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Dec 4, 2005, 9:36 PM

Post #51 of 1175 (20525 views)
another plea fpor mfa advice Can't Post

hello, all, i am an experimental poet working on my applications for fall 2006, and in need of some advice. i'm applying to about ten schools now, a ridiculously time consuming and expensive process. basiclally, here are my wants and i hope someone better than me can point me in the right direction. i need it to be paid for, or receive outstanding aid; i want to be in a place that has access to arts/culture/intellectual life and nature; and i want an intellectually open and rigorous environment, where the lit courses are as good as the workshops.

specifically, here are the places i am considering applying to--no particular order:
--CSU Fresno
--SF State U
--San Diego State U
--University of Washington, Seattle
--UC Irvine
--U Virginia
--Univ Oregon (Eugene)

Can anyone comment on these specifically? Can anyone untangle the ins and outs of the California schools, and how livable each place is? (I am a landlocked new yorker at the moment.)

Do they have a good reputation for working with students, helping them arrange logistics like housing, etc? My undergrad was an administrative nightmare and I want to focus on my education, not working with administrators.

Thanks all.


Dec 5, 2005, 9:51 AM

Post #52 of 1175 (20510 views)
Re: [finx] I'm applying impulsively Can't Post

You might check out the program at Ohio State. Fiction faculty there are Lee K. Abbott, Michelle Herman, Erin McGraw, and Lee Martin. All students get full funding for three years, primarily through teaching, but there are also some fellowships. Michelle Herman is particularly interested in fostering connections with other arts and has been helping to create an interdisciplinary minor, or certificate, with fine arts emphasis. One of the current third years is doing a mixed media thesis, combining painting and fiction. And though Columbus is in the middle of nowhere, it is itself a fairly large city (12th largest in the U.S., about 750,000 people) and is an inexpensive place to live. (I shared a nice two-story, 2 bedroom duplex with a friend last year and paid only $348/month in rent.)

You can find program info here:

Then, of course, there's the program at the Art Institute of Chicago--certainly urban and a place that would allow a focus on other arts. I don't know much about it, but here's a link:

Best of luck to you.


Dana Davis / Moderator

Dec 5, 2005, 11:24 AM

Post #53 of 1175 (20501 views)
Re: [crescentmoon] another plea fpor mfa advice Can't Post

In Reply To
specifically, here are the places i am considering applying to--no particular order:

If you read back through the threads in this forum you will find an enormous amount of information about the programs you cite. Also, in the Speakeasy Archives you'll find MFA related topics there that will also contain extremely helpful information.


Dec 5, 2005, 5:22 PM

Post #54 of 1175 (20481 views)
Re: [crescentmoon] another plea fpor mfa advice Can't Post

Hi there, crescentmoon.

I'm working on my poetry MFA at Oregon right now. It pretty much meets all of your criteria as far as funding, culture, rigorous workshops, good lit courses, access to nature (BEAUTIFUL), etc...

My only concern is that you say you're "experimental." How experimental are we talking? The faculty here (currently just Garrett Hongo and Dorianne Laux) have made pretty big names for themselves as narrative/lyric poets. This is not to say they wouldn't be open to some experimentation...but maybe I'm just being wary of the word "experimental."

If you'd like to ask me any really specific information about the program, please feel free to e-mail me:

I really do love it here. The city of Eugene is beautiful and chock-full of wonderful stuff. The faculty is supportive, the funding is good (if you're willing to teach intro classes), and the writing time is fairly ample if you manage yourself well. let me know!



Dec 5, 2005, 10:11 PM

Post #55 of 1175 (20462 views)
Re: [Kelsie] another plea fpor mfa advice Can't Post

Well, I just sent off the first five of my ten applications today. Why am I not relaxed? I've done: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Montana, SF State, and UT Austin. I have to finish: North Carolina (Wilmington,) Iowa, Indiana, Michigan and Brooklyn College. And then I need to take a nap! I thought I was done with my stories, but I'm doing a last-minute revision (dangerous) on my third story (some schools want two, some three)



Dec 6, 2005, 3:02 AM

Post #56 of 1175 (20448 views)
Re: [hazelmotes] another plea fpor mfa advice Can't Post

I'm so jealous. But I'm almost done with Emerson. The next one due for me is New School. Been thinking about USC (I'm currently in LA but really want to move back to NYC or East Coast) Really struggling to write the personal statement- I don't know why it's so hard for me but I can't seem to stop cracking jokes in it and some pretty outrageous ones at that. How are you guys coping with the what can an MFA do for you, why do you want to go to our school questions?


Dec 6, 2005, 4:07 AM

Post #57 of 1175 (20446 views)
Re: [gymnick] another plea fpor mfa advice Can't Post

You know, the personal statement was the hardest thing for me, I spent about 2 months writing it, but finally, I had to give up. Look at Tom Kealey's creative writing weblog, he recently posted the letter that got him the Stegner fellowship. Honestly, it's nothing I would choose (too flippant and cute for me) but obviously, he knows more than I do, it worked for him. He got the Stegner, he teaches at Stanford, he's publishing books.

In my statement, I just tell a story-- it's kind of about how I stopped writing journal entries and started writing fiction, but it reads like fiction, mostly because I hate wrtiting anything about myself. It's just a dialogue. it's nothing like what got Kealey the Stegner, but most of the writers (professors included) that I've shown it to have liked it. It's, if nothing else, an entertaining story.

Mostly, your personal statement shouldn't be boring. They want to know that you're someone that will be fun to hang out with at department picnics. What they need to know about your writing, they'll find out in your writing sample. Tell a story that doesn't bore YOU!!


Dec 6, 2005, 8:48 AM

Post #58 of 1175 (20438 views)
Re: [hazelmotes] another plea fpor mfa advice Can't Post

thanks. that helped a lot. just very simple and direct. i've driving myself crazy trying to be clever and then worrying that i didn't actually address the essay question.


Dec 9, 2005, 1:23 PM

Post #59 of 1175 (20380 views)
Re: [gymnick] another plea fpor mfa advice Can't Post

Two things I thought of as I read through three months' worth of postings:
1. My acceptance letter came in a thin, business-sized envelope and an equally thin rejection letter came days after the rejecting school sent a near-100 page booklet about securing housing. So don't throw away any skinny envelopes and don't jump for joy at the manila ones. Once they begin to arrive. In February.

2. My GRE vocab score was a paltry 500 (scored in the lowest 40%!). My best friend in the same MFA program received a near-perfect score all around. Obviously, no one gave a poop about that stupid score. And my vocabulary's all the better for having to play catch-up with the other MFAers. Though you probably can't tell from this posting.


Dec 9, 2005, 9:21 PM

Post #60 of 1175 (20350 views)
Re: [catenz] another plea fpor mfa advice Can't Post

Does everyone else have different application dates than the schools I'm applying to? I'm going low-res with the exception of one res, and the first applications aren't due till February 1, some not till as late as April 1. So I'm not stressed, and I hope I never will be (ha!)... I'm still working on the writing sample, the essays, but I did send reference forms out, so that made me feel productive.


Dec 12, 2005, 2:01 AM

Post #61 of 1175 (20303 views)
how many stories? Can't Post

Is it generally considered a bad idea to submit only one story for an application? With 25-pp limits, two stories of mine come in slightly over 25, but I don't want to lose points for sending only one. Anybody know?


Dec 12, 2005, 11:42 AM

Post #62 of 1175 (20280 views)
Re: [perrykfp] how many stories? Can't Post

If you feel like the one story is very strong, I don't think it's bad to send only one. A while back, Steve Almond wrote a piece for Poets & Writers Mag about the application process from the point of view of an application reader. He said he often found people sent one really strong story and a second weaker one, and the weak one just diluted his impression of the first. So he advocates sending only one piece if you're confident it's your best work. That said, I think if you feel really confident about both stories (and especially if they are different from each other and show your range), I'd send both. If the committee likes your work, will they really care that you've sent a few extra pages? I doubt it.

It's so much easier to give advice than make decisions though! I'm having a similar dilemma and can't decide what to do. One place I'm applying to asks for two stories totaling under 40 pages. Ideally, I'd like to send them three: two longish pieces of 11 and 16 pages respectively and one 2-page short short that I think is really strong. I'd still be well under the 40 page limit, but I'd also be ignoring the two story limit. Just sending the 11-page piece and the 2-page short short seems like too few pages, though I think they are the best pieces... Anyone have any thoughts on this?


Dec 12, 2005, 12:09 PM

Post #63 of 1175 (20277 views)
Re: [kateb] how many stories? Can't Post

I write long stories, so all of my applications save for one (which has a 100-page limit) will feature one short story of about 32 pages.

Obviously, my writing sample exceeds the 25-page limit stated by most programs.

I'm cool with this.

I asked one of my programs about going over the limit, and they said they were fine with going over by a few pages. Basically, they told me that the limit they place on writing samples was there to prevent people from sending multiple stories and going into the "that's just way too much to read" range.

If I were in your situation--having two strong stories that totaled more than 25 but less than 35 pages--I'd go ahead and send both. But that's me.

If you want to be safe, you should call the program to see if they're ok with that plan.

I'm not going to be safe, though.

I'm not asking any of my other programs if I can go over the 25 page limit. I'm just going to send my 32-page piece because it's the strongest story in my portfolio. If I get disqualified for going over by a few pages, I'll have to accept my fate. I'm pretty confident that won't happen, though.

Anyway, good luck with your application!

Stacy Patton Anderson

Dec 19, 2005, 5:58 PM

Post #64 of 1175 (20207 views)
Re: [Aubrie] Application Time Can't Post

Well, I just put the last application in the mail--it was a crazy day to do it, with a GAZILLION people in line mailing holiday packages, but I had to get those envelopes out of my hands. The mailing got easier as the month wore on. I've sent four applications off, and I'll do the low-res applications next month, after I've taken a break.

I'm a bit panicked right now because one school has a "received by" deadline of 12/20, and my delivery confirmation won't show up on the USPS website until this evening (I mailed it Priority on Friday). If it's not confirmed I suppose I will have to fax it tomorrow (they say they will accept faxes, but it sounds crazy to me). Anyway, I'm relieved and freaked and worried and sort of hyper with anticipation. That's normal, right?

Stacy Patton Anderson

Dana Davis / Moderator

Dec 20, 2005, 7:45 AM

Post #65 of 1175 (20182 views)
Re: [texasgurl] Application Time Can't Post

I think anything you're feeling, Lee is just fine, perfectly acceptable. It's what you do with what you're feeling that will either be nutty or normal.

So, have a nice relaxing massage, a glass of wine and listen to some favorite music, or dive into holiday celebrations and preparations.

Stay away from Las Vegas nightlife and discount liquor stores and you'll be just fine!

Stacy Patton Anderson

Dec 20, 2005, 8:19 AM

Post #66 of 1175 (20180 views)
Re: [motet] Application Time Can't Post

    Thanks, Dana, but I have to say that a bottle of discount liquor (or two) doesn't sound half-bad right now.

Stacy Patton Anderson

Dana Davis / Moderator

Dec 20, 2005, 7:13 PM

Post #67 of 1175 (20144 views)
Re: [texasgurl] Application Time Can't Post

At the risk of sounding too much like Billy C., I feel your pain, Lee. I'm in the throes of applications too and hitting the JD is sounding better and better.

I'm thinking about following it with a coffee chaser, though, so that at least I'll be a wide awake drunk if an acceptance letter arrives!


Jan 4, 2006, 2:07 PM

Post #68 of 1175 (20071 views)
Re: [motet] Application Time Can't Post

I just sent my last two. I'm relieved, of course, and I'm not anxious yet. My last few applications were done rather hastily, I'm afraid, but I just wanted to get rid of them!

Anyway, I just wanted to extend thanks to everyone in this forum. I knew very little about M.F.A. programs going into this process, and your posts were invaluable.

Good luck to everybody!


Jan 4, 2006, 9:09 PM

Post #69 of 1175 (20038 views)
Re: [lavashlavash] Application Time Can't Post

I'll second the thank you. This board has been integral to my application process--it's so good to vent and know that other people are going through the same crap. I have one last app. to send out, just waiting for my transcripts in the mail and then it's sealed and ready to go.
And to start the waiting process, I'll remind everyone what schools I applied to, so that we can all commiserate about repetitive mail checking.
(though I do believe we've got a good month at least before we even need to worry)
New School
I did get mail from NYU today saying they received my application.
That's always good news.


Jan 4, 2006, 9:50 PM

Post #70 of 1175 (20035 views)
Re: [Aubrie] Application Time Can't Post

Aubrie, good luck with Columbia. I also applied to their program.

And to the board, thirding the thanks already extended to you, thanks from me as well. At the beginning of every application-writing session, I have skimmed the posts for encouragement and reminders that others have survived the same recommendation-gathering/GRE/writing sample experience.


Jan 4, 2006, 9:54 PM

Post #71 of 1175 (20034 views)
Re: [BB] Application Time Can't Post

Hey, come on over to "Choosing an MFA program (2)." I think that's where we're all showing our MFA application angst.


Jan 5, 2006, 12:25 PM

Post #72 of 1175 (20002 views)
Re: [HopperFu] Application Time Can't Post

i'm working on my applications (for low-res programs), and i'm wondering if, in the space to write what workshops/classes i've been in, i should include a workshop i took this fall at the 92nd St Y with famous writer. here's the thing- i was really disappointed with the workshop (as was most everyone else i talked to in the class) and halfway through- about 4 classes- i decided i did not want to be in her workshop anymore. it was a case of writer being a great writer, and not so great teacher. i'm sure it doesn't matter too much either way what i write for it- if i leave it off though, it will be one less workshop i've taken. if i leave it on- well, i don't know. i just can't decide. thoughts? thank you.


Jan 5, 2006, 11:18 PM

Post #73 of 1175 (19974 views)
Re: [amarier] Application Time Can't Post

hi amarier,

i struggled with the same question because i dropped a, by the sound of your post, similarly disappointing workshop after 3 or 4 sessions. because it was a workshop taught through a university extension program and there should have been some form of course credit associated with it, my decision was easy. i didn't include it on my applications since i had no transcript for the course and would then have to explain why i had not received credits, and so on...more headache than any admissions committee would tolerate.

what they're looking for - i think, but really who the heck knows how these decisions are made - is whether not the course experience has advanced your writing and/or ability to contribute in a workshop setting. if you think the y workshop helped you in either way, you could list it and qualify it as a 3-session workshop. there are so many sorts of workshops taught - one-day seminars, three-day courses, workshops of varying length.

good luck!


Jan 6, 2006, 9:11 AM

Post #74 of 1175 (20229 views)
Re: [BB] Application Time Can't Post

MFA programs will (after the all-important writing sample) look to see if you have done some things on your own to improve your writing: workshops, conferences, classes, reading for literary magazines, whatever. I'm not sure how much weight it really carries, but it is nice to have on your application, and it actually doesn't really matter if the experience was actually helpful to you or not (how are they going to know, anyway).
Here's the thing, though - if you signed up for a workshop, and then took some of it, but didn't complete it, you didn't actually take the workshop. If you list the workshop, and they, for whatever reason, actually try to confirm that you took it, and then find out you didn't (or dropped out partway through)....
Obviously, I think you are asking this question because you want to do the right thing; I think that listing a workshop or class that you dropped is a bad call.
Ultimately, it's your decision, but if it makes things any easier, I can't imagine it will tip the scales to list it. You've already taken other workshops (I think, from your post).
Sorry your workshop sucked, by the way. That's annoying.


Jan 6, 2006, 9:42 AM

Post #75 of 1175 (20223 views)
I regret... Can't Post

I regret not applying to more big programs. I wish I had applied to Arizona, Florida, and Florida State. They are great programs and their acceptance rates are markedly higher (15% for Arizona) than those of smaller programs such as Brown and the Michener Center. But I didn't end up applying to Arizona because I didn't have my act together by December 1st (what an early deadline!) And I didn't apply to Florida because various people told me that Gainesville could be the worst city in the United States. Now, however, I wish I could start over.

I guess there's always next year (hopefully not!)

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