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Department of English Language and Literature

Letter from the Director

Established 30 years ago by James Dickey, the University of South Carolina MFA in Creative Writing is a three-year program housed within the English department. We accept four poets and four fiction writers each year, maintaining the workshops at twelve. Workshops are run by our core faculty, consisting of poets Nikky Finney, Sam Amadon, Liz Countryman, and Fred Dings, creative non-fiction writer Jim Barilla, and fiction writers Elise Blackwell, David Bajo, and Claire Jiménez.

Graduates of our program have received fellowships and residencies from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, the Sewanee Writers Conference, the MacDowell Colony, Cave Canem, the Vermont Studio Center, Hub-Bub, the Frost Place, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Callaloo. They’ve published work in venues such as The Atlantic, Blackbird, Esquire, The Gettysburg Review, Gulf Coast, Prairie Schooner, The Rumpus, Virginia Quarterly Review, and The BreakBeats Poets anthologies. They’ve gone on to study in creative PhD programs at the University of Houston, Florida State University, University of Cincinnati, and University of Nebraska, and to work as tenure-track professors, lecturers, literary agents, and editors at presses and literary magazines.

Two long-running reading series allow us to bring in a diverse array of internationally renowned poets and writers every fall and spring. In recent years, our Fall Festival of Writers has featured Claudia Rankine, Solmaz Sharif, Terrance Hayes, Lydia Millet, Karen Joy Fowler, James Ellroy, Bobbie Ann Mason, Susan Cheever, and Eliza Griswold. Our spring series, The Open Book, recently brought in Juan Felipe Herrera, Elizabeth Strout, Timothy Donnelly, Ian McEwan, Teju Cole, Paul Auster, Jennifer Egan, George Saunders, Celeste Ng, Rita Dove, and Martin Amis. All of these visitors give master classes exclusive to our MFA students.

Poets & Writers includes us on their list of “fully-funded” MFA programs. Our students also appreciate that Columbia is a lively and yet affordable city.

The MFA community at USC is inviting and dynamic, a good place for a writer or poet to evolve, experiment, learn, compose, and live.

All of our MFAs teach in the English department and work in the university writing center under faculty mentorship. Students have additional opportunities in our MFA-run Split P Program, which puts poets and writers in our public high school and elementary school classrooms. All MFAs also have the opportunity to work as editors and producers of the university’s literary journal, Cola Literary Review.

All MFAs are invited to participate in our long-running reading series, Shark’s Parlor, named after the Dickey poem. Held once a month at a local watering hole, this series features lively readings by MFA students and faculty, with the occasional visiting writer or poet—recently, Ari Banias, Virginia Konchan, and Gabrielle Fuentes. Turnouts are always plentiful. Additionally, a number of visiting poets read at the Oversound Reading Series. Recent readers include: Andrew Zawacki, Elizabeth Arnold, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Lindsay Turner, Thomas Hummel, and Thibault Raoult.

The MFA community at USC is inviting and dynamic, a good place for a writer or poet to evolve, experiment, learn, compose, and live.

Our application deadline is January 1.

Samuel Amadon
MFA Director

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.