MFA in Writing
"Many paths lead from the foot of the mountain, but at the peak we all gaze at the single bright moon." —Jippensah Ikku
About the Program
Fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, literary translation, hybridization: No matter your interest, we nurture and inspire each student’s unique vision.
Limitless Possibilities, Boundless Opportunities
One-on-one mentoring is the backbone of VCFA’s unparalleled writing program. Students work individually with teachers who are also esteemed working writers, bringing each student’s talent into full bloom. Through this collaboration, students’ art, craft, and aesthetic evolve exponentially. More than any other program—low-residency or traditional—our MFA in Writing offers study options for students who wish to explore the intersections of various forms and disciplines, as well as the opportunity to concentrate in a single genre. And, we offer a rarity in low-residency programs: an MFA in Literary Translation.
How will your VCFA experience change you?
Our students tell us that the MFA in Writing program is nothing less than transformative, that after two years they re-enter the world redefined and changed. What was once a fledgling writing practice is now an integral and dynamic part of who they are as artist-writers. VCFA’s insistence on full immersion in words, writing, and literature equips our students with the tools they need to face the human experience head-on and transform life into art.
EXPLORE, EXPERIMENT, EXPAND
First and foremost, being a writer means you are a lifelong student of the human condition. That exploration can take many forms—Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, Literary Translation—or an exciting engagement in which forms intersect, creating new hybrids, new ways of looking at who we are.
At VCFA, no matter which path you choose, exemplary writers, thinkers, and teachers will accompany you on your journey. And with opportunities to intern with our renowned literary magazine, Hunger Mountain Review, you will gain professional publishing experience.
STUDY OPTION 1
Explore One Form—Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, or Poetry—at the Deepest Level, Expanding Your Creative Vision and Artistry
Imagine: Four semesters fully immersed in the form of your choosing—Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, or Poetry—each semester devoted to creating and re-visioning original material, plus immersion in an evolving and customized reading list that directly feeds your artistic vision.
STUDY OPTION 2 (new)
Explore the Intersection of Forms—any Combination of Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, and Literary Translation—Expanding Knowledge, Possibilities, Horizons
Imagine: Four semesters immersed in a unique course of study—designed by you and your first semester advisor—in which multiple forms are explored (Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, or Literary Translation), with the option of creating new and dynamic modes of expression, creativity, and experimentation.
(This option is available after the first semester.)
STUDY OPTION 3
Explore Two Forms Deeply, Expanding Knowledge via Duality
Imagine: Five semesters immersed in two forms of your choosing—Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, or Literary Translation—creating substantial original bodies of work in each form. This dual-form course of study emphasizes creativity and a deeper understanding of the conventions and possibilities of the two forms you choose to explore.
STUDY OPTION 4 (new)
Explore New Horizons, Crossing Borders into the Uncharted World of Cross-Disciplinary Study
Imagine: One to three semesters exploring how Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, or Literary Translation can intersect and be made new by infusing creative writing forms with the art and vision of other VCFA-housed disciplines: Film, Graphic Design, Music Composition, Visual Art, and Writing for Children & Young Adults.
(This option is available after the first semester and includes a $1200 cross-discipline advising fee.)
STUDY OPTION 5 (new)
The VCFA International Center for Literary Translation—Expanding the Cartography of Language
Imagine: A writing program that values writers and writing from across the globe, providing literary translation workshops, panel discussions, and lectures that are open to all students, regardless of foreign language expertise. The VCFA International Center for Literary Translation, housed within the MFA in Writing program, is unique among low-residency programs.
PATH A — Four semesters devoted to literary translation, generating and translating original work as well as translating international literature. In addition to working one-on-one with our renowned Literary Translation faculty, you will work with expert visiting literary translators from around the globe. Additionally, Literary Translation MFA students will gain professional experience via literary translation internships with the Writing program’s highly respected literary magazine, Hunger Mountain Review.
PATH B — A two-residency, one-semester certificate program for pre-MFA students, alumnx, and others that is solely devoted to the study and practice of translation, culminating in a translation essay and project, a certificate of completion, and, for VCFA students adding this option as a fifth semester, a special transcript notation. Further literary translation experience will be gained through working with our renowned literary magazine, Hunger Mountain Review.
STUDY OPTION 6
Explore Other Disciplines at VCFA, Expanding the Boundaries of Art, with Postgraduate Study
Imagine: You have your MFA in Writing, and now you want to add to your portfolio a semester in any of the other disciplines we offer: Film, Graphic Design, Music Composition, Visual Art, or Writing for Children & Young Adults. Cross-disciplinary study will deepen your artistic vision and open up new vistas of expression.
Sue William Silverman
Experience VCFA’s low-residency model.
VCFA’s academic calendar is divided into two semesters per year: a summer and winter semester respectively. Each semester begins with a 9-day residency that offers writers a vibrant time of workshops, lectures, discussions, and readings by faculty, graduating students, and distinguished visiting writers.
Residencies offer a student-centered learning environment that honors diverse perspectives and voices. This close community of writers challenges, inspires, and affirms. During residencies, students and faculty convene together and have ample opportunities for informal exchange over meals or at events, creating powerful relationships and artistic support systems that last long past graduation.
At each residency, students are paired with a faculty advisor and develop an individualized semester study plan based on their goals and intensive dialogue with faculty mentors.
In addition to their Writing community, students are on campus with our five other MFA programs during residency: Film, Graphic Design, Music Composition, Writing for Children & Young Adults, and Visual Art. Each writer will have the opportunity during residency for interdisciplinary study, work, and networking.
The MFA in Writing program also offers travel residency opportunities. Past residencies have included Slovenia, Puerto Rico, Cozumel, Mexico, Rome, and Asheville, NC.
Upon completion of the two-year program, students will have attended four unique and invigorating residencies that guide their creative work while offering minimal disruption to their professional life and personal schedule.
Mentorship & Individualized Study
Following each residency, students return home and devote at least 25 hours per week to their studies. Our 5:1 student-faculty ratio maximizes individual attention and fosters close relationships.
The semester’s main focus is creative work, supplemented by a substantial reading list and critical analysis. Students engage remotely with their faculty advisors through monthly exchanges of creative and critical work and ongoing dialogue about their process and development. Our mentorship model provides more individualized feedback on student writing than most traditional classroom programs. Faculty advisors tailor feedback and critique to meet students’ individual needs, while maintaining an academic rigor that has marked our program’s success.
“My faculty mentors were amazing—brilliant artists and writers, and supportive, thoughtful mentors who challenged and inspired me. And my cohort was amazing. Several writers I met at VCFA are trusted readers, collaborators, and dear friends.” -Mary-Kim Arnold, W ’16 (she/her)
Hunger Mountain Review is an annual print journal of the arts, housed at VCFA. We publish fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, visual art, graphic design, young adult/children’s writing, and literary miscellany.
By the Numbers
What is your teaching philosophy?
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.
The two years students spend in this program invigorate 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 acts as a support system for years to come.
Creative nonfiction is a distinct and valued genre 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 CNF students.
We teach personal, meditative, and lyric essays; the memoir; immersion writing; hybrid and experimental forms; as well as the traditional, more formal essay. Students explore the self within the context of family dynamics and childhood, the natural world, travel, place, and spiritual, social and cultural issues. We work with students individually to discover their most profound work in a safe and nurturing environment.
Meet our CNF faculty!
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 VCFA.
We teach all forms and style—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. We aim to help students find a unique voice and vision. We encourage exploration and inventiveness, while emphasizing craft, structure, and the necessity of reading widely and critically.
Meet our fiction faculty!
At VCFA, 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.
We encourage exploration and innovation. We also facilitate exposure to elements of craft, literary history, and contemporary poetry. In addition, we encourage our poets to familiarize themselves with 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 participate in our more structured translation option. Our residencies in Slovenia and Cozumel often present, among many other benefits, opportunities to collaborate directly with poets writing in another language.
Meet our poetry faculty!
What can I expect from workshop?
The creative writing workshop is a core component of the residency experience, one that all students fully participate in. We offer a wide array of workshops, including manuscript-based, theme-based, cross-genre, generative, experimental, hybrid, and more. Workshops are led by one or two faculty members and typically include between six to eight students. Our small workshops allow for optimum creativity and encourage participants to explore with new eyes and open minds their chosen genre(s). These art-based laboratories are dynamic, safe spaces in which to learn, experiment, grow.
What is the difference between the Critical Thesis and the Creative Thesis?
The Critical Thesis, completed by the end of your third semester, focuses on close, critical reading on a topic of your choosing. You will have plenty of time to learn the craft of writing a critical essay as you move through the program. Your Creative Thesis, completed by the end of your fourth semester, is a book-length collection of original work (short stories, a novel, poems, essays, or memoir) completed or substantially revised while in the program.