Editor’s Note: Zach Piggott, recently featured writer on FC, shared in his bio that he had attended Southern New Hampshire University’s Online Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. We were curious about his experience with this type of learning (especially considering how impactful it may be for students in 2020), so we asked him if he’d write a piece for our blog. Here’s his take on the fully remote MFA.
MFA The Online Way
by Zach Piggott
In 2017 I was adrift. I was working at an escape room (a fun job, I can’t lie) only part-time while my wife worked full-time. My dream of creating and writing the stories for video games was evaporating more and more every day. My wife and I had just gotten married but there was a nagging feeling in the back of my mind. With my Bachelor of Arts from Christopher Newport University (Go Captains!) I felt like I should’ve been doing more. And then it dawned on me: why not go for my Masters?
The first question was a simple one. What do I go for? With my dreams of being a journalist fizzling out my senior year at CNU I turned to my creative ideas, the ones I wanted to turn into video games. So I focused on Creative Writing but I couldn’t travel to a school because my wife wasn’t ready to move. And I couldn’t go back to CNU because it required having a full schedule of five classes. That, combined with my job and wife’s, would make it so hard for me to focus. So I turned online and came across Southern New Hampshire University and their Online Creative Writing Masters.
Honestly, I look back at my time with no regrets. The best part about the program was that every class focused on building one of my ideas up until the final three classes, which was the capstone. Over that span, I wrote my first novel, something I didn’t think I could do. Was everything perfect in the program? No, but the work that I got to do was great.
For example, I was able to apply for and became an Online Teaching Assistant for an undergraduate class, which made me realize how much I love teaching. With that discovery I was able to pursue and attain my Online Teaching Certificate with them. On top of that, the program made me realize how to go about building my worlds, characters and novels. The steps I was given have definitely helped me properly organize my ideas better and now I have a few to chose from to move forward with.
Not everything was perfect, however. The professors definitely helped push me but in the end I wasn’t happy with how my idea turned out. Frankly, that fell more on me than anything else and I’m okay with that since my professor gave me professional edits on it. I also took a class on the publishing ecosystem, which was great, but I wasn’t given any leads on publishers that may take my work. While it is fair to argue that it’s on me to do that research, it would’ve been nice for them to have a list of publishers for specific genres to give us a head start.
Another part that was frustrating was the lack of communication with my classmates at times. While it understandably hard to have students work together online, I do feel that having a constant partner through the process would’ve been nice. While it was good to get general feedback, having one person that knew my idea intimately (and vice versa) I think would’ve been better.
Since finishing my time at SNHU, there have been some struggles and a good chunk can be laid at the current state of the world. Even with my degree I’m having a bit of a hard time finding professorships online and in person. Being a store manager during this pandemic (in which I lost
a ¼ of my crew due to cutbacks) has made it hard for me to focus. But as I said earlier, I’ve also thought of new ideas and written a few short stories (one of them is even on this very website!). I’ve even gone back to my capstone from SNHU and have a new spin for it that I’m excited to around to.
I’m focused on a single writing idea and on possibly getting a teaching job in the fall whether online or in person. I will say that I’m happy with my online MFA because it set me in the right direction for my writing. Before, I was skeptical of my writing ability but since I’ve gotten my MFA and I’m published on two websites and I’m starting to develop a new novel idea that I hope to have ready to go by the end of the year. While it would’ve been nice to have a constant writing partner and more feedback on my work (help with subplots, characters, etc.) I enjoyed my time. The timing to graduate wasn’t great (thanks COVID) but that’s okay. I feel my future is a lot brighter than before I attained my MFA.
Zachary Piggott is a writer making his way in the world. A recent graduate of the MFA online program at Soutern New Hampshire University, he looks forward to teaching at the university level one day. In the mean time, he writes mainly in science fiction and enjoys crafting new worlds and alien races. When he’s not, he’s playing video games, watching sports and enjoying time with his wife. He is beyond excited to finally be a published writer.
This is his second feature on The Fictional Café. You can find his first here.