Research & artistry, alumni & giving, a college of liberal arts department.

mfa programs colorado


Poetry, fiction & nonfiction.

3 Years | 3 Genres | Infinite Possibilities

Full funding opportunities available

abstract globe

The  Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing  is for students with advanced abilities in the writing of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Our three-year program offers a balance of intimate and intensive writing workshops with courses in literature, form and technique, and related electives both in and out of the English Department. Writers work closely with a distinguished faculty of publishing writers that includes winners of prestigious national awards and fellowships. Coursework culminates in a thesis—a collection of poetry, short stories, or essays; or a novel or memoir—and the completion of a comprehensive portfolio. A dual-genre thesis option is available to students with exceptional promise in a second genre of writing.

Applicants should familiarize themselves with the program and the department, including course offerings and degree requirements. A complete application includes a two-page statement of purpose; a writing sample (12-20 pages of poems; two short stories or a chapter or two of a novel; two short essays or a chapter or two of a memoir); three letters of reference; and transcripts. Those applying for a Graduate Teaching Assistantship must also complete a separate GTA application.

The application deadline is January 1.

The MFA Program at CSU is a WICHE Western Regional Graduate Program . Residents of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming are eligible for in-state tuition.

For information about the application process  click here .

To apply now,  click here .

Learn More About Our Program

The Creative Writing Program at CSU recognizes and affirms the value of, and the need for, stories from people of all backgrounds. We believe that a healthy literary culture must seek out and support work from communities whose voices have historically been marginalized. Our pedagogy, including close mentoring in a supportive community and an embrace of wide-ranging approaches, strives to hear these stories, to respect them, and to bring them into the world.

MFA Program Information

Program requirements image


  • Completion of forty-eight (48) semester credits
  • E640—Graduate Writing Workshop: Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, or Poetry (12 credits)
  • E513—Form & Technique in Modern Literature: Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, or Poetry (3 credits)
  • One pre-20th Century literature course at the 500-level or above (3 credits)
  • One course (300-level or above) outside the English Department (waived if your undergraduate degree is not in English or Creative Writing—3 credits)
  • E699—Thesis (12 credits)
  • Completion of portfolio
  • Additional requirements for dual-genre thesis option
  • For more details, consult the Guide to CSU’s MFA Program .

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Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTA) are available on a competitive basis. A required orientation and pedagogy seminar provide GTAs with extensive training in teaching college composition. The GTA application is separate from the application to the program, and includes a written statement that should speak to your qualifications and enthusiasm for college teaching. Emphasize any formal or informal teaching experience, such as tutoring, writing-center counseling, or even coaching. In addition, remind your references to speak to your potential for college teaching in their letters.

All applicants who are not awarded a GTA will be automatically considered for a number of other available fellowships. Other options for financial support are detailed in the Guide to CSU’s MFA Program , below.

Most MFA students, regardless of whether they hold a GTA, are given the opportunity to teach a (paid) section of Beginning Creative Writing during their third year in the program.

Internship opportunities image


We offer a variety of for-credit internships (some paid) in such areas as college teaching, public education, arts administration in literature, and literary editing – including the Center for Literary Publishing and the Colorado Review . A paid internship as editor of Greyrock Review , a literary magazine staffed by CSU undergraduates, is also available to a first-year student selected by the faculty.

Click here  for Colorado Review internship information.

Funding Opportunity – Graduate Support Assistantship/Managing Editor

This opportunity is available only to newly admitted CSU Creative Writing - MFA students who are beginning their studies in Fall 2024.

The  Graduate Support Assistantship/Managing Editor  is a half-time position that carries a tuition waiver and monthly stipend.

This awarded position is held for 3 academic years (fall & spring semesters).

Learn more about the job duties here .

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“My MFA has helped me realize the value of my voice and the importance of giving myself permission to create art.”

– colin raunig, 2018, “my teachers taught me invaluable lessons in craft that i carry with me in my writing to this day.”, – andrew mangan, 2016, “my mfa degree taught me different ways of thinking, of approaching, of making… a large part of the reason why i loved the mfa program at csu was because of the people i got to work with.”, – melissa hohl, 2016, “not only did i learn an incredible amount about writing and poetry from my classes, professors, and the reading i did because of these, but i learned about the necessity of community building and literary citizenship that comes with being a poet.”, – cl young, 2018, “the m.f.a. degree was essential to my artistic and professional life… my craft deepened and focused during my time at csu, and the professors and the work helped me refine my voice and develop an artistic aesthetic.”, – claire boyles, 2018, “my mfa connected me to a group of writers who continue to nurture me and my work, who push me and my work in ways that make us both smarter and better.”, – aliceanna stopher, 2019, “great training for my life as a teacher, writer, and person. three years to concentrate on study was a gift that allowed me to grow and challenge myself to see if i could be a writer.”, – devin murphy, 2009, “i teach writing now and think often of my csu professors… i learned plenty about craft at csu, but more importantly i learned about practice and process.”, – cornelius fitzpatrick, 2015, creative writing mfa faculty.

mfa programs colorado

Andrew Altschul

  • Associate Professor

mfa programs colorado

Ramona Ausubel

  • Assistant Professor

mfa programs colorado

Dan Beachy-Quick

  • Assistant Chair & Undergraduate Coordinator
  • University Distinguished Teaching Scholar

mfa programs colorado

Harrison Candelaria Fletcher

mfa programs colorado

Matthew Cooperman

  • Professor of English

mfa programs colorado

Camille Dungy

  • University Distinguished Professor
  • Director, Creative Writing Program

mfa programs colorado

Stephanie G'Schwind

  • Director, Center for Literary Publishing

mfa programs colorado

Nina McConigley

mfa programs colorado

Todd Mitchell

  • Associate Professor, Director of Creative Writing Teaching Program

mfa programs colorado

Sasha Steensen

  • Full Professor of English

mfa programs colorado

Vauhini Vara

  • Visiting Assistant Professor of English

mfa programs colorado

Debby Thompson

Creative writing reading series.

Each semester at Colorado State University, the Department of English welcomes major literary voices to the Lory Student Center to share their work live and to engage with the local community. Visiting writers hold audience question and answer sessions, book signings, class visits and other outreach activities.

The series features Pulitzer Prize winners, U.S. poets laureate, National Book Critics Circle Award winners, Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award winners, NAACP Image Award nominees, Oprah’s Book Club selections, National Book Award finalists and recognized voices in young adult literature among others.

Recent visitors include: Dorothy Allison, Julie Carr, Ross Gay, Eduardo C. Corral, Jennifer Egan, Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman, Pam Houston, Yusef Komunyakaa, Dinty W. Moore, Gregory Pardlo, Khadijah Queen, Susan Steinberg, Cheryl Strayed, Ira Sukrungruang, Mary Szybist, and Brian Turner.

Click in the events calendar for author information and details about upcoming readings.

  • MFA Thesis Reading: Emerson, Marquez-Uppman, Helzer Dec 07 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

Recent Books

Below is a selection of recent books by Creative Writing MFA Faculty in the Department of English at Colorado State University. Click on the book cover for more information about each selection.

Wonder About The by Matthew Cooperman

What do CSU Writers Do?

Our graduates have appeared in a vast array of prestigious publications including The Atlantic, McSweeny's, Cincinnati Review and many others. They have found success in equally many exciting fields including communications consultant, college dean, professor, research administrator, journal editor, and many others. And their accolades include awards like the Pulitzer Prize, Colorado Book Award in Poetry, Chicago Writers Association book of the year, and more!

"If there's a book that you want to read but it hasn't been written yet then you must write it"

- toni morrison, organization of graduate student writers.

The OGSW consists of representatives from the Creative Writing MFA and is dedicated to providing students with opportunities to practice, enjoy, and participate in the creative writing community. We do this by organizing readings, workshops, visiting speakers, and other free events and services for the MFA/CSU community.

Creative Writing MFA Blog

The Creative Writing MFA blog is written by graduate students at various stages of degree completion and features posts by writers of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction about their lives as writers and members of the CSU community. Scroll through the carousel of entries below or click the button for a full listing of blog submissions.

Beginning to Remember

By Jake Friedman It’s been over ten years since I was in the academy. Though I’m beginning to remember now. The last couple of days I’ve been sick. I’d forgotten how hard the end of semester is—the Sisyphean incline of […]

On Not Writing About My Father by Dorothy Angle

I promised myself I was done writing about my father. What feels like a lifetime ago, I took my first Creative Writing class to satisfy an elective for a Masters in education. Nearly all my stories were about a young […]

On Ambition, Vision, and Voice by Henry Dykstal

One of the things that most separates my MFA experience from the workshops I’ve taken before, from undergraduate to conferences to private classes at literary centers or what have you, is voice. At all of the places but the MFA, […]

Writing as Letting Go

I knew getting an MFA would entail, well, writing a lot — and that this would hopefully make me a better fiction writer. (I mean, duh.) Maybe it’s because I don’t come from an English background, but what I didn’t […]


Somehow, it is spring. The branches wear shriveled green promises. The undergrads have, for the most part, abandoned pants. The birdcalls along the Spring Creek trail have swelled to cacophony. Somehow, in a few short weeks, the first year of […]

On Friendship

To 2021 recently graduated me (one year ago): You get a phone call from Harrison letting you know that you got into this program. It is wild, I know: you get the opportunity to focus on your writing, your craft, […]

The Ice Persists

It’s been winter for a long time now. It’s been winter in the insistent way of Colorado, snow weighing over the earth like the X-ray apron at the dentist. I crunch to the bus stop over thick, complicated patterns of […]

An Exceptional Day in the Life

You’re living with a poet who is also in the MFA program. She taught you how to make ice cream out of peanut butter, frozen bananas, cocoa powder, and honey when you’re craving something sweet late at night. You’re making […]

And to the West, Mountains

In Fort Collins, the mountains usually mean west. As I walk to campus, I walk north, west, then north again. True north is usually Eddy Hall – home of the English department. I suppose I will not yet stop having […]

When You Know, You Know

“The biggest mistake you can make is going before you’re ready.” I remember feeling absolutely crushed when someone who I looked up to, someone who I admired, said those words to me. We were on the phone, I was asking […]

Western Colorado University

Academic Catalog 2023-2024

Creative writing, master of fine arts.

The Graduate Program in Creative Writing offers an MFA in Genre Fiction, Nature Writing, Poetry, or Screenwriting. Western's curricula differs from other low-residency programs by emphasizing intense training in craft, building of a writing community, close study of historically underrepresented writers, and exposure to the business of being a writer.

All programs require a high degree of commitment and excellence from candidates, who must maintain at least a 3.00 course average to complete the program. A minimum grade of B- in each course is required.

In all three summer semesters, MFA candidates complete a 3-credit intensive course in their concentrations. In their first summer, they take a first-year intensive course and also complete two credits of CRWR 600, The Common Read & Writing Craft. In their second summer, they take a second-year intensive course and also earn two credits for starting their thesis project. In their third summer, they take a final intensive course, plus a 1-credit elective which allows them to explore other concentrations.

During the Fall and Spring semesters of their first year, full-time students take two 6-credit courses for a total of 12 credits per semester. Students may anticipate spending between 25 and 30 hours per week on assigned coursework. The coursework typically consists of readings and viewings, asynchronous discussions, and writing assignments for which instructors offer online feedback. Students also participate regularly in live virtual classes and one-on-one meetings with faculty.

In the Fall semester of their second year, full-time students take one 6-credit course, plus three credits of mentor-guided thesis work, for a total of 9-credits, so that they can focus on the thesis project. In the Spring semester, students return to taking two 6-credit courses in their concentration, plus one final credit of mentor-guided thesis work.

Program Information

Western's low-residency MFA in Creative Writing offers a rigorous, terminal degree in the field, involving intensive creative work, development of critical and pedagogical skills, and study of the business of being a writer. Students select one of four concentrations, Genre Fiction, Nature Writing, Poetry, or Screenwriting, and are required to take a 1-credit elective during their final summer semester.

Full-time students require 25 months to finish the program, which comprises four academic semesters and three summer semesters. During the Fall and Spring semesters, students engage in courses using both live virtual classrooms and online learning tools. In each of the three summer semesters, students take courses online and attend an on-campus residency at the end of the summer term.

Total Credits for the MFA in Creative Writing

Requirements for full admission to the mfa in creative writing.

Candidate must submit:

  • An official transcript of the bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university showing recommended 3.0 cumulative GPA or higher.
  • An 800- to 1,000-word personal statement describing the applicant's experience and commitment to writing. This statement should include a self-assessment of qualifications for admission to Western's Graduate Program in Creative Writing for the chosen degree and concentration.
  • The Genre Fiction concentration sample should include 20 to 25 pages, ideally from a single work.
  • The Screenwriting concentration sample should include a screenplay of 15-30 pages.  
  • The Nature Writing concentration sample should include 20 to 25 pages, in any genre or a mix of genres. 
  • The Poetry concentration sample should include 10 to 15 pages of poetry.
  • The Publishing concentration sample should consist of a 3- to 5-page critical assessment of a story’s suitability for publication (story to be provided to applicant during application process).
  • Two letters of professional recommendation from those capable of assessing the applicant's preparation to succeed in graduate-level work. All letters must be originals submitted on letterhead, must be signed by the person giving the recommendation, and must be less than a year old.
  • Payment of university application fee

Provisional Admission to the MFA in Creative Writing

An applicant who does not meet the requirements for full admission to the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing may be considered for provisional admission upon the recommendation of the program director and approval by the Dean of Graduate Studies. A provisionally admitted student will have a maximum of one calendar year to complete any pre-requisite academic coursework. The program director or Dean of Graduate Studies may set additional timeline requirements.

Concentration in Genre Fiction

The Concentration in Genre Fiction includes instruction in writing for such forms as science fiction/fantasy, the mystery, romance, and other forms of mainstream commercial fiction. Study includes short and long written forms, as well as strategies and techniques for the effective teaching of creative writing. 

The MFA Concentration in Genre Fiction requires the following 60 credits:

Genre Fiction as a Second Concentration

Students pursuing this second MFA concentration must earn 30 credits as follows:

Concentration in Nature Writing

The Concentration in Nature Writing brings students into the contemporary and complex conversation of environmental writing, introducing them to a wide range of authors, literary techniques, and styles relevant to the field. The concentration provides readings and training in all major literary sub-genres including memoir and personal essay, fiction, nature writing, science and advocacy writing, and hybrid and experimental work. Courses include significant reading in primary and secondary sources, workshop, and writing extensive short- and long-format work. As the culmination of their work, MFA students complete a creative thesis, which consists of part of a book-length manuscript, and engage in professional development for future publication and career opportunities.

The MFA Concentration in Nature Writing requires the following 60 credits:

Nature Writing as a Second Concentration

Students pursuing this concentration as a second area of emphasis must earn 30 credits as follows:

Concentration in Poetry 

The MFA Concentration in Poetry requires the following 60 credits:

Poetry as a Second Concentration 

Students pursuing this second MFA concentration must earn 30 credits as follows: 

Concentration in Screenwriting 

The Concentration in Screenwriting teaches screenwriting for both film and television. Each semester pairs an intensive analytical course with an intensive generative writing course. The concentration emphasizes story and scene structure, visual storytelling, character development, development of concept and theme, genre, dialogue-never forgetting that a screenplay is a document that will ultimately be translated to the screen. Through regular mentorship, students refine and consolidate their own best writing practices.

The MFA Concentration in Screenwriting requires the following 60 credits: 

Screenwriting as a Second Concentration

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Western Colorado University 2023-2024 Undergraduate Catalog

A PDF of the 2023-2024 Undergraduate Catalog

Western Colorado University 2023-2024 Graduate Catalog

A PDF of the 2023-2024 Graduate Catalog

Art and Art History


  • Future Students
  • Foundations Curriculum
  • Certificate of Art History (Majors)
  • Art History Minor (Non-Majors)
  • B.A. in Integrated Visual Studies
  • B.F.A. in Art Education
  • Electronic Art
  • Graphic Design


  • Photo Image Making
  • Printmaking

Student Resources

  • Digital Fab Lab
  • WOLD Resource Center
  • Nancy Richardson Design Center
  • Student Guilds & Orgs
  • ACE Community
  • Study Abroad

Galleries & Museums

  • Clara A. Hatton Gallery

News & Events

  • Upcoming Events
  • Scott Artist Series
  • Engaged Art Walk

A College of Liberal Arts Department


We are committed to the artistic growth of our students & provide a rigorous environment for exploration, experimentation, & critical inquiry.


The Metalsmithing and Jewelry MFA program at Colorado State University is a three-year, 60 credit course of self-guided study with a focus on creative studio practice and research. Our program encourages students to deepen their understanding of the field and their place within it, to expand their practice and develop a stronger individual artistic voice, and contribute to the growing and evolving visual and design culture that metalsmithing and jewelry encompasses. Students are expected to participate in the technical and conceptual development of their own work and cultivate a creative approach that is relevant to their own intentions and sensibilities. Our program encourages continuing dialog between the student and their professor in development of that work, as well as engagement with other graduate students. We encourage interdisciplinary studio work that can encompass photography, sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, painting, fibers, drawing, and electronic media.

Graduate students are presented with vast opportunity to participate in an R1 research institution through interdisciplinary collaborations.


Graduate students are presented with vast opportunity to participate in an R1 research institution through interdisciplinary collaborations. Students often enroll in courses outside of the department to enhance their studio work and deepen their research.

The Metalsmithing Guild  is a student-run guild that helps bring nationally or internationally recognized metalsmiths to campus for lectures, demonstrations or workshops, and one-on-one critiques with graduate students. The Colorado Metalsmithing Association (CoMA) is a statewide organization that hosts its yearly annual conference in Salida, Colorado. The conference offers excellent opportunities to meet nationally recognized and local artists working within the field.

Our program allows for a small number of admitted applicants every year, encouraging more focused studio time, feedback from advisors, and access to teaching opportunities and technical assistantships. Incoming graduate students must be technically proficient to successfully explore themes and approaches for the furtherance of their own artistic, intellectual, and philosophical investigations. They must be ready to grow beyond their comfort zone and to engage in the broader field of contemporary visual art.


Students will develop technical and conceptual skills

In addition to in-area studio work, the curriculum includes studio electives, art history coursework, graduate seminars, and non-art electives. A continuous exchange of ideas and critiques with a faculty Graduate Thesis Committee will assist in defining and setting the pace of your personal advancement. Individual artistic practice is both supported and challenged through an ongoing series of meetings and critiques.

The successful graduate student will develop an in-depth body of work for an MFA qualifying exhibition at the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art . Students prepare a written thesis to accompany their MFA thesis body of work. They will present both their work and written thesis to their graduate committee in their MFA Thesis Defense.

Our Facilities


The 2,000 square foot Metalsmithing & jewelry studio includes a large, well-ventilated main studio area outfitted with jeweler's benches, two large worktables, rolling flex-shafts, & a wide selection of specialized hand tools. There are are separate rooms for raising & forming, casting, enameling, buffing & grinding, welding, & blacksmithing processes. Graduate students have their own studio space, which is next to the main Metals studio.


Students have access to a wide range of forming & forging anvils, stakes & hammers, rolling mills, a draw bench, a 20-ton hydraulic press, multiple soldering & heating torch systems, drill presses, a B-2 Beverly shear & 12” guillotine-style shear, vacuum & centrifugal casting machines, enameling kilns, etching & patina processes, & buffing and finishing equipment. A MIG & TIG welder are available for use, as well as both a gas forge and coal-fired forge located in our 300 square foot blacksmithing shed.


The studio also includes a flexible workspace used for artwork installation, group critiques, student meetings, & an informal gathering. Students have access to the Visual Art Building’s Digital Fabrication Lab and Woodshop , & computer labs.

Our Faculty

mfa programs colorado

Haley Bates

  • Associate Professor of Metalsmithing
  • Graduate Advisor for Metalsmithing

Interested in our MFA program?

Prospective students are encouraged to contact the Graduate Advisor for the concentration of their interest for more information or to schedule a tour about our MFA Program.

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Western Colorado University

Colorado, united states.

Western Colorado University's Graduate Program in Creative Writing offers an MFA and an M.A. in four areas: Genre Fiction, Nature Writing, Poetry, and Screenwriting, as well as an M.A. in Publishing.

The program uses a low-residency format. At the end of each July, students attend a one-week residency on Western's campus in Gunnison, Colorado. MFA students attend three such residencies; M.A. students attend two. During the academic year, all students take classes online. As a result, candidates in the program can live and work anywhere during the academic year while pursuing the degree.

Western’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing is distinctive for three reasons:

First, our five Concentrations are innovative, responding directly to emerging markets in the literary world.

Second, our Faculty are national leaders in their fields. All are highly successful writers, and taken together they have published hundreds of books and authored and directed many films and shows.

Third, our curriculum is rigorous and demanding, committed to excellence at every level.

An advanced degree in creative writing at Western Colorado University provides you the opportunity to hone your craft, elevate your art and inspire the world. Join our welcoming and inclusive community and become the writer you are meant to be.

mfa programs colorado

Contact Information

1 Western Way 117 Quigley Hall Gunnison Colorado, United States 81231 Phone: (970) 943-2014 Email: [email protected] https://western.edu/program/graduate-program-creative-writing/

Bachelor of Arts in English with Creative Writing Minor +

Undergraduate program director, master of fine arts in genre fiction +, graduate program director, master of fine arts in nature writing +, master of fine arts in poetry +, master of fine arts in screenwriting +, master of arts in publishing +, master of arts in genre fiction +, master of arts in nature writing +, master of arts in poetry +, master of arts in screenwriting +, tyson hausdoerffer.

Tyson Hausdoerffer is Director of Western’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing. He is currently working on a verse translation of Homer's Iliad. He lives in Crested Butte, Colorado.


Candace Nadon

Candace Nadon has an MFA in Fiction from Stonecoast Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing and a PhD in English with Creative Concentration from Georgia State University. Her fiction, poetry, and lyric essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Hartskill Review in The Fourth River, Platte Valley Review, Dogwood: A Journal of Poetry and Prose, and Mary: A Journal of New Writing, among others. She edited the book Our Place Two, and contributed to the forthcoming textbook Primary Research and Writing. Candace is a fifth generation Coloradan and currently lives in Durango, CO, where she teaches at Fort Lewis College and is working on a novel.


Laura Pritchett

Laura Pritchett is the author of five novels. She began her writing journey with the short story collection Hell’s Bottom, Colorado, which won the PEN USA Award for Fiction and the Milkweed National Fiction Prize. This was followed by the novels Sky Bridge, Stars Go Blue, Red Lightning, and The Blue Hour, which garnered other awards. Stars Go Blue, her bestselling novel, has been optioned for film.

She’s also written two nonfiction books, Great Colorado Bear Stories and Making Friends with Death: A Field Guide to Your Impending Last Breath. Environmental issues are close to her heart, and she’s editor of three anthologies about conservation: Pulse of the River, Home Land, and Going Green: True Tales from Gleaners, Scavengers, and Dumpster Divers.

Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Sun, Salon, High Country News, The Millions, Publisher’s Weekly, The Normal School and many others. Her first play, Dirt: A Terra Nova Expedition, was produced last year.

She grew up on a ranch in northern Colorado with eight siblings and hundreds of weird animals, including a pet racoon and blind pigeon. She still resides in Colorado, has two teenage kids in college, and spends free time walking and cloudgazing.


Allyson Longueira

An award-winning writer, editor and designer, Allyson Longueira has worked in fiction and nonfiction in multiple media, including newspapers, magazines and books. She holds a BA in English from Rutgers University and an MA in journalism from the prestigious University of Missouri School of Journalism.

While a newspaper editor, she led her newspaper to three general excellence awards in three consecutive years from the Society of Professional Journalism and the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association. After she transitioned to fiction editing, Allyson launched Fiction River Presents, a new series of reprint anthologies published by WMG Publishing, for which she serves as series editor.

She has taught writing, publishing and design at the college and professional levels, including a post as adjunct professor at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication as well as teaching professional workshops and lectures through WMG Publishing alongside award-winning authors and editors Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith. In 2020, Allyson joined the faculty of Western Oregon University as part of the Graduate Program in Creative Writing, where she teaches alongside Publishing Concentration Director and New York Times bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson.

Allyson is the publisher and CEO of WMG Publishing, Inc., headquartered in Lincoln City, Oregon.


Ana Maria Spagna

Ana Maria Spagna, MFA is the author of several books including, most recently, the braided nonfiction narrative PUSHED: Miners, a Merchant and (Maybe) a Massacre, and the poetry chapbook, Mile Marker Six. Her previous books on nature, work, civil, indigenous, and LGBTQ rights, include Uplake: Restless Essays of Coming and Going, Reclaimers, stories of elder women reclaiming sacred land and water, a finalist for the Rachel Carson Book Award from the Society of Environmental Journalists, the memoir/history Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus: A Daughter’s Civil Rights Journey, winner of the River Teeth literary nonfiction prize, 100 Skills You’ll Need for the End of the World (as We Know It) a humor-infused exploration of how to live more lightly on the planet, and two previous essay collections, Potluck andNow Go Home. Her first novel for young people, The Luckiest Scar on Earth, about a 14 year-old snowboarder and her activist father, appeared in 2017. A four-time finalist for the Washington State Book Award, Ana Maria’s essays have appeared in Orion, Ecotone, Sierra, Grist, Brevity, and regularly in High Country News. After working fifteen years on backcountry trail crews, she turned to teaching. In addition to Western, has taught at Whitman College, St. Lawrence University, Antioch University, and as the William Kittredge Distinguished Writer in Residence in Environmental Studies at the University of Montana. She lives with her wife, Laurie, in Stehekin, Washington.


Andrew Sellon

Andrew has over twenty years of corporate sphere experience in training, facilitating, coaching, and public speaking. Andrew is uniquely qualified in the arena of presentation skills because he also brings to each engagement over three decades of experience as a professional actor. His stage performances have been hailed by the New York Times and other newspapers across the country, and he taught acting for two years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His recent film and TV appearances include “Begin Again”, “Mamarosh”, “the Smurfs”, “The Blacklist”, “The Mysteries of Laura”, “The Good Fight”, and HBO’s “Divorce”. He is also an accomplished voiceover artist and audiobook narrator.

When coaching others, Andrew’s forte is in helping clients to shed any “performance anxiety” and to channel their own personalities to develop the spoken communication skills needed to convey their message persuasively in all types of venues. His clients learn to deliver their unique material with ease and confidence, and to engage their audiences to ensure that their message continues to resonate after the presentation.

Andrew’s clients have included large corporations, academic institutions, and small not-for-profit organizations. He is an ambassador for literacy in his role as President Emeritus of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, performing educational outreach at schools across the country for over a two decades. For a number of years, he was also Editor in Chief of the Society’s highly respected semiannual magazine, the Knight Letter, which is catalogued by a number of major academic libraries across the country.

Andrew coaches and consults from his home base in Westchester, N.Y.


Carol Guerrero-Murphy

Carol Guerrero-Murphy has a significant history of publishing while teaching creative writing from preschool through graduate levels in Southern Colorado. Her latest book, Bright Path Dark River (October 2020) is a finalist for the CAL poetry award. Chained Dog Dreams is her second full length book (finishinglinepress November 2019). Her first book, Table Walking at Nighthawk (Ghost Road Press, 2007) was nominated for a Pushcart and earned a WILLA Award. She is semi-retired, writing and teaching in the Adams State Prison College Program, bringing to students her belief in the restorative power of literature and writing, and is affiliate faculty in the Western Colorado University M.F.A. Creative Writing program. Six poems from Bright Path, Dark River, are featured in The Missouri Review. Journal publications among many others include Southwestern Literary Review, Pilgrimage, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, American Poetry Review and many others. Anthologies include Pilgrimage: Thirty Years; and Even Cowboys Carry Cellphones. Many of her poems are set in the Huerfano and San Luis valleys of Colorado and in Alaska where she spent her childhood. She is a professor emerita from Adams State University. She has a doctorate from Denver University’s program in English/Creative Writing.


CMarie Fuhrman

CMarie Fuhrman, MFA is an author and poet whose work is rooted in the landscape of the West. She is the author of the collection of poems, Camped Beneath the Dam, and co-editor of two significant anthologies, Cascadia Field Guide: Art, Ecology, and Poetry and Native Voices: Indigenous Poetry, Craft, and Conversations. She has published or forthcoming poetry and nonfiction in multiple journals, including Terrain.org, Emergence Magazine, Platform Review, Northwest Review, Yellow Medicine Review, Poetry Northwest, and several anthologies. CMarie is a regular columnist for the Inlander and the Elk River Writers Workshop Director. She is the Associate Director and Director of poetry for the Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Western Colorado University, where she teaches Nature Writing. CMarie is the host of Terra Firma, a podcast from Colorado Public Radio. She resides in the Salmon River Mountains of Idaho and is the state of Idaho’s 15th Writer in Residence.


Julie Kane holds a B.A. from Cornell University, an M.A. from Boston University and a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University, where her dissertation on the villanelle won the Lewis P. Simpson Dissertation Award. Her poetry books include “Rhythm & Booze” (2003), a National Poetry Series winner; “Jazz Funeral” (2009), winner of the Donald Justice Poetry Prize; and “Paper Bullets” (2014), a collection of light verse. The Vietnam memoir that she co-authored with Kiem Do, “Counterpart” (1998), became a History Book Club Featured Alternate.

Kane’s poems and translations appear in over 50 anthologies, including “Penguin’s Poetry: A Pocket Anthology,” “Norton’s Seagull Reader” and “Best American Poetry 2016.” She has collaborated with composer Dale Trumbore on the one-act opera “Starship Paradise,” premiered by Center City Opera Theater of Philadelphia, and with composer Kenneth Olson on City of Lights for orchestra and soprano, premiered by the Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony.

Composer Libby Larsen’s settings of Kane’s poems have been recorded on CDs by The American Boychoir and by mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer. Kane’s scholarly essays have been published in Twentieth Century Literature, Literature/Film Quarterly, Modern Language Quarterly, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, and other journals and edited collections. The 2011-2013 Louisiana Poet Laureate, she is a Professor of English and recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award at Northwestern State University of Louisiana.


Kevin J. Anderson

Publishing Concentration Director Professor Kevin J. Anderson is the author of 140 novels, 56 of which have appeared on national or international bestseller lists; he has over 23 million books in print in thirty languages. Anderson has coauthored fourteen books in the “Dune” saga with Brian Herbert and over 50 books for Lucasfilm in the Star Wars universe. He has written for the X-Files, Star Trek, Batman and Superman, and many other popular franchises. For his solo work, he’s written the epic “SF” series, “The Saga of Seven Suns”, and a sweeping nautical fantasy trilogy, “Terra Incognita”, accompanied by two progressive rock CDs (which he wrote and produced). He has written two steampunk novels, “Clockwork Angels” and “Clockwork Lives”, with legendary drummer and lyricist Neil Peart from the band Rush. He also created the popular humorous horror series featuring Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I., and has written eight high-tech thrillers with Colonel Doug Beason.

Anderson holds a physics/astronomy degree and spent 14 years working as a technical writer for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He is now the publisher of Colorado-based WordFire Press, a new-model publisher using innovative techniques and technologies to release books worldwide in print and eBooks. They have released over 300 titles. Anderson is also one of the founders of the Superstars Writing Seminar, which has been one of the premiere professional and career development seminars for writers. He is also an accomplished public speaker on a wide range of topics. He and his wife, bestselling author Rebecca Moesta, have lived in Colorado for 20 years; Anderson has climbed all of the mountains over 14,000 ft in the state, and he has also hiked the 500-mile Colorado Trail.


Maya Jewell Zeller

Maya Jewell Zeller (she/her/hers) was born in the walk-up apartment above her parents’ gas station on the Oregon Coast and grew up in various communities of the Pacific Northwest. She has taught writing and literature to a range of demographics: high school and college students, fourth graders and senior citizens; at multiple universities, schools, conferences and retreats, in the U.S. and abroad, including Centrum’s Port Townsend Writers Conference and Litfuse Tieton. A two-time writer-in-residence in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, Recipient of a 2016 Promise Award from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and Travel Grant from the American Association of University Professors, Maya has had work translated and presented internationally in Madrid, as part of the Unamuno Author Festival (2019) and Reading Series (2018), and as a visiting writer at University of Oxford’s Meet the Poet at Teddy Hall; she has additionally won awards from Sycamore Review, New South, New Ohio Review, Dogwood, Florida Review and Crab Orchard Review. Maya’s poems and essays have also been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes, Best of the Net, and other awards. Maya is the author of the poetry collections Alchemy for Cells & Other Beasts (a collaboration with visual artist Carrie DeBacker; October 2017, Entre Rios Books), Rust Fish (April 2011, Lost Horse Press) and Yesterday, the Bees (October 2015, Floating Bridge Press). Other manuscripts have been named finalists with such prizes as the National Poetry Series (four time finalist), University of Wisconsin Brittingham/Pollak Prize, Prairie Schooner, Waywiser, New Issues’ Green Rose Prize, and OSU/The Journal, Versa Editions (Amsterdam); and Maya’s poems, essays, stories, and reviews appear in journals such as Bellingham Review, West Branch, Pleiades, New Ohio Review, High Desert Journal, Cincinnati Review, The Rumpus, Willow Springs, The Moth, Booth Journal, Moss, and Rattle, as well as anthologies such as Pie and Whiskey: Poems and Prose on Butter and Booze; Forest Under Story; All We Can Hold; and New Poets of the American West. Her essay “The Privilege Button” appeared in the New York Times-Reviewed anthology, This is the Place (Seal Press, 2017). Maya serves as Poetry Editor for Scablands Books and Associate Professor in the Professional and Creative Writing Program (BA and MA) for Central Washington University, where she also coordinates the Lion Rock Visiting Writers Series. She is currently at work on a memoir, “Raised by Ferns” (out on agented submission); as well as an Advanced Poetry Writing Textbook for Bloomsbury (co-author Kathryn Nuernberger, University of Minnesota), in addition to several poetry manuscripts and a humor novella, “A Few Nondescript Adventures of Some Consequence.”


Richard Wilber

I’m a teacher as well as a working writer, so my career highlights include noting with pride that a number of my students have found success in fiction or nonfiction writing. Two students I worked with have won Pulitzer Prizes, and many, many more have gone on to find success as novelists, short-story writers, newspaper reporters and columnists, and editors of both fiction and nonfiction magazines. I’m enormously proud of all of them.

I am the co-founder and co-judge (with Sheila Williams, the award-winning editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine) of a major international undergraduate writing award, The Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing. Watching the writing careers blossom for many of the winners and finalists of that award over the past quarter-century has been a major highlight.

On the writing side, my novel, “Alien Morning,” was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best Science Fiction Novel of 2016, and my short story, “Something Real,” won the Sidewise Award for Best Alternate History-Short Form of the year in 2012. As a novelist, anthology editor and short-story writer, simply seeing my work appear in print is a continuing highlight.


Steven Coughlin

As a creative writer, I have published poems, short stories, and essays in several literary journals and magazines, including the Gettysburg Review, New Ohio Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Gulf Coast, Seneca Review, and Slate.com. My first full-length collection of poetry, Another City, was published in 2015 by FutureCycle Press, and my second collection, Deep Cuts, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. In 2018, I published Driving at Twilight, a poetry chapbook.


Mitali Jahagirdar

Mitali Jahagirdar is a WGA Award nominee for her writing as staff writer on Disney+’s JUST BEYOND based on R.L. Stine’s graphic novel series, and previously adapted the YA novel TIGER’S CURSE for Netflix. She is presently in development with Netflix’s “Created By” initiative and was Story Editor for Netflix’s THE HENNA ARTIST. The proud daughter of Indian immigrants, Mitali spent her early years in Central Florida, then left for New York City, where she studied Economics and Journalism at NYU. Mitali went on to serve as a litigation paralegal at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP before deciding to pursue her love of TV and film. In 2017 she received her MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA, and since then her thriller and sci-fi/fantasy voice has won her membership in the CAPE New Writers Fellowship, NBC Writers on the Verge Fellowship, Film Independent Screenwriting Lab, Sony Diverse Writers Program, and recognition on the 2020 CAPE List.


Johanna Parkhurst

Johanna Parkhurst is the author of multiple young adult romance novels and adult contemporary romance novels. The majority of her works feature LGBTQ+ characters, as she considers herself to be primarily a writer of LGBTQ+ romance. Her most recently published ghostwritten work was a YA romance that received a Kirkus-starred review. She has been traditionally published, published by small presses, and she currently self-publishes her own works; she is the owner and operator of Maple Mountains Press, LLC. Her recent novel Counterpoint, which was published by Heart Eyes Press under the name J.E. Birk, was a bestseller in several Amazon categories upon its release. ILYBSM, a novel she penned with two co-writers, spent multiple weeks in the top 100 Gay Romance novels category on Amazon in December of 2022. Her novella The Worst Bad Thing was a Rainbow Romance award-winner.

Johanna is a long-time teacher who is happiest in any writing classroom. She was a Faculty of the Year recipient at Pueblo Community College and is currently the Director of the Genre Fiction M.A./M.F.A. program at Western Colorado University. She enjoys paddleboarding, skiing, and traveling. She does not enjoy vacuuming.


Megan Green

Megan Green is a Los Angeles-based screenwriter. After graduating from UCLA’s M.F.A. program in 2011, her dark comedy feature, THE FAMILY HARVEST, was developed with Atlas Entertainment. Her feature biopic drama, ELEANOR & JACK, has been a Nicholl Fellowship semifinalist twice, once placing in the top 50 scripts. ONLY HUMANS, the indie drama feature she co-wrote, premiered at the Napa Valley Film Festival in 2018. In parallel with her screenwriting career, Megan has worked in online education for over a decade. As the Director of Curriculum Development for 2U, Megan helped universities including University of Southern California and Pepperdine University launch brick-and-mortar programs online.


Byron Aspaas

Derek sheffield.

Derek Sheffield was born in the Willamette Valley of Oregon and grew up there and on the shores of the Salish Sea. After spending eight years in Seattle and earning an MFA in poetry from the University of Washington, he lived briefly in Oregon’s high desert before moving to central Washington, near Leavenworth.

Since 2003, he has worked as a professor of English at Wenatchee Valley College, where, in partnership with biologist Dr. Dan Stephens, he teaches Northwest Nature Writing, a learning community where the precision of poetry melds with the excitement of science. Thanks to support from the Spring Creek Project, he has been able to work alongside many devoted scientists and artists during field residencies at Loowit-Mount St. Helens and the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest. He is a hiker, birder, fisher, forest bather, and father. He takes much delight in the fact that his daughters know many of their fellow beings and are often making their own poems and paintings when they aren’t assembling twigs, leaves, and grasses into nests and boats for Fairies.

Author of the poetry collections Through the Second Skin, finalist for the Washington State Book Award, and Not for Luck, selected by Mark Doty for the Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize, and coeditor of Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy and Cascadia Field Guide: Art, Ecology, Poetry, he serves as poetry editor of Terrain.org, the world’s oldest online journal devoted to place-centered art and literature.


Cameron McGill

Cameron McGill is a poet, educator, and songwriter from Champaign, Illinois. He is the author of Meridians (Willow Springs Books) and In the Night Field (Augury Books/Brooklyn Arts Press). His poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Grist, Northwest Review, Raleigh Review, RHINO, and Western Humanities Review, as well as the anthologies Teeth of the Billow Tree (Willow Springs Books) and Poetry Is Bread (Nirala Publications, forthcoming 2023). He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Idaho and has received fellowships/scholarships from Summer Fishtrap, the New York State Summer Writers Institute, and the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference. In 2022, he released his seventh studio album The Widow Cameron. He teaches poetry in the GPCW at Western Colorado University and serves as Scholarly Assistant Professor at Washington State University, where he teaches creative writing and co-directs the Visiting Writers Series. He lives and writes and plays the piano in Moscow, Idaho.


Claire Boyles

Claire Boyles (she/her) is a writer and former farmer who lives in Colorado. A 2022 Whiting Award winner in fiction, she is the author of Site Fidelity, which won the High Plains Book Award for short story collections and was longlisted for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Award, the Colorado Book Award, and the Reading the West Award. She has received support from the Kimmel Harding Nelson Foundation, the Bread Loaf Orion Environmental Writers Workshop, and the Community of Writers. She has been a Peter Taylor Fellow for the Kenyon Review Writers’ Workshop.


Laura Resau

Laura Resau is the award-winning author of nine highly acclaimed young adult and children’s novels with Scholastic and Delacorte Press, including Star in the Forest (film-optioned) and The Queen of Water (co-authored with María Virginia Farinango). Her picture book, Stand as Tall as the Trees: How an Amazonian Community Protected the Rain Forest (co-authored with Patricia Gualinga), is coming in July of 2023, followed by her sci-fi young adult novel, Virch, coming in the spring of 2024.

Laura draws inspiration from her time abroad as a cultural anthropologist and ESL teacher. She has collaborated with women from Ecuador and Mexico to celebrate their stories and voices. Loved by kids and adults, her novels have garnered many starred reviews and honors, including the IRA YA Fiction Award, the Américas Award, five Colorado Book Awards, spots on “best-of” booklists from Oprah, School Library Journal, the American Library Association, Bank Street, and more.

Laura’s writing has been called “vibrant, large-hearted” (Publishers’ Weekly on Red Glass) and “powerful, magical” (Booklist on What the Moon Saw). Also an educator and nature-lover, she has recently joined the faculty in the graduate program in Creative Writing at Western Colorado University. She lives with her family in Fort Collins, Colorado and donates a portion of her royalties to Indigenous rights organizations in Latin America.


Karen Auvinen

Karen Auvinen is a poet, writer, mountain woman, outlier and life-long westerner, and author of the memoir Rough Beauty: Forty Seasons of Mountain Living (Scribner), finalist for the Colorado Book Award and the Willa Award.

Her work has appeared in The New York Times, LitHub, Real Simple, Westword and The Rumpus, as well as High Desert Journal, Ascent Magazine, Cold Mountain Review and The Columbia Review, among others. Her fiction has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes. A collection of stories about outliers in the West is forthcoming.

Past gigs include Writer-in-Residence for the State of Colorado, editor, book-buyer, rural postal route driver, caterer, clinic assistant, landscaper, summer camp director and guest chef. She lives at 8600 feet with her partner, artist Greg Marquez, River the dog and Dottie the cat, within the Roosevelt National Forest and the ancestral territories of the Ute, Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples.


Ligiah Villalobos Rojas

Ligiah Villalobos is a Writer, Producer, Consultant, Educator and Lecturer. She is best known for writing and executive producing the indie feature film Under the Same Moon, (La Misma Luna). Acquired by Fox Searchlight and The Weinstein Company at the Sundance Film Festival, the film became the highest sale for a Spanish-language film in the history of Sundance. Made for under $2M, the film earned over $23M worldwide. Villalobos has developed projects for multiple studios and networks, including ABC, NBC, ABC/Family, Lifetime, Hallmark Hall of Fame, F/X, Showtime, BET, HBO Max and STARZ, among others. And she was a Cultural Consultant on the Academy Award winning Pixar movie, COCO and the Disney movie, Planes. Before becoming a writer/producer, Villalobos was a studio executive at The Walt Disney Company, where she oversaw television production in Latin America for five years, launching eight #1 children shows in seven countries. She then oversaw the Writing Fellowship Program and launched the Directors Training Program for the Studio. Villalobos was then hired as a Current Programming Executive at The WB, where she oversaw six prime times shows, including the four highest rated shows on the network. Recently, Villalobos was the Executive Producer of 20 Spirit & Friends animated shorts for Dreamworks TV Animation, which can be seen on PeacockTV. She is a writer on the upcoming animated series Rosie’s Rules for PBS, premiering in October, and the Creator and Executive Producer of the Sonoro/IHeart Media scripted podcast titled, Adelita: Changing the Key, premiering later this fall on all platforms. She is also developing a six-part music-driven limited series titled Q, inspired by the classic novel Don Quijote de la Mancha, and she is attached to do an American adaptation of the South African feature film Sink. The animated feature film Koati, which she co-wrote and is associate producer on, was released in theatres in 2021. Villalobos is a tenured Associate Professor at Cal State LA and has been an adjunct professor at USC School of Cinematic Arts and at LMU. She is on the Board of Immigrant Defenders Law Center and on the Honorary Board of The Point Foundation, the largest scholarship-granting organization for LGBTQ students of merit. She is the recipient of the Humanitas Prize for the film, Firelight. She received her MFA from Antioch University in Creative Writing.


Gwyneth Gibby

Gwyneth Gibby is the Associate Publisher for WMG Publishing Inc., where she puts her skills as a marketing expert to great use. She directed feature films for Hollywood legend Roger Corman and taught film and video production for an MFA program sponsored by the Royal Film Commission in Jordan. She was an award-winning investigative reporter for newspapers in Corvallis and Lincoln City, Oregon. Gwyneth is also an expert in narrative in the digital medium.


Geoff Geib received his MFA in 2009 from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television where he won the Michael Minor and Robert Green award in screenwriting. After graduating, he worked as a staff writer on the final two seasons of the television show Medium and later sold an original drama pilot entitled Happy Accidents to CBS Paramount. He has written/developed numerous television and feature scripts since, including an adaptation of the New York Times bestseller The Art Forger. He has taught screenwriting at Cal State University Long Beach, in the graduate school at Hollins University and in the Professional Program at UCLA. Geoff’s IMDb page proudly lists the PA work he did on Gilda Radner’s Greatest Moments from 2002 and his dramatic turn as the ‘Lightswitch Guy’ in the hopefully never seen independent film Ante Up.


Julie Czerneda

Having written twenty-three novels (and counting) published by her beloved DAW Books and Hugo-winning editor Sheila E.Gilbert, as well as numerous short stories, and editing several anthologies over the past 25 years, Julie E. Czerneda was inducted in the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2022. Julie’s works combine her training and love of biology with a boundless curiosity and optimism. Her most recent releases are Imaginings, Julie’s first short story collection, and her standalone science fiction novel To Each This World. Her next novel, A Change of Place, returns to her fantasy series, Night’s Edge, in 2024. Julie is represented by Sara Megibow of KT Literary.


Tenea D. Johnson

Tenea D. Johnson is a multimedia storyteller, musician, editor, arts & empowerment entrepreneur, and award-winning author of8 speculative fiction works, including Frequencies, a FictionAlbum and Broken Fevers, of which Publisher’s Weekly wrote“the 14 hard-hitting, memorable short stories and prose vignettes in this powerhouse collection … are astounding in their originality” (starred review). Her debut novel Smoketown won the Parallax Award while R/evolution earned an honorable mention that year as well. She’s had the pleasure of presenting her fiction, musical stories, and stories off the page at venues and galleries including the Public Theater, the Knitting Factory, and the Museum of Fine Arts. Her short work appears in anthologies like Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism andBeyond, Sycorax’s Daughters, and In Trouble. Incandescence, her latest project, is a speculative fiction/dance film collaboration.


Liz Sczudlo

Liz Sczudlo is a television writer and executive producer living in Los Angeles, CA. Liz was born and raised in Washington D.C. and attended Brown University, where she pursued a degree in Modern Culture & Media before earning a degree in Film and Television Directing from UCLA. Her writing credits include “Dynasty” (CW), “Jane the Virgin” (CW), “The Following” (Fox), “Switched at Birth” (Freeform), “Awkward” (MTV), “Reign” (CW), “90210” (CW), and several films for Lifetime and the Hallmark Channel. She’s developed pilots with Freeform, Hulu, TBS, CW, CBS, and Village Roadshow. Liz is a proud member of the Writers Guild of America, West.


E. Lily Yu is the author of On Fragile Waves, Jewel Box (October2023), and a collection of essays forthcoming in 2024, as well as the librettist of Stars Between, with composer Steven K. Tran, for the Seattle Opera’s 2021 Jane Lang Creation Lab. She received the Washington State Book Award for Fiction in 2022, the Artist Trust LaSalle Storyteller Award in 2017, and the Astounding Award for Best New Writer in 2012. More than thirty of her stories have appeared in venues from McSweeney’s toTor.com, as well as thirteen best-of-the-year anthologies, and have been finalists for the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Sturgeon, andWorld Fantasy Awards.


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What Is an MFA Degree?

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  • Ph.D., English, University of Pennsylvania
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An MFA degree is a graduate degree in a creative field such as writing, acting, film, painting, or graphic design. Short for Master of Fine Arts, an MFA program typically includes rigorous coursework in an artistic field as well as a significant capstone project in which students demonstrate their accomplishment in their chosen area of study.

MFA Degree: Key Takeaways

  • An MFA, unlike an MA or MS, focuses on the practice of art. It is less academic and research-based than other graduate degrees.
  • Most MFA programs take two to three years to complete.
  • Common fields for MFA programs include creative writing, painting, music, acting, and film.
  • Full-time, on-campus MFA programs may be the least convenient, but they are likely to be the least expensive because of teaching assistantships and stipends.

A student will typically need a bachelor's degree before entering an MFA program, and programs typically take two to three years to complete although both longer and shorter options exist. Numerous modes of delivery exist for MFA programs including on-campus, low-residency, and online options.

An MFA or Master of Fine Arts is a graduate degree with a focus on artistic practice. While students will likely learn some history and theory in an MFA program, the primary emphasis is on the practice and development of one's craft. For this reason, only certain areas of study offer MFA degrees including writing, painting, dance, acting, and music. Fields that are more technical, professional, or academic do not have an MFA option. For example, you cannot earn an MFA in history, biology, or finance.

Students can enter an MFA program straight from a bachelor's degree program, or they can begin after having been out of college for years. Applications for admission to MFA programs will often require letters of recommendation, a college transcript, and an essay, but the most important component will be a portfolio or audition. Admissions decisions are typically made by experts in your area of artistic interest, and the admissions folks will use your portfolio or audition to assess your potential for making a meaningful contribution to the field.

MFA degrees can take between one and four years to complete, with two to three years being the most common. An accelerated one-year program is likely to require year-round work and provide some credit for either previous coursework or experience. A long four-year program is likely to include professional internship experience such as work at a film studio or fashion design studio.

Historically, an MFA was considered a terminal degree . In other words, the MFA represented the highest level of educational achievement in an artistic field. For this reason, an MFA was usually the required qualification for teaching fine arts at four-year colleges and universities. However, with the proliferation of graduate programs in recent decades, many fields such as acting and creative writing have PhD options, and some MFA students will continue on to doctoral-level study. For many faculty positions today, employers will consider MFA applicants but give preference to applicants with a PhD.

Note that an MA (Master of Arts) or MS (Master of Science) degree is not at all like an MFA degree. An MA or MS can often be completed in a year or two, and its focus is going to be on the academic study of a field much more than the practice of art. MA and MS students typically take a year of coursework beyond the bachelor's degree, and they are also likely to complete an independent research project. MA and MS degrees can be found in nearly all academic fields, and they have value for people looking to expand their knowledge, increase their salary potential, gain specialized knowledge, or gain teaching credentials. MFA programs, on the other hand, are much less about professional advancement than they are about becoming a more accomplished artist.

Similarly, a PhD program has a stronger academic and scholarly focus than an MFA program. Doctoral students often take two or three years of coursework and then devote another couple years to researching and writing a dissertation—a book-length study that contributes new knowledge to one's field.

MFA Concentrations and Requirements

MFA degrees are offered in a wide range of creative and artistic disciplines, and the exact requirements for an MFA will vary significantly from school to school and discipline to discipline. Broadly speaking, students typically take two to three years to complete an MFA, and during that time they will take roughly 60 credits of coursework (compared to about 120 hours of coursework to earn a bachelor's degree).

MFA coursework will involve a range of classes so that students graduate with skills not just in their craft, but also in pedagogy and critique. Nearly all programs conclude with some kind of thesis or capstone project. For example, a student in an MFA in writing program will need to complete a portfolio of poetry or fiction, and a film student will need to create an original film. Students often present this projects in a public forum where they are critiqued by experts in the field.

MFA programs in professional disciplines such as fashion and film may also have a practicum or internship requirement so that they gain real-world experience and begin to make the professional connections that will be valuable in their future careers,

The number of MFA programs in the United States is constantly growing both because of demand and because technology has made programs accessible for more people. MFA opportunities exist in dozens of areas of study that can be grouped into several broad categories:

  • Creative Writing: This is one of the largest field for MFAs, and the United States is home to over 200 programs. Students will concentrate in fiction, poetry, drama, or creative non-fiction. Some programs also offer screen writing. Funding will often depend upon a teaching assistantship, and writing MFA students are likely to teach first-year composition classes.
  • Art and Design: Fine arts is another large MFA field with well over 200 programs in the U.S. It's also a broad area with programs focusing on specialties including painting, drawing, illustration, sculpture, metal work, ceramics, and photography.
  • Performing Arts: Students interested in music, theater, and dance will find a range of MFA programs that focus on both the technical and artistic sides of the performing arts. Acting, set design, conducting, and musicianship are all areas of focus for MFA programs.
  • Graphic and Digital Design : More and more MFA programs are emerging that bring together arts and technology, for employer demand in this area continues to grow.
  • Fashion and Textiles: From designing runway fashions to the textiles used to make those fashions, MFA programs cover all aspects of the fashion industry.
  • Film Production: If you want to work in film or television, you'll find MFA programs to give you the necessary training. Subspecialties include directing, producing, acting, and screenwriting.

Types of MFAs

Whether you are looking for a traditional degree program on a college campus or one that you can balance with work and family responsibilities, you'll find a range of MFA program options.

High-Residency Programs: A high-residency or full residency program is one in which students work and study on campus much like undergraduates do at residential colleges. MFA students typically don't live in dorms unless they get jobs as residence directors. Instead, they are likely to live in designated graduate housing or off-campus apartments. Unlike undergraduate classes, MFA classes often meet just once a week for several hours, and the rest of the week is spent doing independent work in the studio or lab. Living on or near campus and attending in-person fulltime has advantages, for students can often get stipends or tuition waivers for serving as research assistants, teaching assistants, or graduate instructors. The most prestigious and selective MFA programs are almost all high-residency programs.

Low-Residency Programs: For students who hope to earn an MFA but don't have the luxury of relocating and devoting years exclusively to the degree, a low-residency program might be a good choice. Much of the program will be delivered online—synchronously, asynchronously, or both—and then students will have brief but intense visits to campus once to several times a year. During these on-campus residencies, students participate in workshops, critiques, and craft seminars. They also meet with their professors and professional advisors to discuss their work and goals. Although most work is done from home, the better low-residency programs are designed to create peer groups and foster a sense of community.

Online Programs: For some students with limited financial resources or unforgiving work and family obligations, even the short on-campus commitment of a low-residency program is a challenge. There are, however, more and more MFA programs that are 100% online. The convenience of such programs is attractive, but students do lose the benefits of the campus's resources. This may not be a huge detriment for a field like creative writing, but students in fields such as film and the fine arts students won't have access to the studios and lab spaces that are often central to the field.

Along with the above options, you'll find that many schools offer joint degree programs in which you can earn your MFA and PhD. This can save you a year or two of study from what would be required to earn the MFA and PhD separately, and the joint degree program combines the artistic focus of an MFA program with the scholarly research focus of a PhD. This type of joint degree can be ideal if your goal is to work in higher education since doctoral students will often have an advantage when competing for professorships.

Pros and Cons of Getting an MFA

Before you apply to an MFA program, be sure to balance the pros and cons, and you'll see that these vary depending on the type of MFA program.

  • First and foremost, you get to spend two or three years focused almost exclusively on your craft. An MFA program is a fabulous opportunity to develop your skills, exchange ideas with like-minded artists, and receive professional critiques of your work.
  • You'll be working with highly accomplished faculty members in your area of interest.
  • High-residency MFA programs can be inexpensive or free. Some have endowed scholarships, and others offer tuition waivers and stipends for serving as a teaching assistant or graduate instructor.
  • High-residency programs often provide opportunities for you to show your work professionally through exhibitions, readings, concerts, and screenings.
  • Low-residency and online programs provide a lot of flexibility so that it is possible to balance your MFA with a fulltime job or family responsibilities.
  • In the process of earning your MFA, you'll make professional connections that will be valuable throughout your career.
  • An MFA degree won't always pay you back, and average salaries of workers with MFA degrees are often lower than for other graduate degrees.
  • Programs can be expensive, especially low-residency and online programs that don't have opportunities to serve as an instructor or teaching assistant.
  • MFA programs require a lot of self-discipline. Classes may meet just once a week, but students will be expected to be working on their craft throughout the week. Online and Low-residence programs are even less structured and may have no formal meeting times.
  • If your goal is to teach at the college level, MFAs have gradually been losing their status as a terminal degree, and you may find you need a PhD.
  • Many careers in the arts—whether as a professional musician, an actor, a dancer, a writer, or a studio artist—do not require an MFA. Your skills, not the degree, are what matter (the degree may, of course, enhance your skills).
  • Programs can require you to have a thick skin. Your art will get critiqued and workshopped, and the feedback won't always be kind.
  • Some high-residency programs are extremely selective with just a handful of students admitted each year.
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Forging a thoughtful path to a mindful future

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Shubham Sapkota, researcher at the Renée Crown Wellness Institute, to share insights into and lessons from the Mindful Campus Program

A mindful campus is a healthier campus, experts at the Renée Crown Wellness Institute at the University of Colorado Boulder contend. One of them will make that case in a public presentation next week.

Shubham Sapkota , a research associate at Crown, will give a talk titled “Be mindful through the Mindful Campus Program,” on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 2 p.m. via Zoom. The event is free and open to everyone, but registration is required at this link .

Sapkota’s presentation will give an overview of the work done by the Renée Crown Wellness Institute at CU Boulder, specifically on Crown's Mindful Campus Program. The event is sponsored by Be Well , the College of Arts and Sciences' wellness initiative, and is part of its regular Let’s CU Well series of programs.

Shubham Sapkota

Shubham Sapkota, a research associate in the Renée Crown Wellness Institute, will give a talk titled “Be mindful through the Mindful Campus Program” on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 2 p.m. via Zoom.

Sapkota, a native of Kathmandu, Nepal, earned a doctorate in religion and theology through the Joint Doctoral Program in the University of Denver and the Iliff School of Theology. His PhD work focused on how to bring Buddhist meditation practices and principles in the spheres of academics, pedagogy and community engagement.

The Mindful Campus Program includes an eight-week series in mindfulness launched at CU Boulder in 2021 to support the well-being of students and was designed, in part, by students themselves. As experts at Crown have emphasized, the program is not just geared toward students; they are involved in its creation.

This approach “allows the voices of young people to be central and guiding within the research process,” Sona Dimidjian , director of the Renée Crown Wellness Institute and a professor of psychology and neuroscience , said last year.

The program is now implemented across CU Boulder and continues to seek participants to go through a mindfulness journey that complements life at CU. 

Crown is an interdisciplinary institute that focuses on youth education, with mindfulness as a crucial tool that, the institute says, “enables holistic learning and wellbeing” for the university community. Leaders at CU Boulder and beyond have argued that the effort is of critical importance.

Philip Distefano, CU Boulder chancellor, states that mental health is a growing concern: “Mental health and wellness are increasingly a critical topic in K-12 classrooms and college campuses across the country. It's imperative that we collectively create solutions to promote wellness. The Renée Crown Wellness Institute will conduct groundbreaking research relevant to wellness, starting as early as possible in development and continuing through college.”

What: Be Mindful through the Mindful Campus Program

When: Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2 p.m.

Where: Zoom–This online workshop is available to CU students, employees and community members. Please register here .

Why: To support a culture of care and wellness

Rob Anderson, superintendent of the Boulder Valley School District, has heralded the Crown Institute’s work. “We have no doubt that the breakthrough developed at Crown will have a profound impact on the community we all have the honor to serve.”

Mindful Campus has gained traction just as many sources of data suggest that such initiatives are sorely needed. Recent research finds that anxiety and depression among students have risen steadily during the last eight years, and students of color have experienced the steepest increase.

Researchers from Boston University analyzed surveys of 350,000 students from more than 300 campuses between 2013 and 2021. Their meta-study, like other smaller studies, found students’ rates of depression and anxiety had more than doubled in eight years, rising by 135% and 110% respectively.

Additionally, research published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that mental-health challenges are worse among high school students who perceived racism. The study concluded that understanding “how negative health outcomes are associated with student experiences of racism can guide training for staff and students to promote cultural awareness and anti-racist and inclusivity interventions, which are critical for promoting safe school environments for all students.”

Meanwhile, students’ demand for psychological counseling has far outstripped the availability of resources. These are national trends, but officials note that they are reflected among CU Boulder students, too.

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