From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Friday, April 8, 2011

G is for Graduate School

To MFA or not to MFA. That is a good question. There is so much "advice" out there about this, its hard to wade through. I've sort of always leaned towards getting an MFA for myself, and still plan on it, but the research has shown me that MFA's are definitely not the answer to everything. Going in or staying out with eyes open is the important thing, I think.

What I plan on getting from an MFA program:
Time and guidance towards improving my writing.
Fellow students and new friends who understand about this whole wanting to be a writer thing.
Networking with professors and perhaps agents and editors who can provide artistic and professional help for the rest of my career.
A final product I can be proud of. (Hopefully)

What I do NOT plan on getting from an MFA program:
A job.
Lessons in marketing and the modern publishing industry.
Immediate acclaim and mass popularity, though that would be nice.

What I plan on doing for myself:
Putting time and study towards improving my writing.
Reading as much as I can, both critically acclaimed and popular, to learn.
Networking with other writers, agents, editors and potential mentors whether inside of academia or out.
Working until I have a final product I am proud of. A published final product.
Getting any kind of job that will support my writing habit for as long as it takes.
Reading blogs and doing other research to teach myself about marketing and todays publishing industry.
Praying for acclaim and popularity.

My point with this last list is to show that an MFA is not necessary, particularly if you are willing to put in the necessary work yourself anyway. I believe an MFA can give you a quick boost with certain things, which is why getting one interests me, but perhaps more importantly, I plan to supplement whatever I get from an MFA on my own time, plus working to fill in as much as I can wherever an MFA is lacking. I guess the whole point is, your success is up to you and the work you put in.

What are your thoughts about this? Do you think an MFA is worth it? Do any of you with MFA experience have any advice you'd be willing to share?

Sarah Allen


  1. Do what you feel is right and don't listen to anyone else. Thats all I got to say. I don't even know what a MFA is :)

  2. Do it! You have realistic expectations of it so I say go for it!

    P.S. please email me your snail mail address so I can send you your totebag from my blog giveaway.
    maddy56 at ufl dot edu

  3. Siv Maria has it right - do what is right for you. But listen to your self too - it isn't REQUIRED, and it's not a sign of true talent to have are already a great writer. But it also won't hurt!!

  4. It is always best to do what is right for you. I think you have a clear idea of what you want out of it. That is the most important part. Good luck!

  5. Wow!!! I am not from MFA ...

    but you seem to have cool amount of notes on what to expect and what not to expect from MFA

    good good

    with warm regards

  6. Thank you all for your support and confidence :) It helps to make up for where I lack confidence in myself and my own decisions. Thanks!


  7. I think you sound like you have what you want to do figured out. Kudos and good luck!

  8. I have an MFA and it was totally worth it for me. It helped jumpstart my writing "career". (I put that in quotes because I don't write full-time yet.) The structure and networking is what I loved the most. I started the novel that I'm currently finishing, and I don't know if I could have gotten to this point without my MFA program.

    In terms of learning about the craft of writing, you don't need an MFA for that. There are so many free resources like blogs. But there are other benefits to getting an MFA so if you're interested in it, I say go for it!

  9. Hey Sarah,

    I stumbled across your blog by perusing the MFA Blog, and I found your writing here so engaging that I read as far back as this entry.

    For what it's worth, speaking as a fellow writer (or fledgling writer), I think you should apply to MFAs. Simply put, if you have a passionate desire to write, an MFA is for you. The application process is demanding, but I have a feeling, based on the content I see here, that you'll get into places. I will say, though, that if you're thinking of applying, I'd suggest starting the program research/sample-refining process right away; at around this time last year, I began working on my own sample, and was working on that sample up until the deadlines.

    I ended up getting into some programs this year and am doing the MFA thing starting fall. If I can help you with anything, shoot me an email at sheeriohs@ gmail.



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