Master of Fine Arts

Creative and Environmental Writing

Apply to EOU
Request Info

Unique, affordable, and rigorous, the Eastern Oregon University low-residency MFA in Creative Writing is where your writing practice and intellectual curiosity will find a welcoming, supportive, and inclusive community of writers. We also offer a special (optional) concentration in Landscape, Ecology, and Community.

Renowned poets discuss nature, injustice at Ars Poetica

Renowned poets discuss nature, injustice at Ars Poetica 

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke joins MFA faculty members for a virtual reading and talk April 28.

Read more

David Axelrod (Co-director/Poetry/Nonfiction)

David Axelrod’s ninth collection of poems is Years Beyond the River (Terrapin Books 2021), and his second collection of nonfiction is The Eclipse I Call Father: Essays on Absence (Oregon State University Press 2019). Axelrod wrote the introduction, “My Interests Are People,” for About People: Photographs by Gert Berliner, which appeared in the summer of 2018 from Arts End Books. In addition to co-founding the EOU MFA program, he is the founding co-editor (also with Jodi Varon) of basalt: a journal of fine & literary arts and serves on the editorial board of Lynx House Press. He makes his home in Missoula, Montana.

Jennifer Boyden (Poetry/Fiction)

Jennifer Boyden is the author of a novel, The Chief of Rally Tree (Skyhorse Publishing 2018), awarded the Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature, and two books of poetry: The Declarable Future (University of Wisconsin Press 2013), winner of the Four Lakes Prize in Poetry, and The Mouths of Grazing Things (University of Wisconsin Press 2010), winner of The Brittingham Prize in Poetry. Among other honors, Jennifer was a PEN Northwest Wilderness Writing Resident, which allows one writer to live and write for a year in unparalleled solitude in a remote region of the Rogue River in southern Oregon. Jennifer also serves on the faculty of Spring Street International School. She lives on an island in Washington state. Find her at

Claire Boyles (Fiction)

Claire Boyles (she/her) is the author of Site Fidelity (W.W. Norton 2021), longlisted for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection and winner of the High Plains Book Award in Fiction. She is the recipient of a 2022 Whiting Award. Her writing has appeared in VQRKenyon ReviewBoulevardMasters Review, and Sierra Magazine among others. She was a Peter Taylor Fellow at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshops and has received support from the Kimmel Harding Nelson Foundation, the Bread Loaf Orion Environmental Writers Workshop, and the Community of Writers. She is also a screenwriter. A former sustainable farmer, she lives with her family in Colorado and is at work on a novel forthcoming from W.W. Norton. Find her at

James Crews (Poetry)

James Crews is the editor of the best-selling anthology How to Love the World (Storey Publishing 2021), which has been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, as well as in The Boston Globe and The Washington Post. He is the author of four prize-winning collections of poetry: The Book of What Stays (University of Nebraska Press 2011), Telling My Father (Southeast Missouri State UP 2017), Bluebird (Green Writers Press 2020), and Every Waking Moment (University of Washington Press 2020), and his poems have been printed in the New York Times MagazinePloughsharesThe New Republic, and The Christian Century. Crews also teaches poetry at the University at Albany. He lives with his husband in Shaftsbury, Vermont. Find him at

Christopher Howell (Poetry)

Christopher Howell’s eleventh collection of poems is Love’s Last Number (Milkweed Editions 2017). His poems, essays, and translations have also appeared in a number of anthologies and journals, including Antioch ReviewColorado ReviewCrazy HorseDenver QuarterlyFieldGettysburg ReviewHarper’sHudson ReviewIowa ReviewNorthwest ReviewPoetry NorthwestSouthern Review, and Volt. He has been the recipient of three Pushcart Prizes, two National Endowment Fellowships, two fellowships from the Artist Trust, and the Stanley W. Lindberg Award for Editorial Excellence.

Christopher Kondrich (Poetry)

Christopher Kondrich is the author of Valuing (University of Georgia Press 2019), selected by Jericho Brown as a winner of the National Poetry Series, by Library Journal as a Best Poetry Book of 2019, and as a finalist for The Believer Book Award in Poetry; and of the book-length poem Contrapuntal (Free Verse Editions 2013). His poetry and essays appear widely in such venues as the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-DayThe BelieverHarvard ReviewThe Kenyon ReviewNew England ReviewThe Paris Review, and Poetry Northwest, and his work has been recognized with an Iowa Review Award, The Paris-American Reading Series Prize, and three Pushcart Prize nominations. He has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the I-Park Foundation, the University of Denver, and Columbia University. He also teaches creative writing at College of the Holy Cross and is an associate editor for 32 Poems. Find him at

Megan Kruse

Megan Kruse (Fiction)

Megan Kruse grew up in the Pacific Northwest and currently lives in Olympia. She studied creative writing at Oberlin College and earned her MFA at the University of Montana. Her work has appeared widely in journals and anthologies, and her debut novel is Call Me Home (Hawthorne Books 2015), with an introduction by Elizabeth Gilbert. In addition to teaching fiction in EOU’s Low-Residency MFA program, she teaches at Hugo House and Gotham Writers’ Workshop. She was the recipient of a 2016 Pacific Northwest Book Award, and was one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” for 2015. Find her at

Melissa Matthewson (Nonfiction)

Melissa Matthewson holds an MFA in nonfiction from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and an MS in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana. She is the author of a memoir-in-essays, Tracing the Desire Line (Split/Lip Press 2019), a finalist for the 2021 Oregon Book award, and is at work on her second essay collection, The Fire Trees (punctum books 2024). Her nonfiction has appeared in Guernica, Oregon Humanities, Longreads, American Literary Review, River Teeth, DIAGRAM, Mid-American Review, The Rumpus, among other publications and anthologies. She has been awarded an AWP Intro Journals award in creative nonfiction as well as residencies and scholarships to Sundress Academy for the Arts, PLAYA, Art Smith, Tin House, and the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference. She lives in Ashland, Oregon with her two children and also teaches at Southern Oregon University. Find her at

Kathryn Miles (Nonfiction)

Kathryn Miles is an award-winning journalist, science writer, and author of five books: Adventures with Ari, All Standing, Superstorm, Quakeland, and most recently Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders (Algonquin 2022). She holds a PhD in English from the University of Delaware. Her essays and articles have appeared in publications including Audubon, Best American Essays, The Boston Globe, Down East, Ecotone, History, The New York Times, Outside, Pacific Standard, Politico, Popular Mechanics, National Geographic, and Time. She currently serves as a scholar-in-residence for the Maine Humanities Council and as an advisor in Chatham University’s low-residency MFA program. She lives in Portland, Maine. Find her at

Nick Neely (Co-director/Nonfiction)

Nick Neely’s first book, Coast Range (Counterpoint 2016)–largely about the Rogue River area of southwestern Oregon–was a finalist for the John Burroughs Medal for natural history writing. His second book, Alta California (Counterpoint 2019), a Los Angeles Times bestseller, details his twelve-week trek from San Diego to San Francisco to retrace the first overland Spanish expedition through California. His nonfiction has appeared in OrionHigh Country NewsMother Jones, Kenyon Review, and The Georgia Review, among others. The recipient of PEN Northwest’s Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency, a UC Berkeley–11th Hour Food and Farming Journalism Fellowship, and an AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award, Nick is an Assistant Professor of English/Writing at EOU and lives in La Grande. Find him at

Molly Reid

Molly Reid (Fiction)

Molly Reid is the author of the short story collection The Rapture Index: A Suburban Bestiary (BOA 2019). Her writing has appeared on NPR and in the journals TriQuarterlyCrazyhorseWitness, Gulf CoastPloughshares, and Lit Hub, among others. She has received fellowship and residency support from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Millay Colony for the Arts, the Anderson Center, the Ucross Foundation, I-Park, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She also teaches at Gettysburg College as their Emerging Writer Lecturer. Find her at

James Stolen (Fiction)

James Stolen grew up in the Grande Ronde Valley and has published work in Callaloo, Shenandoah, Bellevue Literary Review, Sierra Nevada Review, Outside in Literary and Travel Magazine, High Desert Journal, and Ghost Town, among others. Between 2008 and 2010 he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Kingdom of Lesotho. He has taught previously at Virginia Tech, where he earned his MFA in creative writing, and is now a Senior Instructor at Eastern Oregon University. He is presently working on a collection of short stories and a novel, and is an enthusiastic faculty leader for EOU’s Outdoor Adventure Program.

Jodi Varon (Nonfiction)

Jodi Varon is a founding editor of the award-winning basalt: a journal of fine & literary arts, as well as a founder and first director of EOU’s MFA program. She is the author of Drawing to an Inside Straight: The Legacy of an Absent Father (University of Missouri Press 2006), which was a WILLA Award finalist from Women Writing the West, and the forthcoming memoir Your Eyes Will Be My Window (University of Georgia Press 2023). Other awards include a first place award in non-fiction from New Millennium Writing, The William Stafford Fellowship in Non-Fiction from Literary Arts, and two awards to publishers from Literary Arts for Calapooya and basalt. Her work appears in Rock & Sling: A Journal of WitnessNew Letters, The Northwest Review, The Seattle Review, the High Plains Literary Review, WomenArts Quarterly, The Western Humanities Review, the Oregon Encyclopedia, among others. Also a translator from the Chinese, her translation of the Tang Dynasty poet Li He are collected in The Rock’s Cold Breath: Selected Poems of Li He (Ice River Press).

Joe Wilkins

Joe Wilkins (Fiction/Nonfiction/Poetry)

Joe Wilkins is the author of a novel, Fall Back Down When I Die (Little, Brown 2019), praised as “remarkable and unforgettable” in a starred review at Booklist. A finalist for the First Novel Award from The Center for Fiction and for the Pacific Northwest Book Award, Fall Back Down When I Die won the High Plains Book Award and has now been translated into French, Spanish, and Italian. Wilkins is also the author of a memoir, The Mountain and the Father(Counterpoint 2013), winner of a GLCA New Writers Award, andfour collections of poetry, including most recently Thieve (University of Washington Press 2019) and When We Were Birds (University of Arkansas Press 2016), winner of the Oregon Book Award. His stories, essays, and poems have appeared in The Georgia ReviewThe Missouri Review, The Southern ReviewOrionThe Sun, and the Pushcart Prize XXXIX. Wilkins grew up north of the Bull Mountains of eastern Montana and now lives with his family in the Yamhill Valley of Oregon. Find him at

Admission Requirements

The application period for the EOU low residency MFA is October 15th, 2022 through May 1, 2023, with a priority deadline for first (early) consideration of February 1. Applications will continued to be reviewed on a rolling basis until May 1 so long as space remains available. Accepted applicants must signal their intention to enroll in the program within one month of official acceptance by making a nonrefundable $500.00 deposit. The Master of Fine Arts degree requires two types of admission: (a) Admission to Eastern Oregon University with “Graduate Student” status; and (b) Admission to the MFA program. Both applications should be submitted at the same time.

Admission requirements for the MFA program

Admission requirements for the MFA program: 1. Admission to Eastern Oregon University with “Graduate Student” status. 2. Grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0, calculated on either of the following two options: (a)  Last 60 quarter hours completed of undergraduate upper-division coursework; or (b)  15 quarter hours of approved graduate-level coursework. 3. Official college transcripts for all undergraduate and graduate coursework. 4. Two letters of professional reference attesting to the applicant’s ability to be successful in a graduate program. 5. A short (750 word) essay explaining your reasons for wishing to pursue the MFA in Creative Writing at EOU and how you will integrate the demands of the program with your current responsibilities. 6. Creative Portfolio of your best creative work (10-15 pages of poetry; 15-20 pages of fiction or non-fiction).

Transfer Credit

The MFA Program allows a limit of 15 graded graduate-level credits (quarter hours) to be transferred from another accredited graduate-level institution. If you have regularly attended Summer Fishtrap Gathering, Fishtrap Outpost, and/or Fishtrap’s Yearlong Workshop, you also may petition the MFA Director directly to convert up to 15 hours to graduate-level credits. All graduate-level courses taken prior to program admission, and all graduate-level transfer courses, will be reviewed for appropriateness of transfer into the MFA program. Courses will not be accepted that are not appropriate to the MFA degree requirements. Courses completed prior to seven academic years before admission will be reviewed for appropriateness of transfer into the MFA program, but are not guaranteed to be accepted.

Applying for the MFA program

Submit electronically both the EOU Graduate Admission application and the MFA Program Application (i.e., cover sheet and creative portfolio), along with all required supporting documents, and official transcripts. Students who would like to participate in the Landscape, Ecology, and Community concentration should express this wish in their cover letters. Student who would be interested in studying on a part-time basis that would extend their time in a program to a third year should also highlight this intention in their cover letter.

Special note regarding admission to EOU

All MFA students are required to be fully admitted to the MFA program and EOU in order to complete the MFA degree. However, some students may desire to enroll in genre courses or elective courses on a part-time/non-admitted status. Enrollment in graduate writing workshops, seminars, and Individualized Studies requires full MFA program and EOU graduate student admission. Part-time and/or non-admitted course enrollment is permitted, but with the following exceptions: 1. Graduate student admission to EOU is required if a student will be registering for more than eight credits in any given term. 2. Graduate student admission to EOU and MFA Program admission is required, regardless of the number of registered credits per term, in order to receive financial aid. Financial aid is available both for full-time and part-time graduate students. Contact the EOU Financial Aid office at 541-962-3550 for information regarding submission of the FAFSA form and application procedures. Remember: All MFA students must be fully admitted both to EOU and the MFA program in order to enroll in any of the writing workshops and to receive the MFA degree. Students are strongly encouraged to apply for admission early in the program. For any application questions, please contact the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences program assistant Kayla Standley at 541-962-3508.

Our MFA is flexible in requiring just one residency commitment a year: back-to-back weeks in July at the storied Fishtrap Gathering of Writers at Wallowa Lake near the artsy town of Joseph, and in nearby La Grande on EOU’s campus. These experiences offer distinct vibes under the same skies, separated by a scenic 1.5-hour drive around the Wallowa Mountains, known as the Little Alps of Oregon. Students may opt to attend just two summer residencies or they may attend a third on-campus week in a third summer and take slightly less distance-based coursework.

At Fishtrap, students enjoy a morning generative workshop with the conference’s world-class faculty (see the 2023 line-up) and gather in the evenings for faculty readings and open mics under the lakeside tent. There’s ample time for writing by the lake or taking trails into the Wallowas. For those unable to get away from home for two weeks, a virtual Fishtrap workshop option is also available (see the 2023 offering). Of course, we whole-heartedly encourage in-person attendance: this place, this community, is stunning.

In La Grande, on EOU’s view-filled campus, students take a morning craft class and an afternoon critique-based workshop with our award-winning MFA faculty and in the evenings attend La Grande Lit Week readings and conversations with more award-winning authors at downtown mainstays like our local brewery, coffeeshops, or a brick-lined music venue (Lit Week is open to the public and runs concurrently with the residency). In the afternoon, Lit Week visiting writers also teach 1-hr classes on special topics that are optional for students. During free hours, students write, hike or otherwise explore this outdoorsy area, watch a film, go bowling, and drink a lot of coffee. Meals and conversation late into the night inspire imaginative leaps and grow bonds between fellow students and faculty mentors.

Through the rest of the summer, students continue to work one-on-one at a distance with their EOU workshop instructor to push forward a project they started or shared during the on-campus week.

Rigorous coursework continues remotely during the academic year (see the full course of study). Our faculty work closely with students on their writing and provide instruction in contemporary literature, rhetoric, and special topics crafted to address student interests. We also provide students with meaningful, hands-on learning opportunities such as optional practicum classes in creative writing pedagogy, editing and publishing, and “professional portfolio,” in which students build professional materials specific to their long-term goals. Opportunities also exist to participate in the editing of our literary journal Oregon East and help with program communications and event planning, whether for credit or as a volunteer.

Tuition, Fees & Aid

We are committed to being the best value for a low residency creative writing MFA in the west. Click "learn more" below for more details on tuition, fees, and financial assistance. Learn More

Course of Study

EOU offers a traditional genre-based two-year low residency program that requires 60 credits of course work, including two 14-day summer residencies followed each year by online courses. Learn More

Environmental Writing

EOU’s one-of-a-kind creative and environmental program within the low residency MFA seeks to empower students to explore crucial relations in a connected world. Learn More

Application period opened October 15, 2022

Rolling review of applications until May 1, 2023 (contingent on space)

Priority application deadline was February 1


At Eastern Oregon University, we share a core belief that creative individuals are an under-appreciated and under-used resource. The creative makers among us have much to offer their communities and we commit ourselves therefore to fostering that creativity. It is our belief, too, that finding community-based solutions to the real problems communities face can and should be a collaboration in which the creativity of artists and writers play vital, enduring roles for enriching the lives of all. The Grande Ronde Valley and nearby Wallowa Valley are gateways to Eastern Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains and Oregon’s largest wilderness, the Eagle Cap Wilderness, all of which provide an exceptional resource for student writers in our Landscape, Ecology, and Community concentration. In collaboration with our program partner, Fishtrap: Writing and the West, and the Summer Fishtrap Gathering of Writers at Wallowa Lake near Joseph, Oregon, we strive to create a truly one-of-a-kind literary experience for our students.


Subscribe to our program writing digest, The Mutineer

(which curates online events and opportunities from the region and beyond)


Read recent news from students, alumni, and faculty


Explore our Visiting Writers Series 


Check out last year’s inaugural La Grande Lit Week

(and stay tuned for the next one in July 2023)


Study with an EOU/Fishtrap Student Teacher

(we’re pleased to announce this new program)

Contact Info

Nick Neely
MFA Co-director
Phone: 541-962-3633
Kayla Standley
Administrative Program Assistant
College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
Phone: 541-962-3508 / E-mail: