Literary Citizenship

Prospective students often say to me, “I want to get an MFA. I want to be a writer.”

I say to them, “Don’t aim to be a writer. Aim to be a literary citizen.”

Of course, when you come to our MFA program, our priority is your writing. People pursue an MFA because they are passionate about telling stories, passionate about using words to connect to other people, and passionate about creating beauty (important) and truth (even more important) on the page. At Carlow, your writing is the core of what you do, the focus of the student-mentor relationship. But everything we do in the context of the program is toward the goal of becoming a literary citizen. Our summer residency in Dublin reminds us of the importance of literary community, which our Irish faculty embrace. Our winter residency in Pittsburgh, a growing literary city, reminds us of the value of celebrating voices as diverse as our faces. And throughout our program, we learn how to be literary citizens in the ways that you, the student, want to be. Do you want to start a reading series and bring writing to your community? Do you want to teach, in a college setting, in a high school setting, or in another, alternative setting? Do you want to be a book editor, start a literary journal? Or is there yet another way in which you want to be a part of the literary world?

The Carlow MFA program will help you write your book. But just as importantly, we think about you, the writer. We are here to help you meet your goals as both a writer and a literary citizen.

- Kevin Haworth, Director, Carlow University's MFA Program

“Carlow University’s MFA program is small enough to enhance personal development, but big enough to change your life.”  – Tess Barry, MFA student

Carlow University's Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is the low-residency program of choice for students wanting to keep their daytime jobs while having the opportunity to study here and in Ireland with award-winning writers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry who act as their mentors.

Students spend eleven intense days in January in Pittsburgh, a city known for its writers, and eleven days in June in Dublin, Ireland, a UNESCO "City of Words" and home to countless world-renowned authors. During the rest of the year, students submit their individual writing and reading assignments to their selected American and Irish mentors for critique.

The program is intended for students who aspire to be professional writers, to teach creative writing on the college level, or to enjoy the satisfaction of writing and reading in an individualized program. 


Learn from and work with internationally celebrated authors during your time at Carlow University. Renowned Irish author, Edna O'Brien, spoke and read excerpts from her memoir, Country Girl, to a crowd of more than 400 in Carlow University's Rosemary Heyl Theatre on Saturday, April 5, 2014. O'Brien joined Carlow's literary community in celebrating the 10th anniversary of the University's Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in creative writing program.