Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing
American poet and memoirist Mark Doty (MFA ‘80), a Goddard College alumnus and former faculty member, received the National Book Award for Poetry in 2008.
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.
Goddard supports students writing in one or more of the following genres:
- Creative Nonfiction/Memoir
- Libretto Writing
- Television Writing
- Graphic Novel Scriptwriting
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 will travel to either Vermont or Washington (see Locations below) to attend an eight-day residency. When you arrive at your first residency, you are 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.
Students can enroll in the MFA in Creative Writing at two locations:
- Plainfield, Vermont, Goddard’s historic main campus, is located just outside Montpelier, the state capital of Vermont, and is a sprawling former farm with a manor garden, forests, and period architecture.
- Port Townsend, Washington site, located at Fort Worden, a former Victorian-era Army base with beaches, trails, and a vibrant, seaside arts community on the Pacific Coast.
During the application process, you choose one of the two residency site options for the duration of your studies. Each program site is home to a lively community of writers and allows you to engage with a unique physical landscape in a retreat-like setting.
Goddard College programs operating in Washington State are authorized by the Washington Student Achievement Council. For more information, please refer to Accreditation and Approvals.
Most of the students who come to Goddard are not arriving fresh from completion of an undergraduate degree. Many students come to Goddard later in life, with a full-time job and a family. Furthermore, of the 360 or so living MFA alums who have provided employment information to the college, 20 % are educators in high schools and colleges, and 15% work full time as writers or journalists.
“The ‘metrics for success’ are simply that they keep writing, they publish their books or produce their plays, they stay in touch, and they do good work in the world, and by ‘good work’ I mean that they put what they have learned to good use beyond their own work,” said Elena Georgiou, program director. “They use writing to help others.”
Some notable alumni include:
- Jacob A. Bennett (MFA ’09) of Philadelphia, Pa., teaches rhetoric, composition and literature at La Salle University in Philadelphia.
- Sheila Curran Bernard (MFA ’10) is a recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Award for Playwriting/Screenwriting.
- Dana Biscotti (MFA ’08) of Henniker, N.H., was a top five winner in the 2013 Shoreline Scripts Screenwriting Competition for her screenplay, which is also her Goddard thesis, Niki Sweet Talk Moves.
- Charlie Bondhus (MFA ‘05) is a poet and author of four books. His latest, All the Heat We Could Carry, was the winner of the 2013 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, the 2014 Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry, and a finalist for the Gival Press Poetry Book Award.
- Maria Chaudhuri (MFA ’09) is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Beloved Strangers (Bloomsbury, 2014).
- Maggie Cleveland (BA ’08, MFA ’11) of Fairhaven, Mass., develops courses for people who install and repair elevators and escalators through the National Elevator Industry Educational Program.
- Mark Doty (MFA ‘80) is the author of 10 books of poetry and two memoirs. He was the first American poet to win the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry, for his book My Alexandria (U of Illinois Press, 1993). His book of poetry Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems (HarperCollins, 2008) won the 2008 National Book Award for Poetry. Norton published latest collection, Deep Lane, in 2015.
- Jeff Eisenbrey (MFA ’13) of Shoreline, Wash., is a humanities teacher at Cleveland High School in Seattle.
- 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).
- Mary Johnson (MFA ’02) – author the memoir An Unquenchable Thirst: Following Mother Teresa in Search of Love, Service, and an Authentic Life (Spiegel & Grau, 2011) and director of A Room of Her Own Foundation.
- Mary Karr (MFA ‘79) is a poet, essayist and memoirist. She rose to fame in 1995 with the publication of her bestselling memoir The Liars’ Club.
- Chris Mackowski (MFA ’01) of St. Bonas, N.Y., an associate professor of journalism and mass communication at St. Bonaventure University.
- Celeste Mergens (MFA ‘06) is the founder and Executive Director of Days for Girls International, an organization that empowers girls, women and communities in 75 nations on 6 continents.
- Matthew Quick (MFA ’07) is the New York Times best-selling author of several novels, including The Silver Linings Playbook (Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2008) and The Good Luck of Right Now (HarperCollins, 2014). The Silver Linings Playbook, was adapted as a movie of the same name starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, with Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, and Chris Tucker. Quick was finalist for a 2009 PEN/Hemingway Award, and his work has been translated into several languages.
- Charles Rice-González (MFA ’08), a writer and long-time community and LGBT activist, received the 2014 Lambda Literary Foundation Emerging Writer Award.
- Kristan Ryan (MFA ‘02) was editor in chief of Behler Publications, Inc. Ryan’s full-length play, Dinner With Milton, was a recipient of a 2003 New Century Writer Awards for Screenplay & Stage Play.
- Jessamyn Smyth (MFA ’04) has had work published in numerous journals and anthologies, received honorable mention in Best American Short Stories (2006), and has garnered a long list of prizes. Her books The Inugami Mochi and Gilgamesh/Wilderness are from Saddle Road Press (2016, 2017), and Kitsune is available from Finishing Line Press (2013).