Be a creative master, here on Whidbey

The dream to offer an advanced degree in creative writing has been realized by a local writers’ organization. The Whidbey Island Writers Association, or WIWA, is sponsoring a master of fine arts in creative writing program, set to begin on South Whidbey next year.

With recent approval for the program from the Washington State Higher Education Board, the MFA program is the first of its kind to be offered by an organization of writers, according to Gail Madden, president of WIWA.

“It is the first time a MFA has been offered through a writer’s organization rather than a college or university,” she said.

The MFA program is an expansion of the seven-year-old writers organization that offers an onsite conference every year.

“This is really an exciting program that will blossom and be a hallmark of excellence for Whidbey Island,” Madden said.

Students in the MFA program will complete two years of study — 60 credits — most of it through the Internet, except for two, 10-day residencies of intensive study on Whidbey Island. The culminating project for the degree will consist of writing a book-length manuscript.

Admissions to the new MFA program will be based on academic credentials, writing ability and personal recommendations. The cost for the two-year program will be $22,000.

The first class is scheduled for August 2005 with enrollment set at 20 students. Applications will be accepted for the fall quarter beginning in January 2005.

At the moment, Madden said WIWA is in the process of recruiting faculty members.

Donations from the Elizabeth George Foundation, Jim and Andrea Clay, JoAnn Kane, Judy Yeakel, Betty Azar, Nancy Nordhoff and Nancy Ruff have generated the seed money for planning and the first year of classes. Organizers expect tuition will make the program self-sustaining.

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