by Sarah Ingerson, Editorial Assistant, Three Rooms Press
“The urban setting – NYC/Harlem definitely gives a tilt to our program. We represent America, in its best sense of the term, in a way that I think few other programs in the country do.” -Salar Abdoh, Co-Driector MFA Creative Writing at CUNY City College.
City College is far from exclusionary. With over 100 MFA students at any one time, the program is truly diverse. That’s what makes it so special, says Abdoh. There is nothing homogeneous about the group. People come from all walks of life. According to Abdoh, ” In any given MFA workshop there are a number of Hispanic and African-American students as well as immigrants, plus people who just did other things in life (lawyers, physicians, construction workers, teachers, musicians, actors, etc) before deciding to go back to school and joining a community of writers. ” A lot of this diversity stems from its accessibility. The program is affordable. It is a fraction of the cost of many others in the city and has several adjunct teaching positions available each year. However, Abdoh warns prospective students to take living expenses into account. The tuition may be cheaper at City College but it is still in New York City.
However, those living expenses are well worth it. The program itself is a welcoming one. It is not a narrowly strict one. It gives students freedom. There is a strong literature component–each student is required to take five courses–but its wide variety of courses allows every student to choose what truly interests them. It is a real community where people can come together to immerse themselves in their craft. They can drown out the noise of society and focus on their own voices. For many writers, this is a welcome respite from a world generally disconnected from the literary scene.
To prepare for that level of immersion, Abdoh suggests that aspiring writers look beyond their comfort zones. Read outside their typical genres or interests. The best way to learn is to read and write. A lot. Only then will a writer be ready to give voice to his own ideas.
For more information on the MFA of Creative Writing program at City College of New York, click here.