Thursday, October 21, 2010


So it's been over twenty years since I applied to MFA programs in 1989! Yeesh--well, I've never been vain about stuff like that. Anyway, the realm of MFA programs and the process of applying to them has changed dramatically since then (hello world wide web)--to the extent that my "process," which I'll write about in some future post about the "olden days" is probably almost unrecognizable to writers applying now.

But that doesn't mean I'm out of touch. I graduated from George Mason University with my MFA in fiction in 1992 (another groan) but since then I've made it practically my life's work to turn a magnifying glass on creative writing in higher education, including and especially MFA programs, looking for ways to make it better and improve the prospects for all MFA graduates in the 21st Century. I've studied both BA and MFA programs, here and in the UK, intensively in writing my upcoming book, Rethinking Creative Writing in Higher Education: Programs and Practices that Work (Professional and Higher, UK).

My graduate experiences were, in a word, uneven. Once I gathered the courage to step out of my "good girl" academic persona, I began to write about these experiences and to examine them critically. In the past twenty years, I've published a lot of essays and a couple of books about the pedagogy of the creative writing classroom (especially the workshop). Along the way, I've also picked up a Ph.D. with a creative writing dissertation at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette ('97) and a dream job teaching creative writing at the University of Central Arkansas, home of the Exquisite Corpse, the Oxford American, and, if the Board of Trustees smiles down upon us, a brand-spanking new MFA program in the next couple of years.

My other life's work besides studying creative writing programs and teaching creative writing? I write fiction (I'm currently heavy into revising my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel), have published short fiction in places like The American Literary Review and So to Speak, and have discovered a real love of reading and writing nonfiction over the past ten years. I've published several personal essays and most of my "scholarly" essays are really narrative essays in disguise. I also share the joys of raising two boys in Conway, Arkansas (one of the ten geekiest cities in the country) with my writer-husband (we met at George Mason) John Vanderslice.

I have admired Tom Kealey's work--indeed it has deeply informed my own and is a driving force of change in the creative writing world--for a long time. I'm very happy to be joining the chorus at the MFA Blog!


4 comments:

Claire Dawn said...

Welcome aboard. I'm an international, and I've been looking for a UK perspective to weight the pros/cons in the UK/US choice.

Sheila Lamb said...

Welcome! Look forward to blogging with you! I went to Mason for my M.Ed. :-)

Jenna said...

It's good to see you posting on here! Especially since you lead me here when I was applying for programs last year.

I'll try to keep up with your postings :)

Kate and Ryan said...

Stephanie,

Was just turned onto this blog and have been reading through many of the posts from the last three years. Maybe you can help me start answering some questions... I graduated with a BA in English (not creative writing, although I took a few courses) in 2003. Since then I have been completely away from writing and have instead been coaching Division I athletics. Over the last year I have realized that I want and need to make a big change professionally. I have come to the point where I think I'd like to get an MFA in non-fiction. I have never been published, I haven't even written that much over the past seven years. Where do I start? Do I take a year and just try to write? Do I take a course? I would be grateful for any advice. Not sure you are the best person to ask, not exactly sure where is best to post/ask questions here.

Thank you,
Kate