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MFA in Creative Nonfiction Graduate Student Handbook 2019/20

  1. Introduction
  2. Your Program
  3. Before you begin the program
  4. When you begin the program
  5. As you progress through the program
  6. As you prepare to graduate
  7. After you graduate


Welcome to King’s and to the MFA in Creative Nonfiction program.

This handbook is a guide to the various regulations and policies that govern your participation in the MFA. It also introduces people and services that can help you get the most out of the program. The handbook is meant as a guide only — official documents take precedence.

The MFA in Creative Nonfiction is a degree offered jointly by the University of King’s College and Dalhousie University. The program is governed by Dalhousie’s Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS). So you are a student at both universities and member of both the King’s Students’ Union (KSU) and the Dalhousie Association of Graduate Students (DAGS).

Your Program

The MFA in Creative Nonfiction is a two-year low-residency program geared to providing you with the structure, instruction and support required to develop your skills as a nonfiction writer and your understanding of the business side of nonfiction book publishing. You will attend two summer residencies in Halifax (two weeks each), and in alternating years, a winter residency in New York and a winter residency in Toronto (one week each). During the residencies, you take part in writing workshops, lectures and meetings with editors, agents and publishers. Each term, you work one-to-one with a mentor on your book-length nonfiction manuscript. By the end of the program, you are expected to have completed a polished book proposal and a substantial portion of your book manuscript.

As of Summer 2019, more than 25 graduates of the program had published or were under contract to publish books developed in the program. Graduates have made national bestseller lists and been nominated or won awards such as the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Nonfiction, Margaret and John Savage First Book Award (Nonfiction), Evelyn Richardson Award, Atlantic Book Award for Scholarly Nonfiction and others.

Program structure

Each year of this two-year program is structured around two residencies and four courses. The program begins with a two-week Summer Residency in Halifax. In the Summer Residency/Fall Term, you take a Mentorship course and a Writing Craft course. In the Winter Term, you attend the Winter Residency and take a Mentorship course and a Publishing course. The second year follows the same pattern.

The Mentorship courses form the backbone of the program and consist of one-to-one work with a mentor. You produce a book proposal and work on your manuscript, with the expectation that you will produce between 15,000 and 25,000 words per term, depending on the research requirements and complexity of your project. Mentors provide feedback at each step, with opportunities for you to revise your work during the program. The Writing Craft courses, which take place in the Fall term, consist of assignments geared to contributing to the development of your nonfiction writing skills, including consideration of writing challenges, book reviews, research plans and endnotes assignments. The Publishing courses, which take place in the Winter term, are focused on the business aspects of nonfiction writing, including marketing, legal issues, and other aspects of building a career as a writer. For marking purposes, the Summer Residencies are considered part of the Writing Craft courses, and the Winter Residencies are considered part of the Publishing courses.

Master’s Classes 2019-2020

Fall 2019

First-year students

JOUR 6101.06 Mentorship I

JOUR 6100.03 Writing Craft I (includes the summer residency)

Second-year students

JOUR 6201.06 Mentorship III

JOUR 6200.03 Writing Craft II (includes the summer residency)


Winter 2020

First-year students

JOUR 6103.06  Mentorship II

JOUR 6102.03 Publishing I (includes the winter residency)

Second-year students

JOUR 6203.06 Mentorship IV

JOUR 6202.03 Publishing II (includes the winter residency)


Examples of the syllabi of these courses may be found under the “Explore Courses” link under the Curriculum heading near the bottom of MFA Program page. For the most current versions of syllabi for the courses in which you are enrolled, see your cohort’s Dropbox Paper page (see information below under “As You Progress Through the Program: Cohort updates and current information”) or contact your faculty instructor.


Important dates and deadlines

Summer 2019 Residency (Halifax): August 5-17

Winter 2020 Residency (Toronto): January 5-10

Encaenia: May 2020 (date TBD)

Summer 2020 Residency (Halifax): June 15-27

Winter 2021 Residency (New York City): Jan 10-15

Deadline for 2019 applications for the MFA Research bursary: September 6, 2019

Deadline for 2020 applications for the Penguin Random House Canada best book proposal award: February 14, 2020

Please consult the King’s Academic Calendar for other academic and institutional deadlines.


Links to application, tuition and financial aid

Admission requirements, deadlines, forms and fees

Tuition and other fees

Financial aid: Bursaries

Financial aid: Scholarships: Nova Scotia students enrolled in the MFA in Creative Nonfiction program may qualify for scholarships from:

* Nova Scotia Talent Trust

* Arts Nova Scotia

Students in other jurisdictions may qualify for arts council professional development funding in their province or jurisdiction.

Indigenous students may qualify for funding through Indspire.

MFA students are, in general, ineligible for FGS scholarships.

Financial aid: Student loans


People in Your Program

Your cohort director is your main point of contact. If you are graduating in odd-numbered years, your cohort director is Stephen Kimber. If you are graduating in even-numbered years, your cohort director is Dean Jobb. The executive director of the MFA program is Kim Pittaway. Contact information for you mentor is found on your Mentorship course syllabus.

If you have questions or concerns about your course work, your mentor or course professor should be your first point of contact. If concerns remain, contact your cohort director (depending on your year, Dean Jobb or Stephen Kimber), or the executive director of the MFA program, Kim Pittaway. Tim Currie, director of the School of Journalism, is also the graduate coordinator for the School of Journalism, including the MFA program, and is the official liaison with the Faculty of Graduate Studies at Dalhousie, under whose auspices the MFA program is delivered.

Stephen Kimber, (902) 422-1271 x150; (902) 223-5120 (cell);; office Room 073 on lower level of the Link building (near the King’s Bookstore) Founder of the MFA program. Teaches JOUR 6100.03 (Writing Craft I) and JOUR 6200.03 (Writing Craft II) and supervises Mentorship courses.

Dean Jobb, (902) 422-1271 x143; (902) 476-3416 (cell);; office on third floor of A&A building. Teaches JOUR 6100.03 (Writing Craft I) and JOUR 6200.03 (Writing Craft II) and supervises Mentorship courses.

Kim Pittaway, (902) 422-1271 x282; (902)448-1175 (cell);; office Room 261 on lower level of A&A building. Responsible for overseeing administrative aspects of the MFA program. Teaches JOUR 6102.03 (Publishing Residency I) and JOUR 6202.03 (Publishing Residency II).

The Director of the Journalism School is Tim Currie. He is also the Graduate Coordinator, your liaison with FGS. (902) 422-1271 x187;

Kelly Porter is the Department Administrator in the J-School. (902) 422-1271 x159;

For questions about other matters:

  • Admission: Assistant Registrar, Admissions Tara Wigglesworth-Hines (902) 422-1271 ext 259, (Registrar’s Office)
  • Tuition, Fees and Student Accounts: Student Accounts Officer Sharlene Salter (902) 422-1271 ext 116,’s Office)
  • Scholarships, Bursaries and Financial Aid: Assistant Registrar, Awards Catherine Read (902) 422-1271 ext 193, (Registrar’s Office)
  • Registration & Graduation (Encaenia): Coordinator, Academic Services and Student Systems Kirstin Mosher (902) 422-1271 ext 108 and Assistant Registrar, Academic and Enrolment Services Julia Town (902) 422-1271 ext 123 (Registrar’s Office)
  • Grade Appeals: Graduate Coordinator, Tim Currie (902) 422-1271 x187;


University mailing address:

University of King’s College
6350 Coburg Road
Halifax NS B3H 2A1

Switchboard: 902-422-1271

Before You Begin the Program

Acceptance letter: A letter or email from the University of King’s College saying that King’s has recommended to the Dean of Graduate Studies that you be offered admission is not an official offer from Dalhousie University. Official offers come only from the Dean of Graduate Studies. It is possible for the Dean not to accept recommendations from King’s. A letter from the Dean of Graduate Studies that offers admission is your official notification of acceptance. Details on a required admission deposit will be included in this letter.

Deferrals: Provided you instruct us in a timely manner, we can request a deferral of admittance for up to one year from the Dean of Graduate Studies. If your request for deferral is approved, you will be required to pay a $200 admission deposit on your account.

When You Begin the Program

Registering for your courses

You must register for your courses online at Dal Online in advance of the Summer Residency. You will receive an email from the Registrar’s Office with detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to register. This email will include Course Registration Numbers (CRNs) for each course. (Though the courses in the program stay the same from year to year, the CRNs change each year, so you need the specific numbers for your year, which will be included in the email from the Registrar.) If you are a first-year student, this email will be sent to your preferred email address. If you are a second-year student, this email will be sent to your Dal email address. (See below for an explanation of official Dal email addresses and how to forward your Dal emails to your preferred address.) Online registration opens in March (date TBD). Check your account online, especially before deadlines, to ensure that you are correctly registered.

Paying your tuition

You will be sent an email from the Bursar’s Office with detailed information about how to access your online student account, and how to pay your tuition, including tuition deadlines. This email will be sent to your Dal email address. If you do not pay your student account by the term due date, there is a late fee of $50. If the account is still outstanding a month later, another $50 late fee plus weekly interest will be added.

For a tuition estimate, you may use the online calculator. Note that this calculator provides an estimate only.


Your (B00…) student ID number is assigned to you on admission to the program. This is your academic ID. Please include it when corresponding with everyone who isn’t your faculty instructor. Your NetID is your login ID for various campus services. Activate your NetID or change your password at Use your NetID to log into eduroam, the wifi network available at many university campuses across Canada and worldwide.

ID Card

Obtain a Dal ID Card when you arrive on campus. This is also your Library card. New students may obtain their ID cards at the Dal Card Office located at 6230 Coburg Road.

Email address

The University issues you a e-mail address. This is the only e-mail address the University will use to communicate with you. An email sent to it will be considered delivered to you. So, if you regularly use another email address, it is important that you set up your to automatically forward mail to it. Administer your email address at

Health and dental benefits

As members of the King’s Students’ Union, you are eligible for coverage under their group Health and Dental plan. Coverage runs from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31 of each year. If you wish to opt out of the program, you must do so in between September 1st and September 18th . You may also opt-in to enrol dependents or family members in the program. Full details are found on the KSU information page. If you have any questions please email

King’s Co-op Bookstore

The King’s Co-op Bookstore is an important contributor to the cultural life of King’s and the wider community. It stocks and sells books by MFA graduates and mentors, along with textbooks, other books of interest and King’s merchandise. You may order from them online, or visit the store in the basement of the New Academic Building. They are also happy to do special orders for books not listed on their website. And if you’re an audiobook fan, you can enjoy audiobooks through, which supports local bookstores instead of Amazon-owned Audible.

Library Services

King’s students may use their student ID card to borrow books from the King’s library or any other Novanet member university or college after registering their card at the King’s library. (Novanet is a consortium of libraries in Nova Scotia.) You must also renew your library registration at the King’s Library circulation desk each year of your program. See the links for Electronic Resources listed under Research on the Library main page for a wide range of electronic resources accessible from your computer. The Library’s LibGuide for Journalism also includes resources that may be particularly useful to students in the MFA program. (See the navigation bar on the left side of the page for a range of resources; the section titled “Distance Students” has information specifically for students working at a distance.) Once registered with King’s Library, you may request a Council of Atlantic University Libraries (CAUL) card, which extends your borrowing privileges to other universities across the country in accordance with the Canadian University Reciprocal Borrowing Agreement. Not all universities participate in CURBA, and some participants charge additional fees.


Various software packages are available to students for download at no additional cost, including antivirus software and Microsoft Office.

Campus Emergency Alerts

While on campus, you may wish to register your email address or your mobile phone number for DalSafe alerts or download the DalSafe app.

As You Progress Through the Program

Summer residencies: The summer residencies take place in Halifax, and generally consist of two key components: morning workshop sessions with your mentor group of 5-7 students and afternoon lectures, discussions, panels and field trips with your cohort or the combined first- and second-year cohorts. Evening activities are optional, and include readings by students, alumni, faculty and guests. Classes start at 9 am on the first Monday of the residency, and run daily through until 4:30 or 5 pm (depending on the day), with a 90-minute break for lunch and short mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks. The final class ends at noon on the final Saturday. The weekend in the middle of the residency is free.

Campus accommodation during the Summer residency: You may opt to book King’s summer campus accommodation. Accommodation may also be found at Dalhousie University. You are also free to arrange off-campus accommodation.

Winter residencies: The winter residencies alternate between Toronto and New York City, and generally consist of lectures, discussions, panels and field trips. There are no mentor workshops in the winter residencies. Residencies also include a day of one-to-one meetings with editors, agents and publishers, where each student has two 15-minutes meetings. Evenings are free. Classes begin at 9 am on the Sunday, and finish at 5 pm on Friday.

Accommodation during the Winter residency: The MFA program negotiates preferred rates for hotel accommodation in New York and Toronto. Details will be provided to you in the Fall term so that you may take advantage of these rates. You may also arrange accommodation independently.

Grading policies:

The course uses the following grading scale:

A+ 90-100
A 85-89
A- 80-84
B+ 77-79
B 73-76
B- 70-72
F <70

Students must achieve a minimum grade of B- in all courses. In general, discuss your grade first with your instructor. If you wish to file a formal appeal, talk to the Registrar’s Office to get the appropriate form and pay the fee. Consult the King’s calendar to learn more about the appeal procedure.

Cohort updates and current information: You will be added to the course list-serv for your cohort when you are admitted to the program. This list-serv is used for announcements from faculty and staff. Generally, we direct these messages to your Dal email account; if you would prefer them to go to an alternative account, please let your cohort director know. Each cohort also has a Dropbox Paper page set up that includes updates on residencies, schedules, syllabi and other information.

Dropbox Paper page for the Class of 2020

Dropbox Paper page for the Class of 2021

Academic accommodation: You may request accommodation as a result of barriers experienced related to disability, religious obligation, or any characteristic protected under Canadian human rights legislation.

Students who require academic accommodation for either classroom participation or the writing of tests and exams should make their request to the Advising and Access Services Center (AASC) prior to or at the outset of the regular academic year.

A note taker may be required as part of a student’s accommodation. There is an honorarium of $75/course/term (with some exceptions). If you are interested, please contact AASC at 494-2836 for more information or send an email to

Withdrawal from a course: The deadlines for adding and deleting classes are published in the schedule of Academic Class Add/Drop Dates in the King’s Academic Calendar. A withdrawal prior to a deadline is not recorded on the academic record. After these dates, the student is responsible for payment and content of the class, and receives a grade for it.  Non-attendance does not, in itself, constitute withdrawal. Most courses are offered sequentially in the program. Dropping or changing courses may affect your expected graduation timeline and your eligibility for student aid. Classes may be dropped at DalOnline. Be sure to inform your program faculty and administrators.

Withdrawal from the program: If you want to withdraw from the program you must  immediately inform the Graduate Coordinator and the Faculty of Graduate Studies in writing. The immediacy of notification is important since the amount and speed of possible fee reimbursement is influenced by the date of withdrawal. You must contact Student Accounts directly to make arrangements to receive their fee reimbursement. A withdrawal is not official until it has been approved by the Faculty of Graduate Studies and received in the Registrar’s Office.

See the FGS calendar for additional information regarding Suspension of Studies and Parental Leave.

Conduct within the university: All students, staff and faculty are governed by the university code of conduct, general college regulations, and policies on discipline, equity, and sexual harassment. These support your participation in a safe and respectful environment. View these in the university Yellow Book.

Conduct with the School of Journalism: Additionally, the Journalism School expects high standards of practice. Students are expected to read and abide by the School’s Handbook of Professional Practice. Note that practices around the sharing of drafts with sources may differ for those working on nonfiction book manuscripts.

As You Prepare to Graduate

Approving your Program of Study: Before graduation, you must approve the courses that constitute your degree. The Graduate Coordinator will send you an email at your Dal email address to prompt you to do this at the appropriate time.

Registering to graduate: If you are graduating in May, the deadline to apply to graduate is December 1. Email reminders to register will be sent to your Dal email address. If you miss the deadline, you may still apply to graduate, but will have to pay a $50 late fee.

Graduation ceremonies/Encaenia: Graduation ceremonies at King’s are referred to as Encaenia, a Greek word meaning “beginning, commencement,” and the term has been used since the founding of King’s in 1789. Details on the ceremony, including arrangements for the rental of gowns and hoods, receptions and associated events, may be found online at Encaenia homepage. Tickets are required for various events (the Encaenia ceremony [for guests], President’s Dinner and Coffee with the President). You will receive an email from executive director Kim Pittaway near the end of your final term to coordinate ticketing.

After You Graduate

The MFA program welcomes updates from graduates on their publishing, writing and other related activities, and we are happy to share this information in the program e-newsletter. Informal groups of MFA alumni in Vancouver, Victoria, Ottawa, Toronto, Halifax and elsewhere also sometimes gather for readings and social events, news of which is often shared in the e-newsletter or via the program Facebook page. Graduates may also wish to explore the services and programs offered by the University of King’s College Alumni Association.

Posted: August 8, 2019, 10:54 am ADT
Modified: August 12, 2019, 11:45 am ADT