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Guest Post: MFA Crash Course Recap

Corrine Jackson is a YA author represented by Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency. Her book TOUCHED is currently on submission. 

Last week I attended the MFA residency at Spalding University in Louisville, KY, along with over a 100 other writers. The residency is an insanely intensive 10-day period of lectures, workshops, readings, and more. Each day I shared the best tips of the day and gave away prizes on my blog. YA Highway asked me to share the best tips of the week.

Read it Like You Mean It - Reading your work in front of a crowd can be scary, so if you are like me, you read at warp speed to just get through it. Bad idea. The best work will get passed over by a bored audience if your reading is…well, crappy. Let people hear your voice when you read, and do your best to relax.

Workshop Sneak Peek – My piece was workshopped for a solid hour, plus I received seven pages of written feedback. You can’t beat that kind of intense criticism. If you’ve ever wondered what kind of feedback you get in a workshop, here’s your chance to find out.

Surrendering to Your Characters – My favorite lecture of the week described ways to get to know your characters better through method writing. YA author Silas House, offered suggestions like knowing what kind of music your character would like or finding out what secret they would never tell another soul. See more of his tips here.

Killing Your Darlings – Jackie Gorman shared the advantages of killing off characters in your stories – even your favorite ones. The best advantage – a character’s response to a death reveals a lot about who he/she is.

Shakespeare is Still the Man – We watched Shakespeare Behind Bars and had a Q&A with prisoners who had put on Shakespeare plays for other prisoners. This experience was inspirational beyond measure. Shakespeare’s words had the power to make hardened criminals cry, laugh, and CHANGE. I immediately felt the urge to write in iambic pentameter. Rent the movie from Netflix if you haven’t seen it.

Getting Beyond “I” – Writer Julie Brickman lectured on how to add some flexibility to the first person POV. I found this lecture insanely helpful since I tend to get right up on my characters like we’re breathing the same air. The problem with this is that you don’t leave room for your readers to feel anything if you are heaving your character’s emotions all over the page. Julie offered tips to help give you some freedom in first person.

Choosing Your Words Carefully – Writer Sena Jeter Naslund advised that the creation of a powerful writing style comes from the tension between your diction (word choice) and the rhythm of your words. She reminded us to engage all five senses in our writing and to keep our language fresh and original in order to surprise and delight our readers. See more of her tips here.

More tips can be found on my blog, plus the series will continue tomorrow with more prizes to come, including a query critique from my agent, Laura Bradford, and a ten-page critique from my MFA mentor, Eleanor Morse!!! Thanks for letting me share, YA Highway!

Kate Hart

Kate is the author of After the Fall, coming January 24, 2017 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. A former teacher and grant writer, she now owns a treehouse-building business in the Ozarks and hosts the Badass Ladies You Should Know interview series.

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  1. OOOHhhh yay! I'm about to start my MFA in the fall. Good stuff to know. Thanks for sharing, Cory and Kate!

  2. Oooh, these sound really helpful! I wish I could be there.

  3. I love the tip about killing off characters. I never thought about how this would help provide more information about other characters in a book, but it's so true. Thanks for the suggestion!

  4. Great stuff. :) I'll be going to my third residency this August, and I absolutely love the experience. Of course, it seems like your program has more of an understanding for YA writing, though. I'm jealous! :)

  5. Shakespeare Behind Bars is a great film. Sounds like this was a great experience. I've always thought about an MFA. Maybe after I finish my current master's program??

  6. Oh - such a great informative post. Off to check out all the links.

    Thanks :)

  7. Wow, this sounds like an amazing, intense experience. I love the tip about getting beyond "I" - I never thought about having so much character emotion that the reader has no room to feel any of his/her own.

    Thank you, Cory!

  8. I really liked Spanlding's program when I was researching MFA's, but I'm from Barbados and live in Japan, and Kentucky is not easy to get to from either. But then, it seems all my fave low-res programs are in hardtotravelto locales. Guess I'll have ot just bite the bullet and take 3 planes or do an onsite MFA in NYC.

  9. Thanks, Cory! I'm drooling over your MFA program.

  10. Awesome post! I'm going to save these tips. I especially like the one about first person POV. Definitely a good thing to think about.

  11. Great stuff! I can't wait to check out all the links.


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Item Reviewed: Guest Post: MFA Crash Course Recap Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kate Hart