top of page
  • wendy13812

THE MFA BAD OLD DAYS - August 1, 2023

I wrote full-length mystery novels intermittently throughout my adult life. All of them ended up as first drafts in a filing cabinet. I didn’t analyze why I wrote; I just needed to. Since the process mattered more to me than the product, none of them received the essential next step: intense revising and editing.

In the 1980s, I decided to use my vacation time from my job as a trial attorney to apply for a non-residential MFA in Writing program. It involved two weeks on campus twice a year for two years and included frequent correspondence and input from an assigned author the rest of the time. It seemed the perfect way to get help polishing a first draft.

I submitted several chapters of a novel and expressed my intention to use the program to learn the craft of writing a successful mystery. I never considered short stories. I had enough trouble thinking of an idea for a novel once a year. I was certain I was incapable of coming up with new ideas for multiple short stories.

At the first two-week residency, we met with our assigned authors. I won’t name mine, but each time we spoke, he made it clear he wasn’t interested in genre writing. He insisted I needed to write literary fiction, short literary fiction, before tackling something as ambitious as a novel. I found myself having made an expensive commitment to a program that was unwilling to accept my goals. After my teacher persuaded me that the skills I would learn under his direction were easily transferable to my unfathomable attraction to mystery writing, I agreed to write short stories. I don’t know what adjective best described the stories I painfully produced, but I’m sure “literary” wasn’t it. What they also lacked were the crimes and solutions I longed to include.

It’s my understanding that many MFA programs are now receptive to genre writing, a welcome change from the snobbery of the bad old days.

After two years, I had a manuscript of short stories that earned me my degree, a better knowledge of the craft of writing, and some new friends. I also vowed never to try to write another short story.

I hope to see you again next month when you’ll learn how that vow was broken.

10 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


In the 1980s, after thinking of myself as a writer since childhood, without having actually written anything since college, I decided to add to the balancing act of wife, mother, and lawyer by writing


There are many reasons a fiction writer might choose to use a pseudonym. Perhaps her fiction is too close to real people and events. Would her third-grade teacher realize how deeply she traumatized he


Welcome to Wendy's Blog

bottom of page