Instead of an MFA: 7 Online Options

We're not all academics.

We're working — in bookstores and banks, in law firms and libraries. We're selling insurance, clothes, coffee, and cars. We're tending children, and parents, and bars. We're writing, whenever and wherever we can.

We thirst to improve. But not every writer has the time, money, or life circumstance to pursue a graduate degree.

Every fall Poets & Writers magazine presents the MFA Index, an exhaustive overview of schools offering Master of Fine Arts degrees in writing. In 1936, University of Iowa offered the first. Now, more than 200 schools have MFA programs.

But what about the rest of us? Is there an alternative to the MFA?

How do we hone our skills? Where do we go to stretch and improve our writing? Let's explore some options. Today we'll start with Online Writing Classes. While a single course is no substitute for a two or three-year degree, several organizations offer sophisticated and valuable writing classes. Here's a round-up of respected organizations offering quality online instruction.

7 Online Writing Classes

Cambridge Writers' Workshop
Offering creative writing courses running six to 10 weeks, in a variety of genres.

Chicago School of Poetics
Offering online classes fostering innovative poetics. Students use visual web conferencing, desktop sharing, and collaborative whiteboards. The school offers "an alternative to, and a community beyond, the Creative Writing MFA."

Gotham Writers' Workshop
With more than 7,000 students annually, this New York-based organization is one of the most popular writing resources. Their interactive classes have been named Best of the Web by Forbes magazine. Six and 10 week workshops available in seemingly every genre.

The Loft Literary Center
Classes for adult and youth, online and on-site, all writing genres. Serves beginning, intermediate and advanced writers.  

Stanford Continuing Studies
The Writer's Studio offers approximately 20 courses every quarter in the principal genres of creative writing— novel, short story, poetry, creative nonfiction, and screenwriting. All writing levels welcome.

WoodSprings Institute
University-level literary instruction, offering workshops in poetry, short story, novel, creative non-fiction, and memoir. Also: manuscript mentoring and MFA prep courses.

Workshops with Molly Fisk
Poet Molly Fisk pioneered Poetry Bootcamp, a five-day poetry intensive, and also offers A Voice of Your Own, a six-week workshop exploring prose, poetry and more.

Have you taken an online writing class? Have you taken a class with any of these organizations, or others? Tell us about it!