Master of Fine Arts in

Creative Writing

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Meet the Director

scott cairns

I first want to thank you for your interest in the low-residency Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree at Seattle Pacific University. Ours is a program that specifically embraces the vital and generative relationship between literary study and creative writing, and ours is a program that intentionally includes — in our literary engagements — a long tradition of texts produced by people of faith.

I have been blessed with many accomplished teachers during my life as a writer, but Annie Dillard was the first to set my feet on this path that would lead to my finding a way to marry my writing life to an ongoing journey of spiritual development. This discovery — that a writer is primarily a pilgrim — lies at the heart of our pedagogy. We hope to equip our MFA students with the tools to proceed along the way. Chief among those tools is the understanding that literature is a long and ongoing conversation, in which the aspiring writer must eventually take part.

Our faculty mentors work to educe from our students a sense that they must engage dialogically with the prior tradition by attending to what has come before, and thereafter responding with new creation. Our faculty shares a sense that our students will develop most readily if they shed the idea that writing is primarily a way to express what they think they already know, and come to trust, instead, that writing creatively is primarily a way of knowing. That is to say that if you are a writer who understands your own writing to be a way of — quite literally — coming to terms with who you are and with whose you are, then our program may be for you.

A recent comprehensive assessment by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) noted that SPU’s MFA “meets and surpasses AWP’s hallmarks for rigor and intellectual engagement,” and concluded that “it is likely to enjoy national preeminence ... for many years to come.”

Our program is small, and highly selective. Should you join us, you will become part of an alive and enlivening community of mentors, students, and alumni — a community whose every member takes seriously the accomplishment of every other.

May it be blessed,

Scott Cairns, Director


Director Scott Cairns describes SPU’s MFA program with Founding Director Greg Wolfe.

Philosophy


The low-residency MFA at SPU is a creative writing program for apprentice writers — both Christians and those of other traditions — who not only want to pursue excellence in the craft of writing but also place their work within the larger context of the Judeo-Christian tradition of faith. 

The spiritual dimension of this program is not intended to produce didactic, sectarian, or sentimental literature. Nor is this MFA intended to produce writers of “Christian fiction.” Far from it.

This program seeks to extend the tradition of Christian writing in which the highest levels of art, an open-eyed exploration of human experience, and a respect for transcendent mystery are all held in a proper balance. 

Our models are Augustine and Dante, the Pearl poet and Sor Juana de la Cruz, George Herbert and John Milton, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Fyodor Dostoevsky, T.S. Eliot and Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy and Annie Dillard.

We believe that our program will appeal to writers for whom matters of faith are central. We also intend to cultivate reading and writing as spiritual disciplines. 

We are convinced that writers flourish best when they engage in a sustained dialogue with the great literature that has gone before them. Therefore, our program maintains a strong emphasis on reading classic works from the Judeo-Christian tradition and responding to them in a series of critical papers.

Unlike many MFA programs, ours focuses not only on matters of craft but also on the importance of vision. We believe that great writing is not merely an act of self-expression, but a single-minded effort to do justice to the world.