Teen Writers Bloc

A Blog by the New School Writing for Children MFA Class of 2012

Sona Charaipotra: To MFA Or Not To MFA, That Is The Question

Posted by Sona Charaipotra On November - 15 - 2010

carbonnyc 600x399 Sona Charaipotra: To MFA Or Not To MFA, That Is The Question

I know I don’t need an MFA. Nobody really does. After all, it’s one of those self-indulgent throwaway degrees that doesn’t really equate to much real-world value, right? At least that’s what the rest of the world thinks.

But even beyond that measure, even in writerly circles, where the pursuit of such a degree doesn’t seem like such a fruitless, even foolhardy (and decidedly expensive) endeavor — even by those standards, I really don’t need an MFA.

If we’re talking craft, well, I already have a Masters in screenwriting from NYU. That’s given me a solid grounding in both story and structure, and it actually ends up being quite relevant to fiction. And as long as I sell books, that degree is enough to get me teaching gigs, too.

If we’re talking connections, I’ve got a decade as an entertainment journalist behind me, working for big name magazines and interviewing A-listers, including authors, editors, and movie stars who’d be just right for the main character in the film adaptation of my bestseller. If platform is what sells, I’m hotcakes.

So what the hell am doing here? Well, here’s the thing. You can’t sell a novel unless you write a novel. And I’ve always fallen victim to that killer writers’ plague. That’s right. I am a master procrastinator.

I am that writer you all know. The one who has great ideas, solid writing, great connections. The one whose novel should sell itself. Except that I never finish the sucker. I have a half a dozen works-in-progress, all at some half-baked state of being. And if I ever want to finish them — any of them — well then, I need structure. I need deadlines. I need discipline. I need an MFA.

I need an MFA not so much for the degree itself, or the cache it holds (or not), or the credentials to teach. All of that stuff doesn’t matter so much. What I really need is the time, the space, the ability to be devoted to something as frivolous and as crucial as writing. I need some focused, structured time in a program that will force to get me out of my lazy habits, teach and enforce discipline, and introduce me to like-minded individuals who will take this as seriously as I will. Because for the next two years, I need to just be allowed to take this seriously. That’s why I need an MFA.

Once I’m done explaining all of that to people, the next inevitable question is why now?

Let’s be honest, the timing was hardly perfect. I was six-months pregnant when I started applying to MFA programs. And my daughter was all of six months old when I started the Writing for Children program at the New School. I’m giving up three nights a week and countless hours a day to pursue this goal, all while working full time and trying to learn how to be a good mama to my little Kavi. And given the cost, there will be a lot financial sacrifice along the way, too. Many would say I was crazy and call it a day. But I know myself. If I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it. And what is it they say about a dream deferred?

My husband, he’s a writer. And yes, he even has an MFA. So he’s the one who suggested that it’s time. It’s time to give myself the space to take this seriously. To take myself seriously. He’s the one who’s letting me carve out time (and the cash) to do this — time I could be working or spending with my daughter and him. So here I am, doing just that. Hopefully, at the end of two years, I’ll have something to show for myself. Something that will make all three of us proud.

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7 Responses to “Sona Charaipotra: To MFA Or Not To MFA, That Is The Question”

  1. Flannery O'Connor, the great short story writer, called it "the blind leading the blind." It really comes down to how much passion and talent you have for telling your story. Next post: To publish YA or Chick Lit: that is the question!

  2. Dhonielle Clayton says:

    Let's get your little person a fat pencil and start her writing career. MFA for tots. With two writer parents she's bound to have something to say. I think her first story should be titled, "Attack of the small, dangerous tooth and the pumpkin muffin." :)

    • Sona Charaipotra says:

      Now it'll have to be "Attack of the two small dangerous teeth, and the pumpkin loaf." She's gotten her second (and she's grinding them already!) — and I think the Starbucks pumpkin muffins are "out of season."

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