Home : Coed Graduate Programs : Creative Writing

Hollins University
Graduate Center
PO Box 9603
Roanoke, VA 24020-1603
(540) 362-6575
(540) 362-6288 (Fax)
"And then I went to a writing program called Hollins..."

Natasha Trethewey

Natasha Trethewey, a graduate of Hollins University's master of arts program in English and creative writing, was named Poet Laureate for 2012-13 (reappointed for second term 2013-14) by the Library of Congress. She was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for her collection of poetry, Native Guard.
(Photo by Jon Rou)


Madison Smartt Bell

Madison Smartt Bell, who earned his master of arts degree in creative writing from Hollins University, has won a prestigious $250,000 Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


The Inheritance of Loss

Kiran Desai, a 1994 graduate of Hollins' master's program in creative writing, was named the winner of the 2006 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, for her novel The Inheritance of Loss.


M.F.A. in Creative Writing

This two-year master of fine arts program offers an individualized approach in an atmosphere of cooperation and encouragement for the college graduate writer who wants to concentrate on craft in a community of writers and who seeks to expand his or her knowledge of contemporary literature.

The 24 students enrolled in this highly regarded program have a strong interest in and aptitude for writing and literary study. They work successfully in every genre, including poetry, short fiction, novels, and creative nonfiction.

The Hollins program has one of the highest publishing records of any graduate school in the country. Among the many renowned writers who have graduated from the program are Pulitzer Prize winners Annie Dillard, Henry Taylor, and Natasha Trethewey*; novelists and story writers Madison Smartt Bell, Kiran Desai, Tony D'Souza, David Huddle, Adam Ross, and Jill McCorkle; poets and essayists Adrian Blevins, Jenny Boully, Scott Cairns, Wyn Cooper, Kevin Prufer, and Mary Ruefle; novelists and memoirists Richard McCann and Karen Salyer McElmurray; photographer Sally Mann; and filmmaker George Butler.

At Hollins, faculty members take considerable time to work with students, both in and out of the classroom. R.H.W. Dillard, long-time Hollins professor, and a novelist and poet, notes, "We do not really teach creative writing. We do not produce writers who write a certain way. We do provide the guidance of professionals, and we do everything we can to make the program what the students here need." The graduates echo Dillard's words, saying that the criticism and guidance of Hollins professors and visiting writers help shape and discipline their writing without squeezing them into a mold.

In addition to NEA, Guggenheim, and Fulbright awards, graduates of the creative writing program have won more book awards than we can list, as well as prestigious fellowships and residencies, including:

  • Will Schutt (M.F.A. '09) was awarded the 2009-10 and 2010-11 Stadler Fellowship at Bucknell University. His first book of poems, Westerly, won the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize in 2012 and received a starred review in Publisher's Weekly in 2013.
  • Luke Johnson (M.F.A. '09) Tennessee Williams Scholarship to the Sewanee Writers' Conference, 2009.
  • Scott Loring Sanders (M.F.A. '05) writing fellowship, the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France.
  • Lisa Bower (M.F.A. '07), Vermont Studio Center residency.
  • Matthew Klam (M.A. '92) writing fellowship, Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown.
  • Leslee Becker (M.A. '80), Stegner Fellowship, Stanford University.

Each academic year, Hollins sponsors a reading series and a literary festival, as well as the semester-long Louis D. Rubin, Jr. Writer-in-Residence, bringing talented writers of many backgrounds to campus for readings, talks, and contact with students. Recent and current visiting writers include: Kelly Cherry, Wyn Cooper, Eduardo Corral, Lydia Davis, Carl Dennis, Mark Doty, Cornelius Eady, Claudia Emerson, Nick Flynn, Alice Fulton, Edward P. Jones, Mat Johnson, Patricia Spears Jones, Jamaica Kincaid, Valerie Martin, Honor Moore, Paul Muldoon, Francine Prose, Ron Rash, Adam Ross, George Saunders, Christine Schutt, David Shields, James Tate, Richard Tillinghast, Natasha Trethewey, and C. D. Wright.

Best New Poets

Here's how our M.F.A. students have been doing in this annual anthology:
Meighan L. Sharp ('11) and Chad Temples ('08) both have poems in the 2013 book. In 2012, there's a poem by Erin Ganaway ('08), and one by Ayako Matsushita ('12) in the 2011 collection. What about Best New Poets 2010? Meighan Sharp (yes, the same person) and Luke Johnson ('09) are there. And from our M.A. days, there's a poem by Temple Cone in the 2005 Best New Poets. At least two Hollins B.A. writers, Duffie Taylor and Laura-Gray Street, have won places in this series, too.


Molly Jean Bennett M.F.A. '14 created a collage of the undergraduate and graduate creative writers at their final reading of the year.

*Hollins' earliest Pulitzer Prize winner was Mary Wells Knight Ashworth '24 for a biography of George Washington she wrote with John Alexander Carroll.