The MFA program's concentration in nonfiction is a three-year apprenticeship that combines a strong foundation in the study of the field and the writer’s craft with writing workshops and one-on-one meetings with faculty. Successful nonfiction writers learn to navigate between writing about the self (memoir and personal essay)and writing about the world (biography, history, literary journalism); for you, that learning starts at Mason.
All entering students take “Forms of Nonfiction,” a class that offers intensive practice in the various forms of nonfiction—from literary journalism to personal narrative—and the formal elements of all nonfiction writing. Another required class is “Research for Narrative Writing,” which guides students through the process of shaping a story through research: how to find information and more importantly, how to use that information to define and propel the story. Students subsequently select courses from a curriculum that is designed to balance a focus on form and craft with individual choices: workshops, literature courses, and craft or special topics seminars that combine reading and writing.
The program's culminating experience is the MFA Thesis. The thesis affords all students the chance to assemble a book-length manuscript of poems, stories or essays, or a novel or a portion of a novel-length work. From the academic perspective, the thesis demonstrates whether a student has learned the conventions of their genre and is capable of original creative work. While most thesis projects require additional refinement, it is the hope of the faculty that talented writers will not cease creative efforts upon graduation and that the thesis project will be an avenue for on-going meaningful work.
An MFA student typically embarks on a thesis project at the start of the third year. The most successful projects are conceptualized long before this point, however. Ideally, a student has begun to generate material during the second year, and we advise all students to make full use of the summer before thesis hours even begin.
The thesis preparation and writing process, including registering for ENGH 799 Thesis Hours, is explained in the mfa handbook.