M.F.A. in Creative Writing

Program Overview

If you have dreams of writing a book, Fairfield University's low-residency MFA in Creative Writing can help you make those dreams into reality. In the past three years, our alumni and students have published over 47 books, in addition to hundreds of articles, essays, stories, and poems. Our concentration in publishing/editing has helped students get internships and jobs at magazines and publishing houses alike. 

As a student in our program, you can pursue the study of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and screenwriting. Within these genres you can pursue concentrations in publishing/editing, spiritual writing, or literary health and healing.

Students gather for our convenient semiannual residencies on beautiful Enders Island in Mystic, Connecticut. While highly rigorous, the program can be tailored to suit your individual writing goals, and allow you to learn from a faculty made of nationally recognized writers. The most promising writer in each residency applicant pool will be awarded the prestigious $5,000 MFA Fellowship.

Our alumni have been up to some great things since graduating, including the creation of AfterEnders, a website dedicated to fostering a lifelong community for the Fairfield University MFA in Creative Writing family. The site offers past, present and future students a unique blend of practical advice and creative inspiration based on the personal experience of MFA graduates or faculty members.

No matter which writing path you pursue, you’ll receive the support and guidance of our award-winning faculty during the one-on-one mentoring sessions, as well as many opportunities to collaborate during on-campus activities and online - illustrating our commitment to your well-being and success.

New! Our Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) option offers highly qualified students the opportunity to receive up to one full semester credit for the work they have already written or published.  Students receiving the PLA can finish the MFA in three semesters instead of four. 







 

Certificate in Creative Writing

The MFA in Creative Writing program now offers a year-long intensive certificate program titled The Prologue. As an introduction to the MFA program, The Prologue is a 12 credit post-baccalaureate program that provides creative writers of all levels with two semesters of rigorous, graduate-level one-on-one mentorship to help them jumpstart or finish a book-length project.

Graduate Information Session

Join us for an upcoming Graduate Information Session where we can answer your questions one-on-one, give you an opportunity to meet our faculty and introduce you to the Fairfield University community and experience.

Message from the Director

Sonya Huber headshotDear Fellow Writer,

Thanks for taking the time to find us and learn about the low-residency MFA program in Creative Writing at Fairfield University, located in coastal Connecticut. Our community is uniquely bonded by our experiences at a retreat center on Enders Island, off the coast of Mystic, Connecticut, where writers come together for a total of four residencies to find creative sustenance and inspiration. Our offerings—with focuses in literary health and healing, teaching of creative writing, editing and publishing, and multi-genre options—distinguish us from other low-residency programs you may be considering.

During each residency, students take intensive morning writing workshops in the genre of their choice. After lunch, they gather with faculty for afternoon seminars on topics such as ethics in writing, innovative mixed-genre experiments, and opportunities in publishing. Our evenings include visits by guest faculty writers such as Anita Shreve, Mark Doty, Rick Moody, Philip Schultz, Mary Karr, Wally Lamb, and Charles Simic. Between the seminars, readings, talent shows, and open mic readings, we gather over meals to talk, shop, laugh—and above all to encourage one another in our projects.

At the end of the residency, each MFA student meets with a faculty mentor to sketch out a plan for individual work that will sustain the student during the coming semester. This one-on-one contact with a writing mentor continues all semester long, with constant feedback on one’s work, emails, phone conversations, assignments and readings tailored to each student’s development and needs. Our goal is for each student to bring a project toward fruition and also to nurture the development of productive writing techniques and habits.

Some students come in with impressive publishing credentials or an unpublished work of high quality; for those students, we have created an innovative Prior Learning Assessment that grants up to the equivalent of a semester’s credit for individual work. Other students come in with few samples but with seeds of ideas for one or more projects. Our faculty members are skilled writers and teachers who craft individual courses of study to guide these and many other types of writers to the next level in their development. Students choose a genre in poetry, creative nonfiction, fiction, or screenwriting and add dual-genre or multi-genre courses of study along with curricular concentrations.

We pride ourselves in helping our students set goals for becoming established in the writing world. Each residency offers students the chance to meet and work with New York editors and agents, and our alumni have already published an impressive and ever-growing list of books. We offer seminars and workshops on careers in editing and publishing and are one of the few low-residency programs to offer TA opportunities to students living within driving distance of campus.

For the working adult, a low-residency program offers a vital opportunity to focus on craft and writing goals while keeping grounded in one’s life. For our students, the Fairfield University MFA program offers encouragement for the expression of the stories and images that many have carried for years. Working with other students and faculty on the common project of finding shape, form, and words for our visions is a once in a lifetime experience.

If you’d like to see the island, feel free to come out for a visit or join us for a meal or a reading at our next residency. I’d also be happy to talk with you further about how we can design a course of study to meet your writing goals.  Feel free to contact me by phone at (203) 254-4000, ext. 2788, or email me anytime at shuber@fairfield.edu

Sincerely,

Sonya Huber,
Program Director

The Residency

Fairfield University's MFA in Creative Writing Program involves exciting, bi-annual 9 day residency periods at Enders Island, an inspirational retreat located off the coast of Mystic, Connecticut. Each residency brings together a uniquely talented group of faculty, guest writers, students, editors and agents that work, learn and have fun together while practicing and discussing the subtleties of writing and craft.

Student & Alumni

Fairfield's MFA students and alumni may be in their 20's or 80's or anywhere in between - but once they share a handful of residences at Enders Island, they are bonded for life. To help them stay connected, informed and inspired, we offer a variety of engaging resources.

Faculty

The College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield University is home to a vibrant community of engaged faculty, dedicated staff and passionate scholars devoted to the process of invention and discovery and excited by the prospect of producing knowledge in the service of others. Our MFA faculty members are experienced and published authors, who work closely with graduate students to provide academic advice and individualized attention that makes their experience as productive as it is rewarding.

Admission

Admission requirements for the MFA in Creative Writing are based on certain criteria and are outlined in detail for your convenience.

Concentrations

MFA students may concentrate in one genre such as poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction or screenwriting, or they may have a dual concentration in two of these genres. Since it is felt that working in more than one genre can benefit the writer’s development, students are encouraged to work outside their main genre for a workshop or even an entire semester.

Teaching Opportunities

Teaching options for MFA graduates span a range of opportunities. The potential MFA students should be aware that due to changes in higher education, the full-time position teaching creative writing at a university has become a challenging position to obtain, often requiring a book publication as well as prior teaching experience. MFA graduates who are interested in teaching will be mentored to consider the full range of teaching options if this career fits their interests. MFA students are qualified to serve as adjunct instructors at the college level. Our graduates have also transitioned into careers teaching writing at the high school level as well as designing and staffing innovative community-based writing programs.

How Does a Student Gain Teaching Experience in the Low-Residency Model?

Students within the program can choose a pedagogy track for their experience within the MFA. This involves serving as a Teaching Assistant to a graduate level workshop during their final residency with one of the faculty mentors. In addition, students can invest time in other options within this track. Students who live within the Fairfield area may also apply to serve as a teaching assistant for an undergraduate creative writing course taught at Fairfield; during this experience they meet with the professor on a regular basis to discuss pedagogy and observations, and reflect upon their own teaching goals and philosophies. Many of the students who select the TA experience also complete a pedagogy project, which is an in-depth research experience on the teaching of writing that culminates in a 35-page academic paper, often weaving in evidence from the TA experience or a community-based educational project. These third-semester projects, which earn 9 credits toward the degree, are developed as part of the MFA curriculum and are discussed in depth with a program mentor. The completion of the pedagogy track will also be noted on the applicant's CV.

In 2013, the Fairfield MFA Program began a teacher-training component in the form of a fifth semester practicum. MFA graduates who were chosen for the program received training in teaching composition and mentoring throughout their semester as they taught their first year of composition in the Fairfield University first-year writing sequence. The practicum involved coursework in rhetoric and composition as well as discussion and study of best practices in teaching writing.

In 2016, the first-year writing program at Fairfield transitioned to a new model based upon staffing changes and core curriculum changes. In response, the MFA program began collaborating with First-Year Writing and the Fairfield Writing Center to design a new model to augment our MFA students' pedagogical backgrounds. Beginning in Fall 2017, Fairfield MFA students living in the Fairfield area will have the opportunity to apply to serve as paid teaching assistants in the University Writing Center, an opportunity to develop expertise in the fields of teaching and editing.

Accelerated MFA in Creative Writing

The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) has created an accelerated pathway for current, high achieving undergraduate students who are interested in transitioning directly into one of our Master's programs.

Eligibility

  • Full-time, matriculated students of ANY major and school may apply to the MFA in Creative Writing Program
  • GPA of 3.2 or higher
  • Completion of at least 96 credits prior to the start of fall senior year

 

Admission Requirements

  • Online application available at fairfield.edu/applynow
  • $60 admission fee (waived for current students)
  • Fairfield University transcript (obtained by the Office of Graduate Admission)
  • A letter of recommendation
  • Personal statement
  • Copy of resume
  • Writing sample

 

Timeline

  • Students apply during their Fall semester of senior year for the MFA Program
  • Upon acceptance, students will remain an undergraduate, but are allowed to register for TWO graduate classes during their senior year
    • These classes will be covered through full-time tuition payment (with the exception of the MFA Winter Residency which is an additional tuition charge)
    • These classes cannot count towards fulfillment of the undergraduate degree
    • During the final semester, typically spring, students will need to apply to the program officially to become a matriculated graduate student upon completion of their undergraduate degree.

     

For more information, contact:

Ms. Fran Yadre
College of Arts and Sciences
fyadre@fairfield.edu
(203) 254-4000 x2246

 

Other Admission options:

Learn about our new Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) option, where highly qualified students can receive up to one full semester credit for the work they have already written or published.  Students receiving the PLA can finish the MFA in three semesters instead of four.   

Inspired Writer Series

Fairfield University’s Inspired Writer Series series was initiated as a companion to the MFA program and celebrates the program’s concentrations in fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry with a rotation of exemplary guest authors.

Videos

Browse videos of recent seminars and readings to experience the breadth, originality and excellence of our Enders Island residencies.

MFA Book Prize

 Guest Judge for the Summer 2017 Fairfield Book Prize: Meghan Daum 

 

Fairfield MFA Book Prize Winner – Summer 2017:

Susan Smith Daniels

Susan Smith Daniels for The Genuine Stories

Judge: Meghan Daum

Publisher: New Rivers Press

 Fairfield's MFA program is one of the very few MFA programs in the country to offer its students the unique opportunity of entering a book-length manuscript to its contest. The Fairfield Book Prize is open only to Fairfield MFA students and alumni and is awarded once every two years.

The author of the winning manuscript will be awarded a $1,000 prize, a standard royalty book contract, and publication by New Rivers Press. New Rivers Press (NRP), which has published more than 330 books since it was founded in 1968, has two missions:

  • To publish the best new writing it can find by new and emerging authors
  • To provide learning opportunities for students

The Fairfield University MFA recruits, teaches, and graduates new and emerging writers who produce publishable book-length manuscripts in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. The Fairfield MFA and New Rivers Press have agreed to collaborate in a publishing partnership by conducting a competition among Fairfield MFA graduates and students in all genres to choose and publish a prize-winning book every other year.

NRP will edit, publish, distribute nationally, and market each prize-winning book. The finalists for the prize will be judged by a writer of national distinction.

Interested in joining Fairfield's MFA program? Register today!

2015 Winner: Lynne Heinzmann, Frozen Voices.  Guest Judge: Richard Hoffmann

2013 Winner: Chris Belden, The Floating Lady of Lake Towaba and Other Stories. Guest Judge: Dani Shapiro

2011 Winner: Nick Knittel, Good Things, a short story collection.  Guest Judge: Charles Simic

 

Causeway Lit

Causeway Lit is an online literary journal sponsored by Fairfield University's MFA in Creative Writing and a collaborative effort among graduate students in the program. Hands-on publishing opportunities exist on the Editorial, Production, and Marketing teams. Involvement on Causeway Lit will help you:

  • Be exposed to the editing and publishing process
  • Cultivate your editorial skills needed to improve your own creative writing
  • Foster dialogue about the writing craft
  • Learn about the marketing and production side of publishing
  • Stay on top of trends in the publishing industry
  • Expand your writing community beyond the program cohort
  • Have hands-on experience to add to your resume
  • Foster global citizenship and diversity through an interactive, engaged, international web audience

The editorial process includes:

  • Reading through submissions from emerging and seasoned writers from around the world
  • Evaluating writing craft
  • Recommending selections
  • Contacting authors
  • Suggesting edits
  • Working closely with the contributors and each other to produce publishable material

The production process includes:

  • Wordpress and html training
  • Posting, formatting, and proofreading poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, drama, and author bio pages
  • Photo formatting and publishing

The marketing process includes:

  • Drafting and distributing news releases surrounding new issues and events for Mason's Road
  • Writing blog posts that stir up interest to a web audience
  • Using Facebook and Twitter to publicize the journal
  • Organizing reading events, poetry slams, and multi-genre activities in the local community
  • Developing and distributing printed materials promoting the journal
  • Working the AWP booth

Leadership positions include Editor-in-Chief and Genre Editor roles for the editorial side, and a Managing Editor position for the publishing side. An internship for the Managing Editor role is available as a third semester project through an application process.

Causeway Lit is published twice a year, coinciding with our Enders Island residencies in July and December/January. For more information, visit causewaylit.com.

Frequently Asked Questions

Degree Questions

What is the criteria for acceptance into the program?

You will need to submit a portfolio of work, including a writing sample (20 pages for prose, 6-8 poems for poetry), two letters of recommendation, and a two-page personal statement. In addition, you will need to submit a transcript of your undergraduate work. However, the heaviest emphasis is placed on the creative writing sample.


I have a family and a full-time job. Would I need to take time off from my other responsibilities?

No. Most of our students have families and careers. However, it is expected that you will commit 25 hours a week working on your writing.


mfa_request_info‌What genres can I concentrate on?

You must apply to be admitted in one of three main genres - fiction, poetry, or nonfiction. For fiction, while the writer may work in any form, style, or sub-genre - including experimental, historical, scifi, or mystery - the work must have certain basic literary qualities (i.e., interesting and original language, well-developed characters, plots that avoid cliches). After admittance, if you would like to switch genres, you must submit a writing sample in a second genre to the director. However, for the creative thesis, most students will need to select one of the three genres. In special cases, you may do a combination thesis, but only if two faculty members agree to take on such a project.


Is there any possibility of taking coursework in multiple genres?

Yes. In fact, we encourage it. Many seminars and panels actually have cross-genre themes.


Am I too old to benefit from an MFA in creative writing?

Harriet Doerr published her first novel at the age of 73 and it went on to win the National Book Award. The great thing about writing is that you're never too old to write or to become trained as a writer. Fairfield's low-residency MFA is perfect for the "mature" student. Our student body will range in age from 23 to 75 and will include people from professions and experiences from all walks of life.


Will I be at a disadvantage since I have no formal training in creative writing?

No. The only thing we ask is that you've made a serious commitment to writing and that you've been writing for some time. We look much more for commitment than formal training.


What if I haven't published anything? Will that hurt my chances of succeeding in your program?

No. While some of our students will have published their work, most will not yet be published.


How many seminars, lectures, or panels must I attend?

During each residency, you must attend a minimum of five seminars in your chosen genre. However, you may attend as many as you wish, including in other genres. There will be opportunities to attend workshops, plenary sessions, readings, and lectures dealing with each type of genre.

 

Residency and Faculty Questions

Do I have to attend the residencies?

Yes. Since the residency is so important to a writer's development, you must attend each of the five residencies, as well as the fifth graduation residency where you will give a lecture and a public reading of your work.


Who makes all the arrangements for the residency?

If you select to stay with us on Enders Island, the MFA staff makes all arrangements, including lodging and meals. You will be responsible for transportation to and from the residency, though we do provide shuttle service from the train station on arrival in Mystic, Conn.


What will be the online systems that I will use with my faculty mentor during the program?

At the end of each residency, you will be paired with one faculty mentor for the five-month independent work. Together you will work out a plan of study. Some correspond by e-mail, others by sending hard copy packets in the mail. Faculty will communicate their responses to your work by e-mail, regular mail, and phone.

 

Application Questions

Where can I find tuition information?

You can find tuition information here.


Do you accept transfer credits?

In certain cases, depending on the student’s portfolio, the transfer of up to 15 MFA credits will be considered.


If I already have an MA/MFA degree in creative writing, can I apply to the program?

Absolutely. Our well-trained and highly published faculty will bring an entirely new dimension to your writing training.


What if for some personal or professional reason I have to interrupt my program of study in the MFA?

You can, with the permission of the director, take one semester off due to personal or professional reasons.


Do you accept applications only once a year?

No. We accept applications on a rolling basis.

Contact Us

For more information about Fairfield University's graduate programs, please contact:

Office of Graduate Admission
Fairfield University
1073 North Benson Road
Fairfield, CT 06824

Call (203) 254-4184 or email gradadmis@fairfield.edu.

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