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Memoir MFA: What's the Scoop? (Fiction/poet answers desired too!)
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artemis


Aug 17, 2005, 5:31 PM

Post #1 of 8 (3060 views)
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Memoir MFA: What's the Scoop? (Fiction/poet answers desired too!) Can't Post

Hi everyone, I'm so glad I finally got my butt in gear and made the decision to go for the MFA - and, of course, landed here again after a long absence as a lurker while my life was turned up-side-diddle. All your posts have really helped me formulate my thoughts/questions, but I found so little about MFA in memoir, and I must write this dang thing because whenever I try to write anything else, it becomes the memoir I kept trying to avoid. Anywho - here are my questions and I really would love to hear from many voices:

1. Are you in a memoir program and what are your thoughts about it?

2. Is funding for a memoir program the same as for fiction/poetry - or is there less offered for memoir? For instance, can memoirists get TA/fellowships and so forth?

3. Are there any that are 3 year programs - I really feel the necessity for a year on the thesis (which will, I hope, be my book)

4. If you are in an mfa program (either fiction/poetry/memoir/etc.) do you find that the memoirists are looked down upon by others in fiction/poetry? (Have to ask . . . Bad ug experience re a split department - THEM and US grad student mentalities - which will make it harder for me to concentrate on my writing.) I mean, there’s always a few, but I’d rather not have it institutionalized.

5. I really want, and need, the rigorous study lit class offer - do most memoir programs require them? If not, is it difficult to fit them in? And I’m woefully ignorant about poetry - I want to fit that in too.

6. And oh my heaven’s, how did you build up your spine for the critiques when the stories are about you?! (Dang that ego and full speed ahead! - somehow)

7. Any schools with writers/teachers considered feminist? - Can you give me some names so I can read their stuff? (Oh, how I long for Alice Munro to teach!)


Thanks all - and write on!

(This post was edited by artemis on Aug 17, 2005, 5:33 PM)


pongo
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Aug 17, 2005, 8:51 PM

Post #2 of 8 (3049 views)
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Re: [artemis] Memoir MFA: What's the Scoop? (Fiction/poet answers desired too!) [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

2. Is funding for a memoir program the same as for fiction/poetry - or is there less offered for memoir? For instance, can memoirists get TA/fellowships and so forth?


That depends on the program, but I suspect that in most places funding isn't dependent on what you write.


In Reply To
3. Are there any that are 3 year programs - I really feel the necessity for a year on the thesis (which will, I hope, be my book)


In most two-year programs that I've heard about, you are working on your book for two years, not just the last few months.


In Reply To
4. If you are in an mfa program (either fiction/poetry/memoir/etc.) do you find that the memoirists are looked down upon by others in fiction/poetry? (Have to ask . . . Bad ug experience re a split department - THEM and US grad student mentalities - which will make it harder for me to concentrate on my writing.) I mean, there’s always a few, but I’d rather not have it institutionalized.


That wasn't the case at Goddard, at any rate. In fact, a number of the faculty had published or were working on memoirs, and their readings were very well attended and (in general) appreciated.


In Reply To
5. I really want, and need, the rigorous study lit class offer - do most memoir programs require them? If not, is it difficult to fit them in? And I’m woefully ignorant about poetry - I want to fit that in too.


Again, I don't think this will depend on a =memoir= program, but on the program in general.


In Reply To
6. And oh my heaven’s, how did you build up your spine for the critiques when the stories are about you?! (Dang that ego and full speed ahead! - somehow)


In an MFA program people are not (with rare exceptions that get culled pretty quickly) critiquing the authors but the work, with the idea that the problems with the work are keeping the author's meaning from coming through at its best. In other words, the critiques are working for you, not against you. So they are supporting your ego, not attacking it.


In Reply To
7. Any schools with writers/teachers considered feminist? - Can you give me some names so I can read their stuff? (Oh, how I long for Alice Munro to teach!)


Most of the women at Goddard would be considered feminist, although that's such a fuzzy term that it's hard to be certain. Rush Limbaugh would call all of them feminazis, but that just means that they wouldn't vote for Hermann Goering.

dmh


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artemis


Aug 18, 2005, 10:33 PM

Post #3 of 8 (3017 views)
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Re: [pongo] Memoir MFA: What's the Scoop? (Fiction/poet answers desired too!) [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks pongo - I'll have to come back to reply/think about your thoughts: I'm a bit under the weather with a killer headache. But I wanted to let you know I appreciated your time and input.


artemis


Aug 23, 2005, 7:21 PM

Post #4 of 8 (2971 views)
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Re: [pongo] Memoir MFA: What's the Scoop? (Fiction/poet answers desired too!) [In reply to] Can't Post

"That depends on the program, but I suspect that in most places funding isn't dependent on what you write. "

I hope you're right. I suppose I worry needlessly, but it does seem odd that a school would fund a writer working on a memoir - which really, is just one book; whereas fiction/poetry is . . . well, more of a wellspring.

"In most two-year programs that I've heard about, you are working on your book for two years, not just the last few months. "

Well, I expect to - but I think I'll need a (free) year just to edit.

"That wasn't the case at Goddard, at any rate. In fact, a number of the faculty had published or were working on memoirs, and their readings were very well attended and (in general) appreciated. "

That is good news! I suppose I keep thinking of this as a course in how to write this one thing - and even though I know it's a story I have to write before I can do any other writing; well, I guess it does make me feel a little constricted; so it's good to know that respect is given all round and the imagined problem is just in my head.

"Again, I don't think this will depend on a =memoir= program, but on the program in general."

Yeah. I think I'll have to spend a good deal of time researching programs.

"In an MFA program people are not (with rare exceptions that get culled pretty quickly) critiquing the authors but the work, with the idea that the problems with the work are keeping the author's meaning from coming through at its best. In other words, the critiques are working for you, not against you. So they are supporting your ego, not attacking it."

I know, I know. I've been in many workshops and found that this is so. However, my story is a hard and painful one, and I think for me, it will be very hard and painful not only to share the story with classmates, but also those critiques, which of course, are logically about the writing. I suppose I imagine writing of a particularly difficult and deeply painful event; and in the "outside world" (for lack of a better term), sympathy and comfort would be offered. But, in a workshop, critique is offered. I don't know - it's just difficult for me to wrap my brain/emotions around it all, since it's so personal a tale.

In the end, I suppose I'll figure it out and I'm worrying needlessly. It will probably be a good shake down for me: shaken, but eventually settling down snuggly.

"Most of the women at Goddard would be considered feminist, although that's such a fuzzy term that it's hard to be certain. Rush Limbaugh would call all of them feminazis, but that just means that they wouldn't vote for Hermann Goering. "

LOL!. Well, if good ol' boy Rush calls 'em that, I say bring 'em on!

Thanks again.

(I hope I figure out the "quote thingy" soon!)


bighark


Aug 24, 2005, 10:25 AM

Post #5 of 8 (2961 views)
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Re: [artemis] Memoir MFA: What's the Scoop? (Fiction/poet answers desired too!) [In reply to] Can't Post

I know, I know. I've been in many workshops and found that this is so. However, my story is a hard and painful one, and I think for me, it will be very hard and painful not only to share the story with classmates, but also those critiques, which of course, are logically about the writing.

---

I met with a professor at a program a few years ago who told me that one of her students wrote her thesis--a painful memoir that she did not want to subject to the workshop process--in private and that she produced other unrelated content (short stories and the like) to share with her classmates in more public settings.





artemis


Aug 24, 2005, 8:12 PM

Post #6 of 8 (2949 views)
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Re: [bighark] Memoir MFA: What's the Scoop? (Fiction/poet answers desired too!) [In reply to] Can't Post

Hm. It's a thought, but I think I'd need the feedback. Interesting idea to ponder though.


maggiemessitt


Sep 3, 2005, 8:15 AM

Post #7 of 8 (2920 views)
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I think what you are looking for is really Creative Nonfiction MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

I just noticed your posting after posting on a different thread that applies to you (Gymnick’s “Literary nonfiction Programs” thread). With that said, i am sinply pasting what i wrote in the last, slightly edited.

______

First of all, what you are designating as a “memoir” MFA isn’t something that I think exists, although I could be wrong. Memoir would fall under the genre of Creative Nonfiction. Within nonfiction, you will find a collection of memoirists, immersion/literary journalists, essayists and nonfiction writers who dabble in all three.

I suggest looking into Goucher College, if you are interested in a program that is exclusively Creative Nonfiction. I am a first year student within Goucher's MFA program, after having left a top-ranked MFA program for a variety of reasons, but most influential was that of the "ugly step-sister" status nonfiction had in the program (of which it has in many--not all--multi-genre programs).

My best suggestion is to search for programs that offer multi-genre Creative Writing programs and ask to be put in touch with current nonfiction students via email. I also suggest you do this with Goucher. My experience is that an email will be sent around to all nonfiction students to reply to your curiosities about the specific program.

Also look at where some of your favorite nonfiction writers may be teaching. Your experience will be affected by, not only the collection of and caliber of students, but also faculty. Read what faculty members have written and see who you may connect with or respect for their work. That advice goes for any genre.

The best advice I can give is 1) ask a LOT of questions, and 2) talk to both faculty and staff.

Finally, dont discard low-residency programs. The MFA program i was initially a student within was full residency and the program I eventually returned to--Goucher--is low residency and exactly what i needed.

To take a look at Goucher College's Creative Nonfiction MFA click the following link: http://www.goucher.edu/mfa/index.cfm


anabobo


Oct 21, 2005, 2:47 PM

Post #8 of 8 (2886 views)
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Re: [artemis] Memoir MFA: What's the Scoop? (Fiction/poet answers desired too!) [In reply to] Can't Post

Hunter College, where I'm in the Poetry program, offers an MFA in Memoir. Check out http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/creativewriting/ for details. I believe the tuition etc. is the same as for Poetry/Fiction.


(This post was edited by anabobo on Oct 21, 2005, 2:48 PM)

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