2021-2022 Graduate Academic Catalog

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing is a low-residency program that allows students, with the oversight of a faculty mentor, to design their own concentrations in fiction, graphic novels and comics, poetry, nonfiction, writing for stage and screen, or writing for young people. The Lesley program embodies an axiom: life experience is the raw material for literature, but the writers we read and re-read have shaped their experienceswhether personal, intellectual, or culturalinto fresh aesthetic forms. Therefore, the best creative writers are passionately creative readers, thinkers, observers, and listeners, constantly re-examining their habits and premises.

Lesley's MFA in Creative Writing program focuses on preparing students to become such writers-adventurous artists and active professionals. At least two attributes distinguish Lesley's MFA in Creative Writing from other low-residency programs. First, the interdisciplinary component encourages students to expand their abilities as writers by widening the angles, and deepening the fields, of their vision. While the multi-genre expertise of our faculty mentors and visiting faculty will be the student's key resource, those with an interest in the visual arts will have the opportunity to work with faculty from Lesley University College of Art and Design; and those seeking to integrate their writing with such disciplines as art therapy, psychology, and education will have the resources of Lesley's Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences. Moreover, students develop a wide range of independent projects, including publishing internships, teaching assistantships, and other literary activities. Second, with its residencies taking place in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Lesley's program draws energy from one of the literary capitals of the United States. Many of our faculty members have for years thrived in this epicenter of writing and publishing. Their experiences make them uniquely astute advisors for student writers, who will need to understand the complexities and opportunities of contemporary literary culture.

Given these advantages, graduates of Lesley's program will be equipped to give themselves new challenges as they continue to write, explore new genres and art forms, and participate in a serious community of writers and artists.

The Residency

Over two years, students will attend a nine-day residency at the beginning of each of four six-month semesters. The residency will include workshops, seminars, lectures, and readings, providing a forum for intensive study, collaboration, and constructive critique of student work. In addition, students will be matched with faculty mentors to create individualized study plans that incorporate rigorous reading lists. After each residency, students work on their own, under the guidance of faculty mentors. Following the fourth semester, graduating students return for the final portion of a fifth residency to conclude the program, offering a craft seminar and giving an optional reading from their creative thesis.

Application Requirements

A writing sample is required as part of the application:

  • In fiction or nonfiction, approximately 20 double-spaced pages
  • In poetry, approximately 10 single-spaced pages
  • In writing for stage and screen, approximately 15 script pages
  • In writing for young people, approximately 10-15 double-spaced pages of middle grade or young adult prose, or 2-3 picture book stories
  • In graphic novels and comics, 4-10 comic book/comic script pages or approximately 12 script pages in addition to a visual portfolio composed of 4–5 still images. Although these visual images may represent work in the comics medium, you may submit other types of work such as illustration, painting, photography, and graphic design.

Indicate your name and genre on each page and submit your writing sample to writingsamples@lesley.edu in PDF or Microsoft Word format. Please title your file: last name_genre (eg. Smith_poetry). Your writing sample may consist of one longer piece or several shorter pieces. If applying in more than one genre, submit a separate writing sample for each genre. For graphic novel submissions, submit your written statement to Slideroom with your visual portfolio and writing sample. 

In the same email, please include your written personal statement as a separate document, labeled last name_personal statement (e.g. Smith_personal statement). Your statement should consist of 750-1250 words, on double-spaced pages, answering the following questions:

  1. Discuss the work of a writer, in any genre, who has profoundly influenced your writing. Additionally, discuss several of the most memorable books you've read in the last year.
  2. What have you done creatively and critically to prepare for a master's program?
  3. What do you consider to be the strengths and weaknesses of your work?
  4. What are your goals for your writing, and what do you hope to accomplish in the program?

In addition to the writing sample and personal statement, you should include:

  • Lesley application form and fee
  • All official transcripts, including one from the institution that conferred your Bachelor's degree
  • Two letters of recommendation from individuals who have worked closely with you on your writing, or in a professional or academic capacity
  • No standardized test scores are required.

Credits, Grades, and Graduation Requirements

Students earn 49 credits over two years: 24 credits in Creative Writing, 9 credits in Craft and Reflection, 9 credits in Interdisciplinary Studies, 3 credits in Craft Seminar Preparation, and 3 credits in Creative Thesis Preparation. Grades for each semester will be pass/fail, accompanied by a narrative evaluation by the faculty mentor. As a final, one-credit requirement for graduation, students return for the final portion of a fifth residency to present a craft seminar and give an (optional) reading of their work.