5 for Friday: Why You Should Consider Getting an MFA

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Should
I get an MFA?
People ask me this all the time. It’s a completely
personal decision, one that many writers find difficult to make. Personally, I
couldn’t think of anything better than spending two years doing nothing but
reading and writing (and yes, ok, working most days). I was hungry for the
experience. There are sacrifices of course, but the reason I finally decided to
take the leap was this: I wanted to give myself permission to take my writing
seriously.

I asked a few people what advice they would give to people
who are thinking about pursuing this degree. And so here are 3 MFA graduates
and 2 professors’ reasons why you may want to consider taking the leap
yourself:

***

"An MFA is an excellent way to network with aspiring
authors as serious about their craft as you are. Make contacts, start a writing
group, and cheer each other on to publishing success!"

-Siobhan Vivian, Author of three YA
novels including Same Difference&
MFA in Creative Writing Graduate

“Students
who go into an MFA with a project in mind and some experience already can
really benefit from learning craft. One can teach oneself by reading, but to
make the same discoveries and hone techniques in an atmosphere of comradeship
may provide support for lonely days. It's helpful to learn how to hear truly
helpful comments and to disregard less carefully considered remarks--the likes
of which may appear on an Amazon book page or a review down the road. Ideally,
an MFA program can offer a writer enough affirmation and push back to firm up
her aesthetic philosophy.”

-Alice Elliott Dark, Author of The New York Times Notable Book In the Gloaming& Writer in Residence
at Rutgers-Newark University

“When I got my Ed.M. in education,
it was the first time I was with the same group of 20 other students with a
common interest, taking three classes per semester together, forming bonds,
being led by great professors, going through student teaching together,
commiserating, sharing, helping each other become the professionals we wanted
to be. We still keep in touch for professional and personal
reasons. I always wanted to be a writer and I wanted that kind of
experience for my writing life. So I wanted to get an MFA to 1) 
become a better writer in general, 2) be led by professors who could use their
experience to help me improve and critique my work, and 3) form a community of
like minded people. I think I've gained as much from my interactions with
faculty and peers outside of class as I have officially in class.

On a practical note, I came into the
MFA believing that it alone could not give me a leg up in any way; its benefit
would all be in my experience. Now I realize that having the MFA gives
you a credibility that might make an agent to take a risk on you as a new
writer, could give you a leg up in terms of fellowship applications, not to
mention writing jobs.”

-Jessica Rosevear, Writer, teacher, blogger, & 2010 MFA in Creative
Writing Graduate

“I think two years spent
working for an MFA in Creative Writing will refine any student's
sensitivity not just to fiction but to writing in general. By paying close
attention to others' prose, and having them do the same for our own, we
become better able to identify those qualities in writing which make it a
pleasure to read. I'm talking here about clarity, directness, simplicity, wit,
elegance and originality. As we learn to recognize these and other attributes
of good writing, we acquire taste. We may not emerge ready to embark on a
career in fiction, but we should at least be in possession of a good eye
and a clear style. That's worth two years' work.”

-Patrick McGrath, Author of seven novels, including Asylum (2006) and Trauma (2008) & writing professor at The New School University

“Look,
I don't think an MFA is going to build my career--sadly, that work is
mine to do--but it absolutely changed the way I read and improved the way
I write. When I read now, I read as a writer. I still read for the
story, but now I can see the architecture beneath the writing. I still
write for the story, too, but I have a much better understanding of what will
produce that final "ahhhhhhhh" of satisfaction from my reader. 
Is an MFA worth that? To me it was.”

-Sherri Phillips,
Writer & 2010 MFA in Creative Writing Graduate

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