mfa vs nycI am reading an advanced copy of a fascinating collection, MFA v NYC, edited by Chad Harbach of The Art of Fielding and n+1. (Full disclosure: I was interviewed for this book and some of my answers appear on its pages.) The concept: “In a widely-read essay [of the same title], bestselling novelist Chad Harbach argued that the American literary scene has split into two cultures: New York publishing versus university MFA programs. This book brings together established writers, MFA professors and students, and New York editors and agents to talk about these overlapping worlds, and the way writers make (or fail to make) a living within them.”

Divided into sections (“MFA,” “NYC,” “Teaching Game,” etc.,) the book includes “A Mini-Manifestor” by George Saunders and an essay by the late David Foster Wallace. In “Basket-Weaving 101” Maria Adelmann recounts her experience in the MFA program at the University of Viriginia and includes two pie charts contrasting her monthly spending in New York City and Charlottesville. In their respective essays Eric Bennett and Alexander Chee  speak of their time at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Keith Gessen and Emily Gould write about the financial challenges of surviving as a writer in New York. In the “Teaching” section, there’s a piece about Gordon Lish (by Carla Blumenkranz) and about teaching in a low-residency MFA program (by Diana Wagman).

I’m still making my way through this collection, but it’s already clear that the book (release date: February 25th) is a must read for any writer considering an MFA program, a move to New York, or anything in between. It’s also a great resource for anyone who works with either undergraduate or graduate writing students.

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