Alma College MFA

Michigan, United States

Low-residency program

The Alma College MFA in Creative Writing is a two-year low-residency degree program offering studies in fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. It features a strong literature-based curriculum designed to develop each student’s ability to read and think critically and to write with a high level of artistic proficiency. The program is created to have flexibility so students can explore new interests via mixed and dual genre degree options.

The program also offers the opportunity for students to enter an artistic community in which they will hone their craft and participate in energetic discussions that will help them see their poems, stories, essays, and memoirs in the context of current issues and events. The question always at the forefront of our work is, “How can you as an artist, as a writer, participate in and influence the important conversations of our times?” This program fosters a more expansive way of writing, and of being human. Our focus on relevance will encourage students to persevere and to have their own answer whenever they ask themselves, “Why am I writing?”

The Alma MFA is for students who want to make a serious commitment to writing. Our students come from all walks of life and varying levels of experience. There will be those who are published and those who are not. There will be students who have been in workshop before and those for whom this will be their first. But what everyone will have in common is a passion for writing and reading and a willingness to learn.

Contact Information

614 W. Superior St
Swanson Academic Center 342
Michigan, United States
Phone: (989) 463-7394


Graduate Program Director

Sophfronia Scott
614 W. Superior St
Swanson Academic Center 342
Michigan, United States

The Alma College MFA in Creative Writing features a strong literature-based curriculum designed to develop each student’s ability to read and think critically and to write with a high level of artistic proficiency. It’s created to have flexibility so students can explore new interests via mixed and dual genre degree options. The program also offers the opportunity for students to enter an artistic community in which they will hone their craft and participate in energetic discussions that will help them see their poems, stories, essays, and memoirs in the context of current issues and events.

Type of Program: Low-Residency Program
Genres: Fiction, Poetry, Creative Nonfiction
Duration of Study: 2 years
Unit of Measure: Credits
Application Requirements: Transcripts, Writing Sample, Application Form, Letters of Recommendation, Other


Karen E. Bender

Karen E. Bender is the author of two story collections: Refund, which was a Finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction, Shortlisted for the 2015 Frank O’Connor International Story Prize, and also Longlisted for the Story Prize. Her collection The New Order, was Longlisted for the Story Prize in 2018. She is the author of two novels, Like Normal People, which was a Washington Post Book of the Year and a Los Angeles Times bestseller, and A Town of Empty Rooms. Her fiction has appeared in magazines including The New Yorker, Granta, Ploughshares, The Yale Review, The Harvard Review, Zoetrope, Electric Literature, Guernica and others, and has been reprinted in Best American Short Stories, Best American Mystery Stories, and New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best.

The winner of three Pushcart prizes, her work has been read at “Selected Shorts” at Symphony Space by Joanne Woodward and by Levar Burton on Levar Burton Reads. Bender has received grants from the Rona Jaffe Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Visiting Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at Hollins University, she has also taught in the creative writing programs at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, the University of Iowa, and at the low residency M.F.A. programs at Warren Wilson College, Chatham University and Antioch University Los Angeles. Bender is the fiction editor of the literary journal Scoundrel Time.

Anna Clark

Anna Clark, of Detroit, is a writer driven by curiosity?and a belief in the power of good stories to bring more truth and empathy into the world. She is the author of? The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Tragedy, named one of the year’s best books by the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, Kirkus, the New York Public Library, Audible and others. It won the Hillman Prize for Book Journalism, the Rachel Carson Environment Book Award, the Gross Award for Literature, and it was a finalist for the?Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Book Journalism. Anna’s writing has appeared in Elle, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Politico, The New Republic, the Columbia Journalism Review, Next City, CityLab and other publications. She’s also a contributing editor at Waxwing Literary Journal, where she likes to focus on international literature, and guest edited a special issue of the Michigan Quarterly Review, titled “Not One Without.” Anna edited? “A Detroit Anthology,” a Michigan Notable Book, and also wrote a small book about the distinctive literary culture of the Great Lakes state. She is a longtime teacher of writing and improv theatre in all corners of the world: high schools, colleges, prisons, detention centers, soup kitchens, tech incubators and more. Anna also co-curates the Motor Signal Reading Series in Detroit’s Eastern Market, which jolts the typical literary?reading out of its traditional form.?She has been a Fulbright fellow in creative writing in Nairobi, Kenya, and a Knight-Wallace journalism fellow at the University of Michigan. Anna graduated from Warren Wilson College’s M.F.A. Program for Writers.

Dhonielle Clayton

Dhonielle Clayton is a New York Times Bestselling author of The Belles series, the coauthor of the “Tiny Pretty Things” duology, which debuts as a Netflix original series soon, and the author of the forthcoming MG fantasy series The Marvellers. She hails from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., taught secondary school for several years, and is a former elementary and middle school librarian. She is COO of the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books, and owner of CAKE Literary, a creative kitchen whipping up decadent — and decidedly diverse — literary confections for middle grade, young adult and women’s fiction readers. An avid traveler, Dhonielle is always on the hunt for magic and mischief.

Leslie Contreras Schwartz

Leslie Contreras Schwartz is the fourth Houston Poet Laureate. She is the author of three collections of poetry: black dove / paloma negra, Fuego and Nightbloom & Cenote, a semi-finalist for the 2017 Tupelo Press Dorset Prize, judged by Ilya Kaminsky.

Her work, including essays and short stories, has appeared in Pleiades, The Missouri Review, [PANK], Iowa Review, Verse Daily, Catapult and Xicanx: 21 Mexican American Writers of the 21st Century, edited by ire’ne lara silva among others. She has collaborated or been commissioned for poetic projects with the City of Houston, the Houston Grand Opera and The Moody Center of the Arts at Rice University.

Contreras Schwartz was born in Houston with Mexican American and Mexican roots going back several generations in Houston and the state of Texas. She is a graduate of The Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and earned a bachelor’s degree at Rice University. Contreras Schwartz is also a member of the Macondo Writers’ Collective. She has taught at the University of Houston and Rice University, teaches community workshops, and is a speaker on the topics of mental health and poetry.

James Daniels

As a writer, Jim Daniels, a 1978 graduate of Alma College, has authored 28 collections of poetry, six collections of fiction and four produced screenplays. He has also edited or coedited six anthologies of writing. Daniels is a recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and two from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. His books have won three Michigan Notable Book Awards, the Brittingham Prize for Poetry, the Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry, the Tillie Olsen Creative Writing Award, the Milton Kessler Award, and three Gold Medals in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, among others, and his films have won many awards in film festivals around the world.

His work has been published in The Best American Poetry and Pushcart Prize volumes. He has read his poetry on Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion,” and his poems have been frequently featured on Keillor’s “Writer’s Almanac.” Poet laureates Billy Collins, Ted Kooser and Tracy K. Smith have all showcased his writing as part of their work to bring poetry to average Americans: in Collins’ Poetry 180 anthologies, Kooser’s “American Life in Poetry” series, and on Smith’s poetry podcast, “The Slowdown.”

During his long career, he has warmed up for singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams at the Three Rivers Arts Festival, had his poem “Factory Love” displayed on a race car, and is sending poetry to the moon in 2021 as part of the Moon Arts Project. A native of Detroit, he currently lives in Pittsburgh, where he is the Thomas Stockham Baker University Professor of English. At Carnegie Mellon University, he has received the Ryan Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Elliott Dunlap Smith Award for Teaching and Educational Service, the Mark Gelfand Service Award for Educational Outreach, and the Faculty Service Award from the Alumni Association.

Matthew Gavin Frank

Matthew Gavin Frank is the author of the nonfiction books, The Mad Feast: An Ecstatic Tour Through America’s Food, Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer, Pot Farm and Barolo; the poetry books, The Morrow Plots, Warranty in Zulu and Sagittarius Agitprop, and two chapbooks. Preparing the Ghost was a New York Times Editors’ Choice, an NPR Notable Book, and a New Yorker Book to Watch Out For. The Mad Feast was selected as a Staff Pick by The Paris Review, a Best Book of 2015 by Ploughshares, The Millions, and Paste Magazine, longlisted for the Art of Eating Prize, and featured in The Wall Street Journal, Saveur, and Entertainment Weekly.

His forthcoming nonfiction book, Flight of the Diamond Smugglers — about, among other things, the ways in which carrier pigeons are used by diamond smuggling rings — is due out February 2021 from W.W. Norton: Liveright. His work appears widely in journals and magazines, including The Kenyon Review, The Paris Review, Guernica, The New Republic, Iowa Review, Salon, Conjunctions, The Believer,The Normal School, The Best Travel Writing anthologies, The Best Food Writing anthologies, The Poetry Foundation, and as Notable selections in The Best American Essays anthologies. After spending 17 years in the restaurant industry, he’s now a professor of creative writing in the M.F.A. Program at Northern Michigan University, where he is also the Nonfiction/Hybrids Editor of the literary magazine, Passages North.

Benjamin Garcia

Benjamin Garcia’s first collection, Thrown in the Throat, was selected by Kazim Ali for the 2019 National Poetry Series. He works as a sexual health and harm reduction educator in the Finger Lakes region of New York. A son of Mexican immigrants, he received his B.A. from the University of New Mexico and his M.F.A. from Cornell University.

Benjamin had the honor of being a 2019 Lambda Literary fellow, the 2018 CantoMundo Fellow at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, and the 2017 Latinx Scholar at the Frost Place Conference on Poetry. He is the winner of the 2018 Puerto del Sol Poetry Contest and the 2019 Julia Peterkin Flash Fiction Contest. His poems and essays have recently appeared or are forthcoming in: AGNI, American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Missouri Review, Kenyon Review, New England Review, Best New Poets, Crazyhorse, Lithub, and Breakbeat Poets Vol 4: LatiNext.

Donald Quist

Donald Quist is author of the linked story collection For Other Ghosts and the essay collection Harbors, a Foreword INDIES Bronze Winner and International Book Awards Finalist. His writing has appeared in AGNI, Poets & Writers, North American Review,Michigan Quarterly Review, The Rumpus and was Notable in Best American Essays 2018. He is also creator of the online nonfiction series PAST TEN. Donald has received fellowships from Sundress Academy for the Arts and Kimbilio Fiction. He earned his M.F.A. in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is currently a Gus T. Ridgel fellow in the English Ph.D. program at the University of Missouri.

Robert Vivian

Robert Vivian was born in Denver, Colorado and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. Dozens of his plays have been produced in New York City and elsewhere, and his poems, essays, and stories have appeared in many literary journals including Georgia Review, Harper’s, Ecotone, Creative Nonfiction, and others. He has published four novels—The Tall Grass Trilogy (The Mover Of Bones, Lamb Bright Saviors, and Another Burning Kingdom), Water And Abandon, and two books of meditative essays, Cold Snap As Yearning and The Least Cricket Of Evening. His first book of dervish essays (or prose poems) Mystery My Country was published in 2016 by Anchor & Plume. His latest published books are All I Feel Is Rivers (University of Nebraska Press) and an anthology co-edited with Joel Peckham called Wild Gods: The Ecstatic In Contemporary Poetry & Prose (New Rivers Press). Dr. Vivian holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Nebraska-Omaha, as well as a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has been a professor in Alma College’s English Department since 2001. He has visited and taught in Turkey several times and has been heavily influenced by the works of Rumi. In the summer he tries to fly fish in northern Michigan every day and when he can’t, he dreams about it anyway.

S. Kirk Walsh

Originally from the suburbs of Detroit, S. Kirk Walsh is a novelist now based in Austin, Texas. In the spring of 2021, she published her debut novel titled The Elephant of Belfast, which was inspired by true events that took place at the Bellevue Zoo in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in the spring of 1941. The novel was published by Counterpoint Press in the States and then published as The Zookeeper of Belfast by Hachette in the Commonwealth and Ireland. Within weeks, The Elephant of Belfast became a national bestseller in the States, and has been translated in several foreign editions. She is at work on a second novel about Detroit during World War II. Walsh’s essays, literary criticism, and short fiction have been published in The New York Times Book Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Guernica, Texas Highways, and others.

Over the years, she has been a resident at the Ucross Foundation, Yaddo, Ragdale, and elsewhere. She is a graduate of the creative program at New York University, and has taught a nine-month fiction workshop for advanced writers for the past decade. Walsh is the founder of Austin Bat Cave, a writing and tutoring for kids. Learn more: or follow her at @skirkwalsh on Twitter or Instagram.

Shonda Buchanan

Shonda Buchanan, native of Kalamazoo, is an award-winning author, editor, and scholar. Buchanan is perhaps most well known as the author of Black Indian, a memoir that explores her family’s legacy of being African-Americans with Native American roots: growing up in southwest Michigan, dealing with society’s ostracization and the consequences of her dual inheritance. Black Indian won the 2020 Indie New Generation Book Award and was chosen by “PBS NewsHour” in its “top 20 books to read” to learn about institutional racism.

Among her other accolades as a writer and an educator, Buchanan has received the Brody Arts Fellowship from the California Community Foundation, a Big Read grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, several Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grants, the Denise L. Scott and Frank Sullivan Awards, and an Eloise Klein-Healy Scholarship.

Buchanan is a Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities Fellow at the University of Southern California, and a Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles (COLA) Master Artist Fellow. She has worked as a lecturer and a professor for more than 20 years, most prominently at Hampton University, in Hampton, Va., where she taught English and creative writing and served as an interim department chair in the School of Liberal Arts and Education.


Joy Harjo (June 2021)

Khaled Mattawa (June 2021)

David Mura (January 2022)

Peter A. Wright (January 2022)

Deborah Copaken (June 2022)

S. Kirk Walsh (June 2022)

Joseph Zettelmaier (January 2023)

Mathieu Cailler (June 2023)

Rion Amilcar Scott (June 2023)

Matthew Dickman (June 2023)