C:\Users\Liana Andreasen\Downloads\google599c2b2acd30f5b4 (1).html
 
I've much flirted with the idea of getting an MFA. I do realize that there is some value in learning some things about the craft from published authors with more experience. And I do realize there's value in having a community of writers who are at approximately the same level as you are. But when I took a class to see if an MFA is "right for me," I realized it wasn't. I didn't quite connect with the community in my class, and I didn't think the faculty was a good fit for my needs as a not-very-established-yet writer. 

But I do want to emphasize that I'm not denying the value of MFAs. In Romania, there are writers' clubs called "Cenaclu" - and they are much closer to MFA classes than they are to book clubs, because, first off, they are usually held under the guidance of an established writer, then there is a selection process, then they tend to take themselves very seriously and they are in fact about the craft of writing (and maybe about developing a writer's ego, which is needed too).

Having (so far) abandoned the idea of getting an MFA, I have instead tried to maximize the writers' community where I've been more active, which is LitReactor. I have many writer friends who are also LitReactors, and I have written many short stories there (and started a novel) both in the fun and informal contests on LR, and in formal classes (which are a bit more costly but worth it if you're not in an MFA but want a similar experience, and where you learn a few thing from a published writer in a 4-6 weeks class). I did learn a lot from Mark Vanderpool, Craig Clevenger (author of Dermaphoria) and Chris Bram (author of Gods and Monsters). Chris Bram was particularly encouraging about the novel I'm working on.

And aside from the actual class-like environment, I want to say that there's some value (don't over-rely on that though) in getting feedback from everyone who's willing to read your work. Sometimes the feedback makes you angry and you will blacklist the person who gave it as someone who doesn't get you at all, but sometimes you'll actually realize you were doing something that only made sense to you. I don't see myself as a "beginner" anymore, but I still like feedback.
 


Comments

09/09/2013 6:09am

For me a community is crucial and help and support is the one thing that I would suggest every writer seek out. It wasn't until I had an experienced novelist pick at a chapter I gave her that I realised how much I could learn others.

I think there is always a lesson to be learned, even if the chemistry in a group is not so good, or there are people who seem to be there for the wrong reasons, there is still a potential for improvement in either MFAs or workshops/online classes.

There will always be an element of chance too, in what the groups and curators or authors in them will be like as readers and teachers. But hey, there's only one way to find out, right?

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10/01/2013 3:34pm

I agree after a protracted period of more or less complete isolation as a writer, that community is a good thing. But so is isolation I think at the core of fiction writing; but that I think is thge exact set up by which we are all compelled to share our writing as well as write it, what the hell are you wasting you're damn time scartching symbols into paper if it won't be shared. So I feel like its that intense paradox, an act of creation so intensely subjective, and so desirous of being shared at once that gives writing such power.

If I might get all joyful and optimistic for a split second, I think there is something miraculous and ideal in this type of isolation, good fiction writing requires, Because good fiction is at least one of the highest forms possible for an attempt to reach outside of isolation with all that complexity for the creation of an original person language has to offer, and then go find the truth about yourself/others as far as you can tell it. Or something like that. But point being, that's why the need to work on the thick skin if you're by no mens a natural, the more readings the merrier.

You stick to your own, you hear from others; and all the while since it is possible to work backwards, there are others who will spot it if you don't and don't let it ge too far. So you can be more objective, about your own writing and also critiques within the group, which can be a bit harrowing, like the machine Kafka wrote about in some cases. But if you're working in a good direction what a good thing to be working for, to reach in the direction of spirit, and emotion, and then if you can make a thing with characters like and unlike you who you at least mostly love and even the ones who suck, then bingo, though of course it's an approximation of the most golden rule like everything else is, at least you've done a bunch of exercise in trying to reach into others perceptively with passion/compassion instead of judgment, and that's a short step I'd guess to loving, "others as yourself." Anyway, so sayeth Father Foley or whoever I am today I may need a group member to interpret. .

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