Monday, July 30, 2012

MFA FAQ

I've had quite a few people ask me to share details about my MFA program. I talked about it briefly when I first got accepted, but I figured I would do an update now that I have completed my first residency.

I'm getting my MFA in Writing through Spalding University in Louisville, KY and their brief residency masters program.

If you're not familiar with what a brief residency program is all about (and I sure wasn't until my writing bestie Heather started her MFA at VCFA), you spend two weeks on campus in classes and doing workshops. Then you go home and complete the rest of the semester online. It'a great because you still get the face-to-face stuff, but the rest is all self-guided. And it's perfect for people who work full time or have lives or families because you don't need to be in class week after week, you just need to carve out some time to get your work done.

Spalding offers a few things in their MFA program that REALLY appealed to me.

* They offer a concentration in Writing for Children and YA
You all know this is my heart, and it's what I really wanted to focus my studies on, so I was thrilled when I found out this was an actual thing that schools offered. However, Spalding also encourages cross-genre study. In addition to kidlit, they have concentrations on fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, screenwriting, and playwriting, and students often spend a semester or even just a residency exploring genres outside of their area of concentration. I don't see myself venturing too far outside of kidlit, but, hey, you never know. And it's cool to know that's an option if I want it to be.

* They offer an extended semester
You all know that I am one busy freaking bee. So I liked that I could spread out the typical 6-month semester over 9 months. With working full time and all of my other obligations, this option relieves so much anxiety for me. (Especially with starting a new job this coming school year. Meep.) And the cool thing is, if I decide I want to pick up the pace and graduate sooner, I can switch into the traditional two semesters a year.

* That extended semester has a summer residency that is abroad
This is why I was in Paris. The traditional Fall and Spring semester residencies meet on Spalding's campus in Louisville, but the summer semester meets in a different international location every year. Paris was this year, and past residencies have taken place in Rome and Buenos Aires. Next year is in Dublin. I am always dying to travel, so having the travel combined with my school and having an opportunity to talk about writing in all of these cool places is really the most perfect situation ever.

Me and some awesome MFA-ers at the Louvre

Some cool things we did:

* The entire program (all the different concentrations) read the same book and had a discussion about it, followed by a cross-genre writing assignment based on the book. Our book was The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough, and even though I was sort of dreading that big doorstop of a book, I learned a TON about Paris and its history. Then we got to go on a walking tour that was based around the book, so we got to see the book and the history really come to life.

* We were given passes to four museums, so we got to check out all kinds of gorgeous and historical art.

* We read our work and our travel journals aloud to the whole group every day. I'm used to sharing my work with other kidlit writers, so it was a different experience to share it with a more eclectic group. And I absolutely loved listening to everyone else read their work...especially the poets.

* We wandered around Paris. I don't think I need to explain why this was cool.


If you have any specific questions, about Spalding, MFAs, or brief residency programs, I'd be so happy to answer them. Just let me know. I have to say, I had a blast at my very first residency in Paris. I met so many awesome, like-minded people, I got to explore this amazing city for two weeks, and I got to work on my writing. I'll update soon on the specifics of my trip, but for now just know that every day was more awesome than the one before it, and the faculty and the students in this program are all pretty freaking amazing.

21 comments:

  1. This sounds so cool--I need to start saving so an MFA program is possible.

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    1. Yeah...it's worth it. (For me, anyway)

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  2. It's always interesting to hear how other MFA programs work. I love that your program has overseas residencies. So cool!

    I started my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Hamline University, but I only did one semester. It was all just so expensive and I already have loans from my BA that I'm still paying on. Frown. I read that this program has Graduate Assistantships, though--have you heard much about that? Is it really competitive?

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    1. It really is so expensive. I have my undergrad loans still, too, but this means a raise for me, so that's how I justify it. :-)

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  3. That's so great! I'd love the opportunity to spend 2 weeks in Paris. I got a Writing for Children MFA (from The New School in NYC) and it was awesome to be able to work with teachers and other writers to *got* what I was writing. :)

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    1. I would have loved to do this through The New School! You're so right...having people who *get* it makes the biggest difference.

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  4. Replies
    1. WOOP! I'll be glad to be home, though.

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  5. Jessica, I'm so glad you're having a good time. My undergrad alum has one of the best YA MFA programs in the country and I spoke with the head of the program recently. He said I should definitely apply. I would love to get more feedback and critique and that's why I want an MFA program. However my parents don't think getting an MFA is worth it because I already write and have beta readers, and since I don't want to be a professor, they just don't think it's worth the $$$. What do you recommend? Why are *you* doing *your MFA program?

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    1. Good question! I'm a teacher, so getting a masters degree is an immediate raise for me, no matter what the degree is in. So I might as well get one in something I am really interested in, right? And with this degree I can teach English at the college level if I want to, which is a very useful thing to keep in my back pocket.

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  6. I've been looking into postgraduate programs lately, trying to figure out if I want an MFA or something else more academic related (lol, probably not.) This one sounds amazing--it's going on my list of MFA programs to look deeper into. :)

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    1. Yeah, I was thinking about more academic programs, but in the end I think this is the one that will benefit me the most overall, in all of my different lives.

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  7. JEEEEESSSSSSSSSSS.

    I missed you.

    Also, this program is drool-worthy. Can one have two MFAs? ;-)

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  8. Thank you for sharing more about your program. I hope to one day be able to participate in brief residency MFA, especially one like yours that offers a focus on KidLit. Sounds perfect! And I've loved following along with your vacation via Instagram. Now I very much want to go to Paris. :)

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    1. Yeah, it really is perfect...especially for people with full-time jobs and/or families.

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  9. Thanks for sharing. I have a few writing friends who have made this decision, and I've often thought about it myself. It's great that MFA programs offer so much flexibility. I've tested the waters for my PhD in social work, but the programs are so rigid.

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  10. My daughter just graduated from UCIrvine with a creative writing emphasis and she wants to do an MFA program. This one sounds cool. Thanks for all the deets.

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