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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. Our concentration includes work in many genres, including nonfiction, fiction, poetry, ecopoetry, and experimental and hybrid works.

Program Overview

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.

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

Interested in combining your love of writing with your passion for nature? Western Colorado University’s Nature Writing students have the unique opportunity to explore the breathtaking landscape of the Gunnison Valley each summer.

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.

Concentration in Nature Writing

The Concentration in Nature Writing teaches students a wide range of literary techniques and styles writers have used in their creative responses to the natural environment and human interactions with it. The concentration provides training in all the major literary sub-genres relevant to the field, including memoir, science writing, political writing, history, poetry, fiction, and various forms of the essay and creative nonfiction. Courses include significant reading in primary and secondary sources, along with extensive work in short and long creative writing forms, focusing on creative nonfiction but also including other genres, as well as strategies and techniques for the effective teaching of creative nonfiction and other forms of creative writing.

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

CRWR 600Summer Orientation (taken three times)3
CRWR 680Writing Place: New Forms and Techniques6
CRWR 681Nature Writing Intensive2
CRWR 682Nature Writing Now2
CRWR 683Thesis Seminar in Nature Writing2
CRWR 684Pedagogy and Practicum6
CRWR 685Craft of Creative Nonfiction6
CRWR 686Genres of Nature Writing6
CRWR 687Writing about Nature and Science6
CRWR 688Writing about Nature and Society6
CRWR 689Special Topics in Nature Writing6
CRWR 695Professional Development in Nature Writing6
One of the following out-of-concentration courses during the second fall term:6
CRWR 609
Genre Studies I-Romance and Mystery
CRWR 610
Genre Fiction Writing and Reading Survey
CRWR 614
Traditional Publishing I (with permission of the Publishing Concentration Director)
CRWR 623
Independent and New Model Publishing I
CRWR 646
Narrative Poetry
CRWR 665
Screenwriting Genre
Three credits of:3
CRWR 694
Capstone (must be taken for a total of three credits)
Total Credits66

Nature Writing as a Second Concentration

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

CRWR 600Summer Orientation1
CRWR 681Nature Writing Intensive2
CRWR 685Craft of Creative Nonfiction6
CRWR 686Genres of Nature Writing6
CRWR 687Writing about Nature and Science6
CRWR 688Writing about Nature and Society6
Three credits of:3
CRWR 694
Capstone (must be taken for a total of three credits)
Total Credits30

Students may count CRWR 685 Craft of Creative Nonfiction toward the second concentration in Nature Writing if they have already taken it to fulfill the out-of-concentration course required by their primary concentration.

Spotlight

Steve Coughlin

Steve Coughlin, Ph.D.

Faculty

“There’s nothing more exciting than bringing books into the world, especially books written by emerging writers.”

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Scholarships

Blackbaud Award Management (BAM) Academic Works

Blackbaud Award Management (BAM) Academic Works is Western’s tool for searching for, applying for and managing over 300 scholarship opportunities available to both new and returning students. Through BAM Academic Works, students may identify scholarship opportunities based on academic programs, campus involvement, academic standing, specific keywords and more. Students may click below to begin learning about what scholarship opportunities are available to them.

BAM Scholarship Applications Opens Dec. 5 and close April 1

Please check individual scholarship opportunity start dates and deadlines as there are exceptions

Find your scholarships!

The Program

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 throughout the year compliment course instruction. MFA students also take an out of concentration class in another Creative Writing concentration (Genre Fiction, Poetry, Publishing, or Screenwriting).
  • 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

Opportunities, Careers, and Partnerships

  • Write: Submit work while in the program and finish with a book-length manuscript.
  • Collaborate: Join in collaborations with organizations such as High Desert Journal, High Country News, and the Coldharbour Institute.
  • 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 grant writing, internships, PR tactics, and editing, and with essential career documents, such as resumes.
  • 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.

Coldharbour Institute

Nature Writing students have the opportunity to collaborate with the Coldharbour Institute (CI) — a unique 350-acre nonprofit ranch in the beautiful Gunnison Valley—at the confluence of the Tomichi and Cochetopa creeks.

News & Research

Creative writing students working in classroom

Nature Writing and Western Press Books to Produce Inaugural Book

Read More about Nature Writing and Western Press Books to Produce Inaugural Book
quigley hall outside

Renown Author Joins Western Faculty

Read More about Renown Author Joins Western Faculty
Creative writing professors talking

GPCW Faculty Announce New Book Releases and Movie Deals

Read More about GPCW Faculty Announce New Book Releases and Movie Deals
Fuhrman teaching at whiteboard

Western Instructor Named to Top Writer’s Honor

Read More about Western Instructor Named to Top Writer’s Honor
GPCW growth

Graduate Program Pushes Caps on Enrollment During Pandemic

Read More about Graduate Program Pushes Caps on Enrollment During Pandemic
hybrid summer residency

Creative Writing Summer Residency to Offer Hybrid Experience

Read More about Creative Writing Summer Residency to Offer Hybrid Experience
new nature writing faculty

Nature Writing Concentration Welcomes New Faculty

Read More about Nature Writing Concentration Welcomes New Faculty
Nature Writing MFA names new director

Nature Writing MFA names new director

Read More about Nature Writing MFA names new director
New York Times publishes op-ed by Western’s Genre Fiction Director

New York Times publishes op-ed by Western’s Genre Fiction Director

Read More about New York Times publishes op-ed by Western’s Genre Fiction Director
Genre Fiction Director, Fran Wilde

Western Announces New Director of Genre Fiction

Read More about Western Announces New Director of Genre Fiction

Department Information

Graduate Program in Creative Writing

Director

Tyson Hausdoerffer, Ph.D.

Director, Graduate Program in Creative Writing

Program Support Coordinator

Rebecca Deluccia, M.A.

Program Coordinator

Contact Information

970.943.2163

rdeluccia@western.edu

Campus Location

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

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