Post-MFA Fellowships: The "Third Year"
The Helen Zell Writers' Program is able to offer all qualifying graduates of our program one year of post-MFA funding.
Post-MFA year support will total $25,000 per fellow. Health insurance is not included, and we strongly encourage fellows to purchase it with part of the stipend. Fellows are not allowed to teach at the University of Michigan, or any other college, during the term of the fellowship. They are also not allowed to accept full-time employment at the University of Michigan, and are expected not to work elsewhere. This year is meant to be time to write.
To qualify for a post-MFA fellowship, an MFA student must:
- Pass the MFA Reading Exam.
- Successfully complete all requirements for graduation by May 15 of the year of the expected degree, and post the degree.
- Submit a thesis (a minimum of 125 pages of prose or 45 pages of poetry). A thesis that meets the requirements for the post-MFA fellowship will be found to demonstrate:
- a clear coherence, such that a significant portion of its contents can be seen to be plainly of a piece, indicating the feasibility of a project that might use the thesis as a basis for a completed work;
- substantial sustained recent investment on the part of the author, such that the thesis is composed entirely or largely of work completed or substantially revised since the author’s admission to the program; and
- substantial quality.
- Submit a thesis statement (500-1000 words). The thesis statement will describe:
- how the thesis might be used as the foundation for a book of poetry or prose to be completed, at least in the form of a revised draft, by the end of the fellowship year;
- how the candidate has demonstrated maturity, collegiality, and the potential for active and positive participation in the MFA community or the Ann Arbor or Michigan literary community; and
- how the candidate might contribute to either of those communities during the fellowship year.
- At the completion of the thesis workshop semester, each candidate must meet with both of his or her two thesis advisors, together or separately, to discuss the candidate’s thesis and thesis statement. The advisors then decide together, on the basis of the thesis, the thesis statement, and the advisors’ knowledge of the candidate:
- whether the thesis meets the necessary requirements;
- whether the candidate has demonstrated maturity, collegiality, and the potential for active and positive participation in the MFA community or the Ann Arbor or Michigan literary community; and
- whether the candidate is eligible for a Zell Postgraduate Fellowship.
- All post-MFA Fellows are expected to give a short presentation on their work and to participate in a group reading during the fellowship year. While the post-MFA fellowships are postgraduate awards, Fellows are also expected under the terms of the fellowship to maintain an active involvement with the MFA community. Fellows may maintain an active involvement with the community in many ways. MFA faculty may invite Fellows to perform introductions for or to conduct roundtables with visiting authors, or to organize and steer discussions concerning career and craft, open to the MFA community. Fellows are encouraged to suggest ways of being actively involved.
- As the fellowship is expressly established to support writers in a crucial period of their postgraduate life, and to provide valuable time and encouragement, no Zell Postgraduate Fellow may hold a paid position in the English department during the fellowship term. We further discourage Fellows, in the strongest possible terms, from seeking other employment during the term of the fellowship.
- In addition, and pursuant to the expectation of community involvement, Fellows must reside in Ann Arbor or the Ann Arbor area during the fellowship year. A good-faith understanding of what it means to "reside" in Ann Arbor or environs will allow for reasonable periods of time spent traveling for personal or for research purposes. In the extreme case of a Fellow simply failing to maintain Ann Arbor or environs as the place of his or her principal residence, the fellowship can be terminated at the discretion of the Director. A Fellow wishing to terminate his or her fellowship may do so at any time by written request.
- At the end of the year, Fellows will submit the manuscript of the work undertaken during the fellowship year. This manuscript will be archived.
Along with offering our students time to write, and a community of talented peers and experienced mentors in which to do so, the Helen Zell Writers' Program has always emphasized academic preparation, pedagogical training, and professionalization through service. The third-year fellowship not only gives our students the time that they need to write their first books, but helps us prepare them to succeed as professional writers.