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

With 20 years of program success, our students and alumni publish in or edit magazines, websites, newspapers, newsletters, literary journals, trade publications, and many other venues. Since 1992, their achievement includes thousands of articles, short stories, poems, essays and other work online or in print, plus 200 books and counting — novels, essay/short story/poetry collections, history, travel, memoir, science, narrative journalism, consumer, nature, creative nonfiction, medicine, medical history, and architecture. Our students’ or graduates’ writing has appeared in National GeographicWashington PostSmithsonian,, New York TimesSalon.comEsquireScienceUSA TodayWebMDLos Angeles TimesUSA Weekend, and Washingtonian, among many other venues. A small sampling of the literary journals in which student or graduate work has appeared includes: Story Quarterly, North American Poetry ReviewCreative NonfictionThe SunBoulevard, Poetry DailyMississippi Review, The New Formalist, The Florida ReviewGargoyleAntioch ReviewBarrelhouseThe Connecticut Review, and Exquisite Corpse.

Graduates of our program regularly earn adjunct teaching jobs in composition, writing, and journalism at a range of colleges and universities, including University of Maryland, Florida State, American University, Ohio University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, Ohio State, University of Missouri, and many others. Select graduates move on to MFA or PhD programs and have earned full-time teaching jobs at community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities, or they have landed writing or editing jobs at the Washington PostNational GeographicSmithsonian, NPR, and USA Today, as well as AARP, Bureau of National Affairs, National Institutes of Health, Brookings Institution, American Red Cross, National Education Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Johns Hopkins University, and many other universities, hospitals, private companies and non-profit organizations – plus the White House, Congress, federal and state departments, and local, state, and federal agencies.

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 28 years, 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, and online. Online students must also attend at least one onsite class, typically our week-long Conference on Craft residencies which take place in locations ranging from Bar Harbor, Maine to Dublin, Ireland to Missoula, Montana.

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
  • Best-selling author Molly Caldwell Crosby, whose two earlier historical narratives won national reviews and recognition, unveils The Great Pearl Heist later this year.
  • 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.
  • Cari Ugent, who writes under the name Cari Lynn, is author of three books, including Leg the Spread: A Woman’s Adventures Inside the Trillion-Dollar Boys Club of Commodities Trading. She co-authored  The Whistleblower: which was made into a 2011 film starring Oscar-winners Rachel Weisz and Vanessa Redgrave
  • Monica Hesse, a staff writer for the Washington Post’s famous Style section, has a new collection of stories coming out.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Paul Magid spent ten years completing the first volume of his biography of Civil War and Indian Wars General George Crook.
  • Nonfiction student Hilary Hansen won nine national, regional, and state awards for writing she produced in Hopkins courses.
  • Jack  McEnany, who in 1994 became the Writing Program’s first graduate, co-authored Bode: Go Fast, Be Good, Have Fun with famed skier Bode Miller and more recently published a book about logging: Brush Cat: On Trees, the Wood Economy, and the Most Dangerous Job in America.
  • Other nonfiction books are out from Amy Fries (Daydreams at Work), Kathy Borrus (1000 Buildings of Paris; The Fearless Shopper), and Cheryl Aubin (The Survivor Tree)
A Sampling of Our Graduates' Writing, Awards, & Achievements in Fiction and Other Concentrations
  • Roger Wolfson is a prominent TV writer in Hollywood, authoring episodes of “Law & Order SVU,” “Saving Grace,” “The Closer,” and, most recently, “Fairly Legal.”
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Josh Rolnick, who 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, who won the $10,000 James Jones First Novel Fellowship, edited the recent anthology, Confessions: Fact or Fiction?
  • Rae Bryant, the author of the story collection The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals, transformed her Moon Milk Review journal into The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, an online literary and arts journal now housed at the Writing 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.
  • 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.
  • Ellen Bryson received a six-figure advance for the 2010s The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno, a novel now out in paperback.
  • Mary Amato, an author, teacher, and performer who published her tenth children’s book, has won a dozen awards, including two from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
A Sampling of Recent or Current Nonfiction Instructors
  • Cathy Alter, a freelance writer, author of two books, and a program graduate, is the Nonfiction Advisor for the program. She teaches a range of nonfiction courses, including Nonfiction Techniques, Profile & Biography Workshop, Nonfiction Workshop, and Magazine Style & Substance.
  • Program graduate Tim Wendel, author of nine books, including novels and nonfiction, is the Writer in Residence at the Writing Program. He teaches a wide range of nonfiction and fiction courses.
  • Author and freelance journalist Karen Houppert, whose third book comes out in 2013, teaches Nonfiction Techniques, Nonfiction Workshop, Writing the Memoir & Personal Essay Workshop, Readings in Creative Nonfiction, and Thesis & Publication.
  • Sue Eisenfeld, an award-winning essayist and program graduate, recently taught the Literary Travel Writing Workshop.
  • Author and freelance journalist Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson teaches travel writing, Nonfiction Workshop, Thesis & Publication, and other courses.
  • Meg Guroff, features editor of AARP Magazine and a graduate of The Writing Seminars at Hopkins, teaches Nonfiction Workshop.
  • Prominent journalist Wil Hylton, now Contributing Writer for The New York Times Magazine, taught a special Nonfiction Workshop in Baltimore focused on long-form narrative. He is a visiting writer in the program.
  • Biographer and nationally known literary editor Robert Wilson, editor of The American Scholar, led the Nonfiction Workshop at the 2012 Hopkins Conference on Craft in Bar Harbor, Maine – the fourth time Wilson has taught at the conference.
  • Laura Wexler, a creative nonfiction author and freelance writer, teaches several different courses in the program, including Writing the Memoir & Essay Workshop, Nonfiction Workshop, and Masters of Nonfiction.
  • 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 an acclaimed writing teacher and literary activist Marita Golden, award-winning author or editor of 14 books, including novels, memoir, nonfiction, and anthologies. Golden teaches fiction and nonfiction workshops.

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

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.

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 the 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.

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 related 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