The program uses a low-residency format. MFA candidates visit Western's campus high in the Rocky Mountains in Gunnison, Colorado, for two weeks each July for three years, participating in our Summer Intensives.
Each Summer Intensive concludes over the final long weekend of July with our conference Writing the Rockies, which features scores of nationally renowned guest speakers and teachers and is also open to the public.
MFA students also attend four on-line academic semesters between Summer Intensives.
As a result, candidates in the program can live and work anywhere during the academic year while pursuing the degree.
MA candidates pursue the same concentrations, but attend two summers and two full semesters between them.
The MA is a good choice for teachers who want to advance their knowledge in a particular discipline, but are not as interested in a terminal degree or in writing a full thesis.
The one-year Certificate in Publishing prepares students to enter the publishing industry, or to work as an agent or in a publishing house.
Students participate on the Editorial Board of Western Press Books, acquiring, editing, and packaging a book for yearly publication at the college's press. Poetry cohort students also work on the University's new national journal, THINK.
Western’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing is distinctive for three reasons:
1. Distinctive and Innovative Concentrations
Our Concentrations respond directly to emerging markets in both the literary world and in education. We have three concentrations: Genre Fiction (Mystery, Speculative Fiction, Romance, Young Adult, and many more); Screenwriting (Film & Television); and Poetry with an Emphasis on Versecraft (focusing on meter, rhyme, form and genre).
Our program is one of the few in the entire country with a specific focus on commercial genre fiction – from romance and mystery, to westerns, speculative fiction and more. We offer a rigorous and progressive curriculum that gives students strong fundamental skills in all the genres in their first year. In the second year, students then specialize as they work on their thesis novels. What sets us apart is a strong emphasis on a few key things: clear understanding of the genres based on imitation; a high volume of serious, directed reading and writing; completion of work in short fiction at different lengths as well as at least one novel length work, thus ensuring students’ ability to adapt to the marketplace; and finally, the understanding that comes from a rigorous program with feedback from both instructors and peers. Our students leave the program prepared to publish (many do so even before they leave), prepared for careers as writers, and prepared to teach at the undergraduate level.
Screenwriting for Film and Television
Most graduate programs in writing drama focus on the stage. Ours focuses on both film and increasingly on TV, where many of the most exciting developments are now occurring. The program’s motto is “We bring Hollywood to you.” Our low-residency format means that students can learn from writers who live and work in Los Angeles, the heart of the industry. Our program includes classes on all the basic genres: shorts, features, spec episodes of TV shows, original pilots, and the basics of adaptation. It is a comprehensive screenwriting program, which also gives an overview of the business, all of it taught by working writers and industry veterans.
Poetry with an Emphasis on Versecraft
Most programs do not teach poetic craft. In contrast, our program is part of a small but growing movement to train students in the basics of poetic language, history and form. We emphasize the study of meter, rhyme, poetic forms and genres more rigorously and intensely than any other program we know. Our students also learn about the history of the art and of the language, about the crucial role of translation, about literary pedagogy, and about how to participate fully in the world of journals, of teaching, and of criticism. Students graduate with a full quiver of skills, ready to participate in all aspects of the literary life.
2. Highly Successful Faculty
Our faculty are national leaders. All are highly successful writers, and taken together they have published hundreds of books and authored and directed many films and shows. All have advanced degrees and extensive teaching experience.
Program Director and Poetry Concentration Director David J. Rothman
Professor Rothman has published or edited eight books of poetry, creative non-fiction and scholarship, with several more under contract. He has also published hundreds of articles in major newspapers and critical and scholarly journals, along with poems in national periodicals such as Appalachia, The Atlantic Monthly, The Kenyon Review, Poetry and The Threepenny Review. He serves as Poet-in-Residence for Colorado Public Radio, was one of three finalists for the recent appointment of Colorado Poet Laureate, and has been a Finalist for the Colorado Book Award. He has also directed a number of independent non-profits outside of academia, including independent presses, scholarly organizations, private schools and arts organizations such as the Crested Butte Music Festival, which he co-founded.
Genre Fiction Concentration Director Russell Davis
Professor Davis is a best-selling author and editor who has written and sold scores of novels and short stories in virtually every genre of fiction. His writing encompasses everything from media tie-in work in the Transformers universe to action adventure in The Executioner series to original novels and short fiction in anthology titles like Under Cover of Darkness, Law of the Gun, and In the Shadow of Evil. He has worked as an editor and book packager, and created original anthology titles ranging from westerns to fantasy. His newest work, The End of All Seasons, a collection of short fiction and poetry, came out in 2013. He is a past president of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.
Screenwriting Concentration Director JS Mayank
Professor Mayank is a Hollywood screenwriter and director who recently signed with ICM Partners in the TV division, which also represents stalwarts like David Shore (House M.D.), Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy, Scandal), and Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad). Mayank is currently developing several TV shows, including one with producer Matt Gross at Europacorp (Luc Besson's company) and another with producer Vince Gerardis (Game of Thrones). His sci-fi short film EMIT (starring Jack Coleman of Heroes and The Office) played at over 30 festivals world-wide last year.
Our concentration directors have hired comparably qualified faculty to work with them.
Guest speakers at our annual conference Writing the Rockies bring excellence to the campus in the form of lectures, readings, panels, workshops, seminars, and discussion. Recent visitors have included:
Joe Haldeman, John Helfers, Diana Tixier Herald, Robert McBrearty, Jim Minz, Andy Zack
Charlie Craig (The X-Files, Eureka, Rizzoli & Isles), Sam Robards (American Beauty, A.I.), Linda Seger (script consultant for TriStar Pictures, Ray Bradbury, William Kelley, Linda Lavin, and many more), Joel Thompson (House, Falling Skies)
Kim Bridgford, Tom Cable, Natalie Gerber, Emily Grosholz, Dana Gioia, Simon Jarvis, Marilyn Krysl, Dave Mason, Jan Schreiber, Marilyn Taylor, Fred Turner.
3. Rigorous Curriculum
Our curriculum is designed to inspire excellence at every level. Classes are structured more like those in a music conservatory, an arts academy, a school of architecture or a school of dance than they are like those one would find in an academic department. Students not only study works of art, but imitate them in highly structured and specific ways, the better to learn what it is they themselves want to do in their own work. We also offer courses on pedagogy, on editing, on the business side of writing, on how to write criticism, and more, to teach students how to make it in the world outside the university. In short, our students do not merely exchange manuscripts and critique them. In each concentration they follow a carefully sequenced and rigorous curriculum based on imitating the best work in each field. Then – and only then – when they have begun to master this material, do they finish with a creative thesis.
Western is a beautiful place to study, and students in our low-residency programs love coming to our intensive on campus each July, when the Gunnison Valley is one of the most beautiful places in America.
But while the place is special, it is our concentrations, our faculty and our curriculum that set our graduate programs in creative writing apart from most others. Our concentrations are distinctive, our faculty are excellent, and our curriculum is rigorous. Taken altogether, this combination makes us one of the strongest programs in the country. Read on and discover why.
MFA Poetry Scholarship: The Poetry Concentration is currently offering one $10,000/yr. scholarship for a new full-time student who enrolls in fall 2015. The scholarship is for two years, at the same amount each year. We are tremendously grateful to the Kenney Brothers Foundation and the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation for this support. Click here for the MFA Poetry Scholarship Application and information.