The MFA Program for Writers
In 1976, Ellen Bryant Voigt, renowned poet and master teacher, founded the nation’s first low-residency creative writing program. In 1981, the program relocated from Vermont’s Goddard College to one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, Warren Wilson College. Today, forty-five years after its inception, the prestigious MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College remains one of the top writing programs in the nation. Students of the program range in age from their early twenties to mid-sixties, in profession from teacher and journalist, doctor and bartender, to lawyer and lumberjack, and join us from all over North America, Europe, and Asia. Our faculty have won virtually every major honor in the country, including MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships, Pulitzer Prizes, and the National Book Award. Several have served as state poets laureate, and two have been named national poets laureate. Our alumni have published hundreds of books, and their work has been featured in The New Yorker and on the front page of The New York Times Book Review.
About the Program
An alternative to the wholly residential workshop, the program is structured to meet students’ needs, to help them recognize specific strengths and address specific weaknesses in their work, and to encourage them to see themselves as active participants in the creation and study of literature.
Every six months, students from across the globe gather here on campus to form a cohesive, non-competitive community that offers camaraderie, direction, and inspiration. The four-semester course of study toward the Master of Fine Arts degree is carried out by alternating on-campus residency sessions with semesters of independent study under close faculty supervision. The residencies, attended by all faculty and students, are ten days long and take place two times a year, once in early January, and once in early July.
Readings, lectures, classes, workshops, meetings, informal exchange, and conferences all aide in fostering a strong sense of community among peers. In the classes and team-taught workshops, students will find an environment that is non-competitive, while our low student-faculty ratio (never more than 5:1) ensures that each student will receive personalized attention that will help provide direction for the semester.
Following the residency, correspondence between the student and the faculty supervisor occur at regular, contracted intervals. This individualized course of study and thorough engagement with faculty, occurring within the context of one’s ongoing adult life, make the Program useful to writers at all stages of their development.
The Master of Fine Arts degree at Warren Wilson represents the study of literature from within the writer’s perspective. It is not, however, a technical or narrow degree. The reading and analytical components of each Semester Project, and the variety of classes and workshops offered during the residency periods, provide opportunities for unusually well-integrated, humanities-based curricula–without sacrifice of direct manuscript, work, and criticism.
The Program’s commitment to active teaching and active learning is unshakeable. While the balanced study of literature and the craft of writing does make its graduates attractive candidates for teaching positions, no one should apply to the program if he/she seeks the degree mainly for employment purposes. Likewise, while our graduates publish their work widely, no one should apply seeking only an editor for projects in progress. Our goal is not to supply credentials or technical support but to assist students with their education and their development as writers.
The student’s record must indicate the following:
- Full participation in five residency sessions
- Successful completion of four semester projects, with a minimum accumulation of 60 graduate hours
- Work with at least four different faculty supervisors
- Broad reading in literature and contemporary letters, as demonstrated by a comprehensive bibliography of usually at least 50-60 entries
- The ability to write clear prose, and to articulate cogent response to work by other writers, as demonstrated every semester in brief bibliographical annotations or their approved equivalent
- A substantial analytical essay (30-50 pp.) of intelligence and insight
- A Thesis Manuscript of poetry (30-50 pp.) or fiction (70-100 pp.) of high quality
- An objective assessment of that manuscript by faculty and peers in a one-hour Thesis Interview
- A one-hour graduate class taught to peers during a residency period
- A public reading of his/her work during residency