What should MFA students demand from their programs? Part 1

Erika Dreifus, over at the esteemed Practicing Writing (seriously, writers, if you don’t read her blog regularly, you need to, she’s on my blogroll ) has drawn my attention to Robert Niles’ post, Eight things that journalism students should demand from their journalism schools. Of course, fellow MFA alum Dreifus wondered aloud “What should MFA students demand from their programs?” and then asked her readers to comment.

Well, Erika, here’s my response:

First of all, anyone seriously interested in this subject should read Niles’ post carefully and not just go by my summary because his arguments are lucid, pointed and convincing. They also demonstrate that despite the fact that MFA students ply their trade in the literary realm, their needs are really not very different from aspiring journalists:

Mentors, check.
Employment contacts, check.
A place to hack, that is, to try out emerging media such as blogging and other forms of digitial writing. Check.
Work contacts, not just internships but work outside the field ( go read what he says about this). Check.
Deep knowledge of a field other than journalism. Check. In journalism, this is known as a “beat field.” In creative writing, it’s known as a niche.

Opportunities to “get your name out there.” Check.
Passion for the field and for teaching it to the next generation. Check.

Those are all things that MFA programs should be doing for their students. And if you’re considering spending several years in such a program, you need to find one that recognizes its responsibilities to its students in the 21st century.

Of course, there are a few things I might add, which are in the next post, “What should MFA students demand from their programs, part 2.”
See y’all over there,
SV

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