They’re The Friendliest Folks You Know

June 24th, 2005 · 1 Comment
by Booksquare

We know many fine products of MFA programs. They are good writers with kind souls. Yesterday, we talked about the benefits of writing workshops. Like anything that’s good — potato chips, lo mein — a little workshopping is excellent. Full-time immersion can be destructive.

Elizabeth Clementson talks about her experiences in a MFA program. While we can all chuckle knowingly as she describes naive young ‘uns who see this final step in their education as the precursor to fame and fortune (not necessarily in that order, what with the way advances work), we can also see that repaying student loans requires a few compromises.

Since the University of Iowa started the first MFA program in 1936, more than 250 programs certified by the Association of Writers & Writing Programs have sprung up. With tuition costing as much as $70,000 for a two–year program, the schools have every reason to foster the attitude that students can pay off their big–time debt with their forthcoming book deal. In turn, the big publishing world relies on MFA programs to produce “accredited” writers. Desperate for literary plot lines that will sell, editors are on an eternal quest to find the next big young thing. This is big business and like any corporate job, editors are pushed for time and pressured to find books that sell. Just like authors, they too are judged on their book’s sales figures.

One of our fellow students sent a revised draft of her first novel to the class for critiquing. In her introductory comments, she noted that she’d taken our words to heart and, we suspect, not entirely in jest, said that if we didn’t like her new direction, we had only ourselves to blame.

We liked the second draft very much.

File Under: Square Pegs

1 response so far ↓

  • Mary Stella // Jun 25, 2005 at 7:00 am

    Since I was so busy partying in college, and doodling short stories and really poor poetry outside of class, my grade point average at graduation wasn’t the highest. Yes, I earned my B.A. in English, but I could have done better — not that it’s hurt me the least professionally. There are times when I think about returning to school for a Masters – perhaps as a form of self-atonement. Right now I don’t have time. I’m busy writing books for publication. *g*