Michele Regenold, Writing for Kids from the Boondocks

A blog about writing for children and the quest for publication.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Critical writing in the MFA

Marion Dane Bauer and Cynthia Leitich Smith gave an overview of the faculty's expectations of student critical writing during the program. There are two basic types of essays students write:
  1. Essays on the discovery of craft. A student may have an issue from her own work about an element of craft. She sees how others handle it in published work and/or in craft books and then brings the discussion back to her own work.
  2. Essays with an arguable thesis. A student needs to support this with textual evidence and "move the conversation forward" in some way.
First-semester students typically write two short essays for each of their five packets and second-semester students usually write one longer essay per packet. The critical thesis done by third-semester students is a minimum of 20 pages (not including quoted passages).

Marion and Cynthia also talked about the benefits of writing critical essays for students' creative work. They also noted that there are opportunities to publish critical work in professional journals like Horn Book. Cynthia said that she's published quite a bit in this field and has received requests to speak because of it. It gets your name out there and shows that you're a professional.


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