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Jeanne Lyet Gassman

Feb 16, 2011, 2:43 PM

Post #2326 of 2687 (36166 views)
Re: [maybemd] Low-Residency MFAs Can't Post

Something that hasn't been mentioned here is that pursuing an MFA is really about process, not as much about product. When you are in the midst of a process (for any art, not just writing), you often need time to let that information gestate. The product you produce while working on the process is unformed and incomplete.

For writers, this may mean that your voice, or style, changes during the MFA process. It may mean that you discover a different genre better suited to your interests and temperament. If the MFA program is decent, you will have little time to complete a work that is ready to submit to agents.

I finished and revised a novel while working on my MFA. After I graduated, I revised the novel again, applying much of what I had learned during my MFA studies. I did this even though my novel was accepted as my creative thesis for graduation requirements. I realized as I worked through that final revision that I was just beginning to understand what I had learned. Now, a full year after I've graduated, I'm finally approaching the craft intuitively rather than (for lack of a better word) "mechanically."

While I was in the MFA program, I was constantly adjusting my craft--working on improving my dialog, playing with multiple POVs, experimenting with narrative, deconstructing and reconstructing, etc. I view these efforts as similar to the dozens of practice canvasses Monet painted to "get the light just right."

It can be useful to network with agents at an MFA program, but you may find that you aren't ready to make contact with that agent for quite some time after you graduate.

Personally, I think your recommender has a narrow view of the MFA experience. If you want to find agents, you are better off networking via writer's conferences and AWP. (I just queried two agents I spoke to at AWP.)

Just my thoughts...



Feb 16, 2011, 4:00 PM

Post #2327 of 2687 (36156 views)
Re: [Gi] Low-Residency MFAs Can't Post


I think it's perfectly legitimate to consider ways to make contacts in the publishing world, and it seems like maybe your question was misunderstood by some people. I don't think you're implying that this should be the only standard which people use when making their MFA decision, and I certainly don't think MFA programs that have a focus on publishing are necessarily producing masses of cookie-cutter literature. Perhaps your recommender does not have his or her priorities straight when it comes to an MFA program, and I agree with everyone who says that MFA students should focus on improving their craft above all else. But that doesn't mean writers who pursue publication have no literary merit. I'm sure the typical MFA student has a dream of publication in the future, and I don't see anything wrong with that.

With that being said, I agree with others who say that the number of agents at a residency should not play a role in your decision-making process. But I have to disagree when people imply that writers who pursue publication only have money or fame in mind. How very elitist it sounds to imply that truly "good" literature is not the kind that can be enjoyed by the masses...


Feb 16, 2011, 4:18 PM

Post #2328 of 2687 (36147 views)
Re: [lmorris] Low-Residency MFAs Can't Post

Thank you all for your input. I think lmorris got it right that my question was misunderstood. But I think I got my answers anyway.
No, I am not pursuing my MFA solely to make contacts. I am far from being ready to do so. And I don't think that my recommender meant it as the only criterion in choosing a program (I should have probably stated that in the beginning), he simply implied that a program with a strong tradition in helping their student become the best writers they can be (at a present moment), will inevitably attract the attention from agents.
I simply wanted to get a sense from current mfaers. And I did. So thank you. Maybemd, I'll PM you later tonight when I have more time. Thank you for making yourself available again.


Feb 16, 2011, 10:59 PM

Post #2329 of 2687 (36100 views)
Re: [lmorris] Low-Residency MFAs Can't Post

I'm not saying that "good" literature (and what is that?) can't be enjoyed by the masses, I'm saying that literary fiction isn't. I don't think it's elitist to be honest about numbers, it's being realistic. While I wish most readers weren't turned off by the words "literary fiction", the sales numbers for genera fiction tend to be much, much higher than those for literary fiction. Those writers whose styles allow them to straddle the two genres do best, sales-wise. That's what publishers, and therefore agents, are most interested in. Potential sales.

They like to eat too.

Although there are agents and publishers who take it upon themselves to get lit fic into print, fewer and fewer large publishing houses are interested in it, or in writers without a proven track record. Perhaps the world of electronic publishing will save lit fic, I don't know.

I think it's better to say this to folks considering an MFA program: Unless you can readily display the developing genius of an Alice Munroe or a Lahiri or a Franzen or perhaps McCarthy, forget about agents roving residencies, hunting for unknowns whose work they can profitably present to publishers. Be ready to work on your writing, be teachable, be open to growth. Prepare to have your preconceptions about your writing, and a writer's life, expanded, exploded, and reconstructed.

A couple of my schoolmates are already published authors and one is a bestselling writer in Australia. But we're all using the MFA program to improve our skills, develop our understanding of writing, and become better artists.

The MFA is a studio degree, it's all about the work.

(This post was edited by maybemd on Feb 16, 2011, 11:05 PM)


Feb 17, 2011, 12:32 AM

Post #2330 of 2687 (36085 views)
Re: [maybemd] Low-Residency MFAs Can't Post

I think you have a point lmorris. And just so we're clear here: NO! I AM NOT SEEKING PUBLICATION FIRST! I AM SEEKING GROWTH! But publication would make me extremely pleased. All I was asking was if those attending low res that were considered stronger ones, for instance (ranking wise), noticed more agents dropping by, and if they thought this was representative of the programs record/quality. That was all I meant to ask. I never once said that was my main goal, I never once said I even agreed with my recommender's view. I was simply trying to gather your opinions on whether or not agents' presence was indicative of a programs strength. That was ALL! Anyhow, just thought it needed reinforcing...


Mar 3, 2011, 4:39 PM

Post #2331 of 2687 (35890 views)
Summer 2011 Acceptances Can't Post

Curious to know if anyone received acceptance or rejection from the upcoming residencies?

I applied in poetry, and only to three. Just accepted by New England. Warren Wilson and Bennington are under review, and their application deadline only just passed. It may be a few weeks..?

Faculty was my #1 reason:
New England: Carol Frost, Brian Henry, Ilya Kaminsky...
Warren Wilson: Jennifer Grotz, Dana Levin, C. Dale Young, Ellen Bryant Voight...
Bennington: Donald Hall, Amy Gerstler, April Bernard, Mark Wunderlich...
I want to work with teachers/mentors I admire. School reputation is important, but since the majority of the work is completed from home, the mentor's discernment and ability are more critical to my growth.

Where did you apply? Have you heard anything? Why did you apply where you did?


(This post was edited by Tg on Mar 3, 2011, 4:44 PM)


Mar 5, 2011, 12:15 PM

Post #2332 of 2687 (35801 views)
Re: [Tg] Summer 2011 Acceptances Can't Post

Hi there,
I applied to quite a few programs in fiction, mainly because I feel now is the time to start a program. Faculty was a big factor, but program format and size is also important to me.
I was accepted at Stonecoast for the upcoming residency and am still waiting to hear from WW, Vermont, Queens, Pacific and Antioch.
I appreciate the flexibility in Stonecoast's program, as well as their faculty. But the fact that you only find out your funding package after you accept the offer is keeping me on the fence a little.
WW is probably my first choice. I like the size of the program, their faculty is stellar, and I also like that the student is required to participate in all faculty's lecture, regardless of genre. Also they have been extremely helpful, which shows how much they value their applicants/students.
Vermont is also a top choice for me. Again, great faculty, very helpful, and they also seem very invested in their students/alumna. I follow them on twitter and you really get a sense of a community with them.
Queens lets you focus solely on the writing, which is very appealing to me. So I guess, if I'm not getting in one of my top choices, Queens would be a great alternative. They also have quite a few professors I admire.
Antioch is in LA, where I am. So I got to go to their info session, which was quite nice. It's a great program. They always have great guest (last residency was Tobias Wolf), and it also has the teaching certificate afterwards for those who feel it's important.
Anyhow... Yes, faculty is a big factor for me as well. But I try not to rely solely on it, because you hear so much about successful writers not being that great of a mentor.
I don't think there's one factor though... for me: it's the program philosophy, the faculty, the funding, and my gut feeling from the exchanges I had with each program.
Hope this helps!
Good luck with WW, and Bennington!


Mar 11, 2011, 3:57 PM

Post #2333 of 2687 (35637 views)
Re: [Gi] Summer 2011 Acceptances Can't Post

Hi Gi,

Thank you! Congrats on Stonecoast!!! I do agree the program size, format, and philosophy are important as well. I've been lucky (no, downright blessed) for the professors and mentors I've had. But you're right, someone can be incredibly talented and not be able to convey that gift or wisdom to their students. I only applied to the three schools, and from all I've read on different sites, this was a naive move on my part.

But... I'm floating today. Just got the call from Bennington. Accepted!!

Hoping WW will love me too... (I have no idea when they decide.)

Then THE decision. In the end, I want growth. Best fit, best program.

I hope you'll share this process, too. Good luck with WW, Vermont, Queens, Pacific and Antioch!!!


Mar 11, 2011, 4:21 PM

Post #2334 of 2687 (35626 views)
Re: [Tg] Summer 2011 Acceptances Can't Post

Congrats on Bennington! That's exciting. Are you poetry or fiction?


Mar 11, 2011, 4:49 PM

Post #2335 of 2687 (35616 views)
Re: [coreo] Summer 2011 Acceptances Can't Post

Hi Coreo,

Thank you!! I'm in for poetry. :::bliss:::


Mar 13, 2011, 2:27 PM

Post #2336 of 2687 (35537 views)
Re: [Tg] Summer 2011 Acceptances Can't Post

Congrats on Bennington!!! It's a great program. I had originally applied only to find out they don't take international students, unfortunately. I wish they had mentioned it on their website or when I contacted them, but oh well. So far I'm in at Queens and Stonecoast, have been rejected by Vermont :( and am waiting to hear from the remaining programs.
I really hope that WW loves me, too!
I think we should hear from them soon. Hopefully this week.
Good luck to you, and congratulations on Bennington!


Mar 14, 2011, 10:54 AM

Post #2337 of 2687 (35474 views)
Re: [Gi] Summer 2011 Acceptances Can't Post

Hi everyone, congrats on your acceptances :) I was just wondering how long you are planning to wait to hear back from your other schools (specifically WW) before making decisions about your other acceptances. I'd really like to hold out for WW, but I know that they might not notify until April--and 2 of my schools need decisions within the next two weeks. (I already asked for extensions.) Any thoughts on this? I know some people have called in the past, but I don't want to put too much pressure on them since I knew from the get-go that they tend to notify later than others... I think I'm just hoping that last year's 3/15 notification date on the Suburban Ecstasies will happen again this year!


Mar 14, 2011, 12:21 PM

Post #2338 of 2687 (35447 views)
Re: [EllaJ] Summer 2011 Acceptances Can't Post

Hey, EllaJ. I had the same problem. I only applied to two schools (I also was naive about this process): Warren Wilson and Spalding. Spalding takes applications on a rolling basis, so they were able to notify me awhile ago, but they needed my final decision before WW would ever start making decisions. So I went ahead and accepted at Spalding, which was really my top choice anyway (though I think both are AMAZING schools). I accepted because if I had waited any longer with Spalding, I was afraid they would have moved on to the waitlist. However, if things had been reversed and I heard from my second choice (WW) first, and was waiting to hear from my top choice (Spalding), I don't know what I would have done. I probably would have tried to wait it out as long as possible! But if you wait too long, what if you don't get accepted at the second school and you've lost your chance at the first place! Ugh!

Such a frustrating process!

And by the way, I also am hoping WW will be contacting people this week! According to TSE, it should be soon!


Mar 14, 2011, 12:49 PM

Post #2339 of 2687 (35438 views)
Re: [EllaJ] Summer 2011 Acceptances Can't Post

EllaJ – Sounds like you have 10-14 days to lay the ground-work for your decision. How about planning for both scenarios? Then you’ll be ready to make a quick decision no matter which way the notification from WW goes.

I hadn’t expected to be accepted by all three of the programs I’d applied to and spent an agonizing week deciding between them. It would have helped if I had done my research and been ready to make my decision as soon as the last call was in.

Write down the questions you’d have for WW if they call within the next two weeks with an acceptance, whose answers will help you decide between the (3? 4? 6?) programs that you have been invited to join. Also map out the questions you would have for the other programs if WW declines.

Use the time to more thoroughly research the programs themselves. Roam their websites, use search engines to find journal and local newspaper articles about them, click on and investigate everything -- pictures of the campus and dorms (ask yourself: would I be comfortable here, does this look like a place I could learn to love, would this setting support me physically, etc.), program and residency descriptions (ask: what else do they do besides teach writers, what do they offer their graduates, would I be comfortable with the set-up and requirements, etc.), read the schools’ missions and strategic plans (ask: is their teaching philosophy one I can buy into, is the program on solid financial and legal footing, is their accreditation legitimate, etc.), find and read their faculty members’ publications and interviews (ask: what are their individual teaching techniques and philosophies like and would they make a good match for the way I work and learn, where are they teaching full time, are there current and/or past editors of journals on the faculty, any scandals in their pasts that I would not be willing to overlook, who are the “big guns” that I would love to have as mentors, etc.). Learn their histories and underlying program philosophies; who founded the programs, and why.

Do your logistics homework. Determine how much would it cost, in time as well as cash, to travel to and from the residencies. Remember that airline and fuel costs are increasing. (So are tuitions.) Line up child or pet care and back-up support at work and home and determine how much that will cost. If weather is important to your commute, then check out their average snow fall amounts and how often the closest airport was closed due to weather events, or how hot and sticky it gets in the summer. Although the program I decided on was the farthest drive away, and I have to spend overnights in hotels to and from, they got the least amount of snow. They’re also within striking distance of a major train station, so my husband could come down by rail and we can drive home together. Sort of a mini-vacation and we do miss each other during the 12 days I’m away at residency.

All that research and reading has the added bonus of keeping you occupied while you wait to hear. Best of luck!

(This post was edited by maybemd on Mar 14, 2011, 12:51 PM)


Mar 14, 2011, 7:40 PM

Post #2340 of 2687 (35361 views)
Re: [lmorris] Summer 2011 Acceptances Can't Post

Hi Lmorris, Congratulations on making a decision! Spalding sounds like such a fantastic program. I've had nothing but positive experiences with them so far :)


Mar 14, 2011, 7:48 PM

Post #2341 of 2687 (35360 views)
Re: [maybemd] Summer 2011 Acceptances Can't Post

Hi Maybemd, Thank you so much for the detailed response and tips. I think planning for both scenarios is definitely the best way to go. So far, I have no idea which school I will choose, but I think I could be happy at all of them... (An encouraging but somewhat complicated thought!) Anyway, thanks again for your advice. Your checklist has certainly helped organize my thoughts :)


Mar 15, 2011, 1:18 PM

Post #2342 of 2687 (35264 views)
Re: [lmorris] Summer 2011 Acceptances Can't Post

lmorris! Welcome to Spalding!


Amy in AZ


Mar 15, 2011, 1:21 PM

Post #2343 of 2687 (35261 views)
Re: [ahanridge] Summer 2011 Acceptances Can't Post



Mar 19, 2011, 11:45 PM

Post #2344 of 2687 (35069 views)
Re: [Gi] Summer 2011 Acceptances Can't Post

Hi there,
as I wait to hear from Antioch and WW, I've been researching Queens' program and am starting to see myself there. I think it had great features and wonderful faculty. I'm wondering if there are any current students or graduates around that are willing to share their experiences with the program. Anyone planning on attending it? I'd appreciate any info.
Please feel free to PM me if you prefer.
Thanks in advance!


Mar 22, 2011, 8:56 PM

Post #2345 of 2687 (34915 views)
Re: [Gi] Summer 2011 Acceptances Can't Post

Hi, Gi. I was accepted to Queens University of Charlotte and am seriously considering attending (though I'll have to wait until the January residency due to finances and I'm also waiting to hear back about funding at a full-time program that accepted me). I wonder if they will provide an email list of current students to contact so that we can ask questions?


Mar 22, 2011, 11:49 PM

Post #2346 of 2687 (34891 views)
Re: [Papercuts] Summer 2011 Acceptances Can't Post

Hi Papercuts,
I posted something here and was able to exchange emails with someone who graduated recently from Queens. It honestly sounds wonderful.
I'm sure they'll get you in touch with a current student if you ask, though. But, I don't know. I feel that every single person just LOVES the low res program they are in. And I can totally understand it, because it must be quite the treat to really be able to focus on what you love with permission to do so, and guidance. So, I feel like getting in touch with a student (especially those the programs put you in touch with) is great to help you learn more about the atmosphere, than getting an opinion, or review. It's just so rare for someone to complain about the program they are in.
Anyhow, at this point I'm like 90% going to Queens. I really like the format, and their faculty is amazing.
Good luck with the other program! I hope you'll get the funding you want. Let me know if you decide on Queens, though. We might meet at a workshop, who knows :)

Rosalie Mingus

Mar 24, 2011, 3:15 PM

Post #2347 of 2687 (34796 views)
Re: [Gi] Summer 2011 Acceptances Can't Post

Hi, all. Any decisions from Bennington or WW for fiction? I'm all pins and needles.


Mar 24, 2011, 5:05 PM

Post #2348 of 2687 (34773 views)
Trying to decide... Can't Post

Hello, everyone.

I would be ever so grateful for any and all advice!

I've just spent the past couple of hours perusing this thread back to 2007, and it's been superbly informative. I recently applied to low-residency MFA in Writing programs, and my acceptances are coming in... which is wonderful and stressful at the same time. Here's my dilemma: I've been accepted to VCFA, Pacific, Spalding, Goddard, and UNO so far. I'm still waiting to hear from Queens and Lesley.

As it stands (in my ever-addled mind), my top three are VCFA, Pacific and Spalding (in no particular order). I was accepted at VCFA in CNF and Fiction, at Pacific in Fiction, and at Spalding in CNF and Fiction.

I already hold a MA in English and work as an adjunct English instructor, so teaching experience while in a program isn't a concern. I've written a novel and have a literary agent... who hasn't found a publisher for the work, and it's been a while. So, my main goals in earning a MFA in Writing are 1) becoming a better writer, and 2) earning a terminal degree that may help me to some day find a full-time teaching job at a college or university.

Here's my experience so far with VCFA, Pacific and Spalding.

1. Spalding has, by far, been the most helpful and generous (esp. when it comes to scholarship $ and assistantships). Kathleen Driskell has been a great source on the phone and off. I didn't know anything about Spalding before researching and then applying for low-res programs, but I've been impressed with what everyone is saying. It would be extremely hard to turn down, esp. considering the scholarship.

2. VCFA has always been the "big dog" of the low-res programs, in my mind at least. (I live near WW and didn't apply there, since I'd like to study both Fiction and CNF.) Again, all I've heard about this program is accolade after accolade. Knowing that I want to "try" to find a full-time teaching job in higher ed, I'm wondering if a degree from VCFA wouldn't carry more weight?

3. Pacific, for some reason, was my top choice before I started the process. Everyone there has been extremely helpful, too, and I got to hear from an (of course) highly satisfied current student. Plus, one of my favorite writers, Pam Houston, is currently on faculty there. And then there's the location....

Intrinsically, I know I couldn't go wrong with any of these programs. I've made my pro and con lists, and measure the odds: cost, time, faculty, etc. But I would still greatly appreciate any insights into choosing between the three.

Many, many thanks in advance,


Jeanne Lyet Gassman

Mar 24, 2011, 6:15 PM

Post #2349 of 2687 (34762 views)
Re: [kscrawford] Trying to decide... Can't Post

Mmm...I can only speak from my own experience, but I have my MFA (fiction) from VCFA, and I do think it carries some weight. I haven't bothered to apply for full-time teaching positions (no interest), but I have received at least six job offers to work at various institutions as an adjunct. For two of them, I didn't even apply. I simply met the person under social circumstances who was impressed with my degree and wanted to know if I would be interested in teaching for them.

My MFA from VCFA also landed me a rather lucrative manuscript consultant position for a private party. She found me through my website and then called me because she saw that I had an MFA from Vermont. She said that was the main reason she wanted to work with me.

I loved my experience at Vermont and feel that the community and relationships I've forged from my time there are invaluable. Of course, I'm a little prejudiced... :)

Others may have glowing things to say about their own low-res programs. However, if you have questions about Vermont, feel free to PM me.



Mar 24, 2011, 8:52 PM

Post #2350 of 2687 (34738 views)
Re: [RM2] Summer 2011 Acceptances Can't Post

Hi! I heard from WW yesterday (3/23) for fiction. I got the vibe that all the acceptances hadn't gone out yet. Also, if you're really anxious, you could probably call or email Alissa. She's very friendly :) Good luck!

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