Our Masterpieces...Err, Our Novels

Monday, August 22, 2011

MFA = Mutha Bleepin' Awesome!!

Writing Song of the Day: "Lesson Learned" by Ray LaMontagne

Sorry we've been MIA this past week again. You see, Quita and I just "graduated" with our MFAs in creative writing. So why "graduate" and not graduate? Because even though we presented our theses and marched across the stage, we still have to defend our theses to a panel. Yikes. And that's an understatement.

There's been a lot of buzz lately over whether or not an MFA is really worth it. My lovely agent, Sarah LaPolla, recently wrote an awesome blog post that gives other suggestions in case you're not willing to shell out the dough for an MFA degree. Hmm, where was this list 2 years ago? But I digress...

Quita and I have been through so much with this program, but we wanted to narrow it down to the TOP 5 THINGS WE'VE LEARNED THROUGH MFA-DOM:


This program truly, TRULY taught us the importance of revision. As an undergraduate, my idea of revising was to change a verb to an action verb ("He STRODE to the door" is much better than "He walked to the door"). But I have to admit, submitting the first few chapters of Wants to my modules probably helped me nab my agent. I understood why it worked better in 1st person POV, and why the voices needed to be more distinctive.


There's an inside gag between Quita, Racquel, and me involving the movie, Karate Kid. It's all based on a critique I received from one of my classmates. At the time, I was highly insulted, but once I allowed his feedback to marinate, I understood what he meant: avoid cliches. There's no point of getting defensive during a group critique. Everyone's in the program to become better writers, not to bash your creative mojo.


At first, Quita and I thought we were SO misunderstood because only a handful of our classmates wrote YA. "They just don't get it," we'd cry out to each other, wiping our tears with Five Guys fries. But you know what? Good writing is good writing--it doesn't matter if you're writing a coming of age story, or about a 77-year-old widower reentering the dating scene. We were there to improve our craft. Period.


I've read a few books during the MFA program that I would have NEVER read on my own. Some of them I ended up loving, others I wanted to hurl out of a window. Overall, I loved the challenge. I've been reading so much YA lately, which I love--but I also enjoy trying new things. This is a habit I'll be sure to continue.


We've all heard that writing is solitary work, so I wasn't expecting to actually make friends with anyone in the program (plus, I had Quita. I guess she's my friend even though we're related). But I actually got a bit weepy on graduation night knowing it would be the last time I may actually see some of my classmates. What I loved most about my 10-day residencies was just talking books and writing to people that loved them as much as I do. I did make some lifelong friends, too--including our lovely adopted sis, Racquel, who we started Black Fox Literary Magazine with!

So yeah. The money was totally worth it to us--not to mention we'd love to someday get the opportunity to teach writing to others, and the MFA degree can aid in that (of course, you also need a solid publication history, but that's just logistics, darling).

Any of you in an MFA program or considering applying to one? What are you most looking forward to learn?


Carrie said...

It's cool to hear you got so much out of your MFA program. Good luck defending your theses and congratulations on graduating.

Alicia Gregoire said...

I keep talking to Hubby about an MFA. The thought of all those loans though just makes me twitch.

Racquel Henry said...

Great Post! I don't care how much money it cost me, it was well worth it. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything and I never would have met you girls (which would have been tragic!)

Ha ha to the Karate Kid. And to #2: ALMOST everyone (if you know what I mean!) LMAO. :)

Kate Scott said...

Congrats on "graduating". Good luck on your thesis defense, I know you'll rock it. Cause you're both total rock stars.

Emy Shin said...

Congratulations to both of you on graduating! And good luck with your theses defense!

Thanks for sharing all these things you've learned through MFA-dom with us. I love #3.

Megan said...

I am TOTALLY in the program to bash peoples' creative mojo. :)

So excited for you guys and was so glad I could see your presentations! You both rocked and I can't wait to read your stuff!

KO: The Insect Collector said...

You guys SO rock! What an amazing experience this has been for you! Can't wait to see all the awesomeness you accomplish as a result.

KO: The Insect Collector said...

You guys SO rock! What an amazing experience this has been for you! Can't wait to see all the awesomeness you accomplish as a result.

Ghenet Myrthil said...

Congrats!!! I have an MFA and think it was definitely worth the money. I don't think I'd be where I am today (in terms of writing)without it.

Your program sounds much more intense than mine was! (I was in the New School creative writing program in NYC) All we had to do to graduate was submit a creative thesis, a critical thesis and do a reading. We didn't have to defend anything. Good for you both for getting it all done!

Deirdra Eden-Coppel said...

You have a fabulous blog! I’m an author and illustrator and I made some awards to give to fellow bloggers whose sites I enjoy. It’s not a pass on award. This is just for you to keep. I want to award you with one of my homemade awards: Powerful Woman Writer Award for all the hard work you do! By the way, I'm your newest follower.

Go to http://astorybookworld.blogspot.com/p/awards.html and pick up your award.

Marquita Hockaday said...

Aw thanks so much for the award Deirdra :)

And thanks to all of you for wishing us well and congratulating us!!!

Sarah said...

Love this post! Sorry I couldn't help you earlier, Pam. My alternate title was "I spent $60K so you don't have to" :) But if you have the means, I HIGHLY recommend doing an MFA. All the cheat sheets in the world don't compare to the real thing.

@Ghenet - I also went to the New School. Their program was more laid back than others I think!