How did the BFA program help you develop your craft?
So much of the BFA is practice, practice, practice, and that’s key. The assignments and workshops had me working on things I otherwise would have dropped, abandoned, or never even started in the first place, and then we all gather together to help make it better. I studied writers I otherwise would have never touched. It was four years (or, in my case, three) of hard work and constant improvement. Of course, while there are no “tests” or standardized ways to mark a student’s improvement—that’s near impossible in the arts—a rigorous process of practice and hard work will help you develop just about anything.
What are you up to now and how did the BFA help you get there?
I’m currently an MFA student at George Mason, getting my master’s in fiction. I also have a book coming out next year! My debut novel, Hell Followed with Us, comes out June 2022, and I actually started writing it the senior year of my BFA. The BFA was the beating heart that allowed this story to take root—my professors were so endlessly encouraging, and the community supported me every step of the way.
The thing is, if the BFA was what helped the book take root, the MFA is what helped it bloom. The MFA has a laser-focus on improving your writing on a craft level, pushing you to build and experiment and rework. When I finished the BFA, I had the technical knowledge to write a book and navigate the literary scene; this far into my MFA, I’ve gained the skills it takes to make a name for myself in the process.
Why is writing important to you? What does it offer you?
My writing has always been a way for me to connect with others; being transgender has shaped the way I see the world, and my writing both helps me reach people who have lived through what I have, and also introduces others to my experiences. It builds relationships and gives me way to understand things I may have struggled with growing up. I work best through the lens of fiction, and I hope that others find solace, hope, understanding, or just acknowledgement in my stories.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about your time in the Mason BFA (or MFA) program?
Something I just want to put out there: GMU’s creative writing programs, both the BFA and the MFA, are one of the few that don’t look down on genre fiction like sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. Many writing programs tend to consider anything that isn’t literary fiction to be “lesser,” but I never once felt that way within GMU’s program. So if you write about imaginary kingdoms, spaceships, or monsters, there is absolutely a home here for you!
Andrew Joseph White, BFA '19, is a queer, trans author from Virginia, where he grew up falling in love with monsters and wishing he could be one too. He is a graduate student in George Mason University’s Creative Writing program and has a habit of cuddling random street cats. Andrew writes about trans kids with claws and fangs, and what happens when they bite back.
His debut novel, Hell Followed with Us, comes out June 2022, and his short story “The Constellations are Unrecognizable Here” will be published by Strange Horizons sometime in the near future! You can find more on his website here, or find him on twitter @AJWhiteAuthor.