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Courses / Degree Requirements for the MFA in Creative Writing

The following is projected for students entering the university in 2020-21 and is subject to change.

To graduate with an MFA in Creative Writing, students must successfully complete:

  • All general requirements for a master’s degree
  • At least 48 credits of coursework from the following:

Residencies (9-10 credits)

The first residency starts with the heart of writing—the creative process itself. Poet Alan Shapiro said that writing allows us to focus on the “right here, right now, the deep joy of bringing the entire soul to bear upon a single act of concentration. In that extended moment, opposites cohere: the mind feels and the heart thinks, and receptivity is a form of fierce activity. Quotidian distinctions between mind and body, self and other, space and time, dissolve.” This class explores the inner world of the imagination and techniques to access the leaping mind. It asks questions such as: How do you break through writer’s block and nourish creativity? Why is it essential to give yourself permission to experiment and make mistakes? Where do you find inspiration and how do you develop the healthy work habits of the professional poet/writer? There will be guest lectures about Bly’s poetics of the deep image and Lorca’s theory and play of duende—not labor, but the fuel of passion pulsing through a work. Guest faculty offer evening readings, teach master classes on various aspects of craft, and lead advanced workshops in three genres. Students also receive an orientation to the writing life—the profession of the poet or writer. (2 credits)
The second residency explores the role of storytelling in fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. In seminars, craft classes, panel discussions, and writing exercises, students explore the fundamentals of narrative—including character, plot, point of view, theme, style, and voice—with a special emphasis on transformational storytelling, the quest motif, and approaches to crafting works of lasting value. Master classes may cover the narrative poem; profluence in lyric prose; the fictionalized memoir; outlining, storyboarding, and the story arc; the Hero/Heroine’s Quest; how to develop a longer work (novel, memoir, or graphic novel); writing from life experience; and more. Guest faculty offer evening readings, teach master classes on various aspects of craft, and lead advanced workshops in three genres. (2 credits)
The third residency explores form and the unwrapping of form in the genres of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Seminars and craft classes cover topics such as hybrids; borderlands between genres; fixed form versus open form poetry; graphic memoirs; sources and approaches; and profluence through association and theme. This residency also includes workshops on line break; Japanese minimalism and the image; the contemporary narrative poem; the lyric memoir or novella; and the lyric essay (including prose poem, braided essay, collage, and hermit-crab essay). Panels will be on the topics of experimentation, crossing genre, and breaking form. Guest faculty offer evening readings, teach master classes on various aspects of craft, and lead advanced workshops in three genres. (2 credits)
The fourth residency is named after Annie Dillard’s famous text about the life of the writer, a mandatory addition to every student’s reading list. What do poets and writers have to say about the writing life? In seminars, panel discussions, and workshops, poets and writers talk about their writing routine and creative process, giving students pointers for success. Students learn basics about journal and book publication, conference attendance, and career strategies. This residency includes a panel on cutting-edge developments in the publishing industry and the future of book publishing; a panel with agents and publishers (pending availability); a seminar on the value of corporate versus independent publishing houses; a workshop in book proposal writing; and several seminars and workshops on how to organize book-length manuscripts of poems, short stories, flash pieces, or essays into a cohesive collection. Guest faculty offer evening readings, teach master classes on various aspects of craft, and lead advanced workshops in three genres. (2 credits)
This capstone residency for graduating students discusses the journey of taking ideas from vision to fully realized books. Seminars and panel discussions deal with the questions that lie ahead after graduation: How do you carve out a career as a writer? How do you develop and finish your books? How do you find an agent and publisher? How do you deal with bills or rejections and still keep writing? How do you believe enough in yourself and your voice to birth your books into print? How do you market yourself once you have landed a publishing contract? The fifth and final residency offers a bolstering package of support for the writer embarking on the world. Graduating students teach a master class, give a public reading from their thesis, and celebrate their achievements. (2 credits)

Online courses (16 credits)

This online course offers students a deep immersion in their own unbounded creative nature. Consciousness and creativity form the perfect foundation for a prolific writing life. Students track the path of transcending through the practice of Transcendental Meditation as well as through writing, reading, and creative process. Every component of the course nudges students to open the faucets of creativity and rediscover the joy and bliss inherent in creative expression. This involves making mistakes, trying, and experimenting without self-censorship or push for perfection. Interactive assignments are designed to inspire a self-reliant, sustainable creative routine as well as a nourishing, authentic relationship between self, Self, and Muse. This course includes basic and refresher knowledge about the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique and the process of transcending geared toward each student’s level of experience. (2 credits)
This online course examines consciousness through a literary lens, making connections between the craft of writing and the self and Self of the poet/writer. Textbook for the course is The Flow of Consciousness, a compilation of talks by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on literature, writing, and consciousness edited by Rhoda Orme-Johnson and Susan Andersen. Seminars, readings, and interactive writing assignments explore literary techniques that poets and writers use to culture expansion of awareness: how sound offers a framework for silence; how rhythm and repetition push the mind to transcend; the function of the gap (white space, pause, cesura); the relationship between name and form, and more. (2 credits)
This online course is designed to deepen creative process, exploring the leaping imagination and the ineffable force at the heart of all great writing. Seminars and writing assignments examine Bly’s poetics of the deep image, Rilke’s idea of the combinatorial nature of creativity, and Lorca’s “Theory and Play of the Duende,” teaching students how to mine rich and complex material that is “in their veins” and “surges up from the soles of their feet.” It includes exercises to help students write in an authentic voice and seminars covering subjects such as writing about childhood, nature writing, the relationship between memory and time, metaphoric thinking, shifting and expanding point of view, witnessing and point of view, and the I/eye of poem or story. It also touches on the transformational power of myth. (2 credits)
This online course explores the ways that literary theory and analysis are intrinsically relevant to the field of creative writing, enriching discussion, the workshop experience, and creative work. The class covers interpretation, authorial intention vs. reception and reader response, textuality and intertextuality, as well as assumptions about language and the manifold aspects of self and identity. Aim is to give insight into the history of literary traditions and help students examine through different lenses the genre(s) in which they themselves write, offering wider context. An in-depth examination of identity in poetry and prose questions social conditioning and assumptions. The course also looks at teaching methodologies of writing influenced by literary theory. (2 credits)
This online course explores the theory, practice, and art of teaching creative writing, offering a theoretical and historical background to different conventional and cutting-edge pedagogies from the fields of creative writing and composition studies, examining innovative models of teaching creative writing not limited to the workshop model. Central is creative process and the idea of writing and language as a means of personal expression. Students learn how to integrate the six levels of Bloom’s taxonomy in sample assessments and rubrics of learning objectives and outcomes. They create lesson plans and a syllabus, study methods of grading, plus structure a master class on a craft-related subject, which they will teach during the final (5th) residency of the program. Students are also required to write a statement of teaching philosophy. All of these materials are submitted in a Writing Pedagogy Portfolio. (2 credits)
Poets and writers are the voice of the future. They have the power to transform and create community through empathy and inclusivity; they can bring about positive change in the world. However, perspective narrows if a writer views life through a singular, limited point of view (“the danger of the single story,” as novelist Chimamanda Adichie calls it). This online course explores ethical dilemmas and social values in the literary arts, stimulating social awareness and engagement. Themes include loss of voice and identity, erasure of memory, and exile from community. The class also teaches the value of listening to and celebrating marginalized voices; the empowerment of finding back voice and community; being an eye-witness, bearing witness, and developing witnessing by being rooted in the Self; the importance of adopting diverse perspectives as a poet/writer; and writing as a means to bring about healing and transformation. Culminating project is a writing outreach, where students have the opportunity to use their skills in service of a cause they believe in in their home communities. This outreach can serve as an internship or teaching practicum. (2 credits)
This online course orients students to the profession of the poet/writer, covering such issues as work habits; the art of organizing and assembling a book; journal and book publication; job hunting; interviewing; the art of networking; and professional presentation through CVs, query letters, cover letters, pitching, and/or book proposals. How can you finish your books while paying your bills? What smart strategies do professional poets/writers recommend in creating fulfilling careers in writing? In this class, students write a marketing plan for their thesis as a finished book. (2 credits)
In today’s global world, writers have to know how to create a strong online platform so they can market themselves and their work effectively. This course teaches in-demand and innovative social media marketing skills and strategies that will promote career growth. The course gives an overview of habits, trends, and evolution in social media communications. Students are stimulated to think strategically so that they can mine creative opportunities. Lectures, discussions, and exercises focus on authentic communication, creating content, digital storytelling techniques, blogging, and branding. Students also learn technical skills such as website building, how to write content that performs well in social media, social analytics, viral campaigns, and how to elicit social media engagement. Final project is an Online Portfolio that includes a website, online CV, various social media pages, and samples of (published) work. (2 credits)

Creative Writing Mentorships (16 credits)

This intimate Advanced Creative Writing Mentorship offers full immersion in the craft and technique of poetry. Students write original poems and receive intensive feedback in one-on-one mentorship and online workshops with the aim of revising their work in-depth. The course is tailored to each student’s specific needs and may emphasize closed and/or open form poetry, cross genre hybrids, experimental and/or long form poetry, or whatever a student wishes to explore. Students submit four packets of work (new writing and revisions) per semester. Weekly or biweekly online craft classes cover subjects such as the deep image; metaphoric thinking; the art of line break; rhythm, repetition and/or metrics; unwrapping form; and more. Students work on their thesis project unless the mentorship is an elective. Poetry students can repeat this course. (4 credits) Co-requisite: LIT 560, a complimentary Advanced Process Mentorship in the same genre. Prerequisite: Students take mentorships in their chosen genre(s) of emphasis and are only allowed to enroll in elective mentorships with permission of the MFA Program Director
This intimate Advanced Creative Writing Mentorship offers full immersion in the craft and technique of fiction. Students write original fiction and receive intensive feedback in one-on-one mentorship and online workshops with the aim of revising their work in-depth. The course is tailored to each student’s specific needs and may emphasize short story, flash fiction, novel, novella, and/or speculative fiction. Students submit four packets of work (new writing and revisions) per semester. Weekly or biweekly online craft classes cover subjects such as voice, setting, character, flashbacks, the art of dialogue, the narrative arc, multiple points of view, outlining, and more. Students work on their thesis project unless the mentorship is an elective. Fiction students can repeat this course. (4 credits) Co-requisite: LIT 561, a complimentary Advanced Process Mentorship in the same genre. Prerequisite: Students take mentorships in their chosen genre(s) of emphasis and are only allowed to enroll in elective mentorships with permission of the MFA Program Director
This intimate Advanced Creative Writing Mentorship offers full immersion in the craft and technique of creative nonfiction. Students write original creative nonfiction and receive intensive feedback in one-on-one mentorship and online workshops with the aim of revising their work in-depth. The course is tailored to each student’s specific needs and may emphasize flash nonfiction, personal essay, and/or memoir. Students submit four packets of work (new writing and revisions) per semester. Weekly or biweekly online craft classes cover subjects such as hybrids, the lyric essay, drawing upon life experience, fictionalizing personal stories, setting, character, the art of dialogue, the narrative arc, profluence, flashbacks, framed stories, and more. Students work on their thesis project unless the mentorship is an elective. Creative nonfiction students can repeat this course. (4 credits) Co-requisite: LIT 562, a complimentary Advanced Process Mentorship in the same genre. Prerequisite: Students take mentorships in their chosen genre(s) of emphasis and are only allowed to enroll in elective mentorships with permission of the MFA Program Director
This intimate Advanced Creative Writing Mentorship offers full immersion in the craft and technique of multiple genres. Students create original cross genre or multi genre work and receive intensive feedback in one-on-one mentorship and online workshops with the aim of revising their work in-depth. Students submit four packets of work (new writing and revisions) per semester. Weekly or biweekly online craft classes are tailored to each student’s specific needs with the aim of stimulating the student’s creative work. The purpose of the Multi Genre Mentorship is to give students room to explore unfamiliar and/or complimentary genres. Students develop an appreciation of the three core genres and an understanding of how these genres can cross-fertilize and intersect. Dual genre students can take this mentorship multiple times in order to work on their thesis project. For other students, the Multi Genre Mentorship presents an opportunity to stretch boundaries and explore new possibilities as an elective. (4 credits) Co-requisite: LIT 563, a complimentary Advanced Process Mentorship in Multiple Genres. Prerequisite: Students take mentorships in their chosen genre(s) of emphasis and are only allowed to enroll in elective mentorships with permission of the MFA Program Director
In the fourth semester of study, all students enroll in the MFA Thesis, a semester of advanced mentorship designed to complete the MFA thesis, a book-length manuscript of publishable quality. Students work one-on-one with their mentors, participate in intensive workshops, and engage in in-depth revision to finalize their drafts. Students are required to submit four packets of work during the semester. The MFA Thesis is always in the student’s genre of emphasis (dual genre for approved students only). This course can be repeated as “Extended MFA Thesis” in a fifth semester of study. (4 credits) Co-requisite: LIT 593: Writing a Critical Introduction to the MFA Thesis

Reading & craft analysis Mentorships (12 credits)

This course focuses on reading and craft analysis in the genre of poetry in support of a student’s creative work. In each monthly packet submitted to the mentor, students are required to include a bibliography, annotations in response to about half to a third of the readings, and an analysis essay exploring craft in a literary work. By the end of a semester, students will have compiled a reading list of 10 – 20 titles relevant to their own writing process. There are four packet exchanges with the mentor per semester. Poetry students can repeat this course. (2 credits) Co-requisite: CW 560, a complimentary Advanced Creative Writing Mentorship in the same genre. Prerequisite: Students take mentorships in their chosen genre(s) of emphasis and are only allowed to enroll in elective mentorships with permission of the MFA Program Director
This course focuses on reading and craft analysis in the genre of fiction in support of a student’s creative work. In each monthly packet submitted to the mentor, students are required to include a bibliography, annotations in response to about half to a third of the readings, and an analysis essay exploring craft in a literary work. By the end of the semester, students will have compiled a reading list of 10 – 20 titles relevant to their own writing process. There are four packet exchanges with the mentor per semester. Fiction students can repeat this course. (2 credits) Co-requisite: CW 561, a complimentary Advanced Creative Writing Mentorship in the same genre. Prerequisite: Students take mentorships in their chosen genre(s) of emphasis and are only allowed to enroll in elective mentorships with permission of the MFA Program Director
This course focuses on reading and craft analysis in the genre of creative nonfiction in support of a student’s creative work. In each monthly packet submitted to the mentor, students are required to include a bibliography, annotations in response to about half to a third of the readings, and an analysis essay exploring craft in a literary work. By the end of the semester, students will have compiled a reading list of 10 – 20 titles relevant to their own writing process. There are four packet exchanges with the mentor per semester. Creative nonfiction students can repeat this course. (2 credits) Co-requisite: CW 562, a complimentary Advanced Creative Writing Mentorship in the same genre. Prerequisite: Students take mentorships in their chosen genre(s) of emphasis and are only allowed to enroll in elective mentorships with permission of the MFA Program Director
This course focuses on reading and craft analysis in multiple genres in support of a student’s creative work with particular emphasis on the borderlands between genres, including cross genre and hybrid work. This course stretches boundaries, inspires new ideas, encourages experimentation, and gives students the opportunity to explore genres that are unfamiliar. In each monthly packet submitted to the mentor, students are required to include a bibliography, annotations in response to about half to a third of the readings, and an analysis essay exploring craft in a literary work. By the end of the semester, students will have compiled a reading list of 10 – 20 titles relevant to their own writing process. There are four packet exchanges with the mentor per semester. Dual genre students can repeat this course. (2 credits) Co-requisite: CW 563, a complimentary Advanced Multi Genre Mentorship. Prerequisite: Students take mentorships in their chosen genre(s) of emphasis and are only allowed to enroll in elective mentorships with permission of the MFA Program Director
In the fourth semester of study, the Advanced Process Mentorship fully supports the completion of the MFA thesis. Instead of craft analysis and critical essays, students write a critical introduction to their thesis, giving their creative process and craft choices a literary and scholarly context. Students are expected to refer to ideas and techniques discussed in The Flow of Consciousness to enrich their explications. In each monthly packet, students include a draft of their introductions, then use mentor feedback for revision. The final draft should include MLA citations and a Works Cited page. (2 credits) Co-requisite: CW 593: MFA Thesis