“Read one hundred books. Write one.”

— Writing Seminars founder Liam Rector

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First and Second Terms

  • Five packet exchanges (approx one per month) with teacher—the due dates for these are set by the teacher at each residency and are equally spaced throughout the term.
  • Ongoing original work in each packet, including revisions.
  • 20–30 books read—approximately five per packet.
  • Selected nonfiction responses (2–3 pages) to half the books read.
  • Minimum 10-page critical essay based on readings (usually due in the fourth packet).

Third Term

  • Five packet exchanges (approx one per month) with teacher—the due dates for these are set by the teacher at each residency and are equally spaced throughout the term.
  • Ongoing original work in each packet, including revisions.
  • 20–30 books read—approximately five per packet.
  • Selected nonfiction responses (2–3 pages each) to half the books read.
  • Minimum 20-page critical essay based on readings (usually due in the fourth packet).

Fourth Term

  • Five packet exchanges with teacher (approximately one per month). Ongoing original work directed towards completion of a portfolio/thesis.
  • Minimum of 10 books read.
  • Selected nonfiction responses (2–3 pages each) to half the books read.
  • Preparation of a final 25–30 minute literary lecture, with a 5–10 minute mandatory Q&A following the lecture, to be given at the parting (fifth) residency.
  • Preparation of a formal 20-minute reading of one's work to be given at the parting (fifth) residency.
  • Submission of a creative thesis to two faculty readers.
  • Submission of a creative thesis to Bennington College’s Crossett Library.

Two Ten-day Residencies

Students must also attend two 10-day residency periods a year, one in January and one in June, plus a final (fifth) residency to mark the completion of the course of study. These are high-energy and high-demand sessions and we require full participation. Students must arrive the day before and leave no earlier than after the final scheduled academic event of the residency (the final workshop on the final Sunday morning), being in residence the entire 10 days and planning travel arrangements and other commitments to insure no break in the 10-day concentration.

Credits

Sixteen graduate credits are conferred per term, upon successful completion of the work, and 64 credits are required for the MFA degree.

The Student/Teacher Packet Exchanges Throughout Each Term

  • We maintain a student to faculty ratio of five to one in order to provide maximum individual attention to each student.
  • Students are required to complete five packet mailings per term. The due dates for these packets are set by the teacher and equally spaced—approximately one per month—throughout each term.
  • The packets will consist of written responses to readings (2–3 pages each) and a comprehensive amount of creative work in the genre. Students are expected to devote themselves intensively to their reading and writing and to put the Seminars at the center of their lives.
  • The requirement of time is a minimum of 25 hours a week. This means roughly 100 hours per packet. Note: most of our students manage this commitment while working full or part time.
  • Punctuality between students and teachers in exchanging packets is not only essential, it is integral to the nature of the low-residency educative process itself. Teachers will announce at each residency the deadlines for receiving packets from their students, and teachers will have their responses to packets in student hands no later than 10 days after those deadlines. If any teacher’s packet response is more than seven days late, the student will notify the associate director.
  • If any student's packet is more than seven days late, the teacher will notify the associate director. Late packets may be cause for suspension or dismissal. For students who are receiving federal financial aid, late-packet arrivals may jeopardize their eligibility for receiving financial aid.
  • The responses by teachers to the creative work and critical responses to readings will be thorough, taking up both detailed matters, writing style, the inner logic of the sequence, etc., and the larger perspectives. Each teacher will teach differently, and in fact we have crafted the Seminars to engage each teacher’s strengths and eccentricities, but there is a fixed baseline of expectations and demands for each term’s study.