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Author Topic: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?  (Read 3253 times)  

Offline Paranormal Kitty

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Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« on: August 17, 2017, 06:04:36 PM »
What program did you go to and what was your experience?

Offline abgwriter

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2017, 07:05:01 PM »
I got a BA in Creative Writing from the Southern New Hampshire University online CW program, and for the fat lot of good it did me, I ended up realizing Grad School would be a waste of money :-\
 

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Offline Word Fan

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2017, 07:51:47 PM »
After what many on here have said about one, do you think that any of us who have one would admit it?

There is a semi-famous essay about M.F.A. programs and the students who sign up for one here:

http://www.thestranger.com/books/features/2015/02/27/21792750/things-i-can-say-about-mfa-writing-programs-now-that-i-no-longer-teach-in-one

I found it fascinating.

Offline Paranormal Kitty

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2017, 08:02:56 PM »
^So I take it they are not popular around this forum? :) I was asking because I've been thinking about the one I turned down many years ago in favor of a master's in Communication Studies. I mostly based my decision around the impression I got from the creative writing workshops I took as undergrad electives. Kind of seemed like it was a straight white man's world (and I mean no offense to anyone in saying that). Sometimes I wonder if I made a mistake though.

Offline AlecHutson

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2017, 08:15:03 PM »
I'm of the opinion that taking the money you would have spent on an MFA and backpacking around the world for a year or two would be a better way to lay a future foundation for writing. I've never really understood how they can sell hanging around a university for a few years discussing writing with a bunch of people who probably look and think much like you do as the best way to prepare you to write fiction.

EDIT: And fifteen years ago I was accepted into an MFA program and instead chose to go to China
« Last Edit: August 17, 2017, 08:16:54 PM by AlecHutson »

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Offline Paranormal Kitty

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2017, 08:52:42 PM »
I'm of the opinion that taking the money you would have spent on an MFA and backpacking around the world for a year or two would be a better way to lay a future foundation for writing. I've never really understood how they can sell hanging around a university for a few years discussing writing with a bunch of people who probably look and think much like you do as the best way to prepare you to write fiction.

EDIT: And fifteen years ago I was accepted into an MFA program and instead chose to go to China

In my case it wouldn't have cost anything (neither did the program I did instead) other than time and teaching, but yeah ... there are probably a ton of better things to do with money than an MFA program. How many people actually pay for them? All the ones I applied to were fully-funded if you were accepted.

Offline AlexaGrave

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2017, 08:59:43 PM »
I have an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. And I loved the experience. I have lifelong writer friends due to the program.

I actually started in the program when it was just an MA, finished, and then went back to get the F once they changed it to an MFA program. The first time through I grew leaps and bounds with my writing (my novel Mind Behind the Mind was actually my thesis for the MA - though there were some tweaks done after graduating).

I can completely understand why many people would say it's not worth it. Mainly due to the cost. I'll be paying off my loans until I die at this rate - lol. But to each their own. I don't think I'd be where I am today without the program, and I'd never go back and change my decision. It was the best thing that ever happened to me associated with my writing/career.

One thing that makes Seton Hill's program different than many others though is that it focuses on genre fiction. Feel free to PM me about it if you want more details.

It really boils down to what you want. Just know what you're getting into and what you want out of it.

Also, you can always just attend some conventions/conferences. A group of alums from the program plan and run In Your Write Mind every June (I finally made it back again this past June - man, how I missed it). Registration is open to the public, and it's kind of a chance for people to get a taste of the MFA program and pick alums' brains too!

I didn't quite realize so many on here have such negative feelings about MFA programs. I guess now since I've admitted I have an MFA, I'll be ostracized.  :P
« Last Edit: August 17, 2017, 09:03:23 PM by AlexaGrave »
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Offline RightHoJeeves

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2017, 10:10:52 PM »
I can see how it would fun, but I could never justify the cost or time. I almost did a bachelor's degree in it after high school, but in the end I honestly couldn't justify it. And I live in a country with essentially free university.

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Offline xbriannova

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2017, 10:46:59 PM »
Depends on which university you go to and whether you took the lessons to heart. I majored in English Literature and minored in Creative Writing. They've taught me the basics and the foundations from which I work on my books. I don't have to make mistakes to learn those things. That would have been disastrous.

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Offline Winter Light

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #10 on: August 17, 2017, 10:56:41 PM »
I think classes are beneficial, especially when you're first starting out. But you can't buy life experience. In the end, I think having interesting experiences, taking risks, and learning about yourself and others is invaluable.

Also, the guy who wrote that article sounds pretentious and full of himself. His points didn't sit well with me. They were more of the "straight white middle-aged male who uses a thesaurus to make himself sound important" points than actual helpful tools. You don't have to "be crazy about books as a kid to establish the neural architecture required to write one." As plenty of people on this board have proven, you can write at any age! There's no age limit.

And that's the first time I've heard the term "neural architecture," which I loled over.

Offline MladenR

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2017, 12:12:12 AM »
^So I take it they are not popular around this forum? :) I was asking because I've been thinking about the one I turned down many years ago in favor of a master's in Communication Studies. I mostly based my decision around the impression I got from the creative writing workshops I took as undergrad electives. Kind of seemed like it was a straight white man's world (and I mean no offense to anyone in saying that). Sometimes I wonder if I made a mistake though.

My opinion is that it was a good choice you chose Communication Studies. I'm a senior student at Communication Studies and I feel like I picked up the basics of quite a few skills I'll use in my writing life :)

Offline RightHoJeeves

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2017, 12:39:28 AM »
My opinion is that it was a good choice you chose Communication Studies. I'm a senior student at Communication Studies and I feel like I picked up the basics of quite a few skills I'll use in my writing life :)

I have a post grad qualification in PR. I think that, and working in PR, has been very beneficial to writing. I liken it to keeping fit. I was basically taught to write lean and mean, unless there was a really good reason to indulge myself.

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Offline MladenR

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2017, 01:40:16 AM »
Yeah, I had PR one semester and I had practice in PR for two semesters and apart from some inspiration it provoked, it taught me to plan ahead - and I mean really long term. For the past year I've been implementing what I learned in practice and I'm climbing the ladder (very) slowly, but steadily.

Also, communication studies offer a good deal on marketing which is extremely useful for an indie author today  :)

Offline boba1823

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #14 on: August 18, 2017, 05:53:12 AM »
As a general rule, you probably should not be paying for graduate degrees in the humanities. The top programs are typically fully funded (tuition, housing, living stipend), since the degree doesn't really increase earning potential. If you have to pay, that tends to show that the program is not very good.

Now, "good" is subjective, and even more than usual for an MFA program. (I come from a different humanities background where graduate program's quality is judged by its record of placement for tenure-track teaching positions.) I would think that even a mediocre MFA program would be a decent way to improve one's craft - it's just a question of whether it is worth the cost, and whether there are better alternatives.

The thing about the good programs, v. the less-good programs, is that they attract really high quality writers as both instructors and students. I was fortunate that as an undergrad, I went to a university with a top-tier fiction/poetry MFA program. Many of the instructors also taught undergrad classes, so I got to spend a lot of time hanging out with them, going to readings, etc. And.. wow! The MFA students, overall, were fantastic. Some of the best stories and poems I ever heard or read came from them. The biggest benefit of enrolling in a top-tier program in most any humanities subject is going to be the quality of your peers.

That being said, I assume that most of the top MFA programs are oriented toward literary fiction. I would love to do the MFA program at my undergrad university, if I could get in, if I had the time, yada yada. Honestly, though, I'm not sure it would help much with my commercial fiction.

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #15 on: August 18, 2017, 05:58:58 AM »
Two close friends of mine have MFAs, one in poetry, the other in screenwriting. They spent some years submitting after graduation, then gave up. The screenwriter told me that although he felt like he learned a lot about writing, he probably wouldn't do it again. He said that in retrospect, none of his teachers has ever had anything published or staged by a professional theatrical company. He does continue to study with a mentor he developed while interning at a small publisher.
 

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Offline Anarchist

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #16 on: August 18, 2017, 06:02:01 AM »
I'm of the opinion that taking the money you would have spent on an MFA and backpacking around the world for a year or two would be a better way to lay a future foundation for writing. I've never really understood how they can sell hanging around a university for a few years discussing writing with a bunch of people who probably look and think much like you do as the best way to prepare you to write fiction.

EDIT: And fifteen years ago I was accepted into an MFA program and instead chose to go to China

I like how you think. Your post reminds me of this interview with Doug Casey.
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Online brkingsolver

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #17 on: August 18, 2017, 06:11:55 AM »
At least 50% of this is BS.
You're being generous. What a pretentious snob.

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Offline T E Scott Writer

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #18 on: August 18, 2017, 06:45:03 AM »
I quite fancy doing an mfa at some point. Is it useful? Well, depends what you mean by 'useful' I guess. If you want to teach writing it is a very useful thing to have.

Bet its more useful than my phd in english lit!

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Offline AlexaGrave

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #19 on: August 18, 2017, 08:09:01 AM »
He said that in retrospect, none of his teachers has ever had anything published or staged by a professional theatrical company.

This is rather interesting, and scarily enough likely all too common. That one saying, "If you can't do, teach" kind of going on?

I count myself lucky that at Seton Hill all of the mentors are published authors. And I'd actually say one of them was a huge influence on me going indie (she actually teaches an indie publishing module/class), even though she was never my assigned mentor. She's a graduate of the program, too, and a hybrid author - Shelley Adina.

Maria V. Snyder is also a mentor (and graduate, plus a pretty awesome/sweet person). She's not indie, but I love her fantasy.

It's always great fun in June with the big public book signing and seeing what everyone from the program has produced. Though I have to admit, this year, I didn't look around as much as I usually do, as I was nervously behind my own table for the very first time.  :-[

Though I feel I got a lot out of my degree, the biggest thing I got was the community.  :D
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Offline WHDean

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #20 on: August 18, 2017, 08:24:20 AM »
It's a category mistake to judge writing teachers on how many books they've published. Teachers should be judged on how many their students have published. Being a good writer doesn't make you a good teacher, after all; being a good teacher makes you a good teacher, and the success of your students is evidence of your merits.

And this article was painful to read:

http://www.thestranger.com/books/features/2015/02/27/21792750/things-i-can-say-about-mfa-writing-programs-now-that-i-no-longer-teach-in-one

If he was more honest or more knowledgeable about the limits of knowledge, he wouldn't be repeating the nonsense about writers being born. That's what people say when they can't explain something.

« Last Edit: August 18, 2017, 08:28:20 AM by WHDean »

Offline KeithWardFiction

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #21 on: August 18, 2017, 08:40:51 AM »
I have a journalism degree. It did *nothing* for me in terms of learning how to be a reporter and/or editor. Everything I've learned has been on the job. Same with novels: I've learned by doing -- by sitting my butt in a chair and writing a lot of bad stuff. Eventually, if you stay with it, some good stuff will start coming through. Then more good stuff, then more and more. An MFA can help if it forces you to write, but you can also write without spending that money.

I think the greatest value of an MFA is to land a teaching position; while you're getting better at writing novels, you'll likely need some way to support yourself. I've been lucky: my journalism career means that I'm writing and editing every single day. Yes, it's non-fiction instead of fiction, but all writing and editing is helpful and (to a degree) translates between the two realms.

I agree with those who thought the article condescending. There were points I agreed with, but overall, it was off-putting. His contempt for students was palpable.

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Offline cadle-sparks

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #22 on: August 18, 2017, 08:56:56 AM »
yes. I loathed it. I was already trad published, and I won a fellowship, so I didn't waste money on it, but every moment there (except for a couple friendships) was torture. I've blogged (or blog-raved) about what was wrong with it. http://www.loucadle.com/2016/09/whats-wrong-with-mfa-programs-in-writing.html  Though I'm not one to dwell in regrets, I see it as one of the three biggest mistakes of my life.

I don't talk about where. I wouldn't give them the satisfaction. It's part of the reason I quit using my real name, that I didn't want them EVER taking any credit. Can you tell I hated it yet?

Also, everything Kris Rusch says about how illogical it is that they don't teach anything is dead on target.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2017, 08:58:34 AM by cadle-sparks »

Offline CLStone

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #23 on: August 18, 2017, 09:28:52 AM »
There's nothing wrong with taking a class, a course, a degree, in any type of writing. As long as the teacher and contents are pretty good, it isn't a waste of time or money. I've spent some money on writing classes, books and in going to writing conferences. Some people need a classroom over a self-taught course or book, and if that is the case, I'm glad such things exist. Whether they didn't work for an individual doesn't mean it won't work for someone else who responds to that type of environment. Maybe there is an MFA program out there that does really great work and has a fellowship. Great. Go for it.

Saying this, you don't need an MFA or any sort of official degree to do well. I went to university later in life, and I didn't take journalism or writing classes because I already did that in my normal life. I worked for a newspaper without a journalism degree. I wrote books without following a course structure. I was completely self taught in those areas via books and individual online classes and conferences. But any writing or reading comprehension course I had to take because of curriculum, I felt I was holding my tongue more throughout class time because I had the experience no one in the room had.

But I didn't feel the same way in my physics classes. Or in the economic courses. I was learning something new, in areas I was unfamiliar with. If the MFA actually teaches some writing skills that you need to learn about, and one wants to do it, there's nothing wrong with it. Just do the research and make sure it is a quality course, with teachers who know what they are talking about.

You never really stop investing in your own education when it comes to any type of work, including writing work. A lot of it is practice, but you also learn from conferences, books on writing, from your editors and beta readers who make suggestions.

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Offline C. J. Sears

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #24 on: August 18, 2017, 10:05:51 AM »
I have a Bachelor's Degree of Arts in Creative Writing from Arkansas Tech University. Luckily, I did well enough on my ACT back in the day that I got a free-ride scholarship. But, uh, I wouldn't call it a useful acquisition given my career prospects...

I certainly learned my fair share from professors. Never would've been into literary fiction without one of them. If only I had heeded their prophetic warnings about the dismal future ahead.

(J. K. I'm not that whiny.)  ;)