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Author Topic: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?  (Read 3254 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.

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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  :)

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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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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.)  ;)

Offline JodyMorse

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #25 on: August 18, 2017, 01:16:05 PM »
I have a B.A. in English with a concentration in Writing. I loved the B.A. program. A few of my professors held MFA's in Creative Writing and I thought I'd like to teach at the university level. I talked to my professors about it and they said the majority of colleges/universities now prefer to hire English majors for Creative Writing classes and MFA's are becoming a thing of the past in terms of teaching. And teaching, IMO, is the only thing you can really do with it that you can't already do on your own with practice and trial and error.

I'm sure that with the right program and professors, you could learn a lot. With some of the bigger programs, you might even make connections (I remember reading that the author of Pretty Little Liars met the producers through her MFA program at Brooklyn College). But for me personally, it didn't seem like the right thing to do from a realistic standpoint. I already regret my English degree.

Offline notjohn

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #26 on: August 18, 2017, 01:26:35 PM »
What program did you go to and what was your experience?

My daughter got an MFA at the state university, $4000 a year with one freshman English course to teach. She had good (and published and highly regarded) teachers, though I don't think the students were all that impressive. And that's important IMHO. I've known many Iowa Writers Workshop graduates, and they had it made, because they could blurb one another's books.

That's what it's all about: networking. You might get a professor to write you a good introduction to his or her agent, but your fellow students are going to be there for the long run, and they're all as anxious as you are.
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Offline MladenR

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #27 on: August 19, 2017, 01:25:12 AM »
I have a B.A. in English with a concentration in Writing. I loved the B.A. program. A few of my professors held MFA's in Creative Writing and I thought I'd like to teach at the university level. I talked to my professors about it and they said the majority of colleges/universities now prefer to hire English majors for Creative Writing classes and MFA's are becoming a thing of the past in terms of teaching. And teaching, IMO, is the only thing you can really do with it that you can't already do on your own with practice and trial and error.

I'm sure that with the right program and professors, you could learn a lot. With some of the bigger programs, you might even make connections (I remember reading that the author of Pretty Little Liars met the producers through her MFA program at Brooklyn College). But for me personally, it didn't seem like the right thing to do from a realistic standpoint. I already regret my English degree.

Sorry, I can't spot the difference between Major and MFA. It doesn't work like that in my country, we recognize Master degrees and those graduates are eligible to teach at universities. Could you explain it? :D

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #28 on: August 19, 2017, 06:05:52 AM »
Sorry, I can't spot the difference between Major and MFA. It doesn't work like that in my country, we recognize Master degrees and those graduates are eligible to teach at universities. Could you explain it? :D

When we in the US say "Major," we are inevitably talking about our Baccalaureate degree--BA, BS. We have a major concentration and usually a minor one. An MFA is a terminal Master degree program, two more years of university after the first four years of BA/BS.

Terminal degree means the last one you should ever need, the highest degree you can get in your field. (However, universities, sensing there is money to be made, have added PhD degrees in creative writing too.) Yes, it allowed to me to teach at universities and colleges. Some of those universities counted it as a PhD on the pay scale. Some counted it as a regular MA. on the pay scale. M.A. in English, a Master of Arts in English, is not a terminal degree. One is expected to go on and get a PhD. There are universities that offer no MFA but only an MA in English in which you can focus on creative writing. Ironically, though such a program is seen as/counted as less than an MFA, it is actually more rigorous academically than an MFA.

ETA: The way I use the words, universities are four-year (or more) institutions. Colleges are usually two-year institutions.

(And periods are supposed to go after all those degree letters. Lazy me.)

« Last Edit: August 19, 2017, 06:09:50 AM by cadle-sparks »

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #29 on: August 19, 2017, 06:38:19 AM »
I'm thinking of doing one (an MA in the UK) at some point in the not-too-distant future. Call it unfinished academic business. But this forum is probably close to the last place I'd come to canvas opinions on the subject, to be honest.


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Offline Patricia KC

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #30 on: August 19, 2017, 06:57:49 AM »
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

I also have an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Like Alexa, my student loans may follow me to the grave (but not beyond!), but I wouldn't change it for the world. The SHU program is practice based and focussed on genre fiction. My thesis novel was published in January, and I have a second novel in another genre coming out next month. Neither of these would have happened without the SHU-WPF program. It's not easy, and it's not cheap, but if you are interested in a MFA program, it's worth checking out.

Offline MladenR

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #31 on: August 19, 2017, 08:40:51 AM »
When we in the US say "Major," we are inevitably talking about our Baccalaureate degree--BA, BS. We have a major concentration and usually a minor one. An MFA is a terminal Master degree program, two more years of university after the first four years of BA/BS.

Terminal degree means the last one you should ever need, the highest degree you can get in your field. (However, universities, sensing there is money to be made, have added PhD degrees in creative writing too.) Yes, it allowed to me to teach at universities and colleges. Some of those universities counted it as a PhD on the pay scale. Some counted it as a regular MA. on the pay scale. M.A. in English, a Master of Arts in English, is not a terminal degree. One is expected to go on and get a PhD. There are universities that offer no MFA but only an MA in English in which you can focus on creative writing. Ironically, though such a program is seen as/counted as less than an MFA, it is actually more rigorous academically than an MFA.

ETA: The way I use the words, universities are four-year (or more) institutions. Colleges are usually two-year institutions.

(And periods are supposed to go after all those degree letters. Lazy me.)

Thanks for clarification. It's basically the same except we don't call the first cycle of studies a Major. Plus, the term college considers studies up to four years here. :)

Offline AlexaGrave

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #32 on: August 19, 2017, 09:41:13 AM »
I also have an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Like Alexa, my student loans may follow me to the grave (but not beyond!), but I wouldn't change it for the world. The SHU program is practice based and focussed on genre fiction. My thesis novel was published in January, and I have a second novel in another genre coming out next month. Neither of these would have happened without the SHU-WPF program. It's not easy, and it's not cheap, but if you are interested in a MFA program, it's worth checking out.

I knew there were some fellow WPFers lurking around Kboards!

One thing about Seton Hill's program, though it costs a hefty some, MOST of those who graduate come out the other end loving it and never regretting it for a second.  ;D
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Offline Steve Voelker

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #33 on: August 19, 2017, 10:45:38 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.

YES!

I am REALLY tired of the general consensus that a teacher needs to be distinguished in the field they teach. Teaching is not the same as doing. That is why you rarely see great football players go on to be coaches, and PLENTY of coaches that win superbowls that never excelled on the field.

It is really a shame in the U.S. that there was a huge push to get more "experts" in the classroom. It left us with classrooms full of mediocre teachers. It really doesn't matter how much you know, if you don't have a gift for imparting that knowledge.

Teaching is a skill. It is a different skill than the subject being taught. It takes someone special to be a truly great teacher. It also takes years of studying and practice to hone that gift. That's why it's so rare to find someone who is a great writer AND a great teacher. But there are plenty of teachers out there who have a lot to offer.

Sure, you want to have some way to evaluate their credentials, but their success at publishing is not the best way to do that. How well their students do is a MUCH better starting point!

Offline Vale

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #34 on: August 21, 2017, 05:12:06 AM »
Has anyone tried the PhD programs in creative writing? We have one them here in town, but from the description it seems like it's based entirely around teaching creative writing where the MFA programs can either be teaching or about writing itself.

And has anyone tried Clarion, Clarion West, or Odyssey? The impression I got from interviews with alumni was that they treated their education like: "MFA taught me to write literary fiction, [Clarion/Clarion West/Odyssey] built on what I learned in my MFA and applied it to genre fiction."

I've been curious about the programs, but while most full residency MFA programs offer a tuition waiver you also have to teach, so there isn't time to work or write non-MFA stuff while you do it.

Offline AubreyGross

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #35 on: August 21, 2017, 05:52:13 AM »
Though I feel I got a lot out of my degree, the biggest thing I got was the community.  :D

^This. I'm also a WPF grad (I just have the MA, though, since I graduated a couple of years before they added the F and life has been crazy since then), and absolutely loved the experience. It strengthened my writing, helped me better handle critiques, and got me some life-long friends in the process. Like Alexa, I'll be paying off my student loans until I die, but I can honestly say that my grad degree has actually helped me advance my career outside of fiction writing. Being in marketing for the day job, employers and managers seem to really appreciate the fact that not only can I write, but I can also tell a story.

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Offline Perry Constantine

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #36 on: August 21, 2017, 06:36:33 AM »
I have an MA in English and Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. I want to get an English teaching job at the university level in Japan, but to do that you need an MA and the field doesn't really matter. The English literature program didn't have a lot of variety from what I studied in my undergrad, so I decided to focus on creative writing with a screenwriting concentration instead.

Some of the classes were pretty interesting and I had some great teachers. But if not for my situation, I wouldn't have gone through the program just because I thought it might make me a better writer. I didn't really learn a lot that I didn't already know. Most of what you'll learn, you can get through reading many of the books on writing that have been touted numerous times on these boards and through just writing a lot.

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #37 on: August 21, 2017, 06:52:51 AM »
Has anyone tried the PhD programs in creative writing? We have one them here in town, but from the description it seems like it's based entirely around teaching creative writing where the MFA programs can either be teaching or about writing itself.

And has anyone tried Clarion, Clarion West, or Odyssey? The impression I got from interviews with alumni was that they treated their education like: "MFA taught me to write literary fiction, [Clarion/Clarion West/Odyssey] built on what I learned in my MFA and applied it to genre fiction."

I've been curious about the programs, but while most full residency MFA programs offer a tuition waiver you also have to teach, so there isn't time to work or write non-MFA stuff while you do it.

I went to Odyssey and recommend it very, very highly. The Crimson Queen was actually workshopped at one of the annual alumni weeks, and I got fantastic input that really strengthened the final draft. If you have any questions, feel free to PM me.

I might apply to go to Clarion in the next year or two if I can clear 6 weeks in my schedule.

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Offline Awasin

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #38 on: August 22, 2017, 11:33:16 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

When you posted that you got your first one-star review I checked out your Look Insides and felt that your prose really popped.

So there's that.

Offline azebra

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #39 on: August 23, 2017, 12:16:48 AM »
My MFA year was a formative time. There was interesting diversity in the group and it was fascinating to be so close to the developing work of others. We met publishers, we workshopped with poets and international authors, we pooled reading and writing resources, we made lasting friendships. All these things were valuable and exciting but I think the most important thing I got from the degree was the constant exposure to informed critique. This pushed me along as a writer at a speed I would not have achieved on my own.

I had already self-published my first book and my second came out a few months into the programme. At the time I considered myself a new kind of MFA student, a hybrid. I still see myself that way.

An MFA is a big investment and hard work but well worth it.


Offline Zelah Meyer

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #40 on: August 23, 2017, 07:04:24 AM »
I did a BA(Hons) in Creative Arts, majoring in Creative Writing.  It taught me absolutely nothing about writing.  They didn't even correct the fact that I was punctuating dialogue incorrectly.  I had to discover that myself when I started pre-editor edits on my first stories for publication!  It was just, "Read this chapter of this pretentious high-brow book and then do one of the following: (a) Write a story in a similar style; (b) Write an essay on the chapter; (c) Write a story on a similar theme to those covered in the chapter; (d) write a poem inspired by something about the chapter.  One of my tutors gave every single piece of coursework that I submitted to her over two years (well over a dozen different pieces) exactly the same mark.  I had over a dozen years of writers' block afterwards as a result.

So, yes, I am in the "Nooooooooooo!!!! Don't do it!!!" camp when it comes to degrees in Creative Writing.  I learnt more about story telling from a weekend workshop on narrative improvisation than I did from the three years I spent doing my degree.  Heck, I learnt more from one non-narrative improv class, because I learnt about how to structure & end scenes.

I'd also recommend finding a successful writer or writers who write the way you want to write and learning from them.  There will be somebody out there who you admire who does classes.  Yes, not everyone can teach what they do, but I think that teaching something you've never done is harder.  So, go for a teacher who has walked the walk as well!

Offline AlexaGrave

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #41 on: August 23, 2017, 09:50:37 AM »
When you posted that you got your first one-star review I checked out your Look Insides and felt that your prose really popped.

So there's that.

Lol, thanks.


I think what can clearly be seen in this thread is that any MA/MFA program can be completely different from the next. Some people had horrible experiences and didn't get much from their programs, but others found programs that fit for them and worked well.

It honestly is such a personal choice, no matter the level/approach of the program. For some people, it's not the path to follow, but for others it's the comfortable road to travel.  ;)
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Offline L_Loryn

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #42 on: March 06, 2018, 09:26:41 PM »
Guess I'm going to throw my two-cents in here just as well.

I see writing programs just like fine art programs. Are they nice if you have the funds? Sure. Do you  have to go to one to be a good writer/artist? Nah, not at all. You can be an excellent writer by just... writing. There's no substitute for raw practice. However, sometimes an instructor is nice to have.

I have a B.A in English and in Fine Art. I don't think either one of them shaped my abilities as an artist or as a writer. I do think that as an artist, I wouldn't practice as well as I do without the particular instructor I had for painting 101. However, that was luck of the draw, so to speak. Not everyone who goes to school for art gets as lucky as I did.

Offline ShaneCarrow

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #43 on: March 07, 2018, 03:10:50 AM »
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.

Ah! I read this years ago and had forgotten the essay but very much remembered the piece of art that headlines it, which I think perfectly sums up the life of a writer. I was convinced it went alongside the news (around the same time) that Philip Roth had quit writing and advised young writers that it basically just involves sitting in a room by yourself all day, which is no way to live. I'd been thinking about it because of the theoretical dream I have of being a full-time writer, which I recently realised would basically involve working from home which would send me insane.

Anyway. Great piece of art.

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Offline Victoria.T76

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #44 on: March 07, 2018, 03:16:57 AM »
I'm thinking of doing one (an MA in the UK) at some point in the not-too-distant future. Call it unfinished academic business. But this forum is probably close to the last place I'd come to canvas opinions on the subject, to be honest.

I'm UK based and doing a Masters in Novel Writing now, finish in October (distance with Middlesex Uni - http://www.mdx.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate/novel- ). I love it. It has helped me improve my craft no end, and last week after a particularly satisfying chapter, I realised it was the best work I had ever produced and was quite pleased with myself - although as it is part of my uni work, I won't be publishing the complete story until after i have my final grade :)

I also have a first degree in English and Creative Writing, and I have no regrets so far about participating. Among other things, you do learn how to write a synopsis - and that will always come in handy :)

Offline notjohn

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #45 on: March 07, 2018, 08:38:49 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

The object of the MFA program, of course, is to get the telephone number of your teacher's "author's representative" aka agent.

I did it at two removes. The state university had a reputable teacher of writing (now dead, replaced by a whole bunch of writers and -- yes! -- an MFA program) who introduced a pal of mine to a good agent, and the pal in turn introduced me to her. Sadly for the pal, she did market my novel, but not his. (She did submit it a few times but it didn't catch on.)

For self-pubbers, there's probably no point in mastering a fine art. It's for literary stuff, and probably its time is past. You will get a lot of good opinions from your fellow workshoppers, and shortcuts like letters of introduction to editors, agents, and magazines. But none of that will help anyone hit the Kindle Top 100 Free list.
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Offline C. Gockel

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #46 on: March 07, 2018, 08:56:22 AM »
I know a few MFAs who don't write a lot. When they write, it's lovely, but everything they publish must be perfect or they can't bear to let it out into the world. I actually think that's a handicap.

Also, sometimes I think they try too hard to be edgy, or to follow certain rules (no dialog tags!) that can make them hard to read.

I'm not a great writer, but I'm a decent story teller. If I'd just sat on all my stories making them better and better they never would make it out into the world. They make a lot of people happy in the world, and so even if they're far from super sellers that gives me a lot of pride.


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Offline Dpock

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #47 on: March 07, 2018, 11:32:02 AM »
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.

"Either you have a propensity for creative expression or you don't."

"Propensity", of course, meaning "talent". It's hard to argue with that. I didn't attend an MFA program but did the Maui Writer's Workshop several times as a journalist. The hired talent, successful writers paid to offer instruction or tell their stories, were unanimous when speaking of workshop attendees -- most couldn't write a decent Christmas letter, even though their grammar, spelling, etc., was fine. They had the tools, in other words, but no talent for creative expression. Conversely, many gifted writers brutalize grammar and can't spell worth a fig, but that's what editors are for. Ideally, MFA programs hone a talented writer's craft, the one in a hundred students instructors dream of.


Offline evdarcy

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #48 on: March 07, 2018, 11:42:01 AM »
I did a BA (hons) in Imaginative Writing in the UK. Would I do it again? Straight up nope. My lecturers were lovely and did well in their fields, but I don't feel that I personally gained anything. I wanted to learn about novels and styles, voice and tense, but we never moved beyond short stories and poetry (I also took the screenwriting modules which were okay).

I ended up scoring low on my degree because I tried to twist a couple of the assignments to fit me. I wanted to look at differing styles within the same genre, eg, how do Sweet and Wholesome differ from Steamy Romance? What do they share? How does the language affect these, is that even important? etc. Same in Horror; does it matter if you're writing for women or men? What about female serial killers in novels, etc.  But I was scored low because on an ungrad you don't get to have a voice - you have to parrot those who have come before. Only when you're on your Masters do you get to have a voice as you've earned your place.

I had one lecturer that I'm still friends with on fb. She started to look at openings of novels to address some concerns that pretty much most of us had as I wasn't the only one who was so fed up on it.
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Offline stephanieparent31

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #49 on: March 09, 2018, 01:34:57 PM »
I have a Master of Professional Writing (equivalent to an MFA) from the University of Southern California, and it was pretty much a terrible and mostly worthless experience. It did help me get my first agent, which led to a second, better, agent, which still led to never getting traditionally published. Now my degree helps me get copy editing clients, but my editing skill comes from a lifetime spent reading rather than what I learned in school.

Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #50 on: March 09, 2018, 01:48:25 PM »
When we moved back to my home town, I contacted the head of the English dept., who also runs the MFA program, at the local university (which is the major university in the state), and offered to come talk to students anytime. I have a four-book series set in the town, it's traditionally published, and it's sold quite well (top rank #8 in the Amazon store). I'm a very successful author by most people's measure. Oh--I also mentioned that my father was the head of the Foreign Languages and Literature department at said university, and that I grew up in town.

Was he interested? Three guesses? NO. I immediately got back a "Don't call us, we'll call you." He added that, "Perhaps some of our students might be interested in hearing about genre fiction. If they are, I'll let you know." That was about a year ago.

That's why I'd never get an MFA. :) I have a (writing-intensive) B.A. in History from Berkeley and an MBA (also writing-intensive) in Finance and Marketing, plus almost 25 years' experience in editing, marketing, and the business side of legal and educational publishing, and all of that has served me pretty well as an indie author.

If you burned to be a literary fiction author and you wanted to teach, though, obviously it makes sense. (Though perhaps not in terms of ROI.)

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #51 on: March 09, 2018, 02:29:45 PM »
When we moved back to my home town, I contacted the head of the English dept., who also runs the MFA program, at the local university (which is the major university in the state), and offered to come talk to students anytime. I have a four-book series set in the town, it's traditionally published, and it's sold quite well (top rank #8 in the Amazon store). I'm a very successful author by most people's measure. Oh--I also mentioned that my father was the head of the Foreign Languages and Literature department at said university, and that I grew up in town.

Was he interested? Three guesses? NO. I immediately got back a "Don't call us, we'll call you." He added that, "Perhaps some of our students might be interested in hearing about genre fiction. If they are, I'll let you know." That was about a year ago.

That's why I'd never get an MFA. :) I have a (writing-intensive) B.A. in History from Berkeley and an MBA (also writing-intensive) in Finance and Marketing, plus almost 25 years' experience in editing, marketing, and the business side of legal and educational publishing, and all of that has served me pretty well as an indie author.

If you burned to be a literary fiction author and you wanted to teach, though, obviously it makes sense. (Though perhaps not in terms of ROI.)

That experience is in line with the snubs other authors report after offering to speak to groups at their public library or their former college. I think the bottom line is that you can't walk in as a stranger. It's certainly possible to cultivate the connections to get in, but of course once you do, you wonder what's the point.



 

Offline bmcox

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #52 on: March 09, 2018, 03:39:48 PM »
I have complicated feelings about my MFA program. I met some wonderful students and had a couple good instructors. For me, going back for an MFA had to do with a psychological need. I went back older, I had been writing for many years, and was always trying to improve my craft. I also wanted to teach (because I am a writer who believes writing can be taught). The academic side focused on the teaching of writing, which was wonderful, but studio side focused heavily on LitFic and I was a SpecFic writer. It was an uphill battle to get instructors, and even students, to understand what I was doing. Thankfully there were other closeted genre writers there and we were able to support each other.

When people ask if they should go back, I usually try to dissuade them (unless they are applying to fully funded programs or possibly genre focused ones). There are several marvelous programs out there, but it's chunk of change to attend and the demand for writing instructors is infinitesimal compared to the number of MFA graduates. If someone doesn't want to teach, then I ask if they just feel they need to do it for themselves. I still don't think it's a good idea, but I usually say the education will only be as good as what you put into it. Don't expect that attending classes, listening to instructors, and turning in homework will get you what you want. You need to be an active, inquiring, self-challenging, self-motivated student who is using this time to get better at your craft. Learn quickly what feedback is valuable or what feedback is useless. It doesn't matter if your prof has won the Pulitzer, if they don't know what you are trying to do or have no interest in what excites you, then you will suffer if you think their feedback is all that matter. They are just a human being with particular tastes. Education is a two-way street. Find profs that are excited and supportive of you. But above all, in the end, no one cares about your work more than you. You could attend a program or not attend. No one is going to miss you. They all have their own work to do and lives to lead. Invest in yourself.

If after talking to them about my experience or friends' experiences they want to do something, but an MFA may not be for them, then I recommend a different path. For example, attending workshops like Clarion, or Odyssey, or Viable Paradise, or Lambda Literary, or VONA, etc.. One can get a great education by just doing these types of workshops and, depending, they can cost less. Some like Odyssey and Clarion require many weeks of your life to attend and may not be feasible for everyone. But there are several shorter workshops, some that span only a week or a weekend. (I say that "depending, they can cost less" because with Clarion or Odyssey you may have to quit your job to attend as they are six-week, full residency programs that cost $2k-$5k. Everything added up, they could cost you a close to a year's tuition at an MFA program if your employer isn't cooperative about your leave of absence.)

The larger, well-known workshops are competitive, just like the MFA programs, so you must submit your best work (often short stories) to be considered and accepted. Smaller, regional workshops may just be a matter of seat availability. Moreover, there are online classes and workshops taught by well-known writers that one could take if one is interested in improving their writing.

There are so many options, an MFA doesn't have to be the only route. If you want to teach, then yes, probably, you need an MFA.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2018, 03:48:17 PM by bmcox »

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Offline Becca Mills

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #53 on: March 09, 2018, 03:57:20 PM »
There are so many options, an MFA doesn't have to be the only route. If you want to teach, then yes, probably, you need an MFA.

It's worth mentioning (from an inside-academia perspective) that good creative writing jobs are very, very hard to come by these days. I honestly wouldn't shoot for it unless you're a literary fiction/poetry wunderkind who gets into a fully funded Top 10 or maybe Top 20 program. The same goes for any degree designed to lead to a university teaching job in the arts or humanities. It's bad out there. Really bad. A heck of a lot of people end up massively in debt, teaching twelve classes a year at three different campuses for an average of $2,600/course.

Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #54 on: March 09, 2018, 04:01:16 PM »
That experience is in line with the snubs other authors report after offering to speak to groups at their public library or their former college. I think the bottom line is that you can't walk in as a stranger. It's certainly possible to cultivate the connections to get in, but of course once you do, you wonder what's the point.

If an institution can't see that an author who is from that town, attended that institution, and has sold millions of books (hundreds of thousands of them set in that same small town and university) could be of interest to people studying to be . . . well, authors, I . . . I guess I don't get it. My dad's name is on a conference room in their building, for heaven's sake. Until last year, my sister, who has the same very unusual last name as myself and our father, taught right across the lawn and did many multidisciplinary projects with other departments.

I'd thought of it as a favor I could do as a hometown girl, paying it forward. But nah. It's like they think of it as two entirely separate professions--writing "real" books or churning out trash, presumably--even without checking what I actually write. I don't really get it, but then, I don't have to. If that's what an MFA is, though--it just seems like you're asking to keep the day job forever, and I don't get that, either.

Yeah, I was offended. But I had sufficient consolation. :)
« Last Edit: March 09, 2018, 04:03:32 PM by Usedtoposthere »

Offline bmcox

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #55 on: March 09, 2018, 04:03:59 PM »
Agreed, Becca. Additionally, if you do get a FT job, working in academia is a difficult gig. You put in way more hours than 40 a week (sometimes well over 80) with service, prep work, grading and your own writing depending on the school. The writing in the summers thing is a myth. So many talented people I know in sciences and humanities have jumped ship for more lucrative careers in industry.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2018, 04:40:00 PM by bmcox »

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Offline Becca Mills

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #56 on: March 09, 2018, 04:13:21 PM »
Agreed, Becca. Additionally, if you do get a FT job, working in academia is a difficult gig. You put in way more hours than 40 a week (sometimes well over of 80) with service, prep work, grading and your own writing depending on the school. The writing in the summers thing is a myth. So many talented people I know in sciences and humanities have jumped ship for more lucrative careers in industry.

Yeah, I agree. :(  I'm not teaching this year, and while I miss the actual students, that's all I miss.

Offline Vale

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #57 on: March 13, 2018, 06:41:06 PM »
I'm always curious about the popular fiction tracks in MFA programs and how well they might prepare someone to write speculative fiction. On the flip side, I was at the largest literary writing convention in the US last weekend and it's interesting to see the influence of speculative (genre/commercial) fiction into the consciousness of even the literary world. Literary authors are starting to see their self-published peers making a living at it. It was glossed over, but when talking about how fiction cannot make money but you can get a little from speaking engagement, the author very quickly mentioned that her self-publishing friends were all making a living at it, then went on.

Kelly Link is a rock star writer with a massive following, and her name came up even when it wasn't a panel she was on. Someone had asked her if she "felt like a complete failure for self-publishing her first book." Her answer was no, obviously, but it looks like she never stopped self-publishing. Small Beer Press is her self-publishing imprint and she just moved on to publish other people's works, too. I've never heard her mentioned as an indie in a literary setting, probably because her short fiction wins literary awards all the time.

I think anyone who also writes literary fiction probably has stars in their eyes for the Iowa Writer's Workshop, the top program in the US. I'd heard that you can spot them at conventions by the traumatized look in their eyes. I found mine on a panel about failure. One mentioned that he didn't want to "end up like the other Iowa graduates, 80% of whom never write another word." That alarmed me, combined with the fact that the failure panel was all Iowa graduates. More than literary accolades or writing chops, I love telling stories. If you told me that the top program in the country takes the best writers and gets 80% of them to give up writing... I'm not sure what to think of that. I'm assuming it's hyperbole, but above all else I would think the point of a writing program is to encourage writers to write and enjoy writing while improving at it.

Overall, people were friendly and great, but my indie hackles were raised by those events. And hearing someone around 40 years old say "speculative fiction? I've never heard of such a thing? When did that start?"

I'd love to hear from people who did popular fiction MFAs and how helpful they were, just from a position of curiosity.

Offline Simon Haynes

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #58 on: March 13, 2018, 08:52:36 PM »
BA in English (Film & Creative writing dbl major) from Curtin University, Western Australia. A lot of bringing stuff to class, passing copies around, and getting critiqued, which is handy whatever you write.


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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #59 on: March 13, 2018, 09:57:32 PM »
BA in English (Film & Creative writing dbl major) from Curtin University, Western Australia. A lot of bringing stuff to class, passing copies around, and getting critiqued, which is handy whatever you write.

Not sure how old you are, but we'd probably have mutual friends. I think I know some people who did that course.

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Re: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?
« Reply #60 on: March 14, 2018, 03:23:10 PM »
I'm always curious about the popular fiction tracks in MFA programs and how well they might prepare someone to write speculative fiction. On the flip side, I was at the largest literary writing convention in the US last weekend and it's interesting to see the influence of speculative (genre/commercial) fiction into the consciousness of even the literary world. Literary authors are starting to see their self-published peers making a living at it. It was glossed over, but when talking about how fiction cannot make money but you can get a little from speaking engagement, the author very quickly mentioned that her self-publishing friends were all making a living at it, then went on.

Kelly Link is a rock star writer with a massive following, and her name came up even when it wasn't a panel she was on. Someone had asked her if she "felt like a complete failure for self-publishing her first book." Her answer was no, obviously, but it looks like she never stopped self-publishing. Small Beer Press is her self-publishing imprint and she just moved on to publish other people's works, too. I've never heard her mentioned as an indie in a literary setting, probably because her short fiction wins literary awards all the time.

I think anyone who also writes literary fiction probably has stars in their eyes for the Iowa Writer's Workshop, the top program in the US. I'd heard that you can spot them at conventions by the traumatized look in their eyes. I found mine on a panel about failure. One mentioned that he didn't want to "end up like the other Iowa graduates, 80% of whom never write another word." That alarmed me, combined with the fact that the failure panel was all Iowa graduates. More than literary accolades or writing chops, I love telling stories. If you told me that the top program in the country takes the best writers and gets 80% of them to give up writing... I'm not sure what to think of that. I'm assuming it's hyperbole, but above all else I would think the point of a writing program is to encourage writers to write and enjoy writing while improving at it.

Overall, people were friendly and great, but my indie hackles were raised by those events. And hearing someone around 40 years old say "speculative fiction? I've never heard of such a thing? When did that start?"

I'd love to hear from people who did popular fiction MFAs and how helpful they were, just from a position of curiosity.
You have to expect an abundance of literary snobbery at a convention for literary writing. It's the fuel that keeps the factory going.

Seriously, MFA programs exist to make money, and to give MFA graduates a chance to get jobs. The few graduates who make it as traditionally-published writers would have probably succeeded without their MFAs. The only difference between Iowa and other MFA programs is that Iowa has "bigger names" on the faculty. Also, there is more pressure in the well-known programs like Iowa to show their success by getting students' work published, which can do a young writer a disservice. An example of this the Ayana Mathis book "The Twelve Tribes of Hattie." Mathis is a gifted writer: her sentences are gorgeous. But her book isn't a novel; nor is it a collection of short stories. I don't know what it is, but I do know that it wasn't ready to be published, yet the book had testimonials on it from her famous writing teachers. I live in a university town. Years ago I read an awful book written by a graduate of the MFA program here. The testimonials on the back cover were all from the MFA faculty, but no one who wasn't familiar with the university would know that was the case.

This year hopeful writers who are looking for agents and who want to be traditionally published will spend thousands on pricey conferences hoping to make a connection. Eventually some of them will become indies if they can overcome their snobbery.