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The Creative Writing MFA Handbook: A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students

4.02  ·  Rating Details  ·  209 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews

The Creative Writing MFA Handbook guides prospective graduate students through the difficult process of researching, applying to, and choosing graduate schools in creative writing. The handbook includes profiles of fifty creative writing programs, guidance through the application process, advice from current students and professors including George Saunders, Aimee Bender,
Paperback, 224 pages
Published December 28th 2005 by Bloomsbury Academic (first published December 2005)
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Oct 06, 2014 Pete rated it really liked it
good book. still sort of presumes too much knowledge on the part of the reader, but lays out both opinions (which program the primary author likes) and hard facts (e.g. which programs are funded) in a clear, ultra-legible way. actually pleasant and engaging to read, also, which is not nothing. particularly liked the chorus of different attitudes from different kinds of writers in the various sidebars and interview components. glad i had a colleague at my former employer thieve a copy of this for ...more
May 18, 2009 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the definitive book on earning an MFA. Thank you, Tom Kealey, for acknowledging that we have moved into the information age by posting your blog link, inviting comments, and providing an up-to-date list of MFA resources online. Reading this book is a great way to reflect on if an MFA is for you, and if so, where and how to apply. Informative, strategic, and written on a very easy reading level (irony?).
Apr 27, 2009 Derek rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simultaneously conversational and well-informed, Tom Kealey’s Creative Writing MFA Handbook is an extremely helpful read for anyone considering (or utterly set on) pursuing a post-graduate degree in creative writing. Most of the book, of course, focuses on MFAs, but he also gives some space to PhD programs and low-residency programs as well. Where he feels another author has explored a topic more thoroughly than he could, he steps aside, but this is mostly Kealey’s book, written in a convivial Q ...more
Sep 28, 2009 Tameca rated it really liked it
Though Kealey's book is not all inclusive, it arms writing majors with enough information to knowledgeably forge forth towards the next step in their academic careers. He discusses criteria that is pertinent to MFA seeking students and he offers further points for undergraduates to consider which they may not have been able to consider beforehand. There is an updated version now, which I have not read. However, any chance I get, and when I have this version of the book in my hands, I lend it. Th ...more
Minyoung Lee
Aug 11, 2012 Minyoung Lee rated it it was amazing
Extremely good overview and "look first before anything else" type of book on anyone thinking of getting a Creative Writing MFA. The conversational tone starts out as annoying, but you get used to it. It does give the book a "mentor talking to clueless newbie" kind of feeling, which is actually a pretty good analogy for the book.

The book did, however, convince me NOT to pursue an MFA at this time, and I am very glad it did. Admittedly, I had no idea what an MFA was about before I read this book.
S.W. Gordon
Jun 26, 2015 S.W. Gordon rated it liked it
An excellent handbook with many insights and helpful hints on navigating the academic corridors of graduate level creative writing programs. I especially appreciated the tiered ranking system; however, I felt that too much emphasis was placed on funding as opposed to the quality of the programs. Though I agree with the warning to avoid excessive debt, sometimes you get what you pay for. And why would it hurt a program if some participants came from wealthy backgrounds? Diversity is always advant ...more
May 07, 2008 Nomy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who want to apply to MFA creative writing programs
Shelves: never-finished
okay so i haven't really finished this but i think anyone who is interested in applying to MFA creative writing programs should read this book. it's really really helpful, he basically walks you through the whole process and helps you figure out your priorities in ranking schools, and he lists all the creative writing programs that exist in the US and many in other countries too. this book inspired me to figure out which schools i'm interested in and and make a schedule for applying. when it's t ...more
Alexis Armstrong
Amazing for anyone looking to learn more about the MFA! This was recommended to me by one of my fiction professors and now I tell everyone I know who's thinking about the MFA to read it. I read it cover to cover and keep going back to it as a reference!
Mike Mitchell
Feb 25, 2014 Mike Mitchell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
There couldn't be a more useful tool out there for someone interested in pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing.
Jul 12, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it
This is one of the most well-regarded guides to applying for a creative writing MFA. It's jam-packed with tips, ideas, and interviews for the aspiring writing student. The only thing I didn't like about it is that it was a bit conversational in tone; Kealey used an extended analogy of a bus driver giving a tour of a new city that was kind of lame and childish. However, the book is so useful that it's totally worth picking up and reading anyway; the style doesn't detract from the readability or, ...more
May 29, 2012 J.C. rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing, non-fiction
Though at present in my life I'm just about to tackle my BA, an MFA is something I'd like to attain eventually, and thought that having this book around would come in handy. It is pretty well organized and all the information is presented, and I now have a better picture of what to expect in the future.

I recommend this book to anyone who is about to go into a Masters program in creative writing, whether it be MFA, MA or Phd.
Nov 07, 2011 T.C. rated it really liked it
Very important book if you're looking at MFA writing programs. Research does not seem to be the most scientific (sweeping claims and rankings that are hard to quantify); perhaps not enough said about chemistry in relation between teaching staff and student, and such factors as geography and family (a sidebar on the nuances for parent students would be helpful). Website is indispensable, too.
Jul 04, 2009 Nic rated it really liked it
The actual writing in this book was sometimes rough and sometimes a bit patronizing, but I found two things extremely helpful: the sample chart for keeping track of what materials each grad school required, and the list of MFA (and MA, and PhD) programs in the back of the book. The list is not entirely comprehensive, though; for a few more programs, try
Kat Rohr
Dec 15, 2010 Kat Rohr rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A handbook that actually provides practical information! I had no idea what was "out there" until I read this book. It contains a wealth of information to research online.It points the way to residential, low res, financial aid, reading lists, the application. The only thing missing is a check for tuition attached at the end of the book.
Nov 13, 2012 Zana rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, nonfiction
Very good book for those looking at Creative Writing MFAs. The program rankings are five years out of date, though, so the returns will diminish going forward on that part of the book. Still, the advice on how to apply and what considerations to take into account is invaluable.

I signed up for the GRE today. *bites nails*
Amy Sawyer
Jul 06, 2009 Amy Sawyer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, it was a handbook. But a really good handbook. I wouldn't want to go through the Creative Writing MFA application process without this book. I literally read it cover to cover in about 3 days. For anyone interested in applying for an MFA program, the book is a must read.
Apr 04, 2013 Amalia rated it really liked it
I found this book very helpful in considering the top programs in the country, as well as in going through the application process. It would have been quite daunting without this guide. It is well-written and researched, current and in a style that puts one at ease.
Oct 14, 2010 Suzi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Up to my ears in info on applying for the Creative Writing MFA, I stumbled upon this gem on someone's website. I have looked at it cover to cover, if not read every word.

And this book is fun, a clever conversation between the writer and reader.
Nov 17, 2013 Alicia added it
chatty to the point of distraction, but given the purpose of the book it's expected. a book whose purpose is more to provoke thought than to prescribe. has some good information, especially regarding the financial situation of being an mfa grad student.
Dec 08, 2008 James rated it liked it
Shelves: wordsmithing
Overall, a useful tool for researching MFAs. Not as comprehensive as the latest edition, but a great effort from some folks who truly care about the field. Try the MFA blog on Google for more of their valuable insight.
I am just getting in to seriously considering an MFA program in fiction, and this book was immensely helpful. Perhaps because of its specificity, it is by far the most helpful academic guide I've read.
Dec 13, 2008 Rachel rated it it was amazing
Excellent resource, especially considering how mysterious the whole "applying for an MFA" thing seems to be. I'll let you know if I got into any schools, which will be the real test of its usefulness.
Apr 14, 2010 Jason rated it really liked it
invaluable resource for anyone looking to get into an mfa program. good info on lots of schools, plus solid advice for the application process and how to select a program once you've been accepted.
Mar 18, 2009 Aran rated it really liked it
Why, why, did I stubbornly go through the application process relying on websites, word-of-mouth, and gut reaction when there was this concise and chipper little book waiting for me?
Sheri Fresonke Harper
I really dread going through the application process one more time, but maybe with this book and a class I'm taking at Stanford Continuing Education, it won't be so bad.
Dec 17, 2012 Jason added it
Shelves: read-2008
What's to be said? It's a little outdated by now, but it's practical advice given straightforward in an easy manner to read.
Jun 21, 2015 Jacki rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
This book saved me plenty of unnecessary stress and anxiety. I have absolutely no regrets about purchasing it.
Aug 08, 2012 Sally rated it really liked it
crucial, although the list of programs is, by now, outdated.
Oct 05, 2009 jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great update, and totally inspiring for the budding MFA student.
May 14, 2009 Penny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Life Research !

And, helpful Life Research at that.
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