This links page is a work in progress — I plan on adding more, periodically. For now, I’m kicking things off with some MFA themed links, as it’s close to the first deadlines for the 2009 application season and I figured some of these might prove useful to you anxious MFA applicants. Be warned though: not all of the material I link to below is actually in favor of MFAs. Some of these articles are critical of them. But you gotta take the rough with the smooth — just like in workshop.
So, without further ado and in no particular order*:
Affording the MFA: A blog that deals with funding issues, and contains useful lists and mini-profiles of well-funded schools.
The MFA Blog: Discussion, announcements, links, etc. Most of you probably know about this blog already…but I’m including it anyway, just in case.
After The MFA: A thoughtful blog on life after graduating.
After The Ponzi Workshop: The New York Times reviews “The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing” by Mark McGurl, a book that deals with the proliferation of MFA programs, amongst other things. It was published in April 2009.
Show or Tell: Louis Menand also takes on McGurl’s book and MFA programs in general in The New Yorker (he’s as skeptical as Charles McGrath in the Times, but there’s a surprise happy ending…)
A poll from The New Yorker’s Book Bench Blog, inspired by the Menand article — interesting results!
Other reviews of the McGurl book have been gathered here.
MFA: Paradise or Ponzi Scheme?: Writer and blogger Donna Trussell takes on the same ideas (before the McGurl book had even come out).
In Defense of the MFA: Kate Harding provides a well-thought out counter argument to all this MFA bashing!
Poets and Writers has lots of relevant MFA material, but they don’t make all of it available online. The best of their articles are below:
Literary Journals Associated with MFA Programs: An essential list! It’s a VERY good idea to check out the journal of the school you are hoping to attend before you go there…
Workshop: A Rant : A kind of hilarious guide to the best and worst of creative writing workshops.
Reading How You’re Read: The Art of Evaluating Criticism: Does what it says on the packet.
Then there’s Poets and Writers vague and not-so-helpful MFA advice, here.
And the Poets and Writers MFA Speakeasy forum, here, with lots of community, questions and sometimes, some misinformation flying around.
The New Pages also lists MFA and MA programs — though be sure you are not searching through their “sponsored listings” which programs have to pay to be included in. I can’t vouch for how complete their unsponsored listings are, but there’s a lot of info there.
How to Tell a Story: a short story by University of Arizona MFA grad Margo Rabb, published in Zoetrope, which centers around an MFA workshop experience. It’s pretty on the money, in my opinion. A great piece of writing, and evocative of what it can be like to be in such a program.
Embarking Together on Solitary Journies: Hilma Wolitzer in The New York Times on writing workshops.
The Creative Writing MFA Blogspot: This handy online MFA database has links to full-time and low-res programs.
Where Great Writers Are Made: A lengthy and informative article about MFAs from Atlantic Monthly.
Writers in Training: More information about the research behind the above referenced article in the Atlantic.
Ivory Tower: So You Want An MFA?: An essay from Salon. The moral of the story seems to be that MFA programs can make you crazy and poor, but they just might be worth it anyway.
A New York Writer’s Catch 22: a semi-romanticized defense of MFAs by Peter Carey, director of Hunter’s writing program.
Peter Turchi’s personal website: I include this here as Peter (former director of Warren Wilson’s low res MFA and current faculty member at Arizona State) has a section called “Resources for Writers” which includes, amongst other things, an analysis of MFA workshops, a list of great, useful books about writing, and a guide to writing “annotations” or, in MFA application language, “critical response pieces” — required by many low res programs and some full time ones too.
How To Write A Great Statement of Purpose: Some solid advice and concrete examples from Vince Gotera at the University of Northern Iowa.
An Appreciation of John Hawkes: From The Rumpus. Writer Jim Shepard weighs in on his own MFA mentor, the late John Hawkes, formerly faculty member at Brown University’s MFA program. Another former Hawkes student, Rick Moody, adds his thoughts in the comments section.
MFA Applications Will Kill Your Soul (But Don’t Let That Stop You): Some really great advice from blogger and writer Wahida Omar.
The MFA Chronicles: A bunch of writing students at the MFA and PhD level blogging about their experiences — informative and enlightening.
MFA Confidential: A writing and MFA related blog by Kate Monahan at Writer’s Digest.
Practicing Writing: Erica Dreifus of The Practical Writer provides a handy list of low res programs.
Comments Written By Actual Students Extracted From Workshopped Manuscripts At a Major University: From Tanya Rey at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. It’s funny ‘coz it’s true.
What Will You Do With An MFA in Poetry?: More funny stuff — but serious-funny, ya know? — from Sheera Talpaz at The Rumpus.
FINALLY — RANKINGS!
* OK, so this is in some particular order because I saved the rankings till last, on purpose. I believe that all these rankings should be taken with a big grain of salt. None of them are perfect; all of them are flawed in some way; and no one should base their decision abut where to apply solely on them. But here they are anyway — you have been warned!
US News and World Report: SO out of date, and I don’t know anything about their methodology. But because they are, you know, US News and World Report, people take them seriously. Still. Even thought they were compiled in, what, 1996?
The Atlantic Monthly: Not so much rankings as “top five” or “top ten” lists. Probably highly subjective and reinforcing perceived wisdom.
The Poets and Writers Rankings from 2009: Compiled by Seth Abramson from his own research, and the lists of schools posted by applicants at his blog, the MFA blog and the Poets and Writer’s Speakeasy forums. His lengthy article about methodology can be found here. You only need to look at the comments of this article to see some almost equally lengthy critiques of the methodology, though.
For the record, I highly doubt that there’s anyone in the country who has done as much research into MFA programs as Seth has. When it comes to the facts and figures, he knows what he is talking about. But like some commentators, I also have a problem with the fact that part of his rankings is compiled from applicant lists, which makes it a somewhat self-fulfilling prophesy, no? Nonetheless, this list is probably the most comprehensive and reliable ranking system to date — as far as this kind of thing goes.
[Updated] As pointed out on the MFA blog, people are feeling the loss of Seth’s research since he took his personal blog down a short while ago. I agree that this material is a loss — there were some very handy ranking systems there that are now unavailable (or only available for a limited time through Google cache). This is a bummer. Perhaps if enough people ask him nicely, he can be persuaded to put some of that stuff back up, especially the selectivity and funding rankings, and the application response times list (though I know of several applicants who have driven themselves crazy with that last one…)
Did I miss anything else essential? If so, email me!