Center for Writers
Center for Writers
Do you offer courses or specializations in genre writing?
Insofar as genre writing means commercial, marketable, or formulaic writing, we don’t. Like most creative writing programs, we stress literary fiction. That said, many of our students engage in genre writing on the side or otherwise employ elements of genre writing, including fantasy, mystery, and noir, in their literary fiction. Our literature program is also renowned for its specialty in children’s literature, and many of our students find overlaps in their critical and creative work.
Do my letters of recommendation need to come from academics? What if I have been out of an academic setting for many years?
Because the graduate program requires both critical and creative work, we need to ensure that every admitted student is fully capable of doing both kinds of work. Letters of recommendation are one way of assessing those capacities. While letters from academics are not strictly required, the letters do need to attest to those abilities.
Do I need to have a prior degree in English or Creative Writing to apply?
Not necessarily. We encourage students of all backgrounds to apply. That said, because the graduate program demands a high level of study in literature and creative writing, it is important that students be prepared to face those demands.
What kinds of grades do admitted students typically have?
Grades are only one component of the application and are used to help paint an overall picture of the applicant. Mediocre grades can be offset by other components, especially a strong writing sample. We also pay close attention to what courses have been taken and how a student’s learning has evolved.
Are nontraditional students welcome to apply?
By all means. We often find that some of the most talented creative writers are those with ample life experience on which to draw. We are far less concerned with what an applicant has accomplished than with where she hopes to go.
What if I’ve never published before?
See the last answer. Of course, if you have published, we’d encourage you to mention where and when in your application materials.
What is the most important part of the application?
The writing sample, by far. While we consider all aspects of an application, the writing sample is most crucial and can be used to offset other concerns.
Can my writing sample exceed or fall below the guideline of fifteen to twenty pages?
Yes, but there is no guarantee that any pages beyond the suggested length will be read, and any sample falling short of that length could raise suspicions.
How important is the GRE, and what are the average scores of admitted students?
The GRE is treated holistically in the application. That is, like the other components, it helps give a sense of how prepared an applicant is to undertake graduate study. We are well aware that the test is problematic and often unreliable in forecasting student success, particularly for underrepresented groups. We have in the past admitted, and will continue to admit, students with a wide range of test scores. Some of our current students have scored in the 98th percentile on sections, and others have scored well below. We do not publish averages of admitted students.
Do you have an online or low-residency option?
We do not. All of our courses are conducted in-person. Some students in advanced stages choose to work remotely, especially while employed at other universities.
What is your placement rate, and what kind of professionalization help do you offer?
Please see our alumni section for a full list of graduate outcomes, include faculty positions and publications. We are fortunate to boast one of the oldest and most prominent creative writing Ph.D. Programs, and many of our graduates have gone on to distinguished careers in academia, publishing, and writing. That said, anyone considering graduate studies in the humanities should be fully aware of the risks incurred in pursuing that path, including the greatly diminished job market. We take professionalization extremely seriously in our program and work with all students, starting on day one, to prepare them for careers after graduate study. Some of our steps include regular professionalization seminars, individualized feedback on all job application materials, practice job talks and interviews, and opportunities to meet with visiting writers and editors. We also do our best to continue these connections long after graduate study.
Do you offer an M.F.A. in creative writing? Why should I pursue an M.A. or Ph.D.?
We do not currently offer an M.F.A. degree. Many of our students have completed M.F.A. degrees prior to enrolling in the Ph.D. Program. We also offer a terminal M.A. degree, which often serves as a springboard for those wishing to enter a Ph.D. program. Unlike the traditional M.F.A. degree, the creative writing M.A. and Ph.D. degrees each combine formal literary study and creative writing. Increasingly, the Ph.D. has come to replace the M.F.A. as the prerequisite for hiring in creative writing jobs, though there are exceptions, and you should research the field before you apply. You might, for example, glance at the creative writing jobs and hires posted on the Creative Writing Jobs Wiki.
If I complete your terminal M.A. degree, can I enroll in your Ph.D. program?
You would have to apply alongside the other applicants and in accordance with the deadlines. A number of our students have in the past done strong enough work as M.A. students to gain acceptance into our Ph.D. program. Others have gone on to teach or to enroll in other graduate programs. In 2019, for example, graduating students from our M.A. program went on to enroll in the M.F.A. Programs at the University of Michigan and L.S.U.
As a creative writer, wouldn’t I be better off studying creative writing in New York? Why would I come to Mississippi?
This probably depends on you and your goals as a writer. Our program, above all, helps students improve in their craft. We work dedicatedly to that end, and we offer immersion in a welcoming and supportive community. For that, we host regular readings, events, and visiting guests, including many nationally prominent authors and editors. We’re also less than two hours from New Orleans, a major, urban hub with excellent food and music. With its low cost of living and mellow vibe, Hattiesburg is well-suited to emerging writers and features a variety of local coffee shops, galleries, music venues, and bookstores. Despite being far from New York, a number of our students have secured representation from leading literary agents and are sometimes queried by them directly.
Is Hattiesburg a welcoming environment?
Yes. Despite the stereotypes surrounding the Deep South, Hattiesburg is a thriving, urban community with people of all kinds. Our campus and writing community are home to writers and artists from many different backgrounds, including racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, LGTBQIA individuals, and many international students. We also have spectacular Thai food, in case that’s a consideration, two local breweries and taprooms, a great comic book and record store, and a locally-owned, Swedish café-bakery, believed to be the only one in the state.
Can I visit or talk with current students?
You’re more than welcome to schedule an appointment with the Graduate Director, and, if time allows, to meet faculty and students. We’re also happy to put prospective applicants in touch with current students.
Will I be able to work on a journal or with a press while enrolled?
Our program sponsors Mississippi Review, which is internationally renowned and regularly ranked as one of the top journals, and Product Magazine, which also has a longstanding reputation. Students often work on one or both journals in varying capacities, including as editors and readers.
Is it true Elvis lived in Mississippi?
Briefly. We’re far more partial to Richard Wright.
If I come, can I wear a white suit?
Only while you teach.
What if I have additional questions?
Email or call us anytime: usmhumanitiesFREEMississippi / 601.266.4320