The Master of Fine Arts program at Eastern Washington University, the oldest MFA program in the state, offers full curricula in fiction, literary nonfiction, and poetry.
Our MFA graduate curriculum provides an intensive, two-year, pre-professional course of study with an emphasis on the practice of literature as a fine art. While it follows a studio-based model, the program is also intellectually rigorous, and includes course work in the study of literature from the vantage point of its composition and history. The student’s principal work is done in advanced workshops and in the writing of a book-length thesis of publishable quality in fiction, literary nonfiction, or poetry. Internship programs include Writers In The Community, in which students teach creative writing in schools, retirement communities, children’s hospitals, homeless centers, correctional facilities, etc.; Willow Springs, in which students edit and publish our nationally-acclaimed literary journal; Willow Springs Books, in which students work for our literary press to publish the winning volume of a national fiction competition; and Get Lit!, in which students learn arts administration through work on Eastern Washington University’s annual literary festival. Past festival authors have included Joyce Carol Oates, David Sedaris, and Yusef Komunyakaa.
MFA workshops in each genre are small (generally between ten and fifteen students) and are offered every term. The literature requirement consists of three Form & Theory courses (per genre) focusing on historical and contemporary works. These graduate courses are taught by Creative Writing faculty and are designed to make the study of literature of maximum value to the aspiring writer (rather than scholar or critic). Please see our graduate curriculum page for more details.
In order for MFA students to broaden their skills and benefit from exposure to a wider variety of perspectives, all are required to take one workshop and one literature class outside their genre. Additional Creative Writing elective courses are offered each year and have recently included Literature of the Northwest, Surrealism in Poetry, Beyond Realism in Fiction, Imagination and Wilderness, and Studies in the Novella. Typically, students complete the MFA degree in two years, working one-on-one with a faulty member in their second year to produce a thesis of publishable quality work.
Our faculty — all practicing writers with significant national book publications — are committed, passionate, and accessible teachers of writing. Our faculty’s most recent publications include Samuel Ligon’s novel Among the Dead and Dreaming, and short story collection Wonderland, and Rachel Toor’s Misunderstood. Our 2016-17 Visiting Professors include 2014 PEN Robert W. Bingham prize winner and program alum Shawn Vestal and Alexis M. Smith, author of the highly-praised novel Glaciers. Shawn and Alexis will both be teaching multiple classes throughout the 2016-2017 academic year.
For an in-depth discussion on why fiction professor and Program Director Greg Spatz believes one’s creative writing abilities improve significantly with dedicated instruction, read his article “The Teachable Talent: Why Creative Writing Can Be Taught”, published in Poets & Writers.
Current students not only engage in rigorous study of the literary craft, but also participate in numerous internships for a wide range of hands-on experiences in the literary, teaching, and publishing worlds. Alumni of the program have received such literary awards as the Yale Younger Poets Award; the Irish Prize; publication in Best American Short Stories, O. Henry Award Stories and Best New American Poets; and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. We are proud of our students who have gone on to publish books with various presses, including Yale University, University of Texas, St. Martin’s, Copper Canyon, Sierra Club Books, University of Nebraska, Gallery, Daedalus, Simon and Schuster, and Putnam. Check out our alumni page for recent successes and profiles.
Undergraduate students majoring in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing take courses from the literature offerings of the English Department as well as undergraduate form and technique classes and workshops in the Creative Writing Program. This combination of a traditional literary education, exposure to literature from the perspective of a writer, and intense focus on students’ own writing is designed to equip students for a lifetime of artistic growth. A senior capstone course exposes students to issues in the writing profession, publishing, possible career paths, graduate school application, and new literature by emerging writers. Check out our undergraduate curriculum page for more details.
Additional opportunities for undergraduates include working on or publishing in the undergraduate literary magazine Northwest Boulevard, (one or two MFA candidates per year have the opportunity to oversee the production of Northwest Boulevard as Graduate Advisors) a reading series, and (for advanced students) reading for Willow Springs.