Monday, October 19, 2009

visiting NILA: low-res workshops

This coming January, I’ll be presenting two sessions at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts MFA spring residency. NILA, widely known as the Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA, is a low-residency program where students come together for an intense residency twice a year and then spend the remainder of the year working on their MFA from home. During each spring and fall residency, students are presented with craft workshops, faculty meetings, readings, and guest lectures.

That’s where I come in; I am so pleased to be presenting two sessions at the next spring residency. The residency schedule is now online, so if you have ever wondered what happens during a brief-residency MFA program, be sure to check out this link for the upcoming schedule. You’ll notice the variety of guest faculty presentations, the dedicated workshops and sessions on craft, and the abundance of reading sessions.

It wasn’t that long ago I interviewed author Stefanie Freele, who has since graduated from the program. When I chatted with Stefanie, she was in her final thesis term and couldn’t say enough great things about the Whidbey program. Regarding the intense residencies, Stefanie said, “you spend 10 days with everyone almost from 8am to maybe 9pm every day. You really get to know people, and then you continue the relationship online.”

Regarding the variety of offerings, she also said: “There are a few readings at the residencies of both staff and students and they are fantastic. The camaraderie started at the residencies is continued online.”

If you’ve been curious to learn more about low-residency creative writing MFAs, I encourage you to check out a lengthy paper I wrote last year that’s available on my website here. In this paper, I interview a handful of low-res advocates including Spalding University faculty member – and award-winning poet – Molly Peacock.

Stefanie Freele has one major suggestion for anyone considering a low-residency MFA: “Ask people who are in programs, who have received an MFA. Ask questions about how the thesis part works…. Check out the faculty – do a little research on these people.”

She suggests this, as there is such an array of faculty within each program, specific to each program’s offerings and craft specialties. When it comes down to the low-res format, you’ll want to find a group of mentors who best reflect your own style and writing goals. It takes research, but it’s easy to do. With 43 low-res programs in the US alone, there are many programs to choose from and thus an incredible variety of writing faculty. There really is something for everyone.

In January, I’ll be presenting on two topics: 1) Literary Living, which is a session about building a successful writing career; and 2) Beyond Page One, a session about creating opportunities to help yourself stand out in the competitive field of writing. I’ll be sure to share my experiences from the NILA spring residency when I return. Looking at the schedule, I can see there will be a lot of details to report at this jam-packed event.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts low-residency creative writing MFA, please do visit their website here. It’s truly a unique program and one that is continuing to grow.

Thanks for dropping by today. Ill see you on Wednesday for the weekly author Q&A!

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