Congratulations Joanna!!

I am pleased to announce that Joanna has officially graduated with her Masters in Fine Arts from Lesley University! She has invested 2 years of hard work, which went by amazingly fast (she may disagree with that last part).

The other member of our critique group, Anne, and I are so proud of her. We are excited to see where her writing career goes next – it will certainly be to wonderful places.

Congratulations Joanna!

Lost (and Found) in MFA-land

Here’s a shout-out to Katie for giving so much love to the blog!

I’ve been a bit absent lately. And will be for the next few months.

Remember when I applied for an MFA? Writing submissions, check. References, check. Acceptance, check! I was accepted into three of the four programs I applied for and am now happily enrolled  in Lesley University in Boston. In fact, my first semester is almost half over. That’s like 1/8th done with the whole MFA!

Okay. I’m counting pennies, but I’m so excited to be doing it. Critically reading young adult literature (and having to write essays about what I discover–still painful at this point). Ripping apart and rebuilding one of my manuscripts. Researching 17th century Holland for a different one.


It’s all so interesting, stimulating. And how can my writing do anything but improve?

One highlight so far has been working with my faculty advisor, Jackie Davies. She’s written a number of successful books for young people. My recent favorite is The Candy Smash, the fourth in a middle grade series about a brother and sister. I’ve learned so much from her guidance, and this kind of close mentorship was precisely what I was looking for in getting an MFA.

Here’s a sampling of the books I’m reading for my various independent studies:


It’s a great variety, and that helps keep me engaged, for sure. I’ve only just begun, but I am so excited for wherever I am going with this! From time to time, I’ll chime in to the blog, to share what I’m learning. And thanks again to Katie for keeping our blog’s momentum!

The MFA: Part One

A few months ago I wrote a post about MFAs, specifically on whether or not I would apply for one of the few programs on writing for young people. I ended up applying to four schools, getting into three, and finally accepting a position at Lesley University in Boston (forever known to me as Bostron from my college days). I couldn’t be happier about Lesley. I’m not sure I totally understand what I have signed up for, and might not know until the two years are up, but I can already feel the momentum building underneath me. A literary adventure awaits!

In preparation for the first of five residencies, Lesley and Co. has sent out a list of required/recommended readings for workshops, and then there will be manuscripts to read as well. Having this work at first overwhelmed me. How was I going to tackle it all? But now that I’m engrossed in the reading, my excitement for the endeavor of getting an MFA increases with every assignment I read.  So far I haven’t gotten through that much, but I’ve already applied the readings to my own WIPs (at least mentally). I can’t wait to see how my writing and critical thinking improve through this program.

Lesley’s program appealed me for many reasons, one of which is their interdisciplinary slant. For the first three semesters I’ll take a class in a subject related to, but not necessarily on the craft of, writing. Maybe this will be Creative Writing Pedagogy (a class that would be great if I ever want to teach) or Historical Fiction. I could even develop an independent study specifically for one of my WIPs — like a class on 17th century Surinam for my historical YA manuscript. So interesting! As a generalist in almost all things, the opportunity to learn many different aspects of the craft is very exciting. Though I expect to work closely with my advisors so that I don’t spread myself too thin (one of my habits).

Amidst all this excitement is a good-ol’-fashioned case of stage fright (Book fright?). What if, once I get there, Lesley doesn’t think I’m good enough? <Sigh.> This is normal, at least for me, and I’ll do what I always do in situations that press me. Pretend I’m not scared! It’s not very suave but sooner or later I’ll be in it, doing it, using that strong self-critic to drive my work. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for!

Have you gone through later-in-life schooling or expansion of some kind? Was it harder or easier than you expected?

To MFA or not to MFA

How many of you have considered this question?

Graduate school has been circling the depths of my mind for close to thirteen years. Back then, I was trying to decide between studying geology or entomology. What a different ride it would have been had I chosen either of those subjects. But I didn’t, nor did I choose to go to divinity school or get my teaching certificate a few years later. No doubt, any of those paths would have proven exciting, inspiring, and enriching, but it’s water under the bridge now.

After two years of serious writing, graduate school has surfaced again. Should I get an MFA in writing? Specifically, writing for children and young adults?

So I’ve asked myself what I would get out of an MFA, and if I could get those same skills through a less expensive route. Probably the most important aspect of an MFA program – for me anyway – is the mentorship. My critique group (do we need a fancy name?) is an invaluable resource to me, and in no way am I going to let that go. But having a mentor whose sole purpose (among having many other sole purposes!) is to teach me the craft of writing sounds amazing. Reading and analyzing the books I’m already reading to improve my understanding of what makes a good story – yea! And the residencies – ten full days of workshops and readings followed by painfully short nights – well, they sound great, too. At least, they do right now…

Well, as of 10:13 this morning, I officially put my name in. Hence the delay in this post – I spent the better part of this past week writing and rewriting my personal and critical essays. Now they’re off. And of course, now I have to get in.

What’s been your experience with To MFA or Not to MFA? Why or why not? After deciding, yes or no, what’s your opinion now?