1. Anthony Martin
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    Anthony Martin Active Member

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    An MFA in Creative Writing?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Anthony Martin, May 30, 2013.

    Ah, the age-old discussion: to MFA or not to MFA?

    I am currently one year into an MA in Rhetoric and Writing Studies, a program that I enrolled in after a few years away from academia. I am enjoying the program but have an ineffable desire to pursue an MFA in creative writing once my MA is said and done. (It's an odd thing to be in the thick of an advanced degree with your eyes and heart already magnetizing toward an entirely different academic endeavor.)

    Since I can't necessarily go for the MFA right now, I am keeping my appetite at arm's length with a steady diet of literature on the subject of MFAs--a combination of program descriptions of the various programs in California and Arizona (UC-Irvine or ASU, pretty please) and blogs/essays written by writers both currently enrolled and already graduated from their programs seems to do the trick.

    So I ask myself and my fellow scribes here on the forum: To what end might the pursuit of an MFA lend itself? To continue expanding my abilities as a writer? To gain the respect of writers in the field and earn my way into literary academia? To teach? To become a full-time novelist (ha-ha)?

    Is it even worth it?

    Though I can answer some of these questions myself, I know that my answers aren't the only ones out there. I would love to get a discussion going on the topic.
     
  2. Anthony Martin
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    Anthony Martin Active Member

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    For the record, I only found this thread after having posted my own and seeing it in the "Similar Threads" area. Still hoping for a fresh discussion on the topic here.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The best thing about a good MFA program is that you get paid to write. I think most places offer stipends and cover the cost of tuition, though I'm not 100% sure about this. Certain programs, like the one at the University of Iowa, are really prestigious and look great on a cover letter. So if you get into a good program that offers a stipend and pays for tuition, I say go for it. If you have to pay for it yourself, then I wouldn't do it. An MFA isn't required to get published, and it certainly doesn't guarantee publication.
     
  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've heard many discussions about this topic. Having an MFA is really only helpful if you want to teach creative writing. So, if you think you might want to teach it, then go for it. But, even that is not a guarantee. I know of several people with MFA's who are working full time at places like Office Depot. As far as a financial investment, it's usually not easy to justify. But education of any sort cannot and should not always be subject to a purely financial analysis. There are other intangible benefits to obtaining a degree, as well, and you have to weigh how much you can value those on a basis other than economic.

    In a query letter, mentioning an MFA can give a *slight* piquing of interest for an agent -- it does indicate you are serious, etc. But what really matters is the writing and therefore the sample pages and information about the story.

    I have some fantasies of perhaps pursuing one, but I'm not likely to do so, mostly due to financial considerations. If you are able to get into a good program, and are able to work enough and not have to pay a significant amount for the degree, it *might* be worth it, depending on your station in life and what other goals you have and who else is dependent on you or whether you can move to another part of the country, etc.

    Again, it's not likely to gain you much financially. As was previously stated, it doesn't guarantee publication or any sort of writing related position. (Although it's essentially required to teach writing, there is no guarantee you can actually get such a position.) But you could gain some good knowledge, practice, experience, and networking contacts. You have to decide whether that's worth it to you and feasible to pursue.
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Princeton Review discussing the basics. Seems pretty straight forward.
     
  6. Anthony Martin
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    Anthony Martin Active Member

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    >>True. I am looking at the MFA as an opportunity to get involved with other writers and scholars in the field and expand my scope of experience, knowledge and perspective with regard to both the technical and theoretical sides of creative writing. My top programs are all full residency programs, which also happens to put them in a very competitive tier of programs.

    >>Is this really true? You mentioned some other benefits almost in passing, like writing experience, networking, etc. I am more interested in those aspects of the MFA program. That being said, is the general sentiment that an MFA in Creative Writing strongly steers you toward a career in teaching?

    P.S. I absolutely concur with your thoughts on the financial aspect of this decision. This is one of my most pressing considerations.

    >>Good stuff there, thank you. Anyone here with MA in Creative Writing?
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    a job as a magazine or book editor... or teaching...

    possibly, if that's what it does for you...

    the first, i don't see why... the second, possibly...

    see above...

    shouldn't make any difference...

    only if you think it is... no one really needs a degree to become a published writer...
     

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