or 6344: Writing Workshop IV
Spring Writers Conference (3 credit hrs)
three-day on-campus conference
April 29–May 1, 2021
WRIT 6320: Topics & Genres: Writers on Writing I
Summer Semester (3 credit hrs)
online, May–Aug
Cross-Disciplinary Writing Workshop
August Residency (6 credit hrs)
week-long on-campus residency
WRIT 6320: Topics & Genres: Writers on Writing II
WRIT 6390: Master Class
Fall Semester (3 credit hrs)
online, Aug–Dec
WRIT 6391: Thesis I
January Retreat (6 credit hrs)
week-long destination retreat
WRIT 6310: Faith, Culture, and the Arts
WRIT 6320: Topics & Genres: Writers on Writing III
Spring Semester (3 credit hrs)
online, Jan–May
WRIT 6392: Thesis II
Spring Writers Conference (3 credit hrs)
three-day on-campus conference
WRIT 6320: Topics & Genres: Writers on Writing IV

What to expect at the residencies…
Each writing residency is carefully planned to provide an ideal, concentrated creative environment for learning and lasting growth. Bond with peers in small, focused workshops and learn directly from seasoned professional writers through extended conversations in-class and over meals.

The residencies also provide an opportunity to be inspired and challenged by a wide variety of writers, as we bring together poets, fiction authors, creative non-fiction writers, screenwriters, and playwrights in cross-disciplinary discussions.

August On-Campus Residency
For six days in early August, students gather on HBU’s campus for classes and workshops. With special visiting instructors, the August residency explores how the work of great poets and authors have inspired and shaped today’s successful writers, offering students a chance to build upon a great tradition, while developing  unique voices of their own.

January Destination Retreat
For seven days, students travel to a Texas-based retreat location in cities like Galveston, San Antonio, or Austin. Be inspired by a fresh locale and the beauty of God’s natural world, as we take a break from our busy lives and gather together to focus on artistry and creativity. This retreat focuses on the craft of writing and explores how artists of faith can create in ways that reflect the goodness, truth, and beauty of our Creator.

Spring Writers Conference
For three days in late April, students gather on HBU’s campus for the annual HBU Writers Conference, featuring additional guest speakers and an opportunity to connect with writers, editors, and publishers.

Meals and lodging for the residencies are included in tuition. Students are responsible for their own travel arrangements.


COVID-19 Contingency Plan: Currently, we are planning the next residency for August 2020, but are constantly monitoring the current situation, including all advisories and guidelines. The program is prepared to shift upcoming residencies to an online modality, if need be.


Courses Offered

The MFA in Creative Writing is a 45-credit-hour terminal degree. 30 hours of the degree are completed at six different residencies, while the remaining 15 hours are facilitated through online workshops throughout the accelerated program, which can be completed in less than two years.

For additional information on MFA courses and for the current official degree plan, see the HBU Course Catalog or select any course below for more details...

  • WRIT 6310 Faith, Culture, and the Arts I & II (6 hrs)

    This course explores the role of the Christian artist in culture. Students will study how great Christian thinkers have thought about culture and art throughout church history and be challenged to understand their vocation as writers from a biblical perspective. Students will also develop an understanding of how to live out their faith through their work as they seek to affect the culture around them.

  • WRIT 6320 Topics & Genres: Writers on Writing I–IV (12 hrs)

    Study with experienced authors or poets, exploring the creative works that have inspired or shaped their writing. Topics will vary at each residency depending on the instructor and may also take into account the genres and mediums of interest to the current cohort of students. Cross-disciplinary courses in fiction, poetry, and cinema will be offered.

  • WRIT 6330 / 6340 Poetic Techniques or Fiction Techniques (3 hrs)

    A study of the techniques available to writers of poetry or fiction. In Poetry Techniques, students will examine the various uses of form, metaphor, symbolism, meter, and narrative in poems. In Fiction Techniques, students will examine the various uses of person, character, voice, dialogue, detail, and plot.

  • WRIT 6331–6334 / 6341–6344 Writing Workshop I–IV (15 hrs)

    Writing workshops in which students will create and revise original works of poetry or fiction (or in certain cases, other genres such as creative non-fiction). Over the course of the semester students will learn to critically assess their own work as well as the work of their peers.

    Students select one medium to specialize in for 12 hours and are required to take at least one cross-disciplinary course.

  • WRIT 6390 Master Class (3 hrs)

    This course is a capstone experience for students. In this course, students will reflect upon what they have learned in all previous courses. WRIT 6390 will also prepare students to begin their thesis.

  • WRIT 6391–6392 Thesis I & II (6 hrs)

    Under the direction of a faculty mentor, students will write and defend a faculty-approved creative writing thesis.

  • WRIT 6351 Creative Writing Workshop: Non-Fiction (elective)

    A writing workshop in which students will create and revise original works of literary non-fiction. Over the course of the semester students will learn to critically assess their own work as well as the work of their peers. (Students may also write creative non-fiction in many of the Fiction Workshop courses)

  • WRIT 6356 Memoir & Personal Narrative (elective)

    A writing workshop in which students will create and revise original works of memoir and personal narrative. Over the course of the semester students will learn to critically assess their own work as well as the work of their peers.

  • WRIT 6357 Criticism and Reviews (elective)

    A writing workshop in which students will learn the craft of criticism and review writing. Over the course of the semester students will learn to critically assess their own work as well as the work of their peers.

Admissions Requirements

  • Personal Statement – Please submit a personal statement, between 300 and 500 words, sharing your desire to attend the HBU Graduate School and how you feel a degree from HBU will assist you in your academic and professional careers.
  • Résumé – Email a current résumé to the Graduate School at GradAdmissions@hbu.edu.
  • Writing Portfolio – Please submit a portfolio containing examples of your writing to The Graduate School. Your writing sample must be at least 10-15 pages in length for poetry or 20-30 pages in length for fiction or creative non-fiction, which may contain one story, multiple stories or excerpts. Additional work from other genres may be included as well.

Also Available

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