The low-residency model is designed for serious, motivated writers. The model enables students to work toward a degree while balancing their work commitments and community life at their places of residence. Students are expected to dedicate 25 hours per week to the semester project they design with their faculty advisors.
The low-residency rhythm of community and solitude, as well as its requirements of self-discipline and commitment, echoes the rhythm of the writing life. Wesleyan’s MFA is for writers who care deeply about writing and want to get better at it in the company of dedicated peers. Although we offer a postgraduate teaching fellowship, the program’s focus is not teacher preparation, but writing and working toward a manuscript of publishable quality.
As a two-year program, Wesleyan’s MFA requires five residencies and
Summer residencies are held in early July, and winter residencies are held in early January. Each of the first four semesters begins with an intensive ten-day residency on Wesleyan’s campus featuring a series of craft seminars, workshops, and readings presented by the program’s core faculty of writers and the semester’s visiting faculty. Information on the residency seminars is sent to students a month in advance, along with a list of assigned readings.
Mornings of the residency are devoted to lecture- or discussion-style seminars; these mornings are interdisciplinary, offering all students instruction in fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. The final morning of the residency is dedicated to a panel discussion on topics ranging from publishing to the role of place in writing. The two-hour afternoon writing workshops are genre-specific. All of these core activities are incorporated into the Craft and Theory and Workshop courses detailed in the Course Descriptions. For more details on what to expect at the residency, read this excerpt from the Student Handbook (PDF).
At the first four residencies, students complete a Semester Project Proposal in collaboration with their faculty advisors, and the semester coursework is completed at home.
The Fifth Residency is the culmination of the student’s work in the program. The graduating student returns for this final instructional residency to participate in a Thesis Interview; give a reading from the Thesis Manuscript; teach a seminar to his or her peers; and usually participate in a mixed-genre workshop, along with professional workshops covering topics such as book proposals, submission to magazines, and post-MFA career tracks.
For writers who are interested in participating in the robust community of the residency, but who are not seeking the MFA degree, the program offers an audit option.
RESIDENCY ACCOMMODATIONS: If students opt for a meal plan, they dine in the campus dining hall; vegetarian meals are available. If students opt for campus housing, they stay in a residence hall with suite bathrooms in summer, and usually share same-gender communal baths in the residence halls that are available in winter. Most students select the single-room option, but shared rooms are also an option at a lower cost when a roommate is available.
The Semester Project is a one-on-one course undertaken with a core or visiting faculty member involving five exchanged writing packets and the submission of a final portfolio. These exchanges are not online courses, but tutorials which encourage a close, sustained apprenticeship with master writers who have significant publications and standing in their fields. The mentor relationship is maintained through regular and frequent email, mail, telephone and/or Skype contact. In addition to the creative work and brief annotations (craft essays) required in the writing packets during the first two semesters, the third semester also engages the student in a 20-25-page Critical Essay that deeply explores an element of craft central to the student’s own writing. The fourth semester is dedicated to the completion of the Thesis Manuscript.
Leader Photo © Doug Van Gundy