Division of HumanitiesMFA in Creative Writing - Low Residency

Rainier Writing Workshop


"I am impressed with the caliber, commitment, and generosity of the faculty. Their willingness to engage with us in and out of our classroom made this experience unlike any other I've had."

Dinah Lenney

Dinah Lenney






Mentor. Workshops and classes in nonfiction.

Statement: "Years ago, unable to put one sentence in front of another, I ran into one of my teachers. 'How goes the writing?' he asked. When I told him I was stuck, he said: 'What question are you trying to answer?'

Not that I simmered it down to a single question, nor were all the answers ever revealed (of course not), but I was able to go back to my project. He’d reminded me: first, about the urgency of the work—the point and the reason; second, about the role of mentors and the value of community. Solitary though we may be, we writers mean to reach out—to communicate and connect—having everything to do with the questions we ask of ourselves and each other.

In my view, therefore, it’s my job to ask questions, and to insist that whatever my students are writing—journalism, memoir, essay, humor, criticism—the stakes are high. It’s not that they have to be traumatized and tormented, only genuinely engaged and inspired to figure things out. I’m there to encourage them; to keep them honest: to remind them it isn’t supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to be almost impossible, in fact, but worth doing (per Joan Didion and Patricia Hampl) with the goal of discovering what they think and what they know. They are not required to have the answers before they begin: if they did, I tell them, they wouldn’t have to write in the first place."


Dinah Lenney wrote Bigger than Life: A Murder, a Memoir, published in the American Lives Series at the University of Nebraska Press, and co-authored Acting for Young Actors.  Her prose has been published in many journals and anthologies, among them The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Creative Nonfiction, The Washington Post, The Kenyon Review Online, AGNI, The Harvard Review Online, Water~Stone and Brevity. Dinah serves as core faculty in the Bennington Writing Seminars as well as in the Master of Professional Writing Program at USC, and she’s the editor of creative nonfiction at the Los Angeles Review of Books. Her new book, The Object Parade, was published by Counterpoint Press in 2014.