Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sarah Gold's MFA Article

Sara Gold's "So You Want an MFA?" article is seven years old, but it still raises some interesting issues and advice. Check it out via Salon.

1) Try not to compare yourself to your classmates too much. Graduate programs attract all kinds of writers, from people who've yet to send their first story out for submission to people who already have agents and are negotiating book contracts. The thing to remember is there will likely always be people whose work is more impressive -- and less so -- than yours. If you're a seasoned writer, be humble; if you're a novice, have faith in your own craft. No matter what your level of achievement in the field, you can all learn from each other, if you let yourselves.

2) If you want individual attention, go out and get it. Most professors who teach in graduate writing programs are very busy people -- they may be working on books of their own, writing articles for magazines, teaching at other colleges or raising families as well as instructing you in the classroom. So expecting them to pursue you when it comes to talking about your writing can be, well, unrealistic. If you want an instructor's time, take advantage of his or her office hours, or if that's not possible, get his or her home phone number (you are entitled to ask for this) and schedule a meeting off campus at a bookstore or cafe. You may feel that, given the amount of tuition you're paying, you shouldn't have to be so dogged about hunting your professors down. But think: If they can hook you up with an editor who might publish your work, or make an important observation about a piece you're working on, isn't that worth buying them a cup of coffee?


jaywalke said...

I would suggest that while there is nothing wrong with politely asking for a prof's home number, you should be prepared to hear that it is none of your business. Being a student in an MFA program does not make you "entitled" to anything. You are paying tuiton, not renting a slave. Professors have private lives as well.

Kate Evans said...

Entitled? To the professor's home phone number? Is this a typo? Did you mean the professor's office phone number? I teach 4 sections of creative writing at a state university and have 100 students a semster. I'll give my time, but not my home number.

R.T. said...

I think the home phone number is a little much as well. But I agree that the best thing is to utilize office hours- drop by, bring a croissant, bring tea, and chat.

I was a TA in an undergraduate writing workshop and I wouldn't have given my phone number to my students. But I did give my personal email.