In May 2018, I will have completed all the requirements for an MFA in Creative Writing from Butler University and be preparing to graduate. And like so many students, I’ve been asked countless times: What are you going to do with that degree?
My usual answer is that I’m going to have an interesting last quarter of my life. I’ll be 59 by the time 2018 commencement rolls around, so I’m not looking for a career. I have no expectations of becoming a literary Grandma Moses.
I went through the MFA program (30 classroom credits, plus thesis) because I wanted—and got—a great education. I enjoy writing stories about reprobates and other morally ambiguous people—a woman who fled her marriage after 9/11; a meth addict who thinks he’s on a reality show; a recent graduate who takes a job writing scam emails. So that’s what I did.
Over two years as an MFA student, I wrote a play, a movie script, at least a half-dozen short stories (three of which have been published), and a handful of prose poems and flash fiction stories. I learned alternative forms of storytelling and how to write a non-fiction book proposal, read brilliant authors I never would have known about otherwise, and gained insights about writing and storytelling from exceptional faculty and visiting writers.
When I was a kid, I wrote a lot of fiction. Then I stopped. I don’t remember why. The MFA program motivated me to write again, and it enabled me to have my work critiqued by highly accomplished professors and classmates who make up for in talent and insight what they lack in age.
If you’ve ever thought about going back to school—whatever your age—I highly recommend the experience. And if you’re ever in a bookstore or browsing Amazon.com and see a novel about a racist obstetrician who microchips babies so he can track their movements as adults, I hope you’ll buy it.