VCU Creative Writing M.F.A. program celebrates 30 years

Nationally ranked program has produced numerous notable authors, poets

Virginia Commonwealth University will mark the 30th anniversary of its nationally ranked Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program this week with a reunion bringing together students, faculty and alumni.

The program, part of VCU's Department of English in the College of Humanities and Sciences, will hold festivities in honor of the anniversary on April 4 and 5.

"The VCU M.F.A. program community — including both its current students and the extended community created by its graduates — is an accomplished, imaginative, fascinating and mutually supportive group of writers who have significantly expanded the literary life of our region and our country," said Gregory Donovan, Ph.D., director of creative writing and an associate English professor. "And those of us who have worked with them as faculty mentors, both in creative writing and in literature courses, have very much enjoyed that privilege."

The program has invited all M.F.A. alumni to attend the event. It will feature panel discussions such as: "You got an M.F.A. … But what do you do for a living?" and "Your first or second book," as well as alumni readings, a spotlight on faculty publications, an alumni gala reception and more.

Anyone interested in attending is asked to RSVP to Donovan at For more details and the full schedule, go to:

VCU's M.F.A. program stands out for a number of reasons, Donovan said. Its faculty includes a number of deeply committed teachers who are also accomplished writers, including two recent hires: Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Claudia Emerson and creative nonfiction writer Harrison Candelaria Fletcher. In addition to Donovan, Emerson and Fletcher, other teachers include poets David Wojahn, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and Kathleen Graber, a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and fiction writers Susann Cokal, Tom De Haven and Clint McCown.

Thirty years ago, Donovan said, the M.F.A. program started out small and it has remained fairly small, enrolling a total of roughly 30 to 35 students per year, allowing faculty members to provide more personal attention to students' writing.

"[One thing that has changed is that] students are now recruited from across the country and represent a widely divergent group," he said. "One thing that hasn't changed is a tradition of students supporting and respecting each other while appropriately challenging one another to achieve more in their work."

The M.F.A. program has also continued to evolve in its offerings, most recently expanding its offerings in the genre of creative nonfiction.

The program is home – in collaboration with New Virginia Review Inc. – to the online journal Blackbird, which publishes fiction, poetry, nonfiction, video essays and drama, and has become recognized both nationally and internationally.

The program also hosts three important national literary prizes – the Cabell First Novelist Award for best first novel in a given year; the Levis Reading Prize for the best first or second book of poetry published in a given year; and the Rebecca Mitchell Tarumoto Short Fiction Award, which is awarded every other year for the best short story published in Blackbird.


Subscribe for free to the weekly VCU News email newsletter at and receive a selection of stories, videos, photos, news clips and event listings in your inbox every Thursday. VCU students, faculty and staff automatically receive the newsletter.