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So you want to go to grad school?
Future grad students of the world unite!
Mfa in environmental and travel writing  
26th-Oct-2013 12:15 pm

Hey all,

I've thought about a lot since last time I posted in here and have accepted my love and passion for creative writing. I don't think I mentioned this in the last post but ever since I discovered this, I've tried to figure out what to do about it. I've found one school In Seattle called antioch university which has an ma program in environment and community and a creative project focus instead of a thesis with experimental, hands on focus.

So that was awesome but then I discovered chatham in Pittsburgh, which has an mfa in environmental writing. You can also concentrate in travel writing and it has a social justice component where they teach creative writing to prisoners.

I'm honestly so excited about this program I could cry. It's everything I truly want. A little bit of background about me and why this is so awesome: I've been writing since before i could actually read. I've published three young adult travel novels with a small company and done fairly well. I feel the urge to write all the time and love non fiction writing, nature writing, and young adult fiction (all of which you can focus on there). I care about alerting people to climate change and social justice issues and always thought I'd be best at this through writing stories. My heroes all are people in this field.

Now here is the risk of me sounding incredibly spoiled but money is NOT an issue with me so going here or anywhere is never going to be a waste of money.

I've been feeling good about it but my friend just laughed in my face and exclaimed what a waste of money that would be when I hesitantly told her. She said the job market was just too shitty.

I guess it could be a waste but honestly, I've been visiting those universities like you all said and I just haven't felt like any except antioch were what I wanted. Chatham takes it a step further.

This is honestly my dream, but I don't want to be stuck writing articles for an airplane magazine. Many of these alumni are pioneers in art social justice programs, published writers, and teachers.

At the same time, I don't care what anyone says. At the other time, my boyfriend and one of my best friends assured me it wasn't a career killer and go for it if you truly want it

I don't know if my mind won't change In 20 days or if I'll even get in, but I was wondering what you all think?

Should i listen to my "practical" friend or should I follow my dream? Or would it be best just to pursue something practical and write on the side? Hint: I know what I WANT to do but maybe I'm living in the clouds.


26th-Oct-2013 08:03 pm (UTC)
I'm all for following your dream - I just finished an MA in an obscure subfield of anthropology, and will be doing a PhD in the same field once I find funding :) Your friend's reaction sounds like all the reactions I get from people that are accustomed to thinking that the only reason to get a degree is to get a job. I say, the first hurdle is money. If money isn't a problem go deeper. What are you going to get out of this program? You already know you don't need an MFA to be a writer from personal experience. However, if you're just looking at it as "two years to do nothing but write," well, you can do that much cheaper on your own. Can you spell out why you want this degree, and what it will bring to you?
26th-Oct-2013 10:55 pm (UTC)
Well I figured why not? It would definitely improve my skills and networking/connections and yeah, I could really be a writer for 2 years. I figured that it would help me better articulate environmental/social issues so I could have a bigger an impact and it would help me put my foot in the door for more opportunities.
26th-Oct-2013 10:58 pm (UTC)
I would do some research and find out whether the second assumption is actually the case. It's my understanding that it generally is not, but if the program is particularly well-connected that might not be true. I'd quiz the program representative on what their graduates end up doing.
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28th-Oct-2013 04:57 pm (UTC)
What is it's reputation like?
26th-Oct-2013 11:35 pm (UTC)
I agree with what tisiphone has said here, but I just wanted to add that you already ARE a writer. You're writing. You've been published. You're passionate about the subject. I'm not familiar with this area of publishing (science fiction/fantasy writer here) or with the program, so I can't say how much this program would or wouldn't help you with your long-term goals.

If you do decide to go for it, definitely make sure you visit the area before you say yes to see if it's a place you can see yourself living for awhile because that's a huge move to make (speaking as someone who moved in the opposite direction last month :P).
31st-Oct-2013 05:17 am (UTC)
If money is NOT an issue, then you don't really need to worry about how this choice will affect your career.

I have a co-worker attending Chatham's MFA program who really likes it.
9th-Nov-2013 04:43 am (UTC)
GO FOR IT! I'm currently doing my MFA in Screenwriting and I love my program, although it can be very frustrating at times! If money is not the most prominent issue for you and you can adjust yourself to life as a grad student, then do it. Clearly, you have the passion, drive and motivation to succeed. I can tell from your post. Obtaining an MFA can be challenging, but it also pushes you creatively.

For two years, you'll be surrounded by like-minded individuals and challenged by your professors. I love that the programs you're looking at have the social justice/environmental aspect to them! Also, you can teach at the university level with an MFA, so maybe if you are interested in teaching at some point, you can teach something along the lines of 'creative non-fiction' and social justice. There's SO much that can be done in various fields of creative writing when it comes to putting social justice and environmental issues in the forefront. I think this could be a wonderful opportunity for you!

Good luck with whatever your decision may be! :)
15th-Nov-2013 05:32 am (UTC)
I tend to be practical-minded, but there is something very special about studying your craft in a community of scholars/researchers for a few years at a time. You get a kind of enrichment that you can't anywhere else, and that's valuable on its own even if no job prospects come out of it.

That said, the primary purpose of a degree program is to get a job/career. And an MFA program will probably have as its primary motivation preparing you for some kind of career. Whether that's a career in creative writing or in teaching and doing scholarship on writing (or a little of both) depends a lot on the program, but they will expect professionalization activities from you.

It's also less free-form. When you are writing for yourself, you can write when the mood hits you, or write on a schedule of your own choosing. When you are writing to meet deadlines in a program, or writing for a specific class, you have to conform to those expectations. You also have to mull over exactly what you believe the MFA can contribute to your education as a writer.

It's certainly not a career killer, and if you have enough money that it's not going to put you in overwhelming debt then I suppose you could go for it. The job market IS really shitty, though, if you intend to teach with the MFA, and especially with a very niche interest like that you may find yourself with only a handful of jobs to compete for.
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