1. R-Lick
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    R-Lick New Member

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    Does anyone here have an MFA in Creative Writing?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by R-Lick, Jun 10, 2014.

    How do you feel about this degree? Was it worth it, or would you advise others not to follow your path? What are the pros and cons to an MFA?

    I'm just genuinely curious about this because I've read both good and bad things about this. It'd be nice to hear anyone's opinion on this matter.
     
  2. HealSomeBabies
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    HealSomeBabies Member

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    I do not have an MFA in creative writing. I've always thought creative skills are self-taught. I think the gist of school is you pay a professor to give you assignments and he critiques everything relentlessly, which is not a bad thing if you want to really improve. It will also put you among like-minded people. On the bad side, you'll have spent $$$$$ on college(really depends though), and years of your life learning something that isn't applicable to a lucrative career. However, if that's your passion, you really don't need anyone's advise.
     
  3. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    What I've always heard is that if you want to teach writing, you need one. If you don't want to teach, you don't. Now, you will likely actually *learn* things and you will certainly improve your craft, if for no other reason than the intense focus and increased ability to practice writing and reading. Having an MFA might make an agent read to the end of your intro letter, instead of only halfway.

    It really depends on why you want the degree and on your financial situation (and the opportunity costs involved).
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    The only published writers I know of who have MFAs are Rachel Simon, who taught creative writing for a time, and Elizabeth Kostova.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I don't have one, but I do know enough about it to offer my thoughts.

    Pros:
    1) Some programs pay for your tuition and give you a stipend, so you're basically getting paid to do the MFA. Again, this is only some program, and I bet they're very competitive.
    2) It forces you to write because you have deadlines.
    3) You'll be surrounded by people who are just as passionate about writing.
    4) It's a good way to build contacts with editors, other writers, and people in the publishing field.
    5) If you like teaching creative writing, getting an MFA is required for such positions.

    Cons:
    1) If you don't have financial aid, you'll be paying a lot of money and quite possibly have a ton of debt.
    2) Having an MFA doesn't guarantee publication or success.
    3) You don't need an MFA to be published or a great writer.
    4) Because it's hard to make a living off writing alone, you might end up in a teaching position, so you should be open to that idea.
    5) This last one is my personal opinion, but so many times creative writing classes teach formulaic writing. That's why it's important to make sure you get a good advisor and are part of a good department. This is where you have to do some research and look at the works of previous students of the program.

    That's all I got.
     
  6. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are actually quite a few published writers who have MFAs. The problem is that they only have one or a few published books. That is, being a novelist isn't enough for them to earn a living. As far as the big blockbuster writers, who are really successful -- that's a good question. I can't think of any off the top of my head, although I'm sure there are at least a few.
     
  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I know of several writers with MFAs, including Alice Sebold (author of The Lovely Bones), Junot Diaz (2008 Pulitzer Prize winner), Adam Johnson (2013 Pulitzer Prize winner), and Jhumpa Lahiri (another Pulitizer Prize winner; nominated for Man Booker Prizer and National Book Award). Those are just the ones I know off the top of my head. I know Junot Diaz teaches at MIT, and Jhumpa Lahiri is a member of several committees. So I don't think anyone on that list except for Sebold is earning a living only from writing fiction. But it does give you an idea of what writers with MFAs are doing.
     
  8. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unfortunately, I know a few MFAs who work at places like Office Depot.

    This piece says basically what I said, but in much more detail:
    http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/MFA.shtml
     
    EdFromNY likes this.
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just to add to the list, I believe that Kate Christensen (PEN/Faulkner Awared for The Great Man) and Betsy Lerner (various awards that I'm too lazy to type) also have MFAs. (Actually, my understanding from Blue Plate Special is that Kate Christensen did the work but doesn't have the degree due to a tuition issue.)
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    See? I knew more would show up. :D
     

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