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hamlet3145


May 13, 2008, 9:52 PM

Post #101 of 344 (8700 views)
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Re: [aiyamei] Popular vs Literary Can't Post

Also, L.A. Banks has an MFA from Vanderbilt and a whole series of books about a vampire hunter.

Okay, what the heck is it with MFA grads and vampires? Hmmm.


jaywalke


May 14, 2008, 12:37 PM

Post #102 of 344 (8647 views)
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In Reply To
What the heck is it with MFA grads and vampires?



Perhaps they are all very vein.

I know, I know, aorta stop.


ElRi


May 14, 2008, 5:23 PM

Post #103 of 344 (8588 views)
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Re: [scheherazade] Popular vs Literary Can't Post

Also, the University of Southern Maine/Stonecoast has a popfic track to its MFA program.
http://www.usm.maine.edu/stonecoastmfa/


scheherazade


May 15, 2008, 12:41 AM

Post #104 of 344 (8523 views)
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In Reply To
Elizabeth Kostova graduated from a prestigious MFA program (Michigan), and afterward got a million dollar book deal for The Historian, a vampire novel. I tried to read it and it was quite pulpy. Just thought I'd put that out there as an example of how an MFA helped someone write a popular Stephen King-ish novel.



Yeah, I was thinking about Elizabeth Kostova as well, but I haven't read her book so I didn't want to call it popular just because I've seen it covered in a few magazines. That's a good endorsement for Michigan for a writer like me, though. I do know she did a lot of research for that book, which may be what distinguishes it from all the vampire genre books lying around the "horror" section of the bookstore.


scheherazade


May 24, 2008, 12:01 AM

Post #105 of 344 (8349 views)
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I know every school will be different, but in general, is having a car a necessity for an MFA student? I know even the funded programs won't cover gas and car payments, but I'm wondering if this is something I should be budgeting for when I apply to MFA programs. Other than the schools in suburban California, are many schools located in places where a car is a near-necessity? Do most MFA students tend to have a car? Or is it usually a luxury item?


Clench Million
Charles

May 24, 2008, 11:48 AM

Post #106 of 344 (8313 views)
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In Reply To
I know every school will be different, but in general, is having a car a necessity for an MFA student? I know even the funded programs won't cover gas and car payments, but I'm wondering if this is something I should be budgeting for when I apply to MFA programs. Other than the schools in suburban California, are many schools located in places where a car is a near-necessity? Do most MFA students tend to have a car? Or is it usually a luxury item?


I would say this is completely dependent on the program's location. Living in a big city like NYC or DC you wouldn't even want a car. Going to a program in a small town that has no real transit system would probably necessitate one.... unless you can find a house right near campus and then never leave. My assumption would be that a good amount of programs would have a car as a near-necessity, pretty much most programs in college towns.


ejdifili
Emily

May 24, 2008, 12:24 PM

Post #107 of 344 (8304 views)
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In Reply To
Do most MFA students tend to have a car? Or is it usually a luxury item?


Like the last guy said, it depends on where you go.

When I did my MA (in Spanish lit) at Wash U St. Louis, most of my classmates were from outside the US and nearly no one had a car. The university had a free shuttle system that could get you to a grocery store, a mall and a Target, and most people lived in an area where they could walk to restaurants, bars and cafes. There is also a metro station near Wash U now, although that wasn't there in my day. For people outside the university, though, it's basically impossible to live in St. Louis without a car.

When I studied at Iowa last summer, there were students who didn't have cars but lived in downtown Iowa City right next to the university. There was a grocery store in town within walking distance, and I guess you can always hitch rides with people who do have cars. There was also a public bus system. Besides that, a lot of people rode bikes and mopeds.

If you don't already have a car, you might just try to save your money and go it without one. If possible, you could put away a couple thousand for an old used vehicle if you absolutely need it.


scheherazade


May 25, 2008, 2:42 PM

Post #108 of 344 (8229 views)
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Re: MFA Fiction Programs - Questions & Concerns Can't Post

What happens in the summers during your typical MFA program? I assume that students will be using this time to do some serious writing, especially if they are going into their final year and need to be working on a thesis. But without needing to be in classes or work on assignments, what do students typically do with the extra type?

Do people tend to stay in town and find a summer job? Do people go "home" to family or travel for the bulk of the break period? Outside of a summer writing festival that may be organized by the university or the town, are there other organized activities that tend to bring students together during the months when there are no classes (eg, readings, department events, or just casual student-arranged opportunities to get together)?


ejdifili
Emily

May 25, 2008, 6:08 PM

Post #109 of 344 (8201 views)
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Re: [scheherazade] MFA Fiction Programs - Questions & Concerns Can't Post


In Reply To
What happens in the summers during your typical MFA program?


Well, I'm not in an MFA program yet, but I can tell you what I saw studying at Iowa last summer.

It seemed like some people do go home, while others stick around to write and work, as you assumed. It probably depends on personal situations. When I was there, I was invited to several parties / barbecues with graduate students (I lived in the same apartment building as various grads), so obviously some people were socializing. Iowa City is a cool town, too, and there are always fun things to do.

When I did my MA, it was kind of the same thing: maybe half the people went home, while half stuck around. In the Romance Languages Dept at Wash U, we could apply for summer fellowships. You could get a summer gig as assistant to a professor, or even straight scholarships to work on your thesis or prepare for examinations. I doubt all universities offer this opportunity, but it does exist.

At this point, I don't have any specific plans for next summer, but will probably assess the situation when the time comes. If it seems worthwhile to stick around school, I will look for a part-time job and write. If not, I will come home, look for a part-time job and write. It would be great to travel to some exotic locale or attend a writing conference, but I don't know if I will have the money. Since I didn't receive a TAship, earning income over the summer will probably have to be a priority; I want to avoid having to work 40 hours a week during the school year.


aathema


May 25, 2008, 10:46 PM

Post #110 of 344 (8164 views)
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Re: [scheherazade] MFA Fiction Programs - Questions & Concerns Can't Post

When I got my MA, I got a job during the summer. But I lived in Bellingham, WA and it was easier to find jobs with decent pay. I just graduated from the University of Montana's MFA program and I have to say, there aren't that many good jobs in Missoula. One of my colleagues is temping for the university, which is an OK option. Last summer, I didn't work. Instead, I traveled to a writing conference and focused on generating new writing for my thesis. The community here was pretty tight, but there weren't any university-sponsored get togethers or anything like that. I'd say about half of the people in the program left town at some point or other to travel and/or visit friends or family. Only a couple of people took jobs in town.

There were a couple of community readings that weren't affiliated with the University, but beyond that, there wasn't a lot going on. Many of the faculty members were also traveling over the summer. For the non-T.A.s in fiction and poetry, there were some opportunities to teach intro creative writing classes during the summer terms. There may have also been 101 sections for recent grads to teach as adjuncts.

I don't know if my experience was typical, but I felt like I needed some down-time to just focus on writing after that first year of teaching and going to classes, readings, meetings, etc.

This summer, I've spent a month freelancing as a copy editor before moving out of town. I think the majority of graduates will have left town by the 1st of June to seek their fortunes elsewhere.



http://www.postmfa08.blogspot.com


daleth


Jul 10, 2008, 2:43 PM

Post #111 of 344 (7947 views)
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Re: [MattElz] MFA Fiction Programs - Questions & Concerns Can't Post

Michigan. I did a Fiction MFA there--loved it. Now that Charlie Baxter's gone the "down to earth" factor must be somewhat reduced, but Eileen Pollack's very down to earth too.


In Reply To
Can anyone suggest an MFA program that isn't fluffy and isn't focused on the Identity (of being a Writer: )?

The creative writing faculty at my undergraduate university was well, pretentious - lots of talk about this person winning this prize and similar preciousness. Our teacher would invited us to a reading by an author she knew and then pretend not to know us when we got there. The teachers tended to prattle on about who won what prize and why that was Important or why they were Briiiiillllliant!

By "down-to-earth" I mean a faculty composed of genuine, straightforward, otherwise ordinary people who happen to be very talented writers (and teachers).

Thanks.



Daleth Demented (Blog)


daleth


Jul 10, 2008, 2:53 PM

Post #112 of 344 (7944 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Popular vs Literary Can't Post

Exactly. I went to a top school--and if anyone's going to be pretentious and uber-literary, you'd think it would be the top schools--but there was none of that there. There was a wide range of content in the stories people workshopped, and I never got the impression that certain content was looked down on. It was always a question of craft--character development, dialogue, style, voice, yada yada. The content was whatever you wanted it to be. We probably could've workshopped a romance novel--as long as it was well written, literary, with 3D well-developed characters, etc. Wuthering Heights is essentially a romance novel, and I don't see literary types looking down their noses at that.

One thing there was NOT at Michigan, and for which I was everlastingly grateful, was any interest in experimentation for its own sake--nobody was trying to write an entire novel without using the letter "e," or whatever, as a certain Frenchman who shall remain nameless once did. We were just trying to write good stories.


In Reply To
I'm no grad school authority, but my sense is that if they accept you in the first place, the worst you'll probably get is an urging to focus more on your characters and whatnot. All of my teachers read widely, and most didn't look down on popular fiction because it was popular; they just looked down on popular fiction that wasn't done well.



Daleth Demented (Blog)


ctodto


Jul 17, 2008, 5:54 PM

Post #113 of 344 (7831 views)
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Re: [scheherazade] Popular vs Literary Can't Post

I'm happy to see others who are not considering an MFA not because they want perfect prose, but rather to write a good, readable novel. I'm afraid I have an even darker secret to bare: The novel I seem to be writing can only be classified as fantasy. I don't, as a rule, read fantasy, though I did as an adolescent and into my early twenties. I guess I regress when I write. I have no major angst to work out on paper, and I don't see how people can immerse themselves into writing a book when the characters are all miserable. I think it would make my whole life outlook rather miserable, and since writing a book seems to take me years, I don't want to live in a sad, ugly, or violent world for that long. Which leaves me with a happy grown up fairy tale kind of world, full of conflict, sure, but not full of unhappy people.

My question here is whether anyone knows of an MFA program that would welcome that type of writing? I have to add that my undergraduate (and the more professional masters degree I already hold) were from very good schools, so my standards in general are high. I am also looking at a low-res option since children and spouse make moving not an option. Any ideas out there?


Zash
Zachary Ash

Jul 17, 2008, 8:56 PM

Post #114 of 344 (7803 views)
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Re: [ctodto] Popular vs Literary Can't Post

Stonecoast College, I believe, welcomes popular writing. It's a low-res program.


yeahyeahyeah


Jul 17, 2008, 8:57 PM

Post #115 of 344 (7803 views)
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In Reply To
I don't want to live in a sad, ugly, or violent world for that long. Which leaves me with a happy grown up fairy tale kind of world, full of conflict, sure, but not full of unhappy people.

I can't imagine this will go over very well in a workshop.

(This post was edited by yeahyeahyeah on Jul 17, 2008, 8:59 PM)


daleth


Jul 17, 2008, 9:49 PM

Post #116 of 344 (7794 views)
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Re: [ctodto] Popular vs Literary Can't Post

Where'd you get the impression that MFA programs only want books full of miserable people? Fiction doesn't have to be dark to be interesting or to sell. While it's true that the literary equivalent of Precious Moments figurines isn't going to get into any MFA program I can think of, that's the other extreme, and I'm not sure from your post that you're at that extreme. "Fantasy" doesn't mean pink and perennially sunny and full of bubbles.



In Reply To
I'm happy to see others who are not considering an MFA not because they want perfect prose, but rather to write a good, readable novel. I'm afraid I have an even darker secret to bare: The novel I seem to be writing can only be classified as fantasy. I don't, as a rule, read fantasy, though I did as an adolescent and into my early twenties. I guess I regress when I write. I have no major angst to work out on paper, and I don't see how people can immerse themselves into writing a book when the characters are all miserable. I think it would make my whole life outlook rather miserable, and since writing a book seems to take me years, I don't want to live in a sad, ugly, or violent world for that long. Which leaves me with a happy grown up fairy tale kind of world, full of conflict, sure, but not full of unhappy people.

My question here is whether anyone knows of an MFA program that would welcome that type of writing? I have to add that my undergraduate (and the more professional masters degree I already hold) were from very good schools, so my standards in general are high. I am also looking at a low-res option since children and spouse make moving not an option. Any ideas out there?



Daleth Demented (Blog)


ctodto


Jul 18, 2008, 1:34 PM

Post #117 of 344 (7755 views)
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Re: [yeahyeahyeah] Popular vs Literary Can't Post

Oh I'm perfectly happy to read and critique someone else's dark world: I'll visit, I just don't want to live there. And of course I realize everyone doesn't write depressing work or that that's required for a good book. I just wonder if anyone would take me seriously as an MFA candidate if what I want to write is in a genre considered pulpy.


v1ctorya


Jul 18, 2008, 3:45 PM

Post #118 of 344 (7733 views)
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Re: [ctodto] Popular vs Literary Can't Post


In Reply To
Oh I'm perfectly happy to read and critique someone else's dark world: I'll visit, I just don't want to live there. And of course I realize everyone doesn't write depressing work or that that's required for a good book. I just wonder if anyone would take me seriously as an MFA candidate if what I want to write is in a genre considered pulpy.



My writers group is like that, they look down on 'genre' fiction, not realizing that more and more those classifications are becoming obsolete (at least in my mind). I tend to prefer the fantastical.

Also, the latest missouri review deals with the 'agonists' of literature - why do we like to read about people who are miserable? Is it because misery is more universal a theme than happiness?

As for being taken seriously, don't worry about anything but the writing, good writing transcends drama.

Now, for why I came in here - is it bad I'm already dreaming about not getting in somewhere? In 2006 when I applied I got in to Alabama, but couldn't go. I had no idea what I was doing then and didn't expect it at all. Now, when I know if I get in somewhere I will and can go (that year I ended up breaking both feet, a couple teeth, and hopefully had my last surgery) I fear I won't get in. But, if there's one thing surgeries allow, it's time off to write and improve.

But I'm agonizing. Recommendations are a pain to get. The SOPs, the whole process. Ugh, overwelmed in July already. And that nagging in the back of my mind that this year I won't catch anyone's writerly eye again, that lightening won't strike twice. . .


yeahyeahyeah


Jul 18, 2008, 4:06 PM

Post #119 of 344 (7726 views)
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Re: [ctodto] Popular vs Literary Can't Post


In Reply To
Oh I'm perfectly happy to read and critique someone else's dark world: I'll visit, I just don't want to live there. And of course I realize everyone doesn't write depressing work or that that's required for a good book. I just wonder if anyone would take me seriously as an MFA candidate if what I want to write is in a genre considered pulpy.



I was more concerned with how your work would be received. If you don't want conflicts to be sad, ugly, or violent, what kind of conflicts do you have left?

If you're writing fantasy that is "pink and perennially sunny and full of bubbles" then prepare yourself to not be taken seriously in an MFA program.

Don't be mislead when people say it doesn't matter what you write about as long as you're a good writer. A lot more goes into craft than style.

I get the impression that you're an inexperienced writer. Am I wrong in this?

If you do a google search for "masters popular fiction" or even "masters writing for children," you'll find some good options.

Good luck to you.


v1ctorya


Jul 19, 2008, 4:53 PM

Post #120 of 344 (7665 views)
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Re: [v1ctorya] Popular vs Literary Can't Post


In Reply To

In Reply To
Oh I'm perfectly happy to read and critique someone else's dark world: I'll visit, I just don't want to live there. And of course I realize everyone doesn't write depressing work or that that's required for a good book. I just wonder if anyone would take me seriously as an MFA candidate if what I want to write is in a genre considered pulpy.



As for being taken seriously, don't worry about anything but the writing, good writing transcends drama.



Goodness love my mixed up brain. I meant to type genre. By good writing, well that includes all those things you expect when you yourself read- good characters that you care about, mood, tone, of course that conflict that brings us into the tale being told. I'm kind of sick of that whole 'literary' no endings, so see no reason why you can't have a happy ending. Gregroy Maguire started in the short story realm, literary based (love his 'Chatterbox') but is best known for Wicked, which I think of as more 'literary fiction' than quite pulp. But, everyone defines things differently. Doesn't mean you shouldn't try is all.


suzhounese



Jul 22, 2008, 10:11 AM

Post #121 of 344 (7569 views)
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Re: [v1ctorya] Popular vs Literary Can't Post

We all need to write what we feel compelled to write. My writing is very dark- sometimes I worry it is too depressing and violent for workshop- twisted with no light. I read everything from the popular to literary and even some strange new speculative type stuff which I adore.

Don't worry about labels. We had both a ghost story and meta fiction in my last workshop in a program that is definitely more on the traditional side. It is just about good writing.


writerteacher


Jul 22, 2008, 10:18 AM

Post #122 of 344 (7566 views)
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In Reply To
Don't worry about labels. We had both a ghost story and meta fiction in my last workshop in a program that is definitely more on the traditional side. It is just about good writing.


I second this solid opinion. My ss workshops have so far included historical fiction, horror, mystery, speculative, magical realism, fantasy -- and a good dose of the ol' "literary realism". We welcome the variety, and we workshop them all with the same eye toward whether what's on the page achieves what the writer was trying to accomplish. It's not about personal taste; it's about storytelling.


Raysen


Jul 29, 2008, 1:44 PM

Post #123 of 344 (7427 views)
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Re: Fiction Acceptance Rates? Can't Post

Returning to the topic of Fiction Acceptance Rates:

My belief is that the acceptance rates for applicants is somewhat misleading. (People should correct me if I'm wrong) I'll give an analogy first. High school basketball. Let's say the they cut 90% of the kids who try out. All kids who are trying out are 5'5" tall and there's one kid 6'3". Sure, the acceptance rate is 10% but if you're 6'3", I think you have a better than 10% chance of getting in.

My point is, obviously, that the applicant pool is not filled with Michael Chabons, Deborah Eisenbergs, and John Cheevers. It's filled with Joe Bores and Jane Blands. Most of them can't write to save their lives. How do I know this? Well, I don't know for sure, obviously, unless I have some inside information from the Admissions office of these schools -- and I don't. But this is my guess because I have a data sample, albeit a limited sample.

I used to belong to two writing groups which were filled with people wanting to get an MFA. In fact, these people joined the writing groups so that they can get their writing sample "workshopped" by other like-minded writers. Let me tell you...oh, the horror!!... The short stories were absolute drivel. I couldn't believe how bad they were. And most of them were applying because they had nothing better to do, or hated their job, or wanted break from life. And it was never about wanting to be a serious writer of import.

So, we workshop these godawful writing samples and we wished each other luck with the application process. Some of my workshop mates eventually went to Brown, Michigan, Hollins, Arkansas, UC Davis (MA for creative writing), U Washington, and UNLV. I couldn't believe it! How did they end up where they ended up? This is not bitterness or jealousy talking. When I belonged to the group, it was mostly for fun. I had no plans to get an MFA myself; I just liked to write short stories and, most importantly, I just wanted others to read them and see how they'd react.

I now belong to a different writing group and same thing as before, some of the members are MFA-wannabes.

So, even if a school admits only 1-4% of the applicants, my guess is that (...and it's only a guess), that roughly 50% to 66% are terrible writers with no potential or hope for improvement. That increases your odds.

So, if you can write and write fairly well (but not perfect) and the rest of your application can't hurt you too much, don't worry about your prospects. If the bozos from my writing groups can get in with their sloppy writing samples, so can you.


(This post was edited by Raysen on Jul 29, 2008, 1:50 PM)


jacarty
Jessie Carty

Jul 29, 2008, 1:58 PM

Post #124 of 344 (7420 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Fiction Acceptance Rates? Can't Post

Good post :)

And those "bad writing samples" that the writers can't seem to see for their "badness" just made me think of American Idol and those kids on there in the early stages who always say either "I know I can sing" or "Everyone says I can sing."


http://jessiecarty.com


writerteacher


Jul 29, 2008, 2:16 PM

Post #125 of 344 (7412 views)
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In Reply To
So, if you can write and write fairly well (but not perfect) and the rest of your application can't hurt you too much, don't worry about your prospects. If the bozos from my writing groups can get in with their sloppy writing samples, so can you.


Well, gosh. I believe this is how we *think* it works, as it seems intuitive; perhaps how we *wish* it would work. But the reality is "writing fairly well" is entirely subjective.

Writing well is different from believing you write well, as you discovered in your writers' groups. And then there's the third wildcard: whether or not an admissions committee believes, collectively, that you write well.

There are so many people on these boards who believe they write well; whose mentors, in fact, independently affirm this belief; who've won writing contests and published poems, stories, essays in "legitimate" venues; who *I* would identify as good writers -- and yet who did not receive offers from MFA admissions committees.

It's all subjective. Perhaps what you thought was a hot mess of a story, the Brown admissions committee identified as innovative and, therefore, a good match for its program.

I'm not saying there's not bad writing out there. I'm saying a reader's perception of what's bad is informed by academic and personal experience, ambition, ability, goals, temperament... And each MFA admissions committee is made up of several readers. It's just impossible to characterize what makes a story or poem a winner in the judgment of a committee.

Not saying this to scare anyone; just standing up for the many, many well-qualified writers who did not receive offers to increasingly competitive MFA programs.

WT

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