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Nature Writing

Nature Writing

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, Master of Arts

Degree Type

Master of Arts, Master of Fine Arts

Department

Graduate Program in Creative Writing

Our Nature Writing concentration seeks to empower writers who care about the urgent and wonder-filled world of contemporary environmental literature. We are founded on the core belief that writing can be an agent of change, that creativity engenders solutions, and that students should be individually mentored to achieve their highest artistic goals. We welcome and mentor all genres.

Program Overview

Nature Writing students and faculty gather in a circle at the Lower Loop Trailhead.

Use your passion as a force for positive change

Western’s MFA and M.A. in Nature Writing offers an ethically-alert, cutting-edge program which explores essential topics in the field of contemporary ecological writing, including climate chaos and environmental justice. While students focus on their genre of choice, major subgenres are explored in both traditional and experimental forms.

Because the Nature Writing concentration offers both an MFA and an M.A., you’ll be able to choose a degree that best meets your personal and career goals, setting you up for professional success after graduation. To read about the MFA requirements, click here and to read about the M.A. program requirements click here.

A diverse and rigorous curriculum includes zoom classes and asynchronous discussions, making the program flexible and convenient. Faculty and guest speakers are widely published and are dedicated teachers and mentors.

Students come from diverse disciplines and backgrounds, and we encourage any writers engaged in the intersection of art, ecology, and stewardship.

Graduates leave the program with a book-length manuscript, short-form work, and a thorough understanding of the many approaches to writing about our place, our planet, and our people.

Inspired by our surroundings

Nature Writing students and faculty enjoy a walk together during each summer residency to enjoy the breathtaking landscape of the Gunnison Valley.

Program Requirements

At Western, course rotations are crafted to encompass a variety of subject fields for a comprehensive education and versatile degree. For required courses and degree plans, visit the official University Catalog. Below is a general overview of courses at Western Colorado University related to this area of study.

The Graduate Program in Creative Writing offers an MFA in Genre Fiction, Nature Writing, Poetry, or Screenwriting. Western's curricula differs from other low-residency programs by emphasizing intense training in craft, building of a writing community, close study of historically underrepresented writers, and exposure to the business of being a writer.

All MFA programs in the Graduate Program in Creative Writing use a low-residency format that engages students in two ways:
1. through rigorous online curricula and regular virtual classes spanning the Summer, Fall, and Spring semesters, during which students work closely with faculty and with members of their peer community;
2. through a one-week residency at the end of each summer semester that facilitates connection and community.

All programs require a high degree of commitment and excellence from candidates, who must maintain at least a 3.00 course average to complete the program. A minimum grade of B- in each course is required.

In all three summer semesters, MFA candidates complete a 3-credit intensive course in their concentrations. In their first summer, they take a first-year intensive course and also complete two credits of CRWR 600, The Common Read & Writing Craft. In their second summer, they take a second-year intensive course and also earn two credits for starting their thesis project. In their third summer, they take a final intensive course, plus a 1-credit elective which allows them to explore other concentrations.

During the Fall and Spring semesters of their first year, full-time students take two 6-credit courses for a total of 12 credits per semester. Students may anticipate spending between 25 and 30 hours per week on assigned coursework. The coursework typically consists of readings and viewings, asynchronous discussions, and writing assignments for which instructors offer online feedback. Students also participate regularly in live virtual classes and one-on-one meetings with faculty.

In the Fall semester of their second year, full-time students take one 6-credit course, plus three credits of mentor-guided thesis work, for a total of 9-credits, so that they can focus on the thesis project. In the Spring semester, students return to taking two 6-credit courses in their concentration, plus one final credit of mentor-guided thesis work.

Program Information

Western's low-residency MFA in Creative Writing offers a rigorous, terminal degree in the field, involving intensive creative work, development of critical and pedagogical skills, and study of the business of being a writer. Students select one of four concentrations, Genre Fiction, Nature Writing, Poetry, or Screenwriting, and are required to take a 1-credit elective during their final summer semester.

Full-time students require 25 months to finish the program, which comprises four academic semesters and three summer semesters. During the Fall and Spring semesters, students engage in courses using both live virtual classrooms and online learning tools. In each of the three summer semesters, students take courses online and attend an on-campus residency at the end of the summer term.

Total Credits for the MFA in Creative Writing
First two summer residencies @5 hours/term = 10 credits 
Third summer residency @4 hours/term = 4 credits 
First two academic semesters @12 hours/term = 24 credits 
Third academic semester @9 hours/term = 9 credits 
Fourth academic semester @13 hours/term = 13 credits 
Total Credits: 60

Requirements for Full Admission to the MFA in Creative Writing

Candidate must submit:

  • An official transcript of the bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university showing recommended 3.0 cumulative GPA or higher.
  • An 800- to 1,000-word personal statement describing the applicant's experience and commitment to writing. This statement should include a self-assessment of qualifications for admission to Western's Graduate Program in Creative Writing for the chosen degree and concentration.
  • A writing sample in the appropriate genre, double spaced and numbered, or properly formatted for the appropriate genre:
    • The Genre Fiction concentration sample should include 20 to 25 pages, ideally from a single work.
    • The Screenwriting concentration sample should include a screenplay of 15-30 pages.  
    • The Nature Writing concentration sample should include 20 to 25 pages, in any genre or a mix of genres. 
    • The Poetry concentration sample should include 10 to 15 pages of poetry.
    • The Publishing concentration sample should consist of a 3- to 5-page critical assessment of a story’s suitability for publication (story to be provided to applicant during application process).
  • Two letters of professional recommendation from those capable of assessing the applicant's preparation to succeed in graduate-level work. All letters must be originals submitted on letterhead, must be signed by the person giving the recommendation, and must be less than a year old.
  • Payment of university application fee

Provisional Admission to the MFA in Creative Writing

An applicant who does not meet the requirements for full admission to the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing may be considered for provisional admission upon the recommendation of the program director and approval by the Dean of Graduate Studies. A provisionally admitted student will have a maximum of one calendar year to complete any pre-requisite academic coursework. The program director or Dean of Graduate Studies may set additional timeline requirements.

Concentration in Genre Fiction

The Concentration in Genre Fiction includes instruction in writing for such forms as science fiction/fantasy, the mystery, romance, and other forms of mainstream commercial fiction. Study includes short and long written forms, as well as strategies and techniques for the effective teaching of creative writing. 

The MFA Concentration in Genre Fiction requires the following 60 credits:

Course List
Code Title Credits
CRWR 600The Common Read & Writing Craft2
CRWR 601Fundamentals of Writing Genre Fiction I3
CRWR 602Fundamentals of Writing Fiction II3
CRWR 604Career Planning for Genre Writers3
CRWR 608Genre Writing I- Romance and Mystery Fiction6
CRWR 609Genre Studies I-Romance and Mystery6
CRWR 618Genre Studies II- Western, Speculative, and Young Adult Fiction6
CRWR 619Genre Writing II- Western, Speculative, and Young Adult Fiction6
CRWR 620Short Forms Genre Fiction Writing6
CRWR 621Business Fundamentals for Genre Writers6
CRWR 626Pedagogy & Practicum6
CRWR 697Special Topics1
Six credits of:6
CRWR 694
MFA Thesis (must be taken for a total of six credits)
Total Credits60

Genre Fiction as a Second Concentration

Students pursuing this second MFA concentration must earn 30 credits as follows:

Course List
Code Title Credits
CRWR 604Career Planning for Genre Writers3
CRWR 608Genre Writing I- Romance and Mystery Fiction6
CRWR 609Genre Studies I-Romance and Mystery6
CRWR 618Genre Studies II- Western, Speculative, and Young Adult Fiction6
CRWR 619Genre Writing II- Western, Speculative, and Young Adult Fiction6
CRWR 693Master's Capstone2
CRWR 697Special Topics1
Total Credits30

Concentration in Nature Writing

The Concentration in Nature Writing brings students into the contemporary and complex conversation of environmental writing, introducing them to a wide range of authors, literary techniques, and styles relevant to the field. The concentration provides readings and training in all major literary sub-genres including memoir and personal essay, fiction, nature writing, science and advocacy writing, and hybrid and experimental work. Courses include significant reading in primary and secondary sources, workshop, and writing extensive short- and long-format work. As the culmination of their work, MFA students complete a creative thesis, which consists of part of a book-length manuscript, and engage in professional development for future publication and career opportunities.

The MFA Concentration in Nature Writing requires the following 60 credits:

Course List
Code Title Credits
CRWR 600The Common Read & Writing Craft2
CRWR 680Writing Place: New Forms and Techniques6
CRWR 681Introduction to Nature Writing3
CRWR 682Book-Length Considerations3
CRWR 683Thesis Seminar in Nature Writing3
CRWR 685Craft of Creative Nonfiction6
CRWR 686Genres of Nature Writing6
CRWR 687Nature Writing Workshop6
CRWR 688Writing about Nature and Society6
CRWR 689Special Topics in Nature Writing6
CRWR 695Professional Development in Nature Writing6
CRWR 697Special Topics1
Six credits of:6
CRWR 694
MFA Thesis (must be taken for a total of six credits)
Total Credits60

Nature Writing as a Second Concentration

Students pursuing this concentration as a second area of emphasis must earn 30 credits as follows:

Course List
Code Title Credits
CRWR 680Writing Place: New Forms and Techniques6
CRWR 682Book-Length Considerations3
CRWR 685Craft of Creative Nonfiction6
CRWR 686Genres of Nature Writing6
CRWR 688Writing about Nature and Society6
CRWR 693Master's Capstone2
CRWR 697Special Topics1
Total Credits30

Concentration in Poetry 

The Concentration in Poetry brings students into the ongoing conversation of poetics, introducing them to the ideas, questions, approaches, and techniques that have been the concerns of poets across time and cultures. The Poetry curriculum includes workshop-style courses focused on developing voice and expanding range, as well as courses on contemporary authors, poetic craft and technique, special topics in poetry, and professional development. MFA students also take one elective during their final summer residency. 
 
As the culmination of their work, MFA students complete a creative thesis, which consists of a book-length manuscript of original poetry. Students work on this year-long, capstone project under the close guidance of a faculty mentor and present it to the GPCW community during their third Summer Residency.

The MFA Concentration in Poetry requires the following 60 credits:

Course List
Code Title Credits
CRWR 600The Common Read & Writing Craft2
CRWR 630Foundations of Poetry3
CRWR 634Poetry Now6
CRWR 635Poetry Workshop I6
CRWR 640From Thesis to Book3
CRWR 644Poetic Lineages6
CRWR 645Poetry Workshop II6
CRWR 648Poetry Craft and Technique6
CRWR 649Special Topics in Poetry6
CRWR 650Graduate Poetry Seminar3
CRWR 653The Writing Life6
CRWR 697Special Topics1
Six credits of:6
CRWR 694
MFA Thesis (must be taken for a total of six credits)
Total Credits60

Poetry as a Second Concentration 

Students pursuing this second MFA concentration must earn 30 credits as follows: 

Course List
Code Title Credits
CRWR 634Poetry Now6
CRWR 635Poetry Workshop I6
CRWR 640From Thesis to Book3
CRWR 644Poetic Lineages6
CRWR 648Poetry Craft and Technique6
CRWR 693Master's Capstone2
CRWR 697Special Topics1
Total Credits30

Concentration in Screenwriting 

The Concentration in Screenwriting teaches screenwriting for both film and television. Each semester pairs an intensive analytical course with an intensive generative writing course. The concentration emphasizes story and scene structure, visual storytelling, character development, development of concept and theme, genre, dialogue-never forgetting that a screenplay is a document that will ultimately be translated to the screen. Through regular mentorship, students refine and consolidate their own best writing practices.

The MFA Concentration in Screenwriting requires the following 60 credits: 

Course List
Code Title Credits
CRWR 600The Common Read & Writing Craft2
CRWR 660Scenes & Sequences3
CRWR 664Adapting the Feature6
CRWR 665Feature Structure & Genre6
CRWR 667Writing the Television Screenplay6
CRWR 669TV Structure & Genre6
CRWR 670Visual Storytelling3
CRWR 672Screenwriting Workshop I6
CRWR 673The Concept & The Pitch6
CRWR 674Screenwriting Workshop 26
CRWR 679Screenwriting Thesis Production3
CRWR 697Special Topics1
Six credits of:6
CRWR 694
MFA Thesis (must be taken for a total of six credits)
Total Credits60

Screenwriting as a Second Concentration

Students pursuing this second MFA concentration must earn 30 credits as follows: 

Course List
Code Title Credits
CRWR 664Adapting the Feature6
CRWR 665Feature Structure & Genre6
CRWR 667Writing the Television Screenplay6
CRWR 669TV Structure & Genre6
CRWR 670Visual Storytelling3
CRWR 693Master's Capstone2
CRWR 697Special Topics1
Total Credits30

Spotlight

Laura Pritchett

Laura Pritchett

Faculty

Laura Pritchett, who directs the MFA with a concentration in Nature Writing, has two novels coming out in 2024, and they could not be more different.

Lara Richardson

Lara Richardson

Alumna

Careers

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The Program

Graduate students in the Nature Writing concentration for the GPCW go for a hike on the Lower Loop Trail.

Advance your career in our convenient, low-residency program.

Western’s graduate Creative Writing program follows a low-residency format. Faculty and students interact online through Zoom and Canvas during the academic year and gather in person on Western’s campus for one week in early August for intensive classes and to work closely with nationally recognized authors on their writing.

  • Residency: MFA students attend three summer residencies. The first prepares students for the first academic year; the second residency focuses on coursework; and the third residency prepares graduates to present their work.
  • Academic Year: During the academic year, full-time MFA students take two courses each semester. These six-credit courses make use of video conferencing and web platforms for online work.
  • Additional Opportunities: Guests compliment course instruction throughout the year, and students are often invited to guest lectures outside their home concentration. Students also have the opportunity to explore other concentrations through 1-credit summer elective courses.
  • Matriculation: To complete the MFA, students work on a culminating thesis project throughout their final year.
  • Alternate Courses of Study: M.A. students pursue a similar curriculum to MFA students. They attend for one academic year, do not write a final portfolio, and attend two summer residencies.

Making an impact

Western’s innovative Nature Writing program encourages students to utilize creative writing in an effort to engage with environmental issues through an ethically alert curriculum

A group of students wearing graduation regalia sit in an auditorium

Opportunities, Careers, and Partnerships

  • Write: Submit work while in the program and finish with a book-length manuscript.
  • Collaborate:Join in collaborations with literary journals and newspapers.
  • Teach: Leave the program with practice teaching, feedback on speaking skills, and a series of prepared craft talks.
  • Publish: Be mentored in the writing of query letters, agent letters, and submission practices.
  • Be involved: Students can propose other collaborations within their own local communities and/or other grassroots and/or policy-making groups.
  • Career Development: Leave knowing about submission, agents, presses, journals, PR strategies and essential career documents.
  • Expand Horizons: Take courses or even add a concentration in Western’s other low-residency Creative Writing concentrations: Poetry, Screenwriting for Film and Television, Publishing or Genre Fiction.​
  • Literary Citizenship: Meet and learn from guest speakers, including Camille Dungy, Sean Prentiss, Rick Bass, and a host of others.

Graduate success

Students graduate with short form work, a book-length work, practical skills in submission, and personalized professional development—and best of all, community.

News & Research

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Western’s MFA Director Laura Pritchett’s latest novel is born from a world on fire

Read More about Western’s MFA Director Laura Pritchett’s latest novel is born from a world on fire
Western Earns Accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission

Western Earns Accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission

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Natalie performs during a theatre show

Pride Month, Tokenism, and Being Queer at Western

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Headshot of the poet in black and white

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CMarie Fuhrman presenting in front of audience

Western’s CMarie Fuhrman Releases New Anthology & Public Radio Podcast

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Creative writing students working in classroom

Nature Writing and Western Press Books to Produce Inaugural Book

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Karen Auvinen

Renown Author Karen Auvinen to Join Western Faculty

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Fuhrman teaching at whiteboard

Western Instructor Named to Top Writer’s Honor

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Graduate Program Pushes Caps on Enrollment During Pandemic

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Additional Resources

Admission Requirements & Application

Western’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing considers applications in four waves throughout the year: Early Admissions, from July 1 through November…

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Tuition & Fees

Full-time enrollment in the MFA extends over 25 months, spanning four non-residency semesters and three Summer Residencies. Students may also attend half-time or take a leave of…

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Scholarships & Financial Aid

The GPCW is deeply committed to raising funds to support our students. Each year we offer substantial direct-funding scholarships. The GPCW is currently…

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Summer Residency

The highlight of our academic year is the Summer Residency, held each July on Western’s beautiful campus in Gunnison, Colorado.

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FAQs

How can a low-residency format create a sense of community among students and faculty?…

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Publications

Publications in the Creative Writing Graduate Program Explore the publications below to discover the depth and breadth of Western’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing: Think Journal Christine…

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GPCW Mission, Indigenous Commitment and DEIA+ Statements

The Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Western Colorado University seeks to create transformative learning experiences for our students, built from a strong foundation that honors our students’ unique voices and is supported within inclusive environments established both virtually and at yearly residency gatherings.

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Learn More about the GPCW

Interested in learning more about the Graduate Program in Creative Writing? There’s no better way to get to know our program than through the voices of our faculty and students. Tune in to watch this informational video about everything you’ll look forward to as a student in our program.

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Department Information

Graduate Program in Creative Writing

Director

Tyson Hausdoerffer, Ph.D.

Director, Graduate Program in Creative Writing

Associate Director

CMarie Fuhrman, MFA

Associate Director; Director, Poetry Concentration; Faculty, Nature Writing Concentration

Executive Assistant

Anna Stileski, M.A.

Executive Assistant

Program Coordinator

Sarah Goettsch

Graduate Program in Creative Writing Coordinator

Contact Information

970.943.2014

gpcw@western.edu

Campus Location

Western Colorado University
Quigley Hall 117
1 Western Way
Gunnison, CO 81231

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