Final Deadline for Spring Cohort: June 27, 2024 Apply Now

Summer Cohort Deadlines

Fast Response Deadline Final Deadline Summer Cohort Begins
June 15, 2024 June 27, 2024 June 30, 2024

Apply for PocketMFA Now

About Us

PocketMFA, founded by Joshua Roark and the Discover New Art team in 2022, offers a fresh approach to writing education that prioritizes accessibility and community. Departing from traditional academic models, PocketMFA aims to provide writers with an inclusive and supportive environment for continuous growth in their craft.

PocketMFA’s inception stems from Roark’s own experiences as the founding editor of multiple literary magazines, including Frontier Poetry. After years of talking to writers, it became clear that there was a deep and urgent need for graduate level instruction, but also that such instruction was inaccessible to so many talented and serious writers.

Recognizing the barriers posed by time and financial constraints in traditional MFA programs, Roark sought to create a more accessible alternative that focuses on the experience, community, and progress rather than the attainment of a terminal degree.

“PocketMFA began with the recognition that many talented writers were being left behind by the current MFA system,” says Roark, Founder and Director of PocketMFA. “We believe that for many writers, the degree itself is less important than the community and support system an MFA provides. We’ve aimed to make that accessible to more writers.”

As a graduate and professor of Antioch University Los Angeles’ low-residency MFA program, Roark recognized that using the low-res model was an intuitive and effective solution. PocketMFA’s core program consists of twelve-week cohorts, offering an intensive yet accessible learning experience akin to an MFA semester. Participants join a diverse community of writers, gaining life-time access to exclusive ongoing support, mentorship, and networking opportunities.

“One of our fundamental beliefs is in the concept of lifelong learning,” says Roark. “We reject the notion of alumni, that learning is ‘terminal.’ Instead, we wish to emphasize that learning as a writer is an ongoing journey. That’s why all our features are available to PocketMFA writers for life, ensuring that writers can progress at their own pace and access support whenever they need it.”

PocketMFA’s innovative approach has garnered attention for its commitment to accessibility and community-building within the literary world. In the Fall of 2023, Lauren T. Davila joined the team as Assistant Director.

You can contact our team at info (at) pocketmfa (dot) com.

What is the cost of tuition?

The application is free, and if you’re the right fit for the upcoming cohort, we’ll reach out about paying the tuition.

The full cost of tuition for the twelve week cohort is $3297.

We have different payment plans available, ranging from a few weeks up to 24 months.

We also offer limited partial scholarship opportunities for writers in financial need.

How does the PocketMFA Cohort Work?

We are an independent organization outside of academia. Though we do not offer credit hours toward a degree, we do offer a personal, rigorous, and flexible relationship with our writers. Please feel welcome to reach out to our Director, josh (at), any time with questions or concerns. To begin:

1. Explore our upcoming mentors. Every quarter begins a new Cohort with new mentors. 

2. Apply. Every writer can apply for free to be placed with a Mentor of their choice. 

3. Join your writing group. Up to ten writers will be selected for each Mentor.

Once you’re on board, you’ll begin the program alongside your writer peers. See more details on our curriculum page here.

What is the Curriculum?

Get detailed info here.

Every writer goes through our 12-week learning track, modeled after a semester of graduate level learning.

The first and final weeks are direct instruction from your Mentor, with required readings, writing, and discussion with your group of other writers. Every writer will enter the next stage with a specific reading and writing plan developed with their Mentor.

The middle eight weeks will be a combination of two core features: 1-on-1 mentorship in the form written and virtual feedback on two packets of writing, and participation in 6 workshop meetings with your peers, lead by the mentor or PocketMFA facilitators. 

The final two weeks are the Writing Life Residency, one of two that happens each year. Students from the whole cohort come virtually to learn about all aspects of literary citizenship: the writing life balance, getting published, making a living, marketing your work, self-publishing, etc. The evenings of this residency will be saved for public readings from every writer who wishes to share their hard earned writing.

Once a PocketMFA writer, you will always be invited into future Writing Life Residencies.

Who is PocketMFA for?

The writers who join our program are serious about their craft and enthusiastic about the journey of becoming  dedicated and professional authors.

Accessibility is a core value for PocketMFA, and we warmly welcome in writers of all experience levels, background, and abilities. We also invite international students, but please be prepared to meet according to USA time zones.

We’re finding some common themes in our writers joining the program. Do any of these remind you of yourself?

PocketMFA writers are serious and dedicated to their writing. This is the highest priority for our team as we curate our writing groups in the cohort: is this writer serious and ready to push themselves through our rigorous curriculum? Whether the program is to re-energize the writer’s process, or to meet them at their own high level routine and production, we seek writers who are ready to dive deep and believe in themselves as authors.

PocketMFA writers are likely working on a specific project. Whether a book of poems, novel, short story collection, or memoir, almost all of our writers are at some stage in the process of developing a particular manuscript.

PocketMFA writers are likely to be ready to engage more seriously with the publication journey. With our mentorship experience and our dedicated Writing Life Residencywe deliberately seek to create confidence for writers at any stage of their publishing career. 

PocketMFA writers are likely to have encountered a plateau with their own efforts at progress, OR they have a surge of momentum and seek clear direction. The myth of the solitary writer has kept so many books from meeting the world, and our writers are self-advocates who acknowledge that they are ready for the community and mentorship that facilitates real progress.

PocketMFA writers are likely to have undergrad or graduate experience with writing instruction. Many in the program graduated with a degree in English or Creative Writing, and then went on to pursue further work in education, law, or journalism, with many of our writers holding advanced degrees in those fields. This is not a requirement by any means, but experience with English/Literature courses has been a common thread.

What is the time commitment?

12 Weeks in total.

Time commitment:
10 hours per week. This includes live Zoom sessions, as well as reading and writing assignments.

Weekly Format:
Over the course of a week, writers will typically spend the 2-3 hours in one zoom session on the weekend; 4 hours writing new material, annotations, and discussion responses; and 3 hours reading literary and craft texts, as well as peer writings.

More info:
Growth requires time and commitment. While we have designed the program to be effective for writers with full lives and works schedules, the program still requires that every writer spends deliberate and earnest time working through the discussions, prompts, and readings.

Is PocketMFA accredited?

The PocketMFA is informal, unaccredited, and non-bureaucratic. We don’t give tests or grades.

If you need an official degree, this may not be a fit for your journey. However, we will fully support any writer who, based on their experience with PocketMFA, wishes to pursue a full MFA from a college or university. We will be your enthusiastic allies in building the application and portfolio, and we have successfully helped multiple writers achieve admittance into top programs.

Tips for submitting an application

The application should take less than seven minutes to complete—it consists of some basic personal info, three short answer questions, and a writing sample. Before you begin, you may want to ready your writing sample. This can be a work-in-progress or a published piece. 

Our four main criteria for identifying great writers for the program are: (in order of importance) EnthusiasmProfessionalismWorkshop Experience, and Craft Knowledge.

As a competitive program, each session we often get more qualified applicants than we have room for, so applying early is a good idea. Some tips for standing out:

Be authentic. We are looking to curate groups with our mentors that can push, sharpen, and root for one another through this program. We can only do that well if we truly get to know you.

Be committed. This is not your typical generative workshop that simply provides space and inspiration to write a couple times a week. We aim for a high level of rigor and engagement as you write, read, grow community, and offer critique to one another. We ask that each writer brings with them the energy and readiness to complete this program at their fullest ability.

Be positive. The best writing groups are made of folks who believe their writing matters. We want our writers to push each other positively into places of discomfort and growth, every step of the way. If you have given up, cynical from the long journey of rejection and invisibility, please take a break, perform some self-care, and apply later once you’ve moved out of those feelings!

Be ready. You will get out of the PocketMFA what you put into it, and we are committed to making sure you get out of it as much as you can. We will give you the tools, the space, the resources, and the encouragement to grow, but only you can do the writing, complete the readings, engage with your Mentor and fellow writers.

For the sample piece of writing, please include what bests showcases your voice, whether it’s an excerpt, a full piece, or a collection.

How can I learn more about the mentors and faculty?

You can find the mentors at our faculty page. 

On their profile pages, you’ll see their personal bios as well as their answers to our Mentor interview:

1. What excites you about writing? How has it affected your life?

2. What mindset does a writer need to continue to grow and learn?

3. What makes a good writing mentor?

4. What is your style of feedback?

What are the community guidelines?

The PocketMFA program is designed around accessibility and anti-racist values. Every writer is respected and treated with dignity. To achieve that, our community guidelines are simple:

1. The workshop space is a learning environment of equals in the same pursuit of ever more authentic expression. Every experience and background is rich with value, and no degree, publication history, or follower count makes one writer more worthy to a community than any other.

2. In order to grow, writers must feel safe and challenged. Writing is as personal as it gets, and the degree to which we feel safe to be vulnerable is the degree to which we can push our craft forward. Our workshop facilitators and Mentors seek to provide support in overcoming unexpected differences and difficult moments of personal interactions. We also ask that writers lean boldly into the risk of placing their writing into the hands of their peers and mentor.

3. Discrimination, in any form, is not tolerated. The pedagogical methods that have dominated creative writing programs since their inception in the 20th century have a well-accounted history of exclusion. We seek to expand on what they’ve done and to create a space that welcomes and lifts up writers of all backgrounds and identities, without hesitation or apology.

4. Self-improvement takes both work and play. Every PocketMFA writer commits to bringing equal amounts of rigor and joy into the experience. This means that fulfilling ten hours every week may require sacrifice to achieve, but that sacrifice is not without purpose, not without the fun of discovery and adventure!

What qualifications or experience do I need to participate in PocketMFA?

PocketMFA is a selective program, and we expect our writers to have reached a level of maturity in their craft and experience that will enable their success with the program. We seek to challenge writers, but not overwhelm them.  However, we do not have strict guidelines about qualifications, and we seek to remain open to the creative ways in which creative people develop a creative life.

Evidence for this level of mature creative life is as diverse and varied as there are writers. Some evidence may include:

  • Educational history with literature or creative writing.
  • Previous experience with writing groups and/or workshops.
  • A full professional life in the knowledge work sector.
  • A history of publications, magazine or full-length.
  • A surplus of writing produced, including but not limited to multiple drafts of longer work, many stories, or dozens of poems.
  • Advanced degrees.
  • & more…
What specific topics or areas of writing are covered in the program?

PocketMFA covers a wide range of topics relevant to literary writing, including but not limited to craft techniques, genre exploration, publishing industry insights, professional development, and community building. Our curriculum is designed to provide a comprehensive and engaging learning experience that caters to the diverse interests and goals of our participants.

Every cohort we offer mentors in Fiction, Poetry, and CNF. We also frequently find exciting mentors working in smaller genres, like Flash, that we bring in as well. 

Please feel welcome to request a mentor or genre by filling out the contact form below.

    Can I participate in PocketMFA remotely, or do I need to be physically present?

    PocketMFA is fully remote, operating entirely through our online platform, email, and Zoom—allowing writers from around the world to join our community. 

    We are also careful to create unique schedules for every small group by taking into consideration every individual writer’s availability over the 12 weeks.

      How are mentors and instructors selected, and what is their level of experience in the writing industry?

      Our mentors and instructors are experienced writers, editors, educators, and industry professionals who are passionate about supporting emerging writers. They are carefully selected based on their expertise, teaching abilities, and commitment to fostering a supportive learning environment.

      Particularly, we look for writers with both publishing and teaching experience and those who align with our values for an accessible and exciting learning experience.

      If you are interested in becoming a PocketMFA mentor, you can put in an application for the role here.

      What kind of support and resources are available to participants after completing the program?

      Unlike traditional MFA programs, PocketMFA is not terminal. Though the cohort may end, your time with us does not. Every writer who completes a 12 week cohort in good standing gains life-long access to our robust online community of serious writers and our anti-alumni services, including:

      • Priority and Discounted Access to Future Cohorts
      • All Future Residencies (and Past Residency Recordings)
      • Critique Partner Matchmaking
      • Continued Mentorship
      • Continued Workshopping
      • Community Activities and Discussions
      • Weekly Submission Missions
      • & more…

      And as mentioned previously, we are deeply committed to our community of writers and offer support as much as its requested, including in any writers’ efforts for publication, admission into an MFA program, etc. Our director, Josh, has written multiple, successful letters of recommendation for writers who have completed the program.

      Are there any opportunities for publication or networking provided through PocketMFA?

      We believe professional networks are incredibly important to a successful writing career. PocketMFA provides opportunities for participants to showcase their work, connect with industry professionals like publishers and agents, and build their networks. We regularly organize publication opportunities in our magazine RUNNR, networking events, writing contests, and collaborative projects to help participants gain exposure, establish connections, and advance their writing careers.

      How flexible is the program schedule, and can I adjust it to accommodate my other commitments?

      The program schedule is designed to accommodate participants’ diverse schedules and commitments. While there are structured components such as workshops, discussions, and mentorship sessions, we offer flexibility in terms of timing and pacing to allow participants to balance their writing practice with other responsibilities. 

      During onboarding, we survey every writer for their personal availability across the 12 weeks of the program. We then build a unique schedule for the individual groups that best serves all writers.

      What is the size of each cohort, and how are participants grouped together for workshops and discussions?

      Cohort sizes may vary depending on the program and enrollment numbers. We strive to maintain small group sizes to facilitate personalized attention, meaningful interactions, and constructive feedback. 

      Our first priority in organizing groups is the writer’s preference of mentor. Only when the group size is becoming full do we discuss placing writers with their second-ranked mentor choice.

      How does PocketMFA ensure diversity and inclusivity within its community and programming?

      PocketMFA is committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within our community and programming. We value diverse perspectives, experiences, and voices and actively work to create an inclusive environment where writers from all backgrounds feel welcome, respected, and supported. This is built into the design of our curriculum and workshop model.

      Every writer entering the program is trained for a safe and inclusive workshop and feedback experience.

      For more insight into PocketMFA’s pedagogy, we highly recommend the urgent and necessary texts, The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop by Felicia Rose Chavez and Craft in the Real World by Matthew Salesses.

      What kind of feedback on my writing can I expect in the program?

      Our curriculum offers two important methods of feedback that we believe every writer needs:

      Expert Feedback: Every writer begins the program with a one-on-one meeting with their mentor where they develop a Learning Contract, a required document that articulated their individual goals and expectations. They then produce two mentor packets of writing that they receive intense, focused feedback on from their mentor. Though individualized and negotiable, typically these mentor packets include at least 20 pages of new prose or 3-5 new poems, along with additional material like reading reflections and revised pages.

      Peer Feedback: Each small group of writers participates in at least 6 peer workshops over the course of program. All 6 have mandatory attendance, and every writer is guraunteed 2 sessions focused on their writing. Typically, the material for these workshops is 10 pages of prose or 2-3 poems.

      This is the baseline level of the program and does not include all the feedback on group assignments, online activities, critique partners, etc.

      What distinguishes PocketMFA from other writing programs or workshops available online?

      Our mission is to create a life-long community of serious, professional writers outside of the exclusive academic spaces in which they’ve typically been reserved. We are selective and careful about only admitting writers who we believe will add value to the community by striving seriously toward the same mission: a professional life of writing and publication.

      PocketMFA also stands out from other writing programs and workshops through our emphasis on lifelong learning, community building, and accessibility. We offer a range of unique features and benefits, including lifelong access to program resources, ongoing support and mentorship, diverse programming options, and a vibrant community of writers committed to growth and collaboration.

      Are there any testimonials or success stories from past participants that I can review?

      We are proud to have received positive feedback and testimonials from past participants who have found value in the PocketMFA experience. You can find those here.

      What is your policy on refunds and withdrawals?

      PocketMFA offers a full refund until the end of the first week (7 days) of the program, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to interact with their group and mentor.

      If, during the program, a writer’s life circumstances change in such a way that they cannot complete the cohort, we offer deferment opportunities to future cohorts.

      How do I apply for the program, and what materials are required as part of the application process?