Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing
We believe in the power of your imagination. Since 1976, when Goddard College launched the nation’s first low-residency MFA writing program, we have provided an enduring creative home for writers like you. Our goal is to help you find, refine, and share your words with the world.
Unlike many conventional MFA programs, we welcome writers in a variety of genres, including libretto, television writing, and the graphic novel, as well as creative nonfiction, poetry, dramatic writing, fiction, speculative fiction, and hybrid forms.
We support you in determining your artistic direction and work with you to individualize the course of study that will enable you to fulfill your dreams. We’ll provide the structure, deadlines, and guidance you need from professional mentors who are working writers in your chosen genre.
Goddard’s low-residency model allows you to complete your book, play, or script without compromising your other work or family obligations.
During the eight-day residencies, students connect in craft workshops, in lectures, and by sharing meals, personal stories, and their creative work throughout the week. Out of this experience, a profound sense of mutual passion and support emerges.
When the residency’s over, you’ll return home inspired and energized, with a reading 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 monthly packets of work.
By the time you graduate, you not only will have accomplished your goal of finishing your book, play, script, or libretto, but you also will have radically transformed your sense of confidence and purpose as a writer.
Right for You. Write for the World.
“I know of no other institution where respect for the craft of writing is fostered with such joy, or where dedication to intellectual rigor and curiosity are modeled by the faculty with so much respect for the student.”
Cara Hoffman, MFA ‘09
Author of So Much Pretty (Simon & Schuster, 2011), Be Safe I Love You (Simon & Schuster, 2014), Running (Simon & Schuster, 2017)
Advisors in the MFA in Creative Writing Program are award-winning professionals who actively write, publish, and produce new work, in addition to teaching. Your advisors will provide detailed editorial feedback, offer support and insight into your writing process, and give you reading suggestions to stoke your creativity.
You will work closely with one advisor each semester. You may choose to work with a different faculty member each term, or you may prefer to work with just two or three over the course of your MFA. In your final semester, you’ll also have the benefit of a “second reader,” a faculty member who will read and provide additional feedback on your thesis as a whole.
At Goddard, advisors don’t try to impose a style on you or dispense the one-size-fits-all type of writing advice you could get from a book. Instead, they strive to help you realize your own unique creative vision.
The MFA in Creative Writing Program supports students writing in the following genres:
- Creative Nonfiction / Memoir
- Libretto Writing
- Television Writing
- Graphic Novel Scriptwriting
- Cross-Genre / Hybrid
The Low-Residency Model
The low-residency model removes the barriers between living your life and learning. Each semester begins with an eight-day residency in Vermont or Washington. Residencies offer seminars, meetings with your advising groups, workshops, one-on-one meetings with an advisor, and presentations. You will also connect with faculty, practitioners, activists, and artists, and your fellow students.
Following the residency, students return home for 16 weeks of independent work in close collaboration with a faculty advisor.
Students in the MFA in Creative Writing Program may choose to attend residencies in either:
- Plainfield, Vermont, on Goddard’s historic main campus, located just outside Montpelier, the state capital. It’s a former farm with a manor garden, surrounding forests, and period architecture.
- Port Townsend, Washington, on our Fort Worden campus, a former Victorian-era Army base with beaches, trails, and a vibrant, seaside arts community on the Pacific Coast, north of Seattle.
When you apply, you’ll select one of these two sites for the duration of your studies.
Goddard College programs operating in Washington State are authorized by the Washington Student Achievement Council. For more information, please refer to Accreditation and Approvals.
The Residency Week
Residency weeks offer an array of classes, readings, lectures, screenings, presentations by visiting luminaries, and formal and informal social gatherings. You’ll join a diverse, passionate, and welcoming community of writers of all ages and walks of life. With these other writers, you’ll immerse yourself in conversation, instruction, and discovery that will ignite your writing process.
Upon arrival you’ll receive a schedule of classes and events in all genres. All offerings are open to all Goddard students, regardless of genre.
- Master classes
- Keynote addresses on each residency’s theme
- Workshops and small seminars on individual texts, authors, forms, and theories
- Take Ten, a ten-minute play festival produced entirely by students (VT campus only)
- Classes and panels with industry professionals from the writing, theater, and publishing worlds
For a preview of the wisdom and advice you can expect at a residency, check out Alchemy of the Word, a collection of past residency keynotes and commencement addresses by our faculty.
At each residency, you’ll be paired with a faculty advisor with whom you’ll meet throughout the week, both in workshop and individually to craft your study plan. This documented plan consists of your semester’s assignments and reading list — all tailored to your specific interests and intentions for your thesis. It will provide the deadlines and guidelines you need to sustain your writing process and achieve your goal of completing your thesis project.
The residency week offers both freedom (an open schedule of classes, with mini “writing retreats” for each genre) and an intense focus on the craft of writing. The residency week is endlessly varied: challenging, invigorating, and inspiring. Best of all, it will launch you into the semester, ready and eager for the work to come.
Monthly “packet exchanges” allow you to sustain an ongoing dialogue with your faculty advisor about your work throughout the semester. Every packet contains your work — creative pages, critical essays, and/or other degree requirements. Packets also include a process letter in which you raise any artistic concerns or questions about your work and life as a writer.
You’ll submit four written packets to your advisor each semester, on specific due dates, and your advisor will respond with detailed margin notes, a comprehensive response letter, and an engaging dialogue about how your critical explorations can assist you in bringing your creative work closer to your vision. In addition, you’ll engage in a “virtual packet” midway through the semester, consisting of a one-hour virtual meeting or phone call with your advisor.
The core focus of your MFA studies is your creative work. The intellectual rigor you gain through reading and critical analysis will help you develop your craft and voice. You’ll have many opportunities to share your work in readings and workshops, and you’ll deepen what you’ve learned by applying it in your Teaching Practicum.
Your thesis project consists of a complete book, play, script, or libretto. To help you progress toward that goal, you’ll be expected to engage actively in creative writing throughout each semester. Our students are encouraged to experiment with different genres and methods at each residency and during their first semester, and by their second semester, select a particular genre for their final thesis and concentration.
By the end of your final semester, you are expected to produce a unified creative thesis of professional quality, conforming to standard industry length. You will share an excerpt from this work at a public reading during your commencement residency.
Close reading is the foundation of the critical work you’ll do at Goddard. Close reading means avidly exploring the construction of the text and moving beyond general impressions to note specific authorial choices and to consider their implications.
Each semester you will work with your advisor to create a reading list that reflects the themes, technical/craft issues, and literary traditions you choose to explore in depth. Your selections will be informed by your own personal experiences, educational background, and reading habits, with attention to such factors as gender, genre, and multiculturalism.
In response to your reading, over the course of your MFA you’ll complete 45-60 annotations, two five-page critical papers, and one twenty-page critical paper.
As a terminal degree, the MFA in Creative Writing is a credential for faculty positions in higher education. To offer you the skills necessary to confidently enter the classroom as a teacher of creative writing, you are also required to complete a “teaching practicum,” as described in the next section.
Unique among MFA programs, Goddard has created a model that gives you:
- the freedom to shape the creative writing course that best serves your goals
- your choice of location and student populations
- your choice of craft topics
- an opportunity to expand your resume
- a way to give back to your community
With a minimum of just three students, our students have offered creative writing courses at colleges, grade schools, retirement communities, libraries, juvenile detention centers – even coffee shops!
You can be involved in all aspects of publishing, from editing to layout, with these opportunities:
- The Pitkin Review: the literary journal written and edited by Goddard College MFA in Creative Writing students
- Clockhouse: the national, Pushcart-mentioned literary journal, edited and published by Goddard College MFA in Creative Writing alumni
- The Writer in the World: the Goddard College MFA in Creative Writing blog for students and alumni
Visiting Writers & Professionals
At residencies, you’ll meet a diverse range of visiting writers and professionals from the worlds of book publishing, theater, and film and television production.
- Our Visiting Writers Series is one of the most anticipated aspects of each residency. Recent guest writers include Chris Abani, Lynda Barry, Nilo Cruz, Meghan Daum, Mary Gaitskill, Pablo Medina, Dinaw Mengestu, Ruth Ozeki, and Dani Shapiro.
- Our Visiting Professionals Series will introduce you to professionals from the publishing and production industries. Recent guests include editors and agents from Penguin/Tarcher, Hawthorne Books, Janklow & Nesbit, Feminist Press, Simon & Schuster, and Copper Canyon Press.
- Our Alumni Readers Series celebrates the professional achievements of our alumni. Recent alumni readers include Mark Doty, Justin Hall, Cara Hoffman, Simone John, Matthew Quick, and Selah Saterstrom.
- Our Playwrights’ Enrichment Series is unique among MFA writing programs. Once a year, on our Vermont campus, we welcome a visiting luminary from theatre or film. Recent guests include playwrights, librettists, and dramaturgs, as well as literary managers and directors from theatrical powerhouses, such as The Public Theater, HowlRound, Lark Theater, Dramatists Guild, Eugene O’Neill Theater, and the Sundance Institute.
Social Justice Book Club
We are a community of creative writers who are also serious readers—readers who want to be engaged, entertained, and enlightened. We come from a rich array of backgrounds and experiences.
It is this diversity that makes the residency a special place where we can explore books about race, gender, immigration, sexuality, or other topics related to social justice. The resulting conversations allow us to develop our identities—that is, who we are and what we want to say as writers in the world.
Some of the books the SJBC has chosen recently are: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nahisi Coates, Good Kings, Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum, All the Names by Dinaw Mengestu, Fun Home: A Tragicomedy by Alison Bechdel, and Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong.