Monday, September 11, 2006

What if the First MFA Doesn't Work Out?

I've edited out the name of the program in this email. Regardless of the writer's experience, the question comes down to Second MFA or Ph.D.?

I don't have either, and I'm not planning on getting one or either, so I'm hesitant to answer. I would point us all to an earlier post about the Ph.D and the job market, and I also know that we've had some posts for second MFA in the past. A google search would likely find this.

Finally, this email is a good reminder/warning for everyone currently applying to MFA programs. Do your research and make your phone calls. Thanks Mulling

I'm a second year fiction student in _______'s Creative Writing program. Although the program has a pretty good reputation, I'm afraid my experience here hasn't been what I had envisioned. The students are great, but the faculty leaves a little to be desired. The problem, I think, is that there is only one fiction professor who teaches graduate classes in fiction. Two others teach only undergraduate, and another was on sabbatical last year and will be again this year.

So I'll only have had access to one fiction professor during my time here, and though I feel he's a very good writer, he's often unprepared for class (in workshop last year he would occasionally ask for a few extra minutes so he could finish reading our stories).

So my question is:


1. Would applying for a second MFA be a good idea? Would programs look at my application and see someone who couldn't make it work the first time and toss my application aside?

2. Are there MFA programs out there who would be more accepting of someone who already has an MFA?

3. Would applying to a PhD program in Creative Writing make more sense?

Personally, I'd rather try my hand at a second MFA, because I believe I could focus more on writing.

Finally, I'd like to reiterate what you've said about talking to current students before choosing an MFA program. Had I done this the first time, I might not be in this predicament.

Mulling over a major decision in ________


Rasppas said...

Hmm, on that note, is it better to leave a program, or to finish it out if you're not happy?

rft said...

I applied to other MFAs during the second year of my MFA program for the same reason -- I wasn't really satisfied with the faculty. My advice would be not to mention your first MFA. I did mention mine, and got rejected from six programs, five of which are generally considered less prestigious than the one I attended. I'm not saying that's the only reason, but I suspect it didn't help.

WriterMon said...

I'm dying to know which ph.d. program that person wrote from, since i'm applying.

And Tom, thanks so much for your book; I find it a wonderful guide and a very nice counterpoint to the usual approaches (or lack thereof). But... what do you think of the Ph.D. in creative writing? does it carry any advantage over the MFA? And which seem best to you? (if you blogged about this already, please just point me there...)


DylanTaiNguyen said...

Hello everyone,
In 1996, I received an M.A. in Fiction from Boston University (a degree that's now been changed to an M.F.A.) The thing is: I want to go back to school, specifically to get an M.F.A. at Columbia, also in Fiction. Am I crazy? Probably. But I feel that I still have so much MORE to learn, and I've been craving a literary community, and time to write, and more advanced craft classes....

Also, in 1994, I was accepted to Columbia, but got no funding whatsoever. B.U. gave me a teaching fellowship. Still, Columbia was my dream school all along.

My question: will the Columbia admissions committee think that I'm out of my mind? Will they somehow discriminate against me because I already have an M.A.? For the record, I did fine at B.U. The program was simply too short for me. One-year: four workshops. It seemed that I blinked, and it was over. Like a summer love affair. Also, I went to B.U. straight out of college. I think I'd get so much more out of the degree now that I'm in my mid-thirties.

Actually, I've done some research, and I've discovered that Z.Z. Packer ("Drinking Coffee Elsewhere") has both an M.A. from Johns Hopkins and an M.F.A. from Iowa. And one of the Columbia professors, Lucy Brock-Boido has two Masters degrees as well. So I think my situation is not unheard of.

But I'd appreciate any feedback anyone can give. Based on your insider's view, would the Columbia professors give my candidacy serious consideration? Might they disqualify me somehow? Or is my situation a lot more common than I realize?

I hope that the committee will see my decision to get another creative writing degree as evidence of my passion and my willingness to continue learning. The (sort of) problem is that I'm a very very slow writer. I don't want them to think that I'm semi-retarded or something. ;-) In the past 12 years, I've published only 3 short stories. That's awfully slow. I'm not ashamed of this fact, though, because I've also been working as an entrepreneur, a job that allows me only about 1 hour of writing time a day. Do I bring all this up in my application? Basically, it all boils down to the fact that I want to keep learning, but I don't want the committee to feel that I'm all washed up, or that I don't have a burning drive to write.

Thanks in advance for any advice.

Dylan Nguyen

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