Sunday, August 12, 2012


One of my critique partners just returned from her first two weeks of a low-residency Creative Writing MFA program. She’s studying YA writing specifically and raved about how her first taste of life in the program was the most incredible experience I've ever had, period.”

For years, I’ve flipped back and forth concerning the idea of getting my MFA in creative writing. I’ve always talked myself out of it by saying, “Well, I don’t really want to teach. I just want to write, and people who get their MFAs in creative writing want to teach creative writing.”

Of course, then my friend fresh out of her first residency stint says that most people in her program are published authors who just want to get better at their craft. Some teach, but many don’t care to.

So there goes that theory, and there goes the rumbling of my indecision again. 

I mean, there are perks that come with the MFA route – being able to sink deeply into the craft of writing; being surrounded by people as passionate about writing as myself; having the unending support of extremely knowledgeable faculty; furthering my contacts in the publishing world. And if I ever did want to teach, well, I’ll have that diploma.

Still, can I get much of that from other sources? There are a slew of online courses that focus on writing the YA novel or one aspect of writing. Conferences and workshops offer contact with publishing insiders. My various critique groups give me encouragement and keep me accountable and on a production schedule. But, most importantly, as writer Stephanie Vanderslice wrote recently while weighing the pros and cons of MFA work, “An MFA Program cannot…lead directly to a cushy job teaching creative writing or to a wildly successful publishing career a la Stephen King or Chuck Palahniuk (neither of whom attended one, anyway).”* Which means even with an MFA, I still have to do the legwork – write, revise, submit, hope.

So I go round and round. One day, I may take the plunge and head back to school for that creative writing Master’s, but until then, I’ll enviously soak in every detail my friend throws my way of her thrilling, mind-blowing time on campus, and, when I see her bleary-eyed from staying up until 3 a.m. to finish her homework, I’ll be briefly thankful for my current non-MFA path.

How many of you have gotten your creative writing MFA or have considered it? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

*Vanderslice, Stephanie, So You Want to Get an MFA?: An Open Letter to My Students


Kristin Lenz said...

I've gone back and forth thinking about it, too. In fact, my next post was going to be about this! Thanks for sharing, Heather!

Britta Kirk said...

Really wonderful post, Heather! I, myself, got an MA from a university in Wales (I'm from NY), and I'll say that where there are great sides to it, there are also perks to just jumping out there. You can gather up a bunch of your closest writer friends, have regular workshops, and unless you want to teach, it will have the same effect on your writing. Especially if you want to write YA or genre specific. What is beneficial is to read constantly, write constantly, and to learn from critique and revision, all of which can be done without the humongous loan debt! I do, however, recommend going to London as soon as you can! ;-)

<3 Britta