Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Creative Writing MFA Handbook

Many of us avid readers are also would-be writers, editors, publishers, booksellers, etc. If that's the case for you, you may be interested in Tom Kealey's The Creative Writing MFA Handbook.

Tom Kealey is an MFA graduate himself, as well as a Wallace Stegner Fellow and a Creative Writing University Lecturer.

In the book, Keeley takes us step-by-step through the process from "Should I get an MFA" to "I'm at my new school now what?"

First he looks at some of the basics. Why should I apply? What's the difference between the MA and the MFA? What's low-residency? What's funding like? From there, Kealey moves on to detail criteria you should use when choosing your school. He gives a hierarchy, but also notes that it's really your choice where you place your priorities. Thirdly, he gives a list of his 50 best programs. This list features both MA and MFA programs, despite the name of the book.

This list was my favourite thing about the book. I have found lists before that offered a ranking of Postgraduate Creative Writing programs. Three of the most well-known are the US News and World Report of 1997, the Poets and Writers list, and the Atlantic list. But they offer simply a ranking of the top 5, 10 or 50 programs. What Kealey offers goes above and beyond, giving an insight as the why he includes programs in the top 5, 10, 20 or 50, based on funding, faculty, teaching opportunites, program innovations etc. I really regret I didn't read this book a month earlier, before visiting the websites of over 70 creative writing programs.

Kealey also walks you step-by-step through the the application process. He helps you through the decision of what to send as your writing sample, and how important that particular portion of the application is. Then he gives advice on reccommenders, the personal statement, the GRE, transcripts, and the inclusion of articles whish were not requested.

Books about graduate programs often don't focus on anything past acceptance, but Kealey includes a chapter about deciding on a school to help you reorder your earlier criteria when choosing among the schools you've been accepted to. Finally, he gives an overview of what you can expect when you join your program.

In the appendices, he includes interview transcripts, useful links, reccommended reading lists, and a comprehensive lists of postgraduate programs in the USA and internationally.

There were two shortcomings for me personally. Firstly, the book offers no information for international students. Secondly, the author is unfamiliar with low-residency (and admits this), so there is very little information detailing low-residency programs.

Whether or not these are concerns for you, the book is still a wonderful tool for those seeking to to earn a postgraduate qualification in creative writing.


Jon Paul said...

Great! This is a great resource. I'm going to include it in my Friday Link Love post.


Claire Dawn said...

Wow! Thank you very much, Jon Paul! Much appreciated!