Gabriela Pereira was compelled to create DIYMFA, the website, community, course, podcast, and now book, after her disappointing experience with her MaGabriela Pereira was compelled to create DIYMFA, the website, community, course, podcast, and now book, after her disappointing experience with her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program.
Like Gabriela, I went the route of the Master’s degree, believing that I needed the validation. It was the lie I believed, and it almost ended my writing career before it began.
DIYMFA is what the MFA program should be (or should aspire to be) but never was.
Most MFA programs centre on critique—without teaching the students what it takes to offer and receive constructive feedback—and coaching/mentorship by someone who may or may not even understand their own creative process, let alone be able to articulate it, or guide their mentee to their process and best mode of creative expression without imposing some ideal of “how things should be done.”
Admittedly, MFA programs have matured and improved, but rather than focus what should be a review of an amazing guide to the writing life on an indictment of the graduate institution, I’m going to, in grand rhetorical style, return to the matter at hand (see? Academia has ruined me—ruined!).
Gabriela divides her guide into three sections: write with focus; read with purpose; and build your community.
In the first, she offers a brief, but engaging, examination of all the essential points of craft that writers must master. There is no one way to reach the destination, but a multitude of paths from which writers can choose based on their personal goals and aptitudes. Self-knowledge and self-confidence are the foundations upon which craft is built.
While the reading with purpose section is shorter than the other two, it is no less important. Gabriela emphasizes a balanced approach throughout DIYMFA. All three aspects, writing, reading, and community, are essential to creative development.
Learning to read and analyze the text, not like an academic, but like a writer, is what this second section is all about. We have to learn about craft first and begin to apply it before we can learn to recognize it in the writing of others and extract lessons from that purposeful reading that we can take back to the page.
Finally, in this brave new world of social media, how do we tackle the task of finding our audiences, reaching out to them, and building a community of writerly friends, readers, and fans?
In all aspects of DIYMFA, Gabriela has studied and learned from the best in the industry, and she unpacks these lessons in an accessible and engaging way.
One of the things I enjoyed most about DIYMFA is that Gabriela draws on her statistics background and mathematical bent to offer charts, matrices, and unique visualizations that will help readers and learners find a way into the material she presents.
And, as a self-confessed word nerd, she exercises her talent for acronyms and initialisms, creating fun mnemonics to encapsulate concepts and principles for her writerly audience.
Having sung the praises of DIYMFA as an alternative to a traditional MFA program, I must point out that Gabriela never disparages academia, in fact, traditional programs are pointed out as viable options for the aspiring writer.
What if that writer has economic, domestic, or temporal limitations, though? It is for those writers-in-progress that DIYMFA has been crafted.