We spoke with Western Washington University Professor Kelly Magee about some of the standout elements to their MFA program. There was a lot to share as this is one special school. We love what she had to say about breaking genre boundaries. Students, check it out!
Western Washington University’s MFA program is new to the scene — can you give us an overview of the curriculum and goals of the program?
Ours is a unique program with a focus on multi-genre writing and teaching preparation. We work with writers who are interested in single genre writing, but also those who are interested multi-genre, cross-genre, and hybrid writing. Our goals are to prepare students for life as a serious author, including developing craft, understanding the literary marketplace, engaging in pedagogical discussions and practice for those interested in teaching, and providing editorial experience, such as on the award-winning Bellingham Review, for those interested in editing and publishing. We offer paid Graduate Assistantships positions, where graduate students receive intensive training in our First Year Composition program or gain experience serving as assistants to professors in literature classes.
WWU’s MFA program has an emphasis on bending, breaking, and contesting boundaries of genre, including the one between “literary” and “genre” writing, but also between the genres themselves. Professors here work in a myriad of forms and modes, including prose poetry, fabulist writing, magical realism, collage writing, collaborative writing, and others, and we are excited to teach students who may use other kinds of hybrid forms or genres in their writing. Every year we offer a diverse range of seminar topics in creative writing, national and global literature, cultural studies, genre studies, literary theory, composition and rhetoric, film, pedagogy, and linguistics.
The high quality of instruction is definitely a strength of our program, as our professors are working writers themselves who publish regularly in both mainstream and small presses, and are award-winning teachers. The other strength of our program is the sense of community and collaboration among students. Ours is a small cohort program where students receive individual attention for their projects, and also where they work closely with their fellow graduate students. Because of our program’s attention to developing faculty/student mentorships and the preparation we give students for the literary marketplace, many of our students have gone on to receive publications and awards for their own creative writing.
The “city of subdued excitement,” Bellingham Bay has a thriving arts scene and is home to a number of working writers. There are frequent literary readings at local bookstores and on campus, workshops and writers groups open to the public, and lots of opportunities to participate in Bellingham’s writing community. And Bellingham is, quite frankly, one of the most beautiful places on earth — with Mount Baker to the east, the San Juan Islands to the west, British Columbia to the north, and Seattle to the South.
Quality of the writing sample is the most important aspect of an applicant’s application, but Western is also looking for applicants who are being innovative in their writing, whether it be through cross-genre or multigenre work, or by using experimental forms, or by simply finding new ways to surprise readers. We are also looking for applicant who have interests in teaching and/or editing and publishing.
Prepare well in advance to ensure that your writing sample is as polished as it can possibly be. In your Statement of Purpose, remember to focus on your specific goals, and how your time in this program might help you to achieve them — if you are interested in teaching, this is the place to let us know what experience you have and what your interests are. Tell us why you might benefit from a program with a multi-genre focus, and how we can help you achieve your goals!