Sunday, May 31, 2015

COSCBWI Meeting May 2015

This month's Central and Southern Ohio SCBWI meeting featured a special visit from YA author Susan Bradley.  Susan was the former Regional Advisor for our chapter, and it's always such a treat when she comes to speak at a meeting!  She stepped down from the position in order to pursue her Master of Fine Arts in Writing.  Now that she's graduated from her program, we jumped at the chance to have her come in and discuss her MFA experience.

Making the decision to go back to school is no easy task.  It's a decision that affects your time, family, and wallet.  For Susan, a Part-Time Program worked best for her busy lifestyle, but there are Full-Time and Online-Only school options as well.  With a Part-Time Program, students can still work as much as they need to while getting their degree.  The low-residency component--usually five, seven, or ten days twice a year--allows students to get important face-to-face interactions with instructors and peers, but doesn't keep them away from their families and day-jobs for too long. 

Susan explained that a Master of Fine Arts is a terminal degree, so there is no higher degree than the one you obtain at the end of your program.  There are many jobs one can pursue with a Master of Fine Arts in Writing including teaching at the college level, editing, business/technical writing, creative writing, and agenting.  A new career isn't the only reason to go back to school, though.  MFA programs allow students to make contacts in the publishing world, create a writer's network, obtain mentoring, and improve their craft. 

Susan discussed that it's very important to know what you're getting into before jumping into a Master of Fine Arts program.  In addition to lots and lots (and lots) of reading, Susan was also required to critique her classmates' work, complete many writing assignments, teach a class, participate in online forums and panels, attend residencies, and write and defend her thesis.  MFA programs require a big time and energy commitment.  If you're thinking of going back to school, she recommended you involve your family in the decision making process--especially if you plan on keeping your day-job--and make sure they are 100% supportive.

With all the options that are available, how do you choose the program that's best for you?  Susan brought up a lot of great questions that every potential student should consider including:

-What is the format?  (Full-Time, Part-Time, or Online?)
-Is the program accredited?
-What type of writing does the program focus on, and does it match your own career goals?
-What are the credentials of the instructors?
-What is the reputation of the program?
-What is the cost?  Does it fit your budget, or is financial aid available?
-Are students going on to get published once they graduate?  (There should be an online publication list.)

She also gave us a list of institutions with renowned MFA programs including:

-Iowa Writer's Workshop at the University of Iowa
-Vermont College of Fine Arts
-Antioch University-Los Angeles
-Ohio State University
-Seton Hill University
-Hamline University
-Full Sail Online

Susan chose Seton Hill to pursue her Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction.  The Part-Time format fit her whirlwind, single-mom lifestyle, she was impressed by the school's reputation and faculty, and the program focused on her desired genre of writing.  She said she couldn't be happier with her experience, from the classes she took to the close friends she made.  (And with two published books now under her belt--Unraveled and Uncovered--her story is clearly one of success!)  Susan ended the meeting by encouraging us all to consider pursuing continuing education, and to never EVER give up on our publishing dreams!

If you want to learn more about Susan and her books, be sure to check out her website at  A big thank you to Susan for coming in and telling us all about her MFA experience!

You can find out more about Central and Southern Ohio SCBWI and upcoming events by visiting  I hope to see you at the June meeting!  
Note: Photo is from Susan Bradley's website,

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