MFA in Creative Writing

What to Bring to MFA Residency

What should be on your packing list for your first residency? MFA student Joy Bilbey shares what to bring – and what to leave behind.

Never heard of a low-residency MFA program? I hadn’t either.

As a student in Alma’s MFA in Creative Writing program, twice a year you will spend ten days on campus or at a retreat center with peers and faculty. You’ll participate in supportive workshops led by caring faculty. You will attend a few sessions during which you learn from agents and publishing experts in the industry. You’ll attend lectures, craft talks, and intimate readings from faculty members’ and visiting lecturers’ published works. You can get your books signed by authors who don’t have to ask your name because they already know it.

How does one prepare for these ten days? I’m glad you asked…

Bring your curiosity. Leave whatever stifles it.

Bring a laptop or tablet and several chargers. Don’t forget that which re-charges YOU — a beloved, dog-eared book of poetry, soothing music, running shoes, gym clothes, sketch book, cozy pajamas, a favorite snack, etc.

Leave any limiting idea of what an MFA candidate ought to be. The range of age among students may be fifty years.

Bring your most important connections to home. Leave that which will prevent you from fully experiencing your residency journey.

Bring plenty of clothes. There will be field trips.

Bring your vulnerability. Leave your pride.

Bring pens, pencils, notebooks. And, seriously, plenty of clothes. Think layers. In Michigan you might experience several seasons in a single day.

Bring an appreciation for peers and faculty from all walks of life. Leave the idea that you can learn only from some and not from each individual one of them.

Bring your questions. Leave your hesitancy to ask them.

Bring your particular gifts and passions. Leave the idea that you already know all of your particular gifts and passions.

Bring hiking boots and a hat or two. Sunglasses and umbrella. Leave the thought that inspiration is limited to either the indoors or the concrete jungle.

Bring your sense of humor.

Bring your breadth of knowledge and experience. Bring your desire to expand both.

- Joy Bilbey, Alma College MFA student

Want to know more? Read more blog posts.

Story published on January 04, 2022