Fiction at Hopkins

Expand your creative writing skills in the short story or novel, in evening and weekend classes in Washington, D.C. or Baltimore. Prestige, Quality, Value: Our graduate writing program in Fiction reflects the international reputation for academic quality, creative innovation, and professional value at Johns Hopkins, a pioneer in creative writing and higher education.
  • Learn fiction writing from a craft-based perspective
  • Discover how novels work, write your own
  • Study with respected, practicing writers & editors; hear from famous authors.
  • Explore screenwriting, playwriting, experimental fiction, other topics
  • Receive more classroom hours for less cost in our 9-course degree program
  • Submit your fiction for print or online publication
  • Cross-study in nonfiction, poetry, multimedia, or teaching writing

In the program’s Fiction Concentration, you’ll study the techniques of fiction writing while creating and revising your own work. Our experienced faculty of practicing writers and editors helps you analyze past and contemporary literature to learn how to read as a writer – a skill that allows you to grow throughout your fiction career. In workshops, instructors and peers offer honest, constructive comments to push your writing toward publication. And in our capstone course, you’ll finish a thesis portfolio of your most publishable work, earn a byline in a program journal, and prepare for the writing life. The result: Our fiction students and alumni have published dozens of novels and scores of short stories, won local, regional, and national awards, and become literary editors, writing teachers, or television writers.

Financial aid is available in the form of student loans. We sponsor the annual Hopkins Conference on Craft, a prestigious summer conference where students complete a full graduate course in ten days in Italy or Maine. We also offer alumni discounts for post-graduate tuition and the summer conference.  And if you’re not interested in a degree, feel free to apply for individual courses of interest. Our students attend part-time and can choose classes in Baltimore or Washington, or both.

Read below for more information about our graduate creative writing program in fiction – its courses, teachers, and what it might help you achieve. Click here to find out how to apply.

What Our Fiction Students and Graduates Have Achieved

Awards won by our fiction alumni include the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction (twice), F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story Contest (twice), Pushcart Prize, John Simmons Short Fiction Award, and James Jones First Novel Fellowship. Students and graduates also have published scores of individual short stories in anthologies and in print and online literary journals, including: The Florida ReviewGreen Mountains ReviewStory QuarterlyArts & LettersGargoylePotomac ReviewBaltimore ReviewBarrelhouseThe SunMississippi ReviewThe Connecticut Review, and dozens of others. Meanwhile, our fiction alumni have founded or work on the editorial staffs of many online or print literary journals, including Potomac Review, Baltimore Review, The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, Barrelhouse, Hoot, and Lines & Stars. Graduates of our program regularly win adjunct teaching jobs in composition and writing at a range of universities, including University of Maryland, American University, Ohio University, Florida State, George Washington University, Georgetown University, and others. Select alumni earn MFA and Ph.D. degrees and hold full-time teaching positions at universities and colleges across the country.

A Sampling of Publications, Honors, and Achievements for Our Fiction Graduates
  • Josh Rolnick, who also won the Arts & Letters Prize in fiction, published his collection Pulp and Paper after winning the University of Iowa Press Short Fiction Award.
  • Herta Feely won the $10,000 James Jones First Novel Fellowship and also served as editor of the recent anthology, Confessions: Fact or Fiction?
  • Rae Bryant, author of the collection The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals, transformed her Moon Milk Review journal into The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, a national literary & arts journal. She now teaches in the program.
  • Current student Julia Elliott won the 2011 Boulevard Magazine Short Fiction Contest for Emerging Writers, and Melanie Hatter won the Washington Writers’ Publishing House Award for her novel, The Color of My Soul.
  • Ron Capps, an Army veteran with a joint degree in fiction and nonfiction, formed the nationally known Veterans Writing Project to help returning military veterans.
  • Roger Wolfson is a successful TV writer in Hollywood, authoring episodes of “Law & Order SVU,” “Saving Grace,” “The Closer,” and, most recently, “Fairly Legal.”
  • Alma Katsu’s first novel, The Taker, was an American Booklist Top Ten Debut Novel of 2011. The Reckoning, the second book in her popular trilogy, was just released.
  • Mary Amato, an author, teacher, and performer who has published her eleventh children’s book, has won many local and national awards, including two from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
  • Pushcart Prize winner Susan McCallum-Smith saw her collection, Slipping the Moorings, published by Entasis Press, an operation founded by graduate and faculty member Ed Perlman.
  • Ellen Bryson received a six-figure advance for 2010’s The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno, a novel that started as her graduate thesis at Hopkins and that is now out in paperback.
  • Susi Wyss’s first book, The Civilized World, was published in March 2011 by Henry Holt & Co.
  • Willie Davis won the 2007 Willesden Herald International Short Story Prize and the 2007 Katherine Ann Porter Prize; Alexa Beattie won the Sean O’Faolain Short Story Prize awarded by Ireland’s Munster Literature Centre; and Rebekah Yeagher won the 2007 F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story Contest.
  • Michelle Brafman‘s short fiction won the 2006 F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story Contest and the Lilith magazine fiction prize. She now teaches fiction in the Writing Program.
And from Our Other Concentrations
  • Best-selling author Molly Caldwell Crosby, whose two earlier historical narratives won national reviews and recognition, unveils The Great Pearl Heist later this year.
  • Steve Kistulentz, a poet, English professor, and two-time winner of the John Mackay Shaw Academy of American Poets Prize, published the collection, The Luckless Age.
  • Monica Hesse, a staff writer for the Washington Post’s Style section, has a new collection of stories coming out.
  • Nonfiction graduate Cathy Alter went on “The Today Show” to plug her second book, Up For Renewal: What Magazines Taught Me About Love, Sex, and Starting Over. Alter now teaches in the program.
  • Paul Magid spent ten years completing the first volume of his biography of Civil War and Indian Wars General George Crook.
  • Science-Medical Writing grad Mike Klesius, who appeared in the 2003 Best American Science Writing, is now an editor at Smithsonian Air & Space magazine.
  • Essayist Sue Eisenfeld’s many awards include the TallGrass Writers Guild/Outrider Press contest, the 2012 Emma Bell Miles Prize for Essay, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Goldfarb Family Fellowship. Sue has joined the program faculty in nonfiction.

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, editing, or career building at the highest possible levels of professional or artistic achievement. With part-time Fiction or Nonfiction classes in Washington or Baltimore or online/low-residency courses soon available worldwide in Science-Medical Writing, our faculty of practicing writers and editors focus on teaching writing craft and reading expertise. The result is a program that offers a nurturing, demanding home in Washington, Baltimore, or online in which graduates 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, please visit The Sems does not offer a graduate degree in nonfiction. The programs have separate application processes, curricula, and degree requirements.

Who Will Teach You in Fiction?

About the Writing Program, Assistant Director Mark Farrington says, “One characteristic I most admire is that our students do not compete against each other. They are genuinely happy to learn of other students’ successes, and they are gratified and, I think, a little relieved, to be told when they enter their first workshop that our primary goal is for all of us to help each other become better writers. Maybe you can’t teach talent, but you can teach technique and craft, you can help students increase understanding of their own fiction and the nature and traditions of fiction overall, and you can provide an environment where students feel both nurtured and challenged, through responses that strive always to be constructive and honest.”

  • Mark Farrington (MFA, George Mason University) Assistant director and faculty fiction advisor; recipient of several teaching awards. Short fiction in The New Virginia ReviewThe Louisville ReviewPotomac Review, other journals and anthologies; articles on writing and teaching in journals and anthologies; was editor-in-chief of Phoebe, won an Editor’s Choice Award in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest, the Dan Rudy Fiction Prize, and an Individual Artists’ Award from the Virginia Council on the Arts.
  • William Black (MFA, University of Alabama) Taught fiction, poetry, literature at Hopkins, Ohio University, Western Washington, University of Alabama, Misericordia University. Short fiction published in Hotel AmerikaDenver QuarterlyChicago ReviewAgniCrab Orchard Review, and Artful Dodge, among others. Fellow at the Vermont Studio Center, Scholar in Residence at Pennsylvania State Archives; co-director, Pages & Places Book Festival, Scranton, PA.
  • Tristan Davies (MA, Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars) Senior Lecturer in The Writing Seminars at Hopkins. Story collection, Cake, published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2003. Stories in Glimmer TrainBoulevardThe Mississippi ReviewThe Columbia ReviewSnowflake, and Sundog. Recipient of the 2001 Johns Hopkins Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award; visiting artist at the America Academy in Rome.
  • Margaret Meyers (MA, Depaul University; MFA, University of Virginia) Award-winning writer of fiction and nonfiction. Essay included in Best American Essays of 1998. Other articles and fiction in ShenandoahSewanee Magazine, and Philosophy Today.  Swimming in the Congo, her story collection, was named a Book of the Year by the New York Public Library.
  • Richard Peabody (MA, American University) Literary activist; founder / co-editor, Gargoyle magazine; editor or co-editor of 19 anthologies, including Mondo Barbie, Conversations with Gore VidalA Different Beat: Writings by Women of the Beat GenerationAlice Redux and Grace and Gravity. Author of novella Sugar Mountain, two story collections, and six poetry collections, including Last of the Red Hot Magnetos and I’m in Love with the Morton Salt Girl (Paycock Press), plus an e-book.
  • Leslie Pietrzyk (MFA, American University) Authored Year and a Day (William Morrow, 2004), selected for Borders Bookstores’ “Original Voices” series, Book of the Month Club; and Pears on a Willow Tree (Avon Books, 1998). Short fiction in Iowa Review, Gettysburg ReviewNew England Review, elsewhere. Awards include Shenandoah‘s Jean Charpiot Goodheart Prize; visiting writer at Wichita State University, Converse College; fellowships at Bread Loaf and Sewanee summer conferences.
  • Tim Wendel (MA in Writing Program alumnus and now program Writer in Residence) Author of nine books, including the novels Castro’s Curveball (Ballantine/U of Nebraska) and Red Rain (Writer’s Lair.) His latest narrative nonfiction book is Summer of ‘68: The Season When Baseball, And America, Changed Forever (Da Capo), a Top 10 choice by Publisher’s Weekly. Articles in The New York Times, Washington PostEsquireWashingtonian, and GQ; op-ed columns in USA Today. Knight-Wallace Fellow; Walter E. Dakin Fellow and Tennessee Williams scholarship to Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Pen/Faulkner visiting writer to the Washington, DC Public Schools.
  • Eleanor Williams (MA in Writing Program alumna; Ph.D., Ohio University) wrote the novel, This Never Happened (Random House, 1998), published as Crazy Think in the U.K. (Michael Joseph, 1998, 1997). Fellow and scholar at the Wesleyan University Writers Conference, Hambridge Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Georgia State College, and University Creative Writing Workshops, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and West Virginia University Writers’ Workshop. Also taught at Hood College, Ohio University, University of North Dakota.
  • Other instructors have included Susan Muaddi Darraj, author of The Inheritance of Exile, finalist in the 2003 AWP Book Awards Series; Mary Amato, award-winning author of 11 books for young readers, and Marc Lapadula, a screenwriter and screenwriting teacher at Yale and Hopkins.

Guest Instructors and Visiting Writers in the program – and special instructors for our summer-time Hopkins Conference on Craft in Italy and Maine – have included National Book Award-winning novelist Alice McDermott; renowned poets Dave Smith, Mary Jo Salter, Rachel Hadas, Brad Leithauser, and Charles Martin; critic and fiction writer Alan Cheuse; novelist Claire Messud; nonfiction author/editors Jim Conaway and Robert Wilson, Pulitzer-winning journalists Wayne Biddle and Steve Twomey; fiction writers Jill McCorkle, Amy Hempel, Jean McGarry, and Nancy Lemann, and poet/scholar John T. Irwin, the Decker Professor in the Humanities at Hopkins, and chief editor of The Hopkins Review.

Past visiting lecturers and readers include Mark Strand, Anthony Hecht, and Allen Grossman in poetry, Russell Baker, Christopher Hitchens, and Mark Crispin Miller in nonfiction, and John Barth, Julian Barnes, Robert Stone, Edward P. Jones, Stephen Dixon, and Madison Smartt Bell in fiction.

Writer in Residence & Visiting Writer: The program’s current Writer in Residence is graduate Tim Wendel, author of nine novels and nonfiction books, including the recent Summer of 68: The Season that Changed Baseball, and America, Forever. The Writing Program’s Distinguished Visiting Writer for 2012-13 is acclaimed writing teacher and literary activist Marita Golden, award-winning author and editor of 14 books, including novels, memoir, nonfiction, and anthologies. Golden teaches fiction and nonfiction workshops.

Choose Your Forms, Subjects, and Styles

Our fiction writing curriculum allows students to pursue their own writing interests. Students write short stories, novels, novellas, or novels-in-stories, in traditional narrative or experimental forms. In addition to classes in fiction, students may explore screenwriting and playwriting, choose electives such as Sentence Power and Teaching Writing, or take a course or two in poetry or creative nonfiction. Our faculty, who handle diverse styles and forms in their own writing and editing, are open to all approaches, including literary genre fiction and young adult literature. In addition to regular fiction workshops, our fiction courses include:

Fiction Techniques

Students examine the technical elements of fiction, including point of view, plot, character development, dialogue, and the form of short stories and the novel. The course also introduces students to the workshop process.

Writing the Novel Workshop

This specialized workshop is designed for students who are writing a novel. Students submit 75-100 pages of a novel-in-progress for review, and discuss aspects of novel writing in general.

Experimental Fiction Workshop

This specialized workshop introduces students to innovative forms and experimental approaches. Assignments challenge students to explore styles that differ from their previous work; extensive reading assignments come from the latest collections.

Novel Form, Style, & Structure

This craft elective focuses on a writer’s analysis of novels, expanding the study of fiction into techniques of the longer form. Topics include structure, character arcs, style, consistency of voice, backstory, and plot management.

Voice in Modern Fiction

Students examine aspects of voice in contemporary novels and short stories, considering how style, point of view, tone, structure, and culture all contribute to an author’s or narrator’s individual voice. Students use exercises to strengthen their own voices.

The Short Story: Past & Present

This reading elective begins with a review of the history and development of short fiction, moving to contemporary forms, trends, and practitioners. Featured authors may include Chekhov, Carver, Paley, Barthelme, Munro, and Dixon.

Advanced Revision Techniques in Fiction

Students use their own writing to hone specialized revision skills such as deep characterization, lyrical writing, expanding scenes, movement through time, and developing a sense of place.

Fiction for Young Readers

This course covers fiction for children through young adults. Besides craft elements such as character, plot, voice, and humor, the course addresses professional issues such as markets, agents, and reader age groups.

Drama & Playwriting

This craft elective involves intensive writing and reading to introduce students to basic elements of drama studies and playwriting. Students write part or all of a short play for class critique and may be asked to attend one or more local productions.

Film & Screenwriting

Students are introduced to the basics of film studies and screenwriting by reading scripts, examining films from a writer’s perspective, and writing one or more short screenplays. Topics include dialogue, characterization, plot, and visual storytelling.


Contemporary American Writers, Heritage of Fiction I & II, Shakespeare: Art & Audience, 20th Century World Literature, The Evolution of Fictional Forms.


Identity in Contemporary Writing, The Teaching of Writing, Principles of Editing (in development), Essence of Place, Sentence Power, Literary Journals and The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review.

Internships, Independent Study

Available to select advanced students. View the full course descriptions for the Writing Program.

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, please click here. (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.

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. To broaden their experience, students often take electives in a different concentration. For instance, fiction writers may choose to take poetry or nonfiction courses. For details about our courses, please click here.

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, & Events

Our Hopkins literary community continues beyond the classroom. Many graduates of the program develop life-long friendships and professional relationships that provide support throughout their lives and careers. To promote this goal, the Writing Program offers regular networking events for alumni, plus alumni readings, reunions, and other special events. Alumni also are welcome at all program readings, seminars, and other events. Program graduates can complete additional courses for post-graduate credit at the regular tuition rate, or they can take courses or attend our summer conference on a non-credit basis for half the regular tuition rate.

Other Concentration in the Writing Program

To learn more about the other concentration in the Writing Program, click on the following links.

  • Nonfiction — personal essay, feature article, memoir, commentary, journalism, creative nonfiction, travel, reviews, biography, profile, blogging.
  • If you want to write about nature, technology, health, science, medicine, environment, space, or related topics, check out our Master of Arts and Graduate Certificate in Science Writing.

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, Suite 104
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