Author Archives: wagnerc6

Unintended Consequences: A Collection of Short Stories by chemistry capstone students

Great chemistry: Creative Writing collaborates across disciplines

Photo of the preface to Unintended Consequences: A Collection of Short Stories. Professor Heeyoung Tai explains the purpose of the assignment: to get students to think through "not just the benefits that scientific advance would bring, but the other possible unintended consequences that they would need to address and consider at the same time."

Hurray for successful collaboration across disciplines! Check out this wonderful book of short stories, or “fictional essays,” written by chemistry capstone students to help them think about ethical dilemmas in science. As the preface by Prof. Heeyoung Tai says, imaginative writing enabled students to “see the future—not just the benefits that scientific advances would bring, but the possible unintended consequences that they would need to address and consider at the same time.”

The Creative Writing program was delighted to assist Heeyoung Tai and her chemistry capstone class with the project. Thanks to Professor Tai, who had the idea to develop the assignment and invited us to participate. Thanks also to my colleague in Spanish, Iñaki Pradanos, who introduced me to the idea of assigning fictional essays to think through real-world issues in our co-taught Urban Futures class last fall. Much gratitude to the terrific fiction writer and Miami MFA graduate Justin Chandler, who visited Heeyoung Tai’s capstone and got chemistry students thinking like fiction writers.

Hey chemistry students: your stories are scary and fascinating! We look forward to more creative collaborations across disciplines in future.

Cathy Wagner, Creative Writing Program Director

Creative Writing MFA students pursue passions with alternative courses

We are reposting this piece by Mackenzie Rossero, CAS communications intern, which originally appeared on the Miami English Department website here

MFA grad student working with kids outdoorsHave you ever wanted to take a class on fanfiction? Have you ever wanted to teach that class? Or, introduce kids to creative writing in the outdoors, in a place teeming with inspirational opportunities? Creative Writing MFA students are doing all of this, and will soon be doing more.


As of this fall, the English department has changed its Creative Writing Master of Arts (MA) degree to a Creative Writing Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Creative Writing: Creative Writing and Pedagogy. With an MFA degree, graduates are eligible for more university jobs. The MFA is also a more studio-oriented degree, providing extra emphasis on the student’s individual work.

With these changes in the degree, the English department is offering an option for MFA students to complete a course in another department or propose and pursue a service, research or writing project in place of one of their 600-level literary seminars.

This alternative option is designed for students who are looking to pursue a specific passion — something that cannot normally be found in Miami’s curriculum.

“We think it’s important, both at the undergraduate and graduate level, for students to read a lot and to figure out their place in a literary tradition, and literature seminars help inform their intervention in the tradition,” said Cathy Wagner, Director of the Creative Writing Program. “That’s incredibly important to us… And we also wanted to open up possibilities for students to pursue other options that could feed into their creative practice or support their teaching of creative writing.”


Second-year graduate student, Elizabeth Weeks, developed a community workshop, MFA grad student Carrie Bindschadler (L) teaching children in Tucson.via teleconference, that is specifically for writers of fanfiction. It is a twelve-week course and, from a pool of approximately 50 applicants, she chose ten participants from around the world. In the course,
the authors submitted to each workshop twice, once with fanfiction and once with original fiction.

“This is something I would like to continue even after the semester is over,” Weeks said. “I had way more interest than anticipated, and I’d like to extend the opportunity to others. It’s a lot of work and there’s no pay involved, but I love it and it’s fun and I get to read some really cool stories and talk about writing and fic [fanfiction] with people who have the same level of interest in it that I do.”


Second-year graduate student Carrie Bindschadler spent a summer teaching children in Tucson, Arizona, about creativity and writing in their desert environment. She taught two age groups, 5 through 9 and 10 through 13. Her lessons provided students with the opportunity to act out and write plays and create planets and make pop-up books about them, among many other things.

“One week I had all the kids pretend we were on a deserted desert island, role-playing and writing about our experiences on our island. We spent a lot of time running around outside in the desert trying to get rescued and fighting off giant radioactive killer rattlesnakes. These experiences gave me a lot of hope for the world, but also gave the kids time to pretend outside and it ultimately made their stories better, more infused with descriptive language and more grounded in place than they had been before.”

These projects brought about unexpected rewards for both Weeks and Bindschadler. They were able to bring flexibility and creativity into their own projects.

“I thought the workshop would be more in line with my personal goals as a writer and teacher. While literary theory interests me and I’m sure I would have enjoyed a seminar, I tend to work better and learn more in self-guided environments,” Weeks said.


Of the latest cohort of Creative Writing MFA students — those who began this fall — twenty percent have already expressed serious interest in this alternative option.

“I’m curious to see how many students do get interested,” Wagner said. “And, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that, once they hear about what other students are doing, more people want to do it.”

The pursuit of this alternative option would require students to develop a plan that produces work equivalent to what would be produced in the literary seminar, and at an equally challenging level. It is intended to offer students more freedom, should they desire it, in designing their coursework to support their artistic practice.

“I’m thrilled about the projects that have been done so far, and I think that they have been useful to the students thinking and helping them move forward as writers. It gives them a sense of agency,” Wagner explained. “They create their own project. They go through it — it’s kind of hard — but they come out at the other end saying, ‘I did that.'”

Creative writing faculty are in the early stages of developing relationships with community service providers such as Oxford’s Family Resource Center and local prisons. Faculty are hoping to build connections between Miami writers and the larger community and to offer MFA students additional opportunities to share the creative literacies they are learning.

Any Creative Writing MFA students interested in pursuing an alternative option should contact the Director of Creative Writing.

Call for English Department Interns and Apprentices

Miami University Press, the Creative Writing Program, and the Literature Program seek enthusiastic, talented, well-organized undergraduate interns and apprentices for 2017-18. The deadline for this year’s applications is Friday, April 21. Please follow the links below for application forms and position descriptions. Students are welcome to apply for more than one position.

Miami University Press Marketing Internship Application
Miami University Press Editorial Internship Application
Creative Writing Program Apprenticeship in Publicity and Event Promotion Application
Literature Program Apprenticeship in Publicity and Event Promotion

Questions? Please contact the Miami University Press Managing Editor Amy Toland, Director of Creative Writing, Dr. Cathy Wagner, or the Director of the Literature Program, Katie Johnson.


Summer dreaming: graduate school


It’s summertime and we’re taking a break from the blog for awhile. Wish all of us luck with our summer writing! But before we skedaddle, one last post. As Director of Creative Writing , I receive a lot of messages over the summer asking about our MA and MFA programs, so I suspect there are many smart, proactive students doing summer research on creative writing graduate programs who land on this blog. If you’re one of them, read on for a thumbnail sketch of Miami’s programs.

Miami offers two graduate degrees in creative writing:

  • A robustly funded Residential MA that offers the chance to teach creative writing every year, summer stipends, a distinctive commitment to mentorship, and a storied tradition of alumni success.
  • A Low-Residency MFA with a diverse group of brilliant mentors such as Porochista Khakpour, Hoa Nguyen, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, and Peter Orner, who work one-on-one with writers to help them hone their work and sustain their practice.

If admitted to our program, you will join a small and intimate creative writing program at a university that regularly ranks in the top five in the country for commitment to teaching. Our faculty writers are well-published, widely networked, and deeply committed to teaching and individual mentorship. Miami alums include a Pulitzer-nominated playwright (Rajiv Joseph), a Pulitzer winner (Rita Dove), a Director of the Academy of American Poets, and many other literary notables. Students go on to careers in university teaching, public service, editing and publishing. They are regularly awarded fellowships at the most prestigious MFA and PhD programs. Alumni writing has been included in the annual O. Henry Prize Stories collection and other anthologies, received Intro Awards from AWP and Honorable Mention in the Atlantic Monthly Young Writer’s Competition, and been published widely in literary journals. In the past few years, recent graduates have sold first books to Alfred A. Knopf, Random House, Harcourt, and Penguin USA. (Check out our Twitter feed and Facebook community page to find out about recent alumni publications, and follow us if you’d like to see the publishing and other opportunities we post there for students, alumni, and friends.)

Residential MA students enjoy unusual opportunities and support. All our students are

  • awarded substantial teaching assistantships that include a summer stipendteach a creative writing course every year
  • focus on fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction (or a combination of their choice) with award-winning faculty
  • work closely and individually with a distinguished visiting writer during annual Sprint Workshops (this year, sprint visitors included Chris Bachelder, Erin Moure, and Jenny Boully; recent visitors have included Fred Moten, Bernadette Meyer, Tom Raworth, Cary Holladay, Erin McGraw, and Rae Armantrout)
  • benefit from the nationally recognized teaching mentorship provided by our cutting-edge composition and rhetoric program
  • have the opportunity to spend a winter holiday on an internship in China (travel and lodging costs covered)
  • gain editing and publishing experience through Oxmag & Miami University Press
  • attend readings by a score of visiting writers—emerging, famous, and in-between—each year; the 2015–2016 series included Claudia Rankine and Kathryn Davis as well as our annual Symposium on Literary Translation

Low-residency MFA students design their own programs and learn from the best mentors in the business; all are able to

  • work closely and individually with master-writers including Porochista Khakpour, Emily Rapp, Hoa Nguyen, Peter Orner, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Dana Ward, Josip Novakovich and others
  • create individually guided reading projects around themes and craft issues relevant to them
  • participate in on-campus residencies with well-known writers, agents and editors
  • mix with our residential faculty and graduate students over the course of four residencies, becoming part of our community

Miami’s campus is lovely and park-like, with woods and trails on one side and a busy brick-streeted small town on the other. Robert Frost called Miami “the most beautiful campus that ever there was.” Prospective applicants can visit our website, Facebook page and Twitter feed, or write me, Cathy Wagner, at with questions. Applications must arrive by January 1 for the MA and are accepted on a rolling basis for the MFA.

Till fall,

Cathy Wagner