Program Overview

The Program in Creative Writing at the University of Iowa, known informally as the Iowa Writers' Workshop, offers a Master of Fine Arts degree in English, a terminal degree that qualifies graduates to teach creative writing at the college level. 

dey house on a sunny day
Dey House is the Writers' Workshop's home in Iowa City.

While working toward their degree, graduate students will work with and learn from established poets and prose writers and make substantial progress in their creative projects. 

The MFA program requires full-time residency in Iowa City, which offers students the chance to learn from one another and take advantage of the academic resources of our research university.

Twenty to twenty-five new students in each of the two genres come to Iowa City to join the program each year.

Graduate Courses

Writers' Workshop courses, divided into workshops and seminars, comprise the core of the MFA degree curriculum. Taught by Writers' Workshop faculty, these classes are designed to help students develop their fiction and poetry while building a deeper understanding of the contemporary literary landscape and the many diverse literary traditions that might inform their work. Students often use these courses to start new creative projects or deepen and develop the projects they've already begun.

Margot Livesey at a podium


Workshops are the heart of the MFA degree and a defining element of our program. All Writers' Workshop graduate students take a workshop each semester with one of the program faculty. The workshop, a group of 8-12 writers, becomes each student's mini-cohort for the semester. Over the course of a semester, every student submits their creative work one or (often) more times to be read and discussed.


In addition to workshops, Writers' Workshop faculty offer seminars on a variety of literary topics. Seminars are designed specifically for writers and are intended to feed their creative work and process. Each seminar typically focuses on a specific topic relevant to writers honing their craft.

Other Courses

Graduate students may take classes outside of the department in any of many fields at the University of Iowa. These classes might be creative (screenwriting, bookmaking, translation) or scholarly (languages, history, literature). Students can also take advantage of professional seminars and training offered by the Graduate College.

Workshop Faculty

Workshop faculty are not only well-known figures in American letters, but also committed teachers who have spent their careers teaching and advising emerging writers.

Visiting Writers

faculty sitting at a desk, looking at the camera
Visiting faculty Carmen Maria Machado in her office

Every year the Writers' Workshop brings a number of distinguished writers to Iowa City to teach workshops and seminars. Recent visitors include Carmen Maria Machado, Tom Drury, Margaret Ross, Sarah Thankam Mathews, and Garth Greenwell. The Visiting Writer program allows graduate students to build working relationships with established writers working in a variety of genres at different stages in their careers. These relationships are often meaningful to students as they progress through their literary careers after the Workshop.

Readings & Events

Throughout the semester, writers come to give readings, Q&As, and master classes in the Frank Conroy Reading Room. Recent visitors include Karen Russell, Ayad Akhtar, Arinze Ifeakandu, D.A. Powell, John Irving, and Sheila Heti.

The "After the Workshop" series offers students insight into publishing and career options. Every year, agents ask to visit the Workshop to meet with students.

Creative Community

While courses are the core of the Writers' Workshop experience, engaging with fellow students has proven just as key to our writers' growth. Iowa City provides an ideal environment for our community of about 100 writers to live, socialize, work on projects, and inspire one another. Writers' Workshop graduate students run several reading series in town, edit the Black Poetry Review, volunteer at community organizations, hang out in back yards and at local eating establishments, and provide for each other a support system, a sounding board, motivation, inspiration, and friendship.

The University of Iowa is also home to a range of creative disciplines, each of which offers additional opportunities for engagement. Writers' Workshop graduate students often take part in events with the International Writing Program, the Nonfiction Writing Program, the Spanish MFA Program, the Translation Program, and other creative disciplines. In recent years, graduate students have assembled a Workshop band, have sung in the University choir, auditioned for theater productions, and have taken part in various social organizations on campus.

Application Requirements

Applications are due in December each year.