Welcome to the Mile-High MFA!
Welcome to the Mile-High MFA!
Our unique focus combines a thorough instruction in the craft and business of writing with the practical application of our students’ abilities as writers in the world. In addition to the expert guidance they receive as they progress from original drafts to final manuscript, students will graduate the program fully prepared to embark on a writing career, bolstered and invigorated by the support of their new writing community.
The Mile-High MFA is not for casual writers who see writing as a hobby. It is for writers who are ready to take themselves seriously and fully engage in writing as a vocation.
- the lowest (5 to 1) average student-faculty ratio in the country
- the only MFA program in the Mile-High City
- one of only two Jesuit low-residency MFA programs in the country—and “Jesuit” stands for academic rigor and cura personalis (care for the whole person)
- one of the only three low-residency programs that require students to use their writing talents to contribute to their community, and the only one requiring a “Writing in the World” Action Plan
- the only program that offers a “ski day” during the January residency and a “whitewater adventure” during the July residency
DEGREE OVERVIEW The Mile-High MFA requires the successful completion of four 16-week writing semesters and five nine-day residencies. Students will begin with Orientation at the beginning of their first residency and end with a Commencement ceremony in their final residency. Following each residency will be a semester-long study in which students will work one-on-one with a faculty mentor. By their final residency, students will have written and revised 150-250 pages of prose (fiction, nonfiction, graphic novel), 90-120 pages of writing for performance pieces, or 50-80 pages of poetry or flash fiction, along with 30-50 book critiques, an annotated bibliography, a book-length thesis, an introduction to their thesis, a critical essay in their chosen genre, a Writing in the World Action Plan, and a Professional Dossier.
DUAL-GENRE STUDY Students typically choose one genre to study, but by the end of their second residency at the latest, they may apply for a dual-genre study, which will entail an additional semester and an additional residency.
LOW-RESIDENCY The low-residency format offers the flexibility of working from home without sacrificing academic rigor. Indeed the low-residency format may be said to be more rigorous, than a traditional (residential) MFA program, since instead of attending classes once or twice a week and participating in workshops, students are working intensely on their writing for 25 hours per week.
Here’s how it works: students will come to the Regis University campus in northwest Denver twice a year, in January and July, for nine-day residencies (out-of-town students will stay in a local hotel in January, and either on campus or in a hotel in July, then return home to work one-on-one with a faculty mentor (via email, an online class structure, and/or Skype) for the semesters that follow.
ACCESSIBLE, ENGAGING FACULTY Whereas in a traditional program students may attend class one to three times a week and rarely see their professors outside of class, in a low-residency program they will see all faculty members throughout the residency and find it easy to establish strong relationships with them, as well as with their fellow students. The accessibility of the faculty and directors, and the spirit de corps among all members of the MFA community, are what makes the low-residency degree so appealing---and this is especially true of the Mile-High MFA, where our faculty and directors make every effort to avail themselves to students and where we do all we can to create opportunities for students to collaborate with and support one another.
WRITING IN THE WORLD MFA students are required to attend seminars on the real-life applications of writing and create an action plan for how they will use their writing talents to contribute to their communities, either in a professional capacity or through community outreach. (Examples include running a writing workshop at a local prison or library, writing for a nonprofit, or running an after-school “Teen Writers” workshop at a local middle school or high school.) These seminars will provide students with ideas and examples of such projects.
CRITICAL ESSAY At any point before Semester IV, MFA students must submit an essay (20-25 pages) on a topic in their genre—the study of a particular craft element (for example, the use of setting) in books they’ve studied in their Writing Semesters; the utility (or lack thereof) of writing groups; current publishing trends; a detailed analysis of canonical works, etc. The best of these will be selected as a feature of the MFA graduation ceremony.
MFA ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY The MFA Annotated Bibliography is a list of books read during the student’s two years of study in the MFA program. These works will include those assigned to them by their faculty mentors and those they read on their own. The annotated bibliography, when completed, will contain over forty books (eight assigned per semester plus the books students read on their own). Annotations should be arranged in alphabetical order by authors’ last names.
MFA THESIS The MFA Thesis, a book-length manuscript (150-250 pages of fiction, creative nonfiction, YA fiction or graphic novel, 90-120 pages of writing for performance, or 50-80 pages of poetry or flash fiction) written, revised, and approved by the fourth-semester faculty mentor who serves as the student’s thesis advisor, is the culmination of the student’s work during the four residencies and four semesters of the Mile-High MFA program. This manuscript should be a significant and distinctly original work of art. It will be accompanied by a preface in which the author places the book in context of the learning that has taken place over the program. In a way, the MFA thesis is not only a book-length manuscript but also a final exam of sorts, in that faculty advisors, fellow students, and program directors should be able to see evidence of a mastery of the writing instruction instilled in the student for the past two years.
RESIDENCIES Twice a year, in January and July, students will attend nine-day residencies, from Friday evening to the following Sunday afternoon, with an “Intermezzo” on Wednesdays. Residencies are inspiring, invigorating gatherings of like-minded writers that provide students with the opportunity to learn their craft, workshop their writing, attend readings by award-winning writers, and immerse themselves in the writing life. Our brilliant yet down-to-earth faculty mentors will eat, drink, and converse with students, and provide lessons and advice on writing and the publishing world.
Toward the end of each residency students will meet (either in person or via Skype) with the faculty mentor they will be working with during the succeeding semester and develop a study plan for the succeeding semester, including a list of eight books they will read and critique. (In addition, students will add to their MFA Annotated Bibliography at least two books they read on their own).
A month prior to every residency, students will submit a sample of their work (15-25 double-spaced pages of prose (fiction, narrative nonfiction, YA fiction, and writing for performance, and 10-15 pages of poetry or flash fiction) that will be distributed to the other students in their workshop.
Out-of-town students will make arrangements for room and board, in an on-campus residence hall or downtown hotel, through the program coordinator.
WRITING SEMESTERS Each semester’s writing plan and reading list will have been developed by students in dialogue with their faculty mentors during the preceding residency. Students should expect to devote about twenty-five hours a week to this endeavor, submitting four packets of original writing (one per month), and eight annotations on both canonical and contemporary books in their genre. Any other books the student reads during the semester will be reviewed and listed in the student’s MFA Annotated Bibliography.
Faculty will have the option of using online classroom sites (Desire2Learn/Worldclass) to conduct conversations with students, receive submissions (through Dropbox), and allow for students to discuss, among themselves, their reading or writing. During the residency Study Plan meeting, each faculty mentor will specify his or her preferred method of receiving submissions and providing feedback.
SAMPLE SCHEDULE Students accepted to the Mile-High MFA may begin their studies in either January or July. (January residencies will be scheduled for the first full week of the month; July residencies will take place during the third full week of that month).
The following is a sample schedule for the students beginning in January:
||Writing Semester I
||Writing Semester II
||Writing Semester III
||Writing Semester IV (Thesis)
||Residency V (Thesis Defense and Graduation)
BEFORE THE FIRST RESIDENCY After enrolling in the program and registering for Residency I (MFA 601), but before arriving for their first residency, Mile-High MFA students will read Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life along with two books on the theory of their particular genre:
Nicole Walker and Margot Singer, eds., Bending Genre
David Lazar, Truth in Nonfiction: Essays
FICTION (including YA)
Stephen King, On Writing
Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House
Richard Hugo, Triggering Town
Jane Hirschfield, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry
WRITING FOR PERFORMANCE
Sam Smiley, Playwriting: The Structure of Action
Lajos Egri, The Art of Dramatic Writing
Will Eisner, Graphic Novel Storytelling and Visual Narrative
Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
FIRST-RESIDENCY ORIENTATION New students of the Mile-High MFA program will arrive to their first residency one day early for Orientation, which begins with a Welcome Breakfast at our neighborhood bakery (The Noshery) and is followed by a tour of campus, a review of the program policies & residency expectations, and a two-hour introductory course on the craft of their chosen genre. The day culminates with a Social Hour in which new students are joined by returning students and arriving faculty, followed by a relaxing dinner, and a reading by a keynote speaker. On this day, and throughout their first residency, new students will receive regular advisement and support from the program co-directors and the program coordinator.