As a rule, I often downplay naming people and things in my blog posts, thus the program where I take writing classes I tend to refer to, generically, as "the program where I take classes." Today, however, I want to name it: It's a graduate program at USC called the Master of Professional Writing. I've been taking classes through MPW part-time for two years. I enrolled for a few reasons: because my job offered tuition remission and I'm a big fan of things that are free; because taking classes maintains my student status and thus prevents my mountain of student debt from toppling down on me; and because every semester I saw interesting topics and instructors. I figured I might learn something, and if not, I'd at least be pressured to write. I didn't enroll because I thought I needed an MPW program. With two MFAs from highly respectable schools, I didn't need the degree, and I didn't need any more friends who were aspiring writers.
That's what I thought.
I thought wrong.
it would be impossible for every concept to be new, I've been
consistently surprised. I've gained skills and knowledge in my MPW
classes that five years of MFA classes didn't give me; and though I'd
graduated from my screenwriting program with friends and acquaintances
in the Los Angeles area, it has been the MPW program that has given me
a community--both a strong student community and an
introduction to Los Angeles as a writing (and reading!) community. I'd
come to believe that my screenwriting pursuits were entirely
incompatible with a path as a creative writer. Through MPW I have been
shown that is not the case, and introduced to a number of role-models
who work in multiple genres. Finally, MPW has reminded me of my
appreciation and gratitude for writing and for other writers, which is
not a luxury, but a necessity for anyone who plans to persevere in a
My current semester at MPW has been the best I
have experienced in terms of all of these things. My classes have been
educational and directly applicable to my work; I've felt a real
affection respect and compassion for the students I share the classroom
with. I've been inspired by my professors and the literature they've
introduced to me, and I've been ever more impressed by the reading and
events the sponsored by the program and the efforts its administration
makes to give us ties to the larger community of Los Angeles. Friday
night, I attended a student/ faculty reading. Afterwards as I wandered
through The Last Bookstore in the company of other students, I was
struck by a sense of belonging. This is not to say that I spend
lots of time feeling ostracized or alienated, but moments of feeling a
real sense of belonging occur seldom enough that I notice them. And
lately, when I have noticed them, it's been during in MPW-related
activities: attending readings at bookstores around L.A., volunteering
for the department-run journal, participating in professional seminars
organized by the faculty on the weekends. Lately, when thinking of the
MPW program, I've felt uncharacteristically warm and fuzzy.
makes it a little ironic that today I received an email saying that the
dean has decided that the MPW Program will no longer accept new
students. The current cohort will be the last cohort and the program
will be discontinued as of Spring 2016. So far, no reasons for this
have been offered, other than the statement that it was "a business
This will likely not affect my own educational
trajectory, but somehow it still changes things-- like learning in your
senior year of high school that after you graduate the city is going to
burn down the building. You'll still get to go to school everyday, but
when you're done, there won't be anyplace to visit, and all the secrets
and advice you might have given your kid brother are no longer
It's an odd, sorrowful feeling.
But mostly I feel lucky. Lucky that I found MPW when I did, and that it has given me so much that I didn't even know I needed.