Guest Post by Gabriela Pereira
Perhaps the biggest barrier between children's book writers and the rest of the literary world is one of misunderstanding. Few people outside the children's book world truly understand the artistry and effort that goes into writing for a young audience. How many of us have heard someone tell us: "You write kids' books? You know, I've always wanted to write a picture book, if I could only find the time." To which, I usually respond: "Oh, you do brain surgery? I've always wanted to saw someone's skull open, if I could only find the time."
OK, I'm being a little over the top here, but the point is that people who don't read kids books or teen literature and don't study the craft... they just don't get what we do. This problem pervades not only the writing world in general, but also realm of MFA.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, MFA stands for Masters of Fine Art and it's the graduate degree most frequently offered for creative writing. I happened to attend an MFA program, concentrating in Writing for Children--and many of those same prejudices against children's literature are still thriving.
This was why, when I graduated, I developed DIY MFA. My goal was to bridge the gap between graduate-style study and writers who have been shut out of that world. For some writers, this exclusion comes from the hefty MFA price tag or the rigid requirements on their time. Other writers feel like they're on the fringe of the scholarly world simply because they have chosen to write in a category that is not "literary." Currently there are only a handful of schools that offer MFA's in Writing for Children.
Who is DIY MFA for?
The philosophy behind DIY MFA is that all forms of writing can be approached in a scholarly manner, that no writer should be excluded from an in-depth study of writing. DIY MFA does not discriminate against writers based on where they are on their journey or what they have chosen in terms of genre and writing style. That applies to Writing for Children as well. At DIY MFA, we embrace our differences and take pride in the diverse backgrounds and outlooks of our writers. Being different is not a disability. It’s a strength.
There is only one requirement, one common thread ties all DIY MFA writers together. Every writer participating in DIY MFA is serious about becoming a stronger writer, making writing a priority, and having fun with the creative process.
The core belief of DIY MFA is that no two writers will share the exact same path, that you can't shove a writer into a cookie-cutter system and expect them to grow creatively as artists. Rather, with DIY MFA each writer will create a personalized plan that fits his or her needs, which in turn empowers writers to take ownership of their writing journey.
Taking responsibility for our writing can be terrifying, but the do-it-yourself part of DIY MFA is crucial to each writer’s success. When you take ownership of your writing education, not only do you become a more empowered writer, you also create a writing life that’s sustainable for the long term. A prescribed plan is great and might even work for a short while, but over time writers will lose energy, maybe even quit. DIY MFA is about constantly reevaluating and reinventing your writing life so that it works for you for as long as you want to write.
Not only that, but DIY MFA can work both for writers who want the MFA experience but can't do it, as well as for writers who have completed a traditional MFA and want to continue their study for the long term. DIY MFA lasts as long as you need it.
How does DIY MFA work?
Because I did an MFA myself, I spent a lot of time researching and comparing writing programs. What I discovered was that MFA programs--despite being at very different schools, with different philosophies--have certain threads in common. Regardless of the many differences, all MFA programs essentially boil down to one simple formula:
Reading + Writing + Workshop + Community = MFA
What is more, while most traditional MFA's emphasize literary fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction, nothing about the MFA formula excludes Writing for Children or any mainstream genres. This means that there is no reason that the MFA approach cannot be applied to writing to these neglected categories or genres.
The idea behind DIY MFA is to help writers build this equation into their lives without depending on a school structure. All four essential components of the traditional MFA are things that writers can cobble together on their own or collaborating with other writers. You don't need to go to graduate school to get these benefits. In other words, DIY MFA shows writers how to:
(1) Approach literature like a writer to get the most out of reading,
(2) Explore both craft and creativity through writing,
(3) Give and take critique in a workshop setting,
(4) Build a community of like-minded writers.
How to join:
Tomorrow, we have an extra-special DIY MFA event happening: I'm offering a FREE Webinar! This webinar is going to be filled with tips to help you boost your writing and get out of a creative slump.
7 Ways to Boost Your Writing
Wednesday, Nov. 16
1:00-2:00 pm ET
To Register and for more information, visit the webinar page.
Can't make the webinar? No worries. Another easy way to dive into DIY MFA is to follow the blog: DIYMFA.com Each week, I focus on one topic in DIY MFA, with longer posts on Mondays and Wednesdays and a short prompt on Fridays.
As for me, I’m Gabriela Pereira, and I’ve spent a lifetime telling stories, writing them down and helping other writers put the pen to paper and express their ideas. Having grown up bilingual, I know how important it is for writers to express themselves in their unique voice and to build a writing life that is all their own. I’ve been many things in my life: a writer, a teacher, even a toy designer. Now with DIYMFA I am the instigator, the one who lights the first match, but it’s up to you to fan the flame. I hope you will join me on this journey.
Connect with me at DIY MFA:
To Those about to write, I salute you. To everyone else, I suggest you stay out of our way.