Friday, April 07, 2006

Thoughts from a reader on Houston, Penn State, and LSU

jfb151 writes in:

I thought I'd give you a little bit of background on three programs with which I have first hand experience, though since I received my MFA in 2001, all of this may be going gray with old age.

Houston--I went as an undergraduate, specifically for the creative writing program. (We moved down my senior year of high school and it was incredibly cheap). The best thing about the program was that most of the great writers they had, whether visitors or regular faculty, taught undergraduates. I took classes from Daniel Stern, Mary Gaitskill, and Stephen Stark. While the talent level of the students isn't consistently great, there are some good undergraduate writers there. Mitch Cullin was a in a few of my classes as an undergraduate.

Penn State--I really had a bad experience with Penn State, and left after one year. Though I liked the school itself, and the English department as a whole, I felt that the MFA program was insular, narrow and smug. There weren't many professors of creative writing there, and the general vibes was clubbish and negative. It might have been just me. I would have probably stuck around, but I didn't have funding and was very unhappy with my own writing at the time.

LSU--I took a year off after Penn State and then eventually ended up at LSU. I found the program to be terrific. They allow the writes to concentrate in a specific area, offering fiction, poetry, non-fiction, screenwriting, drama and translation (!). The atmosphere is laid back, open and supportive. They also have three literary magazines (The Southern Review, New Delta Review and Exquisite Corpse) that allow for student experience in editing and publishing. I had class with Olympia Vernon, Bret Benoit, Mark Spitzer, and Ronlyn Domingue, all of whom have published novels since graduating. I currently have an agent trying to sell a YA novel and have published in McSweeney's, The Morning News, and other places. LSU really saved my writing career, such as it is.

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