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 who not only want to pursue excellence in the craft of writing but who 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 — far from it. Our intention is to assist you in developing a generative, dialogic relationship with the traditions that precede you, demonstrating how those very traditions are alive, and sustaining of spiritual inquiry. 

That is to say that our program seeks to extend the tradition of Christian writing in which the highest standards of art, open-eyed exploration of human experience, and a respect for inexhaustible mystery come together to yield new and sustaining vision.

At the heart of any low-residency program is the fruitful relationship between mentor and apprentice. Writing is ultimately a solitary experience, so the rhythm of students sending packets of completed material and receiving feedback from faculty 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 offering two stimulating and intensive residency periods each year at the beautiful Camp Casey Conference Center on Whidbey Island.

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
  • Readings and lectures
  • Extended consultations with faculty mentors
  • Art and Faith seminars

Faculty at the Residencies includes core faculty mentors along with a number of invited guest speakers — some of America’s most celebrated writers. 

You are required to attend five residencies over the course of two academic years. The 10-day residencies take place in March and August.

Residency dates for the 2018–19 academic year:

  • August 9–19, 2018
  • March 14–24, 2019

Both the Summer and Winter Residency take place at SPU’s Camp Casey Conference Center amidst the beautiful surroundings of Whidbey Island in Puget Sound. MFA students will have the opportunity to sample cultural and recreational possibilities in the area, including visits to nearby historic Coupeville as well as Port Townsend, just a short ferry ride away.

Correspondence quarters

The relationship between students and faculty mentors is at the heart of the low-residency MFA program. You will engage in one-on-one correspondence with two mentors over the course of the program, studying with each for one year.

All students 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 consists of the following:

  • A cover letter in which you 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.
  • When a critical paper is due, you will also include that document.

Mentors respond with detailed comments, pointing out strengths and weaknesses and suggesting fruitful avenues for further development. While most communication is handled through email (and, on occasion, 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 students to spend 25 hours per week on their work.

Reading list/critical essays

In close consultation with faculty mentors, you formulate a course of reading. Readings are chosen from two categories:

  • Classic works from the Judeo-Christian and broader literary tradition
  • Contemporary works that serve as models and inspiration for your immediate needs.

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 60 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.

In preparation for each residency, you will read two texts from the Common Reading list as assigned. These texts are then studied and discussed during residency at Art and Faith seminars. Recent common readings include texts from these authors:

  • Uwem Akpan
  • St. Augustine
  • Nicholas Boyle
  • Dante
  • Annie Dillard
  • John Donne
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • T.S. Eliot
  • Shusaku Endo
  • Erasmus
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins
  • Anna Kamienska
  • Denise Levertov
  • Cormac McCarthy
  • Czeslaw Milosz
  • Flannery O’Connor
  • Walker Percy
  • Richard Rodriguez
  • William Shakespeare
  • Sigrid Undset
  • Virgil, Evelyn Waugh
  • Simone Weil

Graduation requirements

  • You will choose a specialization in one of three genres — poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction — and complete a thesis under the direction of a faculty mentor. (A student may study two genres, but only by adding a third year in the program; the student may apply for this after completing one full year of study and demonstrating excellence in a primary genre.)
  • You will complete a creative manuscript (i.e., a collection of poems, short stories, or essays).
  • In close consultation with faculty mentors, you will formulate a course of reading. By the end of the two-year program, you will have read a minimum of 60 books.
  • For each of the first four quarters, you complete a short critical paper on a subject relevant to your chosen course of study. In the fifth quarter of the program, you will complete a long critical paper.
  • Recommendation for the degree can be made only after the successful completion of at least six quarters of work and five residencies (64 graduate credit hours), as well as the approval of the program director and faculty mentor.
  • During the final residency, you will give a public reading of your work.

Admission requirements

To qualify for admission consideration, prospective students 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 the program at the residency on Whidbey Island the following March. Apply before May 15 to begin the program at the residency in Santa Fe that upcoming August.
  • The creative manuscript will be given special emphasis. 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, applicants 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 (double-spaced) personal essay describing your development as a writer and as 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.

*Applicants 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, all applicants must have a bachelor’s degree and must submit official transcripts from previous school(s) attended.

We also have partial merit-based scholarships for outstanding applicants. There is no separate process to apply; all admitted students will be considered for aid. 

Questions?