In my new novel The Art of Floating, protagonist Odyssia Dane is a successful novelist who grieves in a way only a writer could when her husband, Jackson, disappears without a trace. She locks up her house, banishes her mother, stuffs her heart into a cage in which the bars are set so close together that "nothing bigger than the chirp of a bird could sneak in or slip out," and loses her ability to put words together on the page. Although it's never revealed if Odyssia earned an MFA degree or not, you may be able to figure it out by the end of the novel.
After all, MFA grads are fairly easy to spot. For example, if you have an MFA degree, you usually teach at the college level for at least a few years; you have an incredible support system; you're well read in both the classics and contemporary work; and if you're worth your salt, Stranger Than Fiction with Will Ferrell and Maggie Gyllenhaal means more to you now than it did before you entered your writing program.
To help you out, here are 9 more surefire signs you're an MFA grad:
1. The passionate, indefatigable writing students that greet you when you step into your classroom for the first time don't intimidate you. Yes, they could stampede, but it's unlikely.
2. After putting the final touches on what was your MFA thesis but is now your completed novel, you wipe a bit of drool from the corner of your mouth, dial a random phone number from your contact list, and repeat the last thing your favorite prof said to you at graduation: "Writing is a solitary endeavor. Being a writer is not. Can you have lunch with me, please?"
3. When you apply for that one coveted post-grad fellowship, you feel the press of the other 642,382 MFA grads hitting "send" on their computers at that same moment, and, despite your support for your fellow writers, you curse them.
4. You wake on Monday morning looking forward to following up on the promising agent connection you made over martinis during the weekend's "recent MFA grad" mixer.
5. On Friday nights after a few beers, you whip out a dog-eared copy of Chad Harbach's MFA VS NYC and debate the pros and cons of your degree with NYC-minded friends.
6. As you sit down to write at 5:00 a.m. and draw your mighty
sword pen, you thank the writing gods that your MFA program instilled in you the discipline of a sexy ninja.
7. Unlike the majority of the population, you know that Queequeg is not the hot new restaurant in LA.
8. You gather random groups of people to listen to you read your work. Bus stops and prisons prove to be especially welcoming.
9. You spend hours on Skype with your MFA friends debating whether or not Hannah Horvath from HBO's Girls could really get into the Iowa Writer's Workshop.