1. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    Writing Programs

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Rumwriter, Feb 20, 2012.

    I'm looking to transfer schools to find one with a truly sound creative writing program. I'm talking about a BA right now, not MFA. I'm tired of pursuing a degree in Creative Writing where it involves me taking a few sub par writing courses, and a butt-load of literature courses and other gen ed requirements. The only way to learn how to write is to write, and to have others read what you write, but it's hard to do that when all of your time is spent analyzing how awesome the meter of Sir Gawain is or whatever, so if anyone can tell me some names of colleges with really great undergrad writing programs, I would appreciate it.

    (not that I'm opposed to doing any lit. classes, I know that it's important to have that foundation if you're an English major, but I am definitely in the wrong place where I am)
     
  2. topeka sal
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    topeka sal Senior Member

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    May I ask where you are studying currently? It might give me a better idea about what to recommend.

    As for the lit classes. Well, you already know that reading is as important as writing for a writer. I had a teacher who once said that you have to have read a thousand words for every one that your write. Whether you agree with his numbers, the message is clear and perhaps will help you see your lit courses in a new light.

    You say that a writer becomes one by writing, which, of course is true, but as a writer you also have to find the time to write, just write, whether for a class you're taking or just on your own. I agree that a good creative writing course can be very helpful, especially having a group of people to read and comment on your work. But this is only a small part of the process.

    With these caveats in mind, there's nothing wrong with looking at other programs. Your dissatisfaction with the way creative writing is taught at your current school comes through loud and clear. A little more info from you would be helpful in order for people here to advise you.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    first of all, why do you want to get a BA in creative writing?... do you think having a minor degree will help you to become a published novelist?... or do you want to teach it?

    if you simply need to learn the basics and can't do that on your own, as most successful novelists throughout history have done, why not just take courses online, such as the best one around, 'gotham writers workshop'?
    http://www.writingclasses.com/

    if you really think you need a college environment, then NYU is one of the very top choices... for others, googling is your best friend:
    http://education-portal.com/best_creative_writing_schools.html
     
  4. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    I'm at LSU.

    I don't think I need a degree to be a good writer. I want a degree so that I will be able to put down that I have a college education on my resume, so I can find work outside of being a writer. So I can maybe join the Peace Corps, or teach over seas, or find work with a magazine, or whatever.

    And I agree that reading is important to being a good writer. I don't agree that taking a lit. course which has you do group projects performing scenes from old English poetry in front of a classroom makes you a good writer.
     
  5. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Then quit looking for a creative writing degree and find some other degree program in a field you like and that will support you while you write.
     
  6. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    No, I'm going to do a degree in the one subject that interests me.
     
  7. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    And if you want to be a writer, a degree in writing helps, but it isn't needed. Merely having a degree in anything is significant. Employers will look at your writing experience and a writing sample, and won't care as much for your educational background.

    There isn't anything taught or offered in a writing course that you can't find elsewhere. Style, technique, the business side of writing, etc. can be found in topical books. Interacting with other writers, discussing writing and critiquing, is invaluable, but it can still be found for free outside.

    What you need as a writer, however, is ideas. Writing courses don't give you ideas, but other courses will. A shop class, a philosophy course, a psychology course, biology lab course, etc. You should analyze what your other interests are and consider a degree in one of those.


    Edit: I was working on my post when you posted that you are only interested in writing. What kind of career do you imagine yourself doing?
     
  8. Foxe
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    Foxe Active Member

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    I think it would be a waste of a degree to get one in creative writing. However, I don't think it would be a waste to take a course or two on creative writing; that's the kind of education shows in your work rather than your resume.
    I enjoy writing, but I study political science and history at the university of toronto and wouldn't want it any other way. If anything, studying something else will open your mind to different topics and ideas while taking a separate course on writing on the side.
     
  9. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    I have no shortage of ideas to write about. I've got lists of ideas.

    I'm done. Bye.
     
  10. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not much of a fan of 'degrees' at all. lol My community college has a decent writing program with a capstone course that sounds pretty useful for learning about the business of writing. I don't really think a degree is evident of much of anything other than your ability to convince a number of professors that you're worthy. I don't think it necessarily indicates skill.
     
  11. topeka sal
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    topeka sal Senior Member

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    A degree in creative writing isn't for everyone and I'd never say--and I don't believe--that one needs to study CR at university to become a great writer. Not in the slightest.

    BUT... I don't think it's helpful to try to discourage Rumwriter from doing so if that's what he/she wants to do. He/she wasn't asking "if" but "where". I'm not sure why everyone is using this thread to express their personal opinions on this. It sounds like Rum is going into this with eyes wide open. Not everyone takes the attitude that a university degree should necessarily lead to a job in that field. No one would study any of the arts at uni if this were true. In my opinion that would be a great loss. Many an English or arts major has found work after college in all kinds of settings. I'm one of them. Of course I never got a writing job, but that's not why I did the degrees. Studying the arts at uni is not for everyone, but for those who thrive in such settings... well... I get tired of the knee-jerk reaction against it. There. Said my piece.

    Rum, PM me if you like.
     
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  12. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    After rereading the OP, I realized something. We gave our opinions, which is important, but none of us really answered your question. I would say Birmingham Young University is definitely somewhere to check out.
     
  13. topeka sal
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    topeka sal Senior Member

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    funky, we cross-posted! :)
     
  14. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, he did say he wanted a degree for his resume so he could get work "outside of being a writer". And that's what I responded to.
     
  15. topeka sal
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    topeka sal Senior Member

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    Yes, I do understand that, Shadow. I'm sorry if my rant was too harsh. But I guess that's what rants are for. :redface:

    My point regarding the issue of employment was that most people who get arts degrees find jobs somehow/somewhere. I think what Rum is saying is that he knows a creative writing degree won't lead to some mythical writing job, just that many entry-level jobs do want to see that the candidate has a degree. As I said, many arts majors get jobs in other fields. I just wanted to point out that there are other reasons for choosing to do a particular degree. And that what seems a useless degree to some may be enlightening and rewarding for someone else.

    Anyway, I am sorry for the toe-stepping. I just didn't want Rum to feel that he was being dismissed or put down for seeking a CR degree.
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A degree on your resume had better be relevant to a paying job you'd be interested in applying for. Just any old degree won't cut it. A Creative Writing degree won't open many doors, but will cost you a pretty penny anyway.

    What career woiuld you choose if your writing career never takes off? You had better have something else to fall back on, and choose a degree program that open doors in that industry.
     
  17. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    What if they want a career in publishing, hmm? Or something creative which doesn't involve specific skills only learnt on a degree? You're so wrong, Dave. It opens up many doors providing you get yourself out there. I worked with an assistant editor for a massive publishing company - know what she studied? Fine art. I also worked in the rights departments, and you know what the girl I worked with studied? English.

    BA degrees show people that we're inspiring, creative go-getters if you use it the right way. It's not the specific degree that matters when people are employing you - it's the experience you got along the way. It's how far you pushed yourself and all the extra skills you acquired. In a world where everybody has a degree, a couple of letters on a certificate means diddly squat. You need to be more than your degree nowdays, and studying something with an impressive label won't make you any more capable of the job than someone else with a degree seemingly less relevant.

    Do what you love and make the best you can of it, is my advice. If you want to study creative writing, then go do it. Work placements and
    internships will get you that job, but the degree will get you the placements.

    p.s I study Creative and Media Writing at Middlesex University in the UK.
     
  18. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Degrees are filled with so much nonsense filler these days as it is that the entire "degree" is becoming a racket anyway. If somebody is set on getting a writing degree, they might as well go for it. If they aren't good at science, it's probably only as useless as most other degrees.
     
  19. Chad J Sanderson
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    Chad J Sanderson Member

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  20. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I should have made it clear I am talking about the United States. The situation is probably different in the UK. Someone seeking a job with a publishing firm in the US would probably need a degree in Business Administration or Marketing, rather than a degree in Creative Writing. In the US, a degree in Creative Writing would be a "fluff" degree, and would not keep a resume out of the "don't even bother" pile. A Creative Writing degree might help you become a teacher in a mid-sized college, but you'd also need a degree in Education on your resume to be considered.

    A degree in creative writing in the US is next to worthless.
     
  21. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    If I can't cut it as a writer I'd be happy being a CW teacher at some level.

    I'm also not sure why people knock creative writing classes as being useless. Sure, I agree you don't need one. But just like these forums are great for discussing issues you have, a class is a way to throw around ideas and try to understand the craft better. I'm not saying that they area necessary, or that by getting a degree means you're a good writer, but my whole point for my OP was whether or not anyone knew of a program that did have good writing classes.
     
  22. topeka sal
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    topeka sal Senior Member

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    Cog, you are just wrong on this one. I have great respect for your ideas, advice, and experience, but you've simply got this wrong.

    First, this:

    Ashleigh is absolutely right. And this is true not just in the UK but also the US. In fact, the UK is becoming perhaps more suspicious of degrees that don't translate directly into a job than the US. That is if you listen to the current government. Regardless, a degree in english or fine arts or theatre or CW is not considered "fluff" by everyone, nor is it the career death knell that Cog in particular is trying to paint it. Almost all of my friends and siblings took their first degrees in the arts and humanities and all are gainfully employed. True, many went on to do advanced degrees or teacher certification, but likewise people with BAs in the sciences often need to do post-graduate work to get the jobs they want.

    If everyone thought the same as you, Cog, there'd be no arts and humanities degrees and everyone would take business instead (I'm exaggerating... but you see this attitude more and more these days). And there's a glut of business graduates nowadays as well.

    Further, many entry level positions--even in publishing, btw--do ask simply for a degree in arts and humanities, not a specific field. As Ashleigh said, many employers recognize the so-called "transferable skills"--communication, writing, organization, critical thinking, etc--that a BA in the arts and humanities confers.

    True, A and H is not always the easiest road to take. My BA was in English/CW. A number of years later I did an MFA. I've taken all kinds of jobs over the years to pay the rent, including cleaner, bank teller, receptionist, secretary, among other things, but I've also held professional-level administrative posts and taught in universities. It can be a circuitous path; you don't just jump into a ready-made career, but so what? It's a choice many people are happy to make.

    I think these days there is an ideological divide about the purpose of higher education. I was raised to think of the BA as the time to study what you love, to delve deeper into the subject. Yes, I know that this may seem like something that only the privileged can afford to do, but that's not true either. Most of my friends studied on scholarships. I didn't pay a penny for my MFA.

    Then there are those (whose numbers seem to be rising) who think that the only purpose of education is job training, a position I find very sad. But, as I said, both positions have an ideological basis and are therefore very hard to argue about. I think my way; you think yours. I don't think we'll find much common ground, though I could be wrong.

    I will, however, caution you, Rum, on this. To teach CW at university level (or A and H college), you must have some success as a writer. You don't necessarily need to have a book out when you start, but you at least have to have stories or poetry published in high-profile markets, and for most positions an MFA as well.

    My advice would be to do an English degree, not a straight CW degree, but in a program where you can do a concentration in CW. I did my BA at Indiana University and had a very good balance between lit courses and writing courses.

    And, yes, as you said, Rum, and I repeated, your original question was "where" not "if". I think the best way to approach your search for a school is to look at the faculty and see if there are writers in a given school with whom you'd like to study. Then have a look at the program. Write to the program administrators for specific information about the course requirements and how much of your course can focus on CW. But choose a program where the literature courses also interest you. At Indiana, after taking the required survey courses, I was able to concentrate mainly on American 19th and 20th century poetry, which at the time was my main interest. I also took a course on children's literature, the 19th century novel, film, and many others. Indiana has a huge English department and therefore a wide array of choices. Perhaps a school with a large faculty would suit you?

    Consider also that taking more than one CW course a semester is pretty tough anyway. You run the risk of spreading yourself too thin. With any CW class, you get what you put into it.
     
  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    in the us, a bachelor's degree is pretty much only worth the paper it's printed on, unless it's in the field you're applying for jobs in and you can truthfully say you are 'working on' your master's...

    this is especially true in the publishing field, where most applicants will have master's degrees, so with your BA, you'd be at the bottom of the application pile...
     
  24. topeka sal
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    topeka sal Senior Member

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    For goodness sake, you need to get your BA first before you can get the masters. We're talking BA here! You can't assume that a person entering a BA will not make choices leading to further education. A lot of growth and exploration happens during the BA.

    I know from lots of experience, both mine and others that you can do all sorts of things with a BA (both in the US and UK). You chorus of nay-sayers really need to stop generalizing. Will the world be your oyster with just a BA in the arts? Probably not. As I said, it can be a struggle. But there are lots of choices after a BA. Rum isn't there yet. He just wants to study what he wants to study for his BA. Why do you people insist on discouraging him?? I think this is completely out of line. :( :confused:
     
  25. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with your advice as to determining where to go, TS; however, I do think it's worth mentioning about the worth of a BA. That's part of the decision-making process, knowing that for an education to be worthwhile over here, a higher degree is almost mandatory. And selecting where to go for one's BA also plays a factor on where one goes for the Masters - since it's usually better not to get them both at the same institution.
     
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