The University of King’s College has announced it will launch a Master of Fine Arts in creative non-fiction in partnership with Dalhousie University in August 2013.

The University of King’s College has announced it will launch a Master of Fine Arts in creative non-fiction in partnership with Dalhousie University in August 2013.

King’s new MFA will teach students to employ the techniques of fiction writers to tell true stories in a two-year limited-residency program — the first of its kind in Canada.

The two-year program will follow a residency-mentorship-residency-mentorship pattern.

King’s MFA students will complete the majority of their degree via correspondence, needing only to be present for four residencies: Two will be two-week writing-based residencies at King’s in Halifax, NS each summer. The other two will be one-week publishing-related residencies in Toronto and New York.

In between residencies, students will engage in one-on-one mentoring with a professional nonfiction writer-teachers and take small group online courses.


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The idea is that at the end of the two years, students emerge with a degree, a polished book proposal and a substantial portion of a finished manuscript, according to an information package provided to J-Source by King’s. The program will cost students a total of around $10,000 per year – $7,000 in tuition and a $3,000 mentorship fee.

The new program not only marks an expansion of King’s journalism graduate offerings, it is also the first time that prospective King’s graduate students needn’t have a journalism degree or background as a prerequisite.

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Creative non-fiction is a genre that includes not only literary journalism, but memoir, personal essay, historical non-fiction, and biography, among others, and for that reason, King’s will accept applicants with four-year degrees in any discipline, not just journalism. “Admission will be by portfolio so we'll be looking for students who can write, have a serious commitment to nonfiction and have a workable idea for a book-length creative nonfiction project they can immerse themselves in for the degree,” Stephen Kimber, the King’s journalism professor who has been cited as the visionary force behind the program, told J-Source in an email.

With much discussion this year taking place around the future of publishing, ebooks, self-publishing and the role of tablets, I asked Kimber about what students will learn of traditional publishing methods versus new publishing technologies and techniques.

“While most students will probably continue to aspire to travel the traditional publishing route, the publishing world is in upheaval and we think it's critical for students to understand the options—ebooks, self-publishing and other options ‘yet to be invented’ that will open up new opportunities for them,” Kimber responded.

“During the publishing-related residencies in Toronto and New York, in particular, we'll be focusing those options as well as the larger questions they raise,” Kimber continued. “Who edits your self-published book, for starters? How do you understand the audience for your book and make sure you market it effectively?

“While someone who's self-publishing may not need to prepare a standard book proposal, we think the exercise, which typically includes sections on marketing, etc., will be helpful for those who want to [self-publish] as well.”

Plans for the MFA in creative non-fiction began as early as 2009, at the same retreat where King’s faculty first began discussing the Masters of Journalism in new ventures and investigative journalism that launched in June 2011. King’s decided to pursue approval for the MJ first because it was a more typical master’s program, Kimber said, and because they thought the MFA would be a harder sell due to its unusual residency-mentorship structure. “Thanks to the success of the MJ, however, it has proved to be an easier sell than I'd expected,” Kimber said.

The program has received approval from Dalhousie’s University Senate and King’s Board of Governors. King’s student-produced university news site, unews.ca, reports that the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission will evaluate the program for quality and release its findings in the new year and it is expected the Commission will fully credential the program and that the program will receive government funding by February 2013.