An ethos of generosity guides the MFA Writing Program at Sarah Lawrence—a belief that thriving as a writer can go hand in hand with helping other writers thrive.
Sarah Lawrence's MFA Writing faculty members are both distinguished writers and devoted mentors. At the heart of our program are bi-weekly, one-on-one student-teacher conferences, in which our faculty engages with your work in depth, accompanying you every step of the way as you explore the possibilities of your art.
Our vibrant community of writers features monthly student readings, the student-run literary magazines Lumina and Lux, and a student-run annual poetry festival, as well as our literary colloquium, a weekly series of talks by faculty members, visiting writers, and publishing-industry professionals.
- Students choose to concentrate in fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry.
- Each semester, full-time students participate in a workshop and a craft class and attend the literary colloquium.
- In workshops, students practice their writing and receive thoughtful feedback on their work. During their course of study, they take four workshops, usually with four different writers. This encourages students to explore an array of perspectives and techniques.
- Each student meets bi-weekly with workshop faculty in one-on-one conferences.
- In craft seminars, students discuss published writing and learn to read as writers.
- Taking a workshop in another genre is permitted; taking craft classes outside one's genre is not only permitted but encouraged.
- Sarah Lawrence MFA students can take full advantage of the College's proximity to the New York City literary scene.
One of the program’s distinguishing features is our conference system: bi-weekly, one-on-one meetings between student and workshop teacher. In these half-hour conferences, students and teachers talk about student work in great depth and detail. They also explore wider questions in conference. Whether a student wants to talk about the mysteries of art or the mechanics of publishing, no literary topic is off-limits. Through ongoing conversations with teachers in conference, students gain a stronger sense of their own literary aspirations and of the possibilities of the writing life.
The MFA literary colloquium is a weekly series of talks given by writing faculty members, visiting writers, and publishing professionals, touching on every aspect of the writing life. Recent speakers have included Tina Chang ("Life After the Creative Writing MFA"); Emily Gould ("How Much of This is Real? On Writing Fiction and Memoir"); Henry Dunow ("Advice from a Literary Agent"); Garth Risk Hallberg ("A Second Self: Fiction as a Vocation"); Porochista Khakpour ("Trust No One: On Surviving and Thriving in Today's Literary World by Throwing Out Advice"); and David Ryan ("Suspense, Surprise, Reception, and Emotion").
Every spring, second-year students have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with literary agents. Students submit query letters and samples of their work beforehand, and at the meetings agents provide responses and advice.
Students in the Graduate Writing Program enjoy a wide variety of teaching opportunities. Many of our second-year students teach introductory writing courses at the Purchase campus of the State University of New York, and both first- and second-year students serve as tutors at Westchester Community College. Beginning in 2016, MFA writing students will also have the opportunity to work as teaching assistants in colleges throughout the five boroughs of New York City in association with the CUNY Start program.
On the Sarah Lawrence campus, three or more MFA students work as mentors every year in the undergraduate Writing Center. The MFA Writing Program also places students in teaching positions in local high schools and prisons. And through Sarah Lawrence's non-credit Writing Institute, four or more of our second-year MFA students teach writing workshops in local libraries.
Each year, a guest writer from each genre—fiction, poetry, and nonfiction—spends two days on campus giving master classes, lectures, and readings.
Past resident writers have included the poets Mary Jo Bang, Mark Doty, Mary Ruefle, and Tracy K. Smith; fiction writers Charles Baxter, Michael Cunningham, Jonathan Lethem, Lorrie Moore, Caryl Phillips, and George Saunders; and nonfiction writers Geoff Dyer, Dave Eggers, and Phillip Lopate.
The resident writers for the 2015-2016 academic year are Eula Biss and Anne Enright.
Lumina is the annual print publication of the Graduate Writing Program. This literary magazine is run entirely by graduate student volunteers who are committed to creating a journal where emerging writers, established writers, and visual artists come together in exploration of the new and appreciation of the traditional. We want to see sonnets sharing space with experimental prose; we want art that pushes boundaries and bends rules with eloquence.
In 2014, Lumina launched a multimedia edition, Lux. The drive behind Lux was the desire to marry the ever-growing world of internet literature with the beautifully bound books we all love.
Among the past contributors to Lumina and Lux have been Tina Chang, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Amy Hempel, Cathy Park Hong, Yusef Komunyakaa, Rick Moody, Sharon Olds, Patrick Rosal, and Justin Taylor.
The Sarah Lawrence Poetry Festival is the largest free poetry festival in New York State. Entirely student-run, the festival is organized by members of both the MFA Writing Program and the undergraduate class at Sarah Lawrence. Student readers have the unique opportunity to read with invited guests and faculty poets each year. Among the writers featured in recent years have been Timothy Donnelly, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Ricky Laurentiis, Jamaal May, and Claudia Rankine.
Happy Hour Readings
Graduate writers come together to read their work at the monthly Happy Hour in the Slonim House living room, in a casual atmosphere where refreshments are shared while students read. One faculty member reads at each Happy Hour as well.
A few days before commencement, writers from the graduating class read from their culminating body of work in a formal setting. Families, friends, faculty members, and writing peers are invited to attend the graduate thesis readings.
Assistance for students in our Graduate Writing Program is available through three fellowships: Grace Paley Fellowships (for fiction writers), Jane Cooper Fellowships (for poetry writers), and Randall Jarrell Fellowships (for nonfiction writers).
More than half of Sarah Lawrence's graduate students work on campus in a variety of positions: as research assistants for undergraduate faculty; as assistants in the Writing Program; in the college library or financial aid office; and in other sites on campus.
Each year, three MFA writing students serve in paid positions as mentors in the undergraduate Writing Center.
The Writing Program also offers scholarship assistance for students who demonstrate financial need.
A total of 40 course credits is required to receive an MFA in Writing. The program can be completed on a full-time basis in two years or part-time in three years or more.
Graduate writing workshops:
4 total/1 per semester (20 credits/5 credits each)
Craft- of- Writing classes:
4 total/1 per semester (16 credits/4 credits each)
4 total/1 per semester (4 credits/1 credit each)