Author Toolbox Blog Hop: Learning how to write, part two

When I wrote this Author Toolbox Blog Hop post back in January, I had just finished submitting the last of my graduate school applications. Once I got my sixth and final confirmation email that my application materials were received, I immediately thought that I would get flat rejections from all six programs. All of the doubts and worries about not getting in anywhere filled the vacuum that writing samples and personal statements had left behind. So I put together a learning plan to improve my skills and be in a better position to get accepted the second time around.

But then in March I got a call from my top choice school, Iowa State University, telling me I was accepted and also offered the Pearl Hogrefe Fellowship in Creative Writing. By that point, I had fallen behind on most parts of my plan, but I was still writing regularly. Fast forward to the past few weeks wrapping up loose ends with my job while also saying my goodbyes to New York City and the people in it. I’ve been barely writing at all because of how much I had to get done before moving.

Now, I’m in Ames, nervous and excited and ready as I’ll ever be for this new phase of my writing life.

There are countless articles, blogs, and pro/con lists about the MFA degree and whether or not it’s “worth it.” When I read through some of these things as I was making the decision to apply, the only thing I became certain of was that there’s no one true answer to the MFA question, no hard Yes or No. I had to decide the “worthiness” on my own, and eventually I decided that yes, I wanted to pursue this. For me, my reasons for applying boiled down to:

  • Wanting to throw myself into writing to see how far I could go with it; an MFA environment can give me the time, space, and support to experiment and learn.
  • Wanting to meet more writers like me, who were seeking that same time, space, and support to learn and grow.
  • Wanting to go back to school for a graduate degree; a fully-funded MFA program fit the bill.
  • Wanting a change of scenery; as much as I loved New York, it was getting a little overwhelming.
  • Wanting a way to transition from my current career path to something in publishing, whether as an author or editor; there are obviously many ways to do this, and an MFA program can be one of them.

Classes start next week, and so far (before I’ve even officially started the program) I feel confident that I’ll be fulfilling all of the wants I’ve listed above. Already I’ve met some of the members of my cohort, all of them friendly and fascinating, and Ames is definitely a change of scenery from New York. We’ll see in three years if my feeling is right.

Do you have a degree in creative writing? What do you think of creative writing programs in general?

This post was written as part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop organized by the human dynamo, Raimey Gallant. Every month, authors at all stages of their career blog about specific resources/learning opportunities for fellow writers. To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, click here.

Header image from Pixabay.

Published by Caroliena Cabada

Caroliena Cabada is a writer currently based in Lincoln, Nebraska. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing, Fiction, from University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her writing has been published in online and print journals and anthologies, and has been selected for Best Small Fictions 2021.

37 thoughts on “Author Toolbox Blog Hop: Learning how to write, part two

  1. Good luck! Personally, I like the DIY way of getting a MFA πŸ˜‰ I like the flexibility of jumping around topics and genres, having different tutors, and doing it all at my own pace, my own time. A good writing course can give you all the tools you need to succeed as a writer πŸ™‚

    Ronel visiting on Author Toolbox blog hop day: eBooks — The Future or a Mistake?

    1. A lot of aspects of the MFA can certainly be done DIY-style! For me, I don’t think I have the energy yet to maintain a self-directed plan like that, but it’s a good way to keep the writing flame alive outside of school. Thanks for commenting!

  2. You’re so ahead of the game going to grad school knowing what you want to learn and do. ISU is a great school and I wish you well. I have an undergrad degree in education and an MS in mathematics, of all things. Other than HS and college composition, my writing has been learned through years at the keyboard. I envy your opportunity at your stage of life.

    1. Thanks so much for the well-wishes! I’m really excited for classes to start, and the ISU campus is beautiful. Degrees in both education and mathematics are really impressive! I have an undergraduate degree in chemistry, and I feel like having a somewhat non-traditional experience for entering a creative writing program has helped me in a lot of ways. Thanks for commenting, and keep on writing!

  3. I’m starting an MA in Creative Writing in September πŸ˜€

    The anxiety before I submitted my writing sample was awful, and even though I was accepted a month ago it still hasn’t sunk in! My reasons for doing the course are similar to yours, and I think in fields like editing qualifications hold a lot of weight.

    1. Congratulations on getting accepted into an MA! That’s amazing! The application anxiety is so real, and I also felt the same way about the acceptance not really sinking in until I actually made the move. Best of luck in your program! I’d love to know more about the MA experience!

      1. Thanks, you too with your MFA πŸ™‚
        I’d be interested in seeing how the two courses compare, and will definitely blog about my experience.

  4. so excited for you, and maybe even a little jealous. I loved school and I would totally go back for an MFA if I had the chance. Good Luck this fall!!!

  5. It’s always up to the writers to decide what’s worth it for your careers, as it should be. I used to dream of getting my MFA, but it wasn’t in the cards for me, so I did all of the learning I could on my own. Every writer had their own path. πŸ™‚ Rock your MFA program!

  6. Good luck with your classes! Sounds exciting! I’m doing my master’s in English Literature, and I love it πŸ™‚

  7. I think this sounds like an incredible opportunity. I do not have a degree in creative writing, but I’ve taken plenty of writing courses and usually enjoy the people in these courses very much. I wish you the best πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks! The creative writing classes I’ve taken have always been so interesting and enriching. It’s great that you’ve met some good people while taking them! Thanks for commenting, and may you continue to meet great writers!

  8. Congratulations on your acceptance, and the fellowship! I’ll look forward to hearing about your progress and what you’re learning.

  9. Congrats! I’m also envious. My time in my MFA program was incredibly productive and constructive. I met great people and got challenged, and there’s no question I wrote my best stories. Best of luck!

    1. Thanks! It feels like the people I know who pursued an MFA learned a lot in their programs. Which is great because that’s what I’m going for πŸ™‚ Thanks for commenting!

  10. OMG, Caroliena! I’m so pumped for you! Congratulations! I am also super pumped for what’s in store for your future toolbox posts, because it’s probably all going to be more gold. πŸ™‚

    1. Raimey! Thanks so much! And yes, I’m going to do my best to embody Maya Angelou: “When you learn, teach, when you get, give.” Thanks for commenting, and for putting this blog hop together! You rock!

  11. Wow! Congrats on getting in to your MFA program! That certainly takes a lot of guts, and has the potential to be super enriching. Can’t wait to see where this journey takes you! πŸ™‚

  12. Good luck with your classes. I’m sure it will be a fabulous experience. I took the Humber School For Writers Correspondence Post Graduate course. Loved it.

    1. Thanks! I’m looking forward to being a student again. Does that make me weird? And I’ll have to check out that correspondence course. It’s sounds interesting! Thanks so much for commenting! πŸ™‚

  13. Good luck! I don’t have a creative writing degree, but have considered getting one. We’ll see. πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you! The decision to go for the degree is a tough one. The blog post makes the decision sound pretty simple for me, but to be honest it was a lot of conversations with my partner and taking writing classes to see if this is something that I wanted to do more in-depth. If you decide to pursue it, I’m on your team! πŸ™‚ Thanks for commenting!

    1. Thanks! I agree that pursuing more education can often be a benefit, not a detriment. Thanks so much for commenting! No worries about the lateness; it happens. πŸ™‚

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