Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing
The Summer Residency is scheduled to take place on campus July 5-10, 2021. With COVID-19 in mind, a fully online format is being considered. Additional details will be released early in May.
If you are looking for a program to take your writing to the next level, to help you fine-tune your craft, and gain insight into the world of publishing, explore the low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (Fiction). Our mentors and visiting writers have published works of literary fiction, poetry, nonfiction essays, young adult and
Why Choose Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing?
This program offers a rigorous individualized curriculum without the demands of a full-time program. It covers all aspects of fiction writing through intensive workshops, classes in craft, courses in special topics, manuscript consultations, and individual conferences. Annually there are two entry points, summer (July) and winter (January), each beginning with an intense, weeklong residency consisting of inaugural lectures on literature, craft, and language; readings by a series of noted visiting writers; and panels made up of literary agents and editors.
What Will You Study?
With a student/faculty ratio of just 5:1, our low-residency MFA model covers all aspects of fiction writing through workshops, classes in craft, courses in special topics, manuscript consultations, and individual conferences. Each weeklong residency consists of inaugural lectures on literature, craft, and language; readings by a series of noted visiting writers; and panels made up of literary agents and editors advising on the business of the writing life. The residency offers a complete immersion in an inspiring writer's community; the two terms that follow each residency provide the necessary solitude and time for writing and thinking, working online under the guidance of an accomplished and experienced author. Upon graduation, students may expect to have a portfolio of substantial work with detailed responses from mentors, as well as letters of reference from these mentors.
Top 5 Reasons to Choose The MFA in Creative Writing
Accessible and Connected
"The MFA is a great opportunity to let your creativity flow and prosper without having to commit to a full-time schedule, all the while maintaining a connection with like-minded individuals who will provide much needed advice in a writing-intensive setting twice a year."—Zubia Abbasi, Current Student
Individualized Curriculum and Program Customization
"In this program, I have worked on several books in different genres, short stories, and flash fiction. All the assignments are specifically catered to each student, and the students have a strong influence on what they study."—Teralyn Pilgrim, Current Student
Inspiring Faculty and Visiting Writer Mentors
"I've 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 worked with authors who possess specific strengths in writing and who endeavor to instill those strengths in us. It's something new each time."—Andy Graff MFA'18
Focus on Learning the Craft of Writing
"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 benefited 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."—Meg Granger MFA'17
"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. 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 McQuillan MFA'17
Candidates seeking admissions to the MFA in Creative Writing should possess a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution of higher learning. The review process will focus largely on the candidate's writing sample submitted with the application for admission.
There is no application deadline. Applications are processed on a rolling basis. Once an application is complete, an admissions decision will be released in 1-2 weeks. All new MFA candidates admitted to the program will be required to begin with a residency. Two will be offered annually—Summer (July) and Winter (January).
How are Courses Offered?
The Western New England University low-residency MFA program combines biannual, five-day residencies followed by individualized online mentorships. Established authors teach students how to read and think about fiction from a craft perspective. A fifth non-required residency is offered to graduating students at no tuition cost.
The MFA curriculum combines the creative collaboration of a residency with individualized, mentored study to offer students both a structured learning environment, and the freedom to work and explore the craft of writing independently. As part of the requirements for the degree, students complete many drafts and revisions, producing a substantial manuscript of original work in fiction by the end of the program. Students will benefit not only from learning from professors and working authors, but also the space to sharpen their own voice in the process.
By Tracey Kry
You had the honor of being the first book selection for Oprah’s Book Club in 1996 with your novel The Deep End of the Ocean. Being the first, were you prepared for the exposure? How did the experience impact you both as a writer, and in your personal life?
“What no one knows is that no one (except perhaps Oprah Winfrey) was expecting the impact that the Oprah Winfrey Book Club would have. She had called me—this is a very funny story—several times just before announcing the formation of the “world’s biggest book club” just to tell me how much she really liked The Deep End of the Ocean. This was a long time ago, when answering machines still had those little tapes in them that would store only four or five minutes of messages, and she’d gone on to the end of the tape. I erased it, because, of course, I didn’t think it was really Oprah Winfrey, I thought it was one of my friends horsing around with me.
“I did this a few times, until one morning, I came down to my little office in the basement in Madison, Wisconsin, and the intern from the University of Wisconsin who was working for me at the time said, ‘Jack, you know I really think that is Oprah Winfrey, listen to how mad she is now!’ And on the tape, she was saying, ‘Look. I don’t even know if you live here, but if you do, could you please at least do me the courtesy of returning my phone call?’ I did, and she told me that she didn’t feature fiction on the show because it never went well, but that she wanted to discuss other possibilities with me, maybe with her production company; but there was already a movie deal in the works. So we parted friends, and a couple of days later, she called again and said she was going to start the world’s biggest book club—with my book. I must tell you, even my publisher at the time did not think that this was such a big deal—as the common wisdom was that people who watched daytime TV didn’t read books. Well, she announced the Oprah Winfrey Book Club, and by 9:00 that night, there were 4,000 holds on the book at the New York Public Library, and, in the weeks to come, the publisher had to borrow other companies’ presses to make enough books. It was thrilling and great fun, and I suppose it was a whirlwind, but I can say that I was never overly impressed with myself or this accolade, and I’m still astonished that this book has sold more than 3 million copies worldwide, in 37 languages. I was a widowed mom of three, 40 years old, and it meant that I wasn’t going to lose my house after all. As they say, ain’t that a kick in the head?”
You have an extensive and impressive bibliography. Do you have a favorite book, or a favorite character?
“I do, I do. My favorite books are two: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, which is the story of Francie Nolan, a girl growing up dreaming in immigrant poverty in Brooklyn, which is about life and art and writing, and everything. I named my firstborn daughter Francie Nolan after this character. And the other is True Grit by Charles Portis, the story of Mattie Ross, setting out with a disreputable U.S. marshal to avenge her father’s murder in the western plains of the United States, a girl of indomitable courage and will. As a writer, there’s no better primer on how to tell a story in an authentic voice, but it means so much to me emotionally as well.”
What unique perspectives and experiences about your journey as a writer do you hope to bring to WNE’s MFA program?
“I want writers to aim high and not defeat themselves by believing all the gloomy messages about how impossible it is to have their stories published. In my experience, it does not matter who you are or even who you know (although it helps to know someone), good stories will always be published if you are willing to give the effort what it takes. My first novel was the first time I’d ever tried to write fiction. I had no idea how to do it, other than my reading the way my betters did it; and I still believe that the University of Good Stories is the best way to learn to write; but I can lead students through that university.”
You’ve written across genres—adult, children, even YA novels! What inspired you to branch out, and where do you find inspiration for such a wide array of stories and audiences?
“I just love Young Adult literature because it’s so edgy … and I wish I had more books for teenagers on the front burner! Teenagers defy the logic that books are dead; they love to read and YA literature grows steadily in scope and numbers. Of course, all children love books; little kids demand their favorite books read to them until those books fall apart. It’s thrilling to hear the your story has become a favorite for a child. I’m not as much of an ‘idea person’ as some of my friends, but the inspiration for the different ways in which people experience the universal emotions—love, pity, fear, desire—are always unfolding all around us. I just take notes.”
What was it like to see your story, The Deep End of the Ocean, adapted into a feature film? Did it live up to your vision? Were you involved in the process?
“I wasn’t involved at all, except as a spectator. I didn’t have a vision, just the same kind of hopes all writers have, even though they say they don’t want the movie version to ‘ruin’ their stories, I think they’re all fibbing. It was so much fun, and I’m actually semi-experiencing that process again right now (please, fate!).”
You have nine children, but it seems as though you have managed to find a successful work/life balance. What tips do you have for burgeoning writers to make time and space in their lives for writing when family, friends, work, or lack of motivation get in the way?
“Lack of motivation seems to be the real beast here instead of the other forces at work in our lives. Yes, we’re all very, very busy, but giving your story priority over some of the things in life, although it’s difficult, is really necessary. Of course, I never neglect the things my younger and adult children need (they might disagree) but I have to admit I don’t really have the kind of social life that friends have. I don’t go to many events, or shop, or have any real hobbies. I have three or four great friendships in my life and a few other cordial relationships, but that’s it. So yes, I sacrifice those things for writing. And I never miss them.”
What are you most looking forward to as you begin mentoring students at WNE?
“It’s a cliché, but I learn so much from working with student writers. I can’t teach people to write, but I can teach people to be better writers. In every group, there’s someone whose talent and potential is absolutely inspiring to me and it makes me up my game as a teacher and as a writer. I also just want to come to a beautiful place close to my own home and experience time there.”
Here's What Our Students Have to Say
The MFA program offers a unique, highly individualized educational experience. Each student arrives will goals and ambitions and leaves with a portfolio of work. Throughout the process, faculty mentors and visiting authors help them develop their talents to the fullest. Read what our students have to say about this transformative experience.
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