Friday, January 9, 2015

Q & A : Writing, Growth, and the MA vs MFA

I've been putting calls out for questions on writing, here a few of what's come in. More to come this month! If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments here, you may have your question answered in an upcoming blog post!

The next three questions were posed via Facebook by: 
Rhiannon PailleRachel Jewell Porto, & Paul Taubman. Click their names to check out their blogs, and thank you three for the great questions to think about!

Here it goes....

1) What was the first story you ever finished and how do you feel you've grown as a writer since then?
Thank you, Rhiannon Paille
I think the very first story I ever "wrote" and "finished" was when I was about two, my grandma transcribed it for me, a story about my brother flying down the steps. Haha. Okay, seriously though, I don't know the first story I finished. I used to write fan fiction (shudder), a lot of it, and all of that blends into each other. So, I guess, in my adult life, the first story I wrote with my own characters, that I finished, and I was happy with, was this story back in my first creative writing class at UMBC. It was a story using two characters who are actually in my novel (in a very different form), now. The story was about a guy who comes home from Iraq after multiple consecutive tours. He first goes to the home he grew up in only to find it's been foreclosed on. Then he starts searching for his best friend, the girl next door that he was in love with but lost touch with while deployed. He runs into a little girl that looks just like her while he's grabbing lunch at McDonald's, only to find out it's her daughter. Hurt and destroyed (and a little selfish baby...) that she didn't wait for him, he retreats home, but when she and her daughter show up for dinner that night, the story unfolds. Now, when I look back on it, I can't stand the story at all. My writing has changed drastically, mostly because my writing program showed me where my flaws were and what I needed to focus on. I now know what to look for in my writing. Also, just the act of writing, writing, writing...!! I still have more to learn, I always will, but I feel more equipped to deal with the writing life now. If I had the patience, I'd return to that story and revamp it, maybe someday!

2) What's the difference between an MA and an MFA? Do you think you need an MFA to be successful? Thank you, Rachel Jewell Porto
I guess it really depends on what you want to do with your degree. Do you want to teach college? Do you want to write books? Do you want to further your writing education? I have an MA from Johns Hopkins, there is also a world renowned MFA program at JHU, The Writing Seminars. So in that case, showing that you have the MFA vs the MA, one is obviously going to look better than the other on your resume. An MA is still a Master's degree; they tend to be low residency programs for those of us who have to hold down a job while going to school. MFAs, on the other hand, tend to be full time programs. I wish I could go for an MFA, just because I never want to stop going to school for writing, but right now, the MA is going to work for what I want to do: write my books, and teach college level English. I am going to save the main part of my ramble for another entry about getting a writing degree in general, but, to touch on it, what you get from a writing program, aside from the degree itself, is more than worth it: an amazing community, and a backbone of contacts and friends going forward in your writing career. Do you need an MFA to be successful? I guess the question is, do you need any degree in writing to be successful? Some may argue that you don't. 

3) What is your favorite writing of all time? Thank you, Paul Taubman 
So, this is a hard question, but I have to say, while it's not my all time favorite book, it's definitely up there: Time's Arrow by Martin Amis. I don't want to mention the topics addressed in this book because figuring it out as you read is part of the puzzle that makes this book so intriguing. This book is so different from any book I've ever read, it's told backwards. I found myself dreaming backwards and thinking backwards after reading this book. It really, really, makes you think. I kept thinking about this book after the fact. It takes your perspective, turns it upside down and messes with your world view. I applaud Amis for writing this way. The way that he pulls it off makes it my favorite writing of all time. And I highly recommend this book! 

Thanks, and please keep the questions coming!!!


  1. I now know the difference between a MA and a MFA. Honestly before today I'd never heard of a MFA. Thank you for the new knowledge

    1. Thanks, Cassandra! MA is Master of Arts, MFA is Master of Fine Arts :)


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