Since the first low-residency MFA program in creative writing was developed in the 1970s, higher education has established over thirty such programs. With various combinations of residencies, workshops, lectures, online workshops and classes, study abroad, correspondence, and one-on-one mentoring, low-residency programs vary; however, their chief attributes are individualized instruction and structural flexibility for students. Low-residency programs require at least two years of study. Students study literature and craft by writing original fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, translations, screenplays, or plays; by analyzing contemporary and canonical works of literature; and by writing critical papers. Programs also require culminating projects focused on the craft of writing—an extended craft essay, a lecture, or the teaching of a seminar. The centerpiece of the course of study is a creative thesis, an original literary work in the student’s chosen genre(s).
When historians look back on our generation's most prolific writers of fiction, names like Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, and Kurt Vonnegut will be at the top. But another name for that list is our own Chuck Palahniuk. Where I believe Chuck has those other names beat, is in the many different formats of writing he dips his toes into. Besides novels, Chuck has also dabbled in journalism, tour guides, and short stories. Though where he reigns supreme is in the craft essay. Many years ago, Chuck took over this site and its existing writers workshop with the posting of a new craft essay every month. The essays were designed to teach writers his craft, while also handing out a homework assignment. Writers in our workshop utilized the tools Chuck taught and applied them to their own stories. And after years of this, the best of these stories were honed down to an anthology ( due out this August).
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