I thought I’d take a moment to cut-and-paste some information (at the end of this post) from the last newsletter that arrived in my email box from Pine Manor College’s Solstice MFA Program in Creative Writing. I know I mention my MFA program fairly often in this blog, but there’s a reason: spending two years focused on an MFA really helped me to kick-start my creative writing career. I have been writing professionally for many years, but the type of writing I do for a paycheck (business writing, PR writing, marketing writing) is not creative writing. I definitely enjoyed the year I spent as a full-time staff writer for a Denver weekly newspaper, and the many freelance journalism assignments I have done over the years, but still — my dream to be a “Creative Writer” was always being put off, set aside in favor of other things (like paying the bills).
When I started thinking about studying for an MFA, I received opposing feedback on the idea. Some people suggested an MFA would be a waste of money; after all, tuition is a big investment and an MFA is not generally a degree that leads to a high-paying job. For some writers simply reading a lot, writing on their own, and attending conferences, workshops and writing groups offers the inspiration and support they need. Others told me that earning an MFA was the best thing they had ever done for themselves because they learned a great deal about writing craft, and they were reading more, writing more, and taking their writing more seriously.
I ended up being in the latter category. I decided to pursue the MFA because I wasn’t getting any creative writing done without a structured environment that forced me to focus. I tend to excel when I have assignments, feedback and deadlines. Spending two years in an MFA program helped me put pen to paper on a daily basis and take a major step forward as a creative writer. I did spend those two years reading more, writing more and taking my writing more seriously, and that pattern has so far lasted through the six months since graduation. I’m relatively confident that it will last the rest of my life. I never feel bored or at a lack for something to do — at home, in a coffee shop, even on a long airplane ride. There is always a book I could be reading or a writing project I could be working on, and the writing is more satisfying because I have more of a sense of direction. I feel as if I have better tools in my “writer’s toolkit,” and understand the use of those tools more thoroughly. True, I have some very tough days when the writing is not going well, but I have days that are better, too. And landing my first publication in a literary journal, even if it followed I-don’t-want-to-tell-you-how-many rejections, was a very special feeling.
On that note, I want to share the recent accomplishments of some of the other students in my program. This isn’t to minimize those who have not yet published or to imply that publishing is everything. In fact, I admire writers who don’t consider publishing the be-all-and-end-all, and a tremendous amount of good work goes unpublished for a hundred reasons. Still, writers work hard, we face a lot of rejection, and it feels nice to receive some acknowledgment now and then. After all, most of us are writing because we want to share something — and we need readers in order to share it.
On that note, congratulations to my fellow students and graduates from the Pine Manor Solstice MFA program in Creative Writing, on the following recent acceptances and publications:
For more information, go to: http://www.jvhri.org/
MFA student Jim Kennedy’s essay “End of the Line,” a finalist in the Creative Nonfiction MFA “program-off,” will appear in the summer issue of the magazine.
For more information, go to: http://www.creativenonfiction.org/
MFA student Jina Ortiz’ poem “Miss Botswana” won an admirable mention in the 2010 WCPA Poetry Contest: The Frank O’Hara Prize. The poem will appear in the Fall 2010 issue of the Worcester Review.
For more information, go to: http://wcpa.homestead.com/
MFA graduate Faye Snider’s essay “Goldie’s Gold” has been accepted by Alimentum: The Literature of Food.
For more information, go to: http://www.alimentumjournal.com/
MFA student Alison Stone’s poems have recently been accepted for publication by Art Times, New York Quarterly, and Many Mountains Moving.
For more information, go to: www.arttimesjournal.com; http://www.nyquarterly.org; and/or http://www.mmminc.org/
MFA graduate Emily Van Duyne’s poem “Ars Poetica” will be published in the summer 2010 issue of Naugatuck River Review.
For more information, go to: http://naugatuckriverreview.wordpress.com/
MFA student Cindy Zelman is a monthly columnist for the online publication Gay-E-Magazine.
Faye, it was very kind of you to list publications of several of your fellow Solstice-rs. And your description here of your own experience with Solstice I think will be of great interest to new or newer students, and I will spread the word at July residency that this description is a worthwhile read. I’ve now bookmarked your blog, and scrolled through older postings out of curiosity as to when you started. When I finally finish preparing for July residency, I’ll do some catch up reading.