Meet Oregon State University-Cascades’ MFA Program


Beautiful Blue Lake at Caldera, where OSUC’s MFA residency is held. Photo by Rachel Wiley Bard.

With all this upcoming activity involving members and faculty of OSU-Cascades’ MFA program, we thought it might be fun to introduce the program and why we at Read.Write.Repeat love the program.

First, a little more about MFAs in general. MFA is short for Master in Fine Art. It is a degree that focuses on developing skill and craft surrounding a chosen art medium. At OSUC, that medium is creative writing. An MFA student there can focus on fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction, or a combination (called a hybrid focus). You guys might remember Kelsey talking about moving from fiction to hybrid on the show. She is focusing on all three, rather than limiting herself to just one genre. The ability to switch genres or focus on more than one genre is not something all MFA programs offer, which brings me to my first reason why we love OSUC so much: this program is not like the rest.


Kelsey and Spencer playing Emily’s game at residency. Photo by Rachel Wiley Bard

The second reason? The faculty is amazing. You guys will get a chance to meet the program director, Dr. Emily Carr in two upcoming podcasts on May 20th and May 27th. In those two episodes, she shares her passion for poetry and inspiring that passion in others, and she lets us play the awesome poetry game she created to change the way her audience interacted with her and poetry. It’s a blast, and it’s easy to see how her passion helped to create such an awesome program.

On top of Dr. Carr, Kelsey has been fangirling over getting to work with awesome fiction authors like Nick Dybek (who was our first ever guest on the podcast, listen here), T. Geronimo Johnson, Christopher Boucher, and Ru Freeman. This winter she got to work with Tucson’s Poet Laureate, TC Tolbert, and was gushing every day about how awesome the experience was (I’m sure you guys remember this. Seems like it came up every episode for a while). Along with TC, Kelsey claims that creative nonfiction author Beth Alvarado is one of the faculty that has impacted her writing the most. It was Beth’s class that spurred her to change from fiction to hybrid.


Rachel and Karen posing together during last residency. Photo by Rachel Wiley Bard.

When Kelsey was first trying to decide on which program she was going to attend, I pointed out that the main reason she was doing this was to find a writing community. She found that with an intensity that she never expected. Here’s a bit more about the program from OSUC’s website:

Be Wilder.

In OSU-Cascades’ low-residency MFA in Creative Writing program you will find the solidarity, intimacy and inspiration to show up and write bravely—wherever you are, however complex your “real life,” whatever the storms you have to brave to get to the desk, stay at the desk and thrive at the desk. Our curriculum is engineered to fit the pace of your life, to nurture sustainable writing habits, to teach you the skills needed to sustain a creative livelihood after graduation, and to foster play, at least some of the time, outside your comfort zones.

It’s Inspiring.

Here where the sun sets on one snow-capped peak and then the next and the High Desert is elegant in her westward certitude, we believe we can make the world we are living in the world we want to live in rather than the world that, simply, is. Join us in the adventure!

It’s Innovative.

Turning a passion for writing into a profession of writing requires, at a bare minimum: invention, pragmatism and an entrepreneurial attitude. Like rock-climbing: you have to trust your imagination suspended in the air. And, in the indubitable words of Louise Glück: writing is not an occupation but an aspiration, an activity, the freedom to get out there and live—more truly, more meaningfully and more fearlessly!

It’s Panoramic.

The MFA in Creative Writing residencies at Caldera Arts—on the shores of a caldera formed from a collapsed volcano and surrounded by old-growth forest—blend the best of the Wild West with a uniquely Oregonian frontier spirit, and offer endless opportunities for exploring your writing life. And we mean that quite literally. Although residencies are spent in glorious isolation in a breathtaking wilderness landscape, our course of study looks to the larger world, with field trips, site-specific performances, volunteer opportunities, exposure to non-Western and non-Anglophone literatures, and social-justice driven collaborative projects.


Hearth during residency. Everyone is gathered for one our traditions, the Yankee Book Swap. Hearth is where June’s live podcast recording will happen! Photo by Cassandra Costa.