Friday, February 8, 2019

8 MFA Alternatives

January brought social media announcements of disabled writers going back to college.  Between those posts, I saw others lament their lack of degrees.  A lot of us, it seems, desire(d) a college education without the ability to obtain one.  If what you want is knowledge (and not necessarily the paper), there are alternatives out there.

The eight options below take a variety of approaches.  For the best results, mix and match.  There are probably more positives or negatives for each option than listed.

If you're continuing your creative writing education without a traditional college path, how are you accomplishing it?

Alternatives to an MFA:

1.  The library.

Pros:  Free, numerous resources, librarians to assist you with research, Internet access, most libraries are at least somewhat accessible, go at your own pace.  Some even have Gale Courses.

Cons:  No consistent guidance, finding what you need might prove tricky, no critique or mentorship.

2.  Auditing college classes.

Pros:  Real college experience, guided learning, no pressure to turn in assignments.  Reduced cost (but not free).

Cons:  Accommodations might not be made for your needs, no participating in discussions, limited (or no) access to professors if you're struggling, timed commitment.

3.  Online courses.

Pros:  Stay home, certain classes have group discussions, more flexible schedule, guided learning, instructors may be available to help you.

Cons:  Time commitment required, some classes cost money, technology used might not be right for every disability.  Some places allow anyone to post a "course", so you have to be cautious.

4.  A critique/writing group.

Pros:  Free, feedback/advice, possible support outside the group.

Cons:  Time commitment required, local groups might meet in inaccessible places, you might end up using your energy on other people's work more than your own.

5.  Conferences.

Pros:  Connect with industry professionals/other writers, interesting panels, possible pitch sessions, readings.

Cons:  Most conferences cost serious money and aren't accessible.  Online offerings are meager.  Not great for long-term education.

6.  Subscriptions/services.

Pros:  Literary magazines can expose you to new work and styles; reading them also gives you insight into what they publish.  Writing magazines can keep you updated on publishing news and give you editing tips.  Some services submit for you and/or keep track of where you've submitted.  Delivered to your door.

Cons:  Costs money (and, with submission services, a lot), limited information, no interaction, you'd need quite a few different resources to cobble together a well-rounded experience.

7.  Workshops.

Pros:  Feedback/advice, instructor-lead sessions, some instructors might be writers you admire.

Cons:  Same as conferences, except there seem to be more workshop opportunities available online.

8.  Mentors.

Pros:  One-on-one advice/feedback, more relaxed interactions, can help open doors or shape a career.  Free (hopefully).

Cons:  A bad mentor can mess you up worse than a bad conference because of the trust and proximity of the relationship.  Finding the right one is difficult.

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