Independent Study

While residencies offer faculty-led workshops and other collaborative learning opportunities, during independent study the focus is on you and your writing in a one-on-one mentor-student working relationship. This program design honors a primary strength of the low-residency model, allowing you to write prolifically. Each semester, in each of our graduate programs, prose and script writers receive detailed commentary on up to 225 pages of new and revised writing. Poets and picture book writers can have up to 35 individual poems or picture books critiqued. Few other programs can match that volume of in-depth critique.

Before the independent study course begins, the student and faculty mentor collaboratively create a study plan that includes five packet exchanges. For prose and script writers, each packet includes 25-45 pages of original writing. Poets send 5-7 poems; picture-book writers, 5-7 texts. The mentor responds with detailed, thoughtful feedback.

Students also write short essays about their reading to cultivate an explicit understanding of the craft of writing, in effect teaching themselves specific writing lessons through close examination of published work. “How did the author do that?” is the question you’ll aim to answer in each essay. By analyzing the successes and failures of published writing while working on your own original writing under the guidance of a mentor, you’ll advance in your writing abilities much more quickly than in the traditional classroom workshop model.

In the MFA program, third-semester students complete a long research project while continuing creative work. Fourth-semester students complete a creative thesis and prepare a graduation lecture and reading.

Our independent study options are highly flexible, letting you customize your weekly workload on a six-month or nine-month schedule.

Students in the MFA program, MAW program, and Graduate Certificate program gain invaluable editorial experience reading submissions for Good River Review, our online literary journal. . It’s a rare opportunity to view writing from the editor’s seat—a perspective that helps students break out of writing ruts, recognize common pitfalls, and develop a working knowledge of the contemporary literary landscape.

MFA students may take one core semester in translation, adaptation, or another concentration. And regardless of what program they’re in, any student may opt to add a semester in order to complete a project or study in yet another area.

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