Spalding University Launches the First School of Creative and Professional Writing in the Commonwealth

By Kathleen Driskell, Chair, School of Creative and Professional Writing

Spalding’s Mansion courtyard, near the School of Creative and Professional Writing offices

For nearly twenty years, our nationally distinguished MFA program at Spalding University, with a teaching philosophy that supports writers instead of tearing them down, has been busy knitting together a literary community that reaches across America and beyond. Read the inspiring work of our students, graduates, and faculty and witness their advocacy for the literary arts, and you’ll have no doubt that writers can change the world for the better. (You’ll see a few of their faces pictured in this post.) I’ve worked all my professional life to bring writing opportunities to others because I’m a believer. Countless times, I’ve seen the way one writer connecting with another writer has helped a community blossom, using the literary arts to promote peace, justice, and empathy. 

Silas House, Spalding MFA fiction alum and faculty member, winner of the 2019 Judy Gaines Young Book Award for Southernmost and Executive Producer of the award-winning documentary Hillbilly

At Spalding, because we’ve seen our family of writers use words to nurture compassion and understanding, we want to give access to as many writers as possible who yearn to meet new professional and creative writing goals. That’s why we’ve worked recently to establish the only school of writing in Kentucky: the School of Creative and Professional Writing at Spalding University.

Parneshia Jones, Spalding MFA poetry alum,
President of Cave Canem, 2017-19, and author of Vessel: Poems,
winner of the Midwest Book Award for Poetry.

Under the umbrella of our new school, we’ll continue to provide unrivaled graduate writing instruction through our flagship 65-credit MFA program, and we’ll soon launch a new graduate program, the 35-credit Master of Arts in Writing, with two tracks: creative writing and professional writing.  Our intensive Master of Arts in Writing program fits seamlessly into the low-residency model we’ve deployed expertly for years and lowers barriers for those who wish to study writing at the graduate level. In the tradition of our MFA in Writing program at Spalding, the new MAW will be rigorous, enriching, flexible, and affordable. Students can finish in about a year—or pursue their intensive studies at a more leisurely pace.

Lesléa Newman, Spalding faculty member in writing for children and young adults, 2018 recipient of the Making a Difference Award from the Matthew Shepard Foundation,
and author of October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard.

One of the most exciting features of this new program is that students, if they choose, can earn the MAW on the way to completing their terminal MFA—in much the same way that a student earns a master’s degree on the way to the Ph.D. in other academic disciplines. Our MAW students can finish with two degrees for about the price of the MFA at Spalding, mastering skills for the literary marketplace while also earning a credential that opens a door to a professional life in the writing workplace.

Helena Kriel, Spalding dramatic writing faculty member, screenwriter,
and founder of Baby Rhino Rescue

The MAW is currently pending approval from our accrediting body, The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools; we hope to launch the program in the 2019-20 academic year.

Lamar Giles, Spalding faculty member teaching writing for children and young adults, founding member of We Need Diverse Books,
and author of Spin and Fake ID.

In the meantime, stay tuned. There’s more to come from the School of Creative and Professional Writing. Our Spalding graduate writing programs are thriving and continue to provide the best educational home for writers who wish to master their craft, no matter their career goals.

Nancy Chen Long, Spalding MFA poetry alum, winner of the Tampa Review Prize 2016 for Light Into Bodies, and NEA Fellow

Check out what’s possible at Spalding.


Kathleen Driskell is Chair of the School of Creative and Professional Writing at Spalding University, home of the nationally distinguished MFA in Writing program. Her collection of poems Seed Across Snow was listed as a national bestseller by the Poetry Foundation. Most recently, her book Next Door to the Dead: Poems won the 2018 Judy Gaines Young Book Award. She serves as a trustee for the governing board of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.