Program Overview

The low-residency MFA in Creative Writing offered by The Rainier Writing Workshop is a three-year program in the study of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Each new cohort starts the program on June 1st, the beginning of the summer term. The summer term culminates in the 10-day residency on the PLU campus in early August.

The degree is awarded after completion of the following: four residencies, three years of mentorships, a successful “Outside Experience,” a Critical Paper of 20-40 pages, and a Creative Thesis that is 30-60 pages for poetry and 60-120 pages for prose.  A participant earns 44 credit hours at the completion of the degree.

During each mentorship year, the participant works one-on-one with a faculty member in a collaborative relationship that brings together the participant’s independence and the mentor’s expert guidance. Depending on the participant’s year in the program, each participant will submit 5 to 8 work packets to his or her mentor during the year. Participants are expected to devote at least 15 hours each week to their work for the program. Over the course of the mentorship year, the participant will produce original writing and revise previous work, will read and analyze at least three books per packet exchange, and will write reflective letters to the mentor regarding the progress of his/her work.

The method of exchange and feedback between the mentor and mentee — electronic exchange, regular mail, phone calls — will be determined collaboratively. The faculty mentor is expected to respond to each packet within two weeks, making comments and suggestions for the work sent, and suggesting reading and writing assignments for the next packet exchange. The RWW has no set curriculum for participants. In dialogue with the participant, each mentor tailors the mentorship year in light of the participant’s goals and needs.

Below is a summary of a participant’s three-year trajectory through the program:

YEAR ONE:

ENGL 504: Residency One. Gather with program faculty and participants on the PLU campus in early August for the 10-day residency. Substantial reading and preparation will be required in the two months prior to the residency. During the residency, each participant will be paired with a faculty mentor for the following mentorship year.

ENGL 511: First Year Mentorship. The participant is expected to submit 8 mailings to the mentor during the year. There will be a strong emphasis on critical reading and writing.

YEAR TWO:

ENGL 505: Residency Two. Gather with the program faculty and participants on the PLU campus in early August for the 10-day residency. Substantial reading and preparation will be required in the two months prior to the residency. During the residency, each participant will be paired with a faculty mentor for the following year.

ENGL 512: Second Year Mentorship. The participant is expected to submit 5 mailings to the mentor during the year. In most cases, the Outside Experience will be completed by a participant during his or her second year. Substantial preparation for the Critical Paper will also begin during the second year.

YEAR THREE:

ENGL 506: Residency Three. Gather with the program faculty and participants on the PLU campus in early August for the 10-day residency. Substantial reading and preparation will be required in the two months prior to the residency. Prior to the residency, each participant entering his/her thesis year will be paired with a faculty mentor for the following year. A sequence of “Pedagogy Sessions” will also be offered to the cohort; these classes explore issues in the teaching of creative writing.

ENGL 513: Third Year Mentorship / ENGL 599: Thesis. The participant is expected to submit 6 mailings to the mentor during the year. The main tasks of the year include: completing the Critical Paper (due on December 15); completing the Creative Thesis (due on April 30); submitting a final program bibliography; and preparing to deliver a class presentation and a graduate reading in the final residency.

ENGL 507: Residency Four. During the residency, graduating participants will take part in the following: thesis-manuscript critique sessions with their genre peers; a sequence of “Grad Sessions” that explores post-MFA issues; an optional class presentation; a mandatory graduate reading. The graduation ceremony takes place on the second Sunday of the residency.