Dec 10, 2022  
University Catalog 2021-2022 
University Catalog 2021-2022 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Creative Writing, MFA

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Antioch University Los Angeles

MFA in Creative Writing
AU Los Angeles
Credits for Degree: 48 semester credits
Standard Mode of Instruction: Low-residency
Standard time to completion: 25 months


Program Overview

The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree is offered by the Creative Writing Department of the Division of Graduate and Professional Studies, and represents the study of literature from the perspective of the writer. The reading and analytical components of each semester project, and the lectures offered during the residencies, provide opportunities for a well-integrated humanities-based curriculum, without sacrifice of direct creative manuscript work and criticism. The MFA in Creative Writing graduate is well-prepared in literature (especially the student’s primary genre) as well as in writing. While the MFA is a terminal degree and can help a student achieve their career goals, the MFA in Creative Writing program’s goal is not to credential, but rather to help students with their writing and their creative education.

Special Emphases of the MFA in Creative Writing Program

The MFA in Creative Writing program is devoted to the education of literary artists, community engagement or service, and the pursuit of social justice. The program helps writers develop the skills of their craft and teaches them about the various roles of the writer in society. The program also develops awareness of and appreciation for culturally diverse writers and traditions.

Program Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the program, MFA students will be able to demonstrate:

  • Proficiency of writing skills for selected genres: creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and young people.
  • Critical reading, writing, and thinking skills required of a literary artist.
  • Knowledge of ethical issues and social values of the literary arts.
  • Commitment to a broad range of issues and activities associated with a literary writer and the communities in which the writer lives and works.

Curriculum Overview

The MFA in Creative Writing program is a low-residency, mentor-based (as opposed to a course-based) program. There are no individual courses offered for units of credit. The MFA program includes five ten-day intensive residencies at the Los Angeles campus (or six residencies in the dual concentration option) involving required and elective activities, writing workshops, and individual as well as collaborative learning experiences. These residencies alternate with five-month online project periods for the completion of individualized learning plans and projects designed with the student’s faculty mentor. Students are awarded 12 semester units for the completion of each semester’s learning, including both residency and project period activities.

The curriculum offers instruction in the techniques of writing in the genres of creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and young people in combination with theoretical interpretation, cultural and literary criticism, and the exploration of social contexts. Occasionally, the program offers online electives such as TV/Screenwriting, craft courses in poetry, prose, and others. A required field study involves the student in experiential learning, such as involvement in community arts activities, the teaching of creative writing, or an internship in a professional setting. Students also take an 8-week translation course. Intense student-faculty mentoring relationships support the student learning and round out the curriculum. During the project periods, online discussions such as critique and reading groups connect students and mentors on a regular basis in an active learning network.

Each term, students are issued a Residency and Semester Student Handbook detailing specific learning activities for the upcoming residency. This Student Handbook also includes information on program requirements, policies, procedures, and documentation of learning.

Degree Options

This low-residency MFA program for adult students is designed to provide writers with a high level of professional training and an appreciation for the multifaceted relationship of the arts and artists to society. Creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and young people are offered as primary genres for study, and literary translation is offered as a secondary genre for study. There are three options for completing the MFA degree:

  • Single genre option - the student chooses one genre as the designated field of study and works in that genre for four terms (two years)
  • Mixed genre option - the student chooses to spend three terms in a primary genre and one term in a second genre (two years). This is referred to as a ‘Genre Jump’.
  • Dual concentration - the student spends three terms in the primary genre and two terms in a second genre (two and one half years). Before the beginning of their fourth residency, students seeking this option, 1) must have spent one term in the second genre, and 2) must have declared their intent to pursue a dual concentration.

Advanced Standing

Advanced standing in the MFA in Creative Writing program can be sought by students who have completed at least one semester in another MFA in Creative Writing program in an accredited college or university. Students with an MA in English (with some creative writing emphasis) or other qualifications may also be granted Advanced standing on a case-by-case basis. After having been accepted into the AULA MFA in Creative Writing program, students may request advanced standing under the advice and guidance of the Creative Writing Department Chair. Advanced standing qualifies a student to complete the standard MFA in Creative Writing program in three terms rather than four. Advanced standing moves the student forward only one term.

The MFA Professional Development Semesters

The MFA Professional Development Semester (PDS) consists of a single term that may be taken for a range of 5 units of credit. PDS is an additional semester of project period mentoring any of the following genres: fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, young people, or literary translation. The PDS semester is offered to Antioch MFA alumni as well as currently enrolled MFA students who have completed all requirements for the MFA degree except the formatting review of the final manuscript. PDS students must be in good standing with the program and have completed their work in a timely manner, as well as demonstrated the ability to work independently. Continuing MFA students take the PDS during their fifth (or, in the case of dual concentrations, sixth) term of work. The 5 PDS units are added to the continuing student’s number of units required for graduation, making a total of 53 units that must be completed in order to earn the degree. Continuing MFA students may take only one PDS, but may also return for additional PDS terms as alumni. MFA alumni enroll in a PDS term as non-matriculating students.

Post-MFA Certificate in the Teaching of Creative Writing

A Post-MFA Certificate in the Teaching of Creative Writing is available to eligible MFA in Creative Writing students who have met all requirements for the degree, to AULA MFA in Creative Writing alumni, and to those holding the degree of MFA in Creative Writing from other institutions. AULA students must apply to the Post-MFA program and be in good standing academically, as well as have demonstrated the ability to complete work on time and independently throughout the MFA Program. Since the Post-MFA Certificate requires a placement with another faculty member at an academic institution, the Post-MFA student must also have demonstrated professionalism while in the MFA Program. The Certificate is described later in this page.

The MFA Residency

The ten-day residencies in June and December form a principal component of the MFA in Creative Writing program. Required to initiate each semester’s work, the residency provides the student with seminars, lectures and workshops, an opportunity to submit preferences for a faculty mentor, and time to prepare the project period learning plan. It also offers the student peer support and networking with other writers.

Each ten-day residency at the Los Angeles campus provides the student with:

  • Exposure to a wide range of collaborative and independent learning activities in the field
  • Input in the selection of a faculty mentor for the upcoming project period
  • Time to prepare the project period learning plan with the mentor
  • General direction in the development of an individual curriculum
  • Stimulation and support

Students and faculty come to the Los Angeles campus to participate in intensive sessions in writing and literature, as well as informal exchanges with students, faculty, and special guests on social issues related to the arts. Faculty, visiting writers, and graduating students present lectures in literature, literary theory, the craft of writing, and the professional aspects of a writing life. Descriptions of residency seminars, panels, and other presentations are included in the MFA Student Handbook. The handbook is mailed to students and posted online in advance of the residency so that students may select learning activities in which they wish to participate and to prepare for them. Students are expected to attend a minimum of seven learning activities during each residency (including a writing workshop) along with required orientations for specific student cohorts. In addition, students must attend two community activities (at least one lunchtime student reading and one graduating student reading) every residency.

The writing workshops, which meet on alternate days throughout the residency, encourage the development of analytical skills and critical skills in a genre. Workshops are led by faculty members and students serve as resources for one another. Each includes five to eight students. During the residency, each student has original writing discussed in a workshop. Students are required to submit in advance representative new work completed during the previous semester’s project period; new students may include work submitted with the application. A maximum of ten pages of poetry are requested; fiction and nonfiction writers submit a maximum of 20 double-spaced pages. Prior to the residency, students should prepare typed critiques for each fellow author and plan to hand these out in person to the author immediately after the writer’s work has been discussed. The critique should be a minimum of 200 words with no maximum for each separate work (story, essay, poem, etc.) submitted for discussion.

Each residency schedule includes a variety of special presentations, optional off-site events, performances, and other activities. Faculty members and graduating students give public readings of their work. Additionally, visiting writers are brought to the campus to participate in residency activities and give readings or presentations. Special discussion sessions are held on publishing, networking, book arts, dramatic writing, performance art, and the like. These special discussions vary with each residency.

Prior to the residency, students are encouraged to read published work by members of the faculty for that semester. During the residency, students submit their preferences for the faculty mentor who will work with them during the project period. The MFA core faculty team then assigns an appropriate mentor, based on student choice, student seniority, faculty availability, and other factors. The program cannot guarantee that each student will be able to work with every faculty member s/he/they wishes to have as a mentor or workshop leader. Students are required to work with a variety of faculty during their time in the program, and they are permitted to request to work with the same project period mentor for a maximum of two semesters.

During the residency, students meet in groups and in individual conferences with their assigned faculty mentor to discuss their learning projects for the upcoming project period. New students are oriented to the program model and counseled in how to meet degree requirements. High value is also placed on students being resources for one another.

Students and faculty do not reside on campus during the residency. Students must secure their own housing at one of the many hotels or rentals nearby. Students may choose to stay in other facilities, or with friends or family.

Students are generally expected to be on campus from 9:00 a.m. to as late as 9:00 p.m. every residency day, because of the full schedule of activities and the importance of informal, unscheduled exchange with colleagues (both faculty and students). Although readings are open to the public, other activities and facilities are for students only (alums may come if they inform the program). With the exception of readings, students may not bring spouses, partners, friends or family to campus, as the residency period is an extremely demanding time to which the student must give full attention. No childcare is provided by the University. Campus policy does not allow pets on campus except for service animals. Other details of the residency, including accommodations, directions to the campus, etc., are included in the MFA Student Handbook.

During the residency, each student maintains a log of the activities they attended. Students must write and submit a residency student learning analysis (RSLA) reflecting on the various learning activities during the residency. This must be submitted to the MFA program office approximately ten days after the student departs from the residency and it becomes a part of the student’s permanent file. In addition, students complete a residency review, identifying strengths, weaknesses, and suggestions for future residencies. The review helps the MFA program faculty plan the next residency period more effectively, and does not become part of the student’s permanent file.

Students are expected to participate fully in the entire ten-day residency period. Full participation is required to earn the semester’s credit and for the granting of the degree. If, for some exceptional reason such as health or family emergency, a student cannot participate fully, s/he/they must petition the MFA program for a one-semester leave of absence (LOA). See the Office of the Registrar Policies and Procedures section of this Catalog for further information about LOAs. Students on leave are reminded that a new semester cannot be initiated without full residency participation.

The Project Period and Project Period Contract

The second essential component of the MFA is the project period. During each residency, students are assigned a faculty mentor with whom they design a five-month learning plan called a Project Period Contract (PPC). The Project Period Contract contains the following elements:

  • A list of specific learning objectives for the term
  • A list of what the student will write in order to achieve these objectives
  • A list of books and shorter works the student will read individually and in common with her/his/their mentee group in order to achieve the learning objectives
  • A schedule by which writings and readings will be completed

A Project Period Contract is required before the student departs from the residency.

Activities in the PPC are completed during the project period. During these five months, regular communication is conducted with the faculty mentor via email, telephone, Zoom, and Antioch’s online learning management system. Over the course of the project period, students submit five monthly packets of work to their mentors. Students also participate in online reading discussions overseen by their respective mentors. Project period activities require a minimum of 25 hours per week, consisting of reading and writing, conferencing, and communicating with other students.

The primary focus of the project period is the student’s own creative writing as well as written annotations based on selected readings. Specific project periods also include other core requirements, such as the Art of Translation Course (2nd project period), the Critical Paper (2nd and 3rd project period), the Final Manuscript, and Cumulative Annotated Bibliography. These last two requirements are completed during the student’s final project period in either the 4th or 5th semester, depending on whether or not the student is pursuing a dual concentration.

Online Communication

An important feature of the MFA in Creative Writing program is the online component. During the project period, students, mentoring faculty, the Creative Writing Department office, and all offices at AULA are connected online through the AULA Gmail system and the online learning management system, Sakai, on which students are trained during their first residency. Mentors also establish private online reading and writing/critique discussions for their mentees on the learning management platform. The primary means of exchange is online via the AULA Gmail system. The Creative Writing Department also communicates information to faculty and students online through the AULA Gmail system.

The Midterm Evaluation

Midway through the project period, the mentor completes a midterm evaluation that indicates the student’s satisfactory work toward the Project Period Contract’s learning objectives or indicates problems with the student’s work and student-faculty relationship that might prevent the student from successfully completing the semester. This midterm evaluation is submitted to the Creative Writing Department office. If it is an unsatisfactory evaluation, the student is contacted by the Creative Writing Department Chair to discuss strategies for academic improvement or the potential for the student being placed on probation. The student also completes a midterm self-evaluation which is submitted to the mentor and the Creative Writing Department office. By mutual agreement, the student and mentor may modify the Project Period Contract during the project period, but any significant changes to the original contract must be noted in the mentor’s Student Learning Evaluation (SLE) at the end of the term. Another progress evaluation from the mentor is provided at the three quarter point of the project period to satisfy requirements of the Financial Aid office.

Degree Requirements

The decision to grant the MFA degree is made by the MFA Faculty Committee upon recommendation of the faculty mentor. The student’s record must demonstrate the following:

  • Full participation in five residencies (six for the dual concentration option)
  • Successful completion of four project periods (five for the dual concentration option)
  • Completion of the Art of Translation Seminar and online Art of Translation Course
  • Completion of the Critical Paper
  • Working with at least three different faculty mentors (during the project periods) during the course of the program
  • Completion of a Core Faculty-approved Field Study
  • Broad reading and the preparation of a cumulative annotated bibliography in creative writing, literature, and the arts
  • Successful completion of the final semester requirements: the graduating student presentation, graduating student reading, and the final manuscript

The criteria for granting the degree includes completion of all the above degree requirements, creative writing ability, engagement with perennial questions of literature and the social role of the writer, experience in applied criticism, and knowledge of the genre/genres studied in the program. It is expected that developing mastery in these areas will be demonstrated in each residency and project period evaluation, as well as documented specifically in responses to and evaluations of the student’s work for each project period, including monthly packets of creative writing, critical papers, the field study, the final manuscript, and at the end of the student’s final residency, the graduating student presentation.

Sample Curriculum Plan

Students are required to participate in all learning activities specified as “required” for their specific cohort in the Student Handbook. The following curriculum plan illustrates a typical program of study. Bracketed items may be taken during any residency or project period in which they are offered. This is a representative plan, but each student’s progress through the program is designed individually in consultation with her or his faculty mentors.

Semester 1

Residency 1:

New Student Orientations, Parts I & II
New Student Orientation of Online Resources
Arts, Culture and Society I: The Writer at Work: The Writer as Literary Citizen

Arts, Culture and Society II: Unbuild the Wall: Self, Society & Writing Antiracism
[Orientation to the MFA Field Study]
[Writers at Work]
Reading Like a Writer
Mentor panel and selection
Writing Workshop
Seminars/readings/panels/graduating student presentations
Residency Student Learning Analysis and Project Period Contract

Project Period 1:

Monthly submission of creative work to mentor
Selected reading and written annotations
Submission of workshop material for Residency 2
MFA field study preparation
Book Circle Discussions on Zoom
Project Period Student Learning Analysis and Student Evaluation of Mentor

Semester 2

Residency 2:

Mentor panel and selection
[Arts, Culture and Society II (topic varies each residency)]
Writing Workshop
Seminars/readings/panels/graduating student presentations
[Orientation to the Field Study]
Art of Translation Seminar
Residency Student Learning Analysis and Project Period Contract

Project Period 2:

Monthly submission of creative work to mentor
Selected reading and written annotations
Art of Translation Course
Field study completed
Bool Circle Discussions on Zoom
Submission of workshop material for Residency 3
Practice Critical Paper
Project Period Student Learning Analysis and Student Evaluation of Mentor

Semester 3

Residency 3:

Mentor panel and selection
Critical Paper Seminar
Writing Workshop
Seminars/readings/panels/graduating student presentations
Residency Student Learning Analysis and Project Period Contract

Project Period 3:

Monthly submission of creative work to mentor
Selected reading and written annotations
Critical Paper
Book Circle Discussions on Zoom
Submission of workshop material for Residency 4
Project Period Student Learning Analysis and Student Evaluation of Mentor

Semester 4

Residency 4:

Submission of Critical Paper to MFA Program Office
How to Prepare and Teach a 20-Minute Presentation/Orientation to the Final Term
Mentor panel and selection
Writing Workshop
Seminars/readings/panels/graduating student presentations
Residency Student Learning Analysis and Project Period Contract

Project Period 4:

Performance workshop for graduating students

Preparation of the Final Manuscript
Preparation of graduating student presentation and public reading
Selected reading and written annotations
Preparation of Cumulative Annotated Bibliography
Book Circle Discussions on Zoom
Submission of workshop material for Residency 5
Project Period Student Learning Analysis and Student Evaluation of Mentor

Residency 5:

Submission of final manuscript to MFA Program Office
Submission of cumulative annotated bibliography to MFA Program Office
Writing Workshop
Life After Antioch
Seminars/readings/panels/graduating student presentations
Present graduating student presentation
Perform graduating student reading of creative work
Residency Student Learning Analysis

Semester 5 (for dual concentration students only)

Project Period 5:

For Dual Concentration students, same as Project Period 4

Residency 6:

For Dual Concentration students, same as Residency 5

Final Semester Requirements

At the end of at least three successful semesters (four for dual concentration students), and with faculty mentor approval of the Critical Paper, the student proceeds into the final semester’s projects. During the final residency, the student is also expected to offer a 20-minute conference-style presentation under faculty supervision and to present a reading of his/her/their work. Final semester work focuses primarily on the preparation of the Cumulative Annotated Bibliography (a complete listing of everything the student has read and studied during the program) and the Final Manuscript, described below.

The Final Manuscript

The Final Manuscript is a volume of the student’s best creative work produced in the MFA program, reflecting proportionally the genre(s) the student has studied under the supervision of his/her/their mentors each project period.

For students who concentrate in a single genre, the requirements are as follows:

  • Creative Nonfiction: At least 100 manuscript pages
  • Fiction: At least 100 manuscript pages
  • Poetry: At least 40 manuscript pages (one poem/page unless poem is multi-pages)
  • Young People: At least 100 manuscript pages

For students who pursue a mixed concentration (3 semesters in a primary genre, 1 in a secondary genre), the minimum page requirements are listed below. Note: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Young People, and all genres offered by the AUSB program are each calculated as “prose.”

  • Poetry (primary) and prose (secondary): 30 pages of poems, 25 pages of prose
  • Prose (primary) and Poetry (secondary): 75 pages of prose, 10 pages of poems
  • Prose (primary) and different genre of prose (secondary): 75 pages of primary genre, 25 pages of secondary genre

For students who pursue a Dual Concentration (3 semesters in a primary genre, 2 in a secondary genre), the minimum page requirements are as follows:

  • Poetry (primary) and prose (secondary): 30 pages of poems, 50 pages of prose
  • Prose (primary) and Poetry (secondary): 75 pages of prose, 20 pages of poems
  • Prose (primary) and different genre of prose (secondary): 75 pages of primary genre, 50 pages of secondary genre


Student learning in the MFA in Creative Writing program is assessed in a number of ways, all of which are grounded in the program’s learning objectives and mission.

Each student’s writing is evaluated by a faculty admissions committee during the application process. This writing sample and faculty evaluation serve as a baseline from which to identify the student’s strengths in writing and assess the student’s improvement through the course of the program.

The evaluation of the student’s learning and, more precisely, the student’s development and mastery of writing skills in a selected genre occurs in several ways: Students receive ongoing responses to their writing from faculty mentors and peers throughout the program.

As noted above, there is a midterm evaluation for each project period.

Students write their own project period student learning analysis and receive their mentor’s evaluation at the end of each project period.

At the end of the final project period, the mentor approves the student’s Final Manuscript (which also must be approved and signed by the MFA Chair) and writes the final evaluation, clearing the student for graduation.

Faculty and peer review of each graduating student’s presentation are gathered during the final residency and later shared with the student.

Hardware and Software Requirements

Because the MFA learning community engages in distance and hybrid education, it is essential that every student in the MFA program has ongoing reliable access to a working computer and a stable Internet connection.

Please consult the Antioch University website and the MFA Program Office for our regularly updated information on hardware and software requirements.

We also encourage all members of our community to back up their work often to protect against computer failure. The MFA program requires students to maintain some documents over the course of their two years in the program. It is essential that you not let natural disasters or computer failure create challenges for you in the months leading up to your graduation.

Please note that handheld and tablet devices may be very helpful, but will not be able to interact with all the online features of the MFA program.

Learning Activity Descriptions

Residency Core Offerings Writing Workshop

The Writing Workshop is an intensive four-day workshop (10 total hours) in the genre (creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, or young people) the student concentrated on in the project period that preceded the residency. (Note: Mixed genre students and incoming students participate in a workshop in the genre they were mentored-or accepted in-that precedes the residency.)

Arts, Culture, and Society (I & II)

These courses investigate the relation between cultural production, politics, and social change. With a lecture-discussion format, students focus attention on the principal aspects of cultural theory in an effort to come to a fuller understanding of the place of writing and the arts within our social system. Students gain a better understanding of themselves as cultural workers situated within particular matrices of political and social power.

Orientation to the Field Study

Students are required to complete one field study project, pre-approved by core faculty. In some instances, pre-designed field studies are available for students to select. These include introducing guest writers or working on the MFA program’s student-edited online literary journal, Lunch Ticket. However, in most instances, students develop opportunities for these learning experiences under the guidance of their core faculty field study mentor and on-site field study supervisor. Field studies can consist of varied types of learning such as developing a multimedia presentation, interning in professional settings or cultural organizations, creating a web page, editing a magazine, and other activities or projects approved by the core faculty and on-site field study supervisor. Each student’s field study is expected to address at least two of the three aspects of the MFA program’s special focus: the education of literary artists, community engagement, and the pursuit of social justice.

Seminars/Presentations on the Art and Culture of Writing

Faculty and guest writers present historical, critical, and process seminars on writing and the work of writers. Graduating students present 20-minute conference-style presentations on literary topics.

Critical Paper Seminar

This course introduces students to graduate-level library research. Students learn to research topics in literary studies, access online research, provide proper documentation for critical papers, and prepare critical paper manuscripts according to Modern Language Association guidelines.

Art of Translation Seminar

This seminar familiarizes students with the art of translation and adaptation of literary texts. One of the primary goals of this conference is cultural mediation. Collaborative translation and adaptation create bridges to other cultures while honing English language skills by creating ‘equivalent’ patterns of sound and sense that also serve the originality of poems in another language. Spinoffs and rewritings of poems and short prose passages also help students discover how their own cultures modulate universal themes. It is not necessary to know a foreign language to participate in this seminar.

How to Prepare and Teach a 20-Minute Presentation

This seminar helps students approaching graduation prepare to give their graduating student presentations. The broader purpose is twofold: 1) To help students envision their presentations with clear delivery of information and audience engagement; and 2) to help students envision contexts in which this type of presentation - teaching, job interviews, conference presentations, etc. - will be essential to success.

Writers at Work

Lectures, field trips, meetings with editors and publishers, and other resources show students ways in which creative writers earn a living in today’s culture. Alum at Work is similar but taught by MFA alumni.

Current Tuition and Fees

University Tuition and Fees  

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Antioch University Los Angeles