Author Topic: Anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?  (Read 3315 times)  

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.

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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

Offline cadle-sparks

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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 »

Offline alawston

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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.

Offline AlecHutson

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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.


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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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Online 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 :)

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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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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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Online 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.


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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.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2018, 05:07:51 PM by evdarcy »

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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.