Suspend Your Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘MFA programs’

Shop Talk |

Defending the un-Status quo

In The Faster Times, Chloé Cooper Jones holds a discussion with her former fiction professor, Deb Olin Unferth, and Unferth’s former professor, George Saunders. The results: a rational, practical and, in the end, laudatory discussion of MFA programs – a counterpoint to the voices raised against the model. The piece, You Are Not the Only One Writing About Moldavian Zookeepers: George Saunders and Deb Olin Unferth Discuss the State of the Creative Writing Degree, left me feeling hopeful and refreshed – mostly because, as good writers can, Saunders and Unferth reminded me that the world is not made up of […]


Essays |

Quotes & Notes: The Writer as Apprentice

“Young writers should be encouraged to write, and discouraged from thinking they are writers. If they arrive at college with literary ambitions, they should be told that everything they have done since their first childhood poems, printed in the school paper, has been preparation for entering a long, long apprenticeship.” —Wallace Stegner, On Teaching and Writing Fiction


Shop Talk |

In Defense of MFA Programs

The more MFA programs spring up, the more people seem to look down on them—as if some kind of MFA-inflation and devaluation were taking place. Novelist Lev Raphael, however, recently wrote about why he found his MFA program valuable: I was at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst MFA program for two and a half years back when it was rated in the top ten, for whatever that’s worth. The workshops kept me writing and turning in stories, even when I wasn’t in the mood, a good lesson to learn for a writer like me who later ended up doing […]


Shop Talk |

Sweet and sociable lit mag, 5 years old, seeks loving home.

Literary magazines: is there a source of greater guilt for writers? We submit to them. We cross our fingers, make a small-animal sacrifice, and hope they’ll publish our work. But do we really read them? The Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) has launched a new program to encourage creative writing students to read literary magazines. From the program announcement: The Lit Mag Adoption Program for Creative Writing Students allows undergraduate and graduate creative writing professors to include literary magazines in their courses. Students receive discounted, 1-year subscriptions for selected literary magazines (professors receive a free “desk-copy” subscription). Each […]


Interviews |

Starting with Small Moments: An Interview with Andrew Porter

Polly Atwell talks with Andrew Porter about how crafting stories is like editing film, what particular advantages peripheral narrators can afford, and why it’s “completely surreal” to hear actors read from your work.


Shop Talk |

Big Think: Lionel Shriver on the "Unwholesome" Side of MFA Programs

Should you get an MFA? On Big Think, novelist Lionel Shriver discusses the downsides of attending an MFA program: [It] does have a kind of indulgent, middle-class gestalt. The grim truth is that most people who get MFAs will not go on to be professional writers and therefore when I’ve been on the other side of it and occasionally taught creative writing, I felt a little bit guilty because so many of the people that you should be encouraging, because there’s no point to it if you’re not encouraging, are not going to make it. And I think that’s true […]


Essays |

The Long Hard Slog: From the 2010 AWP Panel “From MFA Thesis to First Novel”

“When I was asked whether I’d be interested in taking part in a panel on turning the MFA thesis into a first book, I said yes right away, but I wasn’t sure what I could contribute. In fact, I felt like a bit of a fraud because my journey from the thesis to the published book was so long and roundabout. But I’ve convinced myself that this is part of what makes my story worth telling here, because long and roundabout might be just as common as quick and straightforward, and my particular kind of roundabout experience makes me feel emboldened to give certain bits of advice.”


Shop Talk |

Should You Get an MFA in Creative Writing?

Are you currently weighing the benefits of an MFA? If you heard Michael Chabon’s take on MFA programs in his amazing AWP keynote, you’re probably hitchhiking to UC Irvine, a typewriter strapped to your heart — but even so, you might be wrestling with important questions like these: Will an advanced degree help you with your particular goals as a writer — and if so, when is the right time to go? How important is full or partial funding? What about opportunities to teach or work on a journal? What are program directors and committees looking for in MFA students, […]


Interviews |

Creative Writing and the University: an Interview with Mark McGurl

McGurl, a professor of English at UCLA, is a literary scholar who actually likes writers. More amazingly, he likes MFA programs. In The Program Era, published by Harvard University Press, McGurl argues that the rise of the MFA program in the twentieth century made a uniquely significant contribution to the excellence of postwar American literature.


Shop Talk |

P&W: Top 50 creative writing programs, and a conversation with Jonathan Karp

The numbers are in…and the top 50 creative writing MFA programs are ranked in the new issue of Poets & Writers. Here’s an excerpt from the accompanying article by Seth Abramson, who compiled the list based on extensive research. (Note: The full article is available only in the print edition.) Abramson admits the difficulties of quantifying and comparing MFA program experiences: [T]he evils of educational rankings are indeed legion and do urge caution on the part of any prospective analyst of MFA programs. At base it is impossible to quantify or predict the experience any one MFA candidate will have […]




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