In 2014, Kelsey earned her M.A. in English with a creative writing focus from Ball State University. She is currently pursuing an M.F.A. in creative writing at West Virginia University.
Two graduate degrees in creative writing. Redundant, right?
The MFA is the terminal degree in the field, and will allow me to teach as a creative writing professor upon graduation. For me, the MA was just as important. My undergraduate degrees at Ball State were in landscape architecture and history. I had never taken a creative writing course, but I loved writing stories. I knew very little about MA and MFA degrees, so I applied to Ball State’s program because it is a great school.
I won’t pretend I started the MA with a clear plan for graduate studies, but here are four reasons why stumbling into Ball State’s MA in English turned out to be very fortunate for me:
- Having time to write is a gift. It is. In both my MA and MFA programs, I’ve had time to write, to mull, to experiment with my craft over and over while being fully funded.
- Teaching is hard. The first two semesters I taught at Ball State, it took up a lot of time, both teaching courses and taking the accompanying pedagogy courses. However, each semester I became better at balancing teaching and writing. When I arrived at my MFA program, while many of my peers were panicking over their first times teaching, I was able to skip the pedagogy course, and spend much less time prepping lessons, both of which meant more time for writing. (See reason number one.)
- I knew I would apply to MFA programs for fiction, so when I started at Ball State, I wasn’t very interested in (read as: I was intimidated by) the creative nonfiction, poetry, and screenwriting courses. I quickly learned that writing in other genres made my fiction better. Substantially better. There aren’t many programs that encourage students to dabble in four genres. It was great to be in small classrooms where five to eight classmates and myself moved from genre to genre each semester, and experimented with our writing together. The five graduate professors encouraged us to take courses outside our specialty. There was no rivalry between genres.
- Finally, the creative writing professors in the program are positive, encouraging, and create healthy workshop atmospheres. As I applied to MFA programs, I received endless support and advice from them on schools, writing samples, and applications. Publication and professionalization lectures were covered in the classroom, and meetings were held to advise those interested in MFA or PhD programs. We even had someone from the Career Center speak to us about career opportunities for English majors. I felt supported by the community of creative writing professors at Ball State. They are the kind of good people that years later, I still feel proud to call my writing mentors.
Every year, thousands of great writers apply to a limited number of MFA programs. Acceptance rates are low, especially in fully-funded programs. My two years in Ball State’s MA program allowed me to drastically improve my writing, develop a writing sample, and gain a support system to help me get accepted to a competitive MFA program. My time at Ball State was positive and frankly, a lot of fun.