In Their own Words
The benefits of a low residency experience in the MFA program include individual mentorship by a variety of visiting authors and the opportunity to hone your craft to produce work for potential publication. Our students are able to take advantage of the opportunity to work independently, and then come together in a writer’s retreat to critique and discuss each other’s writing. Here’s what they have to say about this transformative experience.
“One benefit of the program is the many amazing mentors you work with. Each one has their own style—their own backgrounds and ideas. Some of my mentors came from very different styles and backgrounds fiction-wise, and this meant that the feedback I received was constantly insightful and inspiring. Having readers from so many diverse backgrounds means that you get a lot of wonderful perspective on your own work. During the program, and now that I’ve graduated, they’ve been such a huge help to me.
“The residencies are essentially mandated writer’s retreats. They really are so immersive, and being someone who worked full-time, having those weeks to get away and be nothing but a writer—to be around other writers—was the best help possible for both motivation and inspiration. The residencies are where I solidified my friendships with classmates and mentors. I feel that I’ve created a lifelong connection with this program.
“I’d recommend this program to anyone that wants a post-graduate experience that favors flexibility. I don’t feel I missed out on anything by choosing low-residency. On the contrary—I feel that this program perfectly suited my life and habits, and my experience was better because of it. I didn’t feel bogged down, and my creativity wasn’t crushed.”
Cody is currently working on a novel, editing a collection of short stories, and teaching as an adjunct professor in the Department of English here at Western New England University.
“There’s something magical about digging into coursework that makes you impassioned. When every discussion, every word, every interaction is geared toward that single purpose that you’ve decided to dedicate yourself. Being surrounded by mentors and peers who share that same passion and drive, who can speak to similar struggles and triumphs, and who genuinely care about sharing in your successes. It’s a spectacular experience.
“I’ve already had a diverse array of mentors—proven authors—who have guided my progression as a writer. The variable nature of their advice is one of the program’s greatest strengths. We work with authors who possess specific strengths in writing and who endeavor to instill those strengths in us. It’s something new each time.”
Andy writes regular articles for sports news website SB Nation’s blog RSL Soapbox.
“The MFA program and its low-residency structure truly round you out. My first residency, I brought the beginning of a young adult novel. My second was short stories. Third and fourth were two different novels. And the last one was back to short stories. I had so much ability in this program to play with my writing and to truly find myself as a writer. The changes in mentors also allow for students to focus on and address specific aspects of their own writing each semester and to digest differing feedback.
“Undoubtedly, I would recommend this program to someone who identifies as an ‘emerging writer.’ I entered this program as someone who was new to the art of writing. I had no idea what “craft” was. As someone who didn’t know everything and as someone who allowed for critique, I vastly benefitted from what this program could throw at me. That first good cry you have as a writer realizing you are so far away from success is only made sweeter by the earned positive feedback you receive later on. I’m grateful to the program for showing me the way, but also for challenging me at every step.”
Some of Meg’s work has been published in The Merrimack Review.
“I have treasured my time in the MFA program. I was challenged to think critically, step out of my comfort zone, and balance content and craft. While I wanted to focus on novel writing (which I did one semester), my mentors pushed me to try something new, and I am now working on a collection of short stories. These stories have been a breakthrough for me; both on a personal level and through the feedback I’ve received.
“I have also had the pleasure and privilege to work with program director Pearl Abraham in her undergraduate creative writing workshops. It has afforded me firsthand teaching experience and helped me develop a passion for education. Watching Pearl, a professional in her craft, and learning from her has been inspirational.”
Baylea’s poems have been published in Dig, Cactus Heart, and Leur Magazine. Her short story, “Spar,” was included in the anthology Marked by Scorn from Solarwyrm Press. She also received an Honorable Mention Award for her story “Dad & I” from short-story print journal Glimmer Train.
“The low residency format of the MFA program gives me enough time and space to write and develop an individual connection with my mentors. The residencies are like a shot of caffeine; they re-energize and refocus my work. The variety of mentors has been incredible. Different perspectives and fundamental ideas about craft have made my writing stronger and more adaptable with each mentor. It has given me an education I could obtain nowhere else.
“The residency locations are amazing. The Berkshires and Dublin in the winter semesters are the ideal writer's retreat. Spending days focused on craft alongside other writers is uniquely stimulating. There is so much energy and collaboration during the residencies that every one is memorable.”
Tyler’s poetry is published in Garbanzo Literary Magazine and his short fiction can be found on Medium.