Saturday, January 23, 2010

If you applied to MFAs ...

If you applied to MFA programs this cycle, really the last thing you should be doing is trolling the internet for anything remotely MFA related in the months of January/February. It's a surefire way of making yourself loco and/or paranoid.

That said, every where I go I find bloggers and the like chatting about MFA applicants and the value of such an education. And, for some reason that escapes me, I read every article I come across that debates the MFA education/experience. It's not like I'm going to change my mind about my degree halfway through it, and yet, I read.

[it could be said that I'm reading b/c I'm still entertaining myriad PhD notions and non-notions, but that's probably more logical than truthful]

If you are an applicant and read any of the following links then read this one. The blogger on Ward Six is probably the most grounded, least fear- and apprehension-mongering of all of those discussing the subject (after my humble self, of course).

Then you get Alexander Chee writing about When to get your MFA. Or not. In parts one, and two, and three (which you might want to keep this link handy, because Chee forgot to link it himself) we mill around thoughtfully and take away that a degree program if nothing else is perhaps a chance to "Spend two years finding out whether or not your writing is any good rather than 20 years wondering.” Chee's posts are of his personal story and include his reasons, his thoughts, his circumstances and -- surprisingly -- the morals of the story. Perhaps I was reading this too late at night, but I really liked that he just straight up told us the "morals" of his story. It's after 1 AM, my grad student brain has switched off for the evening as it prefers to save power for more noble pursuits like figuring out how I can graduate without having to read (any more) Faulkner.

To get around to the absolute worst thoughts on MFA programs in print or on the web you have Poets & Writer's December 2009 MFA program rankings. Seth Abramson is attempting to make money by doing for writing programs what the LSAC did for law school: make everyone neurotic and obsessed with "prestige." (Abramson even has a "consulting" business that will, for a steep fee, give editing advice on your MFA application to those who refuse Chee's sage advice and jump to apply too soon.)

The rankings -- which I refuse even to link to -- are based on surveys of applicants to MFA programs. By definition this means that the people ranking the programs are no more educated about the realities of the programs than anyone else beginning graduate studies. They do not have writing degrees, or writing careers; they do not teach; they most likely have not published; they have no experience to draw from only research, reputation and rumor. The AWP has a letter of response posted here. Writing is a subjective art and you should be more concerned with who your subjective teachers will be and whether or not you can afford to relocate out of state than with a rumor-mill driven numeric ranking.

Highly Recommended