Creative writing program at University of Montana
Seven students spent much time on discussing personal essays during Judy Blunt’s creative writing class at the University of Montana. Blunt is not only a professor at this university but a writer himself. Students read chosen pieces of their essays and a Blunt commented on them, gave his feedback.
That week, one of the MFA graduates won Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his comic novel “Less”. This award is a prestigious one but getting prizes is an ordinary thing for both graduates and faculty of UM creative writers. Some years earlier MFA alum William Finnegan got a Pulitzer prize for his memoir.
Students talk on various topics during Blunt`s classes. For instance, they discussed politics of public lands, the soul-crushing gray of Wisconsin, the pace of a narrative and where actually a reader needs to feel the emotion instead of understanding the concept. Creative writing program in UM is the second oldest one in the USA. Students come here to get more experience and necessary skills.
Money problems of UM creative program
Creative writing students are those who will maintain and continue this tradition. They will tell the stories of the program development, publish popular books and give necessary knowledge to the next generation.
Blunt says that all of his students are outstanding young writers.
There have occurred some budget troubles, students` fears seem to have come true. The lack of money is felt by everyone. The faculty is retiring, young and ambitious writers look for some other places and programs to practice their skills.
UM creative writing program used to be in the list of top 10 in the country but for now, it`s quietly disappearing. Lois Welch, a UM English professor, who retired in 2001, says, that they can close the program in 2 years. Look at who is left in the program! Everything they need is to have 2 people retire and the creative writing program is dead.
The work of the program in the 21-st century
Within the 21-st century, the program has been doing well. Its professors and students continue to win lots of prizes for their writing talents. Their books are among the most popular ones, like Deirdre McNamer’s “Red Rover”, which was titled the best book The Washington Post and the L.A. Times.
Graduates of this creative program published more books per capita then graduates of the famous University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Those students just get valuable knowledge attending the program.
Lots of English graduates attend the UM creative program, still, not all of them end it up successfully, according to Blunt.
In 2013 the program was mentioned among three “Programs of National Distinction.” This brought the creative writing program $150,000 a year and Blunt was said that this money will be paid annually and forever.
This money was used to pay for teaching assistants and the program increased the awards to remain competitive nationally. Soon money disappeared, despite the promises. Moreover, the enrollment in creative writing program has fallen as well.
Every time UM gets brilliant applicants, although potential graduate students decide to go elsewhere as they can earn much more there as teacher assistants.
Nowadays teaching assistants are offered $9,000, it is the same as in 1993, despite the fees and costs have increased.
The university authorities are doing their best to solve the money problems that badly influence the work of a creative writing program.