Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (MFA)

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Philosophy

The low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University 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 want to 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. Seattle Pacific’s program seeks to extend the tradition of Christian writing in which the highest standards of art, an open-eyed exploration of human experience, and a respect for transcendent mystery come together.

At the heart of any low-residency program is the ancient relationship between master and apprentice. Writing is ultimately a solitary experience, so your rhythm of sending packets of completed material and receiving feedback from mentors is both appropriate and effective. The beauty of this type of program is that it allows you to maintain your current job and location, while participating in two stimulating and intensive residency periods at stunning locations in the American West: the high desert of New Mexico and an island off the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

GRE scores are not required to apply to this MFA program, but you must have a bachelor’s degree and must submit official transcripts from previous school(s) attended.

Residencies

The Residencies are intensive and include:

  • Workshops
  • Classes on craft
  • Literature seminars
  • Lectures and readings
  • Extended consultations with faculty mentors

Faculty at the Residencies consists of a group of current mentors along with a number of invited guest speakers, including some of America’s most celebrated writers. You are required to attend a total of five residencies over the course of two academic years.

The 10-day residencies take place in March and August. The residency dates for the 2016–17 academic year are July 28–August 7, 2016, and March 16–26, 2017.

The Summer Residencies are held alongside the Glen Workshop, a program run by Image journal, the leading quarterly of arts and religion, based at Seattle Pacific University. The Glen, held on the campus of St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, features daily lectures, readings, concerts, and worship services with some of the leading artists and writers at work today. As an MFA student, you will pursue your own activities, but you will have the benefit of all the presentations at the Glen Workshop.

The Spring Residencies are located amid the beautiful waterfront surroundings of Whidbey Island at SPU’s Camp Casey Conference Center. As an MFA student, you will have the opportunity to sample the many cultural and recreational possibilities in the area, including visits to nearby historic Coupeville and Port Townsend.

Correspondence quarters

The relationship between you and your faculty mentor is the heart of the low-residency MFA program. As an MFA student, you will have two responsibilities: the creative writing project in a chosen genre and the reading list.

The creative project

During the academic quarter, you are responsible for generating three packets (at approximately three-week intervals). Each packet will consist of the following:

  • A cover letter, in which you might share thoughts about the creative challenges you are facing.
  • A segment of new or revised creative writing.
  • Short annotations on several of the books you have been reading.
  • Some packets include critical papers that are due.

Your mentor will respond with detailed comments, pointing out strengths and weaknesses and suggesting fruitful avenues for further development. While most communication is handled through email or paper mail, the program also utilizes Canvas for basic document sharing and Facebook for discussion threads and community building.

The norm for low-residency MFA courses is for you to spend 25 hours writing and reading per week.

Reading list/critical essays

In close consultation with your faculty mentors, you will formulate a course of reading. Readings are chosen from two categories: classic works from the Judeo-Christian literary tradition and contemporary works that may serve as models and inspiration for your immediate creative needs and gifts. Special emphasis is placed on gaining a deeper understanding of the classic works in your chosen genre. By the end of the two-year program, you will have read a minimum of 62 books.

You will write one short critical paper (approximately seven pages in length) per quarter in preparation for your long critical essay (20 pages), due at the end of the fifth quarter. Each quarter, all students in the program study a text from the common reading list. Recent common-reading texts include:

  • The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky 
  • Waiting on God by Simone Weil
  • Poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins 
  • Love in the Ruins by Walker Percy
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard 
  • Genesis by Robert Alter 
  • Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot 
  • Mystery and Manners by Flannery O’Connor
  • All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
  • Brown by Richard Rodriguez 
  • Plays by Shakespeare
  • Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
  • Astonishments by Anna Kamienska

Graduation requirements

  • You will choose a specialization in one of three genres — poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction — and you will complete a thesis under the direction of a faculty mentor. You may choose to study two genres during the course of the program, but this will require a third full year of study.
  • You will work toward completion of a full-length manuscript in one of the following categories: collection of poems, collection of short stories, or book-length work of creative nonfiction.
  • You will formulate a course of reading, in close consultation with your faculty mentor. By the end of the two-year program, you will have read a minimum of 62 books.
  • You will complete a short critical paper on a subject relevant to your chosen course of study during the first four quarters. In the fifth quarter of the program, you will complete a long critical paper.
  • Recommendation for the degree can be made only after your successful completion of at least six quarters of work and five residencies (64 graduate credit hours), as well as the approval of the faculty.
  • You will give a public reading of your work during your final residency.

Admission requirements

To qualify for admission consideration, you must turn in an online application packet to the Graduate Admissions. Please bear in mind the following things:

  • You may begin the program during either of the 10-day residencies in March and August.
  • We accept on a rolling basis. Apply before November 15 to begin at the residency on Whidbey the following March. Apply before May 15 to begin at the residency in Santa Fe the following August.
  • The creative manuscript will be given special emphasis. As an applicant, you must submit 10 pages of poetry or 25 to 30 pages of prose, whether of fiction or creative nonfiction, in your chosen genre.* (In the case of prose, you must decide whether to send an excerpt of a longer manuscript or stories or essays that fall within the page limit.)
  • You must also submit a three- to four-page personal essay on your development as a writer and a person of faith.
  • Three letters of recommendation must be submitted. Two should be focused on your abilities as a writer; one should touch on your academic achievements.
  • A $50 nonrefundable application fee is required and cannot be waived.

*You may apply in only one genre to enter the program, but may apply for a third year of study in a second genre upon the successful completion of the first year.

Though GRE scores are not required, you must have a bachelor's degree and must submit official transcripts from previous school(s) attended.

Questions?