Graduate Program in Creative Writing Department
MFA, an MA and a Certificate in Publishing. The program has three concentrations: Genre Fiction, Screenwriting, and Poetry with an Emphasis on Versecraft.
The Graduate Program in Creative Writing uses a low-residency format.
MFA candidates spend two weeks for three consecutive summers on Western's campus high in the Rocky Mountains, and also attend four academic semesters between these summer sessions. During the year, students take online craft classes and also work individually with professors. 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 only attend two summers and two full semesters between them.
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 in an editorial board, 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:
First, our Concentrations are distinctive and innovative, responding 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 & TV); 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 (Film & TV):
Most MFA programs in 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, top-quality faculty:
Second, our Faculty are national leaders in their fields. All are highly successful writers, and taken together they have published hundreds of books and authored and directed many films and shows.
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, is currently one of three finalists for the post 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 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.
Guest speakers at events such as our annual conference Writing the Rockies are at the top of their game in all fields and bring excellence to the campus in terms of lectures, readings, seminars, and discussion. We bring dozens of these professionals to the campus every year.
In short, our faculty are not only committed teachers, they are, by any standard, industry leaders, and they have hired comparably qualified teachers to work with them.
3. Rigorous and Demanding Curriculum
Finally, our Curriculum is unusually rigorous and demanding, committed to 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. 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. I have no reservations whatsoever about asserting that, taken altogether, this combination makes us one of the strongest programs in the country.
David J. Rothman, PhD
Director, Graduate Programs in Creative Writing