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Consider the MFA (A Love Letter to the City and Program that Changed My Life)

An important part of being a writer is surrounding yourself with other writers who support you and challenge you to grow.

My three years in the Creative Writing MFA program at the University of Missouri – Kansas City showed me the power of building a writing community and helped me to grow exponentially as a writer.

I don’t think everyone has to get an MFA, but I highly recommend it.

I went into the program not knowing anyone, or much about poetry, and by the time I graduated three years later, I had built a strong community of writer friends and teachers, and I felt confident navigating the world of literary conferences and journal submissions.

The UMKC Creative Writing Program, and the UMKC Department of English challenged and supported me, and became my home for three years. My professors pushed me to grow, asked tough questions, and offered helpful advice in workshops and one-on-one. I always felt they wanted the best for me. I loved how small and young the program was, and that my peers were encouraging and constructive in their feedback.

The program introduced me to events like the Association of Writers & Writing Programs’ annual conference, and the Dodge Poetry Festival, which make me feel like it’s Christmas morning every time I attend them. (If you’re a geek like I am, just imagine your favorite writers are reading in the same city for a weekend, and you get to see all of them. That’s right: all of them. Oh, and at AWP, there’s a hotel banquet hall full of pretty much every literary journal and small press in the country.)

My professors personally introduced me to poets I first admired on the page. These great poets took the time to offer feedback on my work, and talk to me about my writing during their visits to Kansas City.

I am still amazed at the poets I met and readings I attended while I lived in Kansas City. I saw a laundry list of internationally known poets at the Midwest Poets Series, run by writer, editor, and teacher Bob Stewart. The Midwest Poets Series offers readings four times a year at Rockhurst University, and Bob always brings in sparkling talent.

If you’re considering an MFA, I would encourage you to go for it. Even though I no longer live in Kansas City, I have a life-long community of writers who support me and my writing, no matter where I go.

I love you, Kansas City!



Email me at barbaravaranka@gmail.com

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