A couple of days ago, I officially accepted a place in the SF State MFA program. As a student. This winter I sent out applications to Mills, SF State, and the Stegner Fellowship program, hoping that, one way or another, I’d be able to spend the next couple of years truly focused on writing. The folks at Stegner weren’t interested, but Mills and SF State were. I have spent the last month or so trying to decide which would be the best place for me to spend the next two or three years; what a lucky thing to get to make such a difficult choice.
For many years, I was determined never to go to school for an MFA. Many of the writers I loved and admired — Anne Lamott, Dorothy Allison, Alice Walker, Pat Califia, Leslie Feinberg — had not received MFAs. They just wrote, and shared their work, and then wrote more. Why did I need to go to school for a piece of paper that would tell me I had the right to write? Why did I need to sit in a room with folks who would tear my work up just to please the instructor? Why would I set my tender, still-budding, creative vision under the knife of harried creative writing teachers, who were only teaching in order to make enough money in order to buy themselves a little more time to write, and didn’t want to be teaching anyway, and who wouldn’t be able to help me develop my work the way I wanted to because all they’d see was how different my writing was from The Canon and, thus, what a failure I was as a writer.
Plus, I applied to an MFA program in, what, ’99? 200o? And didn’t get in. The professor from Goddard’s MFA program thought my poetry was too “young.” So there was that, too.
Call it sour grapes, what came after. MFA? I don’t need no stinking MFA.
But there was another thing, too: MFA? No one wants to give me an MFA. I’m not a real writer. Who am I to think of myself as a writer that way? Continue reading