Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Getting Your MFA: Nine Deciding Factors

by Jacqueline Fauni

Should I get an MFA? It’s a big question many writers have asked themselves--a big question made up of many not-so-little ones (i.e. cost, time commitment, etc.). Last Sunday’s info session with Goddard College helped in giving us some answers to those questions, along with interesting insights into Goddard’s low-residency MFA program. Special thanks to Aimee Liu and everyone else who joined us that night!

If you’re thinking of getting an MFA in creative writing, here’s a checklist of factors you should consider:

     1. Do I need to get my MFA? 
    • Teaching: If you plan to teach creative writing, getting your MFA is often considered a prerequisite, especially if you’re seeking a job at a formal institution such as a university.
    • Structure: Enrolling in an MFA program may help in imposing some much-needed structure to your writing with regular deadlines, assignments, etc. Ask whether you'll graduate with a completed manuscript. Of course, you can design that structure on your own or through other means, but an MFA program necessitates a formal, precisely defined schedule. Goddard MFA students make regular progress on full-length manuscripts as they submit their work to advisors every three weeks or so.
    • Craft: Over the course of two (or more) years, MFA students complete rigorous workloads that help in developing and honing their craft. Goddard MFA students explore and develop a lot of different writing skills while completing a series of packets that include creative work, annotations, and critical responses to works on required reading lists.
     2. Where should I get my MFA?
    • Faculty: The relationships you develop while working with your advisors are essential. Be sure to research the faculties of each program and see who you might work with.  
    • Genres: Before you enroll in an MFA program, make sure they offer your genre. Consider whether fluidity between genres is important to you. Goddard’s MFA program allows students to study and explore many different genres and forms, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, YA, screenwriting, playwriting, graphic novel writing, etc.
    • Schedule: One of the most crucial questions you need to ask yourself is whether you can commit the time it takes to get your MFA. Be sure to compare the curricula and residency schedules of different MFA programs and determine how each would fit into your own schedule. Besides the packets they complete about every three weeks, Goddard MFA students participate in two eight-day residencies per year. The program typically takes two years to complete.
    • Cost: Tuition can be pretty steep, and essentially the same for most low-residency MFA programs. Goddard’s MFA program fees amount to about $9000 per semester.
    •  Location: Even with a low-residency program, you’ll want to do your research and find an environment that is the most desirable, inspiring, and conducive to your writing. Goddard MFA students choose to spend their residencies at one of two site options: Plainfield, Vermont, and Port Townsend, Washington.
    • Diversity: A program with a diverse student body offers a diversity of life experiences you can be exposed to and learn from, and can potentially enrich your own experience and writing.
For more information about Goddard College’s low-residency MFA program in creative writing, please visit:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Eating Crow after Christmas: Why I Guess I Don't Really Absolutely Hate e-Readers Anymore

by Jacqueline Fauni

I am by no means retracting all of what I said in my previous post on the subject, and I'm not even writing this because my feelings have radically changed, but perhaps I was a bit too harsh and hasty in saying I despise e-readers.

I was compelled (coerced, really) to re-evaluate my views when I received the Hunger Games trilogy for Christmas. I had been dying to read the series, and placed it at the very top of my two-item wishlist (the other item being the 2011 version of JANE EYRE on Blu-ray). Come Christmas morning, I open a card from my parents, in which I find a slip of paper simply saying, "The Hunger Games..." Confused, I look over at my mom, and that's when, with an evil grin (okay, not really), she brings out her Kindle.

My mom, who had been pestering me for months to use her cursed Kindle, had gotten me The Hunger Games, alright -- with electronic strings attached. The horror!

While she went on about how much she wanted me to borrow her Kindle and swore I'd love it if I just tried it out, and that she'd be happy to get me one if I did, I repeatedly pressed at the screen and grew quickly frustrated by its infuriating lack of response... before my mom pointed out the arrow keys and reminded me that it wasn't a touch screen. Oh. Right.

So my sentimental, anti-e-reader principles were reluctantly set aside. As I expected, I missed (and still do!) the physicality of a real book -- its weight, how it would fit just right in my hands, the strangely satisfying texture of its pages, the ease with which I could flip through it. But if I was itching to indulge in a Hunger Games binge, I'd have to endure. And so I grumbled and sighed and resigned myself to the Kindle's soulless buttons.

However, even the Kindle couldn't detract from the thrill of reading a great series for the first time. As I devoured the first two books, the bane of my existence slowly became an object I haven't allowed myself to keep too far out of reach. And I suppose, with this positive association with The Hunger Games, the Kindle has forced me to be a bit more open-minded about it.

While immersing myself in the world of Hunger Games, I discovered a curious Kindle feature called "highlights." With Kindle, readers have the ability to highlight their favorite quotes, and those that are particularly popular are marked as such in all Kindles. It's so fascinating to see what passages many other readers feel compelled to highlight. Like my previous admission about the usefulness of reading Amazon reviews, Kindle's highlights feature bears a form of communal spirit that is unique to online communities of readers. Reading these underlined quotes, and knowing they are highlighted because hundreds of readers find significance in them, brings a special, powerful emphasis to the author's words, and gives us a glimpse of that magical connection between author and readers.  And that, I must admit, is pretty romantic.

Though I still miss the physicality and cover art of books (because I must confess I am one of those people who lets books' covers largely dictate my first impressions of their content), and I still don't see a great fit for e-readers in building a personal library (with shelves and all the trimmings) or enjoying a leisurely afternoon of perusing and stumbling upon hidden treasures in a bookstore, I think I'm kind of starting to get used to this newfangled contraption. 

Is it possible to develop Stockholm Syndrome for an object?