MFA in a Box: A Why to Write Book

ABOUT John Rember

John Rember
John Rember is a fourth-generation Idahoan. Recurring themes in his writing include the meaning of place, the impact of tourism on the West, and the weirdness of everyday life. His books include the memoir Traplines: Coming Home to Sawtooth Valley (Vintage: 2004), and two collections of sh More...



By exploring the relationships between the writer and love, grief, place, family, race and violence, John Rember helps writers dive deep into their own writing. He tells them how they can breathe down there and how they can get back.

“A big part of writing involves grappling with the terrors and discouragements that come when you have writing skills but can’t project yourself or your work into the future,” says Rember. “My hope is that MFA in a Box will help writers balance the despair of writing with the joy of writing. It’s a book designed to help you to find the courage to put truth into words and to understand that writing is a life-and-death endeavor—but that nothing about a life-and-death endeavor keeps it from being laugh-out-loud funny.”

John Rember is a writer and long-time professor of creative writing, most recently at the Pacific University MFA program. The contents of MFA in a Box were shaped in large part by a series of "craft talks" that John gave at Pacific University.

“What makes [this book] different than the many, many books about writing on the market today is the way Rember engages his readers in some of the issues every writer faces — writing about place, about family, about grief — not as problems to be overcome but as issues to be understood.” — Jeff Baker, Book Editor, The (Portland) Oregonian

“Witty, audacious, and wise, John Rember’s MFA in a Box is a unique and valuable book that addresses the subject—and the life experience—of Creative Writing from both a practical perspective and in a manner so highly personable you’ll read it like a memoir—and want to meet the author. Rember has the storyteller’s magic. You’ll be enthralled. And walk away a more astute and vibrant writer.” — Robin Metz, author of Unbidden Angel, winner of the Rainer Maria Rilke International Poetry Award, and Director of the Program in Creative Writing at Knox College

“If you are ready to plunge into the depths of your writer’s soul and uncover the secrets that you might be holding back, then MFA in a Box could change the whole way you think about the process of writing.” — Sharon Harrigan, Author, Poet, Journalist, Walking on the Highway, Dec. 2010

“John Rember’s MFA in a Box is the best book on writing I’ve read since Stephen King’s On Writing. It should be on every writer’s bookshelf.” – Randy Richardson, author of Lost in the Ivy, President of the Chicago Writers Association

MFA in a Box by John Rember is possibly the best book I’ve read about writing and living the creative life in general, and I have a personal library full of such books. I wish I had read this 30 years ago while I was at [college] hoping to be a writer some day.” — Gretchen Little, ”A Book Review and More,” Squidoo, October 2010

“There is such a wealth of life in each essay…deep, authentic stuff about relationships, politics, religion, mythology, and everything is discussed with such perfect humor. I love the Rules for Writers at the end of the chapters…great stuff…really useful as well as entertaining. This book should be mandatory for any writing course, undergrad or graduate. This is so much more than a craft book…this is an inspiration. It makes me want to write, helps me find the courage to do so, and allows me see the purpose in the hard work of it.” –Rebecca Elgin