Jane Friedman

3 Myths About the MFA in Creative Writing

writing classroom

Today’s guest post is an excerpt from DIY MFA by Gabriela Pereira ( @DIYMFA ), just released from Writer’s Digest Books.

Most writers want an MFA for one of three reasons: They want to teach writing, they want to get published, or they want to make room in their life for writing. It turns out these reasons for doing an MFA are actually based on myths.

Myth 1: You Need an MFA to Teach Writing

Many writers get the MFA because they think it will allow them to teach writing at the college or graduate level. Once upon a time this might have been the case, but these days so many MFA graduates are looking for jobs and so few teaching positions exist, that it’s a challenge to get a teaching job with a PhD, much less with a terminal master’s degree. The writers who do manage to snag a coveted teaching position are often so overwhelmed with their responsibilities that they have to put their own writing on the back burner. While in the past an MFA may have served as a steppingstone to becoming a professor, it’s not the case anymore.

More important, many teachers in MFA programs do not have that degree themselves. Some professors are successful authors with prominent careers, while others are publishing professionals who bring the industry perspective to the courses they teach. This goes to show that the MFA has little impact on a writer’s ability to teach writing. Being a successful author or publishing professional is much more important.

Myth 2: The MFA Is a Shortcut to Getting Published

No agent will sign you and no editor will publish your book based on a credential alone. You have to write something beautiful. If you attend an MFA program and work hard, you will become a better writer. And if you become a better writer, you will eventually write a beautiful book. An MFA might help you on your quest for publication, but it’s certainly not required. After all, many writers perfect their craft and produce great books without ever getting a degree.

Ultimately getting published is a matter of putting your backside in the chair and writing the best book possible. For that, you don’t need an MFA.

Myth 3: An MFA Program Will Force You to Make Writing a Priority

If you can find time to write only by putting your life on hold and plunging into a graduate program, then your writing career isn’t going to last very long. Only a small percentage of writers can support themselves and their loved ones through writing alone. This means you must find a balance between your writing and the rest of your life.

Even within your writing career, you must become a master juggler. Forget that glamorous image of the secluded writer working at his typewriter. These days, writing is only a small piece of the writer’s job. In addition to writing, you must promote your books, manage your online presence, update your social media … and likely schedule these tasks around a day job, a family, and other responsibilities.

The danger with MFA programs is that they train you to write in isolation but don’t always teach you how to fit writing into your real life, or even how to juggle writing with all the other aspects of your writing career. Not only that, but external motivators like class assignments or thesis deadlines don’t teach you to pace yourself and build up the internal motivation you need to succeed in the long-term.

Genre Writing in MFA Programs

Most MFA programs focus on literary fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. While these are noble areas of literature, they cover only a tiny slice of the wide and diverse world of writing. Heaven forbid a writer in a traditional MFA program produces something commercial—or worse, genre fiction. While a handful of MFA programs allow writers to study genre fiction or children’s literature, the majority still focus on literary work alone. If you want to write genre fiction, commercial nonfiction, or children’s books, you likely will not learn much about them in your MFA courses.

Writers of genre and commercial fiction are among the most dedicated, driven writers I know. They take their craft seriously and work hard to understand the business side of the publishing industry. In addition, a vast number of associations, conferences, and guilds are dedicated to specific genres or commercial writing. Literary writers are not the only ones who crave knowledge and community. Commercial and genre writers want it, too.

This is why I created DIY MFA : to offer an alternative for writers who do not fit the strict literary mold of the traditional MFA system.

Should You Pursue an MFA?

MFA programs are not a bad thing. In fact, they are exceptional at serving a small and very specific group of writers. If you write literary fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry, and if you thrive in a formal academic environment, then the traditional MFA is a great option. If you can afford the tuition without taking out loans, and if you have the time to make the most of the experience, then you are one of those ideal candidates for graduate school.

One reason I am extremely grateful for my own MFA is that it gave me the opportunity to work with several phenomenal teachers. I studied YA and middle-grade literature with the brilliant David Levithan. The legendary Hettie Jones was my first workshop teacher. I worked closely with Abrams publisher Susan Van Metre, who served as my thesis advisor and mentor. These experiences were invaluable, and at the time I didn’t think I could make connections with such literary luminaries any other way. Now I know, however, that you can make connections and find great mentors without attending an MFA program.

The “Do It Yourself” MFA

As an MFA student, I discovered the magic equation that sums up just about every traditional MFA. The Master in Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing is nothing more than a lot of writing, reading, and building community. In the workshops, you exchange critiques with other writers and work toward a manuscript that becomes your thesis project. Most programs also require you to take literature courses both in and outside your chosen area of literature. Finally, you are asked to attend readings or talks by other writers—to build your personal writing community. To create a personalized, do-it-yourself MFA, you have to find a way to combine these three elements.

Write with focus. You have to commit to a project and finish it. In traditional MFA terms, this project is your thesis, and it’s a crucial part of your development as a writer. But you don’t need to complete a thesis to get this experience; you just need to finish and polish a manuscript. While you can feel free to play and explore early on, you must eventually choose a project and see it through from beginning to end. When you write with focus, you write with a goal in mind.

Read with purpose.  This means reading with a writer’s eye. If you’re like me, you were a bookworm long before you could hold a pencil in your hand. Writers love books. In fact, many of us become writers so we can create the very books we love to read.

Reading for pleasure is wonderful, and it certainly has its place. Reading with purpose is different: It is reading in a way that serves our writing. It’s not just about finding out what happens in the story; it’s about learning how the author pulls it off. Reading this way isn’t just an intellectual exercise. When we read with purpose, we examine how an author crafts a story so we can emulate those techniques in our own work.

Build your community.  In the traditional MFA, building a community happens organically. You meet fellow writers in your workshops and literature courses. You go to readings and conferences to connect with authors. You attend a publishing panel and learn about the industry. The community element is baked into the MFA experience.


To learn more about crafting your own customized MFA experience, sign up for the DIY MFA newsletter , and check out the new book, DIY MFA .

Gabriela Pereira

Gabriela Pereira is the Creative Director at DIY MFA , the do-it-yourself alternative to a master’s degree in writing. She develops tools and techniques for the serious writer, to help you get the knowledge without the college. With an MFA in creative writing, Gabriela is also a freelance writing teacher, and has led workshops throughout New York City via writing programs like: 826NYC, East Harlem Tutorial Program and Everybody Wins. When she’s not working on DIY MFA, she loves writing middle grade and teen fiction, with a few short stories for “grown-ups” thrown in for good measure.


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[…] Today’s guest post is an excerpt from DIY MFA by Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA), just released from Writer’s Digest Books. Most writers want an MFA for one of three reasons: They want to teach writing, they want to get published, or they want to make room in their life for writing. It turns out these reasons …  […]


I find screenwriting programs to be more honest with respect to story telling.


So true, I did a screen writing module in my degree. It was easy, fun and clear to write a script. So weird!


THANK YOU! I needed this. I occasionally doubt myself and my future success possibilities because of my lack of an MFA. I’ve been gradually letting that notion go, and this helps!

Also, I’m not interested in social media with exception of using Twitter as a news aggregator. From my perspective it’s an unwanted hassle. I write fiction and have neither the time nor inclination for blog posts or podcasts, but I do understand the nature of the disadvantage this might impose. And I think reality reliably informs us a social media presence is not necessarily mandatory to find success.

[…] view post at https://janefriedman.com/mfa-creative-writing-3-myths/ […]

[…] 3 Myths About the MFA in Creative Writing (Jane Friedman) Most writers want an MFA for one of three reasons: They want to teach writing, they want to get published, or they want to make room in their life for writing. It turns out these reasons for doing an MFA are actually based on myths. […]

[…] to the rest at Jane Friedman and thanks to Matthew for the […]

[…] the program could help build contacts, at the very least. Here is an article by Jane Friedman with 3 Myths About the MFA in Creative Writing to help answer some of the […]

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The Best 15 Creative Writing MFA Programs in 2023

April 7, 2023

mfa creative writing programs

Whether you studied at a top creative writing university , or are a high school dropout who will one day become a bestselling author , you may be considering an MFA in Creative Writing. But is a writing MFA genuinely worth the time and potential costs? How do you know which program will best nurture your writing? This article walks you through the considerations for an MFA program, as well as the best Creative Writing MFA programs in the United States.

First of all, what is an MFA?

A Master of Fine Arts (MFA) is a graduate degree that usually takes from two to three years to complete. Applications require a sample portfolio for entry, usually of 10-20 pages of your best writing.

What actually goes on in a creative writing MFA beyond inspiring award-winning books and internet memes ? You enroll in workshops where you get feedback on your creative writing from your peers and a faculty member. You enroll in seminars where you get a foundation of theory and techniques. Then you finish the degree with a thesis project.

Reasons to Get an MFA in Creative Writing

You don’t need an MFA to be a writer. Just look at Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison or bestselling novelist Emily St. John Mandel.

Nonetheless, there are plenty of reasons you might still want to get a creative writing MFA. The first is, unfortunately, prestige. An MFA from a top program can help you stand out in a notoriously competitive industry to be published.

The second reason: time. Many MFA programs give you protected writing time, deadlines, and maybe even a (dainty) salary.

Third, an MFA in Creative Writing is a terminal degree. This means that this degree allows you to teach writing at the university level, especially after you publish a book.

But above all, the biggest reason to pursue an MFA is the community it brings you. You get to meet other writers, and share feedback, advice, and moral support, in relationships that can last for decades.

Types of Creative Writing MFA Programs

Here are the different types of programs to consider, depending on your needs:

Fully-Funded Full-Time Programs

These programs offer full-tuition scholarships and sweeten the deal by actually paying you to attend them.

  • Pros: You’re paid to write (and teach).
  • Cons: Uprooting your entire life to move somewhere possibly very cold.

Full-Time MFA Programs

These programs include attending in-person classes and paying tuition (though many offer need-based and merit scholarships).

  • Pros: Lots of top-notch programs non-funded programs have more assets to attract world-class faculty and guests.
  • Cons: It’s an investment that might not pay itself back.

Low-Residency MFA Programs

Low-residency programs usually meet biannually for short sessions. They also offer one-on-one support throughout the year. These MFAs are more independent, preparing you for what the writing life is actually like.

  • Pros: No major life changes required. Cons: Less time dedicated to writing and less time to build relationships.

Online MFA Programs

Held 100% online. These programs have high acceptance rates and no residency requirement. That means zero travel or moving expenses.

  • Pros: No major life changes required.
  • Cons: These MFAs have less name-recognition

The Top 15 Creative Writing MFA Programs Ranked by Category

The following programs are selected for their balance of high funding, impressive return on investment, stellar faculty, major journal publications , and impressive alums.

Fully Funded MFA Programs

1) johns hopkins university, mfa in fiction/poetry (baltimore, md).

This is a two-year program, with $33,000 teaching fellowships per year. This MFA offers the most generous funding package. Not to mention, it offers that sweet, sweet health insurance, mind-boggling faculty, and a guaranteed lecture position after graduation (nice). No nonfiction MFA (boo).

  • Incoming class size: 8 students
  • Admissions rate: 11.1%
  • Alumni: Chimamanda Adiche, Jeffrey Blitz, Wes Craven, Louise Erdrich, Porochista Khakpour, Phillis Levin, ZZ Packer, Tom Sleigh, Elizabeth Spires, Rosanna Warren

2) University of Texas, James Michener Center (Austin, TX)

A fully-funded 3-year program with a generous stipend of $29,500. The program offers fiction, poetry, playwriting and screenwriting. The Michener Center is also unique because you study a primary genre and a secondary genre, and also get $3,000 for the summer.

  • Incoming class size : 12 students
  • Acceptance rate: a bone-chilling less-than-1% in fiction; 2-3% in other genres
  •   Alumni: Fiona McFarlane, Brian McGreevy, Karan Mahajan, Alix Ohlin, Kevin Powers, Lara Prescott, Roger Reeves, Maria Reva, Domenica Ruta, Sam Sax, Joseph Skibell, Dominic Smith

3) University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA)

The Iowa Writers’ Workshop is a 2-year program on a residency model for fiction and poetry. This means there are low requirements, and lots of time to write groundbreaking novels or play pool at the local bar. Most students are funded, with fellowships worth up to $21,000. The Translation MFA, co-founded by Gayatri Chakravorti Spivak, is also two years, but with more intensive coursework. The Nonfiction Writing Program is a prestigious three-year MFA program and is also intensive.

  • Incoming class size: 25 each for poetry and fiction; 10-12 for nonfiction and translation.
  • Acceptance rate: 3.7%
  • Fantastic Alumni: Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Connor, Sandra Cisneros, Joy Harjo, Garth Greenwell, Kiley Reid, Brandon Taylor, Eula Biss, Yiyun Li, Jennifer Croft

4) University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)

Anne Carson famously lives in Ann Arbor, as do the MFA students U-Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program. This is a big university town, which is less damaging to your social life. Plus, there’s lots to do when you have a $23,000 stipend, summer funding, and health care.

This is a 2-3-year program, with an impressive reputation. They also have a demonstrated commitment to “ push back against the darkness of intolerance and injustice ” and have outreach programs in the community.

  • Incoming class size: 18
  • Acceptance rate: 4% (which maybe seems high after less-than-1%)
  • Alumni: Brit Bennett, Vievee Francis, Airea D. Matthews, Celeste Ng, Chigozie Obioma, Jia Tolentino, Jesmyn Ward

5) Brown University (Providence, RI)

Brown offers an edgy, well-funded program in a place that doesn’t dip into arctic temperatures. Students are all fully-funded for 2-3 years with $29,926 in 2021-22. Students also get summer funding and—you guessed it—that sweet, sweet health insurance.

In the Brown Literary Arts MFA, students take only one workshop and one elective per semester. It’s also the only program in the country to feature a Digital/Cross Disciplinary Track.

  • Incoming class size: 12-13
  • Acceptance rate: “highly selective”
  • Alumni: Edwidge Danticat, Jaimy Gordon, Gayl Jones, Ben Lerner, Joanna Scott, Kevin Young, Ottessa Moshfegh

Best MFA Creative Writing Programs (Continued) 

6) university of arizona (tucson, az).

This 3-year program has many attractive qualities. It’s in “ the lushest desert in the world ”, and was recently ranked #4 in creative writing programs, and #2 in Nonfiction. You can take classes in multiple genres, and in fact, are encouraged to do so. Plus, Arizona dry heat is good for arthritis.

This notoriously supportive program pays $20,000 a year, and offers the potential to volunteer at multiple literary organizations. You can also do supported research at the US-Mexico Border.

  • Incoming class size: 9
  • Acceptance rate: 4.85% (a refreshingly specific number after Brown’s evasiveness)
  • Alumni: Francisco Cantú, Jos Charles, Tony Hoagland, Nancy Mairs, Richard Russo, Richard Siken, Aisha Sabatini Sloan, David Foster Wallace

7) Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ):

Arizona State is also a three-year funded program in arthritis-friendly dry heat. It offers small class sizes, individual mentorships, and one of the most impressive faculty rosters in the game. Everyone gets a $19,000 stipend, with other opportunities for financial support.

  • Incoming class size: 8-10
  • Acceptance rate: 3% (sigh)
  • Alumni: Tayari Jones, Venita Blackburn, Dorothy Chan, Adrienne Celt, Dana Diehl, Matthew Gavin Frank, Caitlin Horrocks, Allegra Hyde, Hugh Martin, Bonnie Nadzam


8) new york university (new york, ny).

This two-year program is in New York City, meaning it comes with close access to literary opportunities and hot dogs. NYU is private, and has one of the most accomplished faculty lists anywhere. Students have large cohorts (more potential friends!) and have a penchant for winning top literary prizes.

  • Incoming class size: 40-60
  • Acceptance rate: 6%
  • Alumni: Nick Flynn, Nell Freudenberger, Aracelis Girmay, Mitchell S. Jackson, Tyehimba Jess, John Keene, Raven Leilani, Robin Coste Lewis, Ada Limón, Ocean Vuong

9) Columbia University (New York, NY)

Another 2-3 year private MFA program with drool-worthy permanent and visiting faculty. Columbia offers courses in fiction, poetry, translation, and nonfiction. Beyond the Ivy League education, Columbia offers close access to agents, and its students have a high record of bestsellers.

  • Incoming class size: 110
  • Acceptance rate: 21%
  • Alumni: Alexandra Kleeman, Rachel Kushner, Claudia Rankine, Rick Moody, Sigrid Nunez, Tracy K. Smith, Emma Cline, Adam Wilson, Marie Howe, Mary Jo Bang

10) Sarah Lawrence (Bronxville, NY)

Sarah Lawrence offers speculative fiction beyond the average fiction, poetry, and nonfiction course offerings. With intimate class sizes, this program is unique because it offers biweekly one-on-one conferences with its stunning faculty. It also has a notoriously supportive atmosphere.

  • Incoming class size: 30-40
  • Acceptance rate: N/A
  • Alumni: Cynthia Cruz, Melissa Febos, T Kira Madden, Alex Dimitrov, Moncho Alvarado


11 bennington college (bennington, vt).

This two-year program boasts truly stellar faculty, and meets twice a year for ten days in January and June. It’s like a biannual vacation in beautiful Vermont, plus mentorship by a famous writer, and then you get a degree. The tuition is $23,468 per year, with scholarships available.

  • Acceptance rate: 53%
  • Incoming class: 40
  • Alumni: Larissa Pham, Andrew Reiner, Lisa Johnson Mitchell, and others

12)  Institute for American Indian Arts (Santa Fe, NM)

This two-year program emphasizes Native American and First Nations writing. With truly amazing faculty and visiting writers, they offer a wide range of genres offered, in screenwriting, poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

Students attend two eight-day residencies each year, in January and July, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. At $12,000 a year, it boasts being “ one of the most affordable MFA programs in the country .”

  • Incoming class size : 22
  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Alumni: Tommy Orange, Dara Yen Elerath, Kathryn Wilder

13) Vermont College of Fine Arts

One of few MFAs where you can study the art of the picture book, middle grade and young adult literature, graphic literature, nonfiction, fiction, and poetry for young people. Students meet twice a year for nine days, in January and July, in Vermont. You can also do many travel residencies in exciting (and warm) places like Cozumel.

VCFA boasts amazing faculty and visiting writers, with individualized study options and plenty of one-on-one time. Tuition is $48,604.

  • Incoming class size: 18-25
  • Acceptance rate: 63%
  • Alumnx: Lauren Markham, Mary-Kim Arnold, Cassie Beasley, Kate Beasley, Julie Berry, Bridget Birdsall, Gwenda Bond, Pablo Cartaya


14) university of texas at el paso (el paso, tx).

The world’s first bilingual and online MFA program in the world. UTEP is considered the best online MFA program, and features award-winning faculty from across the globe. Intensive workshops allow submitting in Spanish and English, and genres include poetry and fiction. This three-year program costs $14,766 a year, with rolling admissions.

  • Alumni: Watch alumni testimonies here

15) Bay Path University (Long Meadow, MA)

This 2-year online program is dedicated entirely to nonfiction. A supportive, diverse community, Bay Path offers small class sizes, close mentorship, and a potential field trip in Ireland.

There are many tracks, including publishing, Narrative Medicine, and teaching. Core courses include memoir, narrative journalism, and the personal essay. The price is $785/credit, for 39 credits, with scholarships available.

  • Incoming class size: 20
  • Acceptance rate: an encouraging 78%
  • Alumni: Read alumni testimonies here

Prepare for your MFA in advance:

  • Best English Programs
  • Best Creative Writing Schools
  • Writing Summer Programs

Best MFA Creative Writing Programs – References:

  • https://www.pw.org/mfa
  • The Creative Writing MFA Handbook: A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students , by Tom Kealey (A&C Black 2005)
  • Graduate School Admissions

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Julia Conrad

With a Bachelor of Arts in English and Italian from Wesleyan University as well as MFAs in both Nonfiction Writing and Literary Translation from the University of Iowa, Julia is an experienced writer, editor, educator, and a former Fulbright Fellow. Julia’s work has been featured in  The Millions ,  Asymptote , and  The Massachusetts Review , among other publications. To read more of her work, visit  www.juliaconrad.net

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An MFA in Creative Writing: Is It Worth It?

Read the bios of a dozen new fiction writers, and the chances are good that at least half will list among their credentials an MFA in Creative Writing. I completed my own MFA in Creative Writing through the University of British Columbia, and I’m often asked by my writing students: is a Masters in Creative Writing essential, if you want to see your work in print?

Arguments Against an MFA in Creative Writing

A Masters Degree is expensive and some writers might argue it would eat into the limited time they have available for writing. Many MFAs also require you to diversify in ways you may not wish to. Why take a course in poetry, screenwriting or memoir, if what you want to do is write a novel? Some writers might also argue that by teaching specific approaches to structure, creative writing programs discourage experimentation and originality.

So Why Take an MFA in Creative Writing?

When you participate in an MFA in Creative Writing, you join a community of writers who critique one another’s work, and this critiquing process is one of the most valuable learning experiences a writer can have. There is so much to learn by examining how and why a piece of writing works – and when it doesn’t. Classes are led by respected writers who understand how to articulate the importance of technique, and they also set deadlines, which many of us need if we are ever to see a creative writing project – a novel, short story collection or play – through to completion.

Creative Writing MFA: A Personal Perspective

My MFA in Creative Writing not only taught me how to be a better writer and editor, it also taught me how to articulate the skills a writer needs, and this has been essential to my career as a creative writing teacher. I learned how to spot classic errors in a first draft, and this is knowledge I pass along to writers who take my creative writing classes, and my creative writing retreats in Mexico and Costa Rica. I’ve published 3 books since completing my Creative Writing MFA, taught dozens of creative writing courses, led writing retreats all over the world, and I’ve also started a business offering solo consultations for writers, and assisting as they edit their manuscripts.  Just as importantly, I completed my MFA with a network of writing and editing partners. We critique one another’s work and provide each another with continual support as we build our writing careers.

Is an MFA in Creative Writing worth it?

The creative writing techniques and skills I developed made my MFA experience invaluable for me. However, there are other ways to develop such skills. Check out the Creative Writing Courses and Retreats offered through Centauri Arts, for example. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how you choose to grow as a writer – through a Creative Writing MFA, Creative Writing Courses or Creative Writing Retreats… as long as you continually strive to be the best writer you can be.

Julie Hartley Director Centauri Arts

https://centauriarts.com https://juliehartley.ca

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is an mfa in creative writing worth it

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Your chance of acceptance, your chancing factors, extracurriculars, mfa in creative writing worth it.

Heyyy! I've been really into creative writing lately and I'm considering pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing after I finish my undergrad. Can someone share their experiences with MFA programs? Are they worth the time and money? Will it really help me become a better writer and establish connections in the writing community?

Hey there! It's great that you're passionate about creative writing and considering an MFA. While an MFA in Creative Writing isn't a requirement for a successful career in writing, it can definitely have some benefits.

First, note that the value of an MFA program varies greatly depending on factors like the prestige of the institution, the program's faculty, and your personal goals. A well-regarded MFA program can help you improve your writing skills through rigorous coursework and feedback from professors and peers. You'll likely be part of workshops where you can learn from others' writing and get valuable critiques on your work. Plus, you'll be dedicating a considerable amount of time to hone your craft, which can be a rare opportunity in a busy life.

Another important aspect of pursuing an MFA is the connections you'll make. Networking is vital in the writing community, and an MFA program can provide a supportive environment to build relationships. By connecting with fellow students, faculty, and visiting writers, you might find mentors, collaborators, or even job opportunities.

However, there are some downsides you should be aware of. MFA programs can be expensive, and the financial return on investment might not be immediate or guaranteed for a career in writing. Also, since writing is a subjective field, the improvement you'll see in your writing from an MFA program may vary and could even be achieved through different means like online writing courses or writer's workshops and conferences.

Consider your goals and what you hope to achieve from an MFA program. If you're looking for improvement, guidance, and connections in the writing community, it might be a good fit. But be aware that success in writing can come from various channels, and an MFA is only one path. Ultimately, it's up to you to weigh the costs and benefits and decide if pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing is the right choice for you. Good luck!

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Is an MFA in creative writing worth it? The truth about online writing certificates

Someone asked me this question recently on YouTube:

Where do authors go to learn more about story craft? How do we know when we’ve found a reputable teacher? Is it a college degree in English and literature? What is the best way to learn how to piece together a readable story?

I’ve gotten similar questions before, and they all start with this:

“I want to write a book. I’ve started, but… I don’t know what to write, I always get stuck in the middle, I’m not sure if it’s good enough.”

The pain point and disconnect is that people who consider themselves good writers who SHOULD write a book, have trouble actually doing it – it gets put off, for months and years, and becomes an emotional drain. There may be guilt involved, like “Why can’t I just DO this?”

If you want to “make it” as a career, full-time writer, you might be thinking about investing in a course or program so you can get some help and “learn how to write.”

I think that would be a mistake, and I’ll try to explain why in this post.

Firstly, improving your writing won’t help if you have nothing to say. According to someone who left their teaching position of an MFA creative-writing program, “The vast majority of my students were hardworking, thoughtful people devoted to improving their craft despite having nothing interesting to express and no interesting way to express it.”

In his article, he reveals some hard truths like an MFA won’t help you get published:

Anyone who claims to have useful information about the publishing industry is lying to you, because nobody knows what the hell is happening. 

But also says, if you don’t have the talent; if you haven’t already been writing for years; if you aren’t a serious writer or can’t find time to do the work, nobody is going to care about your problems.

According to assistant professor Seth Abramson, an MFA credential can’t get you a real job, but that’s OK because most students don’t want one anyway…

“The MFA is, at base, a non-professional, largely-unmarketable art-school degree that can’t get anyone a full-time teaching job (at least not in the absence of significant in-genre publications) and is not designed to “network” graduates into magazine or book publications.”

The myth that poets and writers attend MFA programs to “professionalize” themselves — to get “credentialed” — has been proven false. According to 2009 polling, less than 30% of applicants  reported that they sought an MFA for the credential. ( Six myths about getting a creative writing degree )

So what are they paying for?

That polling data is super out-dated, but I’d guess it holds true enough: people are interested in an MFA because they want to become a writer, and improve their skills enough to get published – either for the prestige and accolades, the external validation, or *maybe* for a chance to make real, life-changing wealth (sure it’s improbable, but there are enough moonshot-crazy stories about famous writers getting another six-figure advance that it kindles a spark of hope).

Here’s the problem: publishing income will always depend on the books, not the writing style. Most full-time authors have an average of 5 or 10 books before they start making big money. Most MFA programs take time, you’ll be practice talking about and criticizing writing, not actually writing.

Stephanie Vanderslice takes a softer approach: while you don’t *need* an MFA to become a writer, it’s “helpful”:

“There will always be those who say that creative writing can’t or shouldn’t be taught, that the programs are rife with teachers who promote generic McStories and McPoems and who lack an understanding of the publishing world, and that the classes themselves are filled with mawkish students interested only in the therapeutic value of self-expression.”

The program provides an enabling balance and progression of both practice and study in the literary arts in order to prepare the student for a life of letters and to equip the student with the skills needed for writing an original book-length creative work. ( So you want to get an MFA? an open letter )

Neither of these things say anything about a JOB or actually earning money from your writing.

Will it help you write a good book? No, it’ll help you write a “creative” book – one that fits the formula of literary greatness: the hardest kind of book to sell or market or get a deal from. The hardest to read and enjoy. For every one of these books that sell well, there are ten thousand that don’t.

If you want to express yourself and your story in a way that doesn’t totally suck, you *might* learn how to do it – but will anybody else actual care? MFA professors might even steer you away from anything popular or commercial, sneering and turning up their nose and million-copy bestsellers like Twilight or Harry Potter.

Which means, you  won’t learn, most likely, how to write enjoyable, addicting fiction with tight drama and compelling twists that readers binge and devour and tell their friends about.

An MFA and massive student debt?

A two-year master’s degree program would run  $27,600 -$72,600; a three-year program would be  $41,300 -$108,900.

People are slowly starting to realize that college is a scam, and that (good) jobs are scarce and hard to come by, but a degree in creative writing is definitely one of the least applicable in terms of earning power. Yesterday I saw a massive rant on Reddit, from a dissatisfied student.

The post got deleted within 12 hours. Why? Because it criticized the point of getting an MFA. Unfortunately, there was a lot of good comments I didn’t save but had planned to repost here, but I’ll try to summarize what I remember:

1. MFA’s in creative writing don’t teach you the rules. They teach you examples of famous writers and how they broke or defied the rules; something that is never applicable to your own writing, except the vague/general notion that you can/should break all the rules to be a great writer.

2. This means, you’re never actually learning anything you can use for real, and there’s an aversion to any kind of formularized process you can follow. How do you improve when there’s no roadmap, nothing you should do or strive towards?

As NovelConcepts writes (in the comments):

“It just seems how the field of creative writing went from one side of the craft is important to craft isn’t needed at all. And I think it’s because we’ve had a full generation and a half of instructors who could write engaging fiction without learning the basics. So obviously, they teach that the basics don’t need to be learned because it was true for them.”

“But the average learner doesn’t think they need to learn it either because no one sees themselves as an average learner. Writers are a smart bunch of people but there’s an average somewhere and most people are just at it, below it or over it.”

Two great points are made here:

1. that great writers can skip rules, probably because they *actually* already knew them, intuitively or through years of practice and study, and *then* broke the rules. Focusing only on the former and latter is helpful to nobody; and also disingenuous. This is why, actually, I’d much rather learn from a mediocre writer with a lot of knowledge than a gifted writer with no process or self-awareness.

2. that if there are NO rules, no system of best practices or structure or narrative story-telling, if *anything* goes and *will not* be judged, then every author can just assume they’re already amazing, because they’re doing the *one thing* they were taught to do – be *creative* and strive not to conform to any rules.

Why was the post banned from Reddit? First, it was criticized for style, not content: “with platonic affection as a fellow writer, your post is almost unreadably full of run ons.” Secondly, it was banned for being an aggressive call-out post.

is an mfa in creative writing worth it

I get it, Reddit/r/writing is a group with 2 million writers. It’s not about publishing or marketing it’s about “writing” only; and the mods have a tough job managing all the posts. An angry rant or tirade against the value of an MFA in creative writing probably didn’t particularly useful… but it was! Because an MFA is probably not the degree you’re looking for . While you might enjoy it in terms of socializing with other would-be authors (you probably won’t), and you’ll probably get better at recognizing and avoiding bad writing (there are much easier ways!) and you might need the structure and discipline of deadlines and due dates (do you though?) the truth is it’s an outdated money-grab for most universities that has no practical application: self-publishing is easier than ever and while competitive, you’ll probably enjoy bring a smile to a bored housewife with your mermaid fantasy than off-based criticism from a bespectacled literary asshole who is too focused on the word choice to embrace the adventure of your story.

is an mfa in creative writing worth it

PS – I had the idea of making a free “MFA in commercial writing” self-study program, listing all the tools and resources with a syllabus and timeline. If you’d be into that, make sure to subscribe or follow me. And of course, you can instantly boost your writing abilities with all my free guides, videos and tutorials. UPDATE: the original poster republished her comments online here .

Best creative writing online courses

Ok so what if you *do* want to learn to improve your writing, and an MFA isn’t the way to go about it. What courses do I recommend? That’s tricky, because “creative writing” by definition is usually all about how to express yourself in literary fiction – the hardest genre to write and sell. I’d much rather teach you how to write “commercial fiction” (entertaining, strongly constructed stories that readers enjoy).

Here’s a list of best writing courses for authors.

And you can also check out The Novelry for creative writing courses .

writing tips, self-publishing and book marketing for authors

The 3 secrets to book marketing, and a haunted castle tour.

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derek Murphy

I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.

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is an mfa in creative writing worth it

Why You Need an MFA in Creative Writing

Author: Natalie Harris-Spencer Updated: December 9, 2022

Woman with backpack outside school for MFA in Creative Writing

If you’re serious about the business of writing, then you need an MFA in Creative Writing. Yes, I said it: you need an MFA, or Master of Fine Arts, also known as the terminal degree in Creative Writing. You don’t need an MBA, or MLA, or other variation. You need an MFA, the gold standard, the one and only masters degree that is professionally recognized for writing.

What you need v. want you want

I know, I know – there are plenty of successful writers out there who did not pursue an MFA in Creative Writing. Conversely, there are plenty of writers who pursued their MFA, and then did precisely nothing after that. So, why am I saying that this is something that you need ?

Well, need is relative, subjective, and personal. You might really need a new phone, or a glass of wine, or a haircut, or a blood transfusion. In other words, only you know what you actually need in order to get the results you desire. This is the sweet spot where need and want cross over.

You have to want to get an MFA in Creative Writing.

As with all of my topics on Aspiring Author , there is always, always a pay-off. What is the effort required in order to get the results you want? You will get out what you put in. This is why my advice is that you should pursue an MFA in Creative Writing – but only for the right reasons.

Think about what you want

If your goal is to get published and be successful (and if it isn’t, I’m not sure I can help you), then an MFA is not the answer. An MFA does not guarantee that you will get published in literary magazines , or that you will sign with an agent, or that you will get a book deal . If your goal is to teach in a related field , an MFA might be required. If it’s both, then you almost certainly need an MFA. If you want nothing more than to meet fellow writers, you might also want to consider writing groups, conferences , community classes, and other local initiatives. If you want guarantee of signing with a literary agent , or a full-time job: tough. The MFA can’t provide that. What it can do is better prepare you for when the time comes, so that you are set up for success.

Think about if you can afford to spend the money

MFAs are notoriously expensive and time-consuming. Is it worth getting yourself into a heap of debt? Unless your program is fully-funded, you can expect to spend anywhere between $20,000 and $200,000. I was fortunate in that my day job offered an education assistance program that helped me fund about half of my studies. I was also fortunate enough to be in a day job that paid the bills and allowed me breathing room to invest in my writing career. As with any educational pursuit, it doesn’t come cheap. And there is no guarantee that you will ever make this money back, either through a book deal or a teaching job.

Think about if you can afford to spend the time

Do you have the time to spare ? Many MFA programs offer low residency options for you to balance your masters against your full-time day job (which is what I did at Stonecoast , University of Southern Maine). There are also online programs, as well as the traditional brick-and-mortar schools which could potentially give you that “time to write” that you might be craving from an MFA. Reality check: there is never enough time to write. Not now, not ever. Take the time you have, and spend it wisely, and only on what you want and need.

Think about if you can take the criticism

During your MFA program, you will be introduced to a thriving community of writing peers, faculty, and professionals. You will sit through workshops and seminars with these people, and you will open yourself wide to their thoughts, opinions, and general criticism of your work. GET USED TO IT. Critiques are the bread and butter of MFA programs. Many adopt the Iowa workshop model, where you sit in silence as your work gets torn apart. If you aren’t ready for that extreme level of criticism, then you probably aren’t ready for an MFA in Creative Writing. This isn’t to say that you should listen to all feedback – that isn’t always helpful – but a lot of it will be. You’ll find that through listening, reading other people’s editorial letters, you’ll notice common themes that will help you exponentially improve your craft.

Think about if you can stick to deadlines

This is a pretty basic one. You will get assignments. You will need to write to deadlines. You will need to craft editorial letters, manuscripts, stories, packets, essays, and eventually a thesis. You will need to deliver presentations, and respond to your mentors, professors, and interact with faculty on a regular basis. If you can’t manage your time and stick to deadlines, you’ve already failed. The MFA is designed to prepare you for the writing life, while affording you extreme accountability. Sticking to deadlines is an integral part of that.

Think about if you’re really, really ready for this

Can you afford it? Can you handle the workload? Can you take criticism on board? Can you get personal, and emotional, and messy? Can you leave your pride at the door? Can you put yourself and your writing first, above all other things? If so, welcome aboard. An MFA in Creative Writing awaits.

And finally, here’s why I pursued my MFA

I have never had any interest in becoming a teacher. And at the time of applying for my MFA, getting a literary agent and a book deal seemed like a far-away pursuit. Instead, I knew that my writing soul needed an MFA. When I was an undergraduate at a college in the United Kingdom, I investigated MFA programs in America. Even all those years ago, it was prohibitively expensive. My digital marketing career ended up taking off, and I stayed put. Over a decade later, and my life (and day job) took me to the East Coast, where the opportunity to apply to a low residency MFA program reared its head. It sounds trite, but I believe it truly was kismet – because I made it happen. Because I wanted it. Because I needed it. And yes, the results have proven to be well worth it – honing my voice, landing a literary agent , a series of publications, novels underway, a life-long community of writing friends and relationships, this website – but having “MFA” in my by-line is not the reason I did it. The reason is that I consciously and resolutely invested in myself and my writing career, and it paid off.

Recommended reading

Here at Aspiring Author , we love recommending bestsellers and fawning over hot new releases. On this real time recommended reading list, you will find a list of top rated books on the publishing industry, craft, and other books to help you elevate your writing career.

is an mfa in creative writing worth it

Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author's Guide to Uniting Story Structure (Helping Writers Become Authors)

is an mfa in creative writing worth it

Sound the Gong (Kingdom of Three, 2)

is an mfa in creative writing worth it


is an mfa in creative writing worth it

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last Book On Novel Writing You'll Ever Need

is an mfa in creative writing worth it

Full Circle: A Forty Year Love Story

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Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing The Write Stuff for Writers

is an mfa in creative writing worth it

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Grow Your Writing Passion into a Career with Liberty’s Online MFA in Creative Writing

Many people write creatively, but few hone their skills to develop their writing craft to its highest form. Even fewer learn the other skills it takes to become a successful writer, such as the steps needed to get a book published and into the hands of readers. Liberty’s 100% online Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing can help you develop your writing passion into a career so you can set your works free to impact culture and the world.

Employers in every industry need professionals who have strong writing skills, so you can be confident that your ability to write effectively can also help set you apart in your current career. With in-demand writing expertise and the ability to customize your degree with electives in literature or writing practice, Liberty’s online MFA in Creative Writing can help you achieve your professional writing goals.

Our online MFA in Creative Writing is designed to help you build on your writing skills with specific workshops dedicated to the craft of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, or screenwriting. With a work-in-progress approach to writing practice and mentorship from our faculty of experienced writers and scholars, you can learn the specific skills you need to make your writing stand out.

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Our online MFA in Creative Writing is mainly offered in an 8-week course format, and our tuition rate for graduate programs hasn’t increased in 9 years. Through our program, you can study the writing process and develop your creative skills through workshops with experienced writing professionals. With our flexible format, you can grow in your creative writing while continuing to do what is important to you.

As a terminal degree, the online MFA in Creative Writing can also help you pursue opportunities to teach writing at the K-12 or college level. You will gain comprehensive and in-depth exposure to writing, literature, publishing, and many other professional writing skills that you can pass on to students. Partner with the Liberty family and learn under faculty who have spent years in the field you love. Your career in professional writing starts here.

What Will You Study in Our MFA in Creative Writing?

The MFA in Creative Writing program is designed to help you become an excellent creative writer across the genres of creative fiction, nonfiction, screenwriting, and poetry. You can learn how to produce aesthetically and culturally engaged creative works while gaining professional knowledge and practice. You will also study foundational contemporary literature so that you have a background in studying important works to draw on for your writing.

To help you in your professional writing, you will also study many essential skills in editing, layout, and the business of publishing so that you can best position yourself for success in the market. Through your creative writing courses and workshops, you can develop your craft so that you will be ready for your thesis project.

Here are a few examples of the skills Liberty’s MFA in Creative Writing can help you master:

  • Marketing your projects and pursuing new writing opportunities
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Frequently Asked Questions

What is an mfa in creative writing.

A Master of Fine Arts degree, or MFA, is a terminal degree in an artistic craft that demonstrates that you have achieved the highest level of training and skill in your discipline. Like a doctorate, an MFA often allows you to teach courses at the graduate level while also providing many opportunities for scholarship and leadership in education. If you want to grow your creative writing skills to become the best writer you can be, then the Master of Fine Arts can help you get there.

How will students work towards developing their writing skills?

With creative writing workshops and a thesis project, you will receive support and guidance to help you become the best writer you can be.

How long will it take to complete the MFA in Creative Writing?

You can complete the MFA in Creative Writing in just 48 credit hours!

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Monday, July 2, 2012

14 reasons (not) to get an mfa in creative writing (and two reasons it might actually be worth it).

  • Get a marketable skill (Nope.)
  • Improve your job prospects (Not listed even once)
  • Earn more money (This is actually debunked in several places. You read that right. DEBUNKED .)
  • Internships or professional opportunities (Not even mentioned.)
  • The sheer pleasure of the pursuit of knowledge (Pfffft. What kind of nerd goes to school for this?)

is an mfa in creative writing worth it

  • Genuinely increase one's chances of publication
  • Undoubtedly improve one's writing
Okay take a breather.  Maybe grab a snack. 
The question isn't if it's useful. The question is if it's WORTH IT.


Huzzah! Huzzah! HUH-zzah!

Did you know this blog is advertising a creative writing degree, on the sidebar. LOL>

Yeah, the robots that crawl my site just see key words. They don't always know WHAT I'm saying about various things. But I have nothing AGAINST MFAs. Just with people getting them for the wrong reasons

I wish I'd read this before I spent $35,000 and three years getting an MFA so that I could compete with thirty applicants for every teaching position in the country. Most useless piece of paper ever.

I have a friend who's really glad she did it, but none of the reasons are pragmatic ones, so at least you are in good company. :-/

This is shockingly frank and distressingly accurate. Thanks for your honesty even if it stings. I teach Creative Writing in an MFA program and the misconceptions my students have is appalling. I wish I could make your article mandatory reading prior to their enrollment.

That's a totally cool idea, but if you do that, will you make sure the URL is visible at the bottom of the page you print out and/or have them read it here at the website. My instructors used to print out stuff and the printer cropped the bottom so you couldn't see where to go if you wanted to find more from the writer.

Ouch. True....but OUCH.

There are good reasons to get an MFA, but I think 99% of the students aren't doing it for one of those reasons. :-/

Came here from your recent letter to the MFA student. Man, you've nailed the problem. Music and theater--those MFA's make sense and they can get you hired in an orchestra or troupe. But Creative Writing....just useless.

God I'm glad I read this before I made this choice. I'm not saying I won't still get the MFA but I'm glad I read this.

You're welcome!

Thanks-- you just saved me two years and twenty grand. If we ever meet, the coffee's on me (Dunkin' Donuts; small black).

I'm not much of a coffee drinker. Maybe I can just get a couple of donut holes instead?

Damn. You just seriously tipped the scales on my decision. Thanks for saving me 30 grand--I'm going to buy a car.

Well just name it Chris (and try to have a threesome in it), kay?

Dude, you are hilarious. I have until Nov. 13th to make my decision. What's a douchebag like me supposed to do?

It's tough for me to say, having never read your writing, but my initial impulse is that if you are not burning to get one and absolutely sure that it's the right path, it probably isn't. I don't actually dislike MFA's. I just think they are too often undertaken as a "Don't know what else to do" next step.

This afternoon I withdrew from my MFA dramatic writing program after completing half of the credits. I'm going to get a certificate to teach language arts in middle school instead. Creative writing programs aren't all about creative writing. There are pretentious jargon-heavy academic readings and pretentious jargon-heavy discussions about postcolonial issues--all of which require hours of preparation. In addition, every semester I was expected to write a full-length script including no less than two rewrites. My writing was never, ever good enough for my professors. I should mention that I am a published writer (magazines, newspapers, online literary journals). I also have a published play for which I receive annual royalty checks. One of my scripts was recently chosen for a prestigious competition. Nevertheless, I never earned a grade higher than a B. Consequently, I've lost faith in my writing. Worse, I've lost interest in writing. I hope this is a temporary state. Furthermore, the future for an MFA graduate seems to be as an adjunct for community colleges--if you're lucky. In fact, only two of our program's recent graduates are teaching at a community college. But one of them had college teaching experience before he earned his MFA. Another had a temporary job at the post office. He's unemployed now. A fourth makes pizzas.You get the idea. The only guarantee that comes with an MFA is debt. Thank you for your article. I'll read it every time I question my decision to leave.

I hope you regain faith and interest in your writing. It sounds as though by every bellwether that matters you are capable and competent.

Chiming in unsolicited: would you be *satisfied* if your writing was "good enough for [your] professors"? Pointing out areas to improve your writing is their entire job. It's what you are (or were) paying them to do. Wouldn't you be irritated if you handed in a piece and they said, "Yep, it's great. I got nothin. See ya."

I've been toying with the idea of going back to school lately and your post has brought up a lot of important points. I'm not committed to the prospect of going back--in fact, reading a bunch of admissions requirements today reminded me what I disliked about my undergrad experience in creative writing. I do wonder what you'd recommend, apart from graduate studies, in order to be a part of a community of writers. I spent a lot of time abroad after graduating and feel a bit out of touch. That, and getting more opportunities for publication, were the motivating factors in thinking about going back to school. I'm curious what you have to say about the process of making connections with other writers.

Tricky. I'm not sure there's a really stellar answer. Connections with other writers are tough to forage even in a writing program. I have found some success in kind of going through the paces in your typical places and then forming "elite cadres" out of the folks you get on with who are actually serious about it. I have usually connected with one or two other writers in many of the online or local groups and those people have gone on to be part of a group who regularly send each other writing for feedback even after the original group petered out or ended.

I am currently going for an MA in Creative Writing, and I'm getting just as much (if not more) opportunities than probably an MFA degree could EVER afford, because it's a rounded approach in not just creative writing, but literature and rhetoric. In a sense, this makes me more marketable...do I want to get published? Sure! But I'm also wanting to teach and be well-rounded as a person. Thank you for this very informative article. :)

UC Davis has a lit focused MA in creative writing that I've given more than a cursory look. I really think that's the way to go unless you're absolutely sure about the kind of writing MFA's encourage.

Not Davis, specifically. I just mean the MA program. I think that's a good call you made there.

I just completed my MFA and my first manuscript through National University. I know many people will say I bought my degree and they are right. I spent every penny from my full-time teaching position to do so. My main reason for spending three and half years of taking challenging courses,spending $21,000.00, was to become a better writer, and complete the book that I had been procrastinating finishing for twenty years. I have no regrets. I will add $4,000.00 a year to my salary because I already have an MA. from UCSD where I obtained a B.A. in English Literature, two teaching credentials, one Administrative Credential and now my MFA in Creative Writing from National. I didn't consult with Google or anyone else before I enrolled in my program, I just did it. Do I think my 190 page manuscript is worth a damn? Hell yes I do, it means the world to me because instead of talking about how much I wanted to write a novel I actually completed one. Will it get published? It was not my intention to pitch it anywhere besides the garbage when I thought I couldn't do write another page but I have no intention of trying to get it published. It wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell but it's still mine, and it took revision, upon revision, upon revision to complete it but I love writing, and I would do it over in a heartbeat. I am really proud of what I accomplished and I encourage anyone with the desire to pursue a degree in writing or any other discipline to go for it. It certainly won't hurt your resume.

I'm actually tremendously glad you like what you got out of an MFA. If you are happy then that's really all that matters. Certainly just following your passions is what more people should do. But a lot of young writers (especially the kind Googling the question of an MFA's utility) would be wondering if $21k and 3 1/2 years would get them any further than cultivating their own discipline. That's a pretty large investment to approach with the idea of "couldn't hurt." Most people are going to want to know exactly how much that kind of time and money COULD help. Which is why I wrote the article. Lovely to hear about folks who are making it work for them though. Thank you!

Thank you for the civility of your response. So many writing forums espouse such negativity that I simply shake my head and move on. It is a tough decision and I am extremely grateful and fortunate I was able to make the decision and to benefit from it. However, with regard to your reference to younger students note, I would like to add that from my perspective, the MFA is even more beneficial because they are young and can have that much more writing experience behind them. It certainly is a big cost and investment of time but well worth it. That's why I responded. There were many con comments and I thought it would be nice to add some pros to the comments. Again, many thanks for the response. :)

It's always good to get the other side. I'm glad you wrote it! Someone wrote in on the Mailbox asking for reasons TO get an MFA a few weeks back; you might appreciate that reply. It's not as popular of a post though, and it is probably harder to find. http://chrisbrecheen.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-mailbox-is-mfa-worth-it.html

I know this article was written a couple of years ago, but I'd like to thank the author - it's great food for thought, and the fact that most of the 'cons' are making me sigh with relief tells me that, as an on-the-fence potential student, it's not something I really want to do. I'm completing an MA in Writing in the UK, where I have always lived, and was persuaded a few months ago by a couple of teachers that I should apply for an MFA (or even a PhD) in the US, because a) I would have a chance of getting in and b) unlike the UK, funding is something that actually exists. I have been torn for months. I would like to experience a new culture and have 'time to write' (something that has come out the mouths of all my teachers), but lots of things have been putting me off, too. Mainly, that I don't want to be one of the many people I know who have been clinging on to institutions for as long as they can, trying to get their foot in the door as a teacher, but avoiding the real world and not actually writing anything. I also hate the snobbishness that I've read between the lines on quite a few MFA websites. If I manage to make a name for myself writing, it will probably be in YA fiction, which is not something that a funded programme seems to approve of. By 'allowing myself time to write', I would in fact be pulling further away from my real interests out of academic requirement. I think the scales really started to tip yesterday. I went into the city for an event in a bookshop, where an agent who has previously read your first three chapters spends ten minutes firing comments at you - e.g., 'You do *this* well, and it will be your USP, but cut *that* scene and you have more chance of getting a reader to want to continue,' and so on. It was infinitely more helpful than anything I've learned in over a year in education, and it only cost five quid.

Getting an MFA paid for by student loans has basically guaranteed I'll never write again. I work 2-3 jobs to keep ahead-enough of the wage garnishment so I can keep a roof over my head (I'd need to earn 100k/yr to make just the MINIMUM payments on my loans, oh but wait, if I was making 100k/yr I guess I wouldn't qualify for the minimum payments...). My life has been a nightmare of instability, debt colletctor calls, no time to do anything but work shit jobs (and the ones you are qualified for with an MFA are all, basically, shit jobs, you're just flipping e-"articles" or disinterested tutoring students instead of burgers) since I completed classes in my 'pay-to-play" Ivy league program. This is easily the worst mistake of my life and I am sure it has taken several years off my pathetic tenure here on the planet already. Worst part is, I still want to write, even actually do maybe once a month when I get a free afternoon. But lets face it--48hrs/yr does not complete the novel. Or even many stories. Not that they get accepted anyway--it's clear my program accepted me simply because I could get loan money, not because I had much talent. Give it up, I know.

A lot of this is true, a lot of this is false. I only have time to speak to the latter. Most MFA programs, including the one I am currently attending, are fully funded. None of us are going into debt. You teach a composition course, work in a writing center, or in some other capacity work your way through. And it isn't just the tuition that is fully funded, we get a monthly stipend that pays the bills and affords a bit of spending money. Furthermore, most of the readers and writers I know are not so narrowly minded as you imply under the heading JOIN A COMMUNITY OF WRITERS..., we read just as much mainstream fiction as the other guy. In fact, I'm probably the only person in my program (including our Professors) who enjoy writers that are language based, experimental, etc. Also, my program is not a top ten program: I'm at a major state school. I do meet authors, I have met agents who read my work and met with me one on one. There are connections to be made through various avenues in an MFA program. Moreover, the idea that an MFA fosters a certain brand of fiction is horribly misleading. A lot of MFAs allow writers to explore different genres, and a lot of MFAs have people in them who are just like everyone else: they love to read fantasy, sci-fi, YA, as well as literary realism, etc. Getting an MFA for 20,000 dollars, but it has been my experience, and this is borne out by just the slightest bit of research that most programs provide funding. Poets and Writers rank the top MFA programs based on a myriad of factors, one being the cost, and anybody can peruse their scale and see that most schools provide funding.

Getting an MFA for 20,000 dollars may be steep*

Actually it's generous. Costhelper.com puts the national average (in the USA) at THIRTY grand. And fully funded MFA's are definitely the exception, not the rule. Glad you're enjoying your program, and found a good one! (Really I am.) The usual pedagogy in the USA makes yours the exception, not the rule, and you are WELCOME to take a cruise around the internet if you don't believe me. It's also been almost three years since I wrote this and the major cultural backlash MFA programs started getting hit with has caused a few to revisit their first principles. (Though not many.)

I noted a homophone error towards the end of the article -- "phase" in place of "faze" in the fifth paragraph from the bottom.

My low res MFA was more than thirty. Just saying. But I'm so immensely glad I did it because... http://www.rebeccagrabill.com/blog/2016/5/13/7-reasons-you-might-want-an-mfa

I’m actually just switching from a law degree to an English lit with Creative degree. I gave Law my best shot but I was fighting with myself the whole time because I knew it was Creative Writing that I really wanted to be doing

This sounds like a great reason to do it! (My mom wanted me to be a lawyer so bad.)

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  • Israel-Hamas War

My Writing Students Were Arrested at Columbia. Their Voices Have Never Been More Essential

O n April 30, 56 years after Columbia sent the police in to arrest student protesters who had taken over Hamilton Hall in protest of the Vietnam War—protests the school loves to promote—I was walking my 12-year-old daughter home after her choir performance. We had gone an extra stop on the subway because the stop at 116th, Columbia’s stop, was closed. Instead, we had to walk back to our apartment from the 125th stop. When we got within sight of Columbia, a line of dozens of police blocked our path. I asked them to let us through; I pointed to our apartment building and said we lived there. As a Columbia professor, I live in Columbia housing.

“I have my orders,” the cop in charge said.

“I live right there,” I said. “It’s my daughter’s bedtime.”

“I have my orders,” he said again.

“I’m just trying to get home,” I said.

We were forced to walk back the way we came from and circle around from another block. Luckily, our building has an entrance through the bodega in the basement. This is how I took my daughter up to her room and sent her to bed.

Read More: Columbia's Relationship With Student Protesters Has Long Been Fraught

A week earlier, I had brought some food for the students camping out on Columbia’s West Lawn and had met with similar resistance. Security guards asked whether I was really faculty; I had already swiped my faculty badge that should have confirmed my identity. They asked to take my badge, then they said I hadn’t swiped it, which I had, two seconds earlier, as they watched. They said their professors had never brought food to them before. I didn’t know what to say to this—“I’m sorry that your professors never brought you food?” They called someone and told them the number on my badge. Finally, they were forced to let me through. They said again that their professors had never brought them food. “OK,” I said, and walked into campus. I reported their behavior and never received a reply.

On April 30, after I had got my daughter to bed, my partner and I took the dog down to pee. We watched the protesters call, “Shame!” as the police went in and out of the blockade that stretched 10 blocks around campus. Earlier that day, we had seen police collecting barricades—it seemed like there would be a bit of peace. As soon as it got dark, they must have used those barricades and more to block off the 10 blocks. There were reports on campus that journalists were not allowed out of Pulitzer Hall, including Columbia’s own student journalists and the dean of the School of Journalism, under threat of arrest. Faculty and students who did not live on campus had been forbidden access to campus in the morning. There was no one around to witness. My partner and I had to use social media to see the hundreds of police in full riot gear, guns out, infiltrate Columbia’s Hamilton Hall, where protesters had holed up , mirroring the 1968 protests that had occupied the same building.

In the next few days, I was in meeting after meeting. Internally, we were told that the arrests had been peaceful and careful, with no student injuries. The same thing was repeated by Mayor Adams and CNN . Meanwhile, president Minouche Shafik had violated faculty governance and the university bylaws that she consult the executive committee before calling police onto campus. (The committee voted unanimously against police intervention .)

Read More: Columbia Cancels Main Commencement Following Weeks of Pro-Palestinian Protests

Then, Saturday morning, I got an email from a couple of writing students that they had been released from jail. I hadn’t heard that any of our students had been involved. They told me they hadn’t gotten food or water, or even their meds, for 24 hours. They had watched their friends bleed, kicked in the face by police. They said they had been careful not to damage university property. At least one cop busted into a locked office and fired a gun , threatened by what my students called “unarmed students in pajamas.”

In the mainstream media, the story was very different. The vandalism was blamed on students. Police showed off one of Oxford Press’s Terrorism: A Very Short Introduction . (This series of books offers scholarly introductions that help students prepare for classes, not how-to pamphlets teaching them to do terrorism.)

“I feel like I’m being gaslit,” one of my students said.

I teach creative writing, and I am the author of a book about teaching creative writing and the origins of creative-writing programs in the early 20th century. The oldest MFA program in the country, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, was funded by special-interest groups like the Rockefeller Foundation and, famously, the CIA, and was explicitly described by director Paul Engle as a tool to spread American values.

Read More: 'Why Are Police in Riot Gear?' Inside Columbia and City College's Darkest Night

The way we teach creative writing is essential because it shapes what kinds of narratives will be seen as valuable, pleasurable, and convincing. Today’s writing students will record how our current events become history. One of the strategies Columbia took with its police invasion was to block access of faculty, students, and press to the truth. It didn’t want any witnesses. It wanted to control the story.

For weeks, Columbia administration and the mainstream media has painted student protesters as violent and disruptive—and though there have been incidents of antisemitism, racism, and anti-Muslim hatred, including a chemical attack on pro-Palestine protesters , I visited the encampment multiple times and saw a place of joy, love, and community that included explicit teach-ins on antisemitism and explicit rules against any hateful language and action. Students of different faiths protected each other’s right to prayer. Meanwhile, wary of surveillance and the potential use of facial recognition to identify them, they covered their faces. Faculty have become afraid to use university email addresses to discuss ways to protect their students. At one point, the administration circulated documents they wanted students to sign, agreeing to self-identify their involvement and leave the encampment by a 2 p.m. deadline or face suspension or worse. In the end, student radio WKCR reported that even students who did leave the encampment were suspended.

In a recent statement in the Guardian and an oral history in New York Magazine , and through the remarkable coverage of WKCR, Columbia students have sought to take back the narrative. They have detailed the widespread support on campus for student protesters; the peaceful nature of the demonstrations; widespread student wishes to divest financially from Israel, cancel the Tel Aviv Global Center, and end Columbia’s dual-degree program with Tel Aviv University; and the administration’s lack of good faith in negotiations. As part of the Guardian statement, the student body says that multiple news outlets refused to print it. They emphasize their desire to tell their own story.

In a time of mass misinformation, writers who tell the truth and who are there to witness the truth firsthand are essential and must be protected. My students in Columbia’s writing program who have been arrested and face expulsion for wanting the university to disclose and divest, and the many other student protesters, represent the remarkable energy and skepticism of the younger generation who are committed not only to witnessing but participating in the making of a better world. Truth has power, but only if there are people around to tell the truth. We must protect their right to do so, whether or not the truth serves our beliefs. It is the next generation of writers who understand this best and are fighting for both their right and ours to be heard.

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Celebrating the Spring 2024 MFA Graduates

Spring 2024 WVU MFA Graduates

Read more news.

The Queens Review Launch Party – 5/18

  • Post author By John Rice (he/Them)
  • Post date May 7, 2024

Our very own Queens Review is having a launch party to celebrate its inaugural issue on Saturday, May 18th at 7PM in Kew & Willow Books . The launch will feature surprise guest readings by contributors and copies of the beautiful print edition (published simultaneously with the web edition) will be for sale, care of Kew & Willow Books.

Queens Review is a renewal of our program’s literary journal; it replaces our long-standing journal Armstrong Literary with a new vision to engage the multiplicity of culture and language, which is the essence of Queens, and connect those stories with the larger literary world. This issue is already yielding big results, with contributions by Cynthia Cruz , Diane Seuss , Stevie Edwards , and Rajiv Mohabir .

is an mfa in creative writing worth it

The Queens Review   is a journal based in Queens: a borough with a multiplicity of cultures, languages, and experiences. Rather than present a single unified voice, we aim to express the varied landscapes around us as well as our own internal terrain. Founded by students and faculty of the  Queens College MFA in Creative Writing and Literary Translation ,  The Queens Review  is interested in work that pushes boundaries –– on an emotional level as well as a linguistic one –– poems, stories, translations, and fragments that scatter, ground, croon, and devastate.

Submissions for Issue 2 should open in the fall, but you can read the first issue on the QR website:

Spring 2024 Issue

Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International

This entry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license.

is an mfa in creative writing worth it

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katie kitchens, audrey fong

2024 Doti Awards Honor Graduate Students in Education and English The annual award acknowledges outstanding academic accomplishment, scholarly and creative work and service by graduating master's and doctoral students.

Chapman University has announced the recipients of the 2024 James L. Doti Outstanding Graduate Awards, the university’s highest honor for graduate students.

This year’s honorees are Katelyn Kitchens, a doctoral candidate in education , and Audrey Fong, a candidate for a dual Master of Arts in English and Master of Fine Arts in creative writing .

The Doti Awards are bestowed annually to an outstanding graduating master’s and doctoral student with a distinguished record of academic accomplishment, scholarly/creative activity and/or service. The award recipients’ names are permanently inscribed on the Doti Award trophy, which incorporates artist Nick Hernandez’s sculpture Emergence, on display in Argyros Forum. The recipients receive a desk-size copy of the trophy with a cash award of $1,000 and are recognized at their college’s commencement ceremony.

Katelyn Kitchens, Ph.D. Education, Attallah College of Educational Studies

Attallah’s faculty say Kitchens is a brilliant and exceptionally outstanding doctoral student. The faculty describes them as a highly ethical, committed and intellectually rigorous scholar-activist and teacher.

Kitchens successfully defended their Ph.D. dissertation in March 2024 on “New Ways of Being White: White Families Striving to Cultivate Antiracist Familial Cultures,” an expansive work based on a critical ethnographic study of white families committed to raising anti-racist children. The work is important, theoretically grounded and methodologically rigorous. Their chosen dissertation topic reflects their long-standing commitment to anti-racism. As a white person, Kitchens has personal experience with whiteness studies and engaging with others in anti-racist work.

Within the doctoral program, they developed a strong foundation in the theories that frame their work, including Marxist humanism, critical pedagogies and theories of whiteness. Kitchens also has strong instincts toward decolonizing and humanizing praxis. They are well recognized among faculty and peers as highly ethical and collaborative and evidence a commitment to the growth and learning of all those around them. Kitchens is especially committed to equity for racialized students and to the preservation and restoration of the cultural strengths, epistemologies and resources of historically oppressed communities.

These strengths, along with their excellent writing skills, have led to a significant record of emerging scholarship, research and teaching pursuits. Currently, Kitchens is co-authoring several research manuscripts. Kitchens has already published an impressive six publications (one is in press) and is planning a book based on their dissertation. Their scholarship is highly collaborative with Indigenous colleagues and other people of color, evidencing allyship with these communities. Kitchens’ numerous presentations at conferences and community settings exemplify a keen awareness and commitment to engage with the community beyond the academy.

Kitchens is also a gifted educator of children and adults. They have taught numerous courses in higher education, and faculty are certain that this has included challenging coursework, high expectations and humanizing pedagogy. A faculty mentor shared that conversations with Kitchens revealed their tremendous love and empathy for all peoples.

It’s notable that in a world where Indigenous communities are often wary of the dominant group, Kitchens has been invited to teach and work at an Indigenous tribal school. They recognize and value the opportunity that has been given to them and are continuously reflecting on their responsibility as a white person to that community and its peoples. Kitchens’ previous work in Montessori schools has also provided important insights into humanizing, democratic and life-giving pedagogies that inform their development. Furthermore, Kitchens has a strong social justice background. They served on the Montessori for Social Justice Board of Directors for five years.

At Chapman, Kitchens has been an active member of the Paulo Freire Democratic Project, supported guest talks and co-led teach-ins during the Black Lives Matter protests. Attallah faculty believe Kitchens is an outstanding student with a brilliant future ahead.

Audrey Fong, MA/MFA English and Creative Writing, Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

Wilkinson’s faculty say Fong’s academic excellence and professional leadership are exceptional. She has used the dual program to set her own ambitious professional path. Importantly, Fong has used her own ongoing learning growth to contribute to the university and to the larger literary culture. She is the only graduate student who has taught Asian American Studies at Chapman University, and she’s also a graduate student instructor in English. She continues to open students to new ideas and texts and also works with Stephanie Takaragawa, associate professor of sociology, across disciplines on a variety of projects and programming.

Fong’s creative and scholarly achievements are unusually strong for a graduate student. She has presented at the Asian American Studies Conference and the College English Association Conference, in addition to others. She will present again this spring at the Asian American Studies Conference and is making a name for herself in that field. She also has a chapter forthcoming in an anthology about food and memory, an essay published in the literary journal South Dakota Review, and she’s placed several interviews with Asian American writers in Adroit Journal.

This important cultural work and her entrepreneurial spirit led Fong to found her own journal, Soapberry Review. Anna Leahy, director of the MFA in creative writing program, shared that she is awestruck by Fong’s ability to launch this project while excelling at all the other work we expect of graduate students and instructors. This project focuses on reviews of books and interviews with Asian American writers, filling a void in literary culture rather than replicating existing projects. Fong has encouraged other MFA students and alumni to read Asian American books and submit reviews for publication at Soapberry Review.

Faculty point to Fong’s mature understanding of a scholar-writer’s practice. She has a keen ability to turn conference presentations into journal publications, a professional practice that few graduate students in the humanities recognize and embrace. Also, she turns practical experience — the marketing internship with Red Hen Press and the social media work at UCI — into original intellectual and cultural production. She recognizes that her accomplishments as a scholar-writer have the power to change culture.

To continue honing her craft, Fong is entering the Ph.D. program at the University of Southern California, another program that combines creative writing and literature. Wilkinson’s faculty is convinced that will lead to even more achievement.

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  1. The Problem Finding

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  4. Is an MFA in Creative Writing Right for You?

  5. Distinguished Writers Series: Mary Gaitskill

  6. Distinguished Writers Series: Elif Batuman


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    How I suggest you decide if an MFA is worth it to you. Carefully weigh the cost. While these programs are said to fully fundall of their students, most of the time, you'll have to fork out some serious cash, ranging roughly between $20,000 to $80,000. A Facebook friend recently asked other writers how much their MFA student loans came to, and ...

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    There are no author education requirements, so having an MFA isn't going to increase your chances of getting a publishing deal. However, if you think you'd like to teach college English, then an MFA will satisfy the prerequisite to do so, making the degree far more worth your while. An MFA may also be enough to teach English in some private ...

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    14) University of Texas at El Paso (El Paso, TX) The world's first bilingual and online MFA program in the world. UTEP is considered the best online MFA program, and features award-winning faculty from across the globe. Intensive workshops allow submitting in Spanish and English, and genres include poetry and fiction.

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  11. The Truth about a M.F.A. in Creative Writing

    A MFA in Creative Writing will make you a better writer; it just might not be at writing what you want to write. MFA programs are all about literary fiction, hybrid writing, and poetry. ... I had multiple professors and peers tell me writing fantasy stories wasn't literature or worth writing. Some even refused to comment on pieces I brought ...

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    9. Fairfield University. An MFA in creative writing from Fairfield University can help you establish a career as an author or a screenwriter. The program offers four concentrations, which are creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry and screenwriting. A thesis is a requirement if you opt to study two concentrations.

  16. Was My MFA in Creative Writing Worth It?

    In this video I way the costs vs benefits of getting an MFA in Creative Writing—specifically my experience—to answer the question "Was My MFA Worth It?"Prime...

  17. My experience applying to 15 of the best Creative Writing MFA ...

    In late 2019 I applied to around 15 of the best Creative Writing MFA's in the United States. All of these programs have less than a 3% acceptance rate--the most competitive among them less than 1% (yes, they received over 1000 applicants and accepted less than 10).

  18. Why You Need an MFA in Creative Writing

    If you're serious about the business of writing, then you need an MFA in Creative Writing. Yes, I said it: you need an MFA, or Master of Fine Arts, also known as the terminal degree in Creative Writing. You don't need an MBA, or MLA, or other variation. You need an MFA, the gold standard, the one and only masters degree that is ...

  19. Thoughts on Getting an MFA in Creative Writing? : r/writing

    It will make you loathe writing and humanity and your job at Barnes and Nobel. Join the Peace Corps, or buy a motorcycle, or start a union, or jump a train, or live in a subway-city, or do anything, anything but get an MFA in Creative Writing. All you will receive from your MFA is a vague sense of entitlement and a batch of five short stories ...

  20. Was your MFA worth it? : r/writing

    If you just wanna go to school, consider applying to MA programs also—they're much less competitive, more easily funded, and more plentiful. Definitely worth it for me. I went from $18hr with a BA to $83,600 with an MFA in Writing. I'm at a health care tech start up.

  21. Why a Creative Writing MFA Might Not Be Worth It

    I get that. That was my path; part of the process of being able to call myself a writer. And I didn't learn nothing. An MFA isn't worthless. I got a lot from it. In-person classes may be much ...

  22. Are MFAs Worth It?

    Yes, my MFA was completely worth it. Once you're in the working world, no one is giving you time to do your own work. You have to balance it with making a living as a creative, which, at its ...

  23. Online Master of Fine Arts

    Liberty's 100% online Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing can help you develop your writing passion into a career so you can set your works free to impact culture and the world.

  24. 14 Reasons (not) to Get an MFA In Creative Writing (And Two Reasons It

    But there is one benefit to most MFA programs that is totally worth mentioning because it is the NUMBER ONE reason that most of our CW-MFA fans suggest. ... largely to the massive numbers of MFAs flooding the streets and competing for the tiny number of jobs that require an MFA in Creative Writing (like CW professor) or the few that might ...

  25. My Columbia Writing Students Must Be Able to Tell the Truth

    I teach creative writing, and I am the author of a book about teaching creative writing and the origins of creative-writing programs in the early 20th century. ... The oldest MFA program in the ...

  26. Creative Writing Blog

    Department of English 100 Colson Hall | 1503 University Ave. | P.O. Box 6296 West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506-6296 Phone: 304-293-9711 | Fax: 304-293-5380 |

  27. Celebrating the Spring 2024 MFA Graduates

    One of the most rewarding times of the year in the Creative Writing program at WVU is the end of the spring semester, when graduating MFA students get to read from their theses to a crowd of family, colleagues, and English department faculty. On Thursday, April 25, at 7:30 p.m. in the Milano Reading Room of the Downtown University Library, the ...

  28. Is getting an MFA in Creative Writing worth it? : r/writing

    So from that stand point, I think pursuing an MFA might be worth it. On the other hand, it's only too obvious that you can be a successful writer without getting an MFA. In fact, you can be one of the worst writers of the modern world and make millions. glares at Stephanie Meyers. BUT!

  29. The Queens Review Launch Party

    Founded by students and faculty of the Queens College MFA in Creative Writing and Literary Translation, The Queens Review is interested in work that pushes boundaries -- on an emotional level as well as a linguistic one -- poems, stories, translations, and fragments that scatter, ground, croon, and devastate.

  30. 2024 Doti Awards Honor Graduate Students in Education and English

    Anna Leahy, director of the MFA in creative writing program, shared that she is awestruck by Fong's ability to launch this project while excelling at all the other work we expect of graduate students and instructors. This project focuses on reviews of books and interviews with Asian American writers, filling a void in literary culture rather ...