About Us

42 graduates and counting

"The MFA in Writing is dedicated to mentorship, student support, and an inclusive community. Writing can be a solitary activity. In the MFA at University of Saskatchewan, you belong to a program but more than that, to a welcoming community that values compassionate rigour, innovation, and diversity. Many of our graduates, while continuing to write and publish, work in the cultural sector, as editors, and literary entrepreneurs."

---Dr. Jeanette Lynes, MFA in Writing Director

What's New?

About the MFA in Writing

The goal of the Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in Writing program is the training of a writer in the professional and creative aspects of the craft. The MFA in Writing at the University of Saskatchewan balances the intensive study and practice of writing in several genres with an interdisciplinary flexibility. To the study of poetry, fiction and playwriting, the program adds a variety of non-fiction genres, allowing students to merge a wide variety of intellectual interests with their writing ambitions.

Books by MFA in Writing Students

Our MFA in Writing students maintain a robust publishing program, both during and after their MFA studies. Their work appears regularly in literary magazines and journals. Listed below are some of their book publications:

Program Information

The MFA in Writing is a two-year program. Students will normally convocate in the fall at the end of the two years. This means that the students will normally defend their theses at the end of August and/or the beginning of September. In exceptional circumstances, a student may defend his or her thesis in June. This is a Full-Time program. Students should be prepared to devote the bulk of their time to it. The writing workshops are on-site only and do not have an on-line component. In both years students take a variety of courses; in the second, students also complete a thesis. The thesis can be a novel, a work of creative non-fiction, a play, a collection of poems or short stories.

The First Year

In the first year, all students in this program are to take two 3cu Workshop courses (fiction and non-fiction), in which students are required to present work in two genres.

  • WRIT 800.3 - The Craft of Writing Fiction is to be taken in fall term.
  • WRIT 802.3 - Non-Fiction Workshop is to be taken in winter term.
  • Elective - As well, each student will take their 3 cu elective as an 800-level or approved undergraduate 300 or 400 level course in another subject. The relevance of this course to the student’s writing must be demonstrated, and prerequisite requirements must be satisfied or waived.

Each student will also take part in the program’s WRIT 990 colloquium (the Profession of Writing), and in GPS 960 (Introduction to Ethics and Integrity) and also in WRIT 994 (the thesis).

During the first year, each student will be assigned an approved faculty supervisor. An established writer from the community with professional affiliate status in the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, will also be assigned as your writing mentor starting April 1st of your first year and ending September 30th of your second year.

The Second Year

In the second year, upon successful completion of year one’s requirements, all students in the program will be required to take two more Workshop courses.

  • WRIT 801.3 - Poetry Workshop is to be taken in fall term.
  • WRIT 803.3 - Capstone Workshop Extended Forms is to be taken in winter term.

All students will continue to participate in WRIT 990 and WRIT 994. With regular supervision, including supervision throughout the summer, students will propose and carry out the thesis. The second year will be completed with the submission and successful defense of the thesis.

Mentorships

The six-month mentorship is a key component of the MFA in Writing. Students must achieve a minimum mark of 80% to be eligible for a mentor. It affords students the opportunity to work with published authors from the Saskatchewan writing community. The mentorship begins in the spring after the student’s first year and continues until September of that year. Mentors will respond to regular submissions of student work via in-person meetings, Skype, email, regular post or some combination of the above. The Coordinator will assign each student a mentor based on a ‘fit’ between the mentor’s work and the student’s proposed writing project. The student is free to suggest a mentor pending the Coordinator’s approval. The assignment of mentors will depend, of course, on the availability of the mentor. The creative project on which the mentor and student work together will essentially constitute a portion of the student’s MFA thesis.

Courses

WRIT 800.3 - The Craft of Writing Fiction

This course focuses on how to write dynamic and engaging fiction. The course offers compositional strategies for writing short stories and novels. Writ 800.3 is an intensive workshop consisting of peer critiques, a craft seminar, and discussion of assigned readings. Students will meet weekly and will be required, every week, to produce writing of their own and submit it for analysis by the rest of the class and the instructor. 

WRIT 801.3 – Poetry Workshop

Students in this course will meet weekly for a three-hour seminar, in which they will examine the key theories and issues in the writing of poetry. A professional writer should have experience in more than one genre: exploring the specific demands and opportunities of verse is fundamental to this program. The students will be required, every week, to produce writing of their own – commentary, then poems – and submit it for discussion by the rest of the class and the instructor.

WRIT 802.3 – Nonfiction Workshop

Students in this course will meet weekly for a three-hour seminar, in which they will examine some leading theories and methods in the making of nonfiction that could include biography, history, and investigative journalism. This course will develop the student’s proficiency in writing nonfiction for a general audience. The students will be required, every week, to produce writing and submit it for discussion by the rest of the class and the instructor.

WRIT 803.3 – Extended Forms

This capstone workshop focuses on the conceptualizing and creation of a book-length manuscript of prose (fiction, creative non-fiction) or poetry. It is also meant to sharpen editing skills and the ability to construct a theoretical basis for a writing project as well as situating that writing project within its broader literary context(s). The theory and aesthetic informing the writing project will be articulated in an Artist’s Statement. Each student will also be required to present a graduating craft talk, based on their writing project and open to other MFA students in the program. The student presenting the craft talk will be, in essence, teaching craft, using his or her own writing and reading as a basis. Extended Forms is the final workshop in the MFA. 

WRIT 990.0 – The Profession of Writing

Detailed, practical attention to the professional aspects of authorship provides a crucial dimension to training to undertake a career in writing. With completion of this course, students will have a grasp of the business of writing. Students in each year of the program are required to attend the seminars comprising this course. These seminars take place approximately once a month; they provide opportunities for students to consider and discuss various public and practical aspects of their work. The seminars, whose topics may include Submitting Work for Publication, The Role of the Editor, Intellectual Property and Copyright and Writing on Contract, will be led by experts from around and beyond the University.

WRIT 994.0 – Thesis

The Major Work culminates the MFA in Writing. The objective is a substantial, original piece of writing: a novel, a collection of short stories, a sequence of poems, a play, or nonfiction book or series of nonfiction work. The Major Work is to be completed in the second year of the program. At the end of the second year, the student will submit the completed work, meet with an examining committee, and defend the work submitted.

Note: In a special case situation where a student requires more than two years to complete the MFA in Writing program, continuous registration in WRIT 990 and WRIT 994 will be required on completion of the MFA.

How to Apply

Entry into the MFA in Writing requires a four-year Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent), with a minimum of 70% in the last two years, and a strong portfolio of writing. In exceptional cases, applicants without the degree may enter the program on a probationary basis: equivalency will be judged on previous participation in reputable workshops such as those offered by the Banff School of Fine Arts, the Sage Hill Writing Experience, and the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild; on relevant work experience; and on substantial publication.

Minimum Admission Requirements to the College of Graduate Studies and Research for Masters Degree, please click here.

Applications should arrive by January 30th each year to be considered for admission in the following September. Late applications will be considered only under exceptional circumstances.  The MFA in Writing Program has only one intake a year, in September.

Next Application Deadline: January 30, 2020

Application Checklist

All applications for admission must include:

  • online application for admission: http://grad.usask.ca/programs/writing.php
  • a non-refundable application fee of $90 (in Canadian or equivalent US funds), which is payable online through the online application process
  • three letters of reference (the referees whose email addresses you provide in your online application will automatically be directed to an online form to submit). Please ask your references to assess your writing ability and work ethic, and your ability to work within a collaborative group workshop setting
  • statement of intent, indicating the genre(s) of literature in which you wish to specialize.  Applicants should be as detailed as possible with respect to the writing project they aim to undertake during their study (to be uploaded on your online application)
  • CV (resume) (to be uploaded on your online application)
  • portfolio of 30 pages of writing
    • This portfolio will be judged for evidence that the candidate has achieved a preliminary standard of originality, craft, style and literary sophistication. This can be submitted electronically in PDF format.  The writing portfolio will constitute a substantial portion of the applicant's qualification for admission. (to be uploaded on your online application)
  • transcripts from all post secondary institutions attended (to be uploaded on your online application)
  • test results of proof of English language proficiency from applicants from non-English speaking countries (eg. TOEFL, IELTS).  Click here for details.

MFA Student Resources

SAMPLE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

A good example of an artist's statement is found here (PDF file will open in new window).

Used with permission of Elise Godfrey, 2014.

SAMPLE THESIS FRONT MATTER

A good example of the front matter of a thesis can be found here (PDF file will open in new window). 

Used with permission from Leah MacLean-Evans.

Faculty

Faculty from the Humanities and Fine Arts departments will participate in the MFA in Writing as instructors and supervisors.

Program Director & Faculty

Jeanette LynesLynes


Jeanette Lynes holds a PhD in Canadian Literature from York University and an MFA in Writing from the University of Southern Maine's low-residency Stonecoast Program. She has been a Writer in Residence at Saskatoon Public Library, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and Northern Lights College in Dawson Creek, B.C., in addition to being appointed Pathy Professor of Canadian Studies at Princeton University in 2003. She is the author of one novel, The Factory Voice (Coteau Books), long listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and a ReLit Award. The novel was also a 'Top 100' book in the Globe and Mail for 2009. Jeanette's seventh poetry collection, Bedlam Cowslip: The John Clare Poems (Woksak and Wynn/Buckrider Books) was shortlisted for two Saskatchewan Book Awards. Her co-edited book, Where the Nights are Twice as Long: Love Letters of Canadian Poets (with David Eso) was published by Goose Lane Editions in 2015. Jeanette was nominated for a 2016 Saskatoon YWCA Women of Distinction Award in the Arts, Culture and Heritage category. In summer 2016, with support from the Canada Council for the Arts she presented her poetry at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival with 'The Shaken and the Stirred' Canadian poets; she will also present readings of her work in London and Northern Ireland. Her poetry recently appeared in Prairie Fire, Room Magazine, and Gutter Magazine (UK). In summer 2017 Jeanette and Daniel Scott Tysdal will lead the Emerging Writers group at the Sage Hill Writing Experience. Jeanette's second novel, The Small Things that End the Word, will be published by Coteau Books in 2018. 

Visit Jeanette's wikipedia page here

View Jeanette's sample publications here

Photo: Matt Braden Photography

Faculty

Sheri Benning

Sheri Benning is the author of three books of poetry, most recently The Season’s Vagrant Light: New and Selected Poems published by internationally esteemed poetry publisher, Carcanet Press (Manchester UK). Her previous two collections, Thin Moon Psalm (Brick Books) and Earth After Rain (Thistledown Press) each won two Saskatchewan Book Awards. Thin Moon Psalm was also nominated for the ReLit Poetry Prize and won the Alfred G. Bailey manuscript award. Her poems, essays and short stories have appeared in Canadian, British, Irish and Italian anthologies and literary magazines. She’s currently working on a novel, excerpts of which have been shortlisted for the CBC short story prize, received honourable mention in the National Magazine Awards, and have been published or are forthcoming in Canadian and Scottish journals. In support of the novel she’s won grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Saskatchewan Arts Board. An early draft received a John V. Hicks Manuscript Award.

Benning completed her PhD at the University of Glasgow. Her research interests include the intersection of contemporary poetry and poetics with ecocriticism and environmental philosophy, as well as literary nonfiction in the Anthropocene.

Affiliated Faculty

Jon Bath

jon-bath.jpg

Jon has been at the Digital Research Centre since it opened in 2006, and became the Director in the summer of 2011. He joined the department of Art & Art History in 2015 as an Assistant Professor.

He completed his PhD in English at the University of Saskatchewan in 2009. His PhD thesis, Blowing the Crystal Goblet: Transparent Book Design 1350-1950, traces the development of the “crystal goblet” metaphor for printing- the belief that the primary function of those who craft information interfaces is to make the medium as unobtrusive as possible so that readers can have the illusion of unmediated communication with their chosen authors. He is now working on a monograph, tentatively titled Coding the Crystal Goblet, which examines the discourse surrounding the design of electronic interfaces for the persistence of this belief that the “invisible” user interfaces are superior to those that assert their own materiality. He is an active scholar in the field of  Digital Humanities and Media/Book History. Most notably, he is a co-leader of the Modeling and Prototyping Team of the Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) project, a SSHRC Major Collaborative Research Initiative.

David Parkinson

David Parkinson is a Professor in the Department of English at the University of Saskatchewan. He has served as Director of the ICCC and Vice-Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts. As ICCC Director, he was involved in the establishment of the MFA program in Writing. 

Beverly Brenna

Bev Brenna is a Professor in Curriculum Studies, College of Education, whose work focuses on literacy and children's/young adult literature. She has published ten books for young people and her series of novels about a teen with autism, beginning with Wild Orchid, has earned a current place on CBC's list of 100 Young Adult Books That Make You Proud to be Canadian: http://www.cbc.ca/books/books100ya.html. The White Bicycle, also from the Wild Orchid series, was shortlisted for a 2013 Governor General's Award and won a 2013 Printz Honor book Award. For more information, please see https://www.beverleybrenna.com or http://www.usask.ca/education/ecur/profiles/brenna/index.php.

Dwayne Brenna

Dwayne Brenna is the versatile author of several books of humour, poetry, and fiction. Coteau Books published his popular series of humourous vignettes entitled Eddie Gustafson's Guide to Christmas in 2000. His two books of poetry, Stealing Home and Give My Love to Rose, were published by Hagios Press in 2012 and 2015 respectively. Stealing Home, a poetic celebration of the game of baseball, was shortlisted for several Saskatchewan Book Awards, including the University of Regina Book of the Year Award. His first novel New Albion, about a laudanum-addicted playwright struggling to survive in London's East End during the winter of 1850-51, was published by Coteau Books in autumn 2016. His short stories and poems have been published in an array of journals, including GrainNine, and The Antigonish Review. Brenna is also the author of several books on theatre research. His stage plays have been produced at Dancing Sky Theatre in Meacham, 25th Street Theatre in Saskatoon, and the Neptune Theatre in Halifax.

 

MFA Mentors, Past & Present

What Our MFA In Writing Students Are Saying

"There comes a point in most every writer's journey when a deeper commitment is required to achieve a new and richer level of craft. I'm that writer. I searched long and hard for a way to accelerate my writing. I was searching for a way to challenge everything I thought I knew about writing. I'm an established poet but I wanted to study new genres, immerse myself in the craft of fiction, creative non-fiction, and playwriting and, in the process, re-visit my own understanding of poetry. I wanted to write and revise and test my limits but I did not want to pursue this part of the journey alone. I knew that doing so would frustrate me. I'd fall back on old practices and habits.  

Fortunately, I heard about the MFA in Writing program at the U of S. The program has exceeded my expectations. I've found equally driven and committed students who are on the same upward climb. I've found instructors who listen, pay attention, provide critical feedback, give direction, and share their own hard-earned wisdom. I've stepped into a community where my work is understood, where breaking boundaries is celebrated. I feel respected, supported, and encouraged to keep pushing myself. Is there anything better for a writer? I don't think so."

-Katherine Lawrence, Class of 2017

“The Saskatchewan writing community offers support, camaraderie and mentorship. By being part of the MFA, you find yourself thick in the middle of it, surrounded by writers who’ve been in the business for years and are willing to share their knowledge and mentor emerging writers. The MFA at the University of Saskatchewan is small and dedicated and nearly brand new. You’re encouraged to make your mark, but you’re also asked to work hard. So you do, and the hard work pays off.”

-Sarah Taggart (Fiction) Class of 2014

“The MFA in Writing is an excellent program because of its emphasis on mentorship in a province with such an abundance of distinguished authors. Saskatchewan’s literary landscape is vast and varied: from Saskatoon’s thriving spoken word poetry scene to the Sage Hill Writing Experience in the picturesque Qu’Appelle Valley, writers of all kinds will find a wealth of opportunities to help them connect and create.”

-Elise Godfrey (Poetry) Class of 2014

“The MFA in Writing exposes me to a breadth of genres that reveals and develops untapped skills. As part of the programming, we are injected into the writing community and given the tools to navigate the often-choppy waters of publishing. The support of the staff and extensive experience of the educators in the program instill confidence that helps me do what I came here to do, write. “

-James Pepler (fiction) Class of 2014

“The mentorship was a tremendous and rewarding experience. Working with established authors not only provides writers with excellent readers for their work but it also makes you privy to valuable advice about the nuts and bolts of writing that will sharpen and hone your ability to what Hunter S. Thompson once called the “high white point.”

-Adam Hawboldt (Fiction) Class of 2013

“Having the opportunity to meet with an accomplished poet and intensely deconstruct my work on a bi-weekly basis was a most enriching aspect of the MFA program. The intimacy that the mentorship allows for, and the safety it creates, accelerated the development of my own personal voice. I also learned to recognize and respect my own process as a writer, and to have all of these things validated and refined by the advice of an admired author was invaluable.

- Leanne Bellamy (Poetry) Class of 2013

“Working one-on-one with a mentor is a relational and invaluable, the crux of the MFA program. I was able to work with Sean Virgo, someone I respect immensely – a brilliant and well-read author who works in diverse genres and has extensive editorial experience. The community of writers we have in this province is an unnatural resource we would all benefit from tapping into – the MFA in Writing program is built around that wealth of talent that abides here.”

-Andrea Ledding (Poetry) Class of 2013

“The mentorship exposes us, necessarily, to the expertise of published authors. I greatly appreciated the care taken to match my interests with a mentor – from Sandra Birdsell, I received much-needed criticism and encouragement, as well as insights into her process. How encouraging it was to see one of her seventh generation manuscripts thoroughly marked in red by her editor. I always came away from our meetings full of food for thought and an impetus to keep writing.

- Lorelie Gerwing-Sarauer (Fiction) Class of 2013

Newsletter

MFA Variety Show

The MFA in Writing Variety Show is a collaborative, creative space for current students, alumni, faculty, and mentors of the program to share writing they love with the wider community. 

The idea for this project was born in the spring of 2020, during a time of unexpected isolation and uncertainty. We hope that the MFA in Writing Variety Show celebrates our community of writers, boosts morale, and showcases a collection of imaginative work for us to enjoy together.

The River Volta Series

River Volta Review of Books

The River Volta Review of Books (RVRB) is edited and published by the University of Saskatchewan’s MFA in Writing. There are three components to RVRB: 1) book reviews; 2) interviews by our MFA students with their mentors and other established writers; and 3) short essays analysing elements of craft in literary works.

Writing is solitary, but we believe in the value of a literary community that encourages and expands the possible via reading suggestions and critical attention to craft. We believe in celebrating our student-writers and aim to provide them with a place to share their voices.

For more information, please visit their website.

River Volta Reading Series

The River Volta Reading Series is a monthly series founded and run by MFA in Writing Students. The series was established in 2014 by MFA alumni Sara-Jane Keith and Chelsea Forbes. Each month The River Volta presents featured authors followed by open mike readings. The series takes place in a cozy cafe, and offers a friendly, warm environment for writers of all levels to test-drive new work at the open mike. The last River Volta reading for 2016 was a packed house to hear featured authors Guy Vanderhaeghe and Lloyd Ratzlaff, followed by an open mike. In 2017, the new organizers for The River Volta are MFA students Geoff Pevlin, Daniel Kim, and Simon Bohm. Many thanks to outgoing River Volta organizers Shannon McConnell and Lindsay Kiesman! The River Volta Reading Series is supported by The ICCC and The MFA in Writing.

News Archive