Learning Outcomes

Students in the MFA Program will graduate with improved competency in their writing, particularly in their chosen genre (fiction, nonfiction, or poetry).  In addition, they will receive a sophisticated introduction to information technology as well as the professional aspects of the writing life.

Students will be able to:

  • engage at a professional level in the writing of their chosen genre (fiction, nonfiction, or poetry).
  • articulate the correspondences between their own writing and the corpus of literature and thought which primarily informs their aesthetics.
  • use information technology with a high level of sophistication, either for the purpose of academic research or for the purpose of primary research that may inform a given piece of writing.
  • work effectively as professional writers: publish work in literary journals and magazines; solicit and procure literary agents; solicit and procure publishers for manuscripts or book projects; give public readings; apply for and receive funding for literary projects; exhibit a preparedness for finding employment in various professional fields, such as education, journalism, public relations, publishing, and technical writing.

 

MFA Thesis Tutorial #1

Date & Time 
Wed, 11/14/2012 - 14:15 to 15:15

MFA Thesis Meeting 1 of 2

Attendace is required from all second year students.

MFA Graduate Student Reading Series

Date & Time 
Wed, 04/24/2013 - 19:00 to 20:30

Readings from Amber Parker, Bethany Ruthnick, Courtney Jameson, Brândon Williams, and Keegan Brookes

Graduate Student Reading Series

Date & Time 
Wed, 11/07/2012 - 19:00 to 20:30

Listen to work from our second year MFA Candidates

Kathryn Gutting, Mia Fassero, Katherine Hengel, Gabriel Johnson, Yuska Lutfi

Graduate Student Reading Series

Date & Time 
Wed, 10/17/2012 - 19:30 to 20:00

Listen to work from our second year MFA Candidates

Jeff Chon, Daniel Horan, Elaina Martinez, Alexandra Herrington, Sara Vander Zwaag

Graduate Student Reading Series

Date & Time 
Wed, 10/17/2012 - 19:00 to 20:00

Listen to work from our second year MFA Candidates

Jeff Chon, Daniel Horan, Elaina MArtinez, Alexandra Herrington, Sara Vander Zwaag

Internships

Internships

Students have the opportunity to pursue internships either for elective credit, a stipend ($2000 in the second year) or as an extracurricular activity. Internships are available in teaching composition, publishing, arts administration, teaching creative writing, or service learning. Though students are welcome to participate in more than one internship, the stipend and course credit are given for only one internship. Off-campus internships at publishing houses, with literary agents, or community engagement internships are also encouraged.

Teaching Internships

The Teaching Internship allows students to observe the conduct of a college course and to share the pedagogical activity of the supervising instructor. The student serves as co-teacher with a mentor teacher from the English Department and assists with an undergraduate course in composition, creative writing or literature. The student attends each course session and shares responsibility for instructing the class and responding to students' written work. Teaching internships are only available to second-year students.

 Learning Outcomes:

  • Interns will observe the conduct of a college course by attending each class session;
  • Interns will learn the rudiments of course planning, the writing of paper topics and examinations, grading, and classroom instruction.

Publishing Internships

MARY Mary Journal

Students can learn about small press internet publishing through internships with MARY, the Program's in-house web publication. Student interns assist with various elements of administration, editing, layout, publicity, and advertising.

Learning Outcomes:

  • develop a selection process for each genre;
  • attend meetings and act as the representative for his or her genre, selecting from submissions or soliciting work to contribute to the final issue(s).
Wave BooksWave Books (http://www.wavepoetry.com/)

Students will work with Wave Books Senior Editor and St. Mary's MFA Core Faculty Matthew Zapruder on specific editorial projects related to books, as well as other editorial and curatorial activities. Depending on what the editors are working on during the time of the internship, interns may assist in various ways with current, special or future publishing projects. Interns will also work on a public event scheduled at St. Mary's that will feature Wave authors. Finally, interns will have the opportunity to conduct interviews and write reviews with Wave authors, for possible publication. Wave Books publishes 8-10 books per year, mostly poetry but also books of translation or prose by poets, specializing in the work of mid-career authors. Internships begin Spring 2014.

Commitment:  One semester

Learning Outcomes:

  • learn about the editorial process, including manuscript discovery, evaluation, editing, and production
  • gain an understanding of the range of contemporary poetry being published now in electronic and print journals, and further understand the trends, influences and traditions that make up contemporary poetry publishing
  • refine and expand methods of discussing and evaluating poetry manuscripts and individual poems, especially in terms of readership and reception
  • observe first hand the particularities and specific challenges of editing a poetry manuscript for publication
  • become familiar with the work of Wave Books poets (backlist and current publications), including opportunities to meet poets and discuss their poetry and publications
  • assist with Wave Books' activities (book table, readings, other functions) at the annual Associated Writing Program Conference
  • assist with the planning and implementation of public events, including a college-wide discussion and reading at St. Mary's
  • have the opportunity to conduct interviews and write reviews for publication in nationally-recognized magazines

Caught in the CarouselCaught in the Carousel
Students edit and produce content, manage social media, and outreach with PR firms and record companies at Caught in the Carousel (CITC), an online monthly music magazine that boasts a global staff of over 40 writers who are located from California to Cyprus.  Over the years they've had everyone from novelist Rick Moody to the musician Devendra Banhat contribute to the site and every year their essays are nominated for the Best American Music Writing series.  Their contributors have drawn heavily from the MFA Creative Writing Program (from the class of 1997 to the current one) and they're very proud of their close ties with SMC.  
 

Community Engagement and Service Learning

Lafayette Senior Services

Interns will facilitate a creative writing workshop at Lafayette Senior Services. The class focuses on documenting a life story through writing prompts and exercises and discussion of manuscripts.  Seniors are invited to attend Saint Mary’s Afternoon Craft Conversations, normally open only to MFA Candidates. An interest in working with the senior population and memoir is strongly suggested.  The internship will culminate with a anthology of work and a reading from the seniors at Lafayette Senior Center.

Check out the Memoir Workshop Blog!

Lafayette Seniors Citizens
Lafayette Seniors Citizens
Lafayette Seniors Citizens
River of Words

River of Words is a linked network of people throughout the United States and the world who are committed to teaching the art and poetry of place to young people.  Founded by activist Pamela Michael and then-US Poet Laureate, River of Words promotes environmental literacy through the arts and cultural exchange. ROW reaches thousands of educators and young people around the world through its annual art and poetry contest.  Interns work to coordinate the annual youth art and poetry contests, as well as the ceremonies that invite young people to understand their watershed. Interns will also work to publish the River of Words annual anthology.   

Learning Outcomes:

  • sort, enter data, discuss, evaluate, and acknowledge entries to the annual contest;
  • generate and mail awards and recognition certificates to contest participants;
  • design and prepare the contest anthology for publication;
  • plan for and assist with ROW award ceremonies in Washington D.C. and on SMC campus.
Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of AmericaCrohn's & Colitis Foundation of America

Interns are given the opportunity to recruit and interview patients, family members, and volunteers in order to give voice to their personal journeys with chronic illness. They then are able to shape interviews and craft stories for web/print publication in order to build awareness, education and strengthen the community of patients, physicians, families, volunteers and donors. Interns encourage the sharing of these personal narratives to bring dignity to the lives of those affected by IBD.

Making the Most of Your MFA

1.

Attend all of the Creative Writing readings (with an open mind). To listen to the novelist Elizabeth Stark read from a work-in-progress about Kafka’s sister, who, in this telling is the one responsible for writing all of Kafka’s work, or to hear the essayist Steven Church read one of his research-based, linguistically playful pieces—this is to plant a seed in your mind to be more bold.  Sometimes what you learn from attending the reading is some stray comment that comes out in the question-and-answer session afterward.  When I heard the poet Joyelle McSweeney read at Saint Mary’s, for example, she said something in passing about “recycling imagery” in her poems. And even though I had thought a lot about repetition and taught a lot about repetition and read a lot about repetition, it wasn’t until I hear that verb “recycle” that something clicked. It’s a phrase that has stayed with me every day since McSweeney’s reading, informing my own work.

 

2.

Attend all craft talks (with a notebook and pen). I still remember the thrill of hearing Glen David Gold talk about endings in his lecture, “Blowing It On the Dismount,” which was not only about endings in novels but about failure as a constant companion in the writing life.  And I remember after hearing Kathryn Ma talk about dialogue—a talk in which she showed us a sample of dialogue from one short story or another (I’ve forgotten now what it was) and pointed out how often the writer interrupted dialogue for description, exposition, and the rest—seeing how much longer my own MFA students’ scenes were, how punctuated they became my dialogue and how much they could see the opportunity to digress after Ma’s spectacular talk.

 

3.

Attend your peers’ readings (because you’ll want them to come to yours and manners and good citizenship do matter). It’s not only pleasurable to hear what your classmates are up to in their writing, it’s informative.  Because again, they will be trying things in their work that you may recognize and want to try in your own.  And is there anything better than hearing good work before someone snatches it up to publish it?

 

4.

Meet all deadlines. (It’s how a thesis happens and how books are eventually made.) The best example I always think of in this arena is Jo Ann Beard’s exquisite collection of autobiographical essays, Boys of My Youth.  Beard wrote many of those while she was an MFA student at the University of Iowa.  And she met every single deadline in her classes.

 

5.

Use the summer between your first and second year to take stock and make thesis plans. There are a lot of pressures on you, I know, to work and to spend time with your friends and family members and summer seems like the best time—the only time—to play catch-up.  But consider the summer between your first and second year as part of your MFA education, a time to take a hard look at what you did during your first year and where you want to direct your energies in your thesis. Some people take the poems, the essays, the stories, or the drafts that they write their first year and begin the long revision process. Other people set aside that early work and focus on something new. We had a student at Saint Mary’s a few years ago, Rebecca Brams, who was writing beautiful short stories as a fiction student her first year. But rather than gather those up, she set her mind to the novel idea she’d had coming in and spent that summer churning out a rough draft, which she continued working on and which became her thesis. And that work is how she secured a Fulbright to Peru not too long after she completed her MFA.

 

6.

Consider what habits of work you are developing while here and write every day—four hours a day, if possible. Four hours was the suggestion of Frank Conroy, who for so many years directed the Writers’ Workshop in fiction at the University of Iowa.  His idea, as I understood it, was to treat writing like your job: something you sit down and do every day at the same time every day. I loved putting in my four hours a day as an MFA student but I confess I never did them at the same time every day and that seemed to work better for me. Figure out what works for you—not only how to navigate time to write but also atmosphere. Do you write better when you’re home alone in a dark room? Or in a coffee shop with caffeine and some background noise to keep you going? Everyone is different, but you want to learn more about yourself as a writer while you’re here so you can develop habits that will last a lifetime.

 

7.

Be generous. Cheer your classmates’ successes and commiserate with them when they fail.  Keep in mind that your notions of “success” and “failure” are likely to change drastically while you’re here. (We hope the idea of “success” will broaden considerably and that “failure” will come be part of living the literary life, not something to fear.) Throughout all ups and downs, generosity is simply a better way to live.

When asked by One Story magazine if she had any advice for new writers starting their literary careers, Ann Patchett, a novelist and memoirist said this:

 “Show kindness whenever possible.  Show it to the people in front of you, the people coming up behind you, and the people with whom you are running neck and neck.  It will vastly improve the quality of your own life, the lives of others, and the state of the world.  And while you’re at it, buy your books at independent bookstores and tell your friends to do the same because if we don’t take the lead, no one else will.”

Graduate Student Reading Series

Date & Time 
Wed, 09/26/2012 - 19:00 to 20:00

Listen to work from our second year MFA Candidates

Joel Bahr, Warren Buchanan, Charlene Caruso, Clare Fitzpatrick, and Mary Paynter Sherwin

Composition Information Session for MFA Students

Date & Time 
Wed, 11/07/2012 - 14:15 to 15:15

Professor and Composition Director Lisa Manter, Director for the Center for Writing Across the Curriculum, Tereza Joy Kramer, and Composition Professors Alex Green and Tony Watkins will talk with MFA Students about the teaching of composition at the college level. The panel will be moderated by Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing, Brenda Hillman.

Pages

Maps & Directories

Mailing Address

Saint Mary's College of California
1928 Saint Mary's Road
Moraga, CA 94575
(925) 631-4000
Google Map | Campus Map | PO Boxes