Though I received my own MFA from a “traditional” program and loved my graduate experience, I’ve come to know that for responsible adults whose aim is to improve their writing, a brief-residency program offers the very best graduate education. The Spalding MFA Program presents an intense, satisfying experience like no other for the writing student and provides the best of all worlds: genuine writing community and the necessary solitude to write.
We begin each semester with a ten-day residency at Spalding or at a location abroad (in the past we’ve gone to London, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Rome, and Paris, among other world cities). I like to say the residencies, whether you are in Louisville or in an international city, are exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time. Students meet daily in faculty-led workshops; then students are off to a series of craft lectures, plenary sessions, panel discussions, arts events, and readings. Informal discussions continue during mealtimes we share together. This curriculum makes for long days, but the atmosphere is electric—and supportive. Faculty and students give honest critiques of each other’s writing, but are mindful to be helpful, not destructive. Late in the evening, many students and faculty can be found in the lush lobby of The Brown Hotel—or at a café in the Left Bank or skipping along the cobblestones in the Trastevere neighborhood in Rome—weary but unwilling to let go of the day.While our time on during residency is limited, long, intense days and the power of creative energy forge deep friendships that last far beyond our time together at Spalding. We have a flourishing community of writers in the truest sense, a network that grows on and on as our alums continue to stay connected with the Program.
After the residency when students have returned home, they carve out time for their graduate work from their regular routines. Students begin writing for the substantial packets they exchange with mentors five times a semester. Our students are expected to write both creatively and critically. The MFA semester is rigorous, but we take care to support our students while they pursue some of the hardest work they’ve ever undertaken. For each packet submitted, mentors provide feedback that is in-depth, particular to the individual student, and tangible, i.e., in the form of 3-5 pages of single-spaced typed letters or audio responses of at least 30 minutes. This quality and extent of mentor feedback invigorates the student’s writing life. Only writers who have demonstrated excellence in teaching as well as publishing are invited to become faculty at Spalding (you can see this for yourself by visiting our faculty web pages). I know of no traditional program that provides as much individual attention for the writer-student—only the quality of teacher and low 5-to-1 student-faculty ratio make this possible for our students. Though our main aim is to help students improve their writing, we understand that for many publication is the goal. In last ten years, Spalding MFA Program students and alumni have published hundreds of books and have won nationally known book prizes. Playwriting and screenwriting students have gone on to win big industry prizes and to have many stage plays and screenplays produced. These publications and productions bear out that the Spalding MFA Program is a very successful place for writers of all sorts to come to study and improve their writing.
If you believe you may be a good fit at Spalding, I hope you’ll consider applying to our program. Do contact me through email or telephone should you have any questions. I look forward to hearing from you.
For a bio of Kathleen Driskell, click here.