On Grad School and Getting My MFA

Photo credit: permanently scatterbrained on Flickr
I'm now in my second semester of grad school, where I'm getting my MFA in Writing for Children, and life is good. Ridiculously busy—especially when I'm on deadline like right now—but good. To think that this time last year I was agonizing over whether moving 800 miles on my own to get a degree I didn't necessarily need was a good idea—and boy, am I glad I went for it because it's been an excellent idea. The best decision I've ever made, to be honest.

A big part of that is because I'm finally independent and in a place where I can make connections and plant roots—which feels so nice. But the program so far has been really valuable, too.

I'd heard loads of horror stories about MFAs, and how so many of the programs looked down on genre fiction and even those that didn't often looked down on children's literature—so as a YA spec fic author, I was initially hesitant to apply anywhere. Until I did my research and found a handful of programs nationwide that offered a children's lit-specific program in which I could continue honing my skills in the field I actually enjoyed.

Though it's still earlyish in my program, I can say it's definitely done that. But moreso, it's pushed me outside of my comfort zone. In my first semester I dabbled with Middle Grade and Picture Book writing for the first time—and now I have a Middle Grade project I'm excited about and moving forward with. With frequent critiques and need to constantly output work, I've got multiple projects fresh on my mind at all times, which keeps me creatively churning one way or the other.

Starting in the fall I'll begin working with a mentor with a chosen project, which will be a whole 'nother level of critique and creating new words. I'm excited about the future and juggling projects like never before, but at the end of it all I've have even more work I can use in my career. And that's pretty excellent.

While I certainly wouldn't say an MFA is essential to being an author (or a bachelor's degree for that matter, or college education at all), it's a step I'm really glad I took, both as a way to get me to spread my wings, and in terms of my creative output. I've got a ton going on right now, but it's all stuff I love.

Twitter-sized bite:
Curious about what getting a kidlit-focused MFA is like? @Ava_Jae shares their experience so far. (Click to tweet)

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