MFA in Writing

Teaching Philosophy

Because all VCFA students are artists, there are substantial differences in the ways they pursue the program’s goals. Each semester’s written individualized study plan allows students to address personal aspirations and learning needs while working toward program goals and requirements. 

There is no “one way” to write in our program. The MFA in Writing recognizes that writing approaches and styles are as diverse as our students themselves, and we value and encourage differences while emphasizing a common pursuit of excellence, beginning perhaps with the very individual discovery of what literary excellence means and a recognition of the boundless potential in all genres. 

Our faculty recognizes that the two years students spend in this program are only the beginning of a lifelong commitment to writing and reading. We seek to provide a foundation from which students can continue to refine their craft and expand their knowledge of literature. In addition, our program helps students develop lasting writing practices and processes while becoming part of a close community of writers that act as support system for years to come. 

Please read a bit more about the teaching philosophies of the three genres.

Creative Nonfiction

Creative nonfiction is a distinct and valued genre at Vermont College of Fine Arts. We are committed to exploring its unique and evolving possibilities.

At VCFA, we believe that all voices, styles, and subject matter are equally valid in the search for emotional and artistic truth. The work of our faculty and visiting writers embodies the broad range of approaches open to our creative nonfiction students.

We teach personal, meditative, and lyric essays, the memoir, immersion writing, hybrid and experimental forms, as well as the traditional, more formal essay. Within these subgenres students explore the self within the context of family dynamics and childhood, the natural world, travel, and place, spiritual, social and cultural issues, and much more.

The boundaries of creative nonfiction are constantly changing and expanding. We help each student find her or his unique voice within this chorus of choices. We work with each student individually to discover her or his most profound work in a safe and nurturing environment.

Fiction

Henry James once wrote that the house of fiction has many windows. These words could serve as a statement of purpose for the fiction faculty at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

 We teach all forms and styles, providing instruction and mentoring in novels, novellas, short stories, story collections, and flash fiction. Our fiction faculty has, as a whole, published work in every genre, and our aesthetic tastes are eclectic—there is no “one way” to write in our program, and all manner of subject matter is honored. In our mentoring of each student, we offer our expertise in the service of the quest to find a unique voice and vision. We encourage exploration and inventiveness, while at the same time emphasizing the durable strengths of craft and structure, and the necessity of reading widely and critically.

 During the summer and winter residencies, the diversity of our offerings of craft lectures, readings, and workshops helps to build our students’ foundations while expanding their sense of fiction’s limitless possibilities.

Poetry

At VCFA, we honor the long tradition and the global nature of poetry while also encouraging each writer to experiment and thereby discover, incrementally, a personal style and process of working. We understand that we are catalysts to a process that will continue well beyond a writer’s time in our program; we seek to help foster a productive and enduring life of writing and reading poetry.

While we encourage exploration and innovation, we also facilitate, via individualized reading lists and the expectation of thoughtful critical responses, exposure to elements of craft, to literary history, and to contemporary poetry. In addition, we encourage our poets to familiarize themselves with work that helps them pursue the kinds of poems they want to write in a given semester: narrative poems, lyric or meditative poems, poems written in traditional forms as well as in experimental modes, longer works such as suites and sequential poems, and hybrid forms such as “off the page” poetry which combine writing with art and photography.

We also encourage poets to familiarize themselves with translation whether or not they choose to avail themselves of our more structured translation option. Many have found this endeavor to be a helpful supplement to their understanding of their own language, as well as absorbing and liberating in its own right. Our residencies in Slovenia and Puerto Rico often present, among many other benefits, opportunities to collaborate directly with poets writing in another language.

 

More Information

MFA in Writing faculty


Contact:

Ann Cardinal

Director of Student Recruitment
802-828-8589
866-934-8232, ext. 8589
Ann.Cardinal@vcfa.edu