Two years ago at this time, I had no idea that MFA programs existed. No joke. A couple of my friends had mentioned that I might be interested in applying to these programs. So in the spring of 2006, I started with Stanford’s website, naturally, to research MFAs. I called Stanford to inquire about the “Stegner Fellowship” and other programs and the woman on the phone suggested that I buy the MFA Handbook.
The book mentions getting immersed in the local writing community, like taking a class. So in the summer of 2006, I enrolled in a creative writing class at San Francisco State University’s College of Extended Learning. In the fall, I enrolled in another writing course through Stanford’s Continuing Studies Program that was taught by a Stegner Fellow.
By taking these classes, I wanted to gain a sense of what the workshop environment was like (I was a Public Policy major), improve my writing, and possibly, if I did well in the class, ask the professor to write a recommendation for me. Basically, I wanted to see if I could thrive in this environment, and if it was something that I wanted to apply for and spend the next two years doing. Looking back, I also think that I learned how to conduct myself in a workshop, become an effective reader and critic, and thus, doing a favor for my future classmates at Notre Dame.
I’m not saying that everyone should follow the same path, but I do encourage folks who were not writing or English majors to look into what the local university or college offers. Also, if someone is thinking of applying to MFA programs and they are not straight out of undergrad with strong ties to their professors, then these classes might be a way to build a relationship with a professor. I didn’t think that my Econ prof from 1997 would be so keen on writing a recommendation for me.
Do any current or former MFAers have similar experiences with local writing courses in the cities they were living in prior to graduate school? Any prospective applicants considering enrolling in a course or have done the same? Was the experience valuable? If so, and if you recommend the course or school, then spread the word and let everyone know.