tells us about our era’s myths, she says, is that “the arts are more inculcated than they were before. Lands, a professor at the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine in Knoxville. John Mc Nally, an Iowa graduate who based a satirical novel, “After the Workshop,” on a washed-up graduate of the Iowa program, has described his own experience there as affected by “bitter jealousies, competition” and writing to please instructors and classmates. David Win-grave, a New York University student, says that at first the camaraderie, the attention on his work and the mounds of feedback were “thrilling.” But it was easy to lose focus and feel frustrated, and he learned to rely on only a few trusted readers.
Jean Mc Garry, a chairwoman of the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, says that the teaching of creative writing has taken on even more significance because the way we learn has changed. The program started as a one-year Master of Arts and attracted students older than the average 26-year-old in today’s full-residency programs. Antioch University, Los Angeles, has a social justice emphasis; Chatham University in Pittsburgh emphasizes environmental writing; Pratt Institute in New York has social justice and environmental tracks. Academic programs require other coursework, sometimes literature, foreign language or translation courses. One hopes people at least understand the odds and how difficult it can be.”Including the odds of teaching at college, which many hope to do with the terminal degree. “It’s like, is anybody out there even reading this stuff?
That, she says, goes hand in hand with a focus on reinvigorating urban communities through theater, art installations, food culture and centers for literature and writing. Some distinguish themselves by focusing on thematic writing. Studio programs mimic conservatories and focus exclusively on the writing craft. program last May, says that once out of the cocoon, degree holders face a tough adjustment to the unstructured writing life, and the grind of sending work to multiple journals and receiving multiple rejections, if they hear back at all. Kanakia is more fortunate than most, with pending publication of a young adult novel begun at Hopkins.)Chris Brecheen, who blogs on the M.
Among them: the pervasiveness of digital media and celebrity culture, where anyone with a blog feels like a best-selling novelist-in-waiting; the rise of memoirs, a natural extension of the online selfie writing culture; the popularity of magical realism and noir fiction novels, which have turned many 20-somethings on to literature; and changes in generational attitudes, aspirations and culture.“The younger generation is making career choices determined by quality of life,” says Jeannine Blackwell, dean-in-residence at the Council of Graduate Schools and a professor at the University of Kentucky. Barth, a National Book Award winner in 1973, called his students “advanced apprentices.”M. Students have come to expect education to be prescriptive, she says. They allow students to test their stamina (and talent) for what Timothy Donnelly, chairman of the Writing Program at Columbia, calls a “radical lifestyle choice.”The best also hone technique and train students to read analytically. Donnelly puts it, students develop an appreciation for the “sensuous aspect of language” and the ability to translate their experience of life onto the page. “And then I think, ‘Well, let’s roll up our sleeves.’ ”Creative writing programs are designed as studio or academic models. They typically offer fiction and poetry tracks, though “creative nonfiction” is gaining ground, as are screenwriting and playwriting. programs are low-residency — they meet for about two weeks on campus or some other on-ground spot (New York University, for example, gathers low-residency students in Paris); the rest of the semester is conducted online. and is contemplating pursuing the degree, says: “What writers don’t understand is that there is little pragmatic about the M. A.” Of a dozen writer friends who went on to earn M. A.s, most, he says, are now doing “whatever they might have done before getting the degree,” including restaurant management, real estate and writing Web content.
She sees that as a reflection of undergraduate education that emphasizes specialization and pre-professionalism, with little room for the arts, reading or writing. A., adding a year because students needed more time to develop.“Our understanding of what it takes to be an artist is geared to an era’s myths,” Ms. The best provide a temporary respite from a fast-paced culture unsympathetic to the pursuit of art for art’s sake, and an opportunity to find a community of like-minded people who validate your work and motivations.
Mc Garry says, are less developed writers; faculty “are doing more of the work of writing” for them. Hopkins is known to be cerebral; Brown, experimental; Boston University, at one year, intense; University of Arkansas, at four years, academic. to work as an organizer of literary open-mike events.
It’s no longer the genius coming out of the ground fully fledged.”•Every program has its own character. A.-less,” says Junot Díaz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and M. A.-holder who has been a vocal critic of the degree. NYC,” George Saunders, a professor in Syracuse’s program, writes that there are so many negative myths about the M. Rowling, Colson Whitehead, Hilton Als and Emily St. But there is another argument, and another list — prominent literary writers and poets with M. With so much seemingly working against it, it is astounding the degree has gained traction at all. Harbach, who earned his from the University of Virginia, have “imbibed the general idea and aesthetic. But it seems to trouble many others, especially aspiring novelists and poets. programs and that a volatile publishing industry — now evolved around program graduates and sensibilities — has come to look for and expect? A.s now.”That’s not necessarily a negative notion, according to Dr. Harbach (who received a 0,000 advance for his first novel, “The Art of Fielding”). A graduate writing degree, unsurprisingly, turns out a lot of opinionated writing. in Creative Writing (and Two Reasons It Might Actually Be Worth It).” In scholarly circles, the boom and its implications have been a subject of heated debate since at least 2009, with the publication of Mark Mc Gurl’s “The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing.” In it, Dr. as the single biggest influence on American literature since World War II, noting that most serious writers since then have come out of graduate-school incubators. Between 3,000 and 4,000 students a year graduate with the degree; this year, about 20,000 applications were sent out. Last year, he edited a book of essays, with the same title, on the credential’s influence. Harbach describes two centers of American fiction: New York City, the traditional hub, and M. A., the encroaching university writing program, or “the M. Some elite, smaller programs waive tuition and provide a stipend (Hopkins pays ,000 a year, Cornell ,000) for every student, typically requiring work in a related position, such as being a teaching assistant. programs is likely to be partial, if available at all. Brooklyn College may seem a bargain at ,580 in tuition for its two-year program (,700, out of state) but the program loses talent to schools that provide full tuition remission and stipends, Ms. The class entering Boston University’s one-year creative writing program this fall will be the first in which all students receive a full tuition waiver and a ,800 stipend. Robert Lennon, says that while the program lacked a diverse faculty 23 years ago, half of today’s tenure-track faculty members are “writers of color” and split evenly between men and women. Díaz did not report.“I don’t doubt that Junot had a hard time here; some students do,” Mr. “The workshop can be a contentious and at times hurtful environment, and I’d imagine that it can be particularly vexing for students who experience discrimination every day outside of class.”•One equalizer has been the availability of more financial aid. This year, the competition drew 33 percent more submissions.“We can only publish so much,” Mr.