The low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing has become a relatively commonplace format in American higher education. The nation’s first low-residency MFA program in creative writing was inaugurated at Goddard College in 1976. Since then, more than a dozen other low-residency MFA programs have been launched, some of which are now considered among the finest MFA programs in the nation. While the SPU MFA is logistically modeled upon these prior programs, our approach to content combines their studio approach with a substantive engagement with literary tradition and scholarship.
Each student will choose a specialization in one of four genres—Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, or Spiritual Writing: Open Genre—and complete a thesis under the direction of a faculty mentor.
The heart of the program involves the longstanding relationship between mentor and apprentice. Writing is ultimately a solitary experience, so the rhythm of students sending packets of completed material and receiving detailed feedback from their mentors is both appropriate and highly-effective.
Over the course of two years, students will correspond with their mentors during six academic quarter and attend five residences. The particular advantage of a low-residency program is that it allows students to maintain their current jobs and locations—and also to continue meeting their various personal obligations where they live. The particular advantage of the SPU MFA program is realized during the two, ten-day intensive residency periods, with a March residency at Camp Casey, a stunning location on Whidbey Island in the north Puget Sound of Washington State, and an August residency on the SPU campus in the lovely Queen Anne district of Seattle, adjacent to the districts of Fremont, Wallingford, and Ballard.
OUR AUGUST VENUE: SEATTLE PACIFIC UNIVERSITY, SEATTLE, WASHINGTON:
Seattle Pacific University was founded in 1891 by Free Methodist pioneers who valued a non-sectarian approach to education that welcomed all those seeking scholarly accomplishment informed by faith.
Today, skirting the northern slope of metro Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill and bordering the scenic Fremont Canal and the Burke-Gilman Trail, SPU’s campus is both tranquil and energized, an ideal setting for your MFA residency experience. When you are not actively engaged in your residency sessions, you and your MFA family are free to savor the beauties of “the Emerald City.” We are in walking distance of the exhilarating neighborhoods of Queen Anne, Fremont, Ballard, and Wallingford, and steps away from Seattle’s exemplary transit system that will open up the rest of our city—Seattle Center, Pike Place, Capitol Hill, all their cultural riches to your exploration.
Discover Queen Anne, Fremont, Ballard, and Wallingford.
The heart of the low-residency MFA program is comprised of the dialogue between the student and his or her faculty mentor. Each student is expected to correspond on schedule with the mentor, submitting annotations (engaged articulations regarding the books on the student's reading list), new and revised creative work, a short, quarterly critical paper, and eventually, an expanded critical paper and a creative thesis.
After a student's first residency, they will begin exchanging packets with the following correspondence quarter.
Quarter Packet Exchange
During the academic quarter, the student will be responsible for generating three packets (at approximately three-week intervals). Each packet will consist of a cover letter, in which the student might share thoughts about the creative challenges he or she is facing, a segment of new or revised creative writing, and annotations of three or four of the books from the student’s reading list. One packet each quarter will include a short critical paper. Mentors will respond with detailed critical comments on the work submitted, pointing out strengths and weaknesses, and suggesting fruitful avenues for further development. The norm for low-residency MFA courses is for students to devote 25 hours per week on their work.
Annotations Reading List & Critical Papers
In close consultation with their faculty mentors, students will formulate a course of reading. Readings will be chosen from two categories: exemplary works from literary tradition and contemporary works that may serve as models and inspiration for students’ immediate creative needs and gifts. Special emphasis will be placed on gaining a deeper understanding of the classic works in the student’s chosen genre. By the end of the two-year program, students will have read 60 books.
Students will write one short critical paper (approximately seven pages in length) per quarter in preparation for their final critical essay (20 pages) due with their graduating work.
The following is a far-from-exhaustive selection of classic literary works from the tradition. Every MFA student in this program will be expected to read several titles from this list: