Word on the net and in the business is that for most MFA programs, genre fiction is at best an also-ran, at worst an outcast forbidden style. And that seems silly, given how many writers want to specialize in these genres, and how much money those genres make in the industry. So many MFA programs seem to be designed to very specifically train writers to become teachers at MFA programs, to just replicate across the literary fiction landscape. Except that just like almost everywhere else in academia, there are nowhere near enough jobs for the # of MFAs granted. So an MFA can be a teaching credential, but it’s often more a chance to spend two years focusing on craft. And that’s cool.
Unless you’re a genre writer interested in writing commercial fiction as a career.
–Michael Underwood wants an MFA for genre fiction.
As someone who can only look at programs like Clarion wistfully from afar, and whose university studies consisted mainly of Computer Science, (With a major in Political Science. Long story, but basically CompSci was for the job market, PolSci was to keep me sane.) the idea of a proliferation of MFA specialising in genre fiction is pretty cool to my eternal inner university-applying 17-year-old.
Interestingly, Underwood doesn’t neglect the business side of being an author in his Dream MFA (unsurprisingly, given he’s Angry Robot‘s North American Sales & Marketing Manager), which I think is potentially even more important for aspiring authors than the writing itself. Writing is one of those things you can learn on the job, once you’ve gotten yourself over a certain bar. In fact, I’d argue there are some things about commercial writing you can only learn by on-the-job trial-and-error, which is why First Novel Syndrome is a thing. But fuck up the business side of things early on in your career, and… yeah. Good luck with that.
(With “business side” also including things like “social media use”. Having just watched a new author’s career implode–in a very messy public, high-profile way–because of Inappropriate Social Media Usage highlights just how much this one is needed.)