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The Writer's Notebook

Articles on publishing, teaching, career advice, current literary affairs, and more. In short, a blog about everything in your notebook.

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  • How to Start an MFA Program from Scratch (Part 3 of 3): Opening the Doors

    Christopher Coake | January 2016

    What I’d like to address in this, the last post, are some of the practical difficulties—and outright surprises—we faced in implementing the program, and how we faced them.

  • How to Start an MFA Program from Scratch (Part 2 of 3): Why Do You Need an MFA Program, Anyway?

    Christopher Coake | November 2015

    In my last post, I recounted how my colleagues and I in the English department at the University of Nevada, Reno, proposed and saw through to approval our brand-new MFA program in creative writing. In this post I want to break down the ways we justified the creation of the new program, to ourselves and to others.

  • How to Start an MFA Program from Scratch (Part 1 of 3)

    Christopher Coake | September 2015

    This semester marks the beginning of the new Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing here at the University of Nevada, Reno. Our first class is eleven students strong; as of this writing they have gone through all their orientations, attended their first workshops and seminars, and taught their first composition classes.

  • Impractical Advice, or Why the Hell Wouldja Choose an MFA Program Anyways?

    D.A. Powell | December 2014

    Since writing’s a solo act for the most part, just as much self-taught as self-learnt—and all roads lead to the same god anyway and all careers are dead-ends—it seems strange that so many of us folks who write should choose to congregate in institutions like conscientious objectors waiting out an unjust war.

  • If You Seek a Full-Time Writing and Publishing Career

    Jane Friedman | November 2014

    When I applied to undergraduate programs in the early 1990s, I only considered one type of degree: the BFA in creative writing. I’ve now forgotten why I fixated on such an eccentric degree that only ten schools in the country offered at the time.

  • Decisions & Superstitions: On Choosing a Program

    Laura Kasischke | October 2014

    The great French writer Honoré de Balzac attended no MFA program, so he never needed to decide which program to attend.

  • Everything You Need to Think about Before You Apply to an MFA Program

    Elizabeth McCracken | October 2014

    First of all: remember that you don’t need an MFA to write. Most of world literature was created by people without MFAs. The excellent thing about writing is that it is still an unlicensed profession.

  • Twelve Questions You Should Ask Before You Enroll in an MFA Program

    Pam Houston | September 2014

    Do the professors who teach in this program actually know how to write? I know, it sounds crazy, but very few first-year grad students have actually read the work of the faculty they are about to study with for the next two-to-three years.

  • Why Are You Here?

    Bob Hicok | September 2013

    [I]f you’re not careful, being in an MFA can get in the way of writing.

  • Ranking the Writing Programs Best for You

    D.W. Fenza | September 2012

    For the prospective student, the selection of a writing program is a four-fold choice. First and foremost, it is an artistic choice. Then, it is a financial choice, a professional choice, and a personal choice.

  • MA and MFA: The Final Word

    John Poch | September 2012

    While an MFA in creative writing is considered by most to be the terminal degree for those writers seeking academic training and the rewards thereof, many English departments and writing programs offer an MA in English (magister artium in the Latin) where creative writing can be chosen as a specialization area rather than technical communication, rhetoric/composition, literature, linguistics, or even film.

  • Hemingway's Workshop:
    What a Writing Program Can Offer You

    Alan Cheuse | July 2012

    About a dozen years ago, it was the year Jhumpa Lahiri won, I can place it that way-I served as a judge for the PEN/Hemingway Award for First Fiction. The award ceremony took place in Boston on a windy Sunday afternoon at the John F. Kennedy Library (where the Hemingway papers are stored), a beautiful building near the harbor that gave the appearance of a ship under full sail heading into the wind.

  • Picking the Right MFA Program

    Joshua Weiner | June 2012

    There’s money to consider—tuition (in-state and out of); fellowships and TAships; opportunities to work as a graduate assistant, or in other capacities on campus; cost of living; geography. But the single most important factor is whether or not the respective programs under consideration have writers on staff whose work you admire, and with whom you think, based on their work, you would like to study. That’s really the whole deal. And you want to pick a program that has more than one such writer on the faculty—you’ll only be there for a year or two, or maybe three at most; faculty go on leave every now and then, and sometimes unpredictably (when they score time unexpectedly through fellowships, awards, and other such opportunities).