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"A lot of critics enjoy beating up on creative-writing programs as if that were responsible for the decline of literature," said David Fenza, executive director of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, which supports more than 400 college and university writing programs, as well as thousands of individual writers.
And the sad truth is that it may well be that one can. " The column, which went on to compare the desire to write a book with a misguided search for salvation and significance in life, concluded: "Save the typing, save the trees, save the high tax on your own vanity.
Don't write that book, my advice is, don't even think about it.
Book critics and fellow writers (those who are "self-made," that is) can be even less generous: It's a self-indulgent waste of money, a degree for sissies and wannabes, they argue.
Real writers rent a drafty attic garret, confront their demons alone in the twilight and write.
The cultural transformations of the 1960s spurred the beginnings of a writing education renaissance, and, since 1975, the number of creative writing masters of fine arts programs has increased 800 percent.
(By the late 1980s, so many colleges and universities were instituting graduate-level creative-writing programs, in fact, that Stanford University dumped its venerated master's degree, and threw its resources behind what is now the highly sought after Stegner Fellowship, a two-year program that awards 10 participants each year a handsome stipend to study with writers like Tobias Wolff and Eavan Boland, but confers no degree.) By 2004, there were 109 programs that conferred the master of fine arts in creative writing -- and nearly half of those started in the last 10 years.A program that promised students they would graduate with a book-length work. Patrick forgot all about her belly button, and jumped.Two years later, she had her masters of fine arts, and her book -- or at least half a book ("There's a difference," Patrick said she discovered, "between a 'book-length work' and a book").When someone writes a bad book, people complain about all those gosh-darn MFA programs." Whether good or bad for literature, culture or humanity, MFA writing programs are undeniably popular.For decades, starting in the 1930s, Iowa University, Stanford University and a handful of others had a lock on graduate creative-writing programs."I call it my MFA in poverty," said Teresa Walsh of the poetry MFA she got from California College of the Arts in San Francisco in 2002.That doesn't mean the school's 5-year-old program is begging for applicants, added Walsh, who is manager of the writing program.While any graduate degree carries prestige, the MFA in creative writing has spawned a cadre of naysayers bemoaning that the programs churn out cookie- cutter writers who may be technically proficient, but lack heart and imagination.It's an inundation of mediocrity, cry editors (perhaps overwhelmed by the mountainous submissions pile looming over their desks).At the mishmash of relatives who would share space under the tombstone -- people who, in life, loved one another fiercely, while reneging on deals, stealing money, holding grudges, hoarding secrets."This," she said to her husband, pointing her finger at the names already etched into the dark stone marking the grave, a sea of monuments stretching beyond, "would make a great book." Patrick promptly dismissed her spark of inspiration, caught up in parenting and her career as a marketing consultant and private investigator.