Best Creative Writing Graduate ProgramsTop Creative Writing Graduate Programs
Wherever great writers are made
Iowa Writers' Workshop is located in a picturesque timber building at the northern end of the University of Iowa University' premises. The reading room of the Iowa River Reading Room, which looks over the grey water of the Iowa River, contains high, glazed book shelves with some 3,000 books that have been edited by the workshop's alumni since it was founded in 1936.
Connie Brothers' writing table contains several dozen clip versions of the last few titles in a wired cart. Writing workshop is the best known and most popular writing programme in the land, and the textbooks in this mantheon are both humiliating and inspirational for the people there. "We are still running around in amazement that we came in," says Drew Keenan, a 34-year-old former San Francisco based computer scientist who gave up this job to spent the two years in Iowa's M.F.A. programme.
Iowa' s college undergraduates, like the tens of thousends of others registered nationwide in the increasing number of graduate writing programs, are afflicted with the frenzy of the aspiring artists and the wish to be successful against the disillusioning adversities of the media world. Attempting to evaluate graduate writing programs is like evaluating the top 10 partys: the top 10 partys: the top 10 partys:
To determine which writing programs are best is an alert of hearsay, weak connections, certain quantifiable facts and one's own preferences for the arts of writing. Creative writing programs have grown from about 50 three centuries ago to about 300. They all have the supposed aim of educating soon appearing authors.
However, which ones support the best new work, and how? Approximately 20,000 persons annually submit applications for these programmes. Acceptors will, at least theoretically, have direct contact with qualified educators, be encircled by other gifted ascending authors, be financed in a way that reduces their funding constraints, and deserve an entry into the book and writer worlds.
Because of all these factors, the issue of which programs are "best" has a value that goes beyond the mere "writers' talk", and the responses - there are many - are not always easily determined. An important aspect in the evaluation of these programs is of course the reputations themselves. Iowa Writers' Workshop is perhaps the best example of a programme that has an air of excellence that puts it at the top of everyone's list:
One of the most popular choruses is "Everyone turns to Iowa because it's Iowa. "The lowa deductible that had a lead of three decades over almost all others has grown larger than any of its quantifiable elements. However, one of the sources of prestige is the work and prestige of programme alumni.
Many of the thousand would-be authors who are applying are inspired by the implicit example of other well-known authors who have come out of one or the other programme. For an author, sucess is seldom immediate. If it is really successful, a writing programme can be judged by this result like watching a brightly lit planet burn in the skies after it implodes before an aeon.
An early University of California at Irvine writing programme item, Richard Ford finally won a Pulitzer for his novel Independence Day. However Ford did not really make a breakthrough as a writer until he released The Sportswriter in 1986, about 16 years after receiving his M.F.A. This action often seems more sensible if a new-mint. author has had a rapid hit that seems to be directly related to those in a particular work.
Irwin Irvine saw his fame grow after a college kid, Michael Khabon, received an advanced payment of $155,000 for his Master's dissertation novel The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, which became a bestseller. Alice Sebold's memoirs about rape, Lucky, began as a 10-page writing task in an Irvine school.
Launched in 1999, one year after she finished her studies, she followed him with her bestseller The Lovely Bones. Irvine, already a top programme, couldn't have been hottest. "Khabon was the first of a number of individuals in our programme to receive a great deal of publicity, which is why we received a large number of applications," says James McMichael, a writer and long-time member of the UC Irvine School.
Boston University's programme manager, Leslie Epstein, talks about a certain group that has consolidated the BU's name. These include Ha Jin, Jhumpa Lahiri and Peter Ho Davies, all of whom were celebrated quickly and overwhelmingly after graduating. In Michigan, 2004, M.F.A. graduate Elizabeth Kostova received an advanced of $2 million for her novel The Historian, one year after she completed the work.
An apparently speeding upward tendency is that of two or more degree programs. Kiran Desai, the 2006 Booker Prize laureate, had visited both the Hollins University programme (then a M. F. A., now transformed into a two-year M. F. A.) and the M. F. A. programme in Columbia; her victory was properly acclaimed with proud promises of both programmes.
"Even "program hoppers" who are studying two or more programs for a short time or even receive several M.F.A.s. are becoming more and more-frequent. An individual member author who has had a remarkable achievement often seems to outdo a legon of others who silently publish a work that is respectful but not widely known. The Boston University has the priceless Ha Jin, along with Robert Pinsky and Derek Walcott in Poesie.
The Syracuse University's M. F. A. programme, once a synonym for Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff (who is now at Stanford), now seems to be known for George Saunders, a author of shorts and the author of poems and non-fiction, Mary Karr. The New York University has the author E. L. Doctorow and the writers Philip Levine and Sharon Olds.
In Iowa, some of the members of the faculties work in large office spaces where their classrooms and studios, such as one-room schools, also work. Pulitzer Prize-winning 2005 Pulitzer Prize laureate Marilynne Robinson says the Iowa instructors set aside "things we could otherwise do, like our own work" in their work.
" However, elsewhere, the employment of authors with great reputation, but little excitement for the lessons results in exactly the kind of separate Instructor many former rue student. "Iowa graduate Eileen Pollack, who runs the Michigan graduate programme, says, "Spending your programme to buy a really celebrity who just isn't much of a schoolteacher isn't a good thing.
Most of the top authors of the top programs rarely give lessons (a grade in a year or a year and a half seems typical) because it is thought that their works are more effective than their teachings for the programme's icon. After all, writing programs has to deal with the authoritarian "star system".
" Whilst the bigwigs in most other fields are mostly experts, many of the big-name writers are culture celebreties; after writing The Book They Made Into That Movie, a renowned writer could even have money with high schools senior citizens or alumnus-givers. Programmes like those in Virginia, Syracuse and UC-Irvine take only five or six college kids a year in destiny and five or six in poetics, while Iowa occupies 25 in each and Columbia occupies about 35 in each.
The two-year M.F.A. programme at Johns Hopkins University last year accepted only two out of 260 people. Lowa principal Lan Samantha Chang says Iowa had about 1,300 bidders for its 50 overall slits. Writing, more than in almost any other scholarly field, "the contents go through the door," says Virginia-based writer Christopher Tilghman.
There, and in Irvine and Michigan and Texas, to name but a few, the number of candidates is amazing - often 500 or more. In this first stage, the possible awareness or celebrity of your own programme can be made or interrupted. Nearly every programme manager says practically the same thing about the process:
GRE, collegiate marks and which institutions you visited as an undergrade are almost insignificant, at best used as tie-breakers. Most important is the brief writing test, which every pupil presents for examination. As Ha Jin says: "If you look at the writing tests, you get a shortlist of 30 to 40 out of 300.
" In this case, the character of a programme can really be influenced, even if not deliberately. Are they really prepared to consider re-examining their letter? As the historic writer James Michener provided the Texas College with $20 million to help fund a writing programme, the college began to "get good writers," says James Magnuson, head of the James A. Michener Center, probably the country's top creative writing graduate school.
Michener Center gives its authors free lessons, an $20,000 scholarship for three years without lecturing responsibilities, and a $6,000 Global Research and Education Foundation. A graduate of the Univeristy of Michigan, Helen Zell, in 2005 contributed $5 million to the University's Creative Writing Graduate Programme to quickly establish the programme's name.
Michigan was already one of the country's top 10, but the grant enabled the programme, as Principal Eileen Pollack puts it, to be "one of the two best programmes in the country". "Michigan M.F.A. alumni have no classes for either year. Michigan raised its scholarship in February from $18,000, in part to match that given by Texas, increasing the stakes for the University of Virginia, which had already raised its price to keep up with Michigans former rates.
A further programme that could be on the upswing is that at the University of Washington; last October a $15 million contribution was pledged in the will of Grace Pollock, a humanitarian. Pollock is still around at 87, "but we have plenty of planning to use the money," says Maya Sonenberg.
Three MacArthur Fellows, among them the writer Charles Johnson, will receive a" MacArthur Fellowship". If the programmes are evaluated on the grounds of their funding, the situation in Colombia is relatively poor. The criticisms of Colombia were strong from those who could not understand how a $6 billion college could not find a way to finance a few verses and novels.
However, the school of the fine arts, which hosts not only films, theatre and the fine art, but also the writing programme, was often marked by marginalisation. "He is in Iowa now funding all his students for both years (although not evenly). With greater funding Marcus thinks Colombia would be "one of the most serious and appealing programmes in the state.
" In June, good tidings came on the air. President Lee Bollinger of Columbia undertook to contribute an extra million dollars a year in funding to the School of the Arts for graduates, part of which will go to the M.F.A. Scholars. Whilst there are still no fixed payment schedules, "I assume it will be used to bring other organizations together to get the student we want the most," Kleinman said.
"Hopefully it will also encourage fundraising, as it is another indication of the administration's commitment to the[M.F.A. Program]. "Those who enter during the 2008-2009 study year are considered for higher education. "You' re worried - especially when you pay ten thousand bucks for a bad degree," says writer Chang-rae Lee, currently Princeton Creative Writing Programme Manager.
Its programme does not provide a diploma, but gives its Hodder Fellow the chance to contribute with funding (such as Stanford's Stegner Fellow and the University of Wisconsin's Institute for Creative Writing Fellow, which is now linked to Wisconsin's newer M.F.A. programme). Lee, a former M. F. A. programme manager at Hunter College, says, "I told my Hunter pupils that only if you published one or two books is the final exam even any good.
It' Writers' Day at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and the theme is Idioh. At a full ball-room, non-fiction author John Jeremiah Sullivan leads college and local people through some thoughts about the trade; he is a visiting artist in a weeks programme of handing over his class to a number of respected people.
However, on the whole, the creative writing programs seem to be based on conventional pedagogy: For most people, the garage is still the centre of the bike. It distinguishes creative writing from most other writing subjects by giving a powerful role to people of the same age in the work. Since the end of the BU, Christopher Castellani has written two books with Algonquin.
Epstein called Ha Jin, "the only real mastermind I have ever known", assisted the BU-programme. The Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler speaks about opening up different perspectives and writing "about the place where one dreams". "Each programme spends 50 per cent of its own free moment on the workshop," says Tilghman, "but the issue is perhaps what to do with the other 50 per cent.
" Brooklyn, instead of asking his pupils to take lessons in England, runs his own "craft courses", among them a "time management" course, for one semester, to see how authors care about the course of their work. Neighbouring activities also have a lot to do with the value of a programme. In Iowa, the writer Charles Baxter, who lectures in the M.F.A. programme at the University of Minnesota, Kiran Desai and the writer Richard Kenney were guests at the workshop in a week's work.
A lot of smaller programmes would take up a whole term around such courses. A number of programs have adopted more defined strategies in their effort to differentiate themselves from the competition. Oregon University's programme, which the writer Garrett Hongo resurrected with what a former principal described as the "dojo" pattern, calls for rigorous final examinations. Chatham University in Pittsburgh has an M.F.A. degree that concentrates on the natural world, the natural world, and touring.
The renowned three-year M.F.A. programme at Indiana is one of the few to provide a course in creative writing. Winegardner says the state of Florida's programme will now work with the university's movie academy. Universidad de Arkansas has a distinguished programme in literature translations that goes hand in hand with its four-year M.F.A. The Universidad de Nevada in Las Vegas highlights the importance of the world' s books and finances scholarships from a grant from Glenn Schaeffer, the 1977 Iowa M.F.A. graduate gambling house businessman and writer's charr.
One of the most thrilling programs has not yet begun: Rutgers Newark RL, M. F. A. programme starts this autumn and is directed by author Jayne Anne Phillips. One-third of the 36 authors aged 24 to 60 are colour pupils, many raise a family and some have an on-going career in other areas.
Several programs, such as Mississippi's and Brooklyn's, seem to be formed around a vibrant schoolteacher - Barry Hannah and Cunningham, respectively. Hopkins, once headed by encyclopaedist John Barth, is still a place welcoming to the world of meta-fiction and language learning (although the department is also the National Book Award winning author Alice McDermott, who is writing in a realistic way).
The Hopkins programme, often accompanied by physicians and academics who do not see the meaning of invented tales, has a kind of stash mindset and the sense that it must always demonstrate its serenity. He appreciates both the rigour and ingenuity of the game, says Jean McGarry, programme manager. Occasionally, the development of doctoral programmes in creative writing seems confusing.
As more and more colleges require PhDs for all lectureships, the butler of the State of Florida says, "the doctorate is the new M.F.A. and the M.F.A. is the new M.A.". Featuring only about 100 tenure-track departmental creative writing vacancies available each year and more than 2,000 PhD candidates with new creative writing qualifications, the Ph.D. can become more frequent in creative writing.
The programs differ, but they all try to subjugate the student with the same rigour as other Ph. Which at the University of Southern California has, like many others, the same extensive examinations as other Ph. The M. F. A. "low-residency" programme is another rapidly expanding group.
As a rule, our enrollment programme consists of 7 to 10 days of intense stays in either cold or warm weather, with a focus on workshop activities and facilitating outreach. Such a timetable allows programs like Bennington's and Warren Wilson's Stars to appeal to faculty members located elsewhere. Bennington's department also has Amy Hempel, who is teaching in Sarah Lawrence's M.F.A. programme; Jill McCorkle, now in North Carolina; and Sven Birkerts, who is teaching at Harvard.
In Warren Wilson's addition is the writer Robert Boswell, who lectures in New Mexico State, and the writer Tony Hoagland at the University of Houston. However, even in this formalisation of the arts through qualifications and curricula, the elements that make up a good programme are an illusion of the quantifiable and immeasurable.
Many still believe that true authors, like the truths, will come out, regardless of the ancestry of their sect.