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
The Mile-High MFA requires the successful completion of four 16-week writing semesters and five nine-day residencies. Students will begin with an Orientation at their first residency and end with a Commencement ceremony in their final residency. Following each residency (except the last) 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 240-400 pages of prose (fiction, nonfiction, graphic novel, writing for performance) or 160-240 pages of poetry/flash fiction, along with at least 40 book annotations, at least four critical responses, an annotated bibliography, a book-length thesis, a critical introduction to their thesis, a Critical Essay in their major genre, and a Writing in the World Action Plan.
Students typically choose one genre to study, in which case they participate in five residency workshops and study for four semesters in the same genre. Such students also have the option of taking one residency workshop and one semester in a different genre (i.e. three semesters in their main genre plus one semester in any other genre). Students may also choose to apply (by the end of their second residency at the latest) for a Dual-Genre Study, which entails an additional semester (for a total of five) and an additional residency (for a total of six). A dual-genre student will take three residency workshops and three semesters in their main genre (i.e. the genre in which they will write their MFA thesis) and two residency workshops and two semesters in their secondary genre.
Choose among the following:
- POETRY (traditional or experimental)
- FICTION (literary, young-adult, speculative; fiction students may also choose to specialize in editing)
- NONFICTION (creative/narrative/literary—i.e. personal essays or memoir; nonfiction students may also choose to specialize in research-based narratives, e.g. writing about the lives of other people)
- WRITING FOR PERFORMANCE (plays, one-person shows, experimental drama, community-based)
- GRAPHIC NOVEL (fiction, or nonfiction)
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 workshops once a week and having one of their pieces workshopped every four weeks, low-residency students are working intensely on their writing for 20-25 hours per week and receiving one-on-one feedback from their faculty mentor every four weeks on a greater volume of their work.
Here’s how it works: students will come to the Regis University campus in 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), where they will attend workshops, craft lessons, writers’ chats, and readings, and meet with their faculty mentors to form a study plan for the succeeding semester. They will then return home to work one-on-one (corresponding electronically) with that faculty mentor for 16 weeks.
Students will be assigned mentors for their first semester. Following the first semester, students will have the option of requesting mentors in their genre, choosing from the list below. Student/mentor assignments will be made according to student preferences and mentor availability.
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 will attend seminars on the real-life applications of writing and (by their final residency at the latest) submit a Writing in the World Action Plan in which they describe 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, organizing a reading series, or running an after-school “Teen Writers” workshop.)
At any point before Semester IV, MFA students must submit an essay (15-20 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.
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.
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, providing 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 (together with their mentor) develop a study plan, including a list of eight books that will constitute their Semester Reading List, along with at least two other books students decide to read on their own. In addition, students will write Critical Responses to any two books on their Reading List, except during Semester III, when they are composing their Critical Essay, and Semester IV, when they are completing their MFA Thesis.
A month prior to every residency, students will submit a sample of their work (3500-7500 words of double-spaced prose (fiction, narrative nonfiction, YA fiction, or writing for performance), and 10-15 pages of poetry or flash fiction, that will be distributed to the other students in their workshop. Thus it is required of all students that they communicate with their workshop instructors and program coordinator before each residency via their Regis email account.
Out-of-town students will work with the program coordinator to arrange for housing in a hotel or on-campus residence hall.
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 20-25 hours a week to this endeavor, submitting four packets of original writing (one packet per month), ten annotations (2-3 per packet) on both canonical and contemporary books in their genre, and critical responses to any two books (per semester) on their reading list (except during their penultimate semester, when they compose their Critical Essay, and their final semester, when they complete their MFA Thesis). Any additional (optional) books the student reads during the semester should also 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. At their Study Plan meeting during the residency, each faculty mentor will specify his or her preferred method of receiving submissions and providing feedback. Faculty are responsible for using the provided syllabus templates to ensure that students complete their required work for their course section (for example, drafts of the Critical Essay and their Writing in the World plan).
SAMPLE PROGRAM SCHEDULE
Students accepted to the Mile-High MFA may begin their studies in either January or July. (Typically, January residencies will be scheduled for the first full week of the month; July residencies will take place during the third or final 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
The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work edited by Marie Arana, and two books on the theory of their particular genre (see below):
- CREATIVE NONFICTION
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
- GRAPHIC NOVEL
Will Eisner, Graphic Novel Storytelling and Visual Narrative
Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
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 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. On this day, and for the duration of the program, students will receive regular advisement from the program administrators.