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Master of Fine Arts

Creative and Environmental Writing

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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.

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David Axelrod (poetry/ nonfiction/ director)

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 jenniferboyden.com.

Claire Boyles (fiction)

Claire Boyles (she/her) is the author of the short story collection Site Fidelity (W.W. Norton 2021). Her writing has appeared in VQR, Kenyon Review, Boulevard, and Masters Review, among others. She was a 2020/2021 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 claireboyleswrites.wordpress.com.

Abigail Chabitnoy (poetry)

Abigail Chabitnoy is the author of How to Dress a Fish (Wesleyan 2019), shortlisted for the 2020 International Griffin Prize for Poetry and winner of the 2020 Colorado Book Award, and the linocut-illustrated chapbook Converging Lines of Light (Flower Press 2021). She was a 2021 Peter Taylor Fellow at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshops and the recipient of the 2020 Witter Bynner Native Poet Residency at Elsewhere Studios in Paonia, CO. Her poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Boston Review, Tin House, Gulf Coast, LitHub, and Red Ink, among others. She is a mentor for the Institute of American Indian Arts MFA in Creative Writing and a member of the Tangirnaq Native Village in Kodiak. Find her at salmonfisherpoet.com.

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 NPRMorning 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 jamescrews.net.

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 Northwest, Southern 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 George Washington University and is an associate editor for 32 Poems. Find him at christopherkondrich.com.

kruse-thumb_500_500_80Megan 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 megannicolekruse.com

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. 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 melissamatthewson.com.

Nick Neely (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 Orion, High Country News, 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 nickneely.com.

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 TriQuarterlyCrazyhorseWitnessGulf 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 mollyjeanreid.com.

James Stolen MFA FacultyJames 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 2008-2010 he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Kingdom of Lesotho. He has taught previously at Virginia Tech and is now a Senior Instructor at Eastern Oregon University. He is presently working on a collection of short stories and a novel.

DSC_1074Jodi 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), a WILLA Award finalist from Women Writing the West. 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 Witness, New 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 (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 Fathers (Counterpoint 2013), winner of a GLCA New Writers Award, and four 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 Review, The Missouri Review, The Southern Review, Orion, The 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 joewilkins.org.



The application period for the EOU low residency MFA is October 15th, 2021 through March 30, 2022. Accepted students must signal their intention to commit to program by April 30, 2022, with a $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: 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).


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.


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 wanting to participate in the Wilderness, Ecology, and Community concentration should express this wish in their cover letters. Or if you prefer to submit via regular post, enclose all admissions materials in one envelope and mail to: MFA Graduate Admissions (attn: Kerry Bullard) College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Eastern Oregon University 202 Ackerman School One University Blvd. La Grande OR 97850


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. Please contact our office 541-962-3097 for assistance (ask for Kerry Bullard) with any application items.

Each summer, MFA students attend the Summer Fishtrap Gathering, participating in generative writing workshops, readings, panels, lectures, conversations, and more. The week-long conference has provided hundreds of writers the opportunity to work with the best western instructors and authors such as Ursula K LeGuin, Luis Urrea, David James Duncan, Bill Kittredge, and Cheryl Strayed to name just a few.

The Fishtrap experience is followed by a week of concentrated coursework on the EOU campus, foregrounding craft and critique. Readings, craft talks, outings into the surrounding rural towns, trail work with EOU’s Outdoor Adventure Program, connections to community organizations and conservationists, meals and conversation late into the night will inspire imaginative leaps and grow bonds with fellow students and faculty mentors. The remainder of the year, coursework continues at a distance. Our award-winning faculty mentors work closely with students on their writing projects, as well as provide instruction in contemporary literature, rhetoric, and special topics crafted to address student interests.

We are determined to provide students with meaningful, hands-on learning opportunities such as practica in professional editing and publishing with our award-winning literary magazines, basalt and Oregon East, as well as with our affiliated presses Lynx House and Lost Horse. In doing so, our graduates develop creative skills that allow them to live more meaningful, productive lives in more prosperous, resilient communities.



Tuition & Fees

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 mentorship on writing projects. Learn More

Environmental Writing

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

Application period opens October 15, 2021 – March 30, 2022

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, which provide an exceptional resource for student writers enrolled in our Wilderness, Ecology, and Community program. In collaboration with our program partner, the Summer Fishtrap Gathering of Writers at Wallowa Lake near Joseph, Oregon, we strive to create a truly one-of-its-kind literary experience for our students.

Read recent news from students, alumni, and faculty of EOU’s MFA

Contact Info

David Axelrod
MFA Director
Phone: 541-962-3633
E-mail: daxelrod@eou.edu
Kerry Bullard
College Operations Manager
Phone: 541-962-3097
Email: kbullard@eou.edu
Auburn Isaak
College Office Specialist
Phone: 541-962-3859
E-mail: isaakar@eou.edu