The MFA Degree and the Writer
This past weekend I attended my daughter’s graduation from Goucher College in Baltimore. She received her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction, the youngest graduate in her discipline this year. She is in some pretty impressive company. Among the graduates of the program since its inception in 1992, there have been over 70 books published, five within the past five months. With a mother’s pride, I can’t help thinking Emilie’s book on her year of service in an intentional community in the South will soon be in that company of success stories.
Of courses, it doesn’t hurt that Goucher is highly selective in who they accept into the program. With the likes of Michael Capuzzo (The Murder Room, Gotham, 2011), Earl Swift (The Big Roads, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) and Brian Mockenhaupt (veteran journalist with Esquire and The Atlantic) among the class of 2011, these writers had already attained a high degree of skill when they entered Goucher. But that’s exactly the point: a good writer never stops striving to perfect the art and craft of writing. None of us should rest on our laurels. Time and experience, as well as lots of hard work and sweat, can only make us better.
And it’s worth noting that because Goucher’s MFA is a low residency program, there were graduates from all over the country with all ages represented, proving that it’s never too late to perfect one’s art. The graduation program published undergraduate degree years and some of them dated back four decades.
At first I was a bit skeptical of the low residency aspect of the program. Can students really get as much out of a graduate degree when they have a limited amount of time on-site? After seeing my daughter progress through the program over the last two years, I can now say I’m a convert. These students live their own lives and work on a single project while being closely mentored by four accomplished writers over two years. They also take part in intensive weeks and long weekends in-residence. And the publishing connections they make are quite impressive as well. Emilie has been amazed at the sense of community the group forms from their on-line and residency experiences. All the hugging and general reunion bliss I witnessed underlined that fact.
Heck, just listening to the students reading from their manuscripts and attending the publishing panel and graduation ceremony made me ready to sign up for such a program myself. It was simply inspiring to hear about the writers’ fascinating projects. Here’s wishing us all the enthusiasm to be life-long learners – always curious, always striving to improve our writing gifts!