Sunday, June 5, 2016

DIY MFA - Book Review

DIY MFA: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build Your Community
by: Gabriela Pereira
published by: Writer's Digest Books
copyright: 2016

Book Summary from GoodReads:
Get the Knowledge Without the College!
You are a writer. You dream of sharing your words with the world, and you're willing to put in the hard work to achieve success. You may have even considered earning your MFA, but for whatever reason--tuition costs, the time commitment, or other responsibilities--you've never been able to do it. Or maybe you've been looking for a self-guided approach so you don't have to go back to school. This book is for you."DIY MFA" is the do-it-yourself alternative to a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. By combining the three main components of a traditional MFA--writing, reading, and community--it teaches you how to craft compelling stories, engage your readers, and publish your work.

Inside you'll learn how to: Set customized goals for writing and learning.Generate ideas on demand.Outline your book from beginning to end.Breathe life into your characters.Master point of view, voice, dialogue, and more.Read with a "writer's eye" to emulate the techniques of others.Network like a pro, get the most out of writing workshops, and submit your work successfully.Writing belongs to everyone--not only those who earn a degree. With "DIY MFA," you can take charge of your writing, produce high-quality work, get published, and build a writing career

My Thoughts:
I've stalked followed Gabriela Pereira for about a year now - ever since I read her article on "Layered Revision" in Writer's Digest magazine. Until that point, I dreaded revision. I envisioned a slow, monotonous process with my harsh inner editor as the task master. The mere thought sucked joy from my life.

But Gabriela's multi-step process made sense to me. And in fact, I could see where the hard (sometimes tedious) work could be fun and exciting. Gabriela motivated me to dust off the old manuscript, and I am currently half way through its first layer of revision.

But I am also a life-long learner, and this concept of earning a "Masters" degree without incurring college debt intrigues me. I regularly visit her website, DIY MFA, I am a faithful listener to her weekly podcast, and I am thrilled to be a part of her Street Team for this book release (currently scheduled for July 8, 2016).

I read a lot of books on the craft of writing. In fact, I probably enjoy reading about writing as much as I enjoy the act of writing itself. Having said that, the first third of this book is a very good summary of writing basics. I'm not sure it included anything I didn't know already, but it is always good to review. I would classify this portion as earning the BA degree.

The remaining two-thirds is where my advanced education began. I've already re-read the Layered Revision chapter several times, and know I will return for a refresher course several more times. 

Reading with Purpose is a hallmark of the MFA. Well-written books teach us how to write well. I thoroughly enjoyed Gabriela's detailed analysis of the short story, The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin. I must confess, I have never been a fan of short stories - I much prefer the longer novel format. But Gabriela has convinced me that short stories are a great way to learn how to develop characters, structure a tight plot, and establish a consistent theme.

While I know building a Writing Community is necessary to grow as an author, Gabriela taught me that not all writing groups are the same. There are times when we need a writing mentor, a writing partner, a discussion group and a critique group. All four communities are necessary - and all four serve a distinct purpose. I am fortunate to have a three out of the four in place. What I need to find for this present WIP is a discussion group... a place where fellow writers who can help me shore up potential story pitfalls. Those who can read my story not only as writers, but also as readers.

Gabriela's knowledge of the writing process, and her ability to teach this process to others, makes this book a worthwhile investment to any writer's library. However, it is her constant sincere encouragement that sets this book apart from its competition. She not only made me feel like I can do this... she made me want to do it. While we do not know one another - and I doubt we will ever meet - she inspires me to do my best because I do not want to disappoint her: my beloved writing professor. 

Caveat: I received a free copy of this book for review purposes, although this did not affect my review in the least.


  1. This sounds good! I've actually invented a program for myself called Homegrown MFA, but I didn't follow through. Maybe working with someone else's book would work better for me.

  2. I love the idea of getting an MFA on your own. Why not? It will involve just the activities you need and want.


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