Cara Hoffman (MFA ’09) is the author of the novels Be Safe I Love You (Simon & Schuster, 2014) and So Much Pretty (Simon & Schuster, 2012).
You have always been a writer. You know you have it in you. Now is the time to pursue that dream for real. But you need help: you need craft, you need to get up to speed on your reading, you need to work with an experienced professional writer who can mentor you, and teach you what you need to know. Welcome to Goddard’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.
Learn the craft of creative writing one-on-one with advisors—all of whom are working writers—who specialize in the genre you’re passionate about. Convene twice yearly for intensive residencies in either rural Vermont or on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. When the residency’s over, return home with a book list designed specifically for you and a comprehensive plan to produce your creative thesis. During the semester, you’ll stay in close contact with your advisor as you produce packets that explore your craft in great detail. When you return to residencies, you’ll reconnect with your advisors and a diverse community of fellow student writers from around the country.
You’ll choose to concentrate in one of the following genres:
- Creative Nonfiction/Memoir
- Libretto Writing
- Television Writing
- Graphic Novel Scriptwriting
You’ll also conduct a teaching practicum of your own design in your own community, gaining valuable, marketable skills along the way. When you graduate, you’ll have a novel, collection of stories or poems, screenplay, collection of plays, memoir, graphic novel script, or practically any creative writing project you can imagine. And you’ll have the writing life of which you’ve always dreamed.
Maybe you’ve got an idea for a novel you’re dying to write. Or you’re unsure how to start your memoir. Perhaps you’re hoping to find a way to tame the poems that seem to spring from your mind when you least expect it. Whatever you’re writing, you’ll have the opportunity to hone your craft with the individualized guidance of published faculty advisors who specialize in your genre. Engage in an ongoing, semester-long dialogue with a novelist about structure, pacing, and plot. Immerse yourself in the language of life-changing poems that you didn’t know existed a month ago. Or map your character arcs with a playwright whose latest work just opened to great acclaim.
Every advisor in Goddard’s MFA program is an accomplished writer actively working in his or her genre. They ask you questions about your craft that haven’t occurred to you, assign books that will feed and provoke your creativity, and guide you through the process of writing a manuscript-length thesis. They don’t want to make you write like they do. Rather, they’ll help you write more like yourself.
Twice a year you’ll travel to either Vermont or Washington to attend an eight-day residency. You get to choose which location you’re going to commit to during the application process.
The Vermont campus, located just outside Montpelier, is a sprawling former farm with a manor garden, forests, and period architecture. Port Townsend’s campus is located at Fort Worden, a former Victorian-era Army base with beaches, trails, and a seaside town full of funky shops and gourmet restaurants within walking distance.
When you arrive at your first residency, you’re paired with a faculty advisor who helps you craft your individualized study plan. Your study plan consists of your semester’s assignments and book list—all of it tailored to your specific ambitions and interests. During residencies you attend workshops, readings by faculty and graduating students, and other events designed to inspire your best work.
Goddard students are truly extraordinary. The MFA Creative Writing program attracts a diverse student body from all over the country, and it’s not unusual for students to live and work overseas. In workshops, after-hours salons, during meals, after readings, and in long walks in the woods you’ll engage in lively discussions and forge friendships to last you long after graduation.
As a student in the Goddard MFA Creative Writing program you’ll produce both creative and critical writing. Every three weeks during the semester you’ll submit a packet of your work to your advisor. This packet can contain a new chapter of your novel, a revision of a short story, poems, graphic novel scripts, a reflective personal essay, a long essay comparing literary works, new scenes from your screenplay—basically anything related to what you’re reading and your own writing process. You’ll also include a process letter detailing your artistic concerns and your increasingly sophisticated questions.
When your advisor gets your packet, he or she puts on a pot of coffee and gets down to work. Your advisor will suggest places to trim down your story, highlight a particularly excellent passage where you revealed a character in a whole new light, gently challenge your arguments about the novel you just read, and propose strategies to develop your work in ways you hadn’t imagined.
When you receive your advisor’s response, you get a lengthy, single-spaced letter, notes in your margins, and lots of new questions that you’ll carry around with you for weeks while you complete work on your next packet. Your advisor is more than a teacher who dispenses one-size-fits-all writing advice; he or she is invested in helping you realize your individual creative vision.
TEACHING AND PUBLISHING
Teaching Practicum: Whether or not you decide to pursue a career as a teacher after Goddard, the practicum gives you the tools you need to use writing as a way to connect with your community. Goddard students have conducted their practica in grade schools, retirement communities, and colleges. They’ve designed courses in memoir writing, graphic novels, revising screenplays, and short stories. Since the MFA is a terminal degree (the highest degree you can attain in the field) you’re qualified to teach in any number of universities, colleges, and schools once you’ve graduated.
Publishing: Goddard provides you an opportunity to experience the pleasures and challenges of editing with the student-run literary journal, Pitkin Review. Publishing workshops are offered at every residency, and the faculty are happy to address questions about publishing. And be sure to check out our alumni publications page for books published by Goddard MFA graduates.