What I learned while applying for an MFA

For two of the MFA programs to which I’ve applied, there was a requirement to submit a 3–4 page “craft essay.” I’d never really written such a thing before. As an undergraduate English major, writing tended to be one of two things: Either metacritical for my theory classes or explications d’texte for most of my other classes (the faculty in Claremont being heavily invested in New Criticism as a framework for approaching their writings on literature.

I found the process to be wonderfully illuminating. I wrote an essay focusing on how Ann Patchett managed her omniscient viewpoint in Bel Canto. The novel which I thought I had finished last August was written in (an attempt at) omniscient POV and I realized that there was a great deal of work to be done to revise my prose to fix the POV problems, making things much less head-hoppy in their presentation. I’m thinking that a craft essay like this would be a useful practice in facing any number of writing challenges as the sort of close reading and attention to craft that was necessary in putting together my craft essay provides a delightful sort of education.

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