About the Program
At the MFA program in Creative Writing and Literature at Stony Brook Southampton + Manhattan, we welcome writers who seek to create original work primarily in fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction. We offer guidance that is friendly, rigorous, professionally useful and hands on. Enrollment in our writing workshops is capped at twelve.
Unlike most MFA programs, ours encourages students to take workshops in all kinds of writing, rather than being tracked upon acceptance into a single genre. We invite students to explore, in the belief that writing outside their genres informs their primary areas of interest.
Beyond the familiar categories of fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction, we offer workshops in other forms of creative expression relevant to understanding and mastering a world constructed out of words and images. Recent course offerings have included writing on location, YA novel, experimental literature, and writing for TV.
Our literature courses are taught by working writers, with an eye to how reading informs craft. (More traditional graduate literature courses are also available.) And devoted genre-busters will find opportunities to collaborate with practitioners in other fields, especially film and television.
We foster a community within SUNY Stony Brook that is united in its commitment to writing as art but inclusive of those who do not fit neatly into the constraints of the academy. Literary success comes in many forms, from active publication to more idiosyncratic allegiances to the creative process.
Our students display a range of interests and experience; they include recent college graduates, post-career professionals, working journalists, secondary school teachers, editors, and professors seeking to make a transition from scholarly to creative writing. Some arrive with full-time lives to seek part-time studies. Others come as full-time students who find the affordable off-season housing in the Hamptons to be an extremely agreeable way to pursue the writing life.
Still other students combine coursework at Stony Brook Manhattan with workshops at the Southampton campus during the summer. Even commitment-phobic writers have a place here, taking short-term courses of study. (Sorry, you have to be just as talented a writer as the MFA students to get a spot in workshops.)
To serve this thriving and diverse community, we offer courses year-round. Traditional semester-long courses meet during weekdays and on evenings at both Southampton and Manhattan. We also offer weekend intensives during fall and spring terms. In addition, nearly all of our students register for a course or two during the Southampton Writers Conference, our intensive summer sessions.
All of our courses, whether in creative writing or literature, are taught by practicing writers who are themselves producing original work. Our full-time core faculty is joined by a regular cast of visiting writers who provide creative breadth to the program or bring expertise in more specialized areas of creative writing.
These distinguished authors rotate into the schedule throughout the year, teaching in the regular term at Southampton or Manhattan, in the summer at Southampton, or in the winter sessions.
We also welcome a parade of visiting writers to both Manhattan and Southampton through our reading series, Writers Speak. In the spring, we bring to campus a series of literary agents, who hold individual conferences with students in thesis.
All our faculty members, full time and visiting, have joined us because they care about encouraging new voices. Still others visit us virtually, in the pages of our distinguished literary journal, The Southampton Review.
Stony Brook Southampton is part of Stony Brook University, widely regarded as one of America’s distinguished institutions of higher learning and a vital part of the SUNY system. Our program enjoys all the opportunities and privileges of such a resource: access to the vast holdings of the Melville Library, graduate courses in other disciplines, including the English Department, a Provost’s Lecture Series in which our students present their works in progress, and centralized administrative support at the Graduate School, the Office of Financial Aid and the Registrar.
But encamped as we are on a separate arts campus, Southampton’s MFA Program is able to offer a customized experience for the directed creative artist. In other words, come here to get your work done.
"If you're dreaming of becoming the next J. K. Rowling, we've got the perfect place
for you—the Southampton Children's Literature Conference."
– School Library Journal
Kid at Heart? Auteur?
The MFA program offers courses in writing children’s books, including the one-year Children’s Lit Fellows, but for an intensive focus, you can’t beat the Southampton Children's Literature Conference, a unique forum in which to study and discuss the craft of writing for children. World-renowned authors, illustrators and editors come to Southampton every July to offer inspiration and guidance. These summer workshops, lectures, group discussions and special presentations are open to new, established and aspiring writers.
We also have an impressive film program that offers limited space in its courses to creative writing students. Some of our students have written plays or screenplays for their thesis projects in collaboration with film faculty.
Our alumni have gone on to publish in The New Yorker (poet and Cave Canum Fellow Michelle Whittaker, '11, whose first book, Surge, is not to be missed) and other magazines and journals, including Vanessa Cuti, '14, in the Kenyon Review and our own The Southampton Review. Matthew McGevna's debut novel, Little Beasts, arrived from Akashic Press in July of 2015, and it was a busy spring 2015 for Bob Morris. His book, Bobby Wonderful: An Imperfect Son Buries His Parents, was released on June 2 from Hachette, excerpted in Time Magazine, and reviewed in the NYT Book Review. His essay, “Directing the Final Scene” was featured May 30 on the New York Times Opinion Pages. Victor Giannini ('12) published his first novella with Silverthought Press in 2012, and Dorothy Marcic ('13) saw her play Sistas premiere Off Broadway at St. Luke’s Theatre.
Helen Simonson ('08), the author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, wrote this New York Times bestseller as her thesis in our program.
“What is truly amazing about this program,” she writes, “is that not only did I have the chance to learn craft from some of today’s greatest writers in their fields, but also that these famous talents treat the students as fellow writers. To have my work taken completely seriously was at first a shock and then a complete joy. This leadership also encourages the student body to treat each other exceptionally well, in workshops where tough criticism is delivered in an atmosphere of trust and mutual growth. They say you can’t teach writing and yet I could feel my skills expanding weekly in this program. There’s something in the water of the East End of Long Island that nourishes art of all kinds."
The Grand Prize Winner of the prestigious 2012 Women in Film & Video/New England Screenwriting Competition, Tracy King-Sanchez ('12) writes, “What I love most about the MFA Program - and I do mean love, not like, or admire, or look on with fond memories; I'm talking straight up, in your face, one-restraining-order-away-from-stalking LOVE - is this thing they do called teaching. Sure, a lot of other places lay claim to this teaching fad, but the folks at Southampton do it in a way that stretches not only your creativity, but every cog and peg that goes into forming and nurturing a writer who continues to push past the edges of her world, both real and imagined. Under the tutelage (see, they even taught me how to use big-girl words) of Roger Rosenblatt, Jules Feiffer, Julie Sheehan, William Burford, Ying & Yang Duo Caglioti & Reeves and the countless name-dropping, rock-star-worthy gurus, I have learned not only the importance of craft, but that, without a clear, authentic and, above all else, honest voice, my words would be as flat as the blank page which calls out to every writer with a story that must be told."