The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is a low-residency program in which students work closely with published authors who serve as their mentors and teachers. During the two 10-day residencies held each year, students participate in workshops; they meet with their mentors, visiting writers, and fellow students; and they attend a variety of other literary events. During the rest of the school year, each student works one-on-one with his or her mentor, and also participates in workshops online.
The MFA degree is offered in five disciplines—Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Writing for Young Adults, and Literary Translation. Students are accepted into the discipline in which they expect to study and graduate. We offer a 60-credit single concentration MFA degree as well as an 88-credit dual concentration MFA degree. Alumni (who have graduated from FDU with their MFA in Creative Writing degree) may return for a certificate in a secondary genre if they choose.
The program is arranged into modules (two 8-week courses are scheduled during every fall and spring semester) and residencies (10 days of study on location at FDU on the Madison and Wroxton campuses scheduled twice a year). New students must begin the program with a residency and take two modules in their first semester. After that, the program is highly flexible. Students have up to 5 years to complete the degree.
The 60-credit single genre MFA degree requires students to complete 8 eight-week modules and 3 ten-day residencies. The 88-credit dual genre MFA degree requires students to complete 12 eight-week modules and 4 ten-day residencies.
Academic work is completed during the writing modules and the residencies. Four writing modules, each 8 weeks long, are offered each academic year, two in the spring and two in the fall. Each module is directed by a faculty mentor. In addition to producing their own original creative and critical work, students are expected to actively participate in online writing workshops during each module. Students are expected to devote approximately 25 hours a week to their writing and other academic work for the program.
Student work is evaluated on a pass-fail system.
In both the single genre and dual genre degrees, students must complete six modules in their primary genre (including the thesis module), one module in Craft as the fifth in their program, and one module in an elective in which students work in a genre other than their main concentration. Students taking a dual genre go on to take 4 more modules in their secondary genre, along with one additional residency.
The modules are offered during the semester after each residency, and they run consecutively. Students may only enroll in one module at a time.
The modules require a measure of independence on the student’s part and a disciplined writing schedule. In each module, the student will create and revise work under the guidance of a faculty member. By the end of the module, the student will have completed the amount of work specified and agreed upon in a contract with the mentor. Generally, work in any module consists of 1) creative work submitted at three points each module; 2) active, thoughtful, constructive contributions to the online workshop; and 3) two Close Readings/Reviews of relevant texts. Mentors respond to creative work within a week of submission. Other work may be required according to the wishes of the mentor. At the end of the module, the mentor will prepare a final assessment, which evaluates the student’s work and progress.
The final module in Fiction Writing is the Thesis Module that emphasizes compiling and polishing material to be submitted for the MFA thesis—a collection of stories, a novella, or part of a novel. Students concentrating in other genres may elect to enroll in Fiction Writing for their one elective module.
As scheduled by the mentor, students must write two short stories or one story and a substantial revision, or equivalent novel chapters during each module.
The final module in Poetry Writing is the Thesis Module that emphasizes compiling and polishing material to be submitted for the MFA thesis—a collection of poems. Students concentrating in other genres may elect to enroll in Poetry Writing for their one elective module.
The final module in Creative Nonfiction Writing is the Thesis Module that emphasizes compiling and polishing material to be submitted for the MFA thesis—a collection of essays or part of a full-length memoir. Students concentrating in other genres may elect to enroll in Creative Nonfiction for their one elective module.
Writing for Young Adults
The final module in Writing for Young Adults is the Thesis Module that emphasizes compiling and polishing material to be submitted for the MFA thesis—a collection of stories or part of a full-length novella or novel. Students concentrating in other genres may elect to enroll in Writing for Young Adults for their one elective module.
The final module in Literary Translation is the Thesis Module that emphasizes compiling and polishing material to be submitted for the MFA thesis—a collection of translations (stories or poems or essays), or part of a full-length translation (a novella, novel, or memoir). Students concentrating in other genres may elect to enroll in Literary Translation for their one elective module.
Students must complete the module in Craft for their genre of concentration during the fifth module of their work in the MFA program.
Working closely with a mentor, the student will research and write an essay devoted to Craft. The Essay on Craft must include: 1) a clear presentation of a central idea (or a sufficient articulation of a specific domain of exploration), fluent and correct syntax, and a coherent organization; 2) logical thinking grounded in close readings of the texts, and 3) textual substantiation for the ideas put forth. The Essay on Craft should be (approximately) between 3,500 and 5,000 words. The mentor must approve the topic and approach, but the Essay on Craft may be an academic essay, a personal reflection on texts, a profile of an author that includes close readings, or it may take another form, so long as it meets the above requirements and the mentor approves. Although the Craft module does not contain our traditional peer-oriented workshops, there will be opportunities for students to share drafts and discuss ideas at the residency and online.
All students complete one elective module in a genre other than their main genre. Students can choose the genre. For students in the dual genre program, this elective would be in the secondary genre.
The thesis should reflect a culmination of all the work the student has completed during the program, and as such, it should represent the student’s best possible writing. The thesis may be comprised of poems, short stories, essays, a novella, the beginning portion of a novel, or the beginning portion of a memoir. The length should be approximately 25,000 words for prose. For poetry, the thesis should include approximately 375 lines. The thesis must be in the student’s declared genre. During the Thesis module, the thesis is written and revised by working closely with a mentor. Each thesis will undergo a formal evaluation and critique by the thesis mentor and second reader.