Marginalia, Graduate Blog

Why Take Fiction Seminar Courses as an MFA Student?

Parker Stockman

It matches my onesie

It matches my onesie

Right now, I’m taking Nami Mun’s Fiction Seminar course, and I think this is a really important class to take in this program. I eat up every second of it. . . . I love it so much!

CCC’s Creative Writing – Fiction MFA program is great, but it’s definitely different from the majority of other graduate programs. Different is good; in fact, you’ll approach story more carefully because of CCC’s program than you would if you learned elsewhere. But, if your endgame for your MFA is teaching, a seminar course that uses traditional workshop approaches (spending a week reading a peer’s story, creating comments for that peer, and then discussing it in class the next week) is beneficial. Here’s why.

1) You can’t teach in the Fiction Department here if you’re just pursuing your MFA. At many other schools, you can. It’s because this school uses a different method, the Story Workshop method, that takes the entire course of your degree to fully understand. In order to teach, one must do the dual MA/MFA program, where that person starts the MA after the first year. The student will take tutor training courses, tutor one-on-one, then get to take teaching courses, and eventually go out to teach the Story Workshop method in the community (in middle and high schools, I believe). This is unpaid. In other programs, students are typically teaching in their second year for their college, usually getting stipends and teaching experience in the traditional method. As the majority of other schools use methods similar to the seminar class methods and if you aren’t getting your MA here, you’ll want to learn the method you’d likely be expected to use if you were to teach elsewhere. This leads to point 2. . . .

2) You won’t know the pedagogy of other programs. As a graduate student, you really start noticing HOW classes are being taught, and talking with instructors about the teaching helps illuminate this even more. If you aren’t pursuing the MA/MFA tract, it’s important to start understanding the pedagogy of the more-canonical method. I’m not saying all programs use this style of teaching, but most use a form of it. Knowing how it’s done and how to implement it will be super helpful when looking for full-time teaching jobs.

3) It will give you practice handling student feedback. I’ve taught on the college level (I’m still doing some online work), and knowing how to give feedback to students is PARAMOUNT. It’s an art, and taking a course with someone like Nami will show you how to do it properly—never criticizing the work but asking questions to help the writer get to the meat of the story, the bones of it, the flesh. You do see this in Story Workshop-centric courses, but you don’t see how to do it in writing. So, this really helps.

In addition, a course like this will broaden the way you learn, the way you consider story, and the way you look at your own work for revision. Graduate school is all about making it work for you—your hand isn’t held like it is in undergraduate programs. So, you have to seek the opportunities to get the broadest education you can. Many students leave the program wanting to teach—why not give yourself all the tools you can get from the MFA program to do this?

Why Take Fiction Seminar Courses as an MFA Student?

Right now, I’m taking Nami Mun’s Fiction Seminar course, and I think this is a really important class to take in this program. I eat up every second of it. …

Creative Writing - Fiction MFA Parker Stockman, parker.stockman@loop.colum.edu
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605