Sunday, August 23, 2009

Answer: MFA in Creative Writing

Question: Why hasn't there been a new post on Pamela R.A.W. since July 29th?

I had a marvelous experience at the North Carolina's Writer's Network 2009 Summer Squire Residency at Warren Wilson College. The poetry workshop was taught by Cathy Smith Bowers, who also teaches at Queens University in Charlotte in their low-residency MFA program in Creative Writing. What is a "low-residency MFA program", you ask? That's the same question I had. Truth be told, Joan McLean asked the question. I merely listened to Cathy's explanation – 7 to 10 days of intense seminars and workshops on campus each semester and spending the rest of the semester completing assignments at home. Two years of this type of program seemed doable, so I decided to apply.

I've spent the first two weeks of August figuring out which poems I wanted to submit with my application packet; not all of them were edited to my satisfaction, but my fearless workshop leader may help me out when she gives me her feedback this week. This past week, I found some online resources to help understand how to critically analyze a poem, then spent the better part of today (almost 7 hours to be exact) writing a critical essay on "Blond" by Natasha Trethewey in the book, Native Guard. The poem tells the story behind a photograph taken of the author as a young child excited about the near life-size ballerina doll and matching ballerina outfit–complete with blond wig–she received as a Christmas present. I had 3 pages single-space worth to say about that poem; now I'll have to cut it down to 3-4 pages double-spaced. The last major portion of the application packet is the personal essay, which basically answers the question, "Why the heck do you want to do this?" (and which I have asked myself repeatedly while writing the critical essay).

In short, getting an MFA in Creative Writing just feels right. One of my New Year's Resolutions was to work on my craft, take my writing and myself as a writer more seriously. When I learned about low residency MFA programs it was as if the path to that goal suddenly appeared before me, like that scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indy sprinkles some dust and uncovers a bridge that will get him across a deep cavern to the Holy Grail. Now that the path has materialized, I have to walk across it.

Pam's Fab 5
Converse College (Spartanburg, SC)
Queens University of Charlotte (Charlotte, NC)
Spalding University (Louisville, KY)
Vermont College of Fine Arts (Montpelier, VT)
Warren Wilson College (Swannanoa, NC)

Check out " the Guide" from Association of Writers and Writing Programs for a complete list of MFA Programs in Creative Writing.