Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Back to School: MFA Week, Day Five

Welcome to Day Five of our special Back to School: MFA Week! Six SCBWI-MI members (representing three different MFA programs) answer a question a day for seven days. It's everything you ever wanted to know about getting your MFA.

Just joining us? Go here to read the first post in our MFA series. Day TwoDay Three. Day Four.

Team MFA: Jennifer (Jay) Whistler, Diane Telgen, Anita Pazner, Erin Brown ConroyRebecca Grabill, and Katie Van Ark.

Do you think having those three little letters--MFA--after your name will really make a difference in your career?

Katie: I had a lot of friends ask me this, especially one whose hobbies include an Investor’s Club. She said I’d never get my money back out of it. She was right that it takes a lot of book contracts to cover tuition costs, but this wasn’t about the money just like it isn’t about the three little letters. An MFA can help you get noticed in a slush pile, but what will really sell your book is having the best possible manuscript you can write. For me, it wasn’t about the three little letters as much as it was about taking the time to deeply invest in my craft skills.

Diane: VCFA has a great reputation, so it can help you stand out from the slush, but more important are the skills I’ve acquired during the program. With what I’ve learned, I can polish my manuscripts to present my best possible story. As a bonus, the alumni and faculty are so supportive of fellow graduates that it will be extremely helpful in terms of social media, once I reach publication stage. Plus this MFA is considered a terminal degree, so it gives me teaching qualifications should I decide to try that route. As I tell my friends who wonder why I bothered going back to school, as a way of confronting a mid-life crisis, an MFA is much more useful than buying a Corvette!

Rebecca: Without a doubt YES. Pre MFA I was at the point where every rejection I received was personal. But it was still a rejection. After the MFA I had more requests for fulls, more interest in general than I ever had before. Plus the faculty and fellow students have been VITAL to me finding my amazing agent and landing contracts at houses I’d once thought entirely out of the question for me.

Anita: I’m not quite finished with the program, so I can’t speak to the difference the letters will make for my publishing career. What I can address is the difference the program has made for my writing. For me, it’s not about the letters, but about the knowledge that I’ve gained. I also feel more confident regarding my manuscripts, and the connections I’ve made with other authors is invaluable. I have no doubt that I will find the perfect agent once I’ve completed this program. One thing I have noticed is that agents take those three little letters seriously. An MFA graduate has put in the time and effort to be a serious writer. Not that you can’t be serious without them. I’m not saying that or in anyway diminishing the hard work of writers who have not gotten an MFA degree. I know exceptional writers that enjoy success without an MFA. But I needed to be in this program to move forward and to have the excuse to scream at the top of my lungs, “I can’t do your laundry or be at everyone’s beck and call. I have a deadline, for goodness sake!”

I also agree with Diane. The degree is so much more practical as a mid-life crisis purchase than a corvette, a motorcycle or even a hot new pool man. I would say pool boy, but that would be icky, at my age. And affairs are too destructive and plastic surgery could go horribly wrong. That left me with only one option, a masters degree.

Thanks, Team MFA! I love how we are not only receiving honest, useful information, but we're also getting a feel for your voice, personality, and sense of humor through these short answers.

Only two days left! Join us tomorrow for MFA Week, Day Six. Team MFA will answer the question, "What is the most important thing you learned?"

1 comment:

  1. I love that an MFA is a terminal degree. I don't need to go for yet more schooling if I wanted to teach at the college level. Plus it was fun to battle the stress of that final semester by saying, "it's a terminal degree, so if it doesn't kill me..."