Why I Write

I write because I want to see the world clearly.

A good story, a good poem, a good essay—or for that matter, a good novel or memoir—helps you see the present moment with focus and clarity. Even if a book takes place on the other side of the world, or five hundred years ago, or has faces very different from mine, I know that there’s something common in human experience to see. Good writing doesn’t constantly look back or look ahead. Each word is a world, and a good writer puts that world in front of you when you read.

When I sit down to write, I often don’t know what I’m looking for. I have a feeling, a desire to communicate. I know there’s a story to tell, even if I don’t know exactly what that story is. Writing is both discovery and certainty—certain that you’re there for a reason, eager to find out what that reason is.

One of my great writing teachers used to say, “Into what life does this story come?” When I read, I am grateful for the opportunity to enter someone else’s life. When I write, I am honored to share my life with you.

by Kevin Haworth, Director of the MFA program

QUICK FACTS: Low-residency: complete four, 11 day residencies -- two in Pittsburgh and two at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland; program begins in January and June; no GRE or GMAT required

New for Spring 2017, a 2-credit class for MFA students anywhere: The Entrepreneurial Writer


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

– Tess Barry, Alumni and Finalist for the Manchester Poetry Prize 

The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing program is designed with convenience in mind for those who juggle various obligations but aspire to become published writers. Students have the opportunity to refine and explore their writing through concentrations in fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction under the guidance of award-winning American and Irish writers. Students and faculty communicate regularly by postal mail and email. The culmination of the students’ experiences at Carlow is the production of a manuscript of publishable quality in their desired concentration.

Carlow’s MFA program, which can be completed in five semesters, provides the convenience of a low-residency program with boundless opportunities in which students work with internationally-renowned writers in the United States and Ireland. Each year, students complete two residencies. In January, students spend 11 days in Pittsburgh, a city known for its world-class teaching and research institutes. In June, students experience the magnificent setting and rich literary tradition of Ireland during an 11-day residency at Trinity College Dublin.

“This program changed my life. Carlow is where I learned what a strong, supportive writing community is like. It’s where I learned the true meaning of ‘misneach’ (courage), where I made the most amazing friends, and where I have truly found my voice. I’m grateful for every moment.”

-- Ashley Ensminger

The Carlow University MFA in Creative Writing Program offers students an apprenticeship with masters in the field: excellent writers who have stature within the writing community and significant publication credentials, are actively involved in their own art, and are concerned and conscientious teachers.

The program tries to avoid the restriction of any one “school” or aesthetic by engaging faculty with a range of experience and scheduling a variety of seminar/course topics each semester. The program is unique for offering residencies in Ireland with the opportunity to study with significant Irish writers.

Admission to our MFA in Creative Writing program has rolling admissions (in other words, you can apply at any time of the year)! Also, please follow us on Twitter at @CarlowMFA and like us on Facebook!

Carlow University's MFA Program for Creative Writing is a member of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs

“‘Home, where you first sang whatever it is you first sang. What welcome means, this you first learned at home…’ This quote comes from Rick Moody’s latest book (I got to hear him read aloud!!) and it came to mind when I hugged my mom at the airport. That reading was just one of the unforgettable experiences of many I had over these past two weeks at Carlow. I have left inspired, challenged, and armed to write. Thank you to new friends, new mentors, a new community. Now, time to write!” 

 -- Stephanie Bedford




Kevin Haworth, Director

Kevin Haworth is a 2016 National Endowment for the Arts fellow and Director of the low-residency MFA program at Carlow University. His books include the novel The Discontinuity of Small Things, winner of the Samuel Goldberg Fiction Prize; the essay collection Famous Drownings in Literary History; and the limited edition essay chapbook Far Out All My Life. His collection of essays about writing, Lit from Within: Contemporary Masters on the Art and Craft of Writing, co-edited with Dinty W. Moore, was recognized as an American Library Association Outstanding Title, as one of Writer magazine's Top 10 Writing Books, and listed as one of Poets & Writers' Best Books for Writers. He has held residencies at Vermont Studio Center, Headlands Center for the Arts, and Ledig International Writers House. Before coming to Carlow, he taught at Ohio University and at Tel Aviv University. He recently participated in "Public Writing, Public Libraries," a public art project in which his essays were printed on the windows of libraries throughout the state of Iowa.


Jan Beatty (US) Poetry

Jan Beatty's fifth full-length book, Jackknife: New and Collected Poems, was published in January, 2017 by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Her last book, The Switching/Yard, was named one of ...30 New Books That Will Help You Rediscover Poetry by Library Journal. The Huffington Post named her as one of ten women writers for "required reading." Other books include Red Sugar, Boneshaker, and Mad River, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, all published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Beatty is host and producer of Prosody, a public radio show on NPR affiliate WESA-FM featuring the work of national writers. Beatty worked as a waitress for fifteen years, and as a welfare caseworker, an abortion counselor, social worker and teacher in maximum-security prisons. She directs the creative writing program at Carlow University, where she runs the Madwomen in the Attic writing workshops and teaches in the MFA program.


Joseph Bathanti (US) Fiction

Joseph Bathanti is former Poet Laureate of North Carolina (2012-14). His novel, East Liberty, won the 2001 Carolina Novel Award. His novel, Coventry, won the 2006 Novello Literary Award. His book of stories, The High Heart, won the 2006 Spokane Prize. A new novel, The Life of the World to Come, was released from University of South Carolina Press in late 2014. He is the author of eight books of poetry: Communion Partners; Anson County; The Feast of All Saints; This Metal, nominated for the National Book Award, and winner of the Oscar Arnold Young Award; Land of Amnesia; Restoring Sacred Art, winner of the 2010 Roanoke Chowan Prize, awarded annually by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association for best book of poetry in a given year; Sonnets of the Cross; and Concertina, winner of the 2014 Roanoke Chowan Prize. His new volume of poems, The 13th Sunday after Pentecost, was published by LSU Press in 2016. Bathanti is Professor of Creative Writing at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC.


Evelyn Conlon (Ireland) Fiction

Evelyn Conlon is a novelist, short story writer, anthologist and essayist. She has published four novels-Not the Same Sky, Skin of Dreams, A Glassful of Letters and Starts in the Daytime-as well as three story collections and four anthologies. Her stories have been widely anthologised and translated, most recently into French, Italian, Tamil and Chinese. She has given workshops throughout the world and has been writer in residence in the USA, Australia, University College Dublin, Germany, and Jerusalem. Evelyn's last novel, Not the Same Sky was chosen as Pick of the Week in several major Australian newspapers, and is currently being broadcast on radio as the Book on One. The Sunday Times describes her work as "Articulate, passionate and frequently funny. Her prose is a delight," and Books Ireland calls her "one of Ireland's major truly creative writers."


Janice Eidus (US) Fiction

Janice Eidus's novels include The War of the Rosens, The Last Jewish Virgin and Urban Bliss. Her story collections are Vito Loves Geraldine and The Celibacy Club. She has twice won the O.Henry Prize for Fiction, as well as a Pushcart Prize. Other awards include The Acker Award for Achievement, an Independent Book Award, and The Firecracker Award given by the Community of Literary Magazines & Presses. Her fiction and nonfiction appear in such anthologies as How Does That Make You Feel: True Confessions From Both Sides of the Therapy Couch, The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories, 110 Stories: New York Writes After September 11, Common Boundary: An Anthology About Immigration and International Adoption, Dirt: Writers on the Quirks, Habits, and Passions of Keeping House and Desire: Women Write About Wanting.


Carlo Gébler (Ireland/Northern Ireland) Fiction, Nonfiction

Carlo Gébler was born in Dublin in 1954.  He lives outside Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. He is the author of novels including A Good Day for A Dog and The Dead Eight (shortlisted for the Kerry Irish Fiction Prize), the short story collections W.9. & Other Lives and The Wing Orderly's Tales, works of non-fiction including the narrative history, The Siege of Derry, and the memoirs Father & I, Confessions of a Catastrophist and The Projectionist, The Story of Ernest Gébler.  In August 2017 he will publish a new novel, The Innocent of Falkland Road.  He has also written novels for children  and plays for radio and the stage, including 10 Rounds,  which was short-listed for the Ewart-Biggs Prize.  From 1991 to 1997 he taught creative writing in HMP Maze and from 1997 to 2015 he was writer-in-residence in HMP Maghaberry.  In addition to his work with Carlow, he currently teaches at Trinity College and the American College, Dublin.  He is a member of Aosdana.  


Kristin Kovacic (US) Nonfiction

Kristin Kovacic is the co-editor of the anthology Birth: A Literary Companion, and the author of the poetry collection, House of Woman. A recipient of the Pushcart Prize and other awards, including the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship Award, her work in many genres has appeared in magazines, newspapers, and anthologies, including Brain, Child Magazine, Full Grown People, The Southern Review, The Journal, Women's Studies Quarterly, Kansas Quarterly, Cimarron Review, Puerto del Sol, The Tampa Review, and many others. She teaches at Winchester Thurston School and lives in Pittsburgh.


Brian Leyden (Ireland) Nonfiction

Brian Leyden is a memoirist, novelist, short story writer, playwright, screenwriter, and editor. His books include the bestselling memoir, The Home Place (New Island, 2002), the novel, Death and Plenty (Brandon Books, 1996), and the short story collection, Departures (Brandon Books, 1992). He has written extensively for the National Broadcaster RTÉ's Sunday Miscellany. His radio documentary work includes No Meadows in Manhattan, Even the Walls Were Sweatin', The Closing of the Gaiety Cinema in Carrick-on-Shannon and An Irish Station Mass. He is the co-writer of the feature film, Black Ice  (2013). Awards include the Norman Mailer Writers Colony Scholarship (USA), the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, (BAI) Sound and Vision Award (2014). And an Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon "Literary Bursary" 2014. His most recent publications are Sweet Old World: New & Selected Stories (Lepus Print 2015) and the novel Summer of '63 (Lepus Print 2016).

Maggie Messitt (US/South Africa) Nonfiction

Maggie Messitt is the author of The Rainy Season, long-listed for the 2016 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award in South Africa, where she was a journalist and editor for 8 years. Since returning to the United States, her essays and reportage have been published in Creative Nonfiction, Mother Jones, River Teeth, and the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance magazine, among others. Messitt earned her BA in Journalism & Faith, Peace, and Justice from Boston College and MFA from Goucher College. She has been awarded or invited to serve as a Multimedia Storytelling Fellow at UC-Berkeley's Knight Digital Media Center, Kenyon Review Peter Taylor Fellow, 2015 Scholar-in-Residence at Bowers Writers House, 2016 Ofstad Endowed Writer-in-Residence, and the Creative Nonfiction judge for the 2017 Oregon Literary Arts Fellowships. A PhD candidate (ABD) in Creative Nonfiction at Ohio University, Messitt is working on her next book, a hybrid of memoir and investigation.


Jean O'Brien (Ireland) Poetry

Jean O'Brien's fifth collection, Fish on a Bicycle: New and Selected Poems was published by Salmon Poetry in Fall 2016. Since then poems from it have been broadcast regularly on RTE Radio 1. Her work appear in journals of repute including; Poetry Ireland Review, The Stinging Fly, Acumen, Agenda, Orbis, and Prairie Schooner. Her work is often anthologised, most recently in: Inside History: The Works of Eavan Boland, Cork Literary Review Special Issue, The Enchanting Verse Literary Journal Irish Issue, Liebesgedichte Letter (in collaboration with artist Dixie Friend Gay), and The Windharp: Poems of Ireland since 1916. O'Brien was named Highly Commended for The Forward Poetry Prize in 2014, and her poem "Merman" won the highly acclaimed Arvon International Award in 2010 and the 2008 Fish Award.


Adriana E. Ramirez (US/Mexico/Colombia) Nonfiction

Adriana E. Ramirez was born in Mexico City, grew up in Texas and is a graduate of Rice University and University of Pittsburgh.  A nationally honored slam poet, she won the inaugural PEN/Fusion Emerging Writer's Prize in 2015, an award given to a promising young writer for an unpublished work of non-fiction addressing a global or multicultural issue.  Her non-fiction novella, Dead Boys, came out in November 2016, and her debut full-length non-fiction work, The Violence, will be published by Scribner in Fall 2017.  Ramirez has also published two poetry books, The Swallows and Trusting in Imaginary Spaces.



If you'd like to learn more about our MFA in Creative Writing, let us know!