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MFA in Creative Writing

MFA in Creative Writing  

** Please note that the MFA does not have a poetry strand**

Creative writing in the UCD School of English, Drama and Film draws on the long literary heritage of Dublin as a place that has produced many world-famous authors. It takes full advantage of the range of vibrant and dynamic literary activities in a country and a city where writers and writing are celebrated. The University has played a major role in the development of literary cultures both in Ireland and internationally and has long been associated with some of Ireland's greatest writers, including James Joyce, Flann O' Brien, Mary Lavin, Patrick Kavanagh, Maeve Binchy, Thomas Kinsella, Eilis Ni Dhuibne and Marina Carr. It is committed to supporting writers in all fields, including fiction, poetry and performance writing, as well as a diverse range of creative non-fiction. 

UCD offers two taught graduate courses in creative writing, an MA and MFA.  The MA is usually the most suitable programme for someone coming directly from a BA. Most students on the MFA have an MA or an equivalently developed writing practice. Admission to the MFA programme is very competitive. You will be taught in a small group by writers of international reputation. Our focus is on prose fiction and non-fiction, and the degree suits students working to finish a draft of a full-length novel, memoir or short story collection. Writing workshops run twice weekly through two semesters, and over the summer students receive individual supervision as they complete a final project. 

Writers currently involved with the MA and MFA programmes in creative writing include the playwright, novelist and poet Frank McGuiness, poet Ian Davidson, novelist and poet Paul Perry, novelist Anne Enright, short story writer and novelist Katy Hayes, novelist Declan Hughes, novelist Gavin Corbett and Sinéad Gleeson as Arts Council Writer in Residence. Participants in the MFA also get the opportunity to attend the very many cultural and literary events that take place in UCD, and recent visitors include Margaret Atwood, Kevin Barry, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanain, Paula Meehan and Paul Muldoon.

The School of English, Drama and Film has always included in its programme of extra-curricular activities a rich array of readings, writing workshops, writers’ groups, and special seminars offered by writers-in-residence. In 2006, we introuced the MFA in Creative Writing to enable committed writers to develop their potential within a supportive framework. It is a one-year course of seminars, workshops and supervisions providing teaching in theories and practices of writing. 

There are first-rate libraries and archives in UCD and the Dublin area. Over many years, the School has established a worldwide reputation for excellence in fostering postgraduate research and in teaching. Designated as a UNESCO City of Literature in 2009, Dublin has an immense amount to offer aspiring writers.

Further Information

As a participant on the MFA programme you will be part of a large world-class School of English, Drama and Film and will:

  • be taught by experienced published writers with international reputations;
  • experience and develop knowledge of the best contemporary writing;
  • learn how to produce and develop new ideas for your own writing;
  • gain skills in editing and revising;
  • take part in workshops, seminars and one to one tutorials;
  • explore the archives of some of the world’s leading writers in the Special Collections held in UCD;
  • develop a portfolio of work in your own chosen genre. 

A fundamental tenet of the Creative Writing Programme at UCD is a belief in the value of learning from writers who have mastered their craft. Accordingly, the emphasis is on learning to read like writers.  Students who embark on this course will already have acquired many of the skills associated with a programme such as the MFA in Creative Writing. In addition to sharing the objectives as outlined above with the MA programme, they will have a full work in progress and will be given close individual supervision in the progress and completion of that work (50,000 words) with a view to offering it for publication at the end of the course.  Class sizes are small, so the learning environment while upbeat and in every sense enabling, is necessarily quite concentrated.  

As an indication of content, MFA students 2022-23 take the following core modules:

(Please be aware that module offerings are subject to change)

Semester 1

Reading Like a Writer [10 credits]
Line Editing I [10 credits]

Semester 2 

Writer in Residence Workshop [10 credits]
Line Editing II [10 credits]
All students work on their Final Writing Project [50 credits] under the guidance of an experienced writing tutor.

The majority of teaching on MFA in Creative Writing is structured around two intense block teaching days and requires students to be on campus on Mondays and Wednesdays. Please bear in mind that on occasion you may be required to attend lectures/seminars/launches outside of these hours.

(Please be aware that timetables can be subject to change due to spacing and resourcing schedules).

Students on the MA and MFA come from diverse backgrounds. Some come straight from their undergraduate studies while others might have spent some years in different jobs before coming to the course to fulfil their ambition to be writers. The student group is international, and students come to UCD from many countries to pursue their writing ambitions including Ireland, the UK, US, New Zealand, India, Austria and Germany.  Most have a good deal of writing experience and wish to pursue professional careers in writing, with specialisations in novel writing/short stories or poetry. Several of our alumni have won prestigious awards.

Yes. The HCE Review is an online quarterly journal run by the staff and students on the MA and MFA in Creative Writing.  The journal aims to publish fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, and visual art from both established and emerging writers and artists from around the world.

You can read more about the journal here.

Applicants applying for the MFA should present a clear vision of the writing project they wish to develop during the programme.  A strong portfolio should contain an outline [approx 1 page] of the novel in progress, together with the opening 25 /30 pages. In the case of a short story collection, two stories; and finally, a personal statement of reasons for taking the course and references.

The personal statement should include a short summary of your writing experience to date and any courses or workshops you have attended.  Include a brief introduction of your history as a writer and how and why you want to apply for the MFA.  What do you hope to achieve and how do you believe that the MFA will help develop as a writer? If you have been previously published or are the recipient of any literary awards, please include details of these, but bear in mind that a publication history is not required to apply.

Many of our alumni from the MA and MFA have gone on to successful careers in writing, publishing and media.

  • Disha Bose MA (2015-2016) Born and raised in India, Disha now lives in Ireland. She attended University College Dublin, where she completed a Masters in Creative Writing (2016).  Disha Bose’s debut novel Dirty Laundry, a domestic noir, is to be published by Viking Books in the UK and Commonwealth (May, '23), and by Ballantine Books in North America.
  • Sonya Gildea MA (2019 - 2020)
    Winner of the John McGahern Literature Award 2021; Poetry Ireland Introductions poet
    2021/22 (selected by Seán Hewitt), winner of an Ireland Chair of Poetry Student Award
    2020; recipient of a literature Bursary Award 2021 from the Irish Arts Council and winner of
    the Cúirt International New Writer’s Award (2015). Sonya has published in Crannog; the
    Stinging Fly; the Irish Times; Tolka journal; the Cormorant Broadsheet; the Night Heron
    Barks; The Maynard journal of poetry; the commemorative anthology Hold Open the Door
    (UCD & Chicago Press 2020); the Poetry Ireland Introductions anthology This Is What You
    Mean To Me (2021); Arlen House Publishing anthology of contemporary Irish poetry
    (2022); and The Common literary journal (2022).
  • Sree Sen MA (2019-2020) Published in Poetry Ireland Review, The Honest Ulsterman, Local Wonders (poetry anthology by Dedalus Press), bath magg, Crossways, nether Quarterly, Headstuff and others. She’s the winner of the UCD Maeve Binchy Travel Award 2020, recipient of Cill Rialaig Residency 2020 & Agility Award 2021 by the Arts Council of Ireland. 
  • Aingeala Flannery MFA (2018-2019)
    The Amusements debut novel published by Penguin Sandycove June 2022
    Arts Council Literature Bursary 2020 and 2021
    Winner Harper's Bazaar Short Story Competition 2019

'The MFA in Creative Writing at UCD gave me the encouragement and space I needed to
focus on my writing. It was challenging and inspiring, I came away with fresh ideas and a
stronger sense of my natural writing style and the themes that excite me.  Our class stayed
in touch and it's wonderful to have that ongoing support - for the rejections as well as the
celebrations. The MFA in Creative Writing changed my life'

  • Aoife Fitzpatrick MFA (2018 - 2019)
    Debut novel, The Red Bird Sings, from Virago Press, June 2023
    “I miss the MFA. Not just the notable experience and insight of its teachers, but their
    authentic interest and vital engagement. That's what makes this course special; why it can
    transform both writer and work-in-progress.“
  • Liz Houchin MA (2018 - 2019)
    ‘Anatomy of a Honey girl (poems for tired women)’ published by Southword, 2021.
    Awarded Literature Bursary from Arts Council of Ireland, 2021. 
  • Brendan Casey, MA (2018-2019)
    She That Lay, Silent-like, Upon Our Shore, was long-listed for the Deborah Rogers
    Foundation Award and will be published by John Murray Originals in 2023.

'The course allowed me to dedicate myself to writing in a structured nurturing environment
in which I had the time and space to develop ideas. Since graduating I have signed with
RCW literary agency in London, and the thesis I submitted in UCD went on to form the
basis of my novel.' 

  • Sarah Gilmartin MFA (2018-2019)
    Her debut novel Dinner Party (Pushkin, 2021) was shortlisted for best newcomer at the
    Irish Book Awards and the Kate O’Brien Award 2022. Her stories have been published in
    The Dublin Review, New Irish Writing and The Tangerine. Her story The Wife won the
    2020 Máirtín Crawford Award at Belfast Book Festival.
  • Colin Barrett won the Guardian First Fiction Prize with Young Skins [Pub. Stinging Fly Press / Jonathan Cape (UK) Grove Black Cat editions (US)] then went on to win both the Frank O'Connor International short story award and the Rooney Prize for Literature.  in 2015, Colin was nominated as one of the five under 35 honourees by the National Book Foundation in the US. His stories have appeared in Five DialsA Public Space and The New Yorker.
  • Dave Rudden is a leading writer of YA fiction and has been short-listed for the Hennessy New Writing Award and the Bath Short Story Prize. He is the author of numerous novels, most recent, The Endless KingDoctor Who: Twelve Angels Weeping: Twelve Stories of the Villains from Doctor Who, The Forever Court and Knights of the Borrowed Dark.
  • Jessica Traynor won the Hennessy Emerging Poet Award and the Hennessy Writer of the Year Award in 2013 and was the recipient of the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary in 2014. She is the author of two collections of poetry, The Quick and Liffey Swim runner-up in the 2015 Troubadour International Poetry Prize and Liffey Swim which was nominated for the 2015 Strong/Shine Award for first collections. 
  • Julie Morrissy is an Irish poet, critic, and activist. Her first collection Where, the Mile End is forthcoming in February 2019 with BookThug (Canada) and tall-lighthouse (UK & Ireland). Her debut poetry pamphlet I Am Where (Eyewear 2015) was shortlisted for Best Poetry Pamphlet in the Saboteur Awards 2016.
  • Henrietta McKervey has published three novels, What Becomes Of Us [Pub. Hachette Ireland], The Heart of Everything and Violet HillHenrietta won both the Hennessy First Fiction Award and the UCD Maeve Binchy Travel Award in 2014. 
  • Helena Nolan is a poet and short fiction writer and was selected for the 2015 Poetry Ireland Introductions Series and will read as part of the International Literature Festival in May. She won the Patrick Kavanagh Award in 2011, having come second in 2010. 
  • Eamon McGuinness is from Dublin. His poetry has appeared in Poetry Ireland ReviewBoyne Berries, Abridged, The Honest Ulsterman, and elsewhere. In 2017, he was featured on the Poetry Jukebox in Belfast and shortlisted for the Strokestown International Poetry Prize. His debut collection is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry.

How to Apply

  • Applications to the MFA must be made online; http://www.ucd.ie/apply/
  • Applications for 2023-24 will open on 1st October 2022 
  • Scanned copies of relevant academic qualifications and the writing sample should be included in the online application. Once you submit your application, your referees will receive an email and a link to upload their reference letters. References should be on headed paper and signed. 
  • The entry requirements for the MFA programme are any of the following; an MA, M Phil [Creative Writing], BFA [Creative Writing], BA Creative Writing Major/Joint Major or equivalent, an outline [approx 1 page] of the novel in progress, together with the opening 25 /30 pages. In the case of a short story collection, two stories; and finally, a personal statement of reasons for taking the course and references.
  • Round one: Applications received between October 1st - December 31st will be informed of outcomes by 31st January Round two: Applications received between January 1st - March 31st will be informed of outcomes by April 30th  Round three: Applications received between  April 1st - June 15th will be informed of outcomes by June 30th.
  • If you have any questions about the programme or the application process, please contact Fiona French, Graduate Administrator at  graduateedf@ucd.ie.