Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Seven months ago, I finally figured out what I wanted, what trajectory I wanted my life to take.

Then I didn't get accepted to the MFA program, and I went into limbo. Without the paid excuse to be a writer, I was scared to make the commitment and leave my full time teaching job. But I did, and I have been so happy that I made that choice.

The plan was always to work hard and reapply for the MFA this year, aiming for admission in 2012.

But things have shifted, and I am no longer confident that this is what I want. I have been teaching part time at the community college and loving it, even though I am not teaching literature. I really like teaching basic writing, and I don't need an MFA to keep doing what I'm doing.

Then there's the fact that my literary focus has shifted fully to YA fantasy, and the programs I am considering would be in poetry. Not that I don't still write my poetry and dream of a published volume: I do. However, if my reasons for wanting an MFA were to find literary community, will I be alright limiting my community to a side branch of my writing? I know that YA lit is often looked down upon by "serious" writers, like those who would be my colleagues in the MFA. (Yes, there are amazing low-residency MFAs that specialize in YA and children's lit, but I can't afford something like that. If I get an MFA, I need an assistantship.)

So you see, I am conflicted. It doesn't hurt to apply, which I will continue to prepare to do, but I am not as sure anymore that this is what I want.

Commence epic confusion.


  1. This is a tough issue -- people often seek an MFA so they can later teach (which isn't an issue for you since you are teaching now) or find a community of writers in their area (which would be poetry when you also want YA fantasy writers). If you are willing to devote 2+ years to poetry, go for it. YA writing may have to take a back seat or you will have to be more creative in how you find ways to support that element of what you write (online YA groups and CPs). Just remember that if you do go the MFA route you don't have to give up YA and vice versa.

  2. The teaching is still a draw to the current degree does not allow me to teach literature courses since it's not an English degree...I like teaching writing comp, but have always dreamed of teaching Shakespeare at the college level.

    But on the other side, I don't know if I'm willing to shelve the YA for that can see my confusion!

    Thanks for the helpful reminders. :)

  3. Ah, the MFA. I've been talking about it for almost as long as I've been talking about "The Great American Novel." (I have almost as many excuses for why I completed the degree as I have for the unfinished book, too).

    A good friend asked me years ago why I wanted the degree. Turns out, I had to admit I wanted to be in the program so I would have a guaranteed critique group and the program would force me to finish a novel. While I would love to teach at the college level as well, she pointed out that if that wasn't my primary goal, I might be able to accomplish the other two if I'd just get my rear in gear. (Great advice, I'm just still working on it!)

    Give it some time. Teaching basic writing is a new path. Maybe focus on teaching and writing this year and see how you feel a year from now.