Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
Here’s another of those articles that onanates about the value of MFA programs. I’m morbidly attracted to these articles because I’m one of those poor schmucks who made the conscious decision not to pursue an MFA and I’ve been second-guessing it for 35 years. Now you may ask yourself, why not go for the degree if it objectively improves your chances at an actual career in fiction writing? Well, maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t, but if you watched Girls this season you’d have seen that going to Iowa ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.
One benefit of attending a program, though, is that you might be asked to comment for a Times article on the value of MFA programs. At least you get your name out there from time to time.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m sure, but the whole industry of publishing these days seems like a big set-up to me. Publishers use the MFA as another of their gatekeeping techniques so they don’t have to weed through (and read through) tons of over-the-transom material. Writers without the degree have a tougher time finding representation, and writers without representation don’t get read by editors.
Listen up: Here’s what one gentleman quoted in the piece had to say. “The number of writers has increased, but the number of readers has not.” This from Joseph Harrison, Senior American editor for Waywiser Press. “M.F.A. programs make money off of people’s dreams.”
There you have it. Step right up and have a shot, but be aware that you might be taken for a ride. Reminds me of another thing I saw recently about how those carnival claws that pick up toys are rigged to have trouble snagging the stuffed animals. The things everyone wants can’t be picked up. You tell your girlfriend you’re gonna get her the cute little wide-eyed puppy, but the guy who sells you your token knows you’re going home with a capsule full of stale gumballs.
I don’t know. If you want to play viola in a concert orchestra, you’re going to have to go to Julliard or Berklee. Why do I bristle at the idea of going to Columbia or Irvine to earn the right to be taken seriously as a fiction writer?
My cross to bear, I guess. I took the road less traveled, and maybe that has made all the difference.
(Once again, if you’ve read Occasional Soulmates and you’re inclined to post a review of your own, this would be a great week to do it. I need one more in order to list a forthcoming promotion on a popular marketing site.