By Kathleen Driskell, Director, Spalding Low-Residency MFA
Our graduate students enter the Spalding MFA in Writing Program to learn to write better, and that’s our core academic push as well. But all students want to publish or have their work produced, too, and so we’ve regularly invited leading agents, editors, producers, including New York and small press publishers to speak to and make connections with our students during residencies.
A handful of students also come to Spalding to be credentialed to teach, and, for years, we’ve presented lectures and panel discussions on creative writing pedagogy. Students aspiring to teach at the college level are exposed to methodologies, strategies for developing course syllabi, and most importantly discussions on what I call teaching values. Our regularly offered workshop in the teaching of creative writing allows our students to actually put their developing pedagogy into practice, and to present successful completion of that course on their transcripts to prospective institutions. In a very competitive academic marketplace, this specialized instruction has helped our graduates land tenure-track jobs across the country at state and private institutions.
Lately, feedback has let us know that some students would like help preparing for the writing workplace outside of the academy, and as Spalding’s mission pledges “to meet the needs of the times,” the MFA Program is busy developing our new Profession of Writing (POW) curriculum to enrich our student’s degrees.
This Spring 2018 MFA residency we will feature lectures to help students and alumni learn more about the practice of book reviewing, an especially useful skill for those just breaking into publication. We’ll also feature our alum Graham Shelby, a wonderful memoirist and storyteller, who will talk about his current day-job as speechwriter for Greg Fisher, the Mayor of Louisville. Recent graduate Jane B. Jones will give a talk about her work as Education Director for Actors Theatre. And literary agent Alice Speilburg will give tips on how to gain an agent.
Other news on the horizon?
I’m excited that we’ve just added a Special Topics Workshop course, which allows us the flexibility to offer students hands-on experience in editing, publishing, writing for new media including online writing and publishing, writing for nonprofits including grant-writing, theater production, and other topics that may be of interest to students. After completion of the second semester, MFA students can opt into this workshop instead of their genre workshops, much as they do now with the teaching seminar, and thus don’t add additional time or tuition expense.
And, we’ve revised ENG633. Beginning Fall 2018, students will have more flexibility when choosing their third-semester research project. Students may still opt to write the Extended Critical Essay, focusing on literary criticism, but, with approval, students also have the option to write a research-based pedagogy paper that focuses on teaching of creative writing or a special-topics paper on editing and publishing or theater or film production. MFA students can opt for a grant-writing project that allows them to partner with a non-profit literary arts organization, giving our students hands-on grant-writing experience and the opportunity to benefit their own literary arts community.
For our MFA students who want to put all their academic muscle into creative writing, nothing changes. Providing meaningful and innovative instruction to our students by published writers who are excellent teachers remains our number one goal.
Our POW offerings are meant to enrich those interested in the profession of writing after graduation. And, as always, we’re happy to say “welcome home” to any alums who’d like to pursue these offerings, too.
Award-winning poet and teacher Kathleen Driskell is Professor of Creative Writing and serves as the Program Director of Spalding University’s low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2013, she was awarded the honor of Outstanding Faculty Member by the trustees of Spalding University. Her newest collection of poetry Blue Etiquette was published by Red Hen Press in 2016. Next Door to the Dead, was published as a Kentucky Voices Selection, by the University Press of Kentucky in 2015. Kathleen lives outside Louisville with her husband and two children in an old country church built before The American Civil War.