Kaytie M. Lee
Sep 11, 2005, 10:58 AM
Re: [murasaki] California MFA Programs
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)