Nonfiction at Hopkins

Expand your professional and creative writing skills in essay, memoir, creative nonfiction, travel, profile, and commentary, at our campuses in Washington or Baltimore. Prestige, Quality, Value: Our graduate writing program in Nonfiction reflects the international reputation for academic quality, creative innovation, and professional value at Johns Hopkins, a pioneer in creative writing and higher education.
  • Satisfy literary or workplace goals as a writer, editor, or author.
  • Take part-time evening and weekend classes to fit your busy schedule.
  • Learn from respected, practicing writers & editors; hear from famous authors.
  • Target magazines, newsletters, websites, journals, newspapers, or books.
  • Study conveniently near the Metro in Washington or at our main campus in Baltimore
  • Receive more classroom hours for less cost in our 9-course degree program

From blogs to books, the Nonfiction Concentration allows students of diverse creative or professional ambitions to focus on factual approaches such as journalism, creative nonfiction, or literary narrative. Students often choose a topic or field of personal interest – nature, travel, sports, politics, the arts, entertainment, culture, relationships, or scores of others. They also learn and sometimes specialize in one or more of many factual forms, such as essay, article, profile, review, blog/viewpoint, memoir, advocacy, humor, or experimental structures. We want our graduates to enjoy artistic or workplace careers with a deep understanding of the traditions, principles, and marketplace of the nonfiction universe.

Financial aid is available in the form of student loans. We also house a national literary & arts journal, sponsor a prestigious summer conference in Italy and Maine, and offer alumni discounts for post-graduate tuition and the summer conference. If you’re not interested in a degree, feel free to apply for individual courses of interest. To find out more about the Writing Program’s Nonfiction Concentration, read below to discover what our students have achieved, who will teach you, and what you might learn. Click here to find out how to apply. Or to speak directly with a nonfiction advisor, contact Karen Houppert, MA in Writing Associate Director, at

What Our Students and Graduates Have Achieved

Join Our Community of Writers

The Master of Arts in Writing Program at Johns Hopkins focuses on the individual goals of writers and editors and their aim of publication or career building at the highest possible levels of professional or artistic achievement. In Fiction and Nonfiction, we offer part-time, onsite classes in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. For Science-Medical Writing, students from around the nation and world take courses or earn degrees through online and low-residency courses. The curriculum in all concentrations focuses on the craft of writing, led by a faculty of practicing writers and editors who excel at teaching. The result is a nurturing, demanding home in Washington, Baltimore, and online in which students are challenged to become dedicated, contributing citizens in the community of letters.

Attend in Washington, DC, Baltimore, or Online/Low-residency

In 1992, Johns Hopkins founded the MA in Writing Program in Washington, D.C., to provide professional and artistic options for adult, part-time students who chose not to interrupt a career or personal life for full-time graduate study. After 20 years of growth, the program offers onsite Fiction and Nonfiction classes in Washington and Baltimore and online-low-residency options in Science-Medical Writing. The Writing Program is designed primarily for part-time study; full-time study is possible under special circumstances such as for international students or military veterans. Some students take only a course or two of interest; most seek a full Master of Arts. Degree candidates set their own pace to earn a 9-course MA in two to five years, with accelerated and extended options available. While courses are offered year-round, including in a summer term, our flexible program allows students to take a term or two off as their schedules require.

The Fiction and Nonfiction courses, along with electives in poetry, science writing, literature, teaching writing, screenwriting, and other topics, are available on weekday evenings or Saturdays at the convenient Washington Center, at 1717 Massachusetts Ave., NW (near the Dupont Circle Metro Station on the Red Line) and at the main Hopkins Homewood Campus in Baltimore. The online/low-residency option is only for Science-Medical Writing. That program combines online courses with two brief residencies: One of a week to ten days at a site chosen by the student in places such as Washington, Maine, Italy, or Baltimore; the other a shorter residency in Washington/Baltimore at the end of the final online thesis course. Fiction and Nonfiction students must attend face-to-face classes in Washington or Baltimore to earn a degree; online/low-residency is not available in those concentrations.

The Writing Seminars at Hopkins

Johns Hopkins University has two graduate writing programs. The MA in Writing Program is Hopkins’ part-time, broader-admission alternative to The Writing Seminars, the exclusive, nationally ranked, and internationally known full-time graduate writing program available only at the main Homewood Campus in Baltimore. For more about the Seminars, which awards the Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction and poetry, link to The Sems does not offer a graduate degree in nonfiction. The programs have separate application processes, curricula, and degree requirements.

A Sampling of Our Graduates' Writing, Awards, & Achievements in Nonfiction
A Sampling of Our Graduates' Writing, Awards, & Achievements in Fiction and Other Concentrations
A Sampling of Recent or Current Nonfiction Instructors

How to Apply and Financial Aid

Admission to the program is based on a competitive review of writing samples, a Statement of Purpose, and other materials. You can apply online or in print and, if accepted, start your studies year-round. Applicants are of all ages and backgrounds; some have only received undergraduate degrees, while others are returning to school after decades away from the classroom. The writing samples, published or unpublished, should equal 20 to 40 typed, double-spaced pages. We encourage multiple samples, rather than a single piece of the required length. For details about writing samples, the Statement of Purpose, and other parts of the application, visit the Admissions page. (That link is outside the Writing Program’s website to our Advanced Academic Programs division at Hopkins, but you don’t have to pay a fee or complete an application to learn more.) The program’s admissions review differs for a single, specific course compared to the full degree. Please let us know your interests. Hopkins offers Financial Aid in student loans.

Study at Our Summer Conference

The Writing Program’s Hopkins Conference on Craft allows students to complete a full graduate course in a concentrated period of seven to 10 days. The 2012 conference, our largest ever, was held in Bar Harbor, Maine, the site of our 2009 event. The conference gathered in Florence, Italy, in 2006, 2007, 2010, and 2011. While finances may prevent more sessions in Italy, we offered successful conferences in 2013 in Baltimore and in 2014 in Washington. The conference is optional for our students and is half price for alumni and other non-credit applicants. Click here to send an email.

For Alumni: Networking, Discounts, & The Summer Conference

Customize Your Studies

Some students aren’t interested in a degree and take only the courses they want. Most, however, take nine courses to earn an accredited master’s degree in a chosen concentration. These nine courses include core techniques, intensive writing workshops, and varied electives in contemporary writing or voice, revision, description, identity, and specialized forms. To broaden their experience, students often take electives in a different concentration. For instance, nonfiction or science-medical writing students take a fiction course, or fiction writers take poetry or nonfiction courses. For details about our courses, please click here.

Choose Your Topic

The Writing Program Nonfiction curriculum recently was revised to recognize the value of cross-concentration study. One of the required core courses, Contemporary American Writers, now includes both Fiction and Nonfiction students. Most students start with one or two required core courses that introduce them to a range of forms and styles, and they then move into specialized workshops and electives that fit their artistic or professional goals. Some students want career advancement; others are interested in the fine arts and creative writing; still others want to teach either part-time or full-time after earning their degree. The curriculum includes:

  • Core Courses: Nonfiction Techniques, Contemporary American Writers
  • Workshops: Memoir & Essay, Profile & Biography, Travel Writing, Review Writing, Viewpoint Journalism, Science-Medical Writing
  • Electives: Masters of Nonfiction, Crafting a Nonfiction Voice, Principles of Journalism, Magazine Style & Substance, International Nonfiction, Readings in Essay & Memoir, The Nature of Nature. The Literature of Science. (Nonfiction students often take electives in fiction, poetry, science-medical writing, or other fields.)
  • Cross-Concentration: Identity in Contemporary Writing, The Teaching of Writing, Principles of Editing (in development), Essence of Place, Sentence Power.
  • Internships, Independent Study: Available to select advanced students. Thesis & Publication: The program culminates in a thesis course in which students revise their continuing portfolio of publishable writing, publish in a course literary journal, plan their writing life, and join a festive student reading attended by friends, family, and colleagues.

Read full course descriptions  in the Writing Program.

To learn more about the other concentration in the Writing Program, click on the link below: Fiction – short story, novel, film & screenwriting, drama & playwriting, experimental, fiction for young readers, and much more.

If you want to write about nature, technology, health, science, medicine, environment, space, or relate topics, check out our new Master of Arts and Graduate Certificate in Science Writing.

Find out More

For More Information about the Writing program, contact us via email, phone, or mail.

M.A. in Writing Program
The Johns Hopkins University
1717 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

Faculty Advisors and Program Leadership

General Writing Program Questions, Fiction Advisor:

Nonfiction Advisor:
Karen Houppert
Associate Program Director

Ed Perlman (Volunteer Advisor)

Science-Medical Writing:
Melissa Hendricks

To Apply

Visit our admissions wizard to apply to the program conveniently online or to learn more details about the application process and the required writing samples. This link will take you from Writing program website to the admissions section.