English and creative writing degrees

Master's Degree in Creative Writing

Why Earn Your Creative Writing Degree at Saint Leo University?

Whether your dream is to be at the top of the bestseller list or at the head of a corporate boardroom, the ability to produce concise and thoughtful written work is a fundamental skill. And our low-residency Master of Arts in Creative Writing gives aspiring fiction writers, essayists, memoirists, and poets the tools to begin a new phase of their creative life.

Our low-residency format provides extreme flexibility for working adults, meaning that you can pursue your writing goals online without interrupting your existing commitments to career, community, and family. Students spend one week each summer in an intensive residency, then return home to work on their own creative projects in a one-on-one mentor relationship with a member of our core faculty, all of whom are published writers of national reputation.

Designed to be completed in just two calendar years, this 36-hour master’s degree requires three summer residencies, four semesters of study, and a book-length thesis of the student’s creative work.

  • The 2022 residency will be held from July 15th to July 22nd on University Campus.
  • Saint Leo’s is the only M.A. program in the nation with an optional track of study in war literature and writing for veterans.
  • The Saint Leo M.A. offers an affordable way for apprentice writers to explore and enhance their creative lives.

The Master of Arts in Creative Writing is an advanced program that offers degree tracks in Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction with an optional thematic strand in war literature and writing for veterans.

Learning Experience:
Est. Time to Complete:
2 years
Credit Hours:
36 hours

Master's Creative Writing Program Details

Our master's degree in writing is a blend of writing and literary studies, with an emphasis on individualized instruction. Semester study plans are determined collaboratively between students and faculty mentors and tailored according to the genre (poetry, fiction, nonfiction) of study. 

How the Creative Writing Program Works

The program begins with an eight-day annual residency, held on the Saint Leo University Campus, located in suburban Tampa. The residency is designed as an immersive and contemplative retreat; the daily schedule includes a workshop where a faculty mentor leads small groups of students in discussing their own creative work. The rest of the day is divided between lectures, talks on issues of craft in creative writing, and panel discussions, each led by a faculty member, a distinguished visiting writer, or a professional in the writing field, such as an editor or literary agent. Each day ends with a reading by an M.A. faculty member or a visiting writer; these events are free and open to the public.

At the residency, students meet one-on-one with a faculty mentor to design an annual work plan. These plans are specifically tailored to the individual and help guide each student on a unique path to the completion of the program. Then, during the fall and spring semesters, students complete course work from home, communicating with fellow students and mentors online.

In a writing workshop course, each student creates and refines original work in fiction, poetry, or nonfiction. Each workshop is paired with a foundations course, where students read both contemporary and classic examples of writing in their chosen genre of study. In their fourth semester, students work on compiling, revising and editing their creative work into a master’s thesis. Students complete their degree requirements in a third and final summer residency, each giving a public reading from their work and leading a seminar on a subject of literary interest for the other students in the program.

What skills you will learn?

  • Produce a substantial body of original creative work that is of publishable quality.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of various forms and structures of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.
  • Critically analyze literature, making connections between texts, authors, and historical periods of the works.
  • Closely read and demonstrate an understanding of the historical context, literary influences, and traditions of canonical and modern/postmodern prose narratives and poems.
  • Thoughtfully engage with the workshop process of peer critique.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of editing and revision techniques.
  • Articulate their understanding of literary/critical theory through informal discussion, examination, and performance in a series of formal written and oral projects.
  • Generate original scholarship on the literary texts explored in this program.

Career Outlook

No matter which learning experience you choose, you will receive plenty of professional development opportunities, industry knowledge from expert professors, and support from the Saint Leo community. All this together means that you will be ready for a successful career or continued studies upon graduation.

  • Saint Leo University students in Psychology classroom
  • How will you gain real experience?

    Classroom learning is only part of the creative writing degree program at Saint Leo University. We also know the value of hands-on experience. That is why internships and research projects are built into the curriculum. Saint Leo has a strong relationship with many internship organizations across the country, including Boys & Girls Club and Head Start, in addition to other programs for aging, autism, addiction, clinical research, children’s services, victim advocacy, and workforce development. 

    Plus, our Career Services center is always available to help connect you with a variety of other experiential learning opportunities to fit your individual career goals.

What are the top creative writing degree jobs?

Career Growth Salary
Writer/Author 9% $67,120 per year
Technical Writer 12% $74,650 per year
Editor 5% $63,400 per year

From the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020.

Where are Saint Leo creative writing graduates now?

Some graduates of the masters in creative writing will enter the program with no expectation of pursuing further advanced degrees or traditional academic careers. Some will already be immersed in careers that may or may not be linked to the creative arts. Some will wish to wholeheartedly pursue the writing life. Therefore, when discussing outcomes for our students, we keep in mind that each will choose a different career and artistic path.

How to Apply

This page covers everything you need to know in order to put together your best possible application to our program.  

For most graduate programs in creative writing, including ours, the most important part of your application is a sample of your creative work. We base admission decisions primarily on a written sample of the prospective student’s creative work submitted in the genre the student intends to study. If you want to study fiction, you should send us a short story or a portion of a novel, preferably the beginning. Poets should send poems; nonfiction writers should send their best narrative nonfiction of any type.

We read applications on a rolling basis. Once your file is complete, we try to make a decision on your application within one week. Our summer program begins July 15. 

Supporting materials that accompany an application (including transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement identifying the student’s reasons for pursuing graduate study) are used to help consider the other positive attributes a student might contribute to the university and program communities respectively.

Visit Graduate Creative Writing Admissions page

Advice on Applying to the Saint Leo M.A. in Creative Writing

For the Personal Statement:

  • Give us a sense of who you are and what you’ve read and why what you’ve read speaks to you. Stay away from platitudes and categorical statements.
  • If there’s a reason that the low-residency approach appeals to you, include it in your statement.
  • What writers have you read, what books have you loved, and how do they inform the kind of writer that you hope to be?
  • Finally, if there is something specific that you want to learn, a particular author or type of work that you hope to emulate, tell us here. The most helpful statements are the most specific.

For the Writing Sample:

  • Send only your best work.
  • Your writing sample should be in the genre in which you hope to be admitted; once you have been admitted to the program, you’ll have a chance to explore other modes and genres, but you should start in one genre. If you aren’t certain what your primary genre is, mention this conflict in your personal statement. All writing samples should be a minimum of 10 pages, and a maximum of 25.
  • We like to be able to read your work comfortably: all work should be in a 12 point, serif font, such as Times New Roman, Garamond, Cochin, etc., and prose manuscripts should be double-spaced. A minimum one-inch margin on all sides is necessary too. Please don’t shrink the margins to fit more pages. A smaller number of good pages beats a greater number of average ones every time.
  • We’re looking for promise implicit in the writing, even if that piece is substantially unfinished. The people who read your application are working writers and deal with this problem daily, in their own writing and teaching. Your strategy should be to send the piece (or pieces, as appropriate) best represents you as a writer.
  • Proofread. Check your spelling. This is a graduate program taught by professors of English. In other words, the rules apply, and spelling counts!

Learn Your Way:
Online, On Campus, or Near You

  • Saint Leo students and instructor in classroom
  • What are the on-campus facilities like?

    Students who pursue their degrees at Saint Leo’s main campus near sunny Tampa Bay, Florida, join a community of enthusiastic learners just like them. 

    Creative Writing students enjoy plenty of engaging learning opportunities both inside and outside the classroom, as well as exciting departmental events.

    Learn about the On-Campus Experience

  • What are the benefits of earning your creative writing degree online?

    Saint Leo University’s online learning experience provides a well-rounded education with the flexibility to tailor your course of study to meet your individual needs. We know our students have lives outside school, and we seek to meet them where they are. Online students can count on receiving excellent academics as well as opportunities for hands-on learning.

    Learn about the Online Experience

    Visit Online Admissions

  • Taking online classes has afforded me the opportunity to learn while maintaining a job. They give me some flexibility to study at times that work more cohesively with my schedule and allow me to utilize resources such as the library 24 hours a day.

    Bentley Streat | Hayes, VA

A student working at a laptop.

Are education centers near you offering creative writing degree programs?

You may also choose to pursue your degree through one of our education centers, which merge a traditional in-person education with the flexibility to match your lifestyle. Education centers offer eight-week academic terms as well as evening and weekend classes.

Explore Education Centers

College of Arts & Sciences

  • Saint Leo University - Kirk Hall
  • The College of Arts and Sciences at Saint Leo University offers students a broad education that lays a durable foundation for critical and independent thinking. The essential spirit of the liberal arts is a cornerstone of the varied degree programs. From biology to English to sociology, students enjoy a nice selection of in-demand degree programs for all interests.

    Learning takes place both in and out of the classroom. Students travel to Europe through our cultural immersion courses, research unique plant species while trekking through the Peruvian Amazon, and attend film screenings and poetry readings. With highly experienced professors who bring a wealth of practical knowledge to the classroom, students are prepared to work in a variety of rewarding fields. The College supports more than 30 degree programs across University Campus, education centers in five states, and online.

    Explore the College of Arts & Sciences

Meet Our Faculty

  • Anne Barngrover

    Anne Barngrover, Ph.D.

  • Gianna Russo

    Gianna Russo, M.F.A.

Welcome, from the Creative Writing Faculty!

The following message is for all new Saint Leo M.A. in Creative Writing students.

When people ask us about Saint Leo University, we tell them that we are an innovative institution where teaching and lifelong learning are of primary importance. And as with all of our graduate programs, our method is to give you the tools to succeed. Nowhere is that more obvious than in our creative writing program.

Our students range from recent college graduate to retirees, each with the shared goal of improving their writing, and being a part of a vital artistic community. They arrive driven by a desire to create, and to fully develop their capabilities as a writer; equally, they know how hard it can be to find the time to write. Our goal is to make sure they know how our program is a place to find exactly the type of support, guidance, and individual mentoring that helps each student take the first steps towards a career as a working writer.

Our program favors no type of writing, and no particular style; simply, you can expect to work with a faculty mentor to develop an individualized course of study tailor-made for your own writing goals. Your coursework provides structure and accountability to help you develop the independence and professionalism needed to excel in the writing world.

Our program begins with a single annual residency, scheduled to minimize its impact on the lives of our students. Because we begin and end on the weekend, it’s possible to attend our graduate program and spend just five business days away from home. You’ll spend one week on University campus in an immersive and contemplative retreat-like setting, and return home energized to tackle your course work and that dream project.

At the residency, you’ll work on your own creative projects under the tutelage of nationally known writers, as well as study what it means to be a professional writer, with craft lectures and panel discussions featuring literary agents, editors, and other luminaries in the arts.

Past visiting writers and artists have included Craig Finn, Tom Franklin, Amina Gautier, Jesse Goolsby, Beth Ann Fennelly, Barbara Hamby, Allison Joseph, David Kirby, Adam Johnson, Tom Piazza, and Aimee Nezhukumatahil. Our award-winning faculty will be joined at our 2022 residency by visiting writers Benjamin BuschKristi Coulter, and Michelle Falkoff.

We’re also the only graduate creative writing program to offer an optional track on the study of war literature and writing for veterans.

We would love to talk to you, about your story, your writing goals, and how our program can help you achieve those goals. Our admissions team stands ready to help you. All you need to do is reach out.


Dr. Anne Barngrover and Assistant Professor Gianna Russo

FAQs About the M.A. in Creative Writing Program

All admitted students begin our program by attending the June residency. We accept applications on a rolling basis through May 1 each year.

Simply, Saint Leo’s low-residency degree is a family- and career-friendly option for graduate study. Instead of relocating to attend a full-time graduate program, you attend classes on campus for just one eight-day period annually in July. The remainder of your course work is completed from home.

Low-residency degrees are particularly attractive to students who have career, community or family commitments that make quitting a job and relocating across the country impractical or even impossible. Many low-residency programs require two residencies per year, the Saint Leo M.A. requires just one, making it that much more accessible.

We hold a single eight-day residency each summer. Dates will be posted on the website. The inaugural residency is July 14-21, 2018.

Each day is divided into several different sessions. Students attend a workshop where they create and refine their own fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction. We eat lunch together as a community on campus. Our faculty and visiting writers lead lectures, craft talks, and discussions on topics ranging from canonical literature to more practical matters, all with a focus on teaching the student how to enter the world of writing professionally. After a dinner break, students return for readings by distinguished visiting writers and Saint Leo graduate creative writing faculty.

Our goal is to create and maintain a sense of community and shared endeavor between all of the working artists in our program. The most important part of the application is your own creative work; the admissions committee, comprised of faculty who teach in the program, looks at the writing sample and the student’s personal statement to assess whether the student has the ability to complete the thesis, the book-length creative project that is the cumulative result of the student’s workshop experience.

We are a new program. Our goal is to admit an initial cohort of around 15 students.

Students who choose a low-residency program for graduate study do not come from any specific demographic, ranging from recent college graduates, to working professionals seeking to explore new career options, through retirees pursuing the long-deferred dream of writing.

Our program is designed to be completed in just two calendar years. It requires 36 graduate credit hours of study. Students attend four semesters of study, plus three summer residencies.

We offer tracks of study in fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Within each of those genres, the possibilities are endless. We do not favor any particular school of writing. Our main focus is helping each student improve through a program tailored to their own unique goals.

The ability to produce concise and thoughtful written work is a fundamental skill not just for fiction writers, essayists, and poets, but also for successful professionals in almost any field. This is in keeping with the mission of Saint Leo University, which fosters a student-centered environment in which the love of learning is of prime importance.

The reasons someone pursues a graduate degree in the arts are as varied as the students who seek those degrees. Our degree is aimed primarily at students who are approaching writing as a type of personal development, or those who are just beginning their exploration of the writing life. That means our community is one that offers mentorship and supportive critique, and provides models of the professional writing life in all its various forms, helping students build a base of skills in the study of both writing and literature.

The M.A. at Saint Leo offers a broad approach to preparation for a possible writing career, requiring not only creative work but also the study of literature. These literature courses, called foundations courses, give an M.A. student a sense of both the historical and contemporary trends in their chosen genre of study. While the M.F.A. has been considered a terminal degree in the past, many writers—especially those who wish to teach at the university level—elect to continue their studies through the doctoral degree.

Saint Leo is a national leader in providing educational options for students of all types. All our programs are designed to assist professionals in meeting challenging career goals, and to prepare them for the rapidly changing world in which they live and work. But there is no “typical” low-residency student; the community is necessarily diverse in age and background, but it is very much a community, bound together by a shared love of writing and a desire to pursue personal development.

As you explore your continuing education, costs need not be an obstacle. The Saint Leo M.A. is an affordable advanced degree, costing as much as 50 percent less than degrees at other institutions.

Financial aid programs are available and there are ways to help you finance your educational investments. It may be helpful to know that there are federal student loan programs for graduate and professional students. Graduate students may be eligible for up to $20,500 in Unsubsidized Direct Loans.

Applying for financial aid is easy! The only application you need is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can be completed online at www.fafsa.ed.gov.

Alternate ways to finance your education:

  • Employer assistance
  • Military tuition assistance
  • Veteran benefits (352) 588-7534 or (352) 588-8980
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