MFA Program Cultivates Lifelong Practice and Community

Professor Lewis Buzbee discusses how the MFA program at USF fosters continuous practice, community, and individuality in writing.

What makes the MFA program at USF distinct?

That there is no “USF style.” We welcome writers in all genres and aesthetics, from YA novels to the most experimental works. The range of sensibilities among the faculty allows for this approach. We don’t want you to write like us; we want to help you find who you are as a writer.

What do you find most special about the MFA writing education/experience?

The pairing of workshops and seminars, how they complement each other. Reading literature in the seminars leads to a greater understanding of the strategies you can use in your own work. And the workshop helps you expand your notion of the possibilities of the literature. There’s a clear connection between the two. As readers and writers, we understand that your best tool in progressing in your work is the vast and deep reading that occupies you.

How can pursuing an MFA support your writing process/journey now and later?

First there’s the focus on habit and discipline. For two years, you’ll be writing regularly and with purpose, establishing a practice that will carry you beyond MFA into what is, one hopes, a life-long practice. I also feel like the community that you find at USF is crucial. To be among like-minded folk, never having to “explain” the weird life you’ve chosen, is a great source of confidence and continuity. So many MFA friendships go on to become long-term communities. Writing is a lonely life, in many ways, and finding that community can be essential to continuing.

So many MFA friendships go on to become long-term communities.”

How would you sum up your classroom dynamic (or teaching style) in a few words?

Possibility. I love opening up big discussions, whether in workshop or seminar, all pointed to what comes next in the writing. It’s always about what comes next. We don’t come to class to judge or dismiss, but to find ourselves reaching toward bigger and better questions.

Why do you teach writing?

It’s fun, that simple. I mean, talking to people about books and writing, in an engaged classroom? Can’t beat that. But also because it’s made me a smarter writer, and I hope, a better one. I get as much from the writers in my class as I give to them (or even hope to give to them). It’s a collaborative process, and that collaboration makes us all smarter.