Program Overview:
Write in the Heart
of Appalachia

Cultivate a writing life. Join a writing community.

West Virginia Wesleyan’s low-residency Master of Fine Arts program offers writers the opportunity to study fiction, nonfiction, or poetry with accomplished and dedicated mentors in an intimate, student-centered environment.

The MFA is a two-year, 49 credit hour program. Students join an extraordinarily warm community every summer and winter on the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan College for an intensive ten-day residency that initiates an independent semester of apprenticeship completed off-site through correspondence with a mentor. Students work with a mixture of new and returning faculty, working one-on-one with a different faculty mentor within their discipline throughout each residency and off-campus period.

• Faculty/student ratio of no greater than 1:4.

• Grounding in the best of past and current writing.

• Emphasis on craft and technique.

Located in central Appalachia, the program welcomes and fosters writing that explores place and identity, though that emphasis is secondary to fostering excellence in all writing, and applicants are accepted on the basis of writing quality, regardless of thematic content. As a natural outgrowth of investigation of place, interested students may substitute one campus residency with a Wesleyan-supervised field seminar in Ireland, or may design and propose a seminar for other travel destinations.


Who We Are

Low-Residency Model

The low-residency model is designed for serious, motivated writers. The model enables students to work toward a degree while balancing their work commitments and community life at their places of residence. Students are expected to dedicate 25 hours per week to the semester project they design with their faculty advisors.

  • Overview

    The low-residency rhythm of community and solitude, as well as its requirements of self-discipline and commitment, echoes the rhythm of the writing life. Wesleyan’s MFA is for writers who care deeply about writing and want to get better at it in the company of dedicated peers. Although we offer a postgraduate teaching fellowship, the program’s focus is not teacher preparation, but writing and working toward a manuscript of publishable quality.

    As a two-year program, Wesleyan’s MFA requires five residencies and
    four semesters, and students can begin in summer or winter.

  • The Residency

    Residencies are held on Wesleyan’s campus in Buckhannon in early July and early January. Each of the four semesters begins with an intensive ten-day residency featuring a series of craft seminars, workshops, and readings presented by the program’s core faculty of writers and the semester’s visiting faculty. Information on the residency seminars is sent to students a month in advance, along with a list of assigned readings.

    Residency mornings are devoted to interdisciplinary lecture- or discussion-style seminars, offering all students instruction in fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. The final morning of the residency is dedicated to a panel discussion on topics ranging from publishing to the role of place in writing. The two-hour afternoon writing workshops are genre-specific. All of these core activities are incorporated into the Craft and Theory and Workshop courses detailed in the Course Descriptions. For more details on what to expect at the residency, read this excerpt from the Student Handbook (PDF).

    At the first four residencies, students complete a Semester Project Proposal in collaboration with their faculty advisors, and the semester coursework is completed at home.

    The Fifth Residency is the culmination of the student’s work in the program. The graduating student returns for this final instructional residency to participate in a Thesis Interview, give a reading from their Thesis Manuscript, and teach a seminar to his or her peers, in addition to attending the morning seminars and participating in workshop.

    For writers who are interested in participating in the robust community of the residency, but who are not seeking the MFA degree, the program offers an audit option.

    ON-CAMPUS SUMMER RESIDENCY ACCOMMODATIONS: If students opt for a meal plan, they dine in the campus dining hall; vegetarian meals are available. If students opt for campus housing, they stay in a residence hall in a private room with a suite bathroom shared with one person.

  • The Semester

    The Semester Project is a one-on-one course undertaken with a core or visiting faculty member involving five exchanged writing packets and the submission of a final portfolio. These exchanges are not online courses, but tutorials which encourage a close, sustained apprenticeship with master writers who have significant publications and standing in their fields. The mentor relationship is maintained through regular and frequent email, mail, telephone and/or Zoom contact. In addition to the creative work and brief annotations (craft essays) required in the writing packets during the first two semesters, the third semester also engages the student in a 20-25-page Critical Essay that deeply explores an element of craft central to the student’s own writing. The fourth semester is dedicated to the completion of the Thesis Manuscript.



Core Faculty

  • Doug Van Gundy, Program Director


    Doug Van Gundy’s poems and essays have appeared in many journals, including The Oxford American, The Guardian, EcotonePoems & Plays and The Louisville Review. His first book of poems, A Life Above Water, is published by Red Hen Press. He is the co-editor of Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Contemporary Writing from West Virginia, published by Vandalia Press. A graduate of the Goddard College MFA program, Doug has been a visiting poet at Middle Tennessee State University, Lynchburg College, Randolph Macon College, Barton College, Coastal Carolina University and Davis & Elkins College, and was an associate artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. In addition to writing and teaching, Doug is an award-winning old-time musician whose music has been featured on three CDs, several films, and National Public Radio’s Mountain Stage. He plays fiddle, guitar and mandolin in the duo, Born Old. Active Faculty Summer-Fall 2021

    A Fierce Desire to Stay” in The Guardian (new window)

    Serengeti” in Birmingham Arts Journal (new window)

    The Return of the Almighty” in Waccamaw (new window)

    Engineers” in Waccamaw (new window)

    From the Fishouse Archive

  • Devon McNamara


    Devon McNamara has poetry, essays, reviews and interviews in The Christian Science MonitorThe Hiram Poetry ReviewLaurel ReviewTrellisDark HorseWild Sweet Notes: 50 Years of West Virginia Poetry, and most recently Dogs Singing, from Salmon Poetry, Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare, Ireland. She directs cultural tours of Ireland for undergraduates and for writers in the MFA program. Before joining the Wesleyan English faculty she taught in poets-in-the-schools projects in West Virginia, Ohio, Iowa and Missouri, conducted writing workshops in reform facilities, and pioneered the West Virginia Public Radio college course, Women and Literature, featuring interviews with Appalachian musician Jean Ritchie, poets Adrienne Rich, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Irene McKinney, and former West Virginia Poet Laureate Louise McNeill. She was also co-manager of The Morgantown School of Ballet, a character dancer in the regional company, and has worked collaboratively with dancers from The Dayton Ballet and Dayton Contemporary Dance Company. Her Ph.D. is from New York University and she is the recipient of a YADDO fellowship. Active Faculty Summer-Fall 2021

    “Zach Sings” and “Spring Lament” in Dogs Singing (PDF)

  • Robert Stevens


    As a Navy brat, Robert Stevens moved 11 times by the time he turned 18.  After graduating from Pitt, he lived in Pittsburgh for the next 15 years.

    In the summer of 2012, he worked as a stand-in for George Takei and has appeared as an extra in commercials and movies such as Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Fathers and Daughters.

    Writing as Robert Yune, his fiction has been published in Green Mountains ReviewThe Kenyon Review, and Pleiades, among others.  In 2009, he received a writing fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

    In 2015, his debut novel Eighty Days of Sunlight was nominated for the International DUBLIN Literary Award.  Other nominees that year included Lauren Groff, Kazuo Ishiguro and Salman Rushdie.  His debut story collection Impossible Children won the 2017 Mary McCarthy Prize and was published in October 2019 by Sarabande Books.

    Stevens was the 2018-2019 Emerging Writer Lecturer at Gettysburg College. He is currently an Assistant Professor at West Virginia Wesleyan College.

    Active Faculty Summer-Fall 2021

    “Everything that Rises” Coal Hill Review, issue 21 (new window)
    “Scenes from the Reverse Metamorphosis” The Monarch Review (new window)

  • Recent Guest Faculty
  • Visiting Writers

    Dan Albergotti
    Maggie Anderson
    Cameron Barnett
    Pinckney Benedict
    Adrian Blevins
    Belle Boggs
    Gaylord Brewer
    Nickole Brown
    Laurie Jean Cannady
    Mitchell L.H. Douglas
    Sarah Einstein
    Nikky Finney
    Denise Giardina
    RJ Gibson
    Robert Gipe
    Jaimy Gordon
    Jesse Graves
    Ellen Hagan
    Rajia Hassib
    Marc Harshman
    Terrance Hayes
    Yuri Herrera
    Jason Howard
    Rebecca Gayle Howell
    Rodney Jones
    Gerry LaFemina
    Jacki Lyden
    Scott McClanahan
    Mindy McGinnis
    John McKernan
    Randon Billings Noble
    Kevin Oderman
    Ann Pancake
    Jayne Anne Phillips
    Nathan Poole
    Mary Ann Samyn
    Steve Scafidi
    George Singleton
    Patricia Smith
    Elizabeth Stone
    Alex Taylor
    Larry Thacker
    Vincent Trimboli
    Erin Veith
    Lori Wilson


  • McKinney Postgraduate Teaching Fellowship

    This fellowship honors the founding director of WV Wesleyan’s MFA Program by offering a graduate of the program the opportunity to gain teaching experience in close mentorship with practiced faculty.

    2022-23 FELLOW: Kellie Tatem

    Kellie Tatem is a 2021 graduate of the MFA program at West Virginia Wesleyan College with a degree in Fiction. Her thesis, “His Ordained Wife,” is a novel in short stories exploring generational trauma and redemption.

    Former McKinney Fellows:

    Julia Kastner, 2019-22
    Vincent Trimboli, 2020-21
    Amber Milstead, 2019-20
    Ginny Rachel, 2017-18
    Christopher Chapman, 2015-2017, 2018-19
    Ashley Higginbotham, 2014-15
    Zach Williams, 2013-14

    The Irene McKinney Postgraduate Teaching Fellowship is available to all graduates of the West Virginia Wesleyan College MFA Program for up to 3 years after graduation. The fellow will teach six undergraduate courses during the academic year—typically, three Composition I courses in the fall, and two Composition II courses and a 100-level Introduction to Literature or Creative Writing course in the spring, with possible variation depending on English Department needs; s/he will also offer a literary reading on campus in the spring. The fellow will work under the supervision of the MFA Director and English Department Chair, will meet regularly with a mentor and undergo at least two classroom observations, and will receive a stipend of $16,500. The fellow will be required to live in the Buckhannon area (or at reasonable commuting distance which allows the fellow to hold a minimum of 5 office hours weekly) from the mid-August New Faculty Orientation to the early May Final Grades due date during the fellowship year.

    Timeline for application process:
    The fellow must have the MFA degree in hand before the fellowship year. To comply with Final Deposit of Thesis deadlines and MFA degree conferral dates, fall thesis students are eligible to apply the March following their Fifth Residency. For example, a Fall 2023 thesis student may apply for the fellowship as early as March 2023. Spring thesis students are eligible to apply as early as the March during their thesis semester, so, for example, a Spring 2024 thesis student may apply as early as March 2024.

    An applicant should submit the following:

    1) Letter of application which discusses:

    –Relevant teaching/work experience (applicants with no teaching experience will be considered).

    –Areas of expertise and interest in writing and literature.

    –Current writing projects.

    2) Teaching philosophy for basic composition.

    3) Drafted syllabus for a Composition I course and sketch of an Introduction to Literature course.

    4) Current CV.

    5) Writing sample of no more than 20 pages of prose, 10 pages of poetry.

    An applicant must also have two letters of recommendation addressing his or her experience/potential as a teacher mailed or emailed directly to the MFA Director. One letter of recommendation may be submitted by Wesleyan MFA core or visiting faculty; the other letter must come from outside the program.

    While the fellowship may be received only once, and while we prioritize new applicants so to offer teaching experience to as many as our alumni as possible, current fellows may apply to renew for a second consecutive year. Also, previous applicants who were not awarded the fellowship are permitted to reapply. Those who reapply–along with current fellows applying to renew–may elect to use letters of recommendation already on file, though all other materials should be refreshed. Applications will be reviewed and finalists chosen by the MFA Director and core MFA faculty; advancing candidates may be interviewed by phone or Skype. The final decision will be made by the English Chair, in consultation with the MFA Director and with the approval of the Dean of the College.

    Applications must be received by March 1 for the following academic year; a decision will be made by April 1.

    Electronic submissions are required. Application materials should be sent in a single Word or PDF file to Doug Van Gundy, MFA Director at, indicating McKinney Fellowship Application in the subject line. Letters of recommendation should be sent directly to Doug Van Gundy via email or mail: West Virginia Wesleyan College; 59 College Avenue, Box 32; Buckhannon, WV 26201.

Apply Now

Course Descriptions
Secondary Genre Concentration
Degree Requirements
Ireland Residency
Audit Option
Tuition, Fees & Financial Aid
Heartwood Literary Magazine