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The Powell's Playlist | June 18, 2014

Daniel H. Wilson: IMG The Powell’s Playlist: Daniel H. Wilson



Like many writers, I'm constantly haunting coffee shops with a laptop out and my headphones on. I listen to a lot of music while I write, and songs... Continue »

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The Creative Writing MFA Handbook: A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students by Tom Kealey
The Creative Writing MFA Handbook: A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students

Lapwing, April 5, 2006

Most books like this -- graduate-school information repository slash career-help guide -- give you a set of facts about each school, such as degrees offered and the names of permanent faculty, and Kealey's book delivers nicely in this respect. But the real value of his guide to MFA programs, and the central reason it's a must-have for anyone considering a graduate degree in creative writing, is that he complements those facts with the kind of subjective, insider, at-times-almost-gossipy perspectives that only someone steeped in the world of MFA programs could provide (Kealey has an MFA from UMass-Amherst and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford, where he now teaches). For instance, I didn't know that Iowa's legendary program admits a large number of students, or that its somewhat mysterious fellowship system creates significant tension between the haves and have-nots. There are insights like this on virtually every page. However: I don't want to create the impression that the book is a tissue of rumors and bad press for major programs. In fact, Kealey gives you a set of criteria for evaluating programs, with an emphasis on funding practices. If programs don't measure up, he explains why, in common-sense terms. An unexpected advantage of the book is that Kealey writes some very clear, engaging, and oddly "friendly" prose (check out his blog to see what I mean), and he invites other commentators, such as George Saunders (Syracuse gets a lot of "TV stories," he says), to lend their voices to the advice-giving as well. Bottom line: Reading this book is like getting an advanced degree in Applying to MFA Programs, and that has to be a good thing to have when tens of thousands of dollars, and years of one's life, are at stake.
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