Monday, January 29, 2018

Why Do I Need an MFA? THIS....exactly this

With permission, I’m posting the pre-reading remarks offered by Katie Sherman, who graduated in January 2018. from the Converse low-res MFA program with a degree in fiction writing  (Disclosure: I was her very, very proud thesis advisor, all teary in the audience!)

I thought Katie’s sentiments go a long way to answer that age-old question, “Do I need an MFA?” The answer is embedded here: only if you want to find a community like this, only if you’re open to a life-shaping experience like this, only if you long to find that place where your writing self is both revered and challenged, every single day of the program.

And, to be more specific, I suppose that if what you truly want is THIS sort of experience, please join our program. Our application deadline is February 15, so there’s still time…and if you sent in “all” your apps for December deadlines, well, we welcome hearing from you now. Maybe you’re rethinking your strategy? Maybe you might want to be part of our rigorous but nurturing community? Maybe, just maybe, what you need is exactly five semesters of this:

Remarks Prior to Graduation Reading
By Katie Sherman

There are a great many people I need to thank for their help in completing this program. Let me begin with my mentors — Bob, Cary, Bart, and Leslie. You have become the voices in my head asking for “more agency”, “more rising conflict”, for “fewer clich├ęs”, “longer sentences”, “more showing — less telling.” Thank you for helping me become better. Thank you for your patience and your honesty. The students in this room are your legacy, alongside the work you create of course. We carry your words, you can’t be silenced, despite our best efforts. Thank you for the time and care and the extraordinary thoughtfulness you placed in our stories.

I want to thank MFA Director Rick Mulkey: Thank you for seeing something in my work, for accepting me into this group. The people in this program, even those not in my genre, have become my community, and you were the gatekeeper to them.

To the students who came before me, particularly Kay and Angela; I thank you for opening your arms and accepting me at my best and my worst. To those who came after me, I hope I was able to show you one ounce of their generosity of spirit. And, to three special people — those who traveled through this program with me in my genre— I want to extend individual love, attention, and thanks.

Mackinley was the first person I met in the program. He is shy, witty, and brilliant. All of these qualities were imminently apparent. Thank you for bringing your insightful wisdom to each workshop. Linda has taught me grace under pressure. She displays graciousness, creativity, and a willingness to bear her soul that is always inspiring. And, last but certainly not least, Gwen. Thank you for talking me through so many works in progress, for loving elephants, for having eye rolls and sage wisdom and kind words to share.

To my mom and dad —Even when you didn’t understand the program, you listened to my complaints and my successes. Thank you for loving me enough to believe my dreams of publishing aren’t foolish and for teaching me anything is possible. Without the foundation you built, I couldn’t possible stand here.

To my sister, Angela. Thank you for babysitting. For loving my girls like you love your own children. Some people are lucky in life. They are born with someone who knows their entire story, who cheers from the sidelines, who takes care of them and protects them from … everything and everyone. Some people have a built-in soul mate. I’m one such person. Angela, thank you for being my best friend.

To my girls, Ella and Addie, thank you for being good nappers and for inspiring me daily. I write about you, because of you, and for you.

Lastly, to my husband, Ben. You deserve the biggest thanks of all. You helped with the girls, listened to every story, provided comfort when I needed it and encouragement when I longed for it. Every writer needs a good critique group. I get that from the people in this program. But, we also need someone who loves what we write. You always love my work. And, for the time you have given me to write, I am forever indebted to you.

More information about the Converse low-res MFA program:


Katie Sherman is a freelance journalist who covers fine food and parenting—two things rarely related—in Charlotte, NC. As an undergraduate studying news editorial journalism, she was mentored by Pulitzer Prize nominee George Esper at WVU. She recently received her MFA degree in Fiction from Converse College.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.