Since there is only a few months left in my academic career before I have my MFA degree in hand, I thought I would ponder its significance.
Do I think it was worth it?
Definitely. I wouldn't be the writer I am today if it weren't for the people I have worked with. I certainly wouldn't have the confidence I have now. When I started I had no idea what I was doing. I had always enjoyed writing and an MFA seemed like a better alternative to law school. Now, I actually feel like a real writer. Some people have the inflated ego to describe themselves as a writer from the starting point; for me it has taken awhile.
Is it beneficial to genre writers?
The first thing a genre writer needs to understand about MFA programs is that they are going to be treated like shit by about half the people there. The "serious" literary folk tend to be snobs when it comes to popular fiction, but a lot of that comes from ignorance. For a group of people who like to think they are well-read, they are sorely wrong. In my experience the more serious genre writers have read a larger variety of books than most lit fic people. My opinion is that a writer needs to read everything: lit fic, mystery, sci-fi, chick lit, horror. Have I met genre writers who will not read lit fic? Of course I have. They only hurt themselves in much the same way as the lit fic writer who refuses to walk down the mystery section of the bookstore.
That being said, I return to the original question. In my opinion, an MFA education can be very beneficial for the genre writer. The point of studying writing, no matter what you write about, is to further develop your skills. There are universal aspects to all storytelling. But the genre writer, he/she need to bare the discrimination from time to time to accomplish their goals.
Are all MFA students and graduates good writers?
Shit no. They're are plenty of piss poor MFA writers out there.
Why don't you mention which MFA program you're in?
It's very difficult for me to omit the program's name from this site, but I feel the person who runs the place is a bad administrator. She will diminish and finally destroy the aspects of the program that I love over the next five years. On the plus side, it will become a hell of place to learn poetry.
Now, the people I have worked with in the program do deserve mentioning; and that's the reason their names appear on the side. I highly recommend studying with them. Those people are: Dennis Lehane, Roland Merullo, Suzanne Strempek Shea, James Patrick Kelly and David Anthony Durham. Again, all of these instructors have been very important and very influential in my studies. And I have to give a shout out to my homie, Jenny Siler; as well as to all the wonderful friends I've made in the workshops. A small list of their names are listed here as well.
Now, if you are still curious what program I'm in, you can probably figure it out with a little investigative work on the websites of some of the people mentioned above. I can say that I received my bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of Southern Maine - my MFA degree may have some of the same signatures on it.
What will that piece of paper with Master of Fine Arts on it mean to you?
For the most part having an MFA degree will be a reminder that I worked for a couple of years developing my writing to make it the best I could. It will be a symbol of my starting point of becoming a serious writer; and my passport to teaching adult ed, baby!