September/October 2020

Our annual MFA issue features an in-depth look at the MFA in flux, including reports on how programs are adapting to COVID-19, the rise of the online degree, reimagining power in the creative writing workshop, what happens when a low-residency program closes, and a call for systemic change in the literary arts; an interview with poet Nate Marshall on his second collection, Finna; Aimee Nezhukumatathil in conversation with Ross Gay about her new essay collection, World of Wonders; playwright Ayad Akhtar on his new novel, Homeland Elegies; letters from writers of the Black literary community; a Q&A with critic Ismail Muhammad; the art of the author photograph; how social media affects the creative process; writing prompts; and more.


Transformation: A Q&A With Nate Marshall

by Julian Randall
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In his second poetry collection, Finna, Nate Marshall explores the failures and triumphs of language, the power of community, and abolition as a poetic praxis.

Truth: A Q&A With Ayad Akhtar

by Amy Gall
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In Homeland Elegies, Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright and novelist Ayad Akhtar blurs the line between fact and fiction in an attempt to reclaim the novel. 

Special Section

MFA Programs in the Time of COVID-19: Writers, Teachers, and Administrators Plan for a New Normal

by Michael Bourne
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Directors of full- and low-residency MFA programs share how they are adapting to the unpredictable course of the pandemic, finding new ways to teach and connect, and planning for the future.

Online MFA Programs: The Hidden Benefits of the No-Residency Option

by Kali White VanBaale
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Teachers and students at online MFA programs reveal the financial and lifestyle upsides of the no-residency format.

The End of an MFA: What Happens When a Low-Residency Program Closes?

by Sandra Beasley
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The author chronicles the closing of her low-residency MFA program and outlines the potential of the low-residency model and the steps programs must take to survive.

Starting Out in an MFA Program? Here Are Ten Tips for Getting the Most Out of It

by Susan Jackson Rodgers
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A teacher and two-time director of a creative writing graduate program offers advice to incoming MFA students on how to take advantage of opportunities and cultivate good writing habits.

News and Trends

The Practical Writer

The Art of the Author Photo: How to Make a Lasting Image

by Spencer Quong
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The author interviews photographers, writers, and publicists on what makes a good author photo and how writers can create a portrait on their own terms.

The Literary Life

Why We Write: And Why We Stop

by J. T. Bushnell
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The author relates how becoming a father helped him find peace in not writing and deepen his understanding of what drives writers to the page. 

The Time Is Now: Writing Prompts and Exercises

by Staff
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Write a series of poems that acts as a family album, a short story with an apocalyptic premise, or a personal essay about a time when a dramatic event caused a shift in your life.