MFA program gives students opportunity to study creative writing

click to enlarge MFA program gives students opportunity to study creative writing
Looking under the Centinnial Plaza arch on the southeast corner of the OCU campus. mh

The Red Earth Low-Residency MFA program at Oklahoma City University gives students an opportunity to study for their Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing while keeping up with everyday responsibilities.

The program has given students an opportunity to hone their creative writing skills since 2011, said Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, director of the Red Earth creative writing program.

“This residency program allows people to take writing classes at a higher level and to surround themselves with others who also want to improve their writing while also maintaining their personal lives,” Mish said.

Instead of attending traditional classes on campus, faculty and students meet in OKC for 10 days twice a year in January and July. Students then complete their semesters from home, studying with a single mentor each semester for their creative work. The program lasts two years over four semesters and five residencies.

Kerry Cohen, a nationally acclaimed nonfiction author, has taught at Red Earth since 2011 and said this program gives students the tools to grow as creative writers.

“In our residencies, all we do is talk about writing, think about writing and dream about writing,” Cohen said. “The students have access to [teachers] all the time.”

Cohen believes the faculty’s involvement helps pupils stay focused on their writing because faculty members keep in touch with their students.

Faculty members from all over the United States travel to OKC to facilitate the Red Earth residency program. Kat Meads from Santa Cruz, California; Quraysh Ali Lansana from Chicago; and Allison Amend from New York City travel here to teach.

Cohen, who lives in Portland, Oregon, said she is impressed with the amount of writing talent Oklahoma has to offer. She also admitted that she was surprised to find that Oklahomans are more open-minded than she anticipated.

“Being from such a liberal oasis, I admit I was nervous about teaching in Oklahoma,” Cohen said. “But ... Oklahoma are some of the kindest, most thoughtful and open and curious people I’ve ever met.”

The residency program enables students to recognize their potential, Mish said.

“The exploration of creativity and the mastery of the writing craft happens in many ways: in the individual feedback and guidance of faculty members, in workshops, in their interaction with other students, in books they read,” she said.

Red Earth hosts a faculty and visiting instructors’ reading 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 15 at The Paramount, 701 W. Sheridan Ave., and a storytelling performance with Kerry Cohen and OKC’s Molly O’Connor July 17 at Back Alley Gallery, 5026 A N. May Ave. 

Print headline: Colorful prose, The Red Earth MFA program brings in instructors from across the U.S. to help students explore and improve their creative writing.

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