King’s, Dal launch master’s degree in narrative writing

Students in creative non-fiction program will draft manuscript suitable for book proposal

Stephen Kimber, University of King’s College Graduate Coordinator. Photo: Ford Shaw

The University of King’s College in conjunction with Dalhousie University’s School of Graduate Studies is now offering a graduate-level degree in long-form storytelling.

The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Non-fiction program was the vision of journalism professor Stephen Kimber and it is the only one of its kind in Canada.

Kimber says, “When fully operational we expect to accept 25 new students a year.  The limited-residency program will consist of the equivalent of 12 half credit courses delivered over 24 months.”

Dalhousie’s University’s senate unanimously approved the proposal at its meeting Monday. King’s Board of Governors’ ratified the new program proposal on Thursday.

Kelly Toughill, director of the School of Journalism, presented the proposal to the Dalhousie Senate. “Creative non-fiction is the fastest-growing literary genre in North America,” she said. “Yet, there is not one Canadian university offering a post-graduate program to support this literature genre.”

Kelly Larkin-Conway will graduate with an honours degree in English this year, with her literary focus on poetry. She is weighing her options for master of fine art degrees.

“Poetry and nonfiction[TC6]  are different beasts – with nonfiction you’re chained to the truth,” Larkin-Conway says. “I would be interested in an MFA that concerns itself with creative writing more so than journalism.  Kimber’s approach to teaching how to write nonfiction applies similar techniques used in writing fiction.

The master’s degree offered through King’s School of Journalism is intended to have broad appeal for students seeking post-graduate education in creative writing. Brandon MacNeice, King’s assistant registrar, explained the application process is not finalized however applicants must :

  • graduate with a four-year honours degree
  • have  an average of B or higher
  • submit a portfolio of creative writing
  • submit  a draft proposal for a creative writing manuscript of no less than 200 pages

Graduate students must be able to attend four two-week residencies during the program. Two writing residencies will be held at University of Kings College, each summer, for two weeks. Next, students travel to Toronto or New York for two publishing residencies each winter, involving meetings with literary agents, publishers, authors and industry professionals to become familiar with the publishing industry.

Each student works one on one with four different mentors over the course of the two-year program.  The program is offered as a distanced-based program enabling the student to work closely with their mentor using the internet.  The course is offered as a non-thesis degree involving course work, seminars and lectures. Mentors are supervised by faculty members. All work is reviewed by faculty members who assign a final grade.

Stephen Kimber says this program “… allows students to complete their graduate studies while living in their home communities. Graduates complete a master’s degree as they write a professional manuscript which can be used as a book proposal.”

The Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission (MPHEC) will evaluate the program for quality and release its findings in the new year.  The program is expected to be fully credentialed by the commission and receive government funding by February 2013. Tuition fees are expected to be set at $7,000 plus mentor fees of $3,000. Absent commission approval, the program would operate on a full cost-recovery basis.



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