"In the MFA in Creative Writing at OSU-Cascades, we learn to practice our art-making as a spiritual extension of the body. To influence the art, the body must be influenced. Which is to say that a group of poets and writers who sing together, hike together, cook and eat together, who play games together, play guitars together, paint and run and watch the moon together—their art changes because their bodies, in proximity to other creative bodies, shed a thick layer of the something that has been telling them not to create or love or be. And they are left naked and vulnerable, taking in deep breaths of a communal air and communal creativity."
In OSU-Cascades’ low-residency MFA risk-taking is the standard for art-making. In our program, you will find the solidarity, intimacy and inspiration to show up and write bravely—wherever you are, however complex your “real life,” whatever the storms you have to brave to get to the desk and thrive. Our curriculum is engineered to fit the pace of your life, to nurture sustainable writing habits, and to teach you the skills needed to sustain a creative livelihood after graduation.
The MFA in Creative Writing at OSU-Cascades is a two-year program divided between intensive ten-day residencies at OSU-Cascades in Bend, and term-length individual mentorships you complete long distance from home. OSU-Cascades runs on a quarter system, with mentorships in the winter and summer quarters and residencies in the fall and spring quarters. Four residency quarters and four mentorship quarters are required to graduate.
The OSU-Cascades MFA in Creative Writing follows a mentor-based studio-research model. There are no online classes or workshops in our program. There are, however, online components and students must be available for online communications via email and Canvas course sites. During mentorships, instruction occurs directly between the faculty mentor and the student and among a group of peer editors. Our mentorship model is meant to provide students with the crucial combination of solitude and community artists need. After the excitement and intensity of residency, the semester provides a welcome change: concentrated periods of reading and reflection; focused, on-going dialogue with a mentor; and hours and hours of writing.
Our innovative, holistic curriculum is designed to build all of the muscles around the imagination. Our students take unique courses like Compositional Improvisation (which, as Core Faculty Poet TC Tolbert puts it, is another way of being alive), Poetry for Prose Writers, Turning Empathy Into Action, and Writers Without Borders. We invite Distinguished Visiting Artists to join us for our ten-day residencies to teach courses, give readings and bring new voices to each residency. All students participate in a Graduating Student Collaborative Capstone, a public project that demonstrates creativity, vision, risk and place-based art-making.
In the MFA in Creative Writing at OSU-Cascades, we believe writing is an act of attention, where attention is a way of caring for the world. We believe growing creative writers requires so much more than instruction in craft, the history of literature, and the landscape of contemporary creative writing. Apprentice writers need to learn to take risks, to mess up the metaphor, to reach too far, to reach in the wrong direction, to invest in the questions that don’t have easy answers, to stay with the moment of questioning and uncertainty — because that is where art happens, when there is something at stake for the writer. If the writer isn’t changed by the act of writing, the writer isn’t doing work. As Robert Frost famously said, No tears in the writer, no tears for the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.
Our Core Faculty is one of the most diverse in the country, and all of the writers who teach in our program are committed to teaching students to write and speak about matters of race, discrimination and social justice in the workshop and in their personal and professional lives. Our students work with a group of nationally-recognized teacher-practitioners that is less than 50% white and less than 50% male. Our students are exposed to non-Western and non-Anglophone literatures, how to grow an artistic community, and how to engage with audiences in ways that are meaningful and nourishing for both artist and audience.
The low-residency MFA in Creative Writing is designed to balance the modern writer’s need for both solitude and community, for both freedom and responsibility—to give our students the freedom as well as the discipline to write. Our comprehensive approach to creative writing pedagogy incorporates instruction in the craft, community, and profession of creative writing, educating our students in every aspect of the craft of writing and the writing life.
Students who graduate with our low-residency MFA in Creative Writing degree will have the skills to: