A few days ago, I posted an article from the Chronicle of Higher Ed to one of my Pinterest pages, and it was repinned seven times — a lot for me! The article discussed the sheer number of graduates from creative writing MFA programs, and the fact that a large majority of these recent grads don’t end up publishing anything after earning the terminal degree.
The stats are daunting. According to the article, University of Iowa — the reputed cream of the crop — sees only about three-quarters of their MFA grads published. Other schools place the figure at as low as ten percent up to maybe 50 percent. Geez, doesn’t make a girl feel great about paying off all that apparently crippling student loan debt.
But here’s the thing — I’m feeling pretty good about my odds. Maybe my class at the New School’s Writing for Children program is just particularly exceptional, but of the twelve us, nearly half have already earned book deals. And several more are well on our way as well. Our program has a great track record of alumni publishing (including New School grads like Jenny Han, Coe Booth, and our own Mary G. Thompson, whose book came out this week!), and while the program is not sell-centered, it doesn’t avoid the topic of publishing in a frenzied panic, like many MFA programs (including some of the other departments at the New School’s own) do. Our instructors are not only writers, but editors from some of the very publishing houses that are looking for the types of stories we’re creating.
And that’s all great, but I think the biggest resource I have is my fellow classmates, who are knowledgeable and savvy about the way things work — both in the sense of craft, and in the sense of business. With them by my side, I don’t doubt that I’ll be a statistic, too. But I’ll be on the side of the ones who do put their MFAs to good use.
Photo courtesy Clarion Books