MFA in Creative Writing Program Overview

The core of MFA study is a student’s creative work. Strengthening and supporting the creative work are three additional degree requirements—the Literature Component, the Teaching Practicum, and the Critical Work—that students need to fulfill to earn an MFA in Creative Writing.

The program consists of four components:

Creative Work

Students are expected to engage actively in creative writing during each semester, including those semesters when you are also working on critical papers and teaching. During the first three semesters, student writing consists of a combination of revision and new work. It is important that students revise their work from the beginning, making revision an intrinsic part of the process. Students are encouraged to experiment with different genres and methods at each residency and during their first semester. By the end of their first semester, students should have a clear idea of the form of their thesis. By the end of the second semester, students must select a genre for their graduating thesis. By semester four, students are asked to produce a unified creative thesis.

Students share their work at a public reading during the Commencement Residency.

Literature Component

We also expect that you will be reading and thinking about your reading, and applying that thinking to your writing throughout your four semesters. Sometimes this process will be reported in the form of annotations, sometimes in the form of critical papers.

When constructing your semester bibliography, consider carefully the themes, technical/craft issues, and literary communities or traditions you want to explore in depth; doing so will help make the resultant critical writing more focused and productive. Take your own previous personal and educational background and reading into account, paying attention to issues such as period, gender, genre, and multiculturalism, among others.

Critical Work

Close reading is the foundation of your critical writing. Close reading means avidly exploring the construction of the text, moving beyond general impressions to note specific choices the author made and to consider the implications (for meaning, emotional impact, etc.).

The critical writing degree requirements include 45-60 annotations, two short and one long critical paper. All sources in your critical papers should be properly cited and a bibliography included as appropriate. Your critical writing throughout your four semesters should be an organic part of your work rather than a tacked-on assignment.

Teaching Practicum

Because the MFA in Creative Writing is usually sought as a teaching credential for faculty positions in higher education, students are also required to complete a teaching practicum that includes supervised teaching of writing, a teaching essay, and the compilation of a teaching packet (refer to the Teaching Practicum section in the program handbook for a more detailed explanation of the required components).

Students electing to pursue Vermont teacher licensure are also required to participate in supervised student teaching under the auspices of the Goddard’s Education Program (for more information, refer to the section on Teacher Licensure).

The Faculty

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 in Creative Writing is an accomplished writer actively working in their genre. They provide detailed feedback on your work, offer you support and insight into your writing process, and give you reading suggestions to stoke your creativity.

Whether you are an emerging or established writer, working with an advisor allows you to:

  • Hone your craft under individualized guidance.
  • Engage in an ongoing dialogue about your work.
  • Read and analyze life-changing literature.

At Goddard, advisors don’t try to impose a style on you; rather, they support you in the development of your own voice.

Learn more about our faculty.

Locations

Twice a year, at the start of each semester, students attend an intensive eight-day residency at the College’s Plainfield, Vermont campus or the Port Townsend, Washington campus. Residencies are a rich time of exploration, connection, and planning.

  • Goddard’s historic Plainfield, Vermont campus is located just outside Montpelier, the state capital of Vermont. It’s a sprawling former farm with a manor garden, surrounding forests, and period architecture.
  • Located at Fort Worden, the Port Townsend, Washington campus is a former Victorian-era Army base with beaches, trails, and a vibrant, seaside arts community on the Pacific Coast.

When you apply, you pick one of the two sites for the duration of your studies. Each residency week, the location you choose becomes home — shared with a lively community of fellow writers in a serene and 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.

Low-Residency Model

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 a diverse, passionate, and welcoming community of writers of all ages, from all corners of the world and walks of life. When you join this vibrant community, either in Vermont (January and June/July) or Washington state (February and July), you will:

  • work with your advisor to design an individualized study plan to support your creative vision
  • be part of an “advising group” — a small class led by your advisor that meets throughout the week
  • design your own residency schedule from a rich and varied menu of activities in all genres: workshops, readings, and other events that will inform, illuminate, and inspire
  • attend readings offered by: visiting writers, visiting alumni, current faculty, graduating students, and your peers
  • meet industry professionals from both the writing and the theater world

There are also a number of extra-curricular residency options that offer more opportunities to create community. You can choose to:

  • publish and be published in The Pitkin Review (a literary journal written and edited by students)
  • have your play presented in Take Ten (a ten-minute play festival produced entirely by students — VT option only)
  • read for your peers and listen to them in after-hours literary salons

In workshops, during meals, in after-hours salons, after readings, and in long walks in the woods or along the beach, you not only will engage in lively discussions, but you’ll forge friendships to last a lifetime.