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How the Program Works

The low-residency MFA program at Queens involves:

  • Four semesters of coursework
    Each semester begins with a seven-day on-campus residency, followed by distance learning.
    - The Spring term begins with a residency in early January and distance learning continues until mid-May.
    - The Summer/Fall term begins with the residency in late May or early June, and distance learning runs from mid-August to mid-November. There is a break in June and July.
  • Completion of a Master's thesis and teaching of a seminar to fellow-students
  • A fifth and final graduating residency following the final semester

On-Campus Residencies

Residencies mark the outset of each semester and feature:

  • Daily workshops
  • Seminars on the craft and profession of writing
  • Student and faculty readings
  • Many opportunities to interact informally with faculty and fellow students.

The Seminars

Students attend daily seminars during the on-campus residencies, including four craft seminars in the their genre. These craft seminars change every semester, and reading lists are distributed several months before the residency. Sample topics from past semesters include:

  • Fiction - Who's On First? A Craft Lecture on Point of View
  • Poetry - From the Confessional Movement to Black Arts
  • Creative Nonfiction - Character, Narrator, The Essence of Truth
  • Writing for Stage and Screen - The Written and the Performed

In addition, students attend one gateway seminar in each of the other genres. The topics of these gateway seminars are:

  • Reading as a Writer
  • Literary Reviewing
  • Shaping a Book
  • Teaching Creative Writing

Each semester, students choose one craft seminar and one gateway seminar to respond to with a written paper, limited to about 500 words each.

The Workshops

In workshops, students work closely with an established writer/faculty member and receive constructive feedback from a group of peers. At the outset of each semester, students are assigned to a small group comprised of 3-4 students and a faculty member. During the residency, students attend one writing workshop daily with their small group during the on-campus residency. During the first three days, two small groups are combined to form a large group, so that students may have the benefit of more feedback.

Workshops are revision-based and are designed to help students improve their existing work. Faculty lead in-class discussions of student work and meet in individual conferences with each student to suggest additional reading and strategies to advance the student's creative development.

Students may make two submissions to the workshop during the residency and are required to provide a formal written critical response to all other student work submitted in their workshop.

Distance Learning

Distance Workshops

Following the completion of the residency, the students continue their work for the semester through distance learning.  The Queens MFA program was the first and is still one of the only low-residency programs to use a workshop format both during residencies and in the distance learning component of each semester. In these distance learning workshops, each student completes four submissions of new work and submits formal written critiques (300-500 words) of fellow workshop members' work. These are circulated by email to the other students in the workshop and to the instructor, who also provides a formal written response.  By requiring all students to continue to share work and to respond to each other's writing throughout the semester, the workshop system strengthens our community of writers.

Critical Reading and Writing

Critical writing is integrated into the requirements for each semester, most notably in the formal critiques each student composes in response to her or his peers' submissions in the workshop.  This system allows our students to continue to write original works and to participate in workshops in all four semesters, while honing their critical abilities as part of the workshop.  Students will also read between 12 and 20 books each semester in preparation for seminars at the next residency and compose informal response papers on some of their reading. 

Completing the Degree and the Graduating Residency

Prior to the graduating residency, and under the direction of a thesis advisor, the candidate for graduation prepares and submits a collection of prose pieces, a novel or nonfiction book, or a collection of poetry or for evaluation by the thesis advisor and two other faculty in the candidate's field of writing.

In addition, each candidate is required to teach a 30 minute seminar on some element of writing craft at the graduating residency. In preparation for this craft seminar and under the direction of a craft seminar advisor, the candidate must prepare and submit a proposal for the craft seminar.the candidate will prepare 6-8 page critical paper exploring the topic of the seminar.

The fourth semester is followed by a fifth and final graduating residency, in which each MFA candidate:

  • Formally submits her or his thesis
  • Presents a 30-minute craft seminar to fellow students
  • Gives a public reading from the thesis
  • Participates in special seminars on the vocation of writing and life after the MFA
  • Attends a graduation ceremony and receives the diploma
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