The Master of Creative Writing

Master of Creative Writing

This postgraduate programme is for writers working on a large-scale creative writing project – a novel, short story collection, full-length work of creative nonfiction, or poetry collection. The best portfolio each year wins the Sir James Wallace Master of Creative Writing Prize of $5000, New Zealand’s richest prize for a creative writing student.

What is the MCW year like?

Master of Creative Writing sampler 2016
Read some of the writing from the class of 2016

The MCW is designed to support, inform, and develop your creative practice within a lively, committed and diverse community of other writers. The course is convened by the award-winning novelist and short story writer, Paula Morris. Acclaimed poet Selina Tusitala Marsh co-supervises poets on the course.

The programme begins in March each year, and classes end in late October. In early November you submit a manuscript for assessment: a novel, short story collection, full-length work of creative non-fiction, or poetry collection.

There are two weekly classes during semester: the workshop and the seminar.

In the weekly workshop (Wednesdays 11am-1:30pm in 2017), you will submit drafts of stories, poems and novel sections for discussion and feedback, and take part in weekly writing exercises.

The weekly seminar (Thursdays 11am-1:30pm in 2017), is a forum for thinking and talking about writing. In these classes we discuss published work and explore the key issues of technique you need to consider in your work — including point of view, form, narrative structure, characterisation, setting, use of language, dialogue, and detail — in focused craft discussions. The seminar class will also include discussions of editing, publishing, international submissions and adaptation.

The seminar class hosts a range of visitors, including local and international writers; practitioners from the world of film, radio and theatre; and speakers from the publishing and literary arts world. Recent visiting writers have included Michel Faber, Elizabeth McCracken, Louise Welch, Zoe Strachan, Ben Okri, Stephanie Johnson, Eleanor Catton, Owen Scott, David Mitchell, Colm Toibin, Sebastian Barry and Anita Desai.

MCW students serve as volunteers and MCs at the Auckland Writers Festival and the National Writers Forum, and engage in project work for the New Zealand Book Council, the Academy of New Zealand Literature and other cultural-sector organisations. They also present their work-in-progress at LOUNGE, a series of public readings at Old Government House.

Graduates include Linda Olsson, Emily Perkins, John Adams, Sonja Yelich and Renee Liang. MCW graduates have published books with a range of publishers including Penguin Random House, Bloomsbury, Auckland University Press, Huia, and USP Press.

Find out what current students and recent graduates think of the course.

Course structure

The MCW is a one-year, full-time course of study, with entry in Semester One (March) only. Part-time or long-distance study is not available. Students who have been accepted into the MCW enrol in CREWRIT 797: Creative Writing (120 points).

Students writing novels, short stories or creative non-fiction are expected to produce a portfolio of between 40,000 and 80,000 words. Poetry collections should have a minimum of 80 pages.

The examination processes followed are those for a 120-point research thesis at masters level. The grade for this course rests on the assessment of a single extended piece of work. The 2016 due date is Tuesday 1 November. Your work is marked by two examiners: one internal and one external — a noted published writer in your genre.

Entry requirements

Admission requirements for the Master of Creative Writing are:

  • a four-year bachelors degree; or
  • bachelors honours degree; or
  • a bachelors degree combined with either a professional qualification equivalent to one year’s advanced study or at least three years of relevant professional experience

The requirement that applicants hold a previous degree may be waived in exceptional circumstances.

How to apply

All candidates must submit TWO applications: one to the University of Auckland, and a separate portfolio application to English, Drama & Writing Studies. Please note that you must be accepted BOTH by the University and by English to receive a place on the MCW.

We do not operate a rolling admissions process. The deadline for MCW applications for 2018 is Wednesday 1 November 2017.

Please remember that a University acceptance does not constitute an offer of a place on the MCW. Entry to the MCW is highly competitive, and successful and waitlisted candidates will be advised by the end of November.

For the University application, students must submit:

  • full contact details
  • all previous academic transcripts
  • a current comprehensive CV including professional experience, education, publications and prizes

This application must be submitted online via the University website. You can make this application at any time. Note that it does not guarantee you a place on the MCW.

For the English application, applicants must submit:

  • full contact details
  • all previous academic transcripts
  • a current comprehensive CV including professional experience, education, publications and prizes
  • a creative writing sample of up to twenty pages (double-spaced, 12-point type) of either fiction or creative nonfiction or poetry (one genre only), ideally work-in-progress
  • a one to two page summary of the book you intend to work on during the MCW year

This application must be submitted to with the subject heading MCW application / Applicant Name. You may submit your application at any time, but no applications will be read by the convenor of the course until November.

Fees, scholarships and funding


Find out more about fees and money matters


We award two Sir James Wallace Scholarships of $3500 each to incoming MCW students, based on the strength of their application. You do not have to apply for this separately. All successful applicants are considered for a scholarship.

Poets with a place on the MCW are also eligible to apply for the Kendrick Smithyman Scholarship in Poetry of $5000. Sometimes this scholarship is shared between two students. A call for applications will be made during the first semester of study. Poets graduating from the MCW will be considered for Shimon Weinroth Prize in Poetry.

Find out more about scholarships and awards