Graduate Creative Writing

Aided by the Calgary Distinguished Writers Program, the Creative Writing program attracts national and international acclaim. Faculty and students actively contribute to the Calgary and Canadian arts communities.  

MA with creative thesis

You may apply to submit a substantial work of poetry or fiction as a creative project for the MA thesis in English. However, we caution that permission is needed to undertake the creative option. We cannot promise that admission to the MA in English, nor completion of Creative Writing classes at this or any other university, guarantees permission to pursue the Creative Writing project. 

We do encourage you to continue writing and to continue applying for Creative Writing courses at the graduate level. 

PhD with creative dissertation

We offer a PhD in English with a Creative Writing option. You may be permitted to submit a substantial book-length manuscript of poetry or fiction for the PhD thesis in English. However, because of the high standards expected for such a project and the Department's limited resources in the area of creative writing, permission to undertake this option is highly competitive. While an indication of writing and publishing experience is essential, such publication by itself does not guarantee either admission to the doctoral program or approval of a creative dissertation project.

MA with creative thesis


Submit a substantial portfolio of previous work during your graduate program application (published work, five to eight short poems or one to two short stories, chapters of a novel, or a combination of poetry and prose).

Critical approach

Outline critical awareness of the approach you expect to take.


If the proposal is for poetry, you must present a critical discussion of the proposed work, calling attention elements like themes, verse-forms, groups of poems, experimental or traditional approaches, etc.


If the proposal is for fiction, you must present a critical discussion of possible approaches to characterization, theme, point of view, narrative stance, experimental or traditional approaches.


The finished product must have an introduction or afterword, normally of 20–30 pages, showing some critical awareness of the approach taken.

Average length

The average length of a poetry project is normally about fifty pages. Fiction projects are normally about one hundred and fifty pages.

PhD with creative dissertation


Submit a portfolio of writing and published works during your graduate program application.

Critical approach

Your dissertation essay must show extensive critical awareness of the approach you expect to take. Expect, as part of your studies, to do research within the genre.


The finished product, when presented as a dissertation for examination, must be previously unpublished and must be accompanied by a critical essay showing a sophisticated critical and/or theoretical awareness of the approach taken.


Although quantity and quality cannot be equated, the body of work presented must be substantial; as with the dissertation for a critical Ph.D., it should fulfill expectations of originality and publishability.

Expand your writing career

Zytaruk UCalgary professor

Master of Arts (MA), thesis-based

Thesis-based programs require that you pursue independent and original research culminating in a thesis. You will work under the supervision of a faculty member whose expertise matches your research area.

Michael Chabon visits UCalgary

Master of Arts (MA), course-based

In a course-based program, all degree requirements are fulfilled by completing courses. These may include courses that involve a project, such as a major research paper or group project.

UCalgary professor Anthony Camara on the anniversary of Frankenstein

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

The Department of English offers a PhD degree with one specialization, Literature in English. The Creative Writing option is available within this specialization.

Creative Writing faculty

Larissa Lai UCalgary Creative Writing

Larissa Lai

Associate Professor
Social Sciences 1052

Larissa Lai has authored three novels, When Fox Is a Thousand (Press Gang 1995; Arsenal Pulp 2004), Salt Fish Girl (Thomas Allen 2002) and The Tiger Flu (Arsenal Pulp 2018)two poetry collections, sybil unrest (with Rita Wong; LINEbooks 2008; New Star 2008, 2013) and Automaton Biographies (Arsenal Pulp 2009); a chapbook, Eggs in the Basement (Nomados 2009)and a critical book, Slanting I, Imagining We: Asian Canadian Literary Production in the 1980s and 1990s (Wilfrid Laurier University Press 2014). A recipient of the Astraea Foundation Emerging Writers' Awardshe has been a finalist for the Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Tiptree Award, the Sunburst Award, the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Award, the bpNichol Chapbook Award, the Dorothy Livesay Prize and the ACQL Gabrielle Roy Prize for Literary Criticism. 

She holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia and a PhD in English from the University of Calgary. She was Assistant Professor in Canadian Literature for seven years at the University of British Columbia before returning to the University of Calgary to take up a CRC II in Creative Writing.

Aritha van Herk UCalgary Creative Writing

Aritha Van Herk

Professor, AOE, FRSC
Social Sciences 1132

Aritha van Herk is both a recognized scholar with a University Professorship, and an internationally recognized Canadian author whose work has been translated into ten languages. Her novels include Judith (1978), winner of the Seal Book Award, No Fixed Address: An Amorous Journey (1986), which was nominated for the Governor General's Award, and Restlessness (1998). Her experiments in creative non-fiction and ficto-criticism are available in A Frozen Tongue (1992), In Visible Ink (1991), and Places Far from Ellesmere: A Geografictione (1990). Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta (2001) served as the inspiration for the Glenbow Museum's permanent exhibition of the same name, launched in 2007. In This Place and Prairie Gothic (with photographer George Webber) develop the idea of geographical temperament as tonal accompaniment. Her most recent work, Stampede and the Westness of West, is a prose/poetry exploration of place and mythology. She is a Member of the Order of Canada, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a member of the Alberta Order of Excellence, and she has received the Lorne Pierce Medal, awarded to recognize achievement of special significance and conspicuous merit in imaginative or critical literature in Canada.

Aritha van Herk's work is particularly recognized for her innovations in creative non-fiction and, in her fiction, for the affirmative images of women resisting societal norms and familial expectations. She is the editor of the “Brave and Brilliant” Series published by the University of Calgary Press. She has been an active editor and strong supporter of her many students' work since the mid 1980s.


Suzette Mayr UCalgary Creative Writing

Suzette Mayr

Suzette Mayr

Social Sciences 1048

Suzette Mayr holds an M.A. degree from the University of Alberta and a Ph.D. from the University of New South Wales. She is a novelist, the author of the acclaimed novels Moon Honey (Newest, 1995), a finalist for both the Georges Bugnet and Henry Kreisel First Novel Awards, The Widows (Newest, 1998), finalist for the Commonwealth Prize for Best Book in the Canadian-Caribbean Region, Venous Hum (Arsenal Pulp, 2004), longlisted for the ReLit Award; Monoceros (Coach House, 2011), winner of the 2012 ReLit Award and the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Award; long listed for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize; nominated for the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction and the Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction, and most recently, Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall (Coach House, 2017).

Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and in collaborations with visual artists. Her fiction, with its original voice, clipped, deadpan satirical style, is on this country's cutting edge of contemporary explorations into issues of race, sex and identity.

Suzette Mayr is widely versed in contemporary 20th century Canadian literature and particularly in representations of race and ethnicity.

Vivek Shraya Creative Writing Faculty

Vivek Shraya

Assistant Professor
Social Sciences 1046

Vivek Shraya is an artist whose body of work crosses the boundaries of music, literature, visual art, theatre, and film. Her best-selling new book, I'm Afraid of Men, was her­ald­ed by Vanity Fair as “cultural rocket fuel,” and her album with Queer Songbook Orchestra, Part-Time Woman, was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize. She is one half of the music duo Too Attached and the founder of the publishing imprint VS. Books.

A five-time Lambda Literary Award finalist, Vivek was a 2016 Pride Toronto Grand Marshal, was featured on The Globe and Mail’s Best Dressed list, and has received honours from The Writers’ Trust of Canada and The Publishing Triangle. She is a director on the board of the Tegan and Sara Foundation and an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Calgary.

L. Rain Prud'homme-Cranford Creative Writing Faculty

L. Rain Prud'homme-Cranford

Assistant Professor
Social Sciences 1124

Rain Prud’homme-Cranford (Rain C Goméz), PhD: is a “FATtastic IndigeNerd,” working within Indigenous and Afro-Indigenous Studies (literatures, ecology, gender/sexuality, Métis/Méstiz@/Creole studies, Rhetorics, Indigenous STEM, and Creative Writing). Her book Smoked Mullet Cornbread Crawdad Memory (Mongrel Empire Press 2012) won the First Book Award from Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas. Her forthcoming creative collections include Miscegenation Roundance: Poèmes Historiques, "I oughta know about lonely girls": Essays on Body, Love, & Race, and a third collection of poetry entitled FAT. Rain’s current critical monograph projects include Gumbo Stories: Quantum Relation-Making and Decolonizing the Transnational South (forthcoming) and "Remember the Red River Valley:" Transcontinental Red River Literacies of Métissage/Méstizaje (research and writing stage). She is the editor (along with Andrew Jolivétte, Darryl Barthé, and Carolyn Dunn), of Louisiana Creole Peoplehood: Tracing Post-Contact Afro-Indigeneity and Community (forthcoming University of Washington Press).

Critical and creative work can be found in The Southern Literary Journal, Louisiana Folklife, Undead Souths: The Gothic and Beyond (LSU P), Swamp Souths: Tracing Literary Ecologies (LSU P), Mississippi Quarterly, American Indian Culture and Research Journal, Tidal Basin Review, Yellow Medicine Review, Sing: Indigenous Poetry of the Americas, Plume, and many others. Rain is co-Editor-in Chief (with Carolyn Dunn), of That Painted Horse Press: A Borderless Indigenous Press of the Americas (a press founded by Paula Gunn Allen and Carolyn Dunn). She is an Assistant Professor of English and Affiliated Faculty, International Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Student Access Program at the University of Calgary.

Clem Martini UCalgary Creative Writing faculty

Clem Martini

Professor, Department of Drama
Adjunct Professor, English Department
Craigie Hall D107

Clem Martini is an award-winning playwright, novelist, and screenwriter with over thirty plays, and twelve books of fiction and nonfiction to his credit, including the W.O. Mitchell Award-winning Bitter Medicine: A Graphic Memoir of Mental Illness, the recently launched The Unravelling, and The Comedian. His texts on playwriting, The Blunt PlaywrightThe Greek Playwright, and The Ancient Comedians are employed widely at universities and colleges. He currently teaches in the School of Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Calgary.

Ready to apply?

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What you'll need

The Faculty of Graduate Studies has detailed instructions about the application process.

Read admission steps and requirements

Do you have everything?

You are responsible for ensuring your application is complete and all documents are received by the deadline. 

Graduate supervisor

The Department of English does not require you to confirm a supervisor prior to admission.

Begin your application

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Once you begin, remember to click 'Save & Continue' often to ensure your application is saved.

Online application

Graduate program contacts

Contact us for any questions you may have about the programs we offer in the Department of English.

Graduate Program Advisor

Ask me about graduate program advising

Lori Somner

Associate Head (Graduate Program)

Ask me about graduate degree requirements

Dr. Stefania Forlini

Creative Writing Coordinator

Ask me about the Creative Writing Program

Suzette Mayr