A letter from Steven Cramer, director of the graduate Creative Writing Program at Lesley
The art of writing creates a conversation between one interior life and another. You must be considering total immersion in that art, or why would you be reading this letter? And you’re probably intrigued by the low-residency model of MFA creative writing programs. (If you’re not sure what the low-residency model entails, you’re not alone. Click on residency information for some specifics.)
Lesley University’s Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing offers five genres: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, writing for stage and screen, and writing for young people. I believe three special features of the Lesley program particularly attract students: the quality of the program’s faculty; our seminar-based, not lecture-based, residency curriculum; and a unique interdisciplinary component.
Lesley’s program now has over 150 alumni and roughly one hundred continuing students. Our graduates have published books at houses such as Abrams, McGraw-Hill, and Scholastic; placed their writing in magazines such as Gettysburg Review, Harvard Review, Massachusetts Review, Seneca Review, and The Writer's Chronicle; won major awards such as the St. Botolph Emerging Artist Grant in Literature and the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship, and found positions teaching writing at many universities, including Lesley’s own undergraduate Humanities Division. Writing for Stage & Screen students and alumni have been honored with recognition by the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. See our Student Achievements page for a complete listing of our alumni and current student accomplishments. The program has recently been named one of the Top Ten Low-Residency Programs by Poets & Writers magazine. Tom Healey’s The Creative Writing MFA Handbook named the Lesley program “among the more distinguished low-residency programs.”
In writing and in writing programs, it’s what’s inside that counts. Lesley’s program has an ethos. A fair and honest estimate of the student’s gifts—good or bad—has to be communicated, wrote Seamus Heaney, but the communication must be done with respect and a care for the emotional tissues. Good writers know they must not settle for anything but their best, but they also need the spirit to put one word in front of the other, for a lifetime. Every faculty member who teaches in this program is a committed artist and passionate teacher who understands this exasperating but life-sustaining paradox. In the residencies and distance-learning semesters, the Lesley program focuses on the individual student’s developing gifts, particular craft challenges, and aesthetic aspirations. All the faculty mentors provide useful critique that’s artistically rigorous but not personally ruthless. As one of our faculty members recently wrote in a letter to a very gifted student, “criticism means I care.”
In addition to such careful, challenging feedback from distinguished writers and dedicated teachers, what else feeds an apprentice writer’s writing? Obviously, a diet of nourishing reading. At Lesley, students read on the edges of their seats. Less obviously, something individual and often eccentric feeds a writer’s writing. The Lesley program’s interdisciplinary component honors just how widely that “something” can vary. Whether it's a publishing internship, learning how to conduct insightful author interviews, reviewing books, teaching workshops, researching subjects relevant to a student’s work-in-progress—or simply getting one’s hands into clay—our students enhance their ongoing writing, or their aspirations for future writing careers, through this unique component. Most excitingly, our interdisciplinary component has opened the doors of the college classroom to many Lesley students and alumni.
I invite you to explore this web site further. Read the bibliographies of our MFA Writing Faculty and look at our Student and Alumni achievements to see what our students and alumni have accomplished. Peruse the residency information. Read the frequently asked questions page. Then, if you’d like to talk, feel free to contact us, and we can begin, and deepen, that conversation.
Sincerely,Steven Cramer, Director
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