Students in Saint Leo's first Master of Arts in Creative Writing cohort launch a new phase in their creative lives.

Perhaps writing is how you make sense of the world – your way to explore ideas, feelings and perspectives and find meaning in life.

Maybe writing is your creative outlet – it inspires you and brings you joy.

Or writing could simply be how you share what's on your mind – it's how you best communicate.

Personal or professional, the reasons individuals write are as unique as writers themselves.

Take just two of the students in Saint Leo University's first Master of Arts in Creative Writing cohort, for example.

Jennifer Harman, a marketing and communications professional by trade, is finding meaning in traumatic life events through narrative nonfiction.

Jennifer Holt is getting ready to transition to civilian life after a long military career as an imagery analyst in the U.S. Marine Corps. She chose a graduate program that would enable her to explore her creative side.  

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

"Since the reasons someone pursues a graduate degree in the arts are as varied as the students who seek those degrees, our program is tailored to each student's individual goals," says Dr. Steve Kistulentz, director of Saint Leo's graduate program in creative writing.

"Saint Leo's program is focused primarily on students who are writing as a type of personal development and guiding them to enter the world of writing professionally. Recent college graduates, seasoned professionals, retirees – anyone ready to commit to their writing dream – would be a good fit for our program."

Second cohort forming

Saint Leo University's Master of Arts in Creative Writing gives aspiring fiction writers, essayists, memoirists, and poets the tools to begin a new phase of their creative life as a professional writer. Designed to be completed in just two calendar years, the 36-hour master's degree is a low-residency program that requires three summer residencies, four semesters of study, and a book-length thesis of the student's creative work.

In an option unique to the Saint Leo program, those who are interested in writing about war experiences select one of those genres, but instead of taking generalized writing courses within their specialty, enroll in courses in fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry that reflect wartime or postwar experiences.

The second cohort for Saint Leo's Master of Arts in Creative Writing is now forming and applications are being accepted. The first eight-day residency is scheduled for July 15 to 22, 2017 at Saint Leo's University Campus in Central Florida. For more information or to apply, contact Graduate Enrollment Counselor Yvonne Montell at 800.707.8846.

Is Saint Leo's creative writing program for you?

If you're trying to decide if you should pursue a graduate degree and if Saint Leo's Master of Arts in Creative Writing is the right fit for you, Jennifer Harman and Jennifer Holt share a few thoughts about the program – and its impact on their lives so far.

Jennifer Harman
Lutz, Florida

Currently a technical writer and editor for a global media communications company, and small business owner, Jennifer spent 10 years in the U.S. Navy as a journalist and mass communication specialist. While she's always had a gift for storytelling and a knack for editing, Jennifer says she did not start writing seriously until after experiencing multiple life-changing events. She is developing a narrative nonfiction memoir as her creative project for her master's thesis and eventually would like to teach at the college level.

Why do you write?

Jennifer Harman:
Writing has become a therapeutic practice for me. Before kids, I had the luxury of time to chat friends and decompress, but as a working wife and mother, it's hard to find a time that works with our busy schedules. So I often write just to get it off my chest, which sometimes also brings me clarity.

What do you write about?

Jennifer Harman: In the last few years, I've gone through some major life-changing experiences. Two months into a new job in Washington, D.C., I fell victim to a mass shooting in my office at the Washington Navy Yard. In the months immediately following, I experienced even more major life changes, which have since, shaped my way of thinking, influenced my personality and ultimately made me realize I'm a much stronger person than I ever thought to believe. They also left me with a bounty of material to write about.

Why are you pursuing a master's degree in creative writing?

Jennifer Harman:
I've reached a point in my life where I'm ready for new growth and self-improvement. I had been thinking about pursuing a master's degree for some time, but I struggled to find the right program. When I learned of the new MA in Creative Writing, there was no doubt that it would be the right fit for me. I figured that regardless of industry, good writing is a skill that not everyone possesses, so I could use my master's in whatever path I took.

What did you think about the first on-campus residency?

Jennifer Harman:
I loved every minute. I've never felt more connected to such imperfectly perfect strangers. Everyone is so authentic and vulnerable and insightful and creative and thought provoking. I'm so grateful to be part of this amazing group of people.


Your thoughts about the program so far?

Jennifer Harman:
In the short time that I've been in this program, my confidence has been boosted; I feel more validated by my peers and professors than at any other point in my life. I've discovered that maybe I do have a "gift" and people do want to read "my story." I've met some amazing and talented people who are now friends for life. Words cannot express how grateful I am to have been selected to experience this amazing, life-changing opportunity.

Jennifer Holt
Camp LeJeune, North Carolina

An imagery analyst, Jennifer Holt has spent much of her 17 years in the U.S. Marine Corps utilizing satellite imagery to provide critical combat operations support. She has changed duty stations more times than she can count and in the last decade alone deployed numerous times. A recent graduate of Saint Leo's online liberal studies program, Jennifer is embarking on her final tour of duty and considering options for her life as a civilian.

Why are you pursuing a master's degree in creative writing?

Jennifer Holt:
I am not a writer. My passion is reading. (I average 80 to 100 books a year.) I applied because I want to earn a master's degree and I want it to be in something that I enjoy and that has purpose for me. I want to spend my time on something that enriches my life and allows me to explore my creative side; something that allows me to work through my darkest hours and bask in my brightest moments and will help heal the invisible wounds that none of us escapes in war.

What are your goals?

Jennifer Holt:
As I begin the descent on my long career in the Marine Corps, I am plagued with the question, "What am I going to do after?" Although I cannot yet answer that question, I truly believe that I can do anything. Albeit, some things better than others. Short-term, I get to spend the next few years reading what my classmates dream up, and I am so excited about this. However, in order to be a part of that, I too, must write. So, I will use this opportunity to explore the deep and dark and humorous within me. Writing, it turns out, is very cathartic.

What impact has the program had on you so far?

Jennifer Holt:
I enjoy pushing the limits. I see this program as a way to teach me the mechanics of writing, which will result in making me a better reader. As I explore the deeper depths of myself, I realize that I am beginning to be more cognizant of the world around me. I observe human interaction and words being spoken more acutely than I did before beginning the program.

What did you think about the first on-campus residency?

Jennifer Holt:
Spending 17 plus years in the Marine Corps, I never got the campus experience. The week-long residency during the summer provided that. Sitting down with your classmates, getting to know them, and then reading their work is invaluable. It allows us to develop our skills of constructive feedback and fostering a caring environment to help all of us flourish.

Your thoughts about the program so far?

Jennifer Holt:
I just know that one or more of my classmates will be genuine published authors. Knowing this makes this whole program so much more special. One day I will get the opportunity to say that I studied alongside person X and their work was great then, even in its infancy.

For more information about Saint Leo's Master's in Creative Writing program or to apply, call 800.707.8846.

Image credits: sydneymills on Shutterstock; courtsey Steve Kistulentz, Jennifer Harman and Jennifer Holt