The low-residency MFA at SPU is a creative writing program for apprentice writers — both Christians and those of other faith traditions — who not only want to pursue accomplishment in the craft of writing but also place their work within the larger context of world literature by writers of faith.
The spiritual dimension of this program is not intended to produce didactic, sectarian, or sentimental literature. On the contrary, this program seeks to extend what our faculty understand to be a longstanding conversation that comprises much of world literature, a conversation in which the highest levels of art, an open-eyed exploration of human experience, and a respect for mystery are all held in a proper balance.
Our models are Augustine and Dante, Saint Ephraim the Syrian and Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, the Pearl poet and Sor Juana de la Cruz, George Herbert and John Milton, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Emily Dickinson, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Alexandros Papadiamandis, T.S. Eliot and Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy and James Baldwin, Annie Dillard and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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 come before them. Therefore, our program maintains a strong emphasis on reading classic and current works by writers of faith, and assist our students in responding to them in a series of critical and creative engagements.
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 in the world, to do justice to the world.
A Word about Inclusiveness
In keeping with the commitments of the faculty and students of Seattle Pacific University, our program is intentional in our proclaiming a commitment to pursuing class, race, gender, and LGBTQ+ inclusion; while we honor our various gifts and vocations, we understand our common calling to be one of reconciliation, of embracing the beauty and the necessity of difference within a beloved whole.
I first want to thank you for your interest in the low-residency Master of Fine Arts degree (MFA) 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 pair 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 program’s 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, a 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 in dialogue with the greater tradition by attending to what has preceded them, 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, but must 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 the program 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, a community that continues to serve its members long after graduation.
May it be blessed,
Scott Cairns, Director