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Creative Writing Program
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The Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing is awarded for successful completion of a 36-credit course of study in one of several concentrations: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, or Writing for Children and Young Adults.
This is a full-time program designed to be completed in two years (four semesters). Because of the integral nature of the curriculum, transfer credits are not accepted.
In each of the first three semesters, you take one writing workshop and one literature seminar. Workshops are always in your concentration, but you can take a literature seminar in another field. In your final semester in residence, you work closely with a
faculty advisor in independent study leading to the completion of both a Writing Thesis (a substantial work of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or writing for children or young adults) and a Literature Project in your concentration.
In all four semesters in residence, you take the Writer's Life Colloquium (1 credit). The credit is earned by participating in a minimum of eight approved Creative Writing events at The New School. These include craft-based literary forums (Fiction
Forum, Poetry Forum, etc.), special readings, publishing roundtables, and visiting writer residencies.
The program provides students with a framework and sustained blocks of time to work extensively on their own writing. Guided by an experienced writer-teacher, students focus on their manuscripts, both in the workshop and in individual conferences with the instructor. The emphasis is on the creative acts of self-editing and revision. Workshops meet once a week in a 2.5-hour session. Structure and content are adapted to the area of concentration:
Class sessions are principally devoted to reading and discussing students' fiction, usually short stories or excerpts from novels-in-progress. Students learn how to balance inspiration with revision; explore methods for strengthening characterization, storytelling, and style while developing their voices to the utmost; and explore narrative forms and techniques.
Class sessions are principally devoted to reading and discussing students' poems. There is constant attention to the craft of modern poetry—skills and strategies, aspects of prosody and new directions in writing, and the discovery (and invention) of techniques appropriate for the poet's voice and subject matter. There is special emphasis on the process of revision.
Class sessions are principally devoted to reading and discussing students' nonfiction, usually in the form of personal reminiscences, reflective essays, reportage, and biography. Topics include the art of choosing a subject; developing a sense of structure; cultivating tone, style, and personal voice; and techniques of characterization, dialogue, imagery, and drama. Skills of interviewing and methods documentary research are described and discussed.
Class sessions are principally devoted to reading and discussing students' writings for children and young adults, which might include picture book texts, 8-12 fiction or nonfiction, and teenage fiction or nonfiction. There is equal emphasis on learning proven techniques and strategies of writing successful literature for children and developing one's own voice and finding forms appropriate for personal projects. The ability to express ideas in styles appropriate for children of different ages is key.
Traditional and contemporary literature is investigated from the specialized perspective of the active writer. Course offerings represent all the MFA concentrations, but vary each semester according to the interests of the faculty. All literature seminars concentrate on crucial aspects of craft as well as issues of literary history and theory. Seminars meet once a week in a 2.5-hour session.
Graduate writing students at The New School participate in an ongoing colloquium of visiting writers, critics, writing teachers, editors, publishers, and literary agents. It reflects the wide range of cultural activity at The New School and the belief that students benefit from exposure to many voices and genres. Examples of regular events embraced by the Writer's Life Colloquium are the public readings co-sponsored with Cave Canem Foundation, The Story Prize, National Book Foundation, National Book Critics Circle, Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP), Villa Gillet, PEN, the Academy of American Poets, the National Book Awards, and the Poetry Society of America, and public readings and discussions devoted to each of the MFA concentrations. The Writer's Life Colloquium also involves special seminars, teaching lectures, publishers' symposia, and visiting writer residencies arranged exclusively for graduate writing students.
In your last semester as an MFA student, you will work closely with your thesis advisor, a writing instructor of your choosing, to produce a substantial Creative Thesis manuscript in your area of concentration. You will also write a Literature Project (see below). Creative Thesis requirements for each concentration are as follows:
A manuscript of 40 to 60 pages consisting of individual poems, poetic sequences, or a long poem.
A manuscript of 70 to 100 pages consisting of short stories, a novella, or a novel-in-progress.
A manuscript of 70 to 100 pages consisting of reflective essays, reportage, memoir, biography, or another nonfiction book-in-progress.
A manuscript of 50 to 70 pages of a fiction or nonfiction chapter/middle grade/young adult book-in-progress. The manuscript may consist of an excerpt, finished chapters, or stand-alone stories; one or two completed picture book manuscripts; or a combination of the two.
Working with your thesis advisor, you will also create your Literature Project. The Literature Project gives you the chance to critically examine the writing of others. The project should be 20 pages in length and deal with a topic within your area of concentration. Here are some examples of forms the Literature Project can take:
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