Meagan Spooner
Absolutely brilliant. This is the sci fi I’ve been waiting for! Action, romance, twists and turns–this book has it all!

Beth Revis, New York Times best-selling author of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

2017-11-06T11:42:38+00:00

Beth Revis, New York Times best-selling author of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

Absolutely brilliant. This is the sci fi I’ve been waiting for! Action, romance, twists and turns–this book has it all!
"A literally breathtaking archaeological expedition. Spooner and Kaufman prove once again that no one does high-stakes adventure shenanigans like they do."

E. K. Johnston, #1 New York Times best-selling author of Star Wars: Ahsoka

2017-11-06T11:44:34+00:00

E. K. Johnston, #1 New York Times best-selling author of Star Wars: Ahsoka

"A literally breathtaking archaeological expedition. Spooner and Kaufman prove once again that no one does high-stakes adventure shenanigans like they do."
One of the most intense, thrilling, and achingly beautiful stories I’ve ever read. Kaufman and Spooner will break your heart with skilled aplomb, and you’ll thank them for it. Absolutely incredible! If I have to, I will come to your house and shove this book into your hands!

Marie Lu, New York Times best-selling author of the Legend trilogy

2017-11-06T11:48:19+00:00

Marie Lu, New York Times best-selling author of the Legend trilogy

One of the most intense, thrilling, and achingly beautiful stories I’ve ever read. Kaufman and Spooner will break your heart with skilled aplomb, and you’ll thank them for it. Absolutely incredible! If I have to, I will come to your house and shove this book into your hands!
With rich, complex characters and a dynamic—and dangerous—new world, THESE BROKEN STARS completely transported me.

Jodi Meadows, author of the Incarnate series

2017-11-06T12:09:41+00:00

Jodi Meadows, author of the Incarnate series

With rich, complex characters and a dynamic—and dangerous—new world, THESE BROKEN STARS completely transported me.
Intense and absorbing, Skylark transported me to a world of magic and danger unlike anything I’ve read before. I loved Lark, and was riveted by her journey of survival and self-discovery. Dark, original, and beautiful, this is a novel you don’t want to miss.

Veronica Rossi, author of UNDER THE NEVER SKY

2017-11-06T12:13:28+00:00

Veronica Rossi, author of UNDER THE NEVER SKY

Intense and absorbing, Skylark transported me to a world of magic and danger unlike anything I’ve read before. I loved Lark, and was riveted by her journey of survival and self-discovery. Dark, original, and beautiful, this is a novel you don’t want to miss.
Skylark's rich narrative and plucky heroine will transport you into a mesmerizing and horrifying world.

New York Times bestselling author Carrie Jones

2017-11-27T09:17:02+00:00

New York Times bestselling author Carrie Jones

Skylark's rich narrative and plucky heroine will transport you into a mesmerizing and horrifying world.
With its blend of dystopian, steampunk, and generally fantastical elements, Spooner's follow up is even stronger and more gripping as the debut and is sure to ensnare further loyal readers.

Booklist (Starred Review)

2017-11-27T10:01:57+00:00

Booklist (Starred Review)

With its blend of dystopian, steampunk, and generally fantastical elements, Spooner's follow up is even stronger and more gripping as the debut and is sure to ensnare further loyal readers.
This intriguing dystopian adventure's depiction of the stand this strong female protagonist takes against the horrors of her world is fast-paced, compelling, and un-put-downable.

VOYA

2017-11-27T10:05:07+00:00

VOYA

This intriguing dystopian adventure's depiction of the stand this strong female protagonist takes against the horrors of her world is fast-paced, compelling, and un-put-downable.
Once again, the worldbuilding is superb, the characters fully fleshed out and intriguing, the battles riveting, and the edge-of-the seat suspense compelling. Teens looking for a well-written dystopian adventure with steampunk elements in the magical machines created by the Architects will enjoy spending time with Lark and her companions.

VOYA Magazine, starred review

2017-11-27T10:27:43+00:00

VOYA Magazine, starred review

Once again, the worldbuilding is superb, the characters fully fleshed out and intriguing, the battles riveting, and the edge-of-the seat suspense compelling. Teens looking for a well-written dystopian adventure with steampunk elements in the magical machines created by the Architects will enjoy spending time with Lark and her companions.
An extremely entertaining tale of past, present and future leaving the question: where does humanity stand when the best laid plans backfire?

Children's Literature

2017-11-27T10:29:04+00:00

Children's Literature

An extremely entertaining tale of past, present and future leaving the question: where does humanity stand when the best laid plans backfire?
A haunting and romantic exploration of love and what sacrifices come with freedom.


Marie Lu

2017-11-27T15:17:04+00:00

Marie Lu

A haunting and romantic exploration of love and what sacrifices come with freedom.
Amazing. That one word describes the whole book.

VOYA

2017-11-27T15:18:24+00:00

VOYA

Amazing. That one word describes the whole book.

FAQ: Do I Need an MFA?

A question I see pop up a lot from aspiring writers has to do with creative writing MFA programs, and whether they’re a necessary or even recommended step toward getting published. Someone just asked me this question the other day, and after I rambled at the poor girl for a while I realized that it was a subject on which I have a lot to say.

The short answer? No. You don’t need an MFA to get published. Writers without MFAs get published all the time. I never did an MFA myself, and I guess now I’m soon-to-be-published (ulp).  I did attend the six-week Odyssey workshop, which I think is kind of like a crash-course version of an MFA, but that’s another blog post.

That said, I don’t feel entirely comfortable with that short answer. I think it varies from person to person. Some people may really need that structure to narrow their focus on writing and really learn the technical skills to craft a good novel. For them, the answer would be a resounding yes: yes, you do need an MFA.  For others instinct seems to suffice, drawn from the books they’ve read–and for them the answer is just as clearly no.

Like so many answers to publishing questions, it depends on the writer. There is no quick and dirty answer. It’s what works for you–it’s what YOU need to do for your own career. At which point, a chorus of aspiring writers wail, “Just give me the straight answer!”

I think the popularity of this question is linked with the popularity of questions like “How many words should my manuscript be?” and “How many months/years/decades should I spend on my first novel?” As writers we’re all so desperate to get our manuscripts in front of agents and editors that it’s so much easier to believe there’s a magic trick to it. Some secret combination of elements that separates the published from the unpublished–it’s easier to think that. And while I think the MFA question is perhaps deeper than those, I think for many it has its root in that same desire–to find the “secret” route to getting published.

If you’re thinking about getting an MFA because you think it’s going to open doors in the publishing industry and get you inside, then I would tell you no, you really don’t need to. But if you’re thinking about it because you want to learn more about writing, and you’re not getting what you feel you need from practice and studying books on your own, then I’d say yes, an MFA might be the right choice for you.

For me, the deciding factor was actually the experience I had in college with my creative writing department. I was criticized for writing fantasy and told I had to write contemporary/literary fiction in class. I did the best I could, writing contemporary stories with a dash of magical realism, and was still graded down. Not for my writing abilities, or my effort, or for improvement, or anything meaningful–just genre and subject matter.  Because fantasy isn’t worth what literary fiction is worth, in the eyes of those teachers.

That’s not to say an MFA program would necessarily be like that, but it just turned me, personally, off of studying writing in a formal setting. In college I didn’t even major in creative writing. I ended up in the theater department writing plays, because they were basically like “You are delightfully weird! Come write whatever you like!”

And that, for me, was exactly what I wanted. It was right for me, at that time, in that place, just as not pursuing an MFA afterward was the right thing for me. I can’t say everyone should do what I did–it’s a decision writers have to make for themselves. Which is entirely unhelpful, I know. Sorry about that.

If I knew the secret, believe me, I’d tell you.

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20 Responses to “FAQ: Do I Need an MFA?”

  1. Amie Kaufman says:

    You ARE delightfully weird, it’s entirely true. This is fantastic advice. I think there is a temptation to do all kinds of things that might help (perhaps because that implies we can control things). Focusing on what will help you improve is a great guideline.

    • Meagan says:

      Yeah, the desire for elements we can control is strooong.

      In my defense, everyone in the theater department was weird. It was sort of a prerequisite for joining.

  2. He he he. I studied theater and psychology in school. I’ve always loved writing, but was a bit anti-imposed-structure as well. Maybe that’s not the right term, but I think you know what I’m saying. I feel like the years spent learning through conferences, workshops, blogging, critique groups, and books on craft have almost given me the equivalent of a degree. Well I can HOPE right?

    • Meagan says:

      Whoo theater geeks! 😀 There’s nothing quite like theater. I definitely know what you mean about the workshops and critiques–I feel I’ve learned far more on my own, and through workshops, in the past few years than I ever could have learned in an MFA. It’s very specific knowledge for the stuff I’m actually interested in, whereas I’m not sure the MFA would cover it in such practical terms.

  3. Heather says:

    I’m not thinking about universities just yet (or at least trying not to… *gulp*) but I don’t think I want to study creative writing to degree level. I like that writing is “my thing” and I’m worried that studying it in an academic setting would make me hate it. Hehe, it’s awesome that you found a home in the theater department. Yay for delightful weirdness 🙂

    • Meagan says:

      I definitely had that same fear about writing no longer being fun, although for me that fear was about turning it into a career. I was worried that if I made myself write every day and dedicated so much time and effort that it’d become a chore. I lucked out in that yes, it’s a job, but I still love it–I think that’s something else that ends up being different for everyone.

  4. Jemi Fraser says:

    I hadn’t even heard of a MFA until a few years back. It certainly wasn’t an option in any of the schools I knew (Canada – so things may be different). I like your answer that it varies – each person is unique and it really does mean different things for different people.

    • Meagan says:

      For some of my friends, grad school ended up just being a way to extend the uncertainty about what they were going to do next. When I was a senior in college I was considering doing an masters degree (in something perhaps not creative writing) just because I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. Ultimately I think it would’ve been a bad decision for me (academia often makes me cranky) and I’m glad I just bit the bullet and got on with what came next. Even if it did mean floundering for a couple years!

  5. Very interesting points. I’m often intimidated by writers who have degrees in writing. My degree is English Education. I always say I’m trained in the teaching of lit, not the writing of it. With one, count ’em, one, creative writing class under my belt, I’m working on my first WIP. And won’t be heading back to academia. Writing lives in me. It’s hard, and I don’t have a background in how to do it, but we’ll see where my road leads. And I’m okay with that.

    • Meagan says:

      While I think creative writing classes can be great, there are also things you can’t get from classes–I think a lot of writing has to do with instincts developed from a lifetime of reading books. You can also learn a lot about the technical aspects of writing on your own by reading books on craft–I really recommend the book Story, by Robert McKee! It’s fantastic.

  6. I had similar frustrations as an undergrad.

    For graduate school, I went to Seton Hill, one of two programs (that I know of) that gives an MFA for writing popular fiction.

    • Meagan says:

      I have a friend actually who went to Seton Hill and really recommended the program. There are definitely programs out there–even those which aren’t specifically tailored for commercial fiction–where the teachers would still be open-minded about genre. But that’s why I think it’s definite a decision that’s going to be different for each writer.

  7. Glaiza says:

    I’m in my second year of majoring in writing and I don’t think I’ll be taking a MFA after undergrad is over lol. Though, it has helped me realise what I do want to write and how useful workshopping is. University can be both inspiring and frustrating sometimes lol.

    • Meagan says:

      I know what you mean! For me, the creative writing classes forced me to write and to share my work, but just fell short in terms of what I gained from it. I can definitely recommend trying workshops like Odyssey or Clarion if you’re after that intensive workshopping and learning experience, without the frustration.

  8. Caitlin says:

    Your college creative writing experience reminds me of my studio art experience in college! I had a bad experience with a gallery exhibit junior year – granted, at that point I has already abandoned my art minor for a music major, but it serves to reaffirm the doubts I’d had for years re pursuing art.

    Sophomore year, my intro studio art teacher invited me to do an independent study of self-portraits in charcoal and soft-pastel, and I said, “sure, sounds great.” The independent study largely consisted of me showing up 2-3 hours before our meeting time and cranking out some work. I got an A in the class and was asked to submit a few pieces for an independent study student art gallery. I was pretty excited about that, and I asked if I could make a new piece to display with my class work. My professor agreed, but not to spend too much time on it because we were running into deadlines, etc.

    I made a series of small portraits (depicting my relationships with the arts :B) in what I would call my “personal style” (i.e. cartoon/illustrative in pencil). They were silly and literal, but they came out exactly right. I did not sleep for a week trying to perfect their expressions, etc. I showed them to my professor, and he said they would not be included and that they diminish the rest of my work – my work that I cranked out 2-3 hours before every class and had very little personal attachment to. I was determined to include my stupid portraits, though, and the head of the Sweet Briar galleries said I could prop it up against the wall under my official submissions and it would be an interesting talking point. I got to make my point that I learned the skills to make the “legitimate” art on the wall so that I could make the work sitting on the floor. That art professor was clearly very disappointed in me, and I don’t think we’ve spoken since.

    In 8th period art at TJ I heard Mr. O call me “wasted talent” under his breath. Why is it a waste if it’s what I want to do? My art was never an end in itself, so I could never really fit in as an “art student”. Unfortunately, it resulted in me sort of putting that whole skill set on the shelf and keeping it as a novelty or conversation point (I built a little white model of the Tamerlano set as the Tamerlano SM team’s “greeting card” for the Elektra team at the Kennedy Center) until the magical Wendy Froud work shop, which I will not discuss here! And the John the Baptist cake (to which, Dr. Green said, “I hear this is your first encounter with fondant. You realize there are people who struggle to smooth fondant over boxes?” He always knows just what to say). But yes – it’s hard to pursue your creative interests in an academic setting when the professors don’t think it’s “art”.

    But I would also add that an MFA is necessary if you want to be a writer/professor; however, you will face discrimination from the other faculty for not being a PhD (even though MFAs are terminal).

    Sorry this comment is so long…

    • Meagan says:

      I think some teachers are just in it for the wrong reasons. I mean, I think they genuinely feel that they need to guide us in a certain way, and maybe to a degree that’s true, but not to the point where it stifles creativity. Creative expression ought to be encouraged, no matter its form.

      Oof. We’ve talked about this on IM, but yeah. Mr. O. *smack* There’s a reason I didn’t take more than one art class at TJ! Maybe it takes the bad teachers for us to appreciate the good ones.

  9. Beth says:

    This is such an interesting question, yet I hardly ever see it addressed. I don’t have an MFA; in fact I didn’t even study creative writing in my undergrad (although every single option I took was from the English department). My writing came as a mid-life career change from banking and the economics/business degrees I took in my 20s. People laugh when they hear that, yet I think having a business background makes me a very pragmatic writer. We all take our own route, don’t we?

    • Meagan says:

      I totally agree! I don’t think there’s any degree–indeed, any life experience at all–that doesn’t help with writing. Every little thing we see and do shapes our perceptions of the world and adds to the primordial creative ooze in our brains from which the stories come. 😛

  10. click says:

    I believe that one of your current advertisements caused my web browser to resize, you may well want to put that on your blacklist.

  11. jdizzle says:

    I am not sure it is necessary either. I did writing as an undergrad, not creative writing per se… but not restricted to creative writing either. It seems most creative writing MFA’s are quite restrictive. I took upper level classes in =drama, screenplays, flash fiction, short story, novel, creative nonfiction Basically, all kinds of writing…. Why? While I am interested in fiction writing, I’m also equally interested in the others. Some people like to have focus on one particular field, I’m not really like that though. Many in academia frown on screenwriting for instance, or film in general. Why? Who knows. Many I found frowned on philosophy as well, a subject which I love and have written plenty of essays on. While I don’t have a successful novel published, I think my broad approach will pay off by allowing more of a hypermediacy effect across my writing. What I’m most concerned with in my writing is dialogue as well as the philosophical undertones within them, this is true of my screenplays and dramas as well. These are my main focuses, it’s more of narratology through different mediums where as most MFA programs I know of are pure focus in one topic. The few that aren’t, generally only offer 2 classes as electives at best in a secondary focus, and or 3-4 electives in literature, which is nice, but it isn’t going to help my writing. What helps my writing is actually writing, the workshop format, though the diversity of my writing probably wouldn’t fit within the MFA program to begin with. I would reconsider an MFA program if it was broader in application I suppose. Looking at many of the programs however, I didn’t see the real need in taking 10 classes plus a thesis class, and have only 4 of those be “workshops.” The workshops are the big help, not the rest of the classes usually offered. Due to academic standards, they require you to take those electives, lit classes, just to keep the programs intact. Again, I believe the most helpful thing is the structure, discipline and feedback of the workshop, most MFA programs however only have half or less workshops. I would find the other classes, or even teaching classes a chore.

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