MFA in Writing & Publishing (Residential)


The MFA in Writing & Publishing program equips students with the skills necessary to navigate the practical aspects of the writing life and teaches students the philosophies, concepts, and craft practices necessary for artful writing. The MFA in Writing & Publishing program (MFAWP) enhances the literary community on campus and beyond by offering significant exposure to both regional and digital opportunities and to a wide array of career possibilities in the arts.

Our curriculum is characterized by:

  • Cross-genre, cross-disciplinary programming including courses in Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Stage & Screen, Young Adult Literature, and courses applicable to all genres at once.
  • An industry-facing approach, offering students hands-on experience in the literary field, as well as an understanding that writing, as a mobile skill, is applicable and relevant in every creative sphere.
  • A diverse line-up of faculty and visiting writers, editors, and publishers. Active participation, mentorship, and collaboration between students, faculty, and visitors.
  • Flexible and varied course offerings, shaped to respond to the needs of each incoming class.
  • Opportunities for partnership and exchange between MFAWP and VCFA’s low-residency programs (Film, Graphic Design, Music Composition, Visual Arts, Writing, Writing for Children & Young Adults, and International Writing).

MFAWP’s coursework is a combination of semester-long and 3-week modular classes. The variety of course structures provides dynamism in MFAWP’s 15-week semesters.

Modular Classes

Modular Classes are 3-week intensive workshops taught by our core and visiting faculty. Our Modular Classes expose students to a diverse array of writers during their MFA study.

Modular themes range from specific topics such as “Hybrid Forms” or “Flash Fiction” to more general topics such as “Revision.” Modular classes include students from all genre specializations. In other words, poets, fiction and nonfiction writers, stage & screen, and hybrid-form writers all learn together, sharing invaluable cross-genre perspectives. Faculty also come from various genre and cross-genre backgrounds.

MFAWP also requires four credits of Professional Development to graduate. These credits are made up of a combination of Fireside Chat, Internship, and/or Directed Study. Fireside Chat presents a rotation of faculty lecturers who speak on the business of being a writer as well as on careers associated with the writing life. Topics may include: Planning a Book Tour, Pitching, Applying for Teaching Opportunities, Navigating the Creative Writing Industry as a Writer of Color, Literary Citizenship and Literary Entrepreneurship, Introduction to the Audiobook Industry, and much more. 

Professional Development

Internship and Directed Study are self-motivated endeavors designed to get students out in the literary community and/or researching topics relevant to their craft that fall outside of the traditional MFA curriculum. A typical internship includes at least 30 hours of work with one of our literary partners (a small press, literary magazine, local school, college composition class, arts-based nonprofit, newspaper, etc.). Directed Study is a research or creative project designed by the student to further their personal writing goals. Both types of projects are overseen by a faculty member, and students are expected to meet periodically with the Internship/Directed Study class to share their experiences, troubleshoot challenges, and celebrate their successes. 

Semester- and Year-long Classes

Publishing & Fieldwork
Publishing & Fieldwork is a year-long class required of all first-year students. In this 6-credit class, students become an editorial team, generating content and making a publication from start to finish. The course also offers field seminars and slide lectures about the history of publishing and the writer’s role in creative disciplines, visits from guest writers, editors, and publishers, and trips “into the field” to learn about literary roles outside of the classroom. 

Forms is a multi-genre craft seminar which focuses on defining and introducing the genres of poetry, lyric essay, short fiction, novel, playwriting and screenwriting, and craft and literary criticism to first-year MFA students. Students read, analyze, and engage with prime examples of each form, and they have the opportunity to experiment with each genre. 

Cross-Genre Workshop
In Cross-Genre Workshop, typically taken in the second semester, students engage with each other’s work in a supportive and charged environment. Under the guidance of a faculty member, students are expected to engage critically across genres to push each other’s writing forward.

Critical Essay
Typically required of third-semester students, Critical Essay provides an opportunity to research and develop a body of critical work that will aid students in writing their Thesis. 

Thesis Seminar
Thesis Seminar is a semester-long workshop course focused on developing Thesis material with the benefit of classmate and faculty commentary.

Thesis Advisory
Following Thesis Seminar comes the final semester Thesis Advisory, an in-depth, concentrated, independent advisory between the student and a single faculty member, which culminates in the submission of a Thesis manuscript. Students can write a single-genre, multiple-genre, or hybrid-genre Thesis.