The Graduate Writing Program

Frequently Asked Questions


What are the basic facts about the new MFA in Writing?
Next Intake: September 2019;
Deadline for Applications: December 1, 2018;
Completion Time: 20 months / 5 terms (full-time students only);
Contact Person: Valerie Tenning, Graduate Secretary, 721-7306,

Please consult with the Graduate Secretary for information on this year's schedule.

What are the goals and objectives of the MFA in Writing?
• To further educate writers who already have a proven talent and interest in one or more of five genres: creative nonfiction, fiction, playwriting, screenwriting and poetry.
• To assist students to develop a significant body of work in a genre of their choice.
• To help students develop an editor's objective eye, a professional writer's understanding of craft and the skills of a writing teacher.
• To create MFA graduates ready to publish and to be candidates for teaching jobs at the post-secondary level.

What sets UVic's MFA apart from other similar graduate programs in writing?
UVic Offers:
• Hands-on instruction from award-winning authors in a Department of Writing which has offered a superlative undergraduate program for three decades.
• Small cohort: we only accept one student per year in each genre.
• Aside from the Universities of British Columbia and Guelph, our graduate program is the only one in Canada offering an MFA in writing, rather than an MA in English with a creative-writing option.
• Our graduate students have the opportunity to make use of teaching assistantships to gain experience in evaluating and assisting undergrads and to acquire actual classroom teaching in the area of writing rather than in English literature.
• The program is designed so that teaching will be one of the skills our graduates will acquire to prepare them for the job market. As far as we know, no other Canadian institution presently includes an emphasis on the teaching of writing, which is a specialized area of education, as well as the writing itself.

What is the target audience of the MFA in Writing at UVic?
Our audience is those persons already actively engaged in writing of a high standard, who have achieved an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university and a minimum cumulative GPA of B.

What are the admission requirements for the MFA in Writing?
• Admittance to Graduate Studies at the University of Victoria.
• Successful applicants to MFA in Writing must have an undergraduate degree in any discipline, from any accredited college or university in B.C. or from accredited postsecondary institutions from outside the province.
• A cumulative GPA of B.
• A portfolio of samples of writing in the genre in which they wish to study. One of the following will be required: 10-15 pages of poetry; 20-30 pages of playwriting, screenwriting, fiction or creative nonfiction.
• Professional experience and publications should be summarized in one to three pages.
• Submissions in poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction must have a minimum 1.5 line spacing.  
• A 400-word statement of purpose, which will include a description of the manuscript to be worked on and the specific area of expertise to be explored.
• Two letters of reference to convey an assessment of the student's academic standing, talent as a writer, critical ability, capacity for doing self-directed work, and teaching potential.

What areas of specialization does the program offer?
The Department of Writing offers courses in the following genres: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, playwriting, and screenwriting. We have faculty members specializing in poetry (Tim Lilburn, Shane Book), fiction (Bill Gaston, Lee Henderson, Lorna Jackson), creative nonfiction (David Leach), writing for stage (Kevin Kerr, Joan MacLeod) and writing for film (Maureen Bradley).

What courses will I take?

Students are required to complete six 1.5 unit classes and a nine-unit thesis. Typically, students will take three courses in each of the first two terms of study and complete the thesis during the next three terms.

There are five mandatory classes and one elective. Transfer credits will not be accepted and mandatory courses may not be substituted.

The three required courses in the first term are
Writing 500: Graduate Writing Workshop,
Writing 501: Special Topics in Advanced Studies in Writing and
Writing 590: Instructional Skills Workshop.

Two required courses in the second term:
Writing 500 and Writing 501.
The remaining course may be a Directed Study, a 500 level Education course, a 500 level Graduate Course or an upper level Undergraduate course.

Writing 500 is a small workshop course in one genre. Writing 501 and Writing 590 are small multi-genre seminars comprised exclusively of Writing MFA students.

Below is a typical program of study.

Term 1 (Fall)
WRIT 500
WRIT 590
WRIT 501

Term 2 (Spring)
WRIT 500
WRIT 307 (or 308, 309, 310, 311, 312)

Term 3 (Summer)
WRIT 598

Term 4 (Fall)
WRIT 501

Term 5 (Spring)
Major Writing Portfolio

Convocation (Summer).

How is the MFA curriculum designed?
The MFA is a two-year program in which students will be required to complete nine units of classes and a nine-unit major writing project (consisting of an original, publishable manuscript) in a two-year period. With the exception of Directed Studies courses, students will attend three-hour-per-week seminars and workshops for all of their classes.
Students will learn skills as teachers by taking a minimum of 1.5 units of a graduate course from the Department of Education, Curriculum Studies. Students will gain hands-on experience through working as teaching assistants during their first year in the program.
Students interested in the publishing/editing side of the writing career will be able to take a directed study course that involves an internship with a literary magazine or a B.C. publisher. They will also be able to work in the field in a Co-operative Studies setting.
Graduate students may opt to register in the Co-operative Education Program at the University of Victoria and pursue two work terms (each four months in duration) to gain credit as a co-op student.

What are residency requirements and anticipated program duration?
The program is of a two-year duration on a full-time basis. With the exception of students enrolled in the Co-operative Education Program, the program will take two years to complete, with a one-year residency requirement. Students enrolled in the Co-operative Education Program will take three years to complete their program because they will engage in two work terms.

How will students be evaluated?
Course assignments will be evaluated following the regular Department of Writing marking grid (that is, from F to A+). The major writing project and oral exam will be evaluated as a Pass or Fail. There will be no candidacy exam.

Can I defer my acceptance?
The Department does not have the capacity to allow successful applicants to defer acceptance into the program. Declining acceptance into the program will not hinder a subsequent application, however, the Department cannot guarantee a position in the Program as quality of applications differs from year to year.

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