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Graduate Writing

An emerging author today will work in many forms over the course of his or her career—Otis prepares its Graduate Writing students for a full range of possibilities.

Our students are free to write in any genre they choose without needing to declare a concentration, and our Workshops reflect this openness: Poets and fiction writers and essayists all gather around the same seminar table discussing each other’s work with two Faculty members who together offer a range of experience.

This team-taught interdisciplinary approach fosters experimentation, cross-pollination, and unexpected discoveries. Poets might encounter narrative forms they can then employ (or controvert) in verse; fiction writers may reconsider how they’re using language and think in new ways on the level of the sentence; and in some cases, new hybrid forms may emerge.

Develop your unique voice and figure out how to lead a sustainable writing life.
Along side the Workshops, one-on-one mentoring is written into the curriculum in the form of Tutorials: Each student is paired with a Faculty member who her or himself is working in that student’s area of greatest interest.

The Tutorial becomes what each student and Faculty member decide to make of it, which may include: directed reading related to the student’s current projects; manuscript preparation; practical counseling according to student needs (querying agents, finding the right publisher, entering chapbook contests, etc.).

Perhaps most importantly, the Tutorial can become the place where a student figures out how he or she will exit Otis with the momentum and skills to sustain a meaningful writing life.

Complete the program with a project that will become your first book.
Our MFA degree culminates with a creative thesis in fiction, poetry, nonfiction, or literary translation. The goal is for each student head off with a manuscript that is well on its way to becoming a first book.

Collaborate with Faculty to design your seminars.
Unique to Otis are innovative Writing Colloquiums, reading seminars designed by Faculty in collaboration with graduate students.

Students are invited to suggest topics of special interest to them, from technical issues (like point-of-view or unreliable narration, etc.) to particular authors they want to study in-depth (Gertrude Stein, James Baldwin, Octavia Butler, etc.) to currents in contemporary fiction and poetry (ethics in literature, political fiction, jazz and poetry, etc.). The faculty then takes these suggestions, adds them to their own on-going concerns, and puts together courses for the following semester (which like the Workshops are team-taught).

The end result is a curriculum that is dynamic and keyed in to what fascinates the collective Graduate Writing community.

Meet writers, editors, and translators from around the world.
Students will get to work consistently with dedicated Faculty, but it’s important that they also encounter a diversity of voices, methods, and alternate ways of inhabiting the literary world. Our biweekly Visiting Writers Series brings in writers, translators, and editors from around the country and abroad to meet and talk with students, sharing their work and expertise.

Work at a small press.
Housed in our writing program is our own small press, Otis Books, which is staffed by students and guided by Faculty. Each year we publish four to six titles, at least one of which is a work in translation. Student editors put out calls for new manuscripts, make selections, and then see the work through the editorial process and production. Alumni have gone on to start their own presses and work in independent publishing.

Build up your teaching resumé.
Our students regularly TA for courses offered in the Otis undergraduate department of Liberal Arts and Sciences. This becomes a great way to gain experience in the classroom and to make one’s CV attractive in a competitive academic market.

Study full- or part-time.
Though the program is full-residency, students have the option of enrolling on a full-time or part-time basis. Our small size and selective nature ensure an exemplary student/faculty ratio and allow us to guarantee all full-time students two years of partial fellowship support to assist with the overall tuition, as well as employment through the teaching and publishing practicums.


Thrive in a creative environment.
Studying writing in an art school means that as a writer you are taken seriously as an artist.

Inspiration is everywhere, and the other graduate and undergraduate programs at Otis—including those in Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Public Practice, Digital Media, Illustration, and Book Arts—offer the possibility for interdisciplinary projects.

Find community in Los Angeles.
Our program is enriched by the eclectic literary resources of Los Angeles, its book festivals, reading series, galleries and museums, small presses, legendary writers’ haunts, and independent bookstores.

We live in a complex sprawling city—but by being a part of the writing program at Otis, you have the chance to find your literary community and make connections that will last a lifetime.

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See our Otis Books page for information about our upcoming titles.