The Newport MFA in Creative Writing - Program Details
About the MFA
The Newport MFA in Creative Writing
Low-residency MFAs are flexible by nature to serve a diverse population of individuals. To earn the MFA in creative writing, students must complete four residencies and four mentorships in their chosen genre, in addition to a final graduation residency (48 credits). Genres offered include fiction, poetry, nonfiction and historical fiction.
Residency in Creative Writing
The campus residencies are immersive, 12-hour days, designed for focused writing, community building and professionalization.
Each residency is eight days in length. Students participate in seminars and lectures on genre-specific writing, public readings and publishing. Students will be introduced to mentors and to the expectations of long-distance learning. Four residencies are required, each with varying focus depending on the candidate's status as an entering, second year or graduating student. The mentorship months following the residency are for independent work done in consultation with a mentor.
All residencies are offered on Salve Regina's campus.
Residencies are always the first full week in January and the last full week in June.
Students are housed in a local hotel during the January residency and on campus during the June residency.
Mentorship in Creative Writing
During the intervals between campus residencies, students pursue focused courses of study, completing reading and writing assignments under the close supervision of individual faculty members. These ongoing dialogues with faculty are tailored to students' specific interests and needs. Students are mentored by a different faculty member each term and work closely with four different writers during the two-year program.
At the residency, students develop a reading program with their faculty mentors. During the rest of the semester, students write brief essays analyzing craft matters on at least eight books as a jumping-off point for exchanges with their faculty mentor. These readings must directly inform the students' creative work.
However, at the center of each semester's work is the creative output. Students will produce four large "packets" of writing that are carefully read and critiqued by their faculty mentor. These critiques guide students in the revision process - and in the creation of new work. Deadlines for each packet are determined at the residency.
The first and second semesters are devoted to the creative work. The third semester continues the creative work, and students must also produce a 25-page essay on some aspect of the craft of writing. This is not a dry academic exercise, but rather a chance to explore some element of the craft of writing. During the fourth and final semester, students complete and revise their creative work.
During the final residency, students submit their critical thesis and deliver a public reading of their creative work (chapter from a short story or essay, a series of poems or excerpts from a novel or memoir).
What is the difference between a low-residency program and a standard MFA?
A standard MFA program requires students to live on or near campus for 2-3 years and to attend workshops, classes and lectures every week for two semesters a year.
The benefits of a low-residency MFA program are many. Students join a writing community without needing to move from home or work, and enjoy a rigorous, creative environment during their residencies. With the responsibilities of family, work and life demands, a low-residency program allows students to earn their MFA without changing their lives.
Our low-residency program requires students to attend two weeklong campus residencies each year, one in January and one in June. Throughout the week, students attend faculty-run workshops, classes, craft talks and readings with their peers and interact with guest writers, editors and agents.
Between residencies, students work one-on-one with a faculty member by sending monthly packets of creative work and reading annotations via email or standard mail.
In the third semester, students continue writing creatively while also writing a critical thesis under the mentorship of a faculty member. The fourth semester is devoted to creative work - finishing that novel, memoir or collection of poetry, short stories or essays. During the final and fifth semester residency, graduating students give a craft talk and a reading from their work.
What makes the Newport MFA different from other low-residency MFAs?
The Newport MFA is held on the campus of beautiful Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island. Our 80-acre campus is made up of seven Gilded Age estates, including Ochre Court, a 50-room mansion where the opening night reception is held. The campus is bordered on one side by the famous Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile path overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
The Newport MFA gives students the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate historic Newport, which was founded in 1639 under the governorship of famous traitor Benedict Arnold. By the turn of the 20th century, Newport became the summer residence for some of the wealthiest families in the United States, including the Vanderbilts and the Astors.
Edith Wharton famously described the social scene in Newport in her 1920 novel “The Age of Innocence.” “Ah, good conversation,” Wharton wrote of Newport, “there’s nothing like it, is there? The air of ideas is the only air worth breathing.” Jackie Kennedy grew up on Hammersmith Farm, where in 1953 the wedding reception for her marriage to John F. Kennedy was held.
During the June residency, students and faculty take an afternoon sailing trip to enjoy the summer sunshine and to see Newport from the water, as thousands do every year. In January, we tour the beautiful mansions that line Bellevue Avenue, to understand and experience Newport’s history.
In addition to our breathtaking setting, the Newport MFA is unique because of our faculty and guest writers. Program founder Ann Hood is the author of the best-selling novels “The Knitting Circle,” “The Obituary Writer” and “The Book That Matters Most,” along with the memoir “Comfort: A Journey Through Grief,” which was named one of the top 10 non-fiction books of 2008. She has received two Pushcart prizes, two Best American Food Writing Awards, a Best American Travel Writing Award and A Best American Spiritual Writing Award.
Program director Jen McClanaghan, Salve’s writer-in-residence, is the winner of the 2009 Georgetown Review Prize and author of the poetry collection “River Legs.” Hood and McClanaghan facilitate the residencies along with program faculty such as Charles Coe, Alden Jones, Edgar Kunz, Allen Kurzweil, Bernadette Murphy, Taylor Polites and Tim Weed. Guest faculty include Alice Hoffman, Andre Dubus III, Dani Shapiro, Sheila Weller and Major Jackson, among others.