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Creative Nonfiction – MFA in Writing

Our creative nonfiction faculty are essayists, journalists, memoirists; some write novels, as well. They experiment with form, to poignant and hilarious effect. They are homebodies and world travelers, seekers and skeptics. They write cover stories for Harper’s Magazine (Fenton Johnson, “The Future of Queer”) and travel essays for The New York Times (Roy Hoffman, “Captivated by the Ganges, a River of Souls”). They write memoirs of intersectionality (Rebecca Walker’s bestselling Black, White and Jewish), of a literary childhood in Kansas (Nancy McCabe’s From Little Houses to Little Women), of growing up in Nigeria (Elaine Orr’s Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life). One was part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalistic team (Dianne Aprile). Their names appear in the Best American series and in top magazines and literary journals everywhere. Visit our faculty page to read more.

The President of Spalding University, Tori Murden McClure, is an alum of our program. She studied creative nonfiction, then published an award-winning memoir about her solo row across the Atlantic Ocean.

A statement by our faculty distills their approach to teaching:

In our creative nonfiction concentration, we embrace the full range of literary techniques and elements employed by writers of other genres, including fiction, poetry and playwriting. You will explore subject matter, voice and point of view through an expansive territory that ranges from classic forms such as the personal essay, memoir and narrative nonfiction to more innovative forms such as the graphic memoir and lyric essay.

Although CNF implies a contract with the reader as to the veracity of its prose, its attempt to communicate “real life” must always be viewed somewhat skeptically, in the light of authorial subjectivity and selectivity. Truth in its broadest sense, and not factual accuracy in its narrowest, is the goal of CNF. Our faculty members are expert guides through the unique opportunities offered by this form, and they themselves are always exploring and always learning.

This approach helps our students and alums launch themselves into the world as practicing, publishing writers of creative nonfiction. Alumni essays have appeared in publications from The New York Times to The Missouri ReviewCreative Nonfiction to Oxford AmericanSalon to O, the Oprah Magazine to Vogue. Their memoirs, narrative nonfiction books and essay collections have been published by HarperCollins, Riverhead, University of Nebraska Press, University of Alaska Press and many others. Their prizes include the Orlando Prize for Creative Nonfiction and the Frank McCourt Creative Nonfiction Prize, and their titles have been Amazon Bestsellers and Heartland Indie Bestsellers.

Past visiting writers include:

  • National Book Award winner Barry Lopez (Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape)
  • Molly Peacock (Paradise, Piece By Piece)
  • Phillip Lopate (The Art of the Personal Essay, editor)
  • Terry Tempest Williams (Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place)
  • Pico Iyer (The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama)
  • Scott Russell Sanders (Writing from the Center)