Questions and Answers for the Master Program in Creative Writing

Graduate Program in Creative Writing, Application Information

1. How can a low-residency format create a sense of community among students and faculty?

Education is a kind of conversation, and aspiring writers need all sorts of that conversation, from written comments to one-on-one critiques, to socializing. Sustaining all these kinds of conversation is crucial to our success and we take them all quite seriously, even in our low-residency program.

The intensity and vibrancy of both the summer residencies and the academic semester conversations among faculty and students create a strong sense of common purpose in our program. If you join us, you will discover a diverse, talented, and generous community dedicated to the writer's life. The residencies and semesters foster a non-competitive spirit. This spirit sparks conversations that build toward strong friendships. Our students and faculty come from diverse backgrounds, yet many stay very closely in touch during the academic year and after they graduate. there is no reason not to be idealistic about it: we are all pursuing a dream, an oft-deferred dream, in the face of multiple questions and challenges. Here, you can develop the skills and knowledge to make a lifelong commitment to your writing while realizing a supportive literary community that will continue to support and inspire your writing long after you receive your degree.

2. Who will be my classmates?

The students in our program come to us from across the United States. They range in age from their early 20s to their mid-50s. Each brings a wealth of unique experiences, lessons and motivations that enrich and inspire the program. From beatnik poets and activists to publishing agents and chemists, from cowboys to city slickers, bricklayers to bartenders and everyone in between, the diversity and scope of the program is its greatest strength. This richness generates a profound sense of unity and belonging that comes from being a part of a community of writers, that is, a community of individuals who have dedicated their lives to the art of writing.

3. Who will be my professors ?

Your relationship with your instructors is an integral part of your program. A low faculty-to-student ratio ensures your instructor's focus is where it belongs: on you and your writing. All of our faculty members are active writers with decades of combined experience living, working, and thriving in the worlds of poetry, fiction and film. The Screenwriting concentration is the only accredited creative writing graduate program taught entirely by current Hollywood screenwriters and producers. Both the poetry and mainstream fiction concentrations are taught by currently publishing authors.

4. What can I expect in the program's online component?

Expect a rigorous and challenging year of discussion, composition and growth. The school year is based on a studio-mentor format. You're partnered one-on-one with a faculty mentor within your concentration. You can expect to spend a minimum of 25 to 30 hours a week completing writing assignments, for which mentors provide weekly feedback. You participate in threaded, synchronous and asynchronous, online voice and discussion boards during each term with other students and mentors.

5. How intensive is the program?

In a word: very. It asks for nothing less than your best. The flexibility of the low-residency format is paired with the intensity and high expectations of a Master's degree program. The program insists on a high degree of commitment and excellence from its students.

6. Can I take classes in more than one concentration?

Exceptional students may elect to study two of these concentrations by extending their program. Students must earn an additional 30 credits in their second area of emphasis (one full-time year).

7. Genre Fiction? Poetry with an Emphasis on Versecraft? Screenwriting for Film and Television? Why don't I see these concentrations usually offered in other creative writing graduate programs?

To quote the former program director Mark Todd, "There's a change on the horizon of MFA programs, a transformation of interest and focus seen through isolated courses at universities, published comments from authors and critics, and various conferences that focus on and celebrate mainstream writing. The MFA program and concentrations at Western were created in response to these changes. We wanted to offer something unique in the MFA world, but something we also felt passionately about. Both these goals were brought together in a program that celebrates and supports writers who aspire to reach audiences beyond academic circles, writers who hope to reinvigorate poetry, film and fiction while pursuing excellence within their craft."

There are very few graduate programs that offer these concentrations. We've found that students are searching for a program to enable them to pursue a lifelong commitment to their writing. And that's exactly the kind of program we have created - a program that addresses the world of writing in a refreshing way, a program that enables students to develop their craft while realizing their dreams and passions.

8. What separates your program from the dozens of other graduate creative writing programs out there?

A rigorous and unique program of study, a low student to faculty ratio, and our commitment to you, to your writing and to your career as a writer. We strive to bring something different to the table, another option and a new perspective of what a creative writing graduate program can be. We invite you to explore our courses, and to enter a dialogue with our instructors, students and staff. You'll realize a shared passion for the art of writing and the audiences we write for. You'll discover an innovative program, and a supportive and inspired community committed to you and your ambitions.

9. Why would I enroll in the MA in Creative Writing program instead of the MFA in Creative Writing program? 

Western decided to add the additional MA graduate writing program to reach out to four primary demographic audiences:

1. Students who are already teachers and interested in earning a creative writing-specific graduate degree to advance their professional careers in public or private middle or high schools.

2. Students who wish to earn a graduate degree with the intent of community college teaching.

3. Students who wish to earn an additional graduate degree to enhance their marketability in the four-year college teaching market.

4. Students interested in pursuing professional careers in writing but willing or able to pursue only one year of studies (and one year of tuition expenses) in creative writing.*

* For the fourth category above, those who are initially tentative about commitment to a two-year degree can elect to transfer into the second year and complete the MFA degree if their work is strong during the first year. In this case, a student must request transfer prior to the second summer residency and have the written endorsement of two of Western's MFA faculty members.

Graduate Program in Creative Writing, Application Information