Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

MFA Program Website

Program Overview

The Warren Wilson College Master of Fine Arts degree requires successful completion of four semesters of study and represents mastery in creative writing, contemporary letters, applied criticism, and the tradition of literature. The course of study toward the degree is carried out by alternating on-campus residency sessions and six-month semesters of independent study under close faculty supervision. The residencies, ten days in early January and July, are attended by all faculty and students. Readings, lectures, classes, team-taught workshops, meetings, conferences to plan the independent study, and the informal exchange of the residencies, foster a strong sense of community and give direction for the semester. The Semester Project, designed during residency, is supervised through correspondence between student and faculty supervisor conducted roughly every three weeks. The individualized course of study (faculty-student ratio is 3:1) and thorough engagement of faculty, occurring within the context of one’s ongoing adult life, make the Program useful to writers at all stages of their development. Complete details about the Program’s history, design, and requirements for semester credit and for the MFA degree are available on the Program website:

The Degree

Grades: No grades are assigned. Narrative assessment of all semesters and projects are included on transcripts.

Requirements: A total 60 graduate credits must be earned. Fifteen credits are granted for each semester successfully completed; no hours are awarded for incomplete work. The program does not accept transfer credits. All of the following criteria must be met for award of the degree:

  1. full participation in 5 residency periods
  2. successful completion of 4 semester projects with 4 different faculty supervisors, with a minimum accumulation of 60 graduate credit hours
  3. broad reading in literature and contemporary letters, as demonstrated by a bibliography of usually 50-80 entries
  4. the completion of at least 36 annotations, brief craft-based essays written in response to the student’s reading
  5. a substantial 30-50 page analytical essay, typically completed in the third semester
  6. a Thesis Manuscript of poetry or fiction of high quality
  7. objective assessment of that manuscript by faculty and peers in Thesis Review
  8. a graduate class taught to peers during a residency period
  9. a public reading of the student’s own work during residency

Program Details


Held bi-annually, the intensive and stimulating 10-day residency period serves as the principal component of the Program and as the foundation of a supportive, committed community of writers. Each student attends the residency as the prerequisite to the non-resident semester’s study. Lectures, classes, and seminars in literature and craft provide a broad curriculum covering a wide range of aesthetics and a strong background for the semester study projects; in the evening, poetry and fiction readings are presented by faculty and graduating students. Students are paired with their faculty supervisors for the term early in the residency; student and supervisor meet at least three times to plan the upcoming semester project. The residency marks the beginning of the new semester for all students except for those about to graduate; during their final residency, graduating students serve on and are the subject of thesis interviews, teach a one-hour course to their peers, and present a public reading of their work.


During the six-month non-resident semester, the student submits a packet of work (new poetry or fiction, revised pieces, brief craft essays written in response to his or her reading, and a substantive letter) to the faculty supervisor every three weeks. The faculty supervisor responds within three days with specific suggestions as well as general advice, criticism, and support. The six semester exchanges constitute an ongoing dialogue focused on each student’s individual apprenticeship. During the non-resident semester, the student is expected to devote at least 25 hours a week to Program work; at least five packets must be successfully completed, substantial creative work, 12-15 annotations, and 15-20 books read in order for 15 hours credit to be granted. Thorough evaluations by both the faculty member and the student of the semester project become a part of the student’s permanent record.


Although an undergraduate degree is normally a criterion for admission, the program does accept a small number of students without B.A. degrees or undergraduate concentrations in literature and writing; however, the application manuscripts in these cases must be exceptionally strong. Many students enter the Program having already completed graduate degrees; neither these degrees nor graduate credit toward a degree can earn the student acceleration through the Program and thereby reduce the minimum four semesters required for the Master of Fine Arts.

Students are admitted to the Program primarily on the basis of an original manuscript. The manuscript should indicate sufficient quality of work, level of commitment, and sophistication of skills to suggest the applicant is ready for graduate work in writing and literature.

The application should give evidence of strong preparation in literature, a background in the humanities, the ability to do independent study, and an applicant’s readiness to receive and use criticism. Publication and workshop experience will be given consideration, but are not weighted heavily. Transcripts from all the previous colleges or universities attended by the applicant are required. The program also requires two letters of recommendation from persons who are familiar with the student’s writing and able to assess his or her capacity for independent study and congeniality in a close-knit community. Two very important elements of the application are the brief essays requested from each applicant, one in response to some recently read piece of literature, and the other offering an assessment of his/her own writing, reasons for wanting to enter the program, and a general sense of goals.

The Holden Visiting Writers Series

During the academic year, faculty members from the Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing and/or other writers visit campus and are available to undergraduate students for discussions about writing. The Holden Visiting Writers give public readings, attend classes, and hold writing workshops to discuss student work. Visiting Writers have included Joan Aleshire, Wilton Barnhardt, Andrea Barrett, Robert Boswell, Liam Callanan, Anthony Doerr, Jennifer Grotz, David Haynes, A. Van Jordan, Laura Kasischke, Thomas Lux, Richard Russo, and Eleanor Wilner.

The Joan Beebe Graduate Teaching Fellowship

The Fellowship brings a graduate of the College’s MFA Program for Writers to campus to teach in the undergraduate writing program for an academic year. The fellowship is awarded by the the Director of the Undergraduate Writing Program and the Vice President for Academic Affairs in consultation with the MFA Academic Board.