Notes from An Alien

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Tag Archives: I Was the MFA Student Who Made Ryan Boudinot Cry

Do You Need Formal Education To Become A Writer?


I could answer the question of whether writers need formal education in a number of ways

* Simply, no.

* Yes, if you also want a degree to teach writing.

* Yes, if you can’t seem to motivate yourself (though, there are less expensive ways to gain motivation…).

* No, if you’re a maverick.

Of course, all those answers could spark endless debates.

Which brings us to a debate that’s been raging since February

It involves something Ryan Boudinot wroteThings I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach in One.

I’ll share the bullet points from that article in just a bit

Ryan formed a non-profit to promote Seattle, Washington, USA as a UNESCO City of Literature.

The Board of that non-profit quit after Ryan’s article appeared

In a parallel article—I Was the MFA Student Who Made Ryan Boudinot Cry—,by one of the people alluded to in Ryan’s article, it says:

“Few people realize that Ryan fired his hotshot New York agent, sold his next two books to local independent presses, and sank almost all his personal savings into founding Seattle City of Literature.”

There are plenty of other articles, on both sides of the issue

My take on all of this is:

Rayan was a bit “forthright” in his article (yet many other folks admit to the things he said about MFA writing programs…).

The parallel piece by his former student had quite a few other good things to say about Ryan.

And, we do live in a Contentious Society—hardly anything can be said in public fora without a “war” breaking out

So

Let’s look at those bullet points in Ryan’s article (and, if you’ve managed to read this far, do, please, go read what he says for each point):

* Writers are born with talent.

* If you didn’t decide to take writing seriously by the time you were a teenager, you’re probably not going to make it.

* If you complain about not having time to write, please do us both a favor and drop out.

* If you aren’t a serious reader, don’t expect anyone to read what you write.

* No one cares about your problems if you’re a shitty writer.

* You don’t need my help to get published.

* It’s not important that people think you’re smart.

* It’s important to woodshed.

In case you’ve never run across the term “woodshed”, it means “A private place, out of the sight or hearing of others, used to practice…”.

I’m really hoping a few of you will share your feelings and thoughts in the Comments—whether or not you’ve experienced an MFA-in-writing program
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