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lillyl


Apr 26, 2005, 12:47 PM

Post #1 of 59 (5352 views)
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So What do you like/dislike about your MFA program? Can't Post

I thought it might be good to start a discussion about responses to MFA programs. I see a lot of posts by people who are applying, but I'd like to hear from people who have attended or are now attending a program.
Are you happy with your program?
Do you find your workshops to be engaging?
Do you think your program has been worth the money/time/etc?
Do you regret getting your MFA?
How do you feel about the MFA system in general?

This is not meant to be a naming names or tell-all type thread, I'm just curious about people's responses to the MFA system in general.

I am finishing up my first year in an MFA program. It's been a much different experience than I've expected, but I believe I've learned a lot about my own writing. I'll type out some more particular impressions/experiences later, after I see if anyone has taken any interest in this thread. (I'm also waiting to take an enormous bandage off my hand so I can do more than peck at the keys with two fingers !).


pongo
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Apr 26, 2005, 1:01 PM

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Re: [ltrent] So What do you like/dislike about your MFA program? [In reply to] Can't Post

My MFA experience (graduated in '98) was nothing like what I expected. I thought I'd just go through the paces and get the credential so I could teach, and I wound up changing my entire relation with my writing. (And the writing got a lot better, with a much broader range.)

dmh


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


Moonshade


Apr 26, 2005, 2:48 PM

Post #3 of 59 (5328 views)
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Re: [ltrent] So What do you like/dislike about your MFA program? [In reply to] Can't Post

I am defintely interested in the answers to these questions! This forum has good info on the writing and applying to MFA programs. However I've been eager to hear the pros and cons of people's particular MFA experiences. It seems in all the writing material I read, people are on the fence about it.

Right now, several of my favorite writers don't have MFA's like Janet Fitch (White Oleander), Maya Angelou and playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (although she did take creative writing classes in Undergrad. with James Baldwin) and Walter Mosely.

But several of them do have MFAs, like Percival Everett (Erasure) and Wally Lamb (She's Come Undone). So I'm torn.

I want to know the good and bad of these programs and if people feel that they got what they expected out of their program? Like what about the competitiveness I hear about? I hope that people currently in or have graduated from MFA programs respond to this thread.


Kaytie
Kaytie M. Lee

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Apr 26, 2005, 3:35 PM

Post #4 of 59 (5320 views)
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Re: [ltrent] So What do you like/dislike about your MFA program? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
1. Are you happy with your program?
2. Do you find your workshops to be engaging?
3. Do you think your program has been worth the money/time/etc?
4. Do you regret getting your MFA?
5. How do you feel about the MFA system in general?


1. I'm happy with the experience I ultimately got out of the program. Every program will have its good and bad points, but I was not overly thrilled nor overly displeased once I got there. (In other words, no surprises.) I will get an MPW degree from USC in May. It's not an MFA in that there were no theory classes or lit classes in the curriculum, but we definitely did Masters level work as far as quantity and upholding a level of quality. (IMO) Also, many of the teachers do not have Masters level credentials, but they have strong industry experience. Janet Fitch, mentioned above, now teaches a fiction workshop at MPW.

2. For the most part, I found the workshops engaging--but it's always about what a writer brings to the workshop. Passive writers tended not to get much out of their experience, and I should think that would be true in any program. The only bad experience I had was when my personality clashed with the teacher. That made it really difficult to listen to what he had to say. Now, however, I find myself using his terminology when I talk about writing, so in the end he affected me.

3. I had a choice between three schools. What it came down to was what I wanted out of the two years. I wanted to develop good writing habits, learn as much as I could, and produce as much as I could. I did. Not all of what I wrote is any good, but I got criticism on it from my teachers and peers, so that now that the program is almost over, I can go back and rewrite. Whether I got my money's worth out of it remains to be seen--the loans haven't come due yet. :P I don't regret the time at all.

4. Nope. Though I do regret having to explain how a Master of Professional Writing is like an MFA in creative writing, only different. I could have learned everything I learned in school on my own. It would have taken longer and been much more painful. And lonely. I grew out of it after three semesters.

5. I suppose I can't answer that since my degree isn't really an MFA and didn't include certain aspects of a traditional MFA. I could have but didn't student teach--it has never been my goal to teach so it wasn't a priority.


One of the aspects of a masters program that worries me is the MFA backlash, the idea that MFA writing is sanitized, mediocre, writing by consensus. I've heard of critics lamenting that authors aren't carpenters/bartenders/tropical fish sellers/starving artists any more. And it makes me wonder if I'm missing something elemental that the writers I admire have. Then I remember that TC Boyle has a PhD in 19th Century Brit Lit, and I feel better. Being aware of the danger of homogenous writing is a step towards avoiding it.


Kaytie M. Lee Last Updated November 2008

(This post was edited by Kaytie on Apr 28, 2005, 9:04 PM)


Kaytie
Kaytie M. Lee

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Apr 26, 2005, 3:55 PM

Post #5 of 59 (5317 views)
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Re: [Moonshade] So What do you like/dislike about your MFA program? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I want to know the good and bad of these programs and if people feel that they got what they expected out of their program? Like what about the competitiveness I hear about? I hope that people currently in or have graduated from MFA programs respond to this thread.


Are we allowed to double post here? If not, my apologies. Just wanted to add my comment to the last question:

The MPW program wasn't a cut-throat environment that is rumored to exist in other MFA programs. There are awards to win, true, but no one lets those get in the way of friendships and support. Nor was the program all about feel-good praise. Workshops were about honest critiques and most of the time, if someone pointed out a weakness or an error, a solution was also given. That's not to say everyone got along perfectly. Defensive writers generally had a bad time of it until they learned to separate themselves from their art in order to take the criticism they needed and leave the rest.

I enjoyed it when a story I submitted started class arguments (I never participated)--it meant that I had touched on something worth writing about. And I participated in some great discussions about other stories. That's part of the fun. You want dissent and conversation. You don't want intentional, mean-spirited critique.

I have heard it's much the same in the PhD in Creative writing program, over in USCs English Department.

(To clarify--the MPW program stands alone. There is no MFA in creative writing at USC. There is a great PhD program, though.)


Kaytie M. Lee Last Updated November 2008


nomojo
A.D.T.

Apr 26, 2005, 4:00 PM

Post #6 of 59 (5314 views)
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Re: [Kaytie] So What do you like/dislike about your MFA program? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm pretty sure there's no rule against it, so 'double post' away.


lillyl


Apr 27, 2005, 3:09 PM

Post #7 of 59 (5234 views)
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Re: [ltrent] So What do you like/dislike about your MFA program? [In reply to] Can't Post

Oh wow, I'm glad so many people have commented here!

I'll say some more specific things about my experience. I came into my MFA program with almost zilch workshop experience, so I really felt like a novice in the area of talking about poetry (and still do!). I think it's been useful to hear other people articulate how a poem is working for them and why.

Before I started my MFA I read that famous Donald Hall essay critiquing MFA as producers of "Mcpoems" (ironic, since Hall is one of the most boring writers out there) & I was worried that the pressure to conform would be strong. I was pleasantly surprised to find that that wasn't the case-- I've never felt pressured to change my style or smooth out my quirks to fit some more tame poetry model. I've actually found the poets at my school to be very willing to work with whatever style a student might be trying to write in.

On the downside: I've been disheartened by how much poetry "networking" happens, and how much poets are encouraged to publish publish publish, even at the MFA stage. I guess I'm more interested in slowly getting my poetry to a higher quality, not in getting my "name" out as quickly as possible so maybe Jorie Graham will recognize me or something. The AWP conference seems like more of this mindset-- how to market oneself, how to get published in certain places. etc.

I've also realized that, as much as workshop helps me, I'm just not that excited about it. I'd much rather sit down with an individual person and talk about a poem. I'm required to take two more workshops & I already feel workshopped out. I also feel that my reticence makes me seem less engaged in other people's work, and therefore makes me look like I'm not serious. Being shy makes workshop a little less enjoyable.

Thanks for your comments everyone.


lillyl


Apr 27, 2005, 3:11 PM

Post #8 of 59 (5233 views)
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Re: [ltrent] So What do you like/dislike about your MFA program? [In reply to] Can't Post

Oh yeah-- I also have a teaching fellowship, so I actually get paid to be here!
My advice to people applying to MFA programs is this: never, ever pay for an MFA degree. Never.


Moonshade


May 1, 2005, 7:34 PM

Post #9 of 59 (5164 views)
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Re: [Kaytie] So What do you like/dislike about your MFA program? [In reply to] Can't Post

___________________________________________________________________________________________
I could have learned everything I learned in school on my own. It would have taken longer and been much more painful. And lonely. I grew out of it after three semesters.
___________________________________________________________________________________________

Kaytie, how could you have learned it on your own? Reading alot and writing alot, I'm sure, but can you give me specifics? How much longer do you think it would have taken?

And I have a personal question, which you do not have to answer if you don't want to. Are you currently earning your living as a writer?


Kaytie
Kaytie M. Lee

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May 2, 2005, 1:29 PM

Post #10 of 59 (5120 views)
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If you think the Minuet in G, you'll play the Minuet in G. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Kaytie, how could you have learned it on your own? Reading alot and writing alot, I'm sure, but can you give me specifics? How much longer do you think it would have taken? [snip] Are you currently earning your living as a writer?


Hi, Moonshade,
My experience is strictly prose--I'm not by any means a poet, though I enjoy poetry, so my comments should be viewed from a prose perspective, and specifically for fiction.

How could I have learned it on my own? For me (and I speak only for myself) the best thing about attending a program was learning to think about fiction and writing in a non-reading way. Rather than reading for pleasure, I learned to think about literature from the writer's perspective. A certain passage moves me--how and why? What did the author do or not do to evoke that response in me? I learned this by reading the work of others, most other students, but also in class discussions about published books.

When I said on my own, I should have been more specific--I do think that workshops (when structured and populated with serious readers and writers) are useful and at certain stages a necessity. Hearing how others see your work can be invaluable--there are a couple of threads going about that so I won't repeat here. But a good workshop outside of a college or university can be hard to find. So the MFA is a good way to lock down a community of a certain calibre where a writer can learn how to think about writing.

Here's a short list (quickly compiled) of what I learned in workshop that I could have learned on my own after much trial and error:

  1. Dialogue usage--when it's too much, when it's not enough. That real-life conversations don't translate well straight to the page, and that if your story is more dialogue than anything else, it might be better told on stage. That exposition doesn't belong in dialogue.
  2. The danger of cleverness--cleverness can be annoying when it's everywhere, and is a poor substitute for depth.
  3. Story arcs--three-act structures, when to use and when to avoid them (in a general way, as each project is different)
  4. That old adages are adages for a reason--read your work out loud to edit; read a lot and write a lot, and the old "write what you know" all have elements of truth to them.
  5. That "write what you know" doesn't mean writing self-indulgent or autobiographical material, but rather it means to write from a place of empathy (example: you may not know exactly what it feels like to be president, but you may know what it's like to shoulder great responsibility, so use that experience to write the other.)
  6. I am separate from my work. I can't and won't please everyone. Everyone will have an opinion about my work, and will feel the need to tell me it after reading my work. People will give me conflicting comments about my work, comments that are valid but are so mutually exclusive that in the end I have to just pick and go with one.
  7. There are no rules. AKA There are always exceptions to rules. AKA There are people who successfully break rules all the time, but if I try, I better know what rules I'm breaking. AKA Each project will have its own set of rules because each story and novel is a new entity. Starting a new project is like starting the very first project--you don't know anything about it.
I could have discovered these little truths on my own, but I would have had to make mistakes and then catch them--hard to do when it's my own work.

How long would it have taken on my own? That's hard to say--but I'm confident it would have taken quite a bit of public failure, since I'd have sent the work to editors and agents to look at and reject and that would have been my education. The benefit of taking risks in a workshop is that it's private. No one in the industry has to know about that failed narrative.

When I said I grew out of it, that's because I got to a point where I wanted to try my abilities outside the protection of a workshop. Knowing that other students and teachers will help make my writing better became a bit of a crutch. After grad school, I'm pretty much on my own, to continue learning, writing and hopefully selling my work.

As to your other question, I am not currently earning my living as a writer. I am finishing the last bit of my thesis (a novel) that I must turn in at the end of this month to get my degree. Prior to grad school I worked in product marketing as a technical writer and documentation specialist, and I am considering returning to that or something like it once the novel is finished--gotta pay those loans off. It will probably take me a while to earn money with my fiction, if it happens at all. There's no guarantee, is there? For my scant achievements, see my website linked in my signature.

PS I know I sound a bit like a know-it-all, but I'm not--I'm just someone with opinions and an internet connection. Hopefully this post answered your questions and clarified my previous statements. Happy Writing,


Kaytie M. Lee Last Updated November 2008


rtperson
Roger Turnau

May 2, 2005, 2:48 PM

Post #11 of 59 (5113 views)
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Re: [Moonshade] So What do you like/dislike about your MFA program? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Right now, several of my favorite writers don't have MFA's like Janet Fitch (White Oleander), Maya Angelou and playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (although she did take creative writing classes in Undergrad. with James Baldwin) and Walter Mosely.


Sorry to nit-pick, but I'm pretty sure Walter Mosley received his MFA from CUNY, and he did many workshops before that. Maya Angelou started publishing before MFAs became common, so I'm not sure she's a good example.

I can think of other good non-MFA writers -- Jennifer Egan comes to mind -- but remember that both she and Mosley studied with Philip Schultz, a private teacher who used to be head of the MFA program at NYU, so it's not like they're completely self-taught. (Full disclosure: I've studied with Schultz as well, and unreservedly recommend his workshops to any fiction writers in the NYC area.)

Generally the trend seems to be toward MFA-ization. My decision to go after the degree was clinched by an article in P&W about two years ago. The article was about the fiction writer Amanda Stern, and I remember vividly how one of her complaints was that she was unable to get fellowships, even those she was qualified for, because she didn't have that friggin' degree. When I read that I decided it was wiser to join 'em than beat 'em.


fattery
Victoria M. Chang
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May 2, 2005, 5:59 PM

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Re: [lillyl] So What do you like/dislike about your MFA program? [In reply to] Can't Post

That's funny about the Donald Hall comment. I had never really thought about that. I do admit, however, I like his book, "Without" quite a bit. Have you read it? It's really touching. That's interesting you say that about publishing--I think people should go at publishing at their own pace (if at all!) There's no rush and in some cases no need at all. But I imagine that as writers, we want others to read our work at some point. About AWP, I used to think that it was a big "networking" thing, but as I've gone to places like that and BreadLoaf over the years, I began to realize it's just people-connecting, friendships, social stuff, etc. Because writers can be really lonely sometimes, even if they have lots of friends, because lots of writers don't get to see their other writer friends very often (like me). I think sometimes people make a bigger deal out of all that "networking" stuff than it really is. Now, don't get me wrong, I have witnessed some pretty funny moves in the past by poets trying to get ahead, but for the most part, if you're genuine, people will see the good in you and if you're not, well, then people will be able to tell. It can "seem" disheartening and fell disheartening, especially if you don't know anyone, but I think everyone feels this way at such places. I've been handed business cards by poets before! And I used to think this was really hilarious, but then I wondered why I was reacting that way? I mean, it makes perfect sense to have contact information right on a little card, right? I might not do this myself, but I guess I don't mind if others do.


(This post was edited by fattery on May 2, 2005, 9:41 PM)


Moonshade


May 3, 2005, 6:15 PM

Post #13 of 59 (5029 views)
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Re: [Kaytie] If you think the Minuet in G, you'll play the Minuet in G. [In reply to] Can't Post

Kaytie,

Yes, you answered all my questions and then some! Your list is a good one, you distilled several things I had a vague notion of but hadn't put in such concrete detail. Right now, I'm just beginning to practice 1-4. It gives me something to think about and keep an eye out for in my own writing. You're right about thinking of fiction in a non-reading way, I have an English Lit. degree and I often have to read a book twice, first as a reader and then as a writer to break it down.

Something else that I've read and heard many times, but am just beganing to grasp is that it's the rewriting that is crucial. Not just the actual story writing. I've had three writing classes at this point. The best was my online class, all the students were serious and the teacher was excellent.

Thank you for giving me so much info, and Congrats on your degree!


Moonshade


May 3, 2005, 6:29 PM

Post #14 of 59 (5023 views)
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Re: [rtperson] So What do you like/dislike about your MFA program? [In reply to] Can't Post

rtperson,

Oops, I stand corrected! And I have NO problem with that, I'm greedy for information on writers and writing, so by all means keep me informed!

I read that article with Amanda Stern too and she did say she got put through the wringer even though her stories were good.
Maya Angelou has been publishing for a long time, but I don't think she's been doing it longer than say, Toni Morrison. Of course Morrison does have an advanced degree (MA, I think). I know that Mosley had one too, but then I shouldn't be surprised.

I agree with you about the MFA-ization. I am going to write whether it's the MFA route or not, however I think that the MFA (as Kaytie outlined) makes things less difficult in the long run.


rtperson
Roger Turnau

May 4, 2005, 12:22 PM

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Re: [Moonshade] So What do you like/dislike about your MFA program? [In reply to] Can't Post

moonshade,

I just looked up biographies on Morrison and Angelou, and they both published on the exact same year: 1970. It's an interesting detail, because both their books (The Bluest Eye and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings) ran into controversy for showing less-than-flattering depictions of African American life. I've also read about some of the absolutely vicious attacks that the black community leveled at Ralph Ellison over Invisible Man. It's as if everyone in the US, regardless of race, needed the Civil Rights movement to wind down a bit before accepting some uncomfortable truths. Both Angelou and Morrison prevailed, of course, and had long, illustrious careers, but Ellison was effectively destroyed as a writer, mainly for the crime of publishing twenty years too early.

But I digress...

Morrison's degree was your standard MA in literature: she wrote her thesis on the theme of suicide in Faulkner and Woolf. (Don't you love details like that? I know I do.) Mosley's thesis, on the other hand, was a novel that his thesis advisor successfully shopped to his agent. In other words, your standard MFA success story (though now that I think of it, I think City College awards a creative writing MA).

While the MFA's been around for a while, I think it was still fairly uncommon in the 60s and 70s for a writer of literary fiction to have a degree specific to creative writing. It became more common in the 80s and 90s, and today writing programs have proliferated so much that having a creative writing degree is kind of like having an agent: it's no guarantee of anything but you probably won't get far without one. That's why I'd argue that Angelou is a bad counter-example: it was a lot easier to find good emerging literary writers without MFAs in her day than it is now. (Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, etc.)

Where did you take your online classes? I'm always looking for good workshops to recommend to people.



(This post was edited by rtperson on May 4, 2005, 12:22 PM)


Moonshade


May 5, 2005, 7:18 PM

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rtperson,

I took the UCLA online short story course. I expected to do lots of writing in that class and I did. But what surprised me was how much I grew as a writer on those few weeks. I dare say that that one class surpassed my previous two writing classes combined! (where I attended those workshop in the flesh, once a week) Since it was online I didn't know what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised. I worked hard in that class and wrote two stories.

Yes, I thought that Morrison and Angelou had published around the same time. And I'm not surprised by the controversy either. Alice Walker was bashed for "The Color Purple. Playwright Suzan Lori Parks was bashed just a couple of years ago, for her off-Broadway play about The Hottentot Venus. As was another Black playwright Kia Coronthon, I think her name is. People said her plays were "too political". I say, people need to get over it. I read The Bluest Eye when I was 12, and I nearly went into a fit, I was so outraged (but that was because I was too young to grasp the underlying meaning). I read it again at 19, and had a different perspective. I too, have read "Invisible Man." Richard Wright's "Black Boy" and Langston Hughes "Simple" stories have also been criticized. The list goes on. I ignore it and just keep reading.

I'm not sure writers can't get far without an MFA--I think writers can get there (meaning, writing better hopefully publishable stories) but I think if you have real talent and persist, eventually a writer will triumph. It'll just take longer.

One thing I do know, what concerns me about the MFA's is that when I read some stories by individuals holding the degree, it doesn't move me. Meaning I think that true storytelling talent is different than literary talent--the ability to write well, but the story is dull.


LaLoren


May 20, 2005, 9:02 AM

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Re: [lillyl] So What do you like/dislike about your MFA program? [In reply to] Can't Post

Okay, I'm going to play devil's advocate here just to broaden the discussion.

As an old fogey who went to school before writing programs were so prevalent, I am very sorry to see writing becoming yet another field where one needs a degree to be successful. Especially since "success", in this case, rarely equates to a high income. Do we really believe that Hemingway, Dickens, Poe, Hardy––all the greats you can name going back to Homer––missed something by not attending classes and workshops? To me it is like saying that Michelangelo needed an MFA.

I can appreciate the poster's point about learning certain aspects of writing sooner than she would have on her own, but at the same time I think that most writers know these things instinctively, though they may not necessarily know the terminology. I can't help but think that the main value of MFA programs is to provide income through teaching in an otherwise low-income field. Thus leading to the vicious cycle of producing more MFA's who must then teach to subsidize their writing careers. As with so many other fields, it creates a good old boy/girl network where only members need apply and makes it more and more difficult for the "uneducated" to break in. At the same time, I know of many young people who have gone into debt getting the degree and have then had to work in a different field (often one that stifles creativity or involves too many exhausting hours) just to pay it off, and the dream of writing for a living is even farther off than it was when they started.



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wiswriter
Bob S.
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May 20, 2005, 10:26 AM

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Re: [CHWoman] So What do you like/dislike about your MFA program? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hemingway had workshops. They just weren't in classrooms. All great writers had teachers, mentors. What the MFA has done is democratize the writing apprenticeship by making it available to people who don't have a family fortune to support them while hanging out in the cafes of Paris, waiting for Gertrude Stein to walk in. If you think there's a good-old-boy/girl network these days, think about what breaking into that circle was like.

Sure, there are pitfalls, as you identify. Some MFA students go into too much debt, do too little writing and come out in worse shape than when they came in. Others are able to put a publishable MFA sheen on writing that really doesn't have much to say. But all in all, I think the MFA boom has been great for literature and great for a lot of writers - like me - who otherwise wouldn't have had any way to connect in a meaningful way with the writing world.


pongo
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May 20, 2005, 1:58 PM

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Re: [wiswriter] So What do you like/dislike about your MFA program? [In reply to] Can't Post

You know, I've heard this argument before, that you don't need an MFA to be successful as a writer, and I think it would carry more weight if I had ever seen the argument that you do need an MFA. No one here has said it, I'm pretty sure, and I haven't seen it anywhere else.

Some of us, in fact, have said that the MFA has made us better writers, but that isn't at all what CHWoman is arguing against. So what is the real problem here?

dmh


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


lillyl


May 20, 2005, 5:14 PM

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I can appreciate the poster's point about learning certain aspects of writing sooner than she would have on her own, but at the same time I think that most writers know these things instinctively, though they may not necessarily know the terminology.

+Poets like Eliot and Lowell didn't "instinctively" know how to write in the styles they eventually chose; they found writers they respected and learned with them. This is basically what an MFA can be-- a way to work with people you respect and spend time working on your writing. This is the way I approach it, at least.

I can't help but think that the main value of MFA programs is to provide income through teaching in an otherwise low-income field. Thus leading to the vicious cycle of producing more MFA's who must then teach to subsidize their writing careers. As with so many other fields, it creates a good old boy/girl network where only members need apply and makes it more and more difficult for the "uneducated" to break in.

+this is a pretty familiar argument against MFAs, most recently leveled by the foetry.com people. It is greatly exaggerated. Nobody "has" to teach to subsidize their writing after they emerge from the MFA. I don't plan to. I don't buy the "good old boy" argument either. There are way to many poets in other fields-- the philosophy prof Linda Gregerson, for example, or the computer instructor and poet Lola Haskins, not to mention the many writers that spent most of their time in real-world jobs. Of course, knowing people in a certain field is important, but I just don't believe it is impossible to join the writing world if you haven't been in an MFA program.

The struggle between writing and living in the "real world" has always been around-- most writers in the 20th century haven't made enough money to live purely from their writing. This isn't a new problem created by MFA programs.


At the same time, I know of many young people who have gone into debt getting the degree and have then had to work in a different field (often one that stifles creativity or involves too many exhausting hours) just to pay it off, and the dream of writing for a living is even farther off than it was when they started.


+I have no sympathy with people who pay money to attend an MFA program. There are way too many MFA programs that offer full funding or TAships for this to happen. I applied only to schools that offered full funding and got into six of them. I now teach freshman english and basically get paid to go to school and write.

& I wonder about people who complain that their job stifles creativity. What about Wallace Stevens the insurance attourney? What about Ted Kooser? What about all the other writers in the past that 'had' (like everybody else in the world that doesn't have a trust fund to live off of) to take boring jobs? Somehow, they managed to write. Why should that be different now?


JoanneMerriam
Joanne Merriam


May 20, 2005, 5:22 PM

Post #21 of 59 (4780 views)
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Re: [pongo] So What do you like/dislike about your MFA program? [In reply to] Can't Post


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You know, I've heard this argument before, that you don't need an MFA to be successful as a writer, and I think it would carry more weight if I had ever seen the argument that you do need an MFA. No one here has said it, I'm pretty sure, and I haven't seen it anywhere else.

Some of us, in fact, have said that the MFA has made us better writers, but that isn't at all what CHWoman is arguing against. So what is the real problem here?


I think, this statement by rtperson: "it's no guarantee of anything but you probably won't get far without one."

I've heard variations on this statement several times, but never from a publisher, so I continue to ignore it. I don't have any problem with people getting MFAs. I do think it's bad for the world of books in general if everybody has the same educational path (whatever that path might be), but that doesn't translate into thinking it's bad for individuals. I won't be bothering, though, since I haven't found the lack of it any barrier to publishing.


Editor: 7x20 * Upper Rubber Boot Books
Most recently: Apocalypse Now: Poems and Prose from the End of Days (Atwood, Bacigalupi, JCO, etc.)

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wiswriter
Bob S.
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May 20, 2005, 5:56 PM

Post #22 of 59 (4774 views)
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Re: [lillyl] So What do you like/dislike about your MFA program? [In reply to] Can't Post

+I have no sympathy with people who pay money to attend an MFA program. There are way too many MFA programs that offer full funding or TAships for this to happen. I applied only to schools that offered full funding and got into six of them. I now teach freshman english and basically get paid to go to school and write.


I hear you. But except for a few programs "full funding" is a mirage. Unless you consider 10 grand per year a living wage.


lillyl


May 20, 2005, 7:09 PM

Post #23 of 59 (4766 views)
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Re: [wiswriter] So What do you like/dislike about your MFA program? [In reply to] Can't Post

But except for a few programs "full funding" is a mirage. Unless you consider 10 grand per year a living wage.

+ I make 12 grand a year. Still not fantastic, but most people here live with other MfA ers & split costs, or they are marrried/partnered, so it's usually not as difficult as trying to live alone with a crappy entry-level job. But yeah, it's certainly not a pile of cash.


pongo
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May 20, 2005, 9:02 PM

Post #24 of 59 (4758 views)
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Re: [wiswriter] So What do you like/dislike about your MFA program? [In reply to] Can't Post

And not everyone is in a position to drop everything and move (with spouse, children, and dog) to an MFA program that does offer what passes for full funding. For some of us, a low-residency program (for which you must pay unless you have a patron; there are no teaching assistantships) was the only choice.

dmh


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mizrachi


May 21, 2005, 1:00 AM

Post #25 of 59 (4748 views)
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Re: [lillyl] So What do you like/dislike about your MFA program? [In reply to] Can't Post

For me, an MFA is truly an incredible opportunity. How else could i take 3 years off from a job without meaning, move to a new and utterly different area, meet tons of interesting people who share something important with me, grow as a person and as a teacher, study with my literary idols, learn about myself and my writing, and receive a modest stipend? If there is another way, please share.

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