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Thursday, November 02, 2006

The MFA Toolkit

Can creative writing be taught? Lots of ink has been spilled in trying to answer that question. "What I'm trying to teach my students then are ways of thinking, which for want of a better word I might call a sensibility," says Peter Ho Davis. And in The Atlantic's 2006 fiction issue, Francine Prose says that "some aspects of writing, such as judicious editing of one’s own work, can be cultivated. But others, particularly the 'gift for storytelling,' cannot be learned. She invites the reader to imagine Milton or Kafka enrolling in a graduate writing program, seeking faculty guidance for Paradise Lost or taking advice from classmates who nix the idea of a man turning into a giant bug."

While the debate over whether MFA programs encourage bland standardisation at the cost of everything else rages on, those of you who're deciding to pursue an MFA anytime soon couldn't do better than go through this toolkit by Poets & Writers, which includes how to decide where to apply, an inside look at the process, a talk with the new director of the acclaimed Iowa program and an up-to-date list by region.


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