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Mar 3, 2009, 4:17 PM

Post #401 of 467 (18726 views)
Re: [fixittuesday] ISIS Can't Post


Hahaha! I'm hoping against all odds for some good news from Iowa as well. I wish you luck. You're JTT-esque pleading letter was sure to do the trick. :)

sara e.g.

Mar 3, 2009, 4:22 PM

Post #402 of 467 (18713 views)
Re: [fixittuesday] ISIS Can't Post

I totally wrote a letter to JTT when I was in the 6th grade, too! And to Jonathan Brandis from Seaquest DSV (though I just recently found out he died. Makes the memory of kissing those posters even creepier than before.)


Mar 3, 2009, 5:14 PM

Post #403 of 467 (18651 views)
Re: [sara e.g.] ISIS Can't Post

haha, i was totally in love with jonathan brandis too. i framed pictures of him torn out of my teen heartthrob magazines and everything. yeah, i found out not long ago that he died a few years back and was pretty crushed... though honestly i preferred him at 17. is that terrible to say? :-x


Mar 5, 2009, 4:20 PM

Post #404 of 467 (18478 views)
Iowa letters Can't Post

Has anyone received a LETTER from Iowa saying they were accepted or waitlisted?

Just curious, as I have yet to receive my rejection letter :(.


Mar 5, 2009, 7:42 PM

Post #405 of 467 (18428 views)
Re: [swiviol] Iowa letters Can't Post

Over in the Damn! I didn't get in...thread, some have said yes to your question. Guessing your ISIS profile still says In Progress? Same here.


Mar 5, 2009, 7:50 PM

Post #406 of 467 (18424 views)
Re: [AnnaJ] Iowa letters Can't Post

Anna, I got rejected today. ISIS still says "In progress", though. (will they EVER change it??)


Mar 5, 2009, 8:05 PM

Post #407 of 467 (18410 views)
Re: [swiviol] Iowa letters Can't Post

:( Swivol


Mar 6, 2009, 1:32 PM

Post #408 of 467 (18302 views)
Re: Iowa Can't Post

I know it's no consolation, especially coming from me (since I've got two offers already) but here goes anyway:

I think this focus on the MFA is misplaced, especially on a program like Iowa. And in case you were wondering, no, I did not get a rejection from Iowa.

I know several graduates from the Iowa Writer's Workshop. One graduated in the 1990s and he told me I didn't need to go to Iowa or any other MFA program. All I really need to do is write write write. If I really really wanted the MFA, just pick somewhere local because frankly, there are a lot of good teachers everywhere. So, he and I got into a discussion about Iowa's teachers. To tell you the truth, I told him, I've read the works of Lan Samantha Chang, Marilynne (sp?) Robinson, and Ethan Canin, and their style didn't appeal to me. And I haven't even read a single James McPherson work. The "Iowa" name is what it's all about.

Another Iowa grad told me roughly the same thing. The only new thing he told me was that even Iowa grads struggle to get published. Sure, we hear about the Michael Cunningham's, Nam Le's, Yiyun Li's, TC Boyle's, Flannery O' Connor's, and the Raymond Carver's (he did not graduate btw), but there are also the John Bergenwaller's, Jane Museendorf's, and Ivan Yeskovich's that no one has heard of and are now getting their MBA's.

A third Iowa grad is out of the writing "business" altogether and went to law school instead. He had a couple books published early in his career that went nowhere and he decided he had enough. It was more important to make money, so he said.

Another guy who got his MA from a well-known school told me that an MFA was not all. Just write. He said, in clear and unambiguous language, that an MFA was a waste of time. Just write and read and write. From his experience, he learned nothing from professors and other students. Especially the other students.

I've taken their advice a bit. I didn't apply to just any school...just six Top 10 schools. And though I got into two, I'm not absolutely certain I might attend. I'm still weighing the pros and cons of attending. My life is pretty comfortable where I am. I mean, I write constantly and I learn more and more everyday just from the act of writing and reading other people's stories. Just yesterday, I re-read Joyce Carol Oates' "Ghost Girls" and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's "The Interview" and learned something new.

I guess if you want to teach, having an Iowa MFA in your resume/CV may be an advantage. But even that is not a slam dunk. You need to publish first and foremost. And win some stupid awards and stuff.

A professor who did one of my Letters of Recommendation said to me, "Did Charles Dickens get an MFA?" Well no, but I'm sure if he were alive today, he might actually pick a field in forensic accounting rather than publishing stories in serials. He asked me to name some Iowa alums and so, I rattled them off -- from a list I got off Wikipedia -- and he said, "Never heard of them." Anyway, he still wrote me a Letter of Recommendation. His last words to me were, "I still think you're wasting your time and talent."

So, in the end, I don't find Iowa to be a huge draw for me. But that's just me. I don't have the same "Iowa or Bust" dreams like a lot of people. I personally don't have a desire to teach as a profession. I just want to have a career like Ian McEwan or even Cormac McCarthy. Publish stuff here and there, do radio interviews, read from my work in 90%-empty auditoriums to a bunch of wide-eyed English students, maybe recite some bad poetry at bars on "Poetry Reading" nights, and develop a long friendship with my literary agent who'll constantly push me to write a vampire novel. Apparently, vampire novels are big these days.

(This post was edited by Raysen on Mar 6, 2009, 1:39 PM)


Mar 6, 2009, 1:48 PM

Post #409 of 467 (18271 views)
Re: [Raysen] Iowa Can't Post

This forum has a short time-out feature which prevented me from further editing my post above.

I also wanted to add:

In my community, there are a bunch of adult education classes taught by the local Adult Education Centers and community colleges. I'd often see writing workshop or craft classes taught by Iowa Writer's Workshop grads whose name I've never heard of...and I do a fair bit of reading myself (so I know many of the names). My initial reaction was: Gee, I feel sorry for them. They went to a big-name program and she's doing THIS to make a buck?!?!

This is probably unfair and I feel bad about feeling this way about these instructors, but I can't help it. I mean, if I'm going to Iowa, I'm going to make a big splash in the publishing business. Not this nickel-and-dime work.

Alright, fire away!

(This post was edited by Raysen on Mar 6, 2009, 1:50 PM)


Mar 6, 2009, 2:04 PM

Post #410 of 467 (18249 views)
Re: [Raysen] Iowa Can't Post

Raysen - No need for anyone to fire on you. I've felt similarly at times. I think that's the perspective you have until you can't afford to have it anymore.

Buy this book!

Mar 6, 2009, 2:55 PM

Post #411 of 467 (18216 views)
Re: [Raysen] Iowa Can't Post

Vampire novels are done. Zombies are the next wave.

The Review Mirror, available at

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at


Mar 6, 2009, 6:18 PM

Post #412 of 467 (18134 views)
Re: [pongo] Iowa Can't Post

Zombies are a stretch for me. I don't have any life experiences with them.


Mar 7, 2009, 5:30 PM

Post #413 of 467 (18029 views)
Re: [Raysen] Iowa Can't Post

Raysen, if you didn't get rejected from Iowa, does that mean you got in?

If you decide you're over it, we should hang out and start our own MFA. Or possibly a low-stress low rez. That'd be pretty cool.

(Oh and PS, I figured it out. All kidding aside, you are former POW Jessica Lynch...).

six five four three two one 0 ->


Mar 7, 2009, 6:55 PM

Post #414 of 467 (17977 views)
Re: [Junior Maas] Iowa Can't Post

Wondering along the same lines. Not rejected, not accepted. Has Iowa started a waitlist? Or are we on the bubble as a second tier once any acceptees with multiple acceptances turn it down? Would anyone accepted and funded here turn it down?


Mar 9, 2009, 11:33 PM

Post #415 of 467 (17857 views)
Re: Iowa Can't Post

Hi - my first post here, I've been reading through and don't know really if this is the right place, but I just found out today that I was accepted to the literary translation MFA at Iowa (which I understand is different from the Writers Workshop). Didn't expect to get in at all, actually, and am wondering if anyone else applied or has been in the program. I mostly applied to PhDs, and thought of Iowa as a long shot anyway... Would love to hear from anyone who is thinking about or actually attending the program.


Mar 10, 2009, 12:44 AM

Post #416 of 467 (17827 views)
Re: [Raysen] Iowa Can't Post

Definitely have been told since the beginning that if you don't want to teach then you don't need the MFA. Well, I'm not sure yet if I want to teach but I do want to be a member of the academic community and I just couldn't go to another day of a critical class before my life was allowed to be all about the creative. I, of course draw inspiration from critical theory as well as other creative writing.

Raysen, there's a lot that you are saying here that I'm glad someone is willing to say and, that I am not willing to say since I'm using my real name but, I will add that the second thing that I'm glad I was told from the beginning of this journey was that a grad degree of any sort in English should not be paid for because there is no guarantee that that money will EVER come back to you, at least not from the academic or literary world. In fact the reason I got the courage to go for the MFA is because my PhD advisor told me the PhD is no guarantee. I also pursued this knowing that as far as a paying career goes, the MFA is "THE most worthless piece of paper" you can ever earn (direct quote from an Iowa grad who got a book deal before graduating -- so I'd say she got ALL the benefits of an MFA and the Iowa MFA specifically). So, while I applied to a full range of programs (top ten, up and coming, unranked), I only applied to funded programs and was prepared to not necessarily choose Iowa (if I'd been accepted) because of money, from the moment IU-B stepped up with funding.

What is ironic in the world of MFA professors is that what I've noticed is that most of the professors either have no MFA at all or they got one from Iowa. There are exceptions but that's the trend I've noticed...

Someone, I don't remember who, also said that the MFA was a gift of time for the writer, time granted instead of stolen to write. That is something important also about the MFA (and my primary reason for wanting it) -- giving you two to three years to step out of the regular world and just read and write -- kind of as your job (and teach if you have to, which one prolific author told me keeps him writing; that it is because he teaches and must read and think about what he reads in order to teach, that keeps him writing).

The life of one dedicated to writing is always on the brink of obscurity -- no MFA program will change that.

Best of luck to all of you who may still be getting acceptances to Iowa and everyone who is deciding to take the road more traveled of just writing yourself into history without an advanced degree.


Mar 10, 2009, 12:52 AM

Post #417 of 467 (17820 views)
Re: [Khalilah] Iowa Can't Post

Interesting comments, Khalilah. I disagree w/ you saying that all MFA professors got their MFAs at Iowa though - I am a Michigan undergrad taking a class w/ Peter Ho Davies right now, and I believe he got his at BU.

Also kinda funny that you say it's one of the most worthless degrees, because I was accepted into Emerson's MA in Publishing program and everyone keeps telling me that THAT is the most worthless degree since you still have to start @ the bottom of the publishing world once you receive it.


Mar 10, 2009, 1:03 AM

Post #418 of 467 (17814 views)
Re: [swiviol] Iowa Can't Post

Swiviol, thanks for finding my comments interesting.

Please note, I said MOST professors. Not all. That's my general observation. I didn't actually write down a tally but it does seem to me that in a casual read through of about 45 programs(that's about how many I checked out), more professors either have their MFA from Iowa or no MFA at all than those with MFAs from other schools except those working at their alma maters.

And I quoted an Iowa grad who told me the MFA is the most worthless degree you can earn for a career. I didn't draw that conclusion but it was part of the advice that was important for me to comprehend when deciding whether or not I would be willing to lay out money for this degree. I think that with all the literary degrees (PhD, MA, MFA), the most important, career advancing action is productivity -- publishing is what gets you the career (or in the case of the PhD- producing an innovative dissertation or dissertation worthy of a book deal).

These were things important for me to know as I chose to seek an MFA and chose my schools so I would know the value of my time and what this time would mean or not mean for my future. For me, the MFA means 3 years to workshop, read and write, and get paid to do it instead of working elsewhere to pay for it. Maybe I'll get a teaching career out of it but I'll probably depend on leveraging a PhD into that.

(This post was edited by Khalilah on Mar 10, 2009, 1:09 AM)


Mar 10, 2009, 10:39 PM

Post #419 of 467 (17702 views)
Re: [Junior Maas] Iowa Can't Post

In Reply To
(Oh and PS, I figured it out. All kidding aside, you are former POW Jessica Lynch...).


Your silence confirms it, Ms. Lynch. It's the only identity you've not been quick to claim. It also totally fits: not a movie star, done a thing or two, met with Ben Kingsley. A-ha!

And, just to keep things relevant, an interesting quote from Ethan Canin. OK, not a quote, 'cause I don't have it in front of me, but basically he said that as an Iowa prof, he reads fifteen publishable stories a semester -- and five of those are better than anything he would have written himself.


six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Mar 10, 2009, 10:40 PM)


Mar 11, 2009, 10:25 AM

Post #420 of 467 (17631 views)
Iowa Questions Can't Post

Hey all--
I hope this is the appropriate place for this. I was accepted to Iowa for fiction recently. Are there any current fiction students out there who'd be willing to answer a few questions? I'd really like to get some further insight on the program. Feel free to PM me. Thanks!


Mar 11, 2009, 2:20 PM

Post #421 of 467 (17549 views)
Re: [Raysen] Iowa Can't Post


I think you make a good point, and I would be the last person to say that the MFA route is the only (or the best) route to take if you want to become a published writer. That said, I think there are certain advantages that go along with earning an MFA--having a degree that enables you to teach on the college level should you ever want to, benefiting from the instruction of established writers, spending two or three years with a group of intelligent, well read and talented peers, some of whom will likely be readers and friends for life, and of course having a period of two or three years simply to write on your own without the distractions and pressures of a job.

I can't speak for other programs, but as someone who attended Iowa, I can tell you that I benefited enormously from all of these things and attribute much of my own professional success to the two years I spent there as well as the degree itself. Of course, you're right to point out that a degree from Iowa doesn't guarantee anything and that for every successful writer that comes out of Iowa there's some graduate who's never published a book, but you have to bear in mind that at most MFA Programs probably less than ten percent of the graduates publish books or get college-level teaching jobs and at Iowa, of course, the percentage is significantly higher. So yes, the degree itself isn't a guarantee of anything, but it does give you a notable advantage over graduates from other programs, and given the competitiveness of both the publishing and academic markets these days, I don't think there's anything wrong with a young writer wanting to give him or herself an advantage.


Mar 12, 2009, 6:42 PM

Post #422 of 467 (17446 views)
Re: [dorchester] Iowa Can't Post

Thank you for your wise and level-headed post, dorchester. I like the fact that I'll be studying with learned faculty and enthusiastic/talented students. With that said, I have no interest in teaching so the practical necessity of the MFA degree is not there for me. More to think about...


Jul 16, 2009, 11:26 PM

Post #423 of 467 (17163 views)
Re: Iowa MFA SOP Can't Post

Hi - I wasn't sure if I should post this in the Iowa category or SOP category, but I have a question...
Most schools describe the SOP as a place to talk about your writing achievements and experiences, introduce yourself, and explain what in your life has led you to this point. But Iowa's description of the SOP is different:

Include your purpose in pursuing graduate study, any research you wish to pursue, and your future vocational goals.

They don't say anything about talking about your all that other stuff just implicit? I can't imagine writing an entire SOP about what I plan to do and not talk about what I've done. Naturally those things are necessary, too, right? Am I overthinking this?

This question sounds really stupid now that I've type it out, but I was just wondering - how different should the Iowa SOP be from most schools'?

Thanks so much for any insight.

(This post was edited by taraberyl on Jul 16, 2009, 11:26 PM)


Jul 17, 2009, 1:49 PM

Post #424 of 467 (17084 views)
Re: [taraberyl] Iowa MFA SOP Can't Post

Hi Tara,

I applied to twelve schools last year (including Iowa), and, for the most part, used the same SOP. I tend to think the best SOPs combine a little bit of one's past experiences and future goals. Past: what brought you to the point of wanting to pursue graduate study in creative writing? Future: what do you hope to do while getting your MFA (complete a novel, a story collection, contribute to a strong writing community, etc.) and what about after graduating (do you want to teach, for instance)?

So, to answer your Q, i don't think your Iowa statement needs to be different. I think Iowa and all these programs are interested in your future goals. In some ways, it gives them a window into your level of dedication. The best advice I received on the SOP was: 1) provide a sense of your personality while maintaining a professional tone, 2) show the admissions committee that you are dedicated, ready for graduate studies, and that you work well with others.

Feel free to PM if you have more Qs. I'm more than willing to share my SOP.

Greg Brown


Jul 17, 2009, 6:47 PM

Post #425 of 467 (17051 views)
Re: [browng700] Iowa MFA SOP Can't Post

Thanks so much, Greg, you're tops!

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