Program Details

OSU-Cascades’ Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing is a two-year 77 credit program comprised of four intensive ten-day residencies (with pre-residency independent-study and weekly workshop meetings as preparation) followed by three term-length individual mentorships, and one thesis mentorship.

To complete the course of study for the Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing, the student’s record must indicate the following:

  • Full participation in four residency sessions
  • Successful completion of three mentorship quarters
  • Successful completion of one thesis quarter
  • A minimum accumulation of 77 graduate credits in the following categories:
    • 48 credits in Residency (WR 500)
    • 23 credits in Mentorship (WR 513)
    • 6 credits in Thesis (WR 503)
  • Completion of ethics training seminar
  • Broad reading in literature and contemporary letters, as evidenced by the critical introduction to the thesis and the annotated bibliography of 15-18 texts
  • A thesis manuscript of literary merit and publishable quality
  • Completion of oral examination, per graduate school guidelines

Calendar

 

September-October

November

December

January-March April-May June July-August
Year 1

Reading for Writers (weekly via Zoom)
Pre-Residency Homework

Residency #1
12 credits
WR 500: Residency

Self-Directed Study

Intro to Mentorship and Workshop #1
9 credits
WR 513: Mentorship
Workshop (weekly via Zoom)
Pre-Residency Homework
Residency #2
12 credits
WR 500: Residency
Mentorship #2
5 credits
WR 513: Mentorship
Year 2

Workshop (weekly via Zoom)
Pre-Residency Homework

Residency #3
12 credits
WR 500: Residency

Self-Directed Study

Mentorship #3
9 credits
WR 513: Mentorship
Workshop (weekly via Zoom)
Pre-Residency Homework
Residency #4
12 credits
WR 500: Residency
Thesis
6 credits
WR 503: Thesis

The mentorship terms that form part of the students’ MFA course of study allow students to interact 1:1 with faculty over an extended period of time and are crucial to students’ development as writers. During their mentorship, faculty will coach students through the creation of new material and the revision of existing material, help students connect what they are reading to what they are writing, and provide substantial and consistent feedback on students’ material.

During mentorship terms, Core & Visiting Core Faculty work long-distance with students to create an individualized course of study that involves regular exchanges of work and responses to student work. “Work” includes original creative work by students, revisions of original creative work by students, and responses to reading assignments.

You will begin your program with a residency term. Residency terms begin in September and April and consist of pre-residency coursework and weekly workshop meetings, followed by the ten-day residency (early November and June).

Residencies consist of three major components: scheduled academics, writing time, and creative exploration events. During these biannual residency periods, students meet with their cohort of students, core faculty mentors, and distinguished visiting writers. Students should expect to sharpen writing skills, diversify portfolios, establish a community of colleagues and peers, deepen understanding of the writing life, and explore the craft of creative writing from a variety of perspectives. These writing retreats seed conversations between students and their faculty mentors and also, significantly, between students across all genres of study. Students complete approximately 8 hours of coursework per day with scheduled time for writing, events, and recreation. Students are required to participate fully in the entire 10-day residency to earn credit for the term and the MFA in Creative Writing degree.

A Typical Day At The Residency

8:30 – 10:30 a.m.: Class 1
11 a.m. – 1 p.m: Class 2
2 – 4 p.m.: Class 3
4 – 6 p.m.: Writing and dinner time
6 p.m.: Evening event (reading, discussion, happy hour, program outing)

Our curriculum is grounded in three, 4-course series: the workshop, foundational craft courses, and critical studies. Additional courses for first and second year students, as well as Special Topics courses, round out the curriculum.

The Workshop is an opportunity for students to receive responses to their work and to respond to others — a sustained practicum in criticism, designed to challenge and stretch aesthetic assumptions. Students describe, explore, and evaluate the premises of works in progress, with an eye toward editorial improvement. Generally, faculty members serve not only as active participants, but also as discussion moderators, focusing or redirecting the conversation as needed. They also work to maintain a balanced agenda that includes: what is most helpful to the piece under discussion, what is most productive for future work by the author, and what is most instructive to the group as a whole? We strive for workshops that are supportive but rigorous, analytical but not judgmental, noncompetitive, vigilant always against workshop jargon or preferred aesthetics. As in all other areas of the MFA Program — in literature classes, working with a thesis advisor — the workshop gives writers the chance to enlarge their capacity for strong work.

Foundations courses will consider, dissect, and discuss contemporary pieces and historical writing typically curated to a common topic. Literature seminars should expose students to a range of writers and discussions to compare voice and consider aesthetic choices and cultural relevance. These 4-course series also immerse students in practical experimentation to develop and challenge the student's style and craft. Additionally, craft seminars should aim to improve technique and ability to communicate process, hone mechanics, and articulate artistic decisions.  

Critical Studies courses foster and engage students’ critical thinking, reading and writing abilities, prepare them for the work of the thesis, as well as contextualizing the acts of reading and writing within socio-political contexts with a focus on questions of power, identity, and privilege. This series also provides students the opportunity to engage local communities in hands-on experience with different aspects of the literary world, from classrooms to non-profits and event planning.

 

Genre-Based Workshops

Introduction to Workshop 

First-year students share their work and critique the work of others in the course. Students learn the basics of workshop and practice reading and critiquing across different genres. 

Poetry Writing 

Students share their work and critique the work of others in the course.

Fiction Writing 

Students share their work and critique the work of others in the course

Nonfiction Writing 

Students share their work and critique the work of others in the course.

Advanced Poetry Writing I & II 

This course is a workshop-based course for students who have completed Intro to Workshop and Poetry Writing. Students are expected to have a 20-page minimum body of work to share. Guided by faculty, students will help each other strengthen and revise their writing. Students and faculty will practice ethically engaged workshop skills, enacting a regular writing and revising process, and participating in several group writing exercises.  

Advanced Fiction Writing I & II 

This course is a workshop-based course for students who have completed Intro to Workshop and Fiction Writing. The workshop addresses advanced issues of craft. Topics addressed include sophisticated storytelling techniques, achieving consistency (tone, balance, rhythm), and other key elements of successful sustained narratives (character arcs, plot design, structural dynamics). 

Advanced Nonfiction Writing I & II 

This course is for students who have completed Intro to Workshop and Nonfiction Writing. The workshop focuses on advanced issues of craft, emphasizing the ways that the events or circumstances of the author’s life can be used to ground her inquiry and reflect on larger social, political, and cultural domains. Topics may include synthesizing research artfully, achieving consistency (tone, balance, proportion), experimenting with innovative techniques, becoming more rhetorically aware, and revising intentionally.

 

Foundations Series

Foundations in Fiction 1: Narrative Conventions  

Students analyze the formal elements of the craft — narrative structure, character development, point of view consistency, style, detail, imagery, and theme. As they explore how these formal elements work together in an organic whole, students identify specific technical strategies for achieving the writer’s intentions for the work. Students consider what general principles might govern story form but also the wide latitude a writer has in addressing them. Students will also attend to the exhaustive care a writer must give to every single word. Students will write and share original work in response to prompts. 

Foundations in Fiction 2: Short Fiction 

This course tracks the development of short stories from the mid-nineteenth century to present, in English and in translation. Genres may include psychological realism, modernism, and postmodernism. Stories are contextualized historically and in terms of aesthetic tradition. Craft analysis integrates craft theory and emphasizes how students may apply these techniques in their own writing. Students will write and share original work in response to prompts. 

Foundations in Fiction 3: Narrative Design & Architecture 

Students examine the design and construction of long fiction narratives with an eye toward the relationship between form and content. Craft analysis integrates craft theory and emphasizes how students may apply these techniques in their own writing. Students will write and share original work in response to prompts. 

Foundations in Fiction 4: Experimental Forms 

This course explores experimental approaches to fictional prose, emphasizing writers who work against the conventions of narrative realism. Craft analysis integrates craft theory and emphasizes how students may apply these techniques in their own writing. Readings from various traditions, American and international, showcase discontinuous narratives, metafictional techniques, and non-narrative forms and serve as models for students’ own writing.

Foundations in Nonfiction 1: Narrative  

Students analyze the formal elements that creative nonfiction borrows from fiction, including narrative, persona/voice, and characterization. Students will also analyze the ways nonfiction differs, including the use of double perspective and its effect on narrative structure, the ethics of characterization, and the effective management of narrative distance. Readings will be diverse and may emphasize writing as social activism. Students will write and share original work in response to prompts.

Foundations in Nonfiction 2: Lyric          

This course explores the formal elements that creative nonfiction borrows from poetry: imagery, figurative language, juxtaposition, collage, fragmentation, associative movement, and other nonlinear through-lines. Readings will draw from a diverse array of both writers and styles. Students will explore how lyrical elements work together in an organic whole by experimenting with those formal elements in their own work.

Foundations in Nonfiction 3: Documentary 

This course will focus on the connections between documentary poetics and creative nonfiction through an analysis of style. Readings will demonstrate the use of research strategies, including oral histories, interviews, immersion, and the gathering of information from various types of sources. Students will explore using research to ground and expand their own work; they will experiment with various writing techniques in order to learn how to do so artfully. 

Foundations in Nonfiction 4: Experimental Forms 

This course emphasizes innovative nonfiction. Readings will investigate non-traditional approaches such as, the segmented essay, the uses of fabrication and falsification, hypertext and digital experiments, formal innovations, and more. Students will practice using such boundary-pushing techniques to expand the possibilities of their own nonfiction.

Foundations in Poetry 1: Prosody  

An in-depth study of poetic elements, organized around the history and evolution of poetic forms. Students study the organizing principles of syllable, stanza, and line; of stress, meter, rhyme, and a variety of countings, as well as contemporary explorations of fragmentation, interruption, chance and silence. Readings demonstrate a range of structural elements, experimental and classic. Craft analysis integrates craft theory and emphasizes how students may apply these techniques in their own writing. Students will write and share original work in response to prompts. 

Foundations in Poetry 2: Transnational Translations 

Many Anglophone poets have been influenced by form and content that is drawn from outside the English-speaking world, and many non-Anglophone poets have found inspiration in English-langauge poetry. In this course, students will read a range of writers whose poetry travels across the borders of nation, language, and form, providing a transnational lens on poetic craft. Readings include critical essays on the art of translation. Craft analysis integrates craft theory and emphasizes how students may apply these techniques in their own writing. Students will write and share original work in response to prompts.                 

Foundations in Poetry 3: Poetics 

This course explores the long tradition of the articulation of the meaning & purpose of poetry, from Aristotle to ‘undocumented poetics’. Students will read essays and poems that give shape to aesthetic judgments and will be encouraged to respond in their own writing to the history of poetic ideas.  Craft analysis integrates craft theory and emphasizes how students may apply these techniques in their own writing. Students will write and share original work in response to prompts.

Foundations 4: Experimental Forms  

In this course, students will read and discuss a range of experimental poetry by writers from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Students will fundamentally broaden and expand their understanding of form and aesthetics by examining and questioning the role of “identity,” “narrative,” and “the lyric I” in poetic traditions. Craft analysis integrates craft theory and emphasizes how students may apply these techniques in their own writing. Taking inspiration from readings and discussion, students will practice their own forms of oppositional writing.

 

Critical Studies Series

Critical Studies 1:Reading Difference & Power, & Privilege  

Through a focused engagement with texts by writers from diverse communities critiquing structural inequities, students discuss the roles difference, power, & privilege play as content and form in literary texts. An intersectional approach will center race & ethnicity, gender & sexuality, class, religion, citizenship status, bio-politics, disability studies, and more, as well as concepts such as intersectionality, antiracism, and privilege. Students will write and share original work in response to prompts.

Critical Studies 2: Writing Difference, Power, & Privilege 

Building on Critical Studies 1, course readings engage authors who write about writing difference, including the social-ethical implications as well as what writing difference means for literary craft. Students will discuss what it means to encounter difference in their own reading and writing practices and critically reflect on their own relationships to difference, power, & privilege. Students will write and share original work in response to prompts.

Critical Studies 3: Critical Introduction 

The goal of this course is to prepare students for the writing of their thesis, specifically the Critical Introduction. Topics covered include drawing connections between students’ programs of study and what they are writing, critical reflections on students’ chosen form, and the articulation of their future goals. 

Critical Studies 4: Praxis as Practice  

In Praxis as Practice, students embody, enact, apply, and realize their creative writing practice through hands-on projects, community engagement and/or public-facing events, and/or in non-traditional settings and exercises. Creative praxis also involves critical reflection on the impact of our writing practice on ourselves, our communities, and others. 

 

First Year Courses 

Compassionate Critique 

In this course, students conduct a close study of the unique, complicated dynamics at work in peer critique, with an emphasis on strategies for response that might challenge familiar modes of criticism and traditional workshop dynamics. 

Reading for Writers 

Reading for Writers teaches students to analyze and synthesize texts with an eye towards identifying elements of literary craft. Students practice active reading, close reading, critical thinking and writing. Students will practice writing a book review.

Special Topics Workshop  

The Special Topics Workshop focuses on the cultivation and practice of a particular element of literary craft, suitable for all-genres. Topics change from term to term. 

 

Second Year Courses 

Revision Workshop 

This course focuses on the generative potential that revision holds for writers. Through focused discussions, peer-feedback and instructor mentorship, students learn to identify the hidden opportunities in drafts and to write through moments that appear to be false starts or dead ends. Students will cultivate strategies for naming, or creating, writing opportunities and chances for discovery. By the end of the course, students can expect to have revised a substantial portion of a major work. 

Pedagogy Workshop 

bell hooks' describes education as the practice of freedom. That shall be both our starting point and our goal. Through practicum, discussion, and reflection this course will explore points of confluence between workshop, pedagogical best practices, arts education, and social justice. We'll model the principles of critical language pedagogy. The purpose of this course is to support participants in developing their own philosophy and approach to creative writing pedagogy.

Special Topics Seminar 

The Special Topics Seminar addresses a particular theme in the study of literary craft, topics change from term to term. Selected past topics: Not so dear Jenny with Jennifer Tseng, Turning Empathy into Action with Ru Freeman, In Ruins: Representing Infrastructure & Decay with Raquel Gutiérrez, and Discretion and the discrete. with T. Geronimo Johnson.

Ethics  

In this online seminar, students train in the basics of academic ethics as they pertain to the discipline. All students in the Graduate School must complete ethics training before filing and defending the thesis.

 

Program-wide, Residency Courses

DVW Seminar: One Read 

All students in all genres share the experience of reading the same book written by the Distinguished Visiting Writer. At Residency, students, faculty, and staff participate in a reading and discussion with the DVW as part of community-building. Genre rotates.

  • Produce and defend an original significant contribution to knowledge
  • Demonstrate mastery of subject material
  • Conduct scholarly or professional activities in an ethical manner