Full-Assed Friday guest post: DIY MFA

Hey. It’s Full-Assed Friday. I have a guest post today- sweet!

I have the incredible good fortune to be in two excellent writers groups. You’re probably wondering how that happened, but all I will say is it may have involved sacrificing a chicken or possibly a goat; beyond that I’m not revealing any secrets.

If you’re a writer- and lots of people hanging out in the blogosphere are- and you don’t have the good fortune to be in an excellent writing group, you’ll want to pay special attention to today’s guest post by Gabriela Pereira. She’s Full-Assed for many reasons: she’s a fantastic writer, she is a lovely human being, she is an excellent teacher, and she launched two gigantic projects simultaneously: her DIY MFA program, and a baby. The baby hasn’t shown up yet, but that’s okay, he’s not supposed to be here for a little while longer.

I asked Gabriela to put together something that I could post here on my blog about DIY MFA because I think what she’s doing provides a great service for writers who want to get better but, for a bajillion reasons, don’t fit with an MFA program. She’s got a lot of stuff going on at her blog, and next week she’s doing a free Webinar, so check it out.

Here’s Gabriela.

Have you ever wanted to do a Masters Degree (MFA) in Creative Writing but just… couldn’t? There are tons of reasons why MFA programs are out of reach for many writers. Sometimes it’s because they live somewhere far from any writing programs and they can’t exactly up and move their entire family just so they can go back to school. Or maybe the MFA programs are just too darn expensive. And let’s be realistic, here: it’s not like a higher degree in writing guarantees anyone a job when they graduate. Or maybe writers want to write in a genre or category that’s not represented by most MFA programs. After all, the ivory towers love literary fiction, but when it comes to romance or thrillers or YA or anything commercial… not so much.

This was why DIY MFA came about: to bridge the gap between graduate-style study in writing and writers who don’t have access to it. The idea behind DIY MFA is that all forms of writing can be approached in a scholarly manner and that you can get the same benefits you would get from graduate school but without the big price tag and rigid requirements.

Who is DIY MFA for?

DIY MFA does not discriminate against writers based on where they are on their journey or what they have chosen in terms of genre and writing style. We embrace our differences and take pride in the diverse backgrounds and outlooks of our writers. At DIY MFA, being different is not a disability. It’s a strength.

There is only one requirement, one common thread ties all DIY MFA writers together. Every writer participating in DIY MFA is serious about becoming a stronger writer, making writing a priority, and having fun with the creative process.

Why Do-It-Yourself?

The core belief of DIY MFA is that no two writers will share the exact same path, that you can’t shove a writer into a cookie-cutter system and expect them to grow creatively as artists. Rather, with DIY MFA each writer will create a personalized plan that fits his or her needs, which in turn empowers writers to take ownership of their writing journey.

Taking responsibility for our writing can be terrifying, but the do-it-yourself part of DIY MFA is crucial to each writer’s success. When you take ownership of your writing education, not only do you become a more empowered writer, you also create a writing life that’s sustainable for the long term. A prescribed plan is great and might even work for a short while, but over time writers will lose energy, maybe even quit. DIY MFA is about constantly reevaluating and reinventing your writing life so that it works for you for as long as you want to write.

How does DIY MFA work?

Because I did an MFA myself, I spent a lot of time researching and comparing writing programs. What I discovered was that MFA programs–despite being at very different schools, with different philosophies–have certain threads in common. Regardless of the many differences, all MFA programs essentially boil down to one simple formula:

Reading + Writing + Workshop + Community = MFA

The idea behind DIY MFA is to help writers build this equation into their lives without depending on a school structure. All four essential components of the traditional MFA are things that writers can cobble together on their own or collaborating with other writers. You don’t need to go to graduate school to get these benefits. In other words, DIY MFA shows writers how to:

(1) Approach literature like a writer to get the most out of reading,
(2) Explore both craft and creativity through writing,
(3) Give and take critique in a workshop setting,
(4) Build a community of like-minded writers.

How to join:

The easiest way to dive into DIY MFA is to follow the blog: DIYMFA.com Each week, I focus on one topic in DIY MFA, with longer posts on Mondays and Wednesdays and a short prompt on Fridays.

Don’t have time to read blogs during the week? No problem! The DIY MFA weekly newsletter Writer Fuel sends a round-up of the week’s posts (as well as other goodies) straight to your inbox every Friday afternoon. Just in time for your weekend writing sprints. You can join the mailing list, and when you do you’ll not only get Writer Fuel each week, you’ll also get a free workbook download–Jumper Cables–when you sign-up.

And next week, we have an extra-special DIY MFA event happening: I’m offering a FREE Webinar!

7 Ways to Boost Your Writing
Wednesday, Nov. 16
1:00-2:00 pm ET
To Register and for more information, visit the webinar page.

Gabriela Pereira

As for me, I’m Gabriela Pereira, and I’ve spent a lifetime telling stories, writing them down and helping other writers put the pen to paper and express their ideas. Having grown up bilingual, I know how important it is for writers to express themselves in their unique voice and to build a writing life that is all their own. I’ve been many things in my life: a writer, a teacher, even a toy designer. Now with DIYMFA I am the instigator, the one who lights the first match, but it’s up to you to fan the flame. I hope you will join me on this journey.

Connect with me at DIY MFA:

Twitter: @DIYMFA
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DIYMFA
Web: DIYMFA.com

To Those about to write, I salute you. To everyone else, I suggest you stay out of our way.

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13 thoughts on “Full-Assed Friday guest post: DIY MFA

  1. This is great. I am tempted to join. Not sure yet if I can rally since I just came off that grueling exam study period, but maybe. The beauty of the program is that is seems so flexible. Thanks for another interesting full-assed Friday!

  2. Do you find the classes or workshops helpful? I suppose any artist can use some fine tuning tips or suggestions but when it comes right down to it “you either got it or you don’t”. For example there is nothing anyone can teach me about cartooning. The ideas cannot be taught. You have an imagination for humor or don’t. The rest is drawing style with is unique for each cartoonist. It can’t be taught or learned.

    1. I generally find classes and workshops helpful, some more than others. I agree with you that talent absolutely cannot be taught. But discipline can be, likewise different perspectives if you’re open-minded enough. Both of those are valuable traits that I can’t come up with on my own. A big appeal of MFA programs is the immersion factor. If you’re doing something all the time, you’re going to get better at it. But dear god- I have a full time job and five kids, who has the time? I think that’s the brilliance of Gabriella’s approach: she shows you how to create immersion as you’re able to fit it in to your current life.

  3. This is fantastic! I looked into taking classes but I don’t have the time or the money. Life is busy! I will definitely check this out. Thanks, JM and Gabriela!

    @Carl You make a good point. These workshops won’t help those who don’t already possess the talent. But all writers have a weakness, even if they don’t realize it. Peer review is an invaluable resource. It’s easy to get so involved with something that you miss the details. Seeing the forest and not the trees, so to speak. I would hope that anyone who doesn’t have the talent would recognize the fact once they read the work of those who do.

    @JM Sorry for the long comment. Mr. D’Agostino’s comment caught my attention. He always leaves good comments. 🙂

  4. Reading Gabriela’s introduction to the DIY MFA and perusing her blog reminds me of Mark Twain’s “The difference between using the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” I will defiantly learn more from her. A small point of constructive criticism: Gabriela should get a good photographer (like me) to give her a shot of her pretty face that is not mostly in shadow.

Comment. It gives me a reason not to clean my house.

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