Monday, November 15, 2010

The role of MFA programs in teaching students about business?

Traditionally, MFA programs have taken a nod from the fine arts—to speak of the "business" of writing was seen as distasteful at best, and something to be utterly forbidden at worst. The issue is in the news after New York's exposĂ© of James Frey's book-packaging sweatshop—he pays $500 for novels and trawls Manhattan's MFA programs for willing suckers ready to sign this horrific contract. (The second half of clause 4.2 is a real doozy!)

In response, author John Scalzi* has published an open letter to MFA programs and their students which I think is well worth reading. Here at WestConn we do talk about business at least occasionally, and certainly in the "practical" genres, but many programs are still run by the clueless, for the clueless.

This might be something worth discussing at the residency next month.

*Scalzi's an especially interesting figure as his career is basically what WestConn teaches: yes, he writes popular novels and works in television, but he also writes corporate copy as a significant part of his living.


Alexis said...

WOW. Thanks for sharing!

Jane K. Cleland said...

I especially appreciated John Scalzi's response. Caveat emptor, and all that.

DLowe said...

Good post, Nick. Yes, there should extra weight placed in MFA programs on the business of writing -- especially contracts. It's a lot of money to spend not to get a clearer idea of how to get it back. James Frey is incorrigible.

Caro said...

Great article, thanks for sharing. I would love to have a class on this...I'd actually also love to learn how to make a good writer's CV. We should discuss at the residency for sure!