Friday, October 14, 2011

Professional Development for Writers: Benefits of MFA Programs

An MFA (Masters in Fine Arts) will not guarantee that you’ll become a published author or even guarantee a teaching position, but it certainly helps.

So what are the benefits?

~Many MFA programs around the United States often combine the study of literature with the teaching of craft, giving students enrolled in the program a well-rounded education.

~With several classes a quarter, it assures deadlines that we need as writers. It becomes the motivator to finish your novel or screenplay or short story collection in the two years it often takes to complete the program. It teaches writers how to make and keep deadlines.

~You will gain many critique partners. Often times, students write a variety of genres, which can allow you to find out if your writing is wide reaching or not.

~All of the professors are published (most through huge publishing houses like Random House, Henry Holt, Scholastic, Delacorte Press, Red Hen Press, etc) and have been in our shoes at one point and time. The first thing they will tell you in class is if you can’t handle rejection that you’re in the wrong field, but if you have a passion for writing and can stick it out, something amazing might happen down the line.

For those of you who are considering an MFA program, I would recommend it. Personally, that is where I really learned to hone my writing and to think about feelings and emotions. I could write analytical papers no problem. Give me a 20 page paper on Egyptian women and their households and I could turn that around quickly. Understand that evidence on Egyptian women was often burned so this took awhile to figure out, and yet I could do this faster than delving into a character’s emotion or mind. It took a master’s program to force that out of me. I had to imagine myself in their shoes. I found myself getting upset at the murder of a father or sad at the desperation in a character who just wanted to find out who she really was. It opened up a side of me I never knew I had.

Everyone has a story in them and sometimes going through an MFA program helps you find that out. It helped me. MFA programs are often broken down into Low Residency and traditional programs. I’ll explain the two and the differences/similarities next month. Till then, keep pushing forward, and write, write, write some more!
Today's post was written by Monthly Muser, Heather Riccio. Thanks Heather!

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