Congratulations, you are now a Master of Fine Arts. Now go forth and write!

Writing clip art

So it’s official, I’m a master of fine arts now. I never thought I’d be the master of anything. In fact I’ve always claimed the following: “Jack of all trades, the master of none.” The day that my cohorts and I in the Seton Hill University’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program had all been waiting for has come and gone. Two days later and we’re still sharing pictures on Facebook and patting each other on the back.

But slowly we are realizing that now we have no excuse for not submitting our work. We were all required to complete a genre novel to satisfy our thesis requirement so we have work to submit. Is it the daunting task of finding an agent or is it the fear that the rejection letters will start rolling in? I think it’s a little of both.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from taking the plunge and traveling down “the road not taken” (see Robert Frost). I actually want you to follow your passion. Whether you think you want to use your degree as an opportunity to finally focus on your writing or if you’ll also use the degree to find other careers in the publishing industry.

Why would anyone want to get a master of fine arts degree in creative writing (or for me, Writing Popular Fiction)? Some students in our program had full-time jobs in completely respectable industries (not related to creative writing). Some were bestselling-authors who wanted a terminal degree, some were full-time parents, some were retired and some simply couldn’t resist the urge to follow their passion. (Notice the word “were” could be read by a genre writer as “were” as in were- a prefix before an animal name to indicate a type of lycanthropy and/or shapeshifter). There are many reasons why you might want to get a master’s degree in this field, but it must be your own when it comes time to apply, enroll and start your novel.

For those of you who are seriously thinking about pursuing a master of fine arts degree in creative writing, there are several resources to find the right school for you. I recommend searching Poet & Writer’s magazine MFA database or simply Googling a school that’s close to you or in the most ideal location to write.

I was actually looking for a “low-residency” MFA. A low-residency program allows you to work on your degree from anywhere in the country, but requires you to come to campus throughout the year for residencies (sometimes up to one week at a time). A better description of this type of MFA program can be found on this Creative Writing blog post by Sheila Lamb: http://creative-writing-mfa-handbook.blogspot.com/2011/03/low-residency-mfa-handbook-by-lori-may.html .

I felt it appropriate to share our commencement speech by Patricia Lillie delivered on graduation day, January 14, 2015, at the Seton Hill University. The speech is titled, “We’re all mad here.” (Again, there goes those four letters: were). Enjoy and go forth and start writing your own novels!

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