‘The Atlantic’ lists FSU’s Creative Writing Program among ‘Best of the Best’

Mark Winegardner

Florida State University’s Creative Writing Program has long been considered top-notch, and this summer, its award-winning faculty and students actually got that in writing.

FSU has one of the nation’s top 10 graduate-level creative writing programs and ranks in the top five for Ph.D. seekers, according to the annual special fiction edition of “The Atlantic” now on newsstands.

Originally a literary showcase established in 1857 by a group of writers—Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, among others—”The Atlantic” has listed (alphabetically) the FSU creative writing program and those at nine other universities as “Best of the Best” in an article aptly titled “Where Great Writers Are Made.”

FSU College of Arts and Sciences Dean Joseph Travis is elated—but not surprised.

“It’s a very great and serious honor to see our English department’s Creative Writing Program cited as ‘Best of the Best’ in the country for graduate students, but perhaps it’s no wonder,” Travis said. “The faculty is filled with fabulous writers such as, to name just a few, Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler and Mark Winegardner, who is the author of the ‘Godfather’ sequels and as it happens, the director of our top-10—and top-5—program.”

That program also is home to winners of the National Book Award and more honorees in “Best American Poetry” than any other program, and the authors (one now retired) who literally wrote the book on creative writing—a bestselling how-to that became the most-adopted textbook of its kind in the world.

The faculty members are known not only as prolific and successful professional writers but also as nurturing teachers of writing, and it shows. No creative writing program in the world has had students included more often in Harcourt’s “Best New American Voices.”

Recent graduates have seen their books published by the likes of Viking, Penguin, Simon and Schuster, Houghton Mifflin and more; made the New York Times Bestseller List; and appeared in “Esquire,” “The Oxford American,” “The Southern Review,” “Harper’s,” “Ploughshares,” and many other quality magazines—including “The Atlantic Monthly.”

“Our creative writing faculty and students are real players on the national and international scene,” Travis said.

And now, FSU’s “Best of the Best” Creative Writing Program rounds out a national top-10 list that includes premier universities such as Cornell University, Johns Hopkins, New York University and the University of Virginia.

Butler noted that FSU not only landed on the overall top-10 list of graduate programs but also among the top-five doctoral programs—the only school listed both places.

Winegardner said he was particularly pleased that the “Best of the Best” lists appeared in a widely read major magazine rather than in a comparatively obscure journal or academic publication that few would see. “It should certainly help to draw even more top creative writing students to our FSU program,” he said.

Clearly, good teaching is the key—and on that topic, “The Atlantic” article quotes Winegardner, who said, “You can’t teach every piano player to be Thelonious Monk, but no piano teacher seems tortured by the question of whether piano can be taught.”

To learn more about the FSU Creative Writing Program—now recognized as one of the nation’s top-10 graduate and top-five Ph.D. programs in the discipline—visit the FSU English department’s Web site.