Curriculum

Master of Professional Writing students specialize in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or writing for stage and screen, but are required to take classes in other genres as well. This unique approach separates MPW from other creative writing programs. An MPW degree consists of 30 units—18 units in one concentration and 12 elective units in any genres outside that concentration. The program culminates in the completion of a final thesis project.

Fiction - The storytelling impulse is an ancient one, and at MPW we are interested in helping you tell your stories in new as well as in traditional ways. We offer workshops and seminars that provide students with the opportunity to read deeply in contemporary and canonical texts and to find resonances and models for new and original work. Our instructors include Janet Fitch (White Oleander), who has developed a class specifically for MPW students, one that brings them into a deeper awareness of available techniques; Bernard Cooper (The Bill from My Father), Trinie Dalton (Wide Eyed), Judith Freeman (Red Water), Gina B. Nahai (Cry of the Peacock), Richard Rayner (A Bright and Guilty Place), and Mark Richard (House of Prayer No. 2), who offer among them a wide array of approaches to long and short forms; and Gabrielle Pina (Bliss), who has created a course on research. Upcoming, current, and recent courses include:

  • Fiction Writing Workshop
  • The Novel
  • The Short Story
  • The Fairy Tale
  • The Graphic Novel
  • Oral History: Witness and Writing
  • Sudden Fiction
  • Techniques of Fiction Writing: Exploring the Possibilities of Perception & Language
  • Young Adult Lit: Criticism, Co-Creation, and Social Networking

Nonfiction - Whether you choose to explore memoir, personal essay, or journalism, in traditional forms or new media, our nonfiction faculty—who include Dana Goodyear (The New Yorker staff writer), Dinah Lenney (Bigger Than Life), Sandra Tsing Loh (of NPR and The Atlantic Monthly), M.G. Lord (Astro Turf), Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times film critic), and David Ulin (Los Angeles Times book critic)—offers a broad range of workshops to support and cultivate your content and craft. Study Writing for Radio, Cultural Criticism, or Humor Writing; explore the memoir, the essay, and the profile; investigate a wide array of courses with an award-winning faculty of working writers, core and visiting, who continue to publish and participate in the national and local literary scenes. As such, we are able to feature readings and panels, on and off-campus, on all manner of subjects of interest to writers of nonfiction. Upcoming, current, and recent courses include:

  • The Nonfiction Experience
  • Memoir Writing
  • The Profile
  • Humor Writing
  • Investigating and Interpreting Pop Culture Across Genres
  • Short Nonfiction in Print & Online
  • Writing About Eating
  • Writing About Place
  • Writing for Radio

Poetry - Our poetry workshops are open to all writers, regardless of their previous experience, because we believe that engagement with poetry enhances linguistic precision, fosters economy of expression, and challenges writers to regard all literary forms both as repositories of tradition and as grounds for experiment. Our instructors include internationally acclaimed poet/critic Dana Gioia (Pity the Beautiful) and playwright/poet Brighde Mullins (Monkey in the Middle), a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. Upcoming, current, and recent courses include:

  • Principles of Poetic Techniques       
  • Poetry Hybrids
  • Advanced Poetry Writing
  • Poetry and Verse Technique: Writing for the Page, the Stage, and Music
  • The Verbal and the Visual: A Consideration, an Exercise in Ekphrasis

Writing for Stage and Screen - MPW students choose from a variety of dramatic writing classes to generate and revise texts for performance. Our faculty includes legendary screenwriting guru Syd Field (Screenplay), who possesses a deep knowledge of dramatic structure; award-winning playwright Prince Gomolvilas (the stage adaptation of Mysterious Skin), whose classes explore elements of craft across different dramatic writing forms; and screenwriter/director Tim Kirkman (Loggerheads), whose acclaimed work in independent film brings poetic cadence to the practice of screenwriting. Our television writers include Emmy Award-winner Michael Price (The Simpsons), who also has a background in theatre and brings his knowledge of both forms to his teaching, and Natalie Chaidez (Heroes), who has had a long and varied career in television. Our emphasis is on writing rather than production, but we do offer a Writing for Stage and Screen Festival every Spring, which gives select students a chance to work with professional actors, directors, and dramaturgs. Our classes are open to writers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Upcoming, current, and recent courses include:

  • Principles of Dramatic Structure
  • Screenplay Workshop
  • Creating Compelling Characters
  • Creating Comedy
  • In the Room: The Craft of Television Writing-Drama
  • In the Room: The Craft of Television Writing-Sitcom
  • Writing and Performing Comic Monologues: A Storytelling Workshop

♦ Characteristic of MPW's multi-genre spirit, many of our courses defy categorization. They explore a variety of topics through the lens of different forms, such as new media. Upcoming, current, and recent courses include:

  • Beginnings
  • Empathy and Imagining the Other
  • Internship: Writers in the Field–The Business of Show Business
  • Internship: Writers in the Field–Pedagogy & the Creative Mind
  • Internship: Writers in the Field–Publishing
  • Introduction to Adaptation
  • Research Across Genres
  • Rewriting: Techniques, Strategies and Sideshadows
  • Transmedia
  • Writer's Marketplace
  • Writers and Their Influence
  • Writing Humor: Literary and Dramatic

 

 

  • Master of Professional Writing Program
  • University of Southern California
  • 3501 Trousdale Parkway
  • Mark Taper Hall of Humanities, THH 355
  • Los Angeles, California 90089-0355