AshEdit—News About Books & Writers

June 26, 2015

To MFA or not to MFA—That is the Question

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 7:48 am
University of Toronto (in good weather)

University of Toronto (in good weather)

“To be, or not to be, that is the question,” Shakespeare posed back in early 1600 when his play, HAMLET, first appeared. Borrowing from the bard, I  applied that question to the MFA program, the Masters of Fine Arts degree, which many accomplished writers have obtained, and many more accomplished writers have not. Considering the pros and cons of the MFA came to me via Lisa Ciarfella, an MFA student I met in Long Beach, California, at the Coffee House Writers’ Group. Lisa was interested in my opinion of the

MFA degree and I honestly didn’t have one. My own higher education was a Bachelor of Applied Arts in radio and television writing, and then I went on to dabble in political science and economics while I debated competitively and wrote my first bestselling novel, on the



side. (I flunked out of economics, sadly.)



cover_weddleTo get an answer for Lisa and others pondering the same thing, I decided to turn to a few colleagues/esteemed writers from the crime writing world, STEVE WEDDLE, author of NYT bestselling COUNTRY HARDBALL, and holder of an MFA degree from Louisiana State University; and SAM WIEBE, author of the award-winning LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS, and holder of an MA in English Literature.

Lisa and I are currently asking Steve and Sam the hard questions. Part 1 of the MFA series will debut soon. If you have any questions you’d like addressed I love to hear from you in the Comments below. —Elaine Ash






  1. I don’t see the point of it unless one wants the ‘terminal degree’ in order to college themselves. And, it’s not a good idea for that reason because there aren’t a lot of teaching jobs available for MFAs. Will it make someone a better writer? I don’t think so. Obviously Weddle is really good, so maybe. Apparently I’m undecided. I attended one of those programs for one semester back in 1989 and it wasn’t for me.

    Comment by Mike Monson — June 26, 2015 @ 8:31 am

  2. The starter pistol hasn’t fired yet but the debate has started. The great Mike Monson weighs in. Thanks Mike! –Elaine

    Comment by ashedit — June 26, 2015 @ 8:45 am

  3. I didn’t mean to leave Sam and his obvious talent out, but he has the MA in lit and not the MFA so he wasn’t part of that thought/sentence.

    Comment by Mike Monson — June 26, 2015 @ 10:40 am

  4. This discussion will be interesting to follow even though I will not be pursuing an MFA or any other degree.

    Comment by Oscar Case — June 28, 2015 @ 10:36 am

  5. Glad to be of help here Elaine. Being part of the debate and interview has been an interesting journey!

    Comment by Lisa Ciarfella — July 4, 2015 @ 11:51 am

  6. Reblogged this on Writing For Writers and commented:
    As an interviewee, this was illuminating. The debate rages on, but I don’t think there are any easy answers. Read on to discover more!

    Comment by Lisa Ciarfella — July 4, 2015 @ 11:53 am

  7. Glad to be of service here Elaine! This debate was interesting to be a part of, for sure. And as a present MFA student, very illuminating.

    Comment by Lisa Ciarfella — July 4, 2015 @ 11:55 am

  8. […] A few months ago on Facebook there was talk about the value of an MFA. In particular, writer Holly West put up a post Facebook about asking what people thought and she got a bunch of passionate answers for and against it. (More opinions were in the latter category if I remember correctly.) Elaine Ash, aka Anonymous-9, has a 6 part blog series along with Lisa Ciarfella asking authors about the value of MFAs. You can read the original post which has links to the other interviews here. […]

    Pingback by Are Modern Classics Possible Without Attentive Editors? | Writing Wranglers and Warriors — September 29, 2015 @ 10:02 pm

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