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Marie Mockett

Sep 11, 2005, 9:28 AM

Post #1 of 148 (34218 views)
California MFA Programs Can't Post

I'm wondering if anyone knows anything about MFA programs in California. I know that Irvine is supposed to be good. What about Stanford? Or any others? Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.


Aug 19, 2004, 5:16 PM

Post #2 of 148 (34444 views)
MFA Program at San Francisco State? Can't Post

Has anyone been? What's it like? How hard is it to get in? I've heard it's seen better days.

I live in SF and won't leave, so I guess I am asking if it would be worth it to go here over not going anywhere, i'm not debating it against other programs.

Thanks for any advice.


Aug 19, 2004, 10:33 PM

Post #3 of 148 (34436 views)
Re: [curly] MFA Program at San Francisco State? Can't Post

I don't have any first-hand experience with SFSU, but I do know that they don't offer any fellowship support. Would you be willing to pay tuition to get your MFA?

Taking out loans is a scares the bejesus out of me, but if you're not going to move, and if you really want an MFA, that might be your only option.

How bad do you want an MFA anyway? I see from my craigslist addiction that SF has a pretty robust writers scene with plenty of writers groups meeting all the time. Would that work?

Oh well, good luck with your search


Aug 20, 2004, 12:45 PM

Post #4 of 148 (34422 views)
Re: [bighark] MFA Program at San Francisco State? Can't Post

Yes, there is a huge writers scene here and plenty of classes and groups to join. but as i find myself trying to pinpoint a "job" that would make me happy, more and more i wish i could simply teach creative writing. I have thought about teaching at the elementary or even high school level, but I really have no desire to go through the teaching credential process and i really don't have the patience to teach younger kids. There are other MFA programs in SF, but they are all private and SUPER expensive. state is the only one that wouldn't take me half my life to pay off. I guess I am a little more nonchalant about an MFA than others on this board. I had a great undergrad experence getting a BA in creative writing, and while I do want to learn more to better my own writing, i want to find a way to enjoy a career in creative writing. i am not the type of person that can rely on my own work to make money for the rent, i need a paycheck. Someone else suggested a low-residency program, which i really don't know anything about. I'll look into in. thanks for the advice.


Aug 20, 2004, 1:28 PM

Post #5 of 148 (34414 views)
Re: [curly] MFA Program at San Francisco State? Can't Post

Curly, the MFA isn't job insurance. Teaching jobs at the collge level are scarce, and nearly all of them go to folks with impressive publishing credentials. The ones that are left are adjunct spots for teaching freshman comp--a far cry from creative writing.

Do yourself a favor and contact the faculty members of the MFA programs in your area. Invite them to get a cup of coffee. Ask about what you'll need to be an attractive candidate for teaching positions.

(This post was edited by bighark on Aug 20, 2004, 1:38 PM)


Aug 20, 2004, 5:13 PM

Post #6 of 148 (34403 views)
Re: [bighark] MFA Program at San Francisco State? Can't Post

thanks for the reality-check advice. i am not diving into anything right away.

Do you think an impressive publishing record is more important than an MFA to teach at the college (or even community college) level? or do most have both? i know at least one of my professors didn't have an MFA, and he was the best known of all of them. In fact, it came out later that he didn't even finish his BA when he was awarded the Poet Laureate of California. They did a background check and stripped the title from him, but I heard my school didn't fire him even though he technically lied on his resume. he's probably the biggest draw to the UCSD program. It was Quincy Troupe if you've ever heard of him.

anyway, i'll start my talking to some professors in SF. and i'll just keep writing....

Robert Thomas

Aug 20, 2004, 7:18 PM

Post #7 of 148 (34398 views)
Re: [curly] MFA Program at San Francisco State? Can't Post

I think Quincy Troupe is in a class by himself, a legend. If you're Quincy Troupe, you can get a teaching job without a BA or an MFA or a driver's license. If you're "curly" or "rwt," it's a different story.


Aug 20, 2004, 7:54 PM

Post #8 of 148 (34393 views)
Re: [rwt] MFA Program at San Francisco State? Can't Post

I'm glad you've heard of him, then you appreciate the story. They shouldn't have taken his poet laureate away. Since when does a poet's education matter? Definately the best teacher i'll ever have, he made you want to write your best. I was lucky enough to take three workshops from him.

So most professors probably have a combination of both MFAs and published works. A friend of a friend of a friend is Po Bronson and he got his MFA at SFSU, so I shot him an email to ask about the program. He's pretty open about communicating with fans, so hopefully i'll get the inside scoop.

John Smith

Sep 21, 2004, 2:10 PM

Post #9 of 148 (34333 views)
Re: [curly] MFA Program at San Francisco State? Can't Post

In fact, it came out later that he didn't even finish his BA when he was awarded the Poet Laureate of California. They did a background check and stripped the title from him, but I heard my school didn't fire him even though he technically lied on his resume. he's probably the biggest draw to the UCSD program. It was Quincy Troupe if you've ever heard of him.


curly, i'm not interested in an MFA at SFSU but your post on Quincy Troupe is interesting. how come not a lot of people know about Troupe's being stripped of his title.

what made a lot of news was Amiri Baraka's refusal to resign as New Jersey's
poet laureate. The NJ Legislature abolished the position so he cannot be holding to a position which is non-existent.

seems like the African-American poet laureates get stripped of their titlesj, except the female poet Rita Dove.


(This post was edited by creative8 on Sep 21, 2004, 5:45 PM)


Dec 11, 2004, 11:22 AM

Post #10 of 148 (34377 views)
MFA at UC Riverside Can't Post

was wondering if anyone's heard anything about it? was thinking about applying.....

(This post was edited by motet on Dec 6, 2005, 9:35 AM)

Megan Savage

Dec 12, 2004, 9:55 AM

Post #11 of 148 (34363 views)
Re: [sharonlouise] MFA at UC Riverside? Can't Post

I know nothing about the program itself, other than that Dana Johnson teaches there. She left the Indiana program last year to teach there and everyone here who has had her raves about her.


Jan 13, 2005, 7:32 PM

Post #12 of 148 (34307 views)
Re: [sharonlouise] MFA at UC Riverside? Can't Post

Don't know if you're still looking at UCR's MFA program, but I went to UCR as an undergrad and studied creative writing while I was there (had to graduate before I had enough credits for a minor in it).

The MFA is a program of it's own, but for what it's worth, I loved my time with the Creative Writing Department. There are some good writers there who are also good and generous teachers. I am considering applying there myself (but not this year)

the wind

Apr 16, 2005, 2:50 PM

Post #13 of 148 (34228 views)
Re: [rshaikh] MFA at UC Riverside? Can't Post


I've done a little research on Riverside and here's what I know. They are young and new, having only one graduating class last year and one next month. They are an inter-field program and encourage you to also study poetry, fiction, non-fitction, playwriting, screenwriting, and media writing. They offer the only BA in Creative writing in the UC system.

Fiction is strong due to Susan Straight, a book of the year finalist and judge. I recently talked to a new hire and this is what he told me. They had one spot open for fiction but couldn't choose among the three finalist so they took all three (how cool is that?). They are Dana Johnson, Andrew Winer, and Michael Jaime. Those three are all in their 30's which is so cool and hopefully a sign of the changing of the guard in academia. The men went to Irvine and Dana to Indiana. The school is diverse as is the faculty. The faculty has three writers of color which is usually three more than any other program hahaha.

I got in and have committed, so if you want more info, send a holler.

The Wind

(This post was edited by the wind on Apr 17, 2005, 4:08 AM)


Jun 11, 2005, 6:45 PM

Post #14 of 148 (34199 views)
Re: [curly] MFA Program at San Francisco State? Can't Post

I think the issue with Quincy was the lie, not the fact that he didn't have the least, that's the way the media portrayed it.

the wind

Jun 22, 2005, 3:03 AM

Post #15 of 148 (34194 views)
Chris Abani: Hired at Riverside? Can't Post

Can anyone confirm if it's true about the author of Graceland?


Sep 11, 2005, 10:48 AM

Post #16 of 148 (34201 views)
Re: [murasaki] California MFA Programs Can't Post

Irvine definitely has a great program.

Stanford does not give an MFA degree. It is a fellowship that requires you to attend a workshop once per week and pays a stipend of about $25k per year. There are no degree requirements. I dont even thing you need to have gone to college. Most of the people there already have MFAs (but not all).

From what I can tell, the Stegner is a fantastic program and very competitive to get into. But it is something I would consider doing even after finishing my MFA at Iowa.

I think that there are MFA programs at Mills (have heard good/bad things), SF State (mostly night classes) I also think that UC David and Riverside also have started MFA programs. I have not heard much about either.

Kaytie M. Lee

Sep 11, 2005, 10:58 AM

Post #17 of 148 (34201 views)
Re: [murasaki] California MFA Programs Can't Post

Hi, Marie,

It really depends on what you want to get out of the program and whether a program has instructors you'd like to work with.

Stanford doesn't actually have an MFA. The Stegner Fellowship is a two year program in which participants are given a stipend rather than the students having to pay for classes. It's highly competitive to get in, though my impressions were that once in it is a supportive group. Many of the participants already have MFAs--others do not.

I don't know all of the programs in the Bay Area--it is a huge place, but it is also a literary place. For an emerging writing it's a great community to be in. There are more opportunities to see authors read than anywhere else, there are several different organizations that hold writing festivals. Check out Litquake, a Dave Eggers production (PS If you don't care for Eggers or McSweeney's, it might not be the best place for you--his influence reaches quite far.)

The Bay Area has a big selection of independent bookstores, though sadly one of the greats, Kepler's (the one closest to Stanford), closed its doors recently.

Look into Los Angeles, too. There's a lot going on in LA, though not quite as much as in SF. If you write plays, it would be a good town to be in--people outside the city don't know, but there is a thriving theater community in LA, producing quality new plays in little black box theaters all over the city.

USC has the Master of Professional Writing--I went there. It's not strictly an MFA, so it's not the best choice if you plan to teach later (though there are opportunities to TA there if you are persistant), nor does it focus much on literary theory. That was fine with me...I'd had enough theory in undergrad. I wanted time to write and good teachers, and got that. It's expensive though, so you'd want to create a cost-benefit analysis for this one.

USC also has a PhD program in Creative Writing that you can start at the Masters level, though many of their students got an MFA at other schools first. Their PhD program is pretty straightforward--you have to pass tests after your second (I think) year, and there is an academic element to your thesis, but you also prepare a creative element as well. Plus, you'd get to study with the likes of Aimee Bender, TC Boyle, and Percival Everett (fiction--sorry, my poetry info is severely lacking).

UCLA does not have an MFA, but it does host the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. If you end up anywhere near LA the Festival is a requirement!

There's a low residency MFA at Antioch in Marina Del Ray--haven't heard anything about it.

I have heard good things about Cal State Long Beach's MFA program. It is a mix of literature and writing workshops, and I have heard nothing but good things about program director Stephen Cooper. Long Beach is about an hour from LA proper (depending on traffic) so it can feel insular.

There's an MFA program at San Diego State University, but when I was looking for programs it didn't enthrall me much--perhaps because at the time I was looking I wanted to leave SD. San Diego ranks about third tier when it comes to literary communities (IMO--they can't even get a library built!), though there are some writing festivals and some book events. It seems to get passed by when it comes to many major author tours. That said, San Diego State, though older, is an excellent school.

Um...that's all I know. I'm happy to spew my opinions anytime--but they are only my opinions. Happy searching,

Kaytie M. Lee Last Updated November 2008

(This post was edited by Kaytie on Sep 11, 2005, 11:02 AM)

Marie Mockett

Sep 11, 2005, 11:37 AM

Post #18 of 148 (34199 views)
Re: [Kaytie] California MFA Programs Can't Post

Kaytie and Taizhu -- I thank you both.

Kaytie -- Am I crazy in thinking that you are now in Texas? I hadn't realized you went to USC. Did you apply with the intention of writing a novel? Did you find the faculty helpful with this project? I hadn't realized that USC had such a good program. Did you find that you met good peers, and that you enjoyed living in the area? I am originally from northern California and don't know as much about southern California -- the old rivalries never really meant that much to me. I'd be curious to hear more about your experiences with this program.

Thanks to you both for replying.

The Stegner does indeed look competitive.

Kaytie M. Lee

Sep 11, 2005, 1:58 PM

Post #19 of 148 (34190 views)
Re: [murasaki] California MFA Programs Can't Post

I replied to you privately-let me know whether you received the email. Questions answered below:

Nope, I'm not in Texas. I've been to Texas exactly twice. Once it was too hot, then it was too cold.

I did apply intending to write a novel, and I did write a novel. A novel and a half, actually.

The "goodness" of USC's program really depends on what you are looking for in a Creative Writing department. It was good for me but may not be appropriate for others.

My peer group ranged widely, actually. Everyone was supportive and constructive, but I found only two or three per class who gave criticism I actually found helpful. I suspect this would be true in any workshop situation.

LA - Loved it! I actually lived in Westwood, though, not all that close to USC. The closer to the beach the better. Not because I go to the beach, but because of the breeze that made the hot days bearable! (Also because my sig-o went to UCLA for an MBA and had to be on campus much more frequently than I did.) There's a lot happening for literature in LA, though sometimes it can take a while to get to it.

I don't know that the Stegner is any more or less competitive than the other major programs--U of Iowa, UC Irvine, etc. The catch is that when applying for it you are competing against graduates of U of Iowa, UC Irvine, etc. If you have flexibility of place, you should go for it. I can't think of any other program that gives that much aid. Plus, Stanford is an amazing campus and their library is wonderful.

Kaytie M. Lee Last Updated November 2008


Sep 11, 2005, 9:14 PM

Post #20 of 148 (34176 views)
Re: [murasaki] California MFA Programs Can't Post

Hey Murasaki, this is an article about Bay area MFA programs that was in the SF Gate that a friend sent me:

It probably doesn't tell you a ton about the programs themselves, but it is interesting how much people are willing to spend for an MFA. I can't afford an MFA program unless I get funding, but I'm not sure I would pay anyway. I would almost be tempted to spend the $40K on self-funding for three or four years of full-time writing (and survival on ramen noodles)


Sep 19, 2005, 3:35 PM

Post #21 of 148 (34180 views)
Riverside & Davis Can't Post

Hi--I'm applying for an MFA this year, and would love to back to California (I'm in NY) or at least.....west. Was wondering if anyone has heard anything about these programs at all (Davis is actually an M.A.).

any info much appreciated.


Sep 20, 2005, 4:14 PM

Post #22 of 148 (34152 views)
Re: [sharonlouise] Riverside & Davis Can't Post

As you probably know, Pam Houston is the director of the UC Davis program. I just did a week long workshop with her in Provincetown. She's pretty intense as a teacher, and it's clear that she takes teaching seriously. I'm not sure what the rest of the UC Davis faculty is like. Good luck.

the wind

Nov 13, 2005, 5:27 AM

Post #23 of 148 (34223 views)
An update on UC Riverside Can't Post

People have written and asked me about this fairly young program out in Southern California. I am half-way through my first quarter and love it. The general talk that MFA Programs speed up a writer's learning curve is true and that "it would have taken me years to learn this stuff" is very accurate. (Applying the knowledge is a whole nother matter, ha ha) The program allows you study in the traditional fiction/poetry/non-fiction model but also includes playwriting and screenwriting, which are very popular. In two years, we take 7 workshops!

Our faculty is amazing. They are accesible, talented, and very knowledgable. We eat lunch and dinner often and can make time to talk easily. Our course selection is ridiculous: next quarter, I think we have workshops in all the mentioned forms, and four seminars that focus on themes and craft. If I could, I'd take like six classes next quarter.

When we pin down the faculty, I swear they are like encyclopedias on literature. It is both inspring and intimidating. I have never felt so poorly read in my life. Of our fiction faculty, Susan Straight is probably our biggest name, but Chris Abani is a rising star. (I think the guy is a genius and I NEVER say things like that).

If this sounds like a recruiting pitch, it sort of is, and it's also a pre-emptive email, like a war, but much more welcoming. I heard that the school is looking for students from all over the country and world to add new voices to the program. The school is a UC, which is the best public school system in the world AND the MFA program has fellowship money for promising candidates.

Personally, I'd like politicized and marginalized writers to come and stir trouble up with me. Good luck to all the applicants and consider coming out to sunny CA, it's like 70 degrees in November, how can you beat that?

--the wind

the wind

Dec 24, 2005, 5:09 AM

Post #24 of 148 (34132 views)
Re: [sharonlouise] MFA at UC Riverside Can't Post

I got your reply and hope this write up helps. I love the professors and the program is great. My only difficulty has nothing with the program but how I am reacting to it. Sometimes I get so sucked into the "program life" I forget about my previous and outside life as a writer/artist. As advice to any writer going to a program, it's been really important to live and maintain that life the most. MFA school is polishing my technique and craft, it does not supply my themes, it does not alleviate the struggle to promote oneself as an artist, and it is a temporary community.

Please see my write up in this link for more info. I hope you apply. There are many talented professors and students here. In 10 years, I think the name will retroactively be more valued cause we're so young.

(This post was edited by the wind on Dec 24, 2005, 6:38 PM)


Dec 24, 2005, 11:18 AM

Post #25 of 148 (34121 views)
Re: [the wind] MFA at UC Riverside Can't Post

I think I am going to apply. just waiting on one more letter, should get that this week. Am in the middle of reading "graceland"--I love it. Am a little worried because of my transcript--I went to UCSC back when they didn't give grades, only "narrative evlautions".
How do you like Riverside? Or do you live in L.A.?

also (sorry about all these questions!)...wondering about the general age group. Is everyone else there really young? or is it a mixed group?

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