Division of HumanitiesMFA in Creative Writing - Low Residency

Rainier Writing Workshop


"You have achieved balance between mutual support and self-reliance - it's unusual, and exactly right. I hope eventually to bring that kind of balance to my own teaching."

The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is an innovative process-oriented program in the fields of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction intended for independent adults who wish to develop and pursue careers as writers. The program offers a substantial range of on- and off-campus experiences, including the mentorship of nationally known writers and editors.

About the program one

The three-year course of study is collaboratively structured and tailored to the participant’s own needs and experience; the one-residency per year format is designed to be well suited to a lifestyle of professional and/or family responsibility. The program is intended to enhance already-established work habits. The emphasis will be on the creative process in all its phases, as well as on critical understanding.

Participants will attend an intensive 10-day Summer Residency and then work one-on-one with a faculty mentor throughout the year.  Residencies consist of a combination of workshops, readings, classes, talks, and discussions. During the residency, workshops conducted by a combination of core and guest faculty will be held each morning. Workshops are small – never more than 8-12 people.

In addition, faculty members may give readings of their work, offer a short class or a one-hour formal lecture on a literary topic or on some aspect of craft.

Workshops are required; participants are further required take 20 hours of a combination of mini-courses and lectures, attend additional activities, and meet with their mentor to design a personal course of study for the following academic year.  

In consultation with the mentor, each participant will devise a reading program and submit critical responses (short response papers or more discursive essays) to these books along with original work in fiction, poetry, or nonfiction.  The program may require some further study of literature for those whose backgrounds are primarily in other fields. By the time of graduation, participants will be expected to have read a substantial number of books concerning such topics as aesthetics, craft, genre, and the works of individual writers of achievement in the participant's chosen genre.

Outside Experience

Our program also features a distinguishing “outside experience” intended to foster an independent writing career and to introduce participants to broader aspects of the writing life: national and international opportunities for writers, voices and approaches other than those of our faculty. The program will help arrange for an independent residency at writers' centers and retreats in all regions of the country and/or study abroad in a variety of programs in literature, writing, or language. We also encourage innovative internships, community service, teaching, or other projects that might serve this aspect of the program. (For examples, see outside experience link.)

Program Expectations

Participants are expected to devote approximately 15 hours each week to their writing and reading. Over each period, the participant will continue to work on original writing, will read and analyze at least 3 books or articles, and will compile a “mailing” of these activities. The faculty mentor will respond within two weeks, making comments and suggestions for the work and monitoring the participant’s scholarly improvement.

About the program two

By the time of graduation, participants will be expected to have produced a collection of work in one or more genres of a quality worthy of publication.

The degree will be awarded for completion of 3 years and 4 residencies, a successful field experience, an acceptable critical paper and a thesis consisting of an original portfolio of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry.

In general, a participant will apply to work in a genre of his or her choice and will work with faculty mentors specializing in the writing of that genre. However, in the interest of a varied experience, we will allow qualified participants to work in more than one genre and we will accept mixed-genre theses.

Many of our faculty members work in more than one genre so there is ample opportunity for such projects. The critical paper should arise from the areas of study and will usually be completed during the third year. It should serve as the basis for a course to be taught by the graduating participant in the final residency. Each thesis will be read by a second faculty member and the director or assistant. Graduating participants will also give a public reading from their work.  Participants who already have an M.A. in writing or literature may be allowed to complete the program in two years and three residencies.