The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in creative writing is offered in five disciplines — poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, young adult and children’s literature, and literary translation. In this low-residency program, students work closely with published authors who serve as their mentors and teachers. 

During the 10-day residencies held twice each year,

  • students participate in workshops;
  • they meet with their mentors and fellow students; and
  • they attend readings and interviews with visiting writers as well as a variety of literary events.

During the rest of the academic year, each student works one-on-one with members of the faculty and participates in workshops online. This program gives students access to an international community of acclaimed and award-winning writers.

The program offers a 60-credit single concentration MFA degree as well as an 88-credit dual-concentration MFA degree. 

The program is arranged into modules (8-week courses) and residencies (10 days of study on one of FDU’s campuses). Two residencies are offered each year, one in late July at the Florham Campus in Madison, New Jersey, and another in early January at the Wroxton, England campus. The residencies offer individual conferences with mentors, group workshops, readings and instruction by distinguished visiting writers, presentations by publishing professionals, faculty lectures, student readings, and other literary-related activities. Students must attend all scheduled events, as the residency is part of the course work.

There are no letter grades. All courses operate on a Pass/Fail system. Academic work is completed during the online writing modules and the residencies, rather than in traditional courses. Each academic year, four online writing modules, each eight weeks long, taken consecutively (rather than simultaneously) are offered, two in the spring and two in the fall. A faculty mentor directs each module. In addition to producing their own original creative and critical work, students are expected to actively participate in peer-oriented online writing workshops throughout each module.

This program is offered under the auspices of the School of the Arts, Becton College of Arts and Sciences, Florham Campus, Madison, New Jersey.

Admission requirements

  1. Students must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with a satisfactory academic record.
  2. Students must submit a writing sample. In admissions decisions, the greatest weight will be given to the writing sample.
  3. All incoming students must begin their first semester of the program by attending a residency and registering for two modules.

Requirements for the single-concentration MFA degree

Sixty credits (eight modules and three residencies) are required to complete the single-concentration MFA degree as follows:

  • 5 modules in the chosen genre, 1 module in an elective genre other than the student’s own,
  • 1 module in craft essay (taken in the 5th module),
  • 1 thesis module in a chosen genre (last module) and
  • 3 fully attended residencies (ideally completed before the completion of the thesis module).

Each module is worth 6 credits (8 modules = 48 credits) and each residency is worth 4 credits (3 residencies = 12 credits) for a total of 60 credits.

The degree is conferred upon the successful completion of eight writing modules, three residencies, and a craft essay and thesis manuscript. The degree may be completed in as little as two years but must be completed within five years. Specific requirements are:

  1. Five modules in the students’ chosen discipline.
  2. One module in craft in the student’s chosen discipline. The craft module is the fifth module. During these eight weeks, students will work closely with their mentors to explore matters of craft, and by the end of the module, they should complete an essay on the craft of 3,500–5,000 words. The topic and approach are the student’s choice but must be approved by the mentor.
  3. One module that is an elective (completed at any time during their studies) in a discipline other than their own.
  4. During the eighth module, students complete and polish the thesis in their discipline, working closely with their mentor. The thesis should reflect a culmination of all the work the student has completed during the program, and as such, it should represent the student’s best possible writing. The thesis may be comprised of poems, short stories, essays, a novella, the beginning portion of a novel or the beginning portion of a memoir. The length should be approximately 25,000 words for prose. For poetry, the thesis should include approximately 375 lines. The thesis must be in the student’s declared genre. During the thesis module, the thesis is written and revised by working closely with a mentor. Each thesis will undergo a formal evaluation and critique by the thesis mentor and second reader.
  5. Three residencies must be completed. These 10-day intensive residencies are part of the course work. Students must attend every scheduled event in order to receive credit for the residency.

Requirements for the dual-concentration MFA degree

Eighty-eight credits (12 modules and four residencies) are required to complete the dual-concentration MFA degree as follows: 5 modules in the primary genre, 1 craft essay module in the primary genre (taken in the fifth module), 1 elective module in the secondary genre, 1 thesis module in the primary genre, 3 additional modules in the secondary genre, 1 thesis module in the secondary genre and 4 fully attended residencies.

Each module is worth 6 credits (12 modules = 72 credits) and each residency is worth 4 credits (4 residencies = 16 credits) for a total of 88 credits. The degree is conferred upon successful completion of 12 writing modules, four residencies, and two thesis manuscripts.

The degree may be completed in as little as three years but must be completed within five years. Specific requirements are:

  1. Five modules in the students’ primary discipline.
  2. One module in craft in the student’s primary discipline. The craft module is the fifth module. During this eight-week module, students will work closely with their mentors to explore matters of craft, and by the end of the module, they should complete an essay on the craft of 3,500–5,000 words. The topic and approach are the student’s choice but must be approved by the mentor.
  3. One module in the student’s secondary genre before taking their eighth module (primary thesis module).
  4. During the eighth module, students complete and polish the primary-genre thesis, working closely with their mentor. The thesis should reflect a culmination of all the work the student has completed during the program, and as such, it should represent the student’s best possible writing. The thesis may be comprised of poems, short stories, essays, a novella, the beginning portion of a novel or the beginning portion of a memoir. The length should be approximately 25,000 words for prose. For poetry, the thesis should include approximately 375 lines. The thesis must be in the student’s declared genre. During the thesis module, the thesis is written and revised by working closely with a mentor. Each thesis will undergo a formal evaluation and critique by the thesis mentor and second reader.
  5. Three modules in the secondary genre and the final, 12th, thesis module in the secondary genre.
  6. Students must attend four residencies. These 10-day intensive residencies are part of the course work. Students must attend every event, lecture, mentor meeting, and workshop

Modules

The first module starts at the beginning of the following semester after the residency and the second module follows the first. The modules require a measure of independence on the student’s part and a disciplined writing schedule. In each module, the student will have completed the amount of work specified and assigned by the mentor. Generally, work in any module consists of:

  1. creative work submitted at three points each module;
  2. active, thoughtful, constructive contributions to the online workshop; and
  3. two close readings/reviews of relevant texts. Mentors respond to creative work within a week of submission. Other work may be required according to the wishes of the mentor. At the end of the module, the mentor will prepare a final assessment, evaluating each student’s work and progress.

Electives

The requirement of one module in a genre other than the student’s chosen area may be fulfilled through the completion of an out-of-genre module in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, literary translation or writing for young adults and children’s literature.

Craft module

Students must complete the module in craft for their genre of concentration during the fifth module of their work in the MFA program.

Working closely with a mentor, the student will research and write an essay devoted to the craft. The essay on craft must include:

  1. a clear presentation of a central idea (or a sufficient articulation of a specific domain of exploration), fluent and correct syntax and a coherent organization;
  2. logical thinking grounded in close readings of the texts; and
  3. textual substantiation for the ideas put forth.

The essay on craft should be (approximately) between 3,500 to 5,000 words. The mentor must approve the topic and approach, but the essay on craft may be an academic essay, a personal reflection on texts, a profile of an author that includes close readings or it may take another form, so long as it meets the above requirements and the mentor approves. Although the craft module does not contain the program’s traditional peer-oriented workshops, there will be opportunities for students to share drafts and discuss ideas at the residency and online.

Thesis module

During the eighth module of the single concentration and in the eighth and 12th module of the dual-concentration degree, students complete and polish the thesis, working closely with their mentor. The thesis should reflect a culmination of all the work the student has completed in the genre during the program, and as such, it should represent the student’s best possible writing. The thesis may be comprised of poems, short stories, essays, a novella, the beginning portion of a novel or the beginning portion of a memoir. The length should be approximately 25,000 words for prose. For poetry, the thesis should include approximately 375 lines. The thesis must be in the student’s declared genre. During the thesis module, the thesis is written and revised by working closely with a mentor. Each thesis will undergo a formal evaluation and critique by the thesis mentor and second reader.