Creative Writing, Master of Fine Arts

The Graduate Program in Creative Writing offers an MFA in four concentrations: Genre Fiction, Nature Writing, Poetry, and Screenwriting for Feature Film and Television. Western’s curricula differ from most other comparable programs by emphasizing intense training in craft, close study of diverse and marginalized authors, and extensive exposure to the business side of the profession.

All MFA programs in the Graduate Program in Creative Writing use a low-residency format that engages students in two ways:

  1. on-campus seminars and workshops for two weeks during three consecutive summers, and
  2. a plan of non-residency study during four full-time academic semesters, during each of which students work one-to-one with writing faculty and members of their peer cohort of students.

All programs require a high degree of commitment and excellence from candidates, who must maintain a 3.000 course average to complete the program. A minimum grade of B- in each course is required. 

In all three summer residencies, MFA candidates complete a 2-credit intensive course in their concentrations. They also complete one credit each summer of CRWR 600 Summer Orientation which involves attending craft talks, readings, workshops, and other literary events; participating in online discussion of them; and writing a short reflective essay at the conclusion of the residency.

In their third full non-residency semester, all MFA candidates are required to take one 6-credit out-of-concentration course from the options in the course menu.

During the academic year, full-time students should expect to spend a minimum of 25-30 hours per week to complete writing assignments, for which professors will provide feedback online. Students also participate regularly in online discussion boards and videoconference calls with other students and professors. Students earn 12 credits each semester for this work (six credits per course).

Program Information

Western’s low-residency MFA in Creative Writing offers a rigorous, terminal degree in the field, involving intensive creative work, development of critical and pedagogical skills, and study of the business of being a writer. Students select one of four concentrations, Genre Fiction, Nature Writing, Poetry, or Screenwriting for Feature Film and Television, and are required to take one 6-credit out-of-concentration course from the options in the course menu during their third full non-residency semester.

The program takes 25 months to complete as a full-time student, which includes four regular academic semesters and three summer semesters. During the fall and spring academic semesters of each year, students engage in coursework through the use of both videoconferencing and online learning platforms. During each of the three summer semesters, students take an intensive course in their concentration and attend a one-week, on-campus residency, which takes place at the end of July.

Total Credits for the MFA in Creative Writing
Two summer residencies @3 hours/summer = 6 credits
Third summer residency, with capstone = 4 credits
 First two academic semesters @12 hours/term = 24 credits
Second two academic semesters @13 hours/term = 26 credits
Total Credits: 60

Requirements for Full Admission to the MFA in Creative Writing

Candidate must submit:

  • An official transcript of the bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university showing recommended 3.0 cumulative GPA or higher.
  • An 800- to 1,000-word personal statement describing the applicant's experience and commitment to writing. This statement should include a self-assessment of qualifications for admission to Western's Graduate Program in Creative Writing for the chosen degree and concentration.
  • A writing sample in the appropriate genre, double spaced and numbered, or properly formatted for the appropriate genre:
    • The Genre Fiction concentration sample should include 20 to 25 pages, ideally from a single work.
    • The Screenwriting concentration sample should include a complete scene or short.
    • The Nature Writing concentration sample should include 20 to 25 pages, in any genre or a mix of genres. 
    • The Poetry concentration sample should include 10 to 15 pages of poetry.
    • The Publishing concentration sample should consist of a 3- to 5-page critical assessment of a story’s suitability for publication (story to be provided to applicant during application process).
  • Two letters of professional recommendation from those capable of assessing the applicant's preparation to succeed in graduate-level work. All letters must be originals submitted on letterhead, must be signed by the person giving the recommendation, and must be less than a year old.
  • Payment of university application fee

Provisional Admission to the MFA in Creative Writing

An applicant who does not meet the requirements for full admission to the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing may be considered for provisional admission upon the recommendation of the program director and approval by the Dean of Graduate Studies. A provisionally admitted student will have a maximum of one calendar year to complete any pre-requisite academic coursework. The program director or Dean of Graduate Studies may set additional timeline requirements.

Program Requirements for All Concentrations

Western’s low-residency MFA in Creative Writing offers a rigorous, terminal degree in the field, involving intensive creative work, development of critical and pedagogical skills, and study of the business of being a writer. Students select one of four concentrations, Genre Fiction, Nature Writing, Poetry, or Screenwriting for Feature Film and Television, and are required to take one 6-credit out-of-concentration course from the options in the course menu during their third full non-residency semester.

The program takes 25 months to complete as a full-time student, which includes four regular academic semesters and three summer semesters. During the fall and spring academic semesters of each year, students engage in coursework through the use of both videoconferencing and online learning platforms. During each of the three summer semesters, students take an intensive course in their concentration and attend a one-week, on-campus residency, which takes place at the end of July.

Concentration in Genre Fiction

The Concentration in Genre Fiction includes instruction in writing for such forms as science fiction/fantasy, the mystery, romance, and other forms of mainstream commercial fiction. Study includes short and long written forms, the business aspects of writing and publishing in the current market, and teaching pedagogy. 

The MFA Concentration in Genre Fiction requires the following 60 credits:

CRWR 600Summer Orientation (taken three times with different emphasis each summer)3
CRWR 601Fundamentals of Writing Genre Fiction I2
CRWR 602Fundamentals of Writing Fiction II2
CRWR 604Career Planning for Genre Writers2
CRWR 608Genre Writing I- Romance and Mystery Fiction6
CRWR 609Genre Studies I-Romance and Mystery6
CRWR 618Genre Studies II- Western, Speculative, and YoungAdult Fiction6
CRWR 619Genre Writing II- Western, Speculative, and Young Adult Fiction6
CRWR 620Short Forms Genre Fiction Writing6
CRWR 621Business Fundamentals for Genre Writers6
CRWR 684Pedagogy and Practicum6
Select one of the following out-of-concentration courses during the second Fall term:6
Traditional Publishing I (with permission of the Publishing Concentration Director)
Independent and New Model Publishing I
Narrative Poetry
Screenwriting Genre
Craft of Creative Nonfiction
Three credits of:3
Capstone (must be taken for a total of three credits)
Total Credits60

Genre Fiction as a Second Concentration

Students pursuing this second MFA concentration must earn 30 credits as follows:

CRWR 600Summer Orientation1
CRWR 604Career Planning for Genre Writers2
CRWR 608Genre Writing I- Romance and Mystery Fiction6
CRWR 609Genre Studies I-Romance and Mystery6
CRWR 618Genre Studies II- Western, Speculative, and YoungAdult Fiction6
CRWR 619Genre Writing II- Western, Speculative, and Young Adult Fiction6
Three credits of:3
Capstone (must be taken for a total of three credits)
Total Credits30

Students may count CRWR 609 Genre Studies I-Romance and Mystery or CRWR 610 Genre Fiction Writing and Reading Survey toward the second concentration if they have already taken it to fulfill the out-of-concentration course required by their primary concentration. 

Concentration in Nature Writing

The Concentration in Nature Writing teaches students a wide range of literary techniques and styles writers have used in their creative responses to the natural environment and human interactions with it. The concentration provides training in all the major literary sub-genres relevant to the field, including memoir, science writing, political writing, history, poetry, fiction, and various forms of the essay and creative nonfiction. Courses include significant reading in primary and secondary sources, along with extensive work in short and long creative writing forms, focusing on creative nonfiction but also including other genres, as well as strategies and techniques for the effective teaching of creative nonfiction and other forms of creative writing.

The MFA Concentration in Nature Writing requires the following 60 credits:

CRWR 600Summer Orientation (taken three times)3
CRWR 680Writing Place: New Forms and Techniques6
CRWR 681Nature Writing Intensive2
CRWR 682Nature Writing Now2
CRWR 683Thesis Seminar in Nature Writing2
CRWR 684Pedagogy and Practicum6
CRWR 685Craft of Creative Nonfiction6
CRWR 686Genres of Nature Writing6
CRWR 687Writing about Nature and Science6
CRWR 688Writing about Nature and Society6
CRWR 689Special Topics in Nature Writing6
CRWR 695Professional Development in Nature Writing6
One of the following out-of-concentration courses during the second fall term:6
Genre Studies I-Romance and Mystery
Genre Fiction Writing and Reading Survey
Traditional Publishing I (with permission of the Publishing Concentration Director)
Independent and New Model Publishing I
Narrative Poetry
Screenwriting Genre
Three credits of:3
Capstone (must be taken for a total of three credits)
Total Credits66

Nature Writing as a Second Concentration

Students pursuing this concentration as a second area of emphasis must earn 30 credits as follows:

CRWR 600Summer Orientation1
CRWR 681Nature Writing Intensive2
CRWR 685Craft of Creative Nonfiction6
CRWR 686Genres of Nature Writing6
CRWR 687Writing about Nature and Science6
CRWR 688Writing about Nature and Society6
Three credits of:3
Capstone (must be taken for a total of three credits)
Total Credits30

Students may count CRWR 685 Craft of Creative Nonfiction toward the second concentration in Nature Writing if they have already taken it to fulfill the out-of-concentration course required by their primary concentration.

Concentration in Poetry 

The Concentration in Poetry brings students into the ongoing conversation of poetics, introducing them to the ideas, questions, approaches and techniques that have been the concerns of poets across time and cultures. The Poetry curriculum includes workshop-style courses focused on developing voice and expanding range, as well as courses on contemporary authors, poetic form and technique, narrative poetry, and professional development. MFA students also take one out-of-concentration course in Genre Fiction, Nature Writing, Publishing or Screenwriting for Feature Film and Television during their second year of study.

As the culmination of their work, MFA students complete a creative thesis, which consists of a book-length manuscript of original poetry. Students work on this year-long, capstone project under the close guidance of a faculty mentor and present it to the GPCW community during their third Summer Residency.

The MFA Concentration in Poetry requires the following 60 credits:

CRWR 600Summer Orientation (taken three times with different emphasis each summer)3
CRWR 630First-Year Poetry Intensive2
CRWR 634Major Authors I6
CRWR 635Poetry Workshop I6
CRWR 640Second-Year Poetry Intensive2
CRWR 644Major Authors II6
CRWR 645Poetry Workshop II6
CRWR 646Narrative Poetry6
CRWR 648Form and Technique in Poetry6
CRWR 650Third-Year Poetry Intensive2
CRWR 653Poetry Book Reviewing/ Poetry, Literacy, Pedagogy6
Select one of the following out-of-concentration courses during the second Fall term:6
Genre Studies I-Romance and Mystery
Genre Fiction Writing and Reading Survey
Traditional Publishing I (with permission of the Publishing Concentration Director)
Independent and New Model Publishing I
Screenwriting Genre
Craft of Creative Nonfiction
Three credits of:3
Capstone (must be taken for a total of three credits)
Total Credits60

Poetry as a Second Concentration 

Students pursuing this second MFA concentration must earn 30 credits as follows: 

CRWR 600Summer Orientation1
CRWR 635Poetry Workshop I6
CRWR 645Poetry Workshop II6
CRWR 646Narrative Poetry6
CRWR 648Form and Technique in Poetry6
CRWR 650Third-Year Poetry Intensive2
Three credits of:3
Capstone (must be taken for a total of three credits)
Total Credits30

Students may count CRWR 646 Narrative Poetry toward the second concentration if they have already taken it to fulfill the out-of-concentration course required by their primary concentration.

Concentration in Screenwriting for Feature Film and Television

The Concentration in Screenwriting for Feature Film and Television includes instruction in the history and analysis of classical and contemporary screenwriting texts and the resulting films. The program emphasizes instruction in writing the visual narrative, three- and four-act structure, character development, thematic development, conflict, genre, story arc, and dialogue, for both the feature-length screenplay and television writing. Students also learn to apply strategies and techniques for the effective teaching of creative writing. 

The MFA Concentration in Screenwriting for Feature Film and Television requires the following 60 credits: 

CRWR 600Summer Orientation1
CRWR 661Film History and Analysis; the Visual Narrative2
CRWR 662Story, Conflict, Character, and Genre in Screenwriting2
CRWR 663Screenwriting, Competition, Representation, the Option2
CRWR 665Screenwriting Genre6
CRWR 668Television Drama and Sit Comedy6
CRWR 671Writing the First Feature-Length Screenplay6
CRWR 675Writing the TV Pilot6
CRWR 678Adaptation6
CRWR 690Screenwriting Master's Capstone I6
CRWR 691Screenwriting Master's Capstone II6
Select one of the following out-of-concentration courses during the second Fall term:6
Genre Studies I-Romance and Mystery
Genre Fiction Writing and Reading Survey
Traditional Publishing I
Independent and New Model Publishing I
Narrative Poetry
Craft of Creative Nonfiction
Three credits of:3
Capstone (must be taken for a total of three credits)

Screenwriting as a Second Concentration

Students pursuing this second MFA concentration must earn 30 credits as follows: 
 

CRWR 600Summer Orientation1
CRWR 663Screenwriting, Competition, Representation, the Option2
CRWR 665Screenwriting Genre6
CRWR 668Television Drama and Sit Comedy6
CRWR 675Writing the TV Pilot6
or CRWR 678 Adaptation
CRWR 690Screenwriting Master's Capstone I6
Three credits of:
Capstone (must be taken for a total of three credits)

Students may count CRWR 665 Screenwriting Genre toward the second concentration if they have already taken it to fulfill the out-of-concentration course required by their primary concentration.