MFA Writing Courses

MFA Courses and Workshops

Members have access to full course content for independent study.
Scheduled group classes range from 1 to 16 weeks in length.

 

MFA01 THE GENTLE ART OF THE PERSONAL ESSAY
This two-week class on writing personal essays is for bloggers, essayists, and nonfiction writers and is the first in a series of five classes that can be taken in any order. This one is an introductory course that focuses, through weekly readings and writing exercises, on the question of 'why I write.' The goal of the class is to write two short essays.
Based on the book, ‘Crafting the Personal Essay’ by Dinty W. Moore. MFA01 is first of the MFA Nonfiction Series. Courses may be taken in any sequence. We recommend taking MFA01 first, either with a scheduled class or by independent study.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA02 THE PERSONAL (NOT PRIVATE) ESSAY
Recommended for bloggers, essayists and nonfiction writers.
"Each of us has a miraculous mind full of associations, ideas, and richly remembered experiences." The best writing provokes an emotional reaction, be it laughter, sadness, joy, or indignation. Author Kathleen Norris suggests that what we are looking for, in exchange between writer and reader, is resonance. So, remember, though personal, the essay is never meant to be private. Privacy is for your diary. Essays are for readers."
This two-week class on writing personal essays is for bloggers, essayists and nonfiction writers and is the second in a series of five classes that can be taken in any order. This course focuses, through weekly readings and writing exercises, on memory, capturing gestures, and writing about loss and grief. The goal of the class is to write two short essays.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA03 WRITING THE MEMOIR ESSAY
The memoir essay is all about the I, not just as a source of insight, but as the subject itself. There is no shame in using yourself as subject, and no need to hide that fact behind some veil of objectivity and erudition. The I stands tall and proud. Memoir essays are simply about what happened in the past. Memoir is not about 'look at me, look at me.' Instead it is about trying to understand the vexing mysteries of human existence.
This two-week class on writing personal essays is for bloggers, essayists and nonfiction writers and is the third in a series of five classes that can be taken in any order. This course focuses, through weekly readings and writing exercises, on writing memoir. The goal of the class is to write and revise a memoir essay.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA04 The Classically Modern Essay
Joseph Epstein suggests that an essayist should attempt to capture the voice of “an extremely intelligent, highly commonsensical person talking, without stammer and with impressive coherence.” Everyday speech without all the stammering should be our goal, with the coherence turned up just a notch. After all, the true beauty of writing is having a good idea and then revising it to sound even better. We clear away the debris to make the heart of our essays stand out.
This two-week class on writing personal essays is for bloggers, essayists and nonfiction writers and is the fourth in a series of five classes that can be taken in any order. This course focuses, through weekly readings and writing exercises, on the use of metaphor and on communicating ideas. The goal of the class is to write two short essays.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA05 The Contemplative Essay
Best-selling novelist Ann Patchett once said, 'Writing is a job, a talent, but it's also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon,' and the contemplative essay is what you might share with that friend.
"One of the pleasures of the contemplative essay, for the reader, is the meandering sense of form, the idea that you are taking a leisurely stroll with an interesting mind."
This two-week class on writing personal essays is for bloggers, essayists and nonfiction writers and is the fifth in a series of five classes that can be taken in any order. The course focuses, through weekly readings and writing exercises, on contemplation of the world within and without. The goal of the class is to write two short contemplative essays.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA050 Flash Nonfiction: Form
"Literary nonfiction examines the deeply human--and offer unanswerable--questions that concern all serious art. The style might range from intellectual to somber to humorous to playful, and the subject matter might be travel, the inscrutability of human behavior, or a moth on a window ledge, but the work itself is individual, intimate, exploratory, and carefully crafted using metaphor, sensory language, and precise detail."
This five-week class is the first in a series of five flash nonfiction workshops. Each week will use readings and writing exercises to focus on different components of flash nonfiction: its history, the miniature, decisive moments, compression, and place. By the end of this course, you'll have written four short flash nonfiction pieces.
Course Length: five weeks

MFA051 Flash Nonfiction: Image and Detail
This five-week class is the second in a series of five flash nonfiction workshops. Each week will use readings and writing exercises to focus on different components of flash nonfiction: the importance of details, memory triggers and tropes. By the end of the class, you will have written five short flash nonfiction pieces.
Course Length: five weeks

MFA052 Flash Nonfiction: Voice, Sound and Language
This six-week class is the third in a series of five flash nonfiction workshops. Each week will use readings and writing exercises to focus on different components of flash nonfiction: voice, sounds, and location. By the end of the class, you will have written six short flash nonfiction pieces.
Course Length: six weeks

MFA053 Flash Nonfiction: POV and Structure
This six-week class is the fourth in a series of five flash nonfiction workshops. Each week will use readings and writing exercises to focus on different components of flash nonfiction: point of view, structure, and writing the past, present, and future. By the end of the class, you will have written six short flash nonfiction pieces.
Course Length: six weeks

MFA054 Flash Nonfiction: Singular Moments - Against the Grain
This five-week class is the fifth in a series of five flash nonfiction workshops. Each week will use readings and writing exercises to focus on different components of flash nonfiction: beginnings and endings, writing the contrary essay, and walking, gathering, and listening. By the end of the class, you will have written five short flash nonfiction pieces.
Course Length: five weeks

MFA102 Sentence Structures: Propositions, Subtext and Syntax
Poor, thin sentences are the surest way to expose a writer's lack of skill. Knowing all the grammar rules and all the advice given in rehashed, how-to books will not make a better writer -- effective sentences will. We can't rob Faulkner, Hemingway or other greats of their genius. They were exceptional talents. However, we can gain Syntactic X-ray Vision, giving us the power uncover the secrets of our greatest writers, revealing the techniques, conscious or unconscious, behind great sentences. You'll never read or write the same way again.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA103 Creativity and the Cumulative Sentence
In this course, designed by WVU’s founder, Bob Hembree, he says, “I’m going to show you a trick, one you probably use all the time but didn’t realize it. And, once you know how it works, your writing process will never be the same, your writing will improve, and you’ll even look forward to revisions. Most of all, this creative process will bring vivid images, and great, natural rhythm to your writing. Not the rhythm of a song or necessarily the poet’s, but the natural rhythm of language, like words spoken from a master storyteller’s lips.” Follow along with Bob as he expounds on the cumulative sentence and the possibilities it offers.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA105 Tough, Sweet and Stuffy
The writer is not physically present to his reader. He is all words. The writer has no resources at all for dramatizing himself and his message to his reader except those scratches on paper—he has no bulk, no audible voice on the airwaves, no way of introducing himself beyond what he can make his reader "see" by means of abstract written words in various arrangements. To these words the reader responds much as he responds in a social situation—that is, he infers a person­ality—but he has only words to go on. Therefore, the writer's choice of words as he makes his introduction in prose have an absolute kind of importance and finality. His reader is by no means so ready to reserve judgment, to wait and see, as a new social acquaintance. A reader can shut the book at any moment, at the slightest displeasure. Measured against the ordinary social life of meeting and speaking, the writer's handicaps seem enormous. In what follows, I shall be asking how writers introduce themselves in those crucial opening paragraphs of prose works.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA101 MFA Orientation
Writers’ Village University currently offers four certificate programs: Fiction MFA, Short Story MFA, Creative Writing MFA and Nonfiction MFA. Once a student is a member of Writer's Village University, there is no additional charge for the programs. This course is an introduction to and overview of our MFA programs includes tips on registering, posting, formatting, keeping track of credits earned and a FAQ. Tis is a self-study class.
Course Length: two Weeks

MFA110 Syntax, Style and Grammar
Beginners and pros alike will find this unique approach to syntax, style, and grammar both entertaining and highly educational. Sharpen your skills in this informative and comprehensive course. A Core Course for the MFA Certification Program.
Course Length: sixteen weeks

MFA112 Writing Better Sentences
Good sentences reveal a writer’s thinking. The difficulty is matching words to thoughts; they’re two different gears and they never align perfectly. We all experience this, finding the right words to say what we’re thinking. We do our best to write with precision and hope the reader will take it from there.
The thoughts preceding words are called propositions, a term most often used in the study of rhetoric, logic or philosophy, but you’ll soon see why they’re important in sentence building. Propositions are statements a reader can accept or reject as true. They establish trust or distrust. If sentences come across contrived, incoherent, or lack a sense of conversational rhythm, the reader may decide the effort isn’t worth it and close the book.
Course Length: four weeks

MFA150 Introduction to Flash Fiction
This introduction to flash fiction opens us up to the importance of exercises, how they can limber up our imaginations, teach us to appreciate the value of an overheard conversation or a newspaper story. And how the “What if?” can set a story in place.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA151 Flash Fiction Workshop: Vignettes
In this first of the flash fiction workshops, we study a piece of fiction by Lydia Davis and contemplate the vignette. Author Nathan Leslie takes a new look at what has in the past been considered a four-letter-word, and gives us a taxonomy of flash.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA152 Flash Fiction from Contemporary China
While flash fiction in China can be traced back to 350 B.C. or so, it would take more than two full millennia for it to evolve to where it is today, as a hot, important literary genre.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA153 Flash Fiction - The Myth-ing Link
In this class, Pamelyn Casto gives us a brief definition of flash fiction and how through the study of mythology writers can renew their own store of writing ideas.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA154 Flash Fiction Point of View and Voice
A bit of history on the beginnings of flash fiction and why with flash fiction, no matter how busy you are, literature can be part of your day.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA155 Flash Fiction - One Page Fictions
In this essay, Jayne Anne Phillips talks about how she taught herself to write and where she began back in the seventies, with one-page fictions. What should a one-page fiction encompass and why?
Course Length: two weeks

MFA156 Flash Fiction - Great Thoughts
Stuart Dybek is known for his strong narrative voice, his lyricism, and his vivid, almost folkloric memories of childhood, many critics consider him one of our foremost writers of flash fiction. Here he shares his process using a “Great Thoughts” notebook and how to capture “lint.”
Course Length: two weeks

MFA157 Flash Fiction - The Story in the Title
The title to a story is the frame that surrounds it, holding to together. Follow along as Michael Martone shares the many ways a title can and should affect your work.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA158 Flash Fiction - Opening Up Your Writing
The opening sentences of short stories have a vital role to play in setting the color or tone of the work, even more so in flash fiction. Using simple statements, small sentences all introduce characters to whom something is happening. Just straight storytelling. And flashes are just that – storytelling. A strong, effective beginning starts a process that leads to a strong story.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA159 Flash Fiction - Smart Surprise
Jennifer Pieroni seeks stories with smart surprises. She shares how to select those surprises and come up with a story that is so uniquely your own that you just might surprise yourself.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA160 Flash Fiction - Making Flash Count
When flash fiction writer Randall Brown thinks of his favorite writers he likes to think they begin with the idea of brevity, a very tiny space, and think of how largely they might fill it. Follow along and find out how to find in compression what cannot be found otherwise, to view the constriction of time and space as a need for urgency and profundity.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA161 Flash Fiction - Using Images for Inspiration
Lex Williford talks of attempting to write 40 stories in 40 days and how images are his source of inspiration.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA162 Flash Fiction - Staying True to the Image
Author Robert Shapard shows how images can be useful in writing flash fiction. And how by focusing on the image that prompted the story in the first place has helped him write come of his best work.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA163 Flash Fiction - Meta-Narrative
Stace Buzko shares strong advice for any storyteller. Get on with it, and shows how flash is “about the moment—a flashpoint.” In this exercise we see how to find the flashpoint in our own work.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA164 Flash Fiction - A Short Short Theory
Pulitzer-prize-winning author, Robert Olen Butler, lays out his theory on short stories, and discusses this most important fact: A short short story, in its brevity may not have a fully developed plot, but it must have the essence of a plot, yearning.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA165 Flash Fiction - Getting the Lead Out
Steve Almond’s work is known for its conversational style and brutal honesty—especially in the exploration of sociological and sexual interactions—and for his ability to provide uncanny depth in very short spaces.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA166 Flash Fiction - Prose Poetry
While plot is vital in flash fiction, Kim Chinquee shows that event is not the only necessity of plot. The surrounding elements procure it. How do we distinguish flash fiction from prose poetry?
Course Length: two weeks

MFA167 Flash Fiction - Put Yourself in Danger
This short essay by Deb Olin Unferth asks important questions about flash, such as: What is the essential element of "story"? How much can the author leave out and still create a moving, complete narrative? If I remove all backstory, all exposition, all proper nouns, all dialogue – or if I write a story that consists only of dialogue – in what way is it still a story?
Course Length: two weeks

MFA168 Flash Fiction - Flash in a Pan
Sherrie Flick talks about how time can be manipulated in flash fiction.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA169 Flash Fiction - Expose Yourself
We begin with an essay by Mark Budman, where he discusses the Mobius Strip and how Flash fiction is reincarnated brevity.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA170 Flash Fiction - Load-bearing Sentences
Pia Z. Ehrhardt discusses how flash fictions contain joist-like sentences; sentences that carry the load of the story and how to define them in your own work.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA171 Flash Fiction - Editing and Revising
In his essay, Rusty Barnes introduces his process, "COAPing with revision" (Cut/Order/Add/Polish)
And shows how it I readily adaptable to personal and creative writing.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA172 Flash Fiction - Fixed-Form Narratives
Essay by Bruce Holland Rogers. Fixed-forms, or constraints are a fun and productive way of creating a story. Join us as we discover how opting for a constraint may be the spark that sets you off on a path to successful flash fiction.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA173 Flash Fiction: Doing More with Less
Beginning with an essay by Julio Ortega we discuss how flash ‘can only be resolved by sudden revelation, as wonder. Flash fiction is a fictional truth—an epiphany.’
Course Length: two weeks

MFA174: Writing Flash Fiction
“After a flash an image burns on the eye, the visual echo of the moment.” Using an essay from Ron Carlson, we’ll discuss what it means to write fresh, honest fiction, without clichés and old hacks. How to capture a moment and write on past its original intent.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA201 Discovering the Rose in the Rubble
It's up to us to tell the story of the event, experience, or quest as honestly and accurately as possible, to call up and appeal to the emotions of our audience. Whether the audience is moved to laughter or tears depends on how it came to pass, in success or in failure.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA202 Triggers
Triggers are everywhere; they’re also idiosyncratic, one person’s method will never instruct another on how to find a trigger. However, they do share some common characteristics. We can learn by looking at these shared traits. A trigger may be so buried in the story that no one, but the author, could ever guess its source. Where do stories come from?
Course Length: two weeks

MFA203 The Mask of Fiction
As writers we are told to write what we know, but what we know is not all there is to us. We are also, in a way, what we don’t know. We may be at our best when we write what we don’t know. In essence, we are all liars, with grand and noble purpose, but liars nonetheless.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA204 Fiction Writer's Apprenticeship
To write well, we must think critically and independently. What are the “rules” of writing? Are there actually rules at all? If so, how might we break them, with style?
Course Length: two weeks

MFA205 Developing Characters
Characters are the beating heart of a story. But how do we create realistic characters, ones that will evoke an emotional response in our readers? The seeds of a character are all-around us; it is how we collect and nurture those seeds, how we tend them and form them as they grow that will allow them to evolve into the round, full creatures that are often consistent, sometimes surprising and always full of quirks and complexities.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA206 Minor Characters
Minor characters can add color to a story, tell us things about the main character that we might never know otherwise, but if we’re not careful, they may steal the limelight. We need to remember that while we are each major characters in our own lives. To the rest of the world, we are strictly minor characters all the way.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA207 Settings and Characters
Most writers have a good understanding of how interior settings may show the character, but characters in an exterior setting may not have the same connection. In fact, the only reason to pay attention to place, to an exterior setting, is the faith, the belief that they are one--intertwined. Place is character; character is place. A character’s perception of their surroundings says much.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA208 Difficult Characters
If we want to make the reader care about characters that are bad, immoral, selfish, mean or obnoxious, we must make them capable of change. Whether they do or not may remain to be seen. They must have an uphill battle, a cross to bear. If we want to fuel the plots of our stories, make our characters believable, we must make them contradictory.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA209 Point of View Basics
While we may each have a propensity or preference for a specific point of view, it is important that we use all the tools in our toolkits. The story varies greatly depending on the narrator. Successful fiction requires an understanding of these various points of view.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA210 The Art of First Person
Point of view may be the single most important decision a writer makes. When using first-person point of view we allow ourselves to inhabit or be inhabited by a variety of characters, we become that character. But once we’ve decided on this point of view there is still another decision to be made: Central or Peripheral. The narrating “I” of the story will set the tone and mood of the piece, determine what information the reader is given and even establish the order and sequencing of events.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA211 The Art of Third Person
Third-person is the most common point of view, it also has the widest range of variance. Will you give the reader a wide-angle view of your protagonist’s world? Or will you zoom in for a close-up angle that draws your reader deeper and deeper into the consciousness of the character; allowing them to experience the world through her eyes?
Course Length: two weeks

MFA212 What is a Plot?
‘The Story Spine’: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___, was created by Kenn Adams in 1991 and has been reproduced in various forms throughout the literary world. According to John Barth these steps can be more appropriately defined as Incremental Perturbations. How many perturbations are needed? And how many are just enough?
Course Length: two weeks

MFA213 The Art of Sequencing
Writers are master manipulators of time. Story time, with its own laws and effects may move in any direction. Determine when and how to use this to your advantage by employing flashbacks, flash-forward, slow-motion, looping and even reverse order to bring your story to its natural conclusion.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA214 Describing and Withholding
Writing concrete descriptions should be the beginning writer’s first goal. It is all too easy to be seduced by the sound of language, to forget what Edgar Allen Poe coined as “The Single Effect Theory” or the unified effect. Knowing how and when to release information is an acquired skill. Through draft and revision, we intuit the real beginning of our story. Much depends on the story we wish to tell and the unified effect we wish to reach by story’s end.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA215 Inflection, Tone and Pitch
Inflection, the tone in which something is said, it the lifeblood of a story and its subtext. Actors on a stage have the advantage of speech. Writers must know how to use inflection and tone to show the reader their intent. We will study Francis Ford Coppola's movie, The Conversation. To see how inflection provides context.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA216 Voice and Style
There is the voice of the story and the voice of the author. Style is the way the words take on an identity on the page. On both the macro and micro level of storytelling, the most important thing is how language is used. A writer’s voice and style are things that evolve over time, not things that can be imitated or bottled for personal use.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA217 Magical Realism, Rules and How to Break Them
Magical realism does not refer simply to the oddities and eccentricities of human behavior, nor to the sometimes-astonishing world of nature causes and effects, nor to the surprising acts of coincidence and fate that occasionally appear to be directed by an unseen authority. To understand how magical realism works in fiction, think instead of radios mysteriously broadcasting the intimate conversations of strangers.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA218 Adding Humor to Fiction
The only quality all humor shares is the unexpected. It surprises us by subverting the commonplace. Incongruity is the basic, and in some sense, the only, technique of the humorist. By examining a list of humorous devices we’ll learn how to create the unexpected in our writing.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA219 The Purpose and Practice of Revision
A writer working on revision can be likened to a sculptor who takes a lump of material and by employing various techniques, coaxes it into a cohesive form. But the real work comes once that form has taken shape; when the process of subtraction becomes necessary. We remove those spots that distract from the beauty of the story at its essence, by listening closely to what it wants to be.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA220 Editing and Polishing
While there are general definitions of what makes “good sentence,” in prose writing you must listen just as much to what your story is telling you, and even requiring you as a writer. Through the use of punctuation in standard and even unexpected ways, you can make your prose sing.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA231 Art and Artifice
The job of the writer is to do all that he can to maintain the reader's interest through literary elements. We’ll discuss techniques designed to do just that. Including emotional bombshells, surprises, layered subplots, building suspense, transitioning in and out of flashbacks without disrupting the mood of the story, and more.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA232 Backstory
Backstory can be the source of what propels a character to make the choices they did. It can reveal their deep-set fears. A vital tool in every writer’s toolbox that gives insight into the character and creates a deeper connection with the reader.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA233 Cliffhangers and Thrusters
Thrusters and cliffhangers are two devices that drive a story and thus the reader forward. A Thruster pushes the story forward by placing clues, asking questions, etc. A Cliffhanger is a specific thruster that ends the scene or chapter by interrupting the action so that it continues into the next scene.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA234 Epilogues
After the falling action or denouement an epilogue (to say in addition) may be used to suggest the impact of the climatic events. Epilogues can be used for several reasons. Separated from the story by time and place, it comes from a different perspective.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA250: How to Hook the Reader
We think in story. It’s hardwired in our brain. Our brains constantly seek meaning from all the input thrown at it, yanks out what’s important for our survival and tells us a story about it based on our experiences. So, what does that mean to us as writers? That we can now decode what the brain (aka the reader) is really looking for in every story.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA251: Story Focus
A story is designed, from beginning to end, to answer a single overarching question. As readers we instinctively know this, so we expect every word, every line, every character, every image, every action to move us closer to the answer. In this class we’ll discover how the synthesis of three important elements help you to focus in on the point of your story.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA252 Emotions and POV
Letting your reader know how the protagonist reacts internally to everything that happens might be one of the most important and yet most overlooked elements of story. In this class, we’ll decode how to convey thoughts in first and third person, expose the sins of editorializing, take a look at how body language never lies and rethink the old adage “Write what you know.”
Course Length: two weeks

MFA253 What Protagonists Want
In a story, plot-wise, what all other considerations bend to is the protagonist’s external goal. In this class we’ll zero in on how to find your protagonist’s goal, the difference between her internal and external goal, how to dig deep to find her inner issue, and discover how to create external obstacles that have meaning.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA254 Protagonist Inner Issues
Stories are about people dealing with problems, but if you don’t know what’s broke, how can you write a story about fixing it? Outlining can be an intuitive, creative, and inspiring process that even pantsers can embrace when it’s done correctly.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA255 Story Is in the Specifics
In this class we’ll discuss the difference between the specific and the general, why the writer often comes up short in that area and why giving too many details is just as bad as not giving enough.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA256 Conflict and Change
We don’t like change and we don’t like conflict either. So, most of the time we do our best to avoid both. This isn’t easy since the only real constant, is change, and change is driven by conflict. Story’s job is to tackle exactly how we handle that conflict, which boils down to this: the battle between fear and desire.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA257 Cause & Effect
Since the brain analyzes everything in terms of cause and effect, when a story doesn’t follow a clear cause and effect trajectory, the brain doesn’t know what to make of it. Action, reaction, decision—it’s what drives a story forward.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA258 Undermining Your Characters' Best-Laid Plans
This class will explore why you’re doing your protagonist a favor by setting her up for a fall; how to make sure your protagonist’s trouble builds, and why some writers find it impossible to be mean to their characters. Plus, a checklist of 11 devious ways to undermine your characters’ best-laid plans.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA259 Setups to Payoffs
Readers’ cognitive unconscious assumes that everything in a story is there on a need-to-know basis, so they take for granted that everything you present is part of a pattern. A story setup is a break in a pattern. So, it’s vital that your setups have a payoff in the end. We’ll examine how unintended setups derail a story and take a look at simple setups that pay off big time.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA260 Flashbacks, Subplots, and Foreshadowing
Memories are for navigating the now. In fact, the memory of everything we’ve done, seen, and read affects, and is affected by what we’re about to do right now. The questions is, given that all these memories and decisions are influencing your protagonist as she struggles with her issue, how do you, as a writer, weave it all together?
Course Length: two weeks

MFA261 The Writer's Brain
In the workshop phase of this series, we’ll examine the deceptive thrill of finishing a first draft; discuss why seeking no-holds-barred-criticism is crucial; explore why rewriting is an essential part of the writing process; and discover a painless way to toughen our hide before heartless strangers begin attacking the very essence of our being (read: critiquing your work).
Course Length: two weeks

MFA400 Nonfiction: Telling True Stories
This eight-week course consists of readings and writing exercises that focus on components of crafting true nonfiction stories, including journalistic research, literary storytelling craft, ethics, and editing, ending with a two-week workshop. The goal of the class is to write a proposal that includes the characters, a scene, a potential story arc, and the theme for a nonfiction story you feel strongly about.
Course Length: eight weeks

MFA403 Contemporary Writing Strategies
This eight-week course has 6-weeks of readings and writing exercises that focus primarily on components of writing craft for nonfiction writers and journalists, including structure, clarity, resonance, and voice, and a two-week workshop. The goal of the class is to develop a completed story, article or blog post.
Course Length: eight weeks

MFA404 Writing for Online and Print Markets
This 16-week class teaches the craft and conventions of contemporary journalism from the responsibilities of the journalist to guiding principles to the varieties of articles that are possible to write. The goals of the class are to draft, revise and workshop an article, a feature story, an opinion article, and a blog post.
Course Length: fourteen weeks

MFA503 WRITING OUTSIDE THE BOX
This is the first course in the Reading for Craft series in which students study short stories of literary quality to learn craft and apply what they learn to their own writing. In this course we will study short stories by Stuart Dybek, Rick Moody, and Jamaica Kincaid to see how using limitations can free you to write outside the box.
Course Length: two weeks

MFA504 A LESSON IN VOICE AND EMOTIONAL FILTER
This is the second course in the Reading for Craft series in which students study short stories of literary quality to learn craft and apply what they learn to their own writing. In this course we will study “The Last Words on Earth” by Nicole Krauss to learn how to create a strong character voice and emotional filter.
Course Length: three weeks

MFA505 The Homage or Tribute Story
This is the third course in the Reading for Craft series in which students study short stories of literary quality to learn craft and apply what they learn to their own writing. In this course we will study short stories by Raymond Carver, Nathan Englander, John Cheever and Richard Ford and take a stab at writing our own homage or tribute story.
A homage story is an allusion or imitation by one artist of another as a way of paying tribute to the original writer.
Course Length: three weeks

MFA510 Fairy Tales and Folk Tales
Throughout this course, we will look at the history of folk and fairy tales and how they continue to influence literature today. We will study the form of folk and fairy tales and look at the way these stories are classified for ease in finding like tales. We will read tales written by a variety of authors, including traditional folk and fairy tales and examples of more recent literature. We will see how similar tales are told and retold by reading three Bluebeard-type tales from different authors (The Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault and Angela Carter).
Course Length: Eight Weeks

MFA700 Narrative Design
An in-depth study of story evaluation and form. Sharpen your critical reading skills as we look into both linear and modular story designs. Weekly discussions covering Plot, Character, Tone, Dialogue, Suspense, Point of View, Imagery, Time-Management, Description, Design and Symbolism. The final three weeks are devoted to Workshops. Based on the book: Narrative Design: Working with Imagination, Craft, and Form by Madison Smartt Bell
Course Length: sixteen weeks

MFA702 Subtext
We see and use subtext every day. It exposes motivation, guilt, fear, insecurities, intelligence, ethics, strengths, and weaknesses. It is the truth beneath the surface. In this course, we study the 11 ways in which subtext is expressed and how we can take advantage of those techniques to give depth to our characters and strengthen their stories. Based on the book, The Art of Subtext by Charles Baxter.
Course Length: eight weeks

MFA703 Maps of the Imagination
Writing con be considered as a two-act production. The first one of exploration and discovery, where we create worlds and characters, scribble notes, make assumptions; the second consisting of presentation, where we apply our knowledge, sharpen the manuscript and employ our skills and talent toward creating a document that has an effect on others. At some point in that journey, we turn from the role of discovery and take on that of a guide. Based on the book Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer by Peter Tuchi.
Course Length: eight weeks

MFA704 THE ART OF TIME
There is real time and there is story time. This course, based on the book, The Art of Time in Fiction, by Joan Silber, discusses the many methods of showing the passage of time in writing. We’ll discover how those methods are used in some of the classics--novel length and short stories--and how to apply them to our own work.
Course Length: eight weeks

MFA706 The Difficult Imagination – Part One
What is innovative writing? In this three-part course we will question the assumptions of traditional concepts such as temporality, characterization and scene. Look at various suggestions for rethinking and/or expanding on those notions. We will visit a few important concerns/trends/obsessions in current writing (both on and off the page); hone critical reading and editing capabilities; and discuss marketplace realities. It’s all about taking chances, looking at writing in alternative and sometimes surprising ways, and trying to move out of our comfort zone to discover what may lie on the other side. Based on the book, Architectures of Possibility by Lance Olsen
Course Length: fourteen  weeks

MFA706 The Difficult Imagination – Part Two
Based on the book: Architectures of Possibility by Lance Olsen. You must have taken Part One of the series to participate in this course.
Course Length: fourteen weeks

MFA706 The Difficult Imagination – Part Three
Based on the book: Architectures of Possibility by Lance Olsen. You must have taken Part Two of the series to participate in this course.
Course Length: fourteen weeks

MFA707 Art of Reading (and Writing)
We all know how to read, but how many of us know how to read well? This course is designed to enhance reading skills, sharpen retention and inspire confidence. Upon its completion, you should be able to dive into almost any work of fiction, from classic to contemporary, with greater confidence and enthusiasm and recreate the techniques covered, in your own work. You’ll have learned the art of reading and writing.
Course Length: eight weeks

MFA750 Writing Literary Fiction - Part One
This series is based on Alice LaPlante’s book, The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing. Beginning with a thoughtful discussion on the definition of Literary Fiction, thereafter, each session will include weekly readings, essay writing, discussions, and exercises and a Workshop during the last two weeks.
Course Length: eight weeks

MFA751 Writing Literary Fiction - Part Two
This series is based on Alice LaPlante’s book, The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing. Each session will include weekly readings, essay writing, discussions, and exercises and a Workshop during the last two weeks. You must have completed Part One to take this course.
Course Length: eight weeks

MFA752 Writing Literary Fiction - Part Three
This series is based on Alice LaPlante’s book, The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing. Each session will include weekly readings, essay writing, discussions, and exercises and a Workshop during the last two weeks. You must have completed Part Two to take this course.
Course Length: eight weeks

MFA755 Writing Linked Short Stories or the Novel-in-stories Part 1
This is the first in a two-part series of courses on writing linked stories, the novel-in-stories, or short story cycles. This is an advanced course. You should already know how to write a short story and have a few under your belt. This is NOT a course on traditional novel writing.
Course Length: eight weeks

MFA756: Linked Short Stories or the Novel-in-stories Workshop
This is the second in a two-part series of courses on writing linked stories, the novel-in-stories, or short story cycles. You must have two linked short stories written by the first day of class.
Course Length: ten Weeks

MFA801 Six Memos
At the time of his death, Italo Calvino was working on six essays setting forth the qualities he valued most in writing, and which he thought would define literature of the coming millennium. This course covers the five lectures that he completed. He assigned a “memo” to each of these characteristics and drew from his vast knowledge of myth, folklore and classical as well as modern literature, giving us a complete course on writing that has become only more relevant today.
Course Length: eight weeks

MFA802 Introduction to Metaphor and Workshop
Another course designed and led by WVU’s founder, Bob Hembree, based on his own work in metaphor with reference to works by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson published in the book Metaphors We Live By.
“In this course, I will ask you to set aside things you were taught in school. Our common understanding of metaphor is of a poetic phrase like “Juliet is the sun.” We were taught adding a “like” makes it a simile: Juliet is like the sun. In this course, we’re not working in the domain of English classes. With conceptual metaphor, simile is equal to a metaphor. In fact, fables, parables, myths, novels and even history can serve as metaphors. Metaphor is anything that describes one thing in terms of another. Our understanding of the world is built on metaphor—it’s physical. Our brains are wired for it.”
Course Length: eight weeks

 

 

UPCOMING CLASSES

 New Classes Begin Every Week.
All courses are free to members.  

MARCH

MFA206 Minor Characters (March 22)
L309 Their Eyes Were Watching God (March 27)
L232 Kevin Moffett & Nam Le Short Stories (March 27)
B101 WVU Orientation (March 28)
F140 Short Story Workshop – Linear (March 28)
MFA151 Flash Fiction Workshop: Vignettes (March 29)

APRIL

N140 Writing the Memoir (April 04)
F188: Writing Boosters - Plot Limitations (April 04)
B103 Grammar (April 04)
B101 WVU Orientation (April 04)
MFA207 Setting and Character (April 05)
MFA375 Prose Poetry: INTRODUCTION (April 05)
L230 Italo Calvino Short Stories (April 10)
F307 From Dream to Story (April 11)
B101 WVU Orientation (April 11)
MFA052 Flash Nonfiction: Voice, Sound and Language (April 12)
MFA152 Flash Fiction from Contemporary China (April 12)
B101 WVU Orientation (April 18)
MFA376 Prose Poetry: On Discovery (April 19)
MFA208 Difficult Characters (April 19)
MFA703 Maps of the Imagination (April 23)
L211 Poe and Hawthorne Short Works (April 24)
Fiction 190: Writing Boosters - Recipe #16 (April 25)
B105 Punctuation (April 25)
B101 WVU Orientation (April 25)
MFA403 Contemporary Writing Strategies (April 26)
MFA153 Flash Fiction - The Myth-ing Link (April 26)
MFA708 The Difficult Imagination - Part 2 (April 30)

MAY

L301 If on a winter's night a traveler (Calvino) (May 01)
B304 Adjectives and Adverbs - The Pros and Cons (May 02)
F192 Writing Boosters - Plot Ideas (1 Week) (May 02)
B101 WVU Orientation (May 02)
MFA209 Point of View Basics (May 03)
B101 WVU Orientation (May 09)
F242: Science Fiction Workshop (May 09)
MFA314 Japanese Poetic Forms (May 10)
MFA154 Flash Fiction Point of View and Voice (May 10)
L300 A Lesson Before Dying (Ernest Gaines) (May 15)
B101 WVU Orientation (May 16)
P166 Poetry Triggers - Line Breaks in Poetry (May 16)
B107: The Writers' Way to Creativity (May 16)
B303 Point of View (May 16)
MFA210 The Art of First Person (May 17)
L234 Barth and Borges (Form and Content) (May 22)
B101 WVU Orientation (May 23)
F174: Writing Booster Workshop - Opposites Attract and Repel (May 23)
MFA053 Flash Nonfiction: POV and Structure (May 24)
B101 WVU Orientation (May 30)
F178 Writing Boosters - Recipe #2 (May 30)
P168 Poetry Triggers - Using Points of View in Poetry Part 1 (May 30)
B103 Grammar (May 30)
MFA211 The Art of Third Person (May 31)
MFA155 Flash Fiction - One Page Fictions (May 31)