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MFA Sunday School Glossary and Course Archive

The MFA Sunday School is a once-a-week, free, online writing workshop. MFA Sunday School posts are uploaded on Sunday mornings, though you can read them or participate any time — the comment section is always open for people to post a link to their work or ask a question. You can subscribe to blog posts via the RSS feed, or look for them under the category heading “MFA Sunday School.” Though you can jump to any past class below via the archives (or understand a term that I made up using my personal writing glossary), it would really help if you plan to join along for MFA Sunday School if you read the first post in the series in order to understand how things work.


  1. Introductions and Expectations: everything you need to know in order to participate in MFA Sunday School.
  2. Your Writerly Self and Query Letters: if query letters are a verbal map to your project, then it makes sense to begin with constructing a query letter to yourself in order to understand your writing motivations and expectations.
  3. Character Development: how to create characters that you know so intimately that you could tell us which foods are on every shelf of their refrigerator.  The details that create distinct characters that the reader can keep straight in their mind.
  4. Budgeting Writing Time: my system for ensuring that you have a sustainable amount of writing time each day — exactly enough to write an entire novel in a year.
  5. Sestina – Chopped Edition: our first foray into fixed form poetry with a writing exercise that will flex your mind.
  6. Observation Field Trip: our first observation field trip, focusing solely on human movement, where we gather tiny details to utilize later in writing.
  7. Villanelles: our second foray into fixed form poetry where we marry sound with a puzzling task.
  8. Starting Self-Editing by Understand Your Writing Accent: learning to differentiate what is your writing accent and what is a writing mistake.
  9. Finishing Self-Editing by Understanding Writing Mistakes: common writing errors that may not always be errors.  Use this list to self-edit your work.
  10. Sonnets: our third foray into fixed form poetry where we turn a close eye to meter.
  11. Building a Realistic Setting: a guest lecture by Wordgirl that explains how to use small details in order to paint a realistic setting.
  12. Getting Past Writer’s Block: how to get over writer’s block and start working again.
  13. Haiku: our fourth foray into fixed form poetry with a lesson on morae and proper haiku form.
  14. Observation Field Trip: our second observation field trip, focusing solely on setting, where we gather tiny details to utilize later in writing.
  15. Dealing with Rejection: rejection in an inherent part of publishing (and writing in general), but this lesson works to help you reframe how you view rejection.
  16. Should You Self-Publish Your Book?: information to help you make a decision on to self-publish or not to self-publish.
  17. When You Really Don’t Have Time to Write: there are stretches of life when you’re not making the time to write, and other weeks when you really can’t write.  Here’s how to get through those latter times.


(if you’re looking for common writing terms such as “show, don’t tell,” Google elsewhere.  This list is solely the terms that I’ve made up in order to teach writing, and they’re scattered throughout the lessons above with a link to their first usage)

  • Channel Days: those writing days where nothing gets done that feels like throwaway time but are actually part of the process of moving you towards good writing.  Channel Days are a pathway to the pulse of a project.  Introduced here.
  • Finding the Pulse: reaching that sweet spot in a writing project where you not only know what needs to be written but also have the focus to complete the work.  Introduced here.
  • Observation Field Trip: a writing exercise I’m going to send you on frequently where you create a sharp focus on a single aspect of character or setting.  These tiny details are then utilized later in order to perform that ever-important concept of “show, don’t tell.”  Think of this exercise as building your tool kit.  Introduced here.
  • ORU: stands for observation – retention – utilization.  The act of noticing small details, retaining them either through memory or writing them down, and utilizing them later in order to build dynamic, unique, believable settings and characters.  The way one constructs the “most human character” or the most realistic setting.  Introduced here.
  • Writing Accent: the small quirks that you use in your writing which make it undeniably yours.  It goes beyond your writing voice; it is about the tiny inflections you pepper into your writing that people respond to on an emotional level without realizing it.  Introduced here.
(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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