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An Adventure on the Hill

Like any great story, the Writing Popular Fiction residencies deliver transformational content, unique and intriguing characters, and an inspirational and unforgettable setting. A day in residency is like that great novel you stay up all night to read – you finish inspired, changed, and maybe a little breathless! 

Get the Information You Need to Move Forward. Call (724) 838-4208 or (800) 826-6234 toll free.

"The best thing about the residencies? They're only a week. With jobs and families and other obligations, the one week on campus is easier to plan for and focus on. The worst thing? They're only a week. After being in such a focused environment - the conversations and friendships and reveling in the written word - leaving is hard.”

- Jeff Evans


In the course of your residencies, you not only gain information and insight, but a network of like-minded colleagues who share your passion for writing! Returning to campus will soon feel like a reunion with old and dear friends.

"As a writer, I developed my craft. As a person, I found my tribe."

- Stephanie Dunn


Below is a small sample of some module topics that are representative of the valuable information you can expect to take away from your residency experiences. 

  • Critiquing & Clarity - How can we best help one another as writers and, in the process, also help ourselves and our genre community? In “Critiquing and Clarity,” we will learn how to analyze fiction smartly, how to comment on it productively, and how to deliver our feedback effectively in the creative writing workshop environment. Ultimately, our goal will be to sharpen our skills in the workshops and critique groups in the WPF program, but in the process we will also enhance our self-editing talent. This module will also benefit students who aim to someday teach writing or edit professionally, or who otherwise attend workshops outside of the program.
  • Character & Dialogue - Characters are meant to be more than words on a page. To the reader, they have to walk, feel, breathe. Explore your characters and their motivations, their pasts, and give them a future. What should you know about your characters before your fingers ever touch a keyboard? Dialogue, a simple phrase, a dialect, contractions and slang, all help to build characters if used properly. But most importantly, if you're writing dialogue, you have to learn to write how people talk. Also important, you have to learn when characters don't talk.
  • Conflict, Plot & Scene Building - In this module we'll get involved in Conflict.  It might get ugly.  You'll learn that happy times don't make for book sales; you’ll learn how to insert risk, sacrifice, awkwardness, unpleasantness and train wrecks into your protagonist's life.  Then we'll learn how to organize those train wrecks into a Plot. Malt balls will ease the process.
  • Structure & Synopsis Reading - What is your novel about? If you dread this question, you won't once you've mastered the art of the synopsis. A compelling synopsis is an essential marketing tool, but it's also much more than that. It's a blueprint for your novel, indispensable for planning and for spotting weaknesses in your story's structure. Exercises will focus on distilling what is most essential to your story and presenting it for maximum impact. Don't be caught tongue-tied the next time you meet an editor or agent. Learn how to craft a synopsis and pitch with confidence.
  • Point of View: A Guide for the Baffled - A Balm for the Bewildered - No subject in writing leads to such bitter arguments, such frequent fisticuffs, or so many duels, as POV. This module will grasp the nettle of POV in a well-gloved hand, and explain what all the bruises and black eyes are about.  We’ll address the wide variety of reader expectations, the hard truths of editors’ demands, and how you can keep up with changing techniques in your own genre.  You’ll learn how to pick your POV, how to establish it, how to transition, and how to avoid embarrassing screw-ups. There will also be chocolate and malt balls.
  • Setting & Research - Building a setting is more than paragraphs of description of a rainy forest or the mean streets of the city. It’s how your character sees your story world and how it in turn reflects him. It’s how the environment influences and changes your character—and how your character changes her environment—during the events of the plot. In this module you’ll discover how to build a setting from the top down and from the inside out so that your world becomes as much a character as your people. You’ll also discover how to research a believable setting, even if you’re making it all up.
  • Revision - Successful writing is all about revising.  Ranging from basic proofreading strategies to techniques for crafting compelling prose, this module will help you explore ways of turning promising drafts into professional, polished manuscripts.

"Applying for the WPF Program was the smartest post-retirement decision (besides thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail) that I've made since retiring from the Marines. I sometimes pinch myself because I'm so happy to be in the SHU WPF community of writers as I write, improve, and stay on track toward getting published."

- Chris Wilk 


Established in 1885 by the Sisters of Charity, Seton Hill University is the perfect place to let your writer’s imagination run wild! Beautiful and inviting in the summer and full of moody atmosphere in the winter, you can feel the history and the welcome as you drive up the Hill! 

"I so look forward to every January and June, for not only the amazing classes and excellent faculty, but for the new connections I make at each residency as students join us. After being away for six months, driving up the gorgeous tree-lined hill to school is a lot like coming home.”

 - Tonya Burrows

To contact the Office of Graduate Admissions, fill out the online Request for Information form. Ready to apply? Apply online now for free! You may also call Graduate Admissions at (724) 838-4208 or email us at