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MFA students pursue intensive study with distinguished faculty committed to creative and intellectual achievement.Each year the department enrolls only eight MFA students, four in each concentration.She took a different approach when she became the MFA director at Virginia Tech.
Later, teaching feature writing at a journalism school in the 1990s, I invented the course I had needed to take years earlier. graduate writing programs have long ignored employment concerns while their students went into debt in hopes of future success.
The goal was to write and sell a great piece by the end of class. Fifty-four percent of traditionally published authors and 80 percent of those who self-publish earn less than $1,000 a year for their work, according to a 2014 survey.
“We now offer nuts-and-bolts courses in criticism, reporting, food, humor writing, evenings devoted to life after the MFA, and agent mixers.” While the dreaded “trade school” label still resurfaces, some writers in charge of graduate studies are modernizing their programs for the future.
“We got zero publishing encouragement from faculty,” recalls Erika Meitner of her 2001 University of Virginia MFA.
“The old view is that graduate creative studies is for pure study of the craft, where a writer develops a style separate from the marketplace.” Zoellner says he doesn’t want his graduates “having the Tinkerbell illusion” that getting published is easy.
“I’d say 5 percent of their time is now spent learning about literary commerce.” “There is a slight shift towards helping students publish,” says Phillip Lopate, director of Columbia University’s nonfiction program.There’s a big demand.” Today, writing students and graduates who need more practical guidance than their schools offer can also turn to unaccredited programs like the online , which offers concrete advice on publishing literary fiction and poetry, according to its founder, Rob Spillman.Kevin Kelley, a current University of Wyoming MFA student, believes that picking up industry knowledge is partly volitional.“We’ve made a conscious shift to be more useful,” he says.“We push students to be part of the literary community, writing for school journals, taking weekend workshops with agents and editors ...“In the old days, such interventions were frowned upon.Columbia didn’t want to be seen as a trade school; high standards of literary art were emphasized.” That’s changing, Lopate says.Editors spoke to my classes and I organized professional panels, and half my students got into print each term.Dozens of them have landed book deals, many with five- and six-figure advances.“I chose a program with successful faculty to be around actively working writers,” he says, and he spends a 0 stipend on fees to enter contests and submit to journals.Back in the 1990s, happily, a different school approved my realistic teaching bent.