MFA Confidential Blog

Competitiveness in the MFA?

I am still recovering from Come Home Chicago. It was a night of great storytellers, music, and people. The complimentary Malort was not so great, but I still took a few shots of it out of a Chicagoan’s sense of duty. But yesterday, I discovered that someone had, shall we say, vandalized one of...

First Week

I’ve always been a pretty messy person, but every September when I was growing up, I remember how excited I’d get about my pristine new school notebooks and my perfectly sharpened pencils. I once thought this was a symptom of my nerdiness, but certifiably cooler friends of mine have told me they felt the...

Tell me about the first time you read to a crowd….

One of the perks of enrolling in an MFA program is that you become clued in to the literary goings-on in your area. I grew up in Chicago, home to one of the most vibrant writing scenes in the country, but until I started at Columbia, I’d never been to an event. I guess...

When can you start calling yourself a writer?

One thing I noticed right away at Columbia College Chicago is that the professors referred to students—even those of us, like myself, who’d never been published in our lives–as “writers.” Even my acceptance letter to my program was addressed, “Dear Writer.” This was flattering, but each time it happened I giggled to myself in...

Welcome to MFA Confidential–Take 2!

(This is the same post as yesterday’s, but I reformatted it to make it easier to read….) Hello, and welcome to MFA Confidential! My name is Jessie Morrison and I’m really excited to spend the school year blogging about my experiences as a third year MFA student at Columbia College, Chicago. Thank you to...

Welcome to MFA Confidential!

Hello, and welcome to MFA Confidential! I’m really excited to spend the school year blogging about my experiences as a third year MFA student at Columbia College, Chicago. Thank you to Writer’s Digest for giving me this opportunity! Let me start by telling you a little bit about myself and why I went back...

Coming Soon: A New Perspective on the Writing Life

All of us at Writer’s Digest are thrilled to announce the winner of our second annual MFA Confidential contest: Jessie Morrison, MFA candidate in the Fiction Writing ProgramColumbia College Chicago What’s it really like being enrolled in a writing workshop? What lessons can we learn vicariously from someone immersed in studying the craft of...

5 for Friday: Moving Forward

Well, friends, this marks my last post as MFA Confidential.  I just wanted to thank you all for reading and for your supportive comments along the way. I also wanted to thank Writer’s Digest for this great opportunity. Blogging proved to be a great complement to my classes—I was able to gain insight and...

Musings on the MFA

A while ago I wrote a post about getting worse. About thinking, really, that I was backtracking as a writer. I know now that the feeling was a temporary one, one urged on by self-doubt and fear and all that negative stuff. But at the time, I truly believed my writing was slowly breaking...

10 Things My Creative Writing MFA Taught Me NOT To Do

  DON’T… 1.      Play it safe. Never play it safe. Writing is about taking risks. About digging deep and uncovering the raw, sometimes painful pieces. When one takes risks in their writing, the words on the page are alive and full of truth.   2.      Assume that just because one person hates your writing...

5 for Friday: 4 Favorite Quotes and a Story

As I wrap up my time as MFA Confidential, I wanted to focus on my most favorite writing quotes for this installment of 5 for Friday. These are the good ones, those ones you tape on your mirror or desk, or scrawl on a slip of paper and place in front of you as...

When Your Writing Bores You

Last week was a crazy week and I wasn’t able blog as much as I wanted to. My husband and I closed on a house—our first!—and so things were a bit hectic. It’s a great time, but a busy time—buying a house, finishing a graduate degree, and more… It’s funny, though, how it seems...

What You Might Find in Your Old Notebooks

As I finish the final revisions on my thesis, I’m eager and anxious to get started on new work. I have many stories that are in their early stages. They’re on my desk, begging to be finished. I also have notebooks full of free writing. And this is one of my favorite things: going...

Important Elements of a Solid Creative Writing Program

A few people have asked me lately about the different MFA in Creative Writing programs that are out there and what to look for in a program. MFA in CW expert Tom Kealey, author of The Creative Writing MFA Handbook has a comprehensive list of things to consider when applying to a program. You...

5 for Friday: Why You Should Consider Getting an MFA

Should I get an MFA? People ask me this all the time. It’s a completely personal decision, one that many writers find difficult to make. Personally, I couldn’t think of anything better than spending two years doing nothing but reading and writing (and yes, ok, working most days). I was hungry for the experience....

Reflection Mode: Thinking About Life Inside an MFA Program

Over the next few weeks as I write my last posts as MFA Confidential I know I will certainly be in “reflection mode.” The two years I spent in an MFA program have flown by—I can’t believe it is almost over. I remember contemplating whether I even wanted to pursue this degree in the...

Wanting to Write

  “I want to write because I have the urge to excel in one medium of translation and expression of life. I can’t be satisfied with the colossal job of merely living. Oh, no, I must order life in sonnets and sestinas and provide a verbal reflector for my 60-watt lighted head. Love in...

More Writing Life Advice

I stumbled upon more writing life advice and thought I’d share it with all of you. I know I am always hungry for this type of information. There is something comforting about hearing how others live and write, what their trials and tribulations have been, how they make it work. I enjoy the advice,...

5 for Friday: The Writing Life

As I approach the end of my MFA program (only 3 plus weeks till I turn in my thesis!) I’ve been thinking a lot about the “writing life.” Sure, I’ve had a writing life of sorts for many years now, but the one I am now about to embark on will be quite different....

On Listening

“Writing, too, is 90 percent listening. You listen so deeply to the space around you that it fills you, and when you write, it pours out of you. If you can capture that reality around you, your writing needs noting else. You don’t only listen to the person speaking to you across the table,...

5 for Friday: Literary Journals You Must Read

I love nothing more than a great short story. In fact, most of the real estate on my book shelf is occupied by short story collections. Sometimes I plow right through an entire collection from cover to cover, other times I like to pick up the collection and simply savor one story. My mother...

10 Ways to Stayed Fired Up with Your Writing Goals

The goal is a steady flame. So I’ve been noticing something lately. I’ve been noticing that there is a serious ebb and flow at work in terms of my motivation. Some weeks I am fired up beyond belief—I am ready to conquer the writing world. And other days, I am caught in the hailstorm...

Style’s Greatest Quotes

I’m a little late on the 5 for Friday, but I thought I’d still have an installment of quotes from writers… So here they are: 5 writers on STYLE from The Sound on The Page, by Ben Yagoda. As Yagoda says, these are “Style’s Greatest Quotes.” “The style is the man. Rather say the...

On Sounding like Yourself

“Getting it to sound right is always the big, crucial thing. When does it sound like me, but not like an imitation of me? Unless you’ve gotten the voice right in the beginning the whole enterprise is hopeless—every paragraph is going to lurch around, bumping into things. Once I manage to get the first...