Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts in Narrative Media Writing (MFA)

Offered through the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, this two-year low-residency program is designed to train writers who will be published and produced. The program offers students an unparalleled opportunity to develop narrative journalism and screenwriting skills that will equip them for long and varied careers.

We produce graduates who:

  • Write nonfiction books for national and international publishers

  • Write screenplays for major motion picture and television companies

  • Teach writing at the university level

The program features a committed and diverse roster of accomplished authors, screenwriters, literary agents and other industry professionals who work closely with students to inspire and support each writer's emerging craft and voice.

Program Details 

UGA's unique low-residency MFA program allows students to complete most of the degree requirements off campus while developing their skills and talents under the guidance of experienced faculty writing mentors. Students begin each semester by visiting campus for an intensive 10-day residency, followed by a four-month online writing period, during which each student works closely with a professional faculty mentor. Over the course of the program, students build a substantive portfolio of narrative nonfiction or screenwriting, reflecting their individual styles and interests. Students receive individualized instruction from assigned mentors who help them to develop and hone crucial career skills, ultimately completing a marketable screenplay or full-length manuscript of publishable quality.

Students may choose to concentrate in one of two focused genres:

Narrative Nonfiction or Screenwriting.

In both genres, the programs' co-directors — award-winning author and journalist Valerie Boyd and award-winning producer Nate Kohn — have assembled a diverse group of writing mentors who will challenge students to do their best work, to explore the role of the writer in society, and to use their writing to make a difference in the diverse communities in which they live.

Narrative Nonfiction

The Narrative Nonfiction concentration places journalism at its core, unlike any other nonfiction program in the country. It is designed for students who want to develop their research, reporting and writing skills to take on topics of national and global importance, beyond the self-focused genres of memoir and personal essay. The Narrative Nonfiction concentration is for people who have had some writing experience, but who want to explore writing long-form, research-based narratives that rise to the level of literature — factual literature. It's for mid-career journalists and other industry professionals who want to elevate their careers and write a book on a subject they feel passionate about. This program is for nonfiction writers who want to use their talents and skills to engage the world.

Screenwriting

The Screenwriting concentration is designed for feature film and television writers who want to take their writing skills to the next level and who understand the advantages that the MFA degree affords.  The program is aimed at experienced writers who want to explore new creative opportunities in telling stories that matter for large and small screens.  The program allows students to work one-on-one with experienced mentors who are currently vital members of the entertainment community and who understand the challenges and opportunities found in new technologies. Most of all, the program is for writers who value the power, purpose and meaning of stories well told.

Accreditations
  • The University of Georgia: Accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
  • The Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication: Accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC).
Technology Requirements
  • Computer with current operating system (Windows or Mac). Additional peripherals; headphones, printer may be required.
  • High speed Internet Access

Low-Residency Format

UGA's five semester, low-residency MFA program embraces the changing needs of students — particularly working professionals — by allowing them to complete their degree without having to relocate. Our program offers students the chance to continue their lives while learning the skills crucial to advancing their careers. The low-residency format also perfectly simulates the life of the writer — offering two things that every successful writer needs: a strong, supportive community as well as the freedom and solitude to write.

Each 15-week semester begins with a campus residency that features a demanding program of writing workshops in which student work is discussed and evaluated. The residencies run for 10 days, with students arriving on a Friday and returning home on a Sunday, immersing themselves in an intensive writing environment for one week and two weekends. The flexible schedule accommodates professionals who have two weeks of paid leave — while providing students with the opportunity to build a sense of community with their peers and to engage in serious, focused study with their faculty mentors. Each residency includes daily seminars and craft lectures, as well as panel discussions and readings by faculty members, visiting writers, editors, agents and other publishing and entertainment-industry professionals.

Program Structure

All courses in the student's concentration area are required. There are no prerequisites. The program offers students opportunities to attend craft lectures, seminars and panel discussions across concentrations during the residencies. Students also have the option to spend one entire semester as a "genre jumper" — meaning a Narrative Nonfiction concentrator may wish to spend a semester working on dialogue, or cinematic narrative, or other such issues with a Screenwriting faculty member. Similarly, a Screenwriting concentrator may wish to spend a semester studying nonfiction research techniques with a Narrative Nonfiction faculty member. Such cross-disciplinary opportunities will be allowed and encouraged.

Narrative Nonfiction Concentration
 
Fall TERM 
Spring Term
 
Year 1
  • Nonfiction Writing I:  Explorations & Beginnings
  • Nonfiction Craft & Reflection I:  Research, Reporting & Ethics
  • Nonfiction Writing II:  Developing the Manuscript
  • Nonfiction Craft & Reflection II:  Analyzing Narrative
Year 2
  • Nonfiction Writing III:  Work-in-Progress Manuscript
  • Nonfiction Craft & Reflection III:  Critical Essay
  • Nonfiction Writing IV:  Final Thesis Manuscript
  • Nonfiction Craft & Reflection IV:  Seminar Preparation
Year 3
  • Nonfiction Writing V:  Public Reading
  •  
 
Screenwriting Concentration
 
Fall TERM 
Spring Term
 
Year 1
  • Writing for the Screen I:  Explorations & Beginnings
  • Screenplay Craft, Criticism & Reflection I:  Directed Readings
  • Writing for the Screen II:  Developing the Screenplay
  • Screenplay Craft, Criticism & Reflection II:  Directed Readings
Year 2
  • Writing for the Screen III:  Work-in-Progress Screenplay
  • Screenplay Craft, Criticism & Reflection III:  Critical Essay
  • Writing for the Screen IV:  Final Thesis Screenplay
  • Screenplay Craft, Criticism & Reflection IV:  Seminar Preparation
Year 3
  • Writing for the Screen V:  Public Reading
  •  
 

 

Credit Hours

Total Hours Required to Earn Degree: 36 (credit hours)

Admission Requirements

Students applying to The University of Georgia must be accepted by the Graduate School. Persons holding a bachelor's degree from any institution accredited by the proper regional accrediting association are eligible to apply for admission to the Graduate School.

Applications are accepted starting in Fall semester prior to anticipated Fall semester matriculation. Although the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not required for admission to this program, requirements include:

  • Personal Statement
  • A 20-page Writing Sample
  • Three (3) Letters of Recommendation
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae

Before you apply, visit our State Authorizations page to ensure UGA is authorized to provide distance education to residents of your state.

Application Checklist
  1. Application - Submit to the Graduate School online.
  2. MFA Supplemental Application - Submit the supplemental program application to the Grady Graduate Administrative Assistant.
  3. Statement of Intent - Submit a one-page statement of intent online to the Graduate School. The statement of intent should clarify the candidate's relevant background, interests, and goals in relation to the program.
  4. Writing Sample - Submit a 20-page sample of your best writing (nonfiction, fiction or screenplay) in a PDF document to the Grady Graduate Administrative Assistant. The writing sample may be a single work or a portfolio of various articles, essays, short screenplays, etc. Program faculty will assess the quality of each applicant's work — a major criterion for admission.
  5. Letters of Recommendation - Submit three (3) letters of recommendation online to the Graduate School. Letters should be from individuals who can evaluate the applicant's writing ability and potential for success in a graduate program. Preferably at least two (2) of the letters should be from an applicant's prior teachers or professional supervisors.
  6. Resume or curriculum vita - Submit online to the Graduate School.
  7. Official Transcripts - Send an official copy to the Graduate School.
Application Deadlines

Fall: May 1

Tuition
Online Tuition $984 per credit hour 36 credit hours $35,424 USD
Student Fees $591 per semester 5 semesters $2,955 USD
Total Program Cost     $38,379 USD

 

Tuition and fees are subject to change.

Tuition is the same regardless of residency.

Financial Aid

Financial aid available: Grants, Loans, Scholarships

Financial Aid Website

Narrative Nonfiction Faculty Mentors & Visiting Writers

Valerie Boyd, Director of Narrative Nonfiction, is author of the critically acclaimed biography Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston, winner of the Southern Book Award and the American Library Association’s Notable Book Award. She is currently curating and editing the journals of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alice Walker. Simon & Schuster/37 Ink will publish Gathering Blossoms Under Fire: The Journals of Alice Walker in 2017. Formerly arts editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Boyd has written articles, essays and reviews for such publications as The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Creative Nonfiction, The Oxford American, Paste, Ms., Essence and Atlanta Magazine. She is a professor of journalism and the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer in Residence at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, where she teaches courses in arts reviewing, long-form feature writing, and the intersection of journalism and literature.

 

Moni Basu is an enterprise reporter for CNN Digital, where she is part of a team that’s bringing narrative journalism to a brand best known for breaking news. Before becoming an online journalist, she was a reporter and editor at newspapers for 26 years. Originally from India, Basu has straddled two cultures all her life, and her stories often reflect the complexities of race, ethnicity and identity. Her work also investigates human resiliency after trauma, an interest that developed from her coverage of conflict zones and natural disasters. She covered the Iraq War and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, for which she won several national awards. She is author of the e-book, Chaplain Turner’s War (Agate Publishing), which grew from her series of stories on an Army chaplain serving in Iraq. When she’s not committing journalism, Basu loves to get on an airplane to see more of the world. She enjoys lazy Sunday mornings, eating biryani and spending time in her native Kolkata. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram as MbasuCNN.

 

John T Edge has written for The New York Times Magazine, Lucky Peach, GQ, Creative Nonfiction, and every glossy food magazine in America. From 2009 to 2012, Edge wrote a monthly column, “United Tastes,” for The New York Times. He is a contributing editor at Garden & Gun. For more than a decade, he has served as a columnist for The Oxford American. His work has been featured in eleven editions of the annual Best Food Writing compilation. Edge has won two James Beard Foundation awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award. Director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, Edge also serves as an editor in residence at the Rivendell Writer’s Colony in Sewanee, Tennessee. He is now at work on The Potlikker Papers, a history of the modern South told from the lunch counter sit-ins of 1960 forward. Novelist Jack Pendarvis said: “To call John T Edge a food writer is like saying Herman Melville wrote booklets on fishing.”

 

Philip Gerard is the author of three novels and six books of nonfiction, including Down the Wild Cape Fear: A River Journey Through the Heart of North Carolina (University of North Carolina Press, 2013) and The Patron Saint of Dreams, winner of the 2012 North American Gold Medal in Essay/Creative Nonfiction from The Independent Publisher. Gerard has also written numerous essays, short stories, public radio commentaries, and documentary television scripts. His work has been nationally syndicated by the History News Service and featured on National Public Radio. His commentaries air regularly on WHQR (NPR affiliate serving Wilmington, Southport, Whiteville, Lumberton, Myrtle Beach, and other Carolina coastal communities). He has appeared on “All Things Considered,” CNN, CSPAN, and the History Channel. He lives in Wilmington, N.C., with his wife, Jill, and also teaches in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

 

 

Melissa Fay Greene is the author of five books of nonfiction: Praying for Sheetrock (1991), The Temple Bombing (1996), Last Man Out (2003), There Is No Me Without You: One Woman’s Odyssey to Rescue her Country’s Children (2006), and No Biking in the House Without a Helmet (2011). They have been translated into 15 languages. A two-time National Book Award finalist, Greene is a recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, the Southern Book Critics Circle Award, the ACLU Civil Liberties Award and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, and she was short-listed for a National Book Critics Circle Award. She holds an honorary doctorate from Emory University and was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame in 2011. In 1999, Praying For Sheetrock was named one of the 100 best works of English-language journalism of the 20th century by a panel convened by NYU.  Entertainment Tonight named it one of the “New Classics: The Best 100 Books of the Last 25 Years.” Greene has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Newsweek, The Washington Post, LIFE, Elle, Redbook, Readers Digest, Good Housekeeping, and other periodicals. A New York Times Magazine article, “Wonder Dog,” is the basis of her book in progress. She and her husband, defense attorney Don Samuel, live in Atlanta and are the parents of nine.

 

Harriet A. Washington's work focuses on the intersection of medicine, ethics and culture. She is the author of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans From Colonial Times to the Present, which won the 2007 National Book Critics’ Circle Award, and Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself–And the Consequences for Your Health and Our Medical Future. After working as an award-winning newspaper science editor, she wrote for national magazines and held fellowships at the Harvard School of Public Health, Stanford University and the Black Mountain Institute. She was a Research Fellow in Medical Ethics at Harvard Medical School, where she wrote Medical Apartheid. Her writing has appeared in Health, Emerge, Essence, The American Scholar, Psychology Today, the Harvard Public Health Review, the Harvard AIDS Review, Nature, The Journal of the American Medical Association, The American Journal of Public Health and the New England Journal of Medicine. She presents her work throughout the United States and Europe. Her many awards include the Congressional Black Caucus Beacon of Light Award, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science Desk Award, a 2008 PEN Award, and the Nonfiction Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Publishers’ Weekly named Medical Apartheid one of the year’s Best Books.

 

Screenwriting Faculty Mentors & Visiting Writers

Dr. Nathaniel Kohn, Director of Screenwriting, is a professor at the University of Georgia, Associate Director of the George Foster Peabody Awards and festival director of Roger Ebert's Film Festival. Dr. Kohn produced Zulu Dawn starring Burt Lancaster and Peter O’Toole; the independent feature Somebodies, which premiered at Sundance (2006); Rain, the Bahamas’ first indigenous feature which premiered at Toronto (2007) and on Showtime (2010); the feature film Bottleworld (2010); he was Executive Producer on the BET television series Somebodies (2008); he was Producer on the feature length documentary Bayou Maharajah that premiered at the SXSW Festival (2013); and he produced the Emmy Award-winning short documentary Ebertfest 2012. He has served on juries and mentored screenwriters at the Atlanta, Hawaii, Kerala, and Bahamas International Film Festivals. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles and of the book Pursuing Hollywood: Seduction, Obsession, Dread (AltaMira Press, 2006).

 

Writer/director Ramin Bahrani’s films have screened at the Venice, Cannes, Sundance, Berlin and Toronto Film Festivals. Bahrani has won numerous awards including the FIPRESCI critic’s prize for best film in Venice (Goodbye Solo, 2009) and a Guggenheim Fellowship among many others. He has been the subject of retrospectives in venues such as the MoMA in NYC. His latest film 99 Homes (Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern) premiered in 2014 to rave reviews at The Venice, Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals. In 2010 legendary film critic Roger Ebert proclaimed Bahrani as “the director of the decade.”

 

 

 

 

Paul Cox, Producer/Writer/Director, was born in Holland and settled in Australia. Cox is an auteur of international acclaim and is one of Australia’s most prolific filmmakers with 46 features, shorts and documentaries to his name.  Paul has been the recipient of numerous special tributes and retrospectives at film festivals across the world including a major retrospective at the Lincoln Centre in New York.

 

 

 

Alan Kingsberg received his MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where his film Minors won an Academy Award as the top student film in the US.  His work in television includes writing the ACE Award winning documentary Buy Me That for HBO, and writing and producing the BAFTA nominated animated series Cubix for FOX. Kingsberg has also written for Law and Order: Criminal Intent, and Kids classics like Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Shining Time Station and Doug.   He was a showrunner on five animated series for Fox, The CW and Cartoon Network, including the hits Cubix, Pokemon Chronicles and Winx Club.  He has written or produced over 230 half hours of television for major broadcast and cable networks, including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, HBO, DISNEY, NICKELODEON and CARTOON NETWORK.  He has written feature films for DISNEY and UNIVERSAL PICTURES. Kingsberg created the popular TV Writing curriculum at Columbia University’s Graduate Film School and has been teaching there for 15 years.  He has launched TV Writing programs in Sao Paulo and Prague.  His students have won numerous awards including multiple first place prizes at the Austin Film Festival and The TV Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Humanitas Award, all with scripts written in his workshops.  After graduating, his students have gone on to write and produce on prime time shows such as New Girl, 30 Rock, Alpha House, The Originals, Smash, Vegas, Weeds, Californicaton, Last Man Standing, Law and Order, Conan O’Brien and Onion News Network.

 

Erica Shelton Kodish is currently a writer/co-executive producer on the CBS drama series, The Good Wife, starring Emmy Award winner Julianna Margulies. Her career as a TV writer began on the Jerry Bruckheimer crime series, CSI: New York. Erica, then, added the legal series Close to Home, Cold Case, HawthoRNe and Covert Affairs to her growing list of credits. Erica’s passion for writing crystallized at Northwestern University where she earned a Bachelor’s degree from the School of Communication. Upon graduation, Erica landed a job at the PBS affiliate, WTTW Channel 11 - Chicago. Erica, who was born in Detroit, Michigan, moved to Los Angeles when she was awarded the Courtney and Stephen J. Ross Fellowship at the University of Southern California. This fellowship, created by the former head of Time Warner and his widow, was designed to give deserving women an opportunity to pursue a degree in USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. After receiving her M.F.A. in Screenwriting, Erica went on to become a recipient of the Fox Writers Initiative Fellowship. She has spoken at such institutions as University of California, Los Angeles, Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television, Goucher College and FUSION: ACCESS LA and was honored in The Root 100’s annual ranking of most influential African-American leaders. Erica lives in Los Angeles with her husband Adam and is a member of the Writers Guild of America.

 

James Ponsoldt was raised in Athens, Georgia, and received his bachelor’s degree from Yale and received an MFA in directing from Columbia University. His first feature, "Off the Black," premiered at Sundance in 2006; his second, "Smashed," won a Special Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Festival, received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for lead Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and went on to critical acclaim worldwide. Ponsoldt also writes for "Filmmaker" Magazine and co-wrote the award-winning graphic novel, "Refresh, Refresh." His most recent film, "The Spectacular Now," received a Special Jury Prize at the the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, was nominated for multiple Independent Spirit Awards, and was released in theaters via A24 Films.  He recently wrapped "The End of The Tour," based on the book “Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace” by David Lipsky, starring Jessie Eisenberg and Jason Segel.

 

Holly Sorensen is a screenwriter most known for her hit YA series MAKE IT OR BREAK IT on ABCFamily. She was born in Montana, studied philosophy and film at Dartmouth College, and has spent most of her career in New York and Los Angeles. In New York, she worked at a writer and editor, most notably at the groundbreaking film industry magazine PREMIERE.  She switched to writing and producing, setting up her first project with Brian Grazer, and selling her first screenplay, which got her a two script deal with Robert Zemeckis’ Imagemovers.  She went on to write features for many major studios, while concurrently working as head of development, then production, for the independent film studio The Shooting Gallery, whose films garnered Sundance wins and Oscar nominations.  Since MAKE IT OR BREAK IT completed its run three years ago, Holly has written and sold pilots for CBS studios, Mark Gordon Productions and ABC Studios, and Aaron Kaplan and Warner Brother Studios. She is currently writing a pilot for the CW network.

 

Christine Swanson earned her MFA in Film from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Notre Dame double majoring in Communications and Japanese.

Christine has written and/or directed numerous award-winning feature films, commercials and short films. Some of her award-winning titles include, Two Seasons (winner HBO Short Film Competition, Sundance selection), All About You (winner Audience Choice Award Chicago International Film Festival, Grand Jury Prize Hollywood Black Film Festival, Festival Award at the Pan African Film Festival and the Film of the Year Award at The Santa Barbara African Heritage Film Series) starring Renee Goldsberry, Terron Brooks and Debbie Allen; All About Us (invited to the prestigious Heartland Film Festival, The Chicago International Film Festival and the Cannes Festival du Film Panafricain) starring Boris Kodjoe, Ryan Bathe and Ruby Dee and Morgan Freeman; and Woman Thou Art Loosed (Santa Barbara International Film Festival and Blockbuster Audience Award for Best Feature Film at the American Black Film Festival) starring Kimberly Elise and Loretta Devine.

This year, Christine directed two original cable movie premieres for TV ONE entitled, To Hell and Back (starring Ernie Hudson and Vanessa Bell Calloway) and For the Love of Ruth (starring Gary Dourdan, Denise Boutte, Loretta Devine and James Pickens, Jr.). Christine resides in Los Angeles with her husband and Emmy Award winning producer, Michael Swanson and their four wonderful children.

About the Residency

The residency portions of the MFA program run for 10 days, with students arriving on a Friday and returning home on a Sunday, immersing themselves in an intensive writing environment for one week and two weekends. The residency provides students with the opportunity to build a sense of community with their peers and to engage in serious, focused study with their faculty mentors. Each residency includes daily seminars and craft lectures, as well as panel discussions and readings by faculty members, visiting writers, editors, agents and other publishing and entertainment-industry professionals.

Guides for the Upcoming Residency

Each guide is specific to your chosen program concentration.

Narrative Nonfiction Residency Guide (.pdf)
Screenwriting Residency Guide (.pdf)