First off, I have to announce that I have two FANTASTIC new authors! Congrats to Nicole Trilivas and Kara Tatelbaum! Very excited about them and their books. Nicole is my first New Adult author and Kara came to me through a mutual friend, editor Kendra Levin from Viking, and has a great dance memoir.
They are very talented and decided to write for the thrill of it, which brings me to my topic of the day: MFAs. Some people have them; some people don't. Some can't stop raving about them; some people think they are useless. What do you think?
I'm really interested to hear peoples' opinions on this. An advanced degree in creative writing doesn't necessarily mean that you can write well, but it is certainly helpful in learning to craft a story. It's like having a big, professional critique group. As it says on DIY MFA (for whom I did an interview a long time ago that I don't think was ever posted), all you need is to write, read, and have a community. And if you're going to have these things, why not have them come with a Master's Degree?
I've been to a mixer hosted by Columbia's MFA program and met some interesting people there, and I can see the potential benefit of involving yourself in those kinds of programs, but as an agent, I don't automatically go "OOOOH, shiny!" when I receive a query from someone who has an MFA. It's an indicator that the writing will probably be good, but I still want to judge that for myself.
I have, however, recently learned that having an MFA is a necessity if you want to do something like work as a professor of creative writing at a university. Makes sense. So then: is the purpose of an MFA in creative writing to give you the tools necessary to teach creative writing or is it to make you a writer?