Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Some Thoughts About MFA Programs

Remember when I went to Florida and I planned to blog every day I was there? I even took readers questions so I could answer some during my days in Florida.

Now, remember when I had an epic fail and hardly blogged at all?

Well, I'm pulling out those questions and tackling a few.

Allison, a fellow MFA student blogger, asked me about my thoughts on MFA programs. If you don't know, I started a MFA program at Cleveland State University last winter as a fiction writer. I'm only taking one or two classes a semester, because it's my second master's degree (my first is a MEd in English from Boston University) and I'm teaching full time. I know I won't finish the program in the typical three years, but I'm so glad that I started it.

My favorite part of the MFA program is the community of writers I've come into contact with. I've been moving through the program with many of the same writers, and as we get to learn about each other's writing styles, we're able to offer feedback and advice that helps improve our writing. These are people that I have exchanged papers with during class and have met in informal critique groups outside of class. Many of these people have helped me along the way with getting my novel published, and I have gained some valuable writing partners. The work can sometimes get overwhelming (and this is only when taking a class or two), but I know that for all the time I'm putting in to critique someone else's piece, I'll also get the same back on my paper.

My program has given me a more structured writing routine. I'm constantly thinking about my writing. I am always producing something new. I look at published authors and generate ideas through conversations. I don't find a lot of moments where I have writer's block anymore, because I'm so stimulated by the people around me. I'm challenged by my those in my program and I love when we are able to take a piece of writing and bounce ideas around with each other. We may not always be talking about my piece, but by coming up with solutions to other writer's problems, I'm able to come up with some to my own.

I also love the opportunities to network with other writers. I've attended workshops, conferences and readings and learned from writers both published and still getting closer to the same goals I'm stretching towards. I've learned from their processes and there are many people I have met that I still stay in contact with. It seems like after starting my MFA program, I now have someone I can turn to for any type of writing advice that I need.

In NO WAY do I believe you need to be in a MFA program to be a great writer or publish (in fact, I wrote my book that's on submission before I even started this program). There are also many other ways to reach out to fellow writers (and I can speak on that in future posts), but I think the MFA program I'm in is perfect for me. It kicks my butt at time, but in a good way. It keeps me writing and my ideas flowing. Who can ask for something better than that!?

What about you? What are your thoughts on MFA programs? Or writing groups in general?

Also...Don't forget to enter my query/manuscript critique contest...you have until Wenesay night to enter. Click here for details: Super Cool Contest


Matthew Rush said...

Wow, that sounds like a great experience, good for you Rachele.

Personally I would love to have the time and money to attend an MFA program, but I should probably finish my bachelor's first.

Thanks so much for sharing your query last Friday I think it went really well!

JustineDell said...

It's good that you found a program you love.

I've got a Bachelors in Business Management and I'm currently going through a MBA program, but I hate every second of it. I want to do a MFA program only because I know it will make me a better writer AND I would actually enjoy it. But, the programs around here are full-time during the day type classes. I'm a working mother, so I can't do that.

Guess I'll just suffer with my MBA. LoL. ;-)

Good Post!


Lisa Nowak said...

That sounds fantastic. I have a great writing community, but there's no focus on forcing ourselves to produce work and polish it.

Kristan said...

"I don't find a lot of moments where I have writer's block anymore, because I'm so stimulated by the people around me."

That was my favorite thing about being a school setting. I find that a work setting is not the same at all.

Personally, I'm still unsure of getting an MFA or not. Part of me wants to go and get an "elite" one just to prove that I can; part of me would rather get published (and famous!) without one and then not have to worry about it ever. Still another part of me might want to teach someday, in which case an MFA is almost always required. So... yeah. Not sure yet. But I'm glad to hear you're enjoying your experience!

Shannon said...

While I would love to go back to school for my MFA, it's on the back burner for now...just not enough hours in the day or enough pennies in the wallet. :)

I loved being in school. I often say that I feel I am getting dumber the further I get from the day I earned my B.A.

As far as writing groups, I think they're fantastic. No one understands a writer better than another writer. The support and camaraderie are invaluable!

Erin B said...

Ah - is it too late to ask a question?

I would LOVE to do a MFA - but I work fulltime. Is this MFA program on campus? Part on-line? Evenings? Weekends?

allysonkate said...

I came to college last fall intending to major in creative writing, but now I've decided to head in another direction. I still want to explore my opinions though, it's nice to hear good reviews about an MFA program!

Lisa and Laura said...

Wow, I've always wondered what it was like to be an MFA student. Thanks for sharing all of this Rachel!