Writing Advice for Recently Graduated MFA Students


One of the things I enjoy about writing my blog is inspiring others to continue writing and support their writing. I recently got an email from a reader whose daughter graduated from NYU Tisch in the Dramatic Writing Department (my alma mater) and she wanted to know, like many parents, what could her daughter do for job prospects now that she had graduated. She had read my interview with my husband, Brendan Hay, who also graduated from NYU Tisch DWP (it used to be called the Dramatic Writing Program when we went there).

I wanted to share her question and my answer in hopes that it would help other recently graduated MFA students or even those who are considering getting an MFA. For those considering going back to grad school for an MFA and wonder if it’s worth it, my best advice as someone who got her MFA in one year, it’s worth it if you keep writing and pursuing writing after you graduate. An MFA is not an automatic guarantee that you’ll have a writing career. The best thing an MFA can offer you is the time to write, talented professors to mentor you, and the support of other fellow writers.

Now her question. (Parts of this email have been edited to protect the reader’s privacy.)

FROM CONCERNED MOM
Dear Jennifer, I stumbled upon your website and really enjoyed. My daughter just graduated with BFA at Tisch NYU in dramatic writing. She specialized in writing for TV, received the TV undergraduate award and interned at Colbert Report. She really need some advice in her job search. We live in Atlanta, Georgia. Since living in NYC without a full-time job is so expensive, she is now at home working at XYZ company. She also writes on her scripts daily. She is saving her money to probably move to LA. Seem like there are more writing jobs in your area.

Is there any advice you or your husband can share?

MY ANSWER
When Brendan and I graduated, Brendan started at the bottom rung at the Daily Show as a production assistant and I started working in nonprofits and publishing. We didn’t jump out of school with writing jobs in hand. But what we did do post-graduation was continue to write. We even produced on our own evening of short theater pieces and sketches we wrote.

For a TV writer, NYC or LA are the best cities to live in. We moved to LA because there is way more work than NYC but it depends on the types of shows your daughter wants to write for.

I assume she had Charlie Rubin as a TV writing teacher while at NYU. He is the best teacher I’ve ever had and I’m not a TV writer by trade. I learned so much about story, structure, and that comedy writing is hard to do. If I got Charlie to laugh at a joke I wrote, it made my day. She should definitely sit down one-on-one with him and get his expert advice.

My very best advice is for your daughter to figure out exactly what she wants to write. I say that to every writer who asks me this. Figure out what you want to write and then GO FOR IT. If it’s TV — comedy, late night, sitcom, animation, whatever, and then go to LA and meet the people on those shows. After I graduated I realized I loved magazines and young adult novels and tackled both of those and have found much success in both areas. Same with Brendan. Pinpoint exactly what writing is your passion and go after it. It didn’t come overnight though. I started as an editorial assistant at age 28 and now I’m a managing editor at a music magazine. So it takes time but it happens.

NYC is indeed an expensive city. When I first graduated, I lived with two friends and invented many meals out of pasta. Location is key in meeting other talented writers and getting connected to the right people. You have to go where the work is.

I graduated with many successful and talented writers. The ones I know who are still working and writing are the ones who still kept writing after they took off their purple cap and gown. So tell your daughter to keep her chin up, move, find some roommates, and keep writing.

She can certainly contact me. My info is under my Contact Me page. (All writers are welcome to contact me with questions as well.)

5 Comments on “Writing Advice for Recently Graduated MFA Students

  1. I agree, at this age your daughter should spent a good amount of time figuring out what kind of writing she wants to do, then the next step should become a lot clearer. If you start off at any place then it can get confusing, you end up wanting to keep your current job but you realize that this job is not going to get to the next step in your writing career. But because you’ve already moved up a bit in the current job, you don’t want to start at the bottom again. But with anything, the bottom is the place you have to start, so the best thing is make sure to figure out which bottom she would love to start out in.

    Tell her not to doubt herself, go with what she is most passionate about. Why? Because it will be easier to put all the work and energy she will need to put into it if she wants to be successful, if that makes sense.

    Good luck to you and your daughter! 🙂

    And thanks Jennifer! 🙂

    • Very good advice Ollin! Couldn’t have said it better myself. If I could go back in time and tell my newly graduated self is to find what your passion about and do it. Instead, I just took a job. But at 28, I figured out I wanted to write and edit in magazines so I started as an editorial assistant — and the editors above me were younger than me. But you’ve got to start somewhere.

  2. I love this advice. I really do agree that the most important thing is to pin down what you are most passionate about and then secondly, location, location, location!!

  3. Pingback: Applying for an MFA in Writing « Typecraft

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