Applications to apply to Western's Low Residency MFA and MA in Creative Writing for Summer 2017 are open.
Faculty of the Graduate program in Creative Writing (L to R): JS Mayank, Michaela Roessner, Russell Davis, Ernest Hilbert, Bob Shayne, Stacia Deutsch, Candace Nadon, David J. Rothman.
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. 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). We also offer a Certificate in Publishing.
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 and Poetry Concentration Director David J. Rothman
Genre Fiction Concentration Director Russell Davis
Screenwriting Concentration Director JS Mayank
Publishing Certificate Director Caleb Seeling
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:
Michael Black, 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)
Bruce Bennett, 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.
Finally, does this program work? Do our graduates succeed?
Judge for yourself -- here is just a partial list of recent publications and successes by our graduates and current students. We are still a young program and we expect that in another decade each year's list will be so long it requires its own web page.
Christopher Barili (Genre Fiction MFA ‘16), writing under the name B.T. Clearwater, has published his thesis novel, Smothered, with Winlock Press.
Jeff Bowles (Genre Fiction MFA ‘15) has a story in Stupefying Stories Showcase, “Blue Dancing with Yellow”:http://stupefyingstoriesshowcase.com/?p=993. Another, “Godling and Other Paint Stories” appears here https://www.amazon.com/Godling-Other-Paint-Stories-Bowles-ebook/dp/B01LDUJYHU. Also his short comic, “The Hangover” appears with FutureQuakePress: http://www.futurequake.co.uk/futurequake/futurequake-2016-winter-special.
Clifton Wilder Koons II (Screenwriting MFA ’16) was a Semi-Finalist (Drama Feature) for SECOND CHILDHOOD in the 2016 Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Competition, a Second Round Finalist (Drama Feature) for TABLOID THEATER in the 2016 Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Competition, a Finalist (TV Spec) for THE WALKING DEAD: OUTCAST, in the 2015 New York Screenwriting Contest, and a Quarter-Finalist for THE MAN IN THE TYPEWRITER, in the 2015 ScreenCraft Short Screenplay Contest.
Suzanne Lakas (Genre Fiction MFA ‘16) and Steve Visel (Genre Fiction MFA ‘16) were both finalists in the Writers of the Future quarterly competition, and Suzy’s novella was awarded an honorable mention.
Joshua Williams (Poetry MA ‘16) has recently had poems in A Hundred Gourds, Panoply, Englyn, Sonic Boom Journal and Modern Haiku. He also has a chapbook, The Distant Wild, due out in 2017.
Nathan Beauchamp (Genre Fiction MFA ‘15), who co-writes the Universe Eventual series, now has three books out: Chimera, Helios, and Ceres, which just released this past summer.
Kevin O’Shea (Poetry MFA ’15) has several poems in the winter 2016 of The Hopkins Review. The poems "Lost in Townships" and "From a Greenhouse" that appear there were both part of his MFA manuscript: https://muse.jhu.edu/issue/33090.
Michael Pool (Genre Fiction MFA ‘15) is now the Editor-in-Chief of Crime Syndicate Magazine, which publishes crime fiction, and also edited the new anthology Fast Women and Neon Lights: Eighties-Inspired Neon Noir.
Austin Rogers (Genre Fiction MFA ‘15) has a novel out, Sacred Planet, and it just received a nice review from Kirkus, “…An ambitious, ardent launch that sets a stellar precedent for installments to follow.”
Cara Guerrieri (Genre Fiction MFA ’13) published “The Spaghetti Gang and the Big Mine Bathhouse,” a memoir on which she collaborated with her father, who is now 85. It appears in the current issue of Crested Butte Magazine: http://issuu.com/crestedbuttemagazine/docs/cbm_w17_linked/107?e=1473410/40755443.
Susan Spear (Poetry MFA ‘12) had her opera “The Price of Pomegranates,” with music by Jerome Malek, workshopped at Writing the Rockies 2016. She has been appearing widely in the journals. “In Ordinary Time” is forthcoming in the winter issue of The Anglican Theological Revie, “Behind the Wheel” is forthcoming in Measure, and three more are forthcoming in Dappled Things: ”After the Interment,” “Through the Window,” and “...Not Yet Consumed.”
Felicia Chernesky (Poetry MFA student) has now published four books in a rhyming seasonal concept series, illustrated by Susan Swan (Albert Whitman & Company, 2013–2015). In order of appearance, they are Pick a Circle, Gather Squares: A Fall Harvest of Shapes; Cheers for a Dozen Ears: A Summer Crop of Counting; Sugar White Snow and Evergreens: A Winter Wonderland of Color; and Sun Above and Blooms Below: A Springtime of Opposites. Pick a Circle, Gather Squares was a 2016 Goldfinch Award finalist. She has sold the the Korean rights (!) to Pick a Circle. The full series has been republished in paperback by Scholastic and is currently available on the Teacher Store. It is also currently available in several Scholastic Reading Club flyers as a set and as a set with read-along CD. She has also published another rhyming picture book, illutrated by Julia Patton (Albert Whitman, 2015): From Apple Tress to Cider, Please! This book has been republished in French (Scholastic Canada, 2016). The Korean rights to this book have also been sold. Finally she has published a prose picture book, illustrated by Nicola Anderson (Albert Whitman, 2016): The Boy Who Said Nonsense.
Stephanie Vance (current 1st year cohort, Genre Fiction MFA ‘18) will have a flash piece called “13 Signs of the Coming Apocalypse” in Entering the Apocalypse, an anthology from TANSTAAFL press. Also, her story “Quizzical” received an Honorable Mention in the 3rd quarter of Writers of the Future contest.
Alan Wartes, a Screenwriting Bootcamp Alumnus, has been tremendously productive. THE TESLA FILES (short script) was Runner up for Best Sci-fi Short in the 2016 Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition. The script has now been fully produced and is entered in a number of competitions. DOMESTIC (hour-long TV pilot) was a Top 50 finalist in the 2016 Tracking Board Launch Pad Screenwriting Competition, and a Top 10 finalist in the 2016 Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest. THE BOTTLE BUSINESS (feature drama) was a Top Eight finalist in the 2016 Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition and also a Top 10 finalist in the 2016 Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Competition.
The GPCW is deeply committed to raising funds to support our students. Each year we offer more substantial direct-funding scholarships.
Subject to funding, the GPCW is currently offering three scholarships for new full-time MA/MFA students who enroll in summer 2017. Two of the scholarships are in Poetry (one for $10,000/yr. and one for $5,000/yr.), and the third is in Screenwriting ($10,000/yr.). Each scholarship is for up to two years, at the same amount each year. We are tremendously grateful to the Kenney Brothers Foundation and the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation for support for one of our current poetry scholarships. Click here for the GPCW MA/MFA Scholarship Application and information.