The BYU MFA: An interview with Stephen B Tuttle of the new creative-writing program

Stephen B Tuttle is a writer of fiction whose short stories Amanuensis and The Weather Here I am happy to recommend. After finishing his MFA and PhD in creative writing at Utah, he became what he is still: a professor at BYU. He currently represents BYU’s new creative-writing MFA on the graduate committee and has been one of the architects of that new MFA. I spoke with him in mid-May, shortly after the close of the program’s first full year.

So maybe the first question I’ld like to ask is, what is the difference between the M.A. in creative writing and the M.F.A. and why did B.Y.U. decide to upgrade?

That’s a good question, the crux of the change was that—how do I explain this—the M.A. in creative writing doesn’t really exist anymore to the degree that— Well,to go back one more step, we didn’t have an M.A. in creative writing. We had an M.A. in English literature and we had creative writers coming through doing creative theses but they didn’t receive anything that said “creative writing” on it anywhere. So our first motivation was to create a creative writing degree so that our students graduating in creative writing would have something to show that they had specialized in creative writing. The logical step would have been to simply rename our M.A. an M.A. in creative writing, but the problem with that is that degree doesn’t really say much anymore. Thirty years ago that would have been fine but at this point the M.F.A is the degree of record. Or at least it’s the degree that everyone recognizes. The few schools that have M.A.s in creative writing don’t really need clout, these are places like Boston. Places where the prestige of the school is big enough that they can give any degree they want really. And it’ll be fine. So what we were looking for was the degree that made most practical sense for the work our students were doing.

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