The program offers a low-residency curriculum. Students come to Western's campus high in the Rocky Mountains in Gunnison, Colorado, for two weeks each July, participating in our Summer Intensives. MFA candidates come for three summers; MA and Certificate students come for two.
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 open to the public.
Students attend on-line academic semesters between Summer Intensives. As a result, candidates in all our programs can live and work anywhere during the academic year while pursuing the degree.
The non-residency component of each concentration involves both intensive coursework online, including reading and writing assignments and interactive work on discussion boards, along with faculty advising. Students spend a minimum of 25-30 hours per week on writing assignments. Students also participate weekly in threaded synchronous and asynchronous online voice and discussion boards during each term with other students and mentors. Students earn 12 credits each semester for this work (six credits for each mentored course topic).
In the first and second summer residencies, candidates also complete one credit each summer of CRWR 600, learning or updating online tools mastery, attending faculty and student readings, and meeting with non-residency mentors. Third-summer candidates earn one credit attending and participating in critiques and readings for cohorts attending their first and second summers.
The Graduate Program in Creative Writing insists on a high degree of commitment and excellence from degree candidates, all of whom must maintain a 3.0 GPA to complete the program. A minimum grade of B- in each course applied to a degree program is also required. Summer residency courses within concentrations are front-loaded -- that is, these courses require students to prepare for the intensive residency experience by completing pre-assigned reading lists as well as preparing advanced assignments to focus on discussion and qualitative analysis during campus intensives.
MFA candidates may elect to study two concentrations by increasing the duration of their program to six semesters and a fourth summer residency.
MA candidates pursue the same concentrations as MFA students.
Western’s low-residency MA in Creative Writing focuses on both the craft of creative writing and the pedagogy for the teaching of creative writing. Just as in the MFA, students select one of three emphases: Genre Fiction, Poetry with an Emphasis on Versecraft, or Screenwriting for Film and Television. The program takes thirteen months to complete as a full-time student. The low-residency component of the program involves two online semesters of coursework that use a combination of online writing submissions and critiques as well as regular real-time discussions with writer-mentors and peer students. During each of the two required summer intensives on Western’s Colorado campus, students join an inspiring community of peers as well as attending student and faculty readings, workshops on craft and literature, and master classes. MA students work together with MFA students in almost all classes -- we are one community. Each emphasis in the MA requires comprehensive examinations at the conclusion of coursework, but there is no thesis.
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.
MA candidates may continue into the MFA program at the discretion of the admissions committee.
The one-year Certificate in Publishing prepares students to enter the publishing industry, or to work as an agent or in a publishing house.
Like the MA, the program requires two summer residencies and takes thirteen months to complete as a full-time student. Coursework involves a combination of academic study and practical work with Western's publishing institutions: Western Press Books, the literary journal THINK, and Conundrum Press.
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.
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.
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.
The Certificate in Publishing offers a rigorous curriculum along with direct experience in the industry, in all media. In addition to coursework, students produce, from start to finish, a volume of Manifest West, the literary anthology series of Western Press Books. Students have weekly editorial board meetings to review and discuss submissions, then make the final selections and copyedit and proofread the anthology. Students can also work on THINK, our program's national journal of poetry and criticism. Throughout, students work with professionals in the publishing industry to gain insight into the field. During this process, students also learn how to edit their own writing, and they regularly critique writing from peers to prepare it for submission to magazines and presses. Graduates of the Certificate in Publishing Program are prepared to enter the publishing field as agents or junior editors at established houses, or to start their own small presses.
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.
Publishing Certificate Director Caleb Seeling
Professor Seeling began working in publishing in 2006 and founded Samizdat Publishing Group in Denver in 2009. The company has since expanded, forming three imprints (Conundrum Press, Conundrum Faith, and Samizdat Creative), publishing between 20-30 books altogether each year. An active member of several publishing and arts organizations, Caleb is also a social entrepreneur, finding ways to serve the greater community and disadvantaged youth through strategic partnerships with organizations such as Colorado Business Committee for the Arts and Youth on Record. He has also recently published his first graphic novel, The Battle Begins, with David C. Cook Publishing, illustrated by Eisner-award winning artist Sergio Cariello. The sequel, The Seeds of Struggle, will appear in fall 2015 and he is under contract for two more.
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.
John Helfers, Larry Meredith, Leah Rogin-Roper, Terrie Wolf,
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.