Can a website replace MFA programs?

Josh Spilker

Just get yr MFA here. / Publishing Perspectives

Can a website be so whiz-bang nifty that MFA programs will come to an end as students bear their souls in the digital crevices? So asks the headline, because the actual article from Publishing Perspectives doesn't really address the question. Instead it talks about Quilliant, an interchange, workshopping website. I haven't tried it.

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So I'll try and answer it for you.

Quillant kind of reminds me of this site, Fictionaut that was making some waves in the past year or so in the indie lit set. I tried it out for a few months, still have a profile over there but have basically abandoned it.

Instead of helping people with their writing, Fictionaut is an easy way to display it. It's fun, just like on Facebook, to see how many comments you get, how many pageviews you receive. Like any drug, it was thrill. And a cheap one at that.

Some people did offer constructive help on it, others just said, “yeah. good job.”

And that's what may make the difference between a free site and an actual writing program (I was in a creative writing class a long time ago, but have never been in an MFA program).

And the difference is–money. In an MFA program or any program that you pay money towards, you feel obligated to go. To participate. To turn something in. After all, you're spending money or someone is spending money on you and if you fail (theoretically) it won't be worth your time.

There was also some sort of weeding out process. You're trusting the powers that be to select other “worthy” candidates (like yourself). You also hope that this place has selected “worthy” instructors, people that know more than you. Theoretically, the more you pay, the more prestigious it is, so that better writing emerges and you get an obscure poetry book from an obscure publisher out of the process.

…Wait, what was that? If you sign up for Quilliant, you don't have to pay the insane amount of money and you still have the opportunity to get an obscure poetry book from an obscure publisher out of the deal?

Oh.

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