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CONTACT:
School of Adult and Graduate Education
Blaney Hall 105
sage@cedarcrest.edu
610-740-3770

Curriculum

Learn what makes our curriculum unique, including our focus on culture and our cross-genre approach.

Cedar Crest College offers a Low-Residency, Pan-European MFA in Creative Writing in four genres: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or travel writing. Students may also choose to explore a dual-genre MFA by focusing on one genre during year one of the program and a different genre during year two, then completing a creative thesis and a critical essay that encompasses both genres.

Our MFA curriculum is craft-based, with genre-specific writing workshops and craft seminars comprising the residencies. A unique feature of our program, however, is its focus on creative writing as it relates to a sense of place. Thus, the residencies also include locale seminars, as well as scheduled field trips, lectures, and assignments specifically designed to inform and inspire writing through a study of the society, history, arts—in short, the culture—of each locale.

While students hone their skills in a particular genre, our program also provides cross-genre seminars as part of the curriculum. This enables students to derive effective writing strategies from a variety of genres and to investigate genres of writing that they may not otherwise have explored. Students may even find that the cross-genre approach invites more poetic language into their prose or enables them to create poetry that includes conventions employed by nonfiction writers. 

Pan-European Residencies

Our MFA program includes required attendance at three 15-day summertime residencies. All residencies will take place in Europe, rotating among three locales: Barcelona, Dublin, and Vienna.

Because our residencies take place in the summer, our program is accessible for professionally employed writers, educators, and graduate students with busy schedules. (Other low-residency MFA programs often require attendance multiple times a year, during fall, winter, or spring.)

Each of the Cedar Crest MFA residencies includes craft seminars and locale seminars (see details below). Between residencies, students work through distance learning with an instructor in a one-on-one writing mentorship. 

Residency Workshops

Workshops take place during the summer residencies and involve an instructor and a group of writers focusing on a particular genre. Workshop students will share their work four times during the course of the residency and will regularly critique their colleagues’ work. Individual conferences between each student and an instructor will also occur during the residency, which builds the foundation for the mentorships that will occur during distance learning.

Workshops improve student writing because they allow students to hear whether their intent equals the effect on the readers. It also allows students to hear what revision ideas, strategies, and opportunities readers might have, and it improves the crafting of their own work by requiring them to respond in an editorial fashion to the work of others.

Finally, workshops have proven successful by providing writers with a sense of real community, of colleagues they might turn to—not only during their graduate student years, but also beyond them—for help with revising their work.
Requirements for the workshop include assignments such as:

  • The submission of four pieces of creative work, each either 8 to 25 double-spaced pages (for prose writers) or 5 to 10 single-spaced pages (for poets)
  • The submission of critiques and annotated manuscripts of all colleagues’ work discussed in workshop
  • Attendance and participation at all workshop discussions
  • Attendance at individual conferences with the instructor
  • By September 1st, submission of a reflective essay expressing what was learned through the workshop, craft and locale curriculum during the residency 

Cross-Genre Craft Seminars

Cross-genre craft seminars are offered to the entire graduate student body at each annual residency. These cross-genre craft seminars provide the opportunity to unite the program around a common curriculum and allow the students to learn from discussions that focus on other genres as well as their own.

Cross-genre craft seminars stem from the belief that reading beyond one’s genre informs the practice of one’s own genre. Reading broadly also provides inspiration to attempt other genres or include aspects of other genres in the practice of one’s own genre. It furthermore develops advanced teaching skills, specifically relevant given that most introductory creative writing courses at the post-secondary level are indeed multi-genre.

Requirements for the cross-genre craft seminars include assignments such as:

  • Read in advance all assigned reading (selected by the instructor)
  • Write journal entries about the reading and the seminar discussions
  • Attend and participate in each seminar meeting 

Locale Seminars

Locale seminars include two modes of instruction: the seminars themselves and their connected field experiences.

Locale seminars are offered during each residency. They provide the opportunity for the program to ground itself in its setting and inspire students to inhabit the connections between the locale and their own development as writers.
Requirements for the locale seminars include assignments such as:

  • Read in advance all assigned reading (selected by the instructor)
  • Write journal entries about the readings and seminar discussions
  • Attend and participate in each seminar meeting 

By going out of the classroom and into the city, field experiences supplement the curriculum of the locale seminars. Requirements for the field experiences include assignments such as:

  • Attend every field experience
  • Write a journal entry about each experience
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Writing Mentorships (Distance Learning between Residencies)

The writing mentorships occur over the fall and spring semesters through distance learning, commencing in September and concluding in May prior to the next year’s residency. The mentorship approach extends each student’s literary development in a highly personal manner by regularly exchanging creative work and critical responses with a professional and practicing writer each month. The mentorship also requires the student to work with the instructor to create a challenging list of literary works to read and analyze.

In our MFA program, instructors work one-on-one with their students, and each monthly correspondence is a conference and exchange of ideas geared to the students’ individual literary development. Instructors respond on two levels: First, the instructor will offer margin comments and line-edit suggestions throughout the manuscript; second, the instructor will offer an end comment more broadly critiquing the submitted work and offering strategies for revision and, if merited, suggestions for publication venue.

Requirements for the tutorial include assignments such as:

  • Submission of four separate creative works each semester, one on the first of each month with the exception of January. Each submission will be either 8 to 25 double-spaced pages of prose or 5 to 10 single-spaced pages of poetry, depending on the student’s genre.
  • On each following month of distance learning, the submission of a brief response essay pertaining to one new book from the individualized reading list developed with the instructor
  • Note: Instructors will respond monthly to the creative work and the response essay previously submitted by the student.