MFA in Creative Writing

Memphis’s creative writing MFA started in 1989, seeking to bring together internationally-recognized authors and a diverse, handpicked group of students in one of the most culturally rich cities in the country. Students work in small groups with faculty to study fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. The majority of MFA students are funded under research or teaching assistantships.

In addition to their writing and coursework, MFA students staff The Pinch, an award-winning literary journal distributed internationally twice a year. Students have opportunities to teach creative writing locally, and graduates of the program have gone on to publish books, win prestigious awards, and teach in schools around the world. Notable alumni include Darnell Arnoult, Ruth Baumann, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Mark Yakich, Tom Graves, Heather Dobbins, K.K. Fox, Doug Haines, Marisa Manuel, Jonathan May, Tara Mae Mulroy, Kaitlyn Sage Patterson, Ashley Roach-Freiman, Randy Rudder, John Schulze and Marisa L. Manuel.

While fulfilling their required coursework, all MFA students have the opportunity to receive graduate certificates in African American Literature or TESOL. Students who wish to focus entirely on creative writing can select the Studio track. 

African American
Literature >


Memphis, Tennessee sits on the east bank of the Mississippi River, about three hours south of St. Louis and west of Nashville. Memphis is one of the most storied cities in the South and, unsurprisingly, has attracted the attention of many great writers, including Katori Hall, Randall Kenan, Kiese Laymon, Eudora Welty, and William Faulkner—whose home in Oxford is just an hour and a half south of Memphis.

Memphis is a legendary American city, crucial in the history of American music and the Civil Rights Movement. Activism and the arts form Memphis’s most important legacy, as exemplified by Gordon Parks’s historic photographs of the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike. These are on display at the most moving landmark in Memphis, the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel—the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968. Musically, Memphis stands at the confluence of many genres, an integral location in the history of blues, soul, country, hip hop, and punk music. Elvis Presley reigns, but Memphis has also been the home of B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sun Studios, Aretha Franklin, Isaac Hayes, Big Star, Goner Records, Young Dolph, Pooh Shiesty, Three 6 Mafia & Julien Baker. Music attractions abound here, including Graceland, Sun Studio, Stax Records, the Gibson Guitar Factory, the Rock 'n' Soul Museum, and the annual Memphis in May music festival. Just an hour south of campus is Clarksdale, Mississippi, birthplace of The Blues. 

Memphis is a food-lover’s paradise, boasting the best barbecue in America and home to the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Fest. And, of course, the town has long been known for its nightlife, particularly on downtown’s Beale Street, a tourist attraction for visitors from around the world. Memphis is also home to lively (and year-round!) farmers markets, the nation’s largest urban park, extensive bike routes, and beautiful gardens, neighborhoods, and green spaces. 

Local Recommendations

  • Levitt Shell
  • New Daisy
  • Orpheum Theater
  • Sun Studio
  • Stax Records
  • Graceland
  • Gibson Guitar Factory
  • Rock 'n' Soul Museum
  • Growlers
  • Hi-Tone 
  • B Side Bar

  • Playhouse on the Square
  • Hattiloo Black Repertory Theatre
  • Botanic Garden
  • Dixon Gallery
  • National Ornamental Metal Museum
  • Brooks Museum
  • Pink Palace
  • Paint Memphis

  • Rendezvous Ribs
  • Central Bar-B-Q
  • Tops Bar-B-Q
  • Payne’s
  • Kwik Chek
  • Young Avenue Deli
  • Huey's
  • The Blue Fish and Oyster Bar
  • Automatic Slim's Tonga Club
  • The Beauty Shop
  • Sekisui Pacific Rim
  • Abyssinia
  • Soul Fish Cafe
  • India Palace
  • Babalu

  • Sunrise Memphis
  • Otherlands
  • Java Cabana
  • Brother Juniper's
  • Bell Tower
  • The Hub
  • Bluff City 

  • Beale Street
  • Wild Bill's
  • Raiford's Hollywood Disco
  • Ernestine and Hazel’s
  • The Lamplighter
  • The Buccaneer
  • Lafayette’s
  • TJ Mulligans
  • Overton Square 

  • Burke's Books
  • Novel

  • Overton Park
  • Audubon Park
  • Riverfront Park
  • Shelby Farms
  • Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park

  • U of M Tigers Basketball
  • Memphis Grizzlies Basketball
  • Tennessee Redbirds
  • 901 FC

  • Weekly Farmer’s Market
  • Mississippi Riverboat Tours
  • Main Street Arts Trolley Tour
  • Memphis in May

  • Commercial Appeal
  • Memphis Flyer
  • Memphis Magazine
  • High Ground News
  • Daily Memphian
  • I Love Memphis Blog