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Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing

College of Arts & Sciences



 

The Winter Residency will take place at the Spirit Fire Retreat in Leyden, MA, January 3-8, 2021.

UPDATE: With COVID-19 in mind, updates will be posted later in the fall so MFA candidates traveling from a distance can plan accordingly.

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 middle grade literature, memoir, and literary criticism. This is a two-year, 48-credit curriculum program blending online learning with four short-term residency sessions (five days) held at our picturesque Western New England campus in the summer. The Winter Residency is typically held in the Berkshires.

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. Each term begins 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

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. Energizing Residencies
    "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

Admissions Requirements

Admissions Requirements

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 in 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).

Admission Requirements
How are Courses Offered?

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.

Program Overview

Program Overview

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. 

Curriculum
Visiting Writers

Visiting Writers

Mentorship by an award-winning visiting author helps our MFA students develop as writers and hone their craft. Learn more about this winter's visiting writer Anya Yurchyshyn.

Visiting Writers
Residencies

Residencies

The Winter Residency will take place at the Spirit Fire Retreat in Leyden, MA, January 3-8, 2021.

UPDATE: With COVID-19 in mind, updates will be posted later in the fall so MFA candidates traveling from a distance can plan accordingly.

Summer residencies are held on campus; winter residencies are typically held in the Berkshires.

The Berkshires

Residencies
Q&A with Visiting Writer Anya Yurchyshyn

By Christy Crutchfield

Your memoir My Dead Parents begins with your discovery of a love letter your father wrote to your mother. You immediately wanted to investigate the parents you thought you knew. When did you know you wanted to write a book about your past and your discoveries? Was it a product of your investigations or a catalyst?

“The book was the product of my investigation. For a long time, my research was purely for myself (and the readers of my Tumblr). I thought about writing a book, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find a book’s worth of information. I decided to pursue one after I wrote an essay about my project for BuzzFeed and received an overwhelmingly positive response. Having a book deal allowed me to do research I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford.”

Your book is a memoir, but you also have an MFA in fiction from Columbia and several publications. How does writing nonfiction differ from writing a story or a novel?

“For me, writing nonfiction is very different from writing fiction. My fiction is quite spare, and I like to leave a lot of things unsaid and create a sense of uneasiness. With nonfiction, however, readers need a lot of description and detail, and they need to understand how everything connects. Of course, I didn’t include every detail of my life, or my parents’, but I did have to connect all of the emotional and logical beats of our stories (I also had to start using adjectives, which my fiction purposefully lacks). If I left something unsaid, my readers would be confused and there would less emotional payoff in the end.

“Nonfiction lacks the freedom of fiction, and that required a lot of adjustment. I couldn’t make anything up, add useful or interesting characters, or blow up the plot when I got stuck. I had to work with what I had and constantly find ways to add narrative drive to exposition and elevate content-heavy sentences to prose. If I’d been writing a novel or story, I would have been able to change parts of the book that I feared weren’t interesting or just left them out completely. I struggled with the confines of nonfiction for a long time, but now that I’m writing fiction again, I’m overwhelmed by all the possibilities available to me.”

Nonfiction writers have to be brave because they have to be honest. Your book not only shows us darker moments from your relationship with your parents, but you also show moments in your own life where you know you were wrong. Did you come across challenges writing about your family, especially since both your parents were dead? What about challenges writing about yourself in such an honest light?

“I wouldn’t have written this book if even one of my parents were still alive, not because I would have been afraid of hurting or offending them, but because it took them dying for me to be interested in them at all. That said, their deaths provided important distance and perspective, and as I was committed to being as honest as possible, knowing that I wouldn’t upset them was a relief. Writing about them was still challenging, however, because I couldn’t turn my questions to them. I had to rely on other people, and their memories and impressions, to tell me what I didn’t know or understand. If other members of my family, and my parents’ friends and peers, hadn’t been as generous as they were, the book wouldn’t exist. And though I spent a year researching the book full-time, I still have lots of questions that only my parents could answer. As they’re no longer around, I’ve had to accept that there are things I’ll never fully understand no matter who else I talk to, and I worked hard to make this uncertainty a part of the book. 

“When I started the book, I knew I’d have to interrogate myself as rigorously as I did my parents. That’s only fair. There were many things I would have preferred to keep to myself. For example, I’m deeply embarrassed that I slapped my mother when I was a teenager, but I put it in because showing who I’d been and what my mother dealt with was important. It’s painful to share such unflattering information, but I made a point to treat myself as mercilessly as I did everyone else because I thought my readers would sense if I wasn’t being honest. And I knew that some people would bristle when I said that I was relieved when my parents died, or find this or other sentiments offensive or distasteful, but I was committed to sharing my feelings because I wanted to speak to people who had experienced similar things. I was willing to risk alienating certain readers because I wanted to give voice to a less-traditional experience of grief.”

I found your discussion of addiction from a loved one's perspective particularly compelling. You take us through the guilt and helplessness you felt when dealing with your mother's addiction. You also show us your frustration and your own weakness when it came to your mother's bargaining. I think we're used to reading stories of triumph when it comes to addiction—and stories of unending patience—but your memoir speaks to the complications. Did you have an intentional message about addiction when writing these chapters?

“I did not have an intentional message, I simply wanted to present my experience honestly. Many addictions do not end in triumph, and dealing with an addict is infuriating, confusing, and very, very painful. I wanted to show this side of addiction and share all contradictory feelings a loved one endures. I hoped that people who’d gone through similar things would find comfort in seeing their experiences represented.”

Learn More

  • 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.

    In Their Own Words
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