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sharonlouise


Sep 9, 2004, 9:36 AM

Post #1 of 127 (5232 views)
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MFAs - Issues of diversity Can't Post

Just wondering...as someone who dropped out of college, was wondering if anyone has heard of someone getting an MFA without having a B.A.? (& if so, where?)

thanks!
sharon


(This post was edited by motet on Feb 4, 2008, 12:29 AM)


bighark


Sep 9, 2004, 10:01 AM

Post #2 of 127 (5223 views)
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Re: [sharonlouise] getting an MFA without having a BA Can't Post

I don't have a specific example to share with you about writing programs, but I know that theater programs consider people without BA's for graduate study all the time. I'm sure it's no different for writing.

If you get accepted, you might not get an MFA per se--probably something more like a certificate--but I don't think the actual degree is what's drawing you to consider graduate school anyway.

I think you should thoroughly research the programs that interest you. Some programs (Ohio State comes to mind) are very particular about their academic requirements and restrictions, but others I think could be more open minded. Once you have a list of schools ready, write to the department chairs to see whether your lack of a BA would be a problem. If we are to belive the "manuscript is everything" mantra of all these programs, I don't think it will be.

Good luck


freeverses
James Hall

Sep 9, 2004, 12:43 PM

Post #3 of 127 (5211 views)
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Re: [sharonlouise] getting an MFA without having a BA Can't Post

Hi Sharon --

Bennington's website ways it MAY admit students without BA degrees. When I was an MFA student there, I don't think I knew anyone who had done this, but then I didn't ask anyone where they did their undergrad either. So, conceivably, you could get an MFA from Bennington's low-res seminars (a program I can recommend) without a BA.

Here's the specific language they post:

Normally a bachelor’s degree is required to gain admission, but this requirement can be waived if the quality of the work submitted warrants such an exception.

You can check them out at: http://www.bennington.edu/main.htm. Click on Graduate Programs, then Low Residency MFA in Writing, then on Admissions.

Good luck!

Yours,
James


rapunzel1983
Marisa Lee

Mar 30, 2006, 2:22 AM

Post #4 of 127 (5099 views)
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Autobiography in MFAs Can't Post

I've read in this speakeasy that autobiographical elements are considered self-indulgent in MFA programs--and I've always known it's generally considered poor art. But now I'm wondering, is this just an MFA program belief or does the whole literary world feel this way? because there are a lot of suspiciously autobiographical books that do extremely well in the world, not to mention the proliferation of just plain memoirs by famous people (confessions of a video vixen comes to mind). Joe College by Tom Perrota (who did go to Yale himself), The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (all her characters are extremely well-educated, middle or upper middle class), etc, too tired to generate a better list right now.

sorry i cant discuss this better right now

I know we were discussing autobiographical stuff as a digression for the short story link in another thread, but this isn't really about that digression--it's about MFA programs and how they react to suspiciously autobiographical material. I'm sorry if this isn't well placed, but I actually gave this some careful thought and decided this was the best place to post. this is the Questions and Concerns thread, so im assuming all questions and concerns are okay. if people dont respond here, i'll start a discussion somewhere else, with a dif. bent


viviandarkbloom


Mar 30, 2006, 2:49 AM

Post #5 of 127 (5094 views)
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Re: [rapunzel1983] Autobiography in MFAs Can't Post

I'm an MFA outsider, but I don't think it really matters. I mean, everyone draws from their own experiences when they write. Nothing wrong with that. Could you imagine Beloved written by Chris Offutt? Probably not. Most of my stories have a healthy mix of personal experience and complete fiction. But if you workshop an autobiographical story, who would know? I've been in workshops with people who ardently defended their poorly written stories by saying, "But this is a true story!" I do look down on that. But I don't look down on autobiographical fiction. Stop worrying so much.


rapunzel1983
Marisa Lee

Mar 30, 2006, 3:03 AM

Post #6 of 127 (5091 views)
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Re: [viviandarkbloom] Autobiography in MFAs Can't Post

oh, i'm not worrying; there's just nothing to do; i sit around at home all day and post whatever i can think of. also, i just like to ask a lot of questions to acquaint myself with things; i like to avoid problems whenever i can


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 30, 2006, 3:06 AM

Post #7 of 127 (5090 views)
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Re: [rapunzel1983] Autobiography in MFAs Can't Post

The thing is that autobiographical stuff TENDS to be bad. Sure, a brillant writer can pull it off (Jesus' Son anyone?), but most people can't.
Partly its a problem of perspective, not being able to step away. Partly its needing to convince everyone your life is interesting or making sure people like you as a character (explaining all your motives, etc.). It just rarely seems to work well.


viviandarkbloom


Mar 30, 2006, 3:43 AM

Post #8 of 127 (5085 views)
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Re: [rapunzel1983] Autobiography in MFAs Can't Post


In Reply To
oh, i'm not worrying; there's just nothing to do; i sit around at home all day and post whatever i can think of. also, i just like to ask a lot of questions to acquaint myself with things; i like to avoid problems whenever i can


Nothing to do??? Here's what you do: go to your local tavern, put back a few boilermakers. Find someone you don't like and start a fistfight. Spend the night in jail. In the morning, go home, sit down at the typewriter (no sterile word processor for us writers!) and write a short story about your adventures, ending in some sort of epiphany. If MFA programs don't respect autobiographical fiction, then maybe they'll respect a few hard-earned scars. Best of luck.


rapunzel1983
Marisa Lee

Mar 30, 2006, 3:44 AM

Post #9 of 127 (5100 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] The Waiting Game...Have you heard yet??? Can't Post

Are MFA programs way harder to get into now than they used to be? just random q to throw out.


sarandipidy


Mar 30, 2006, 8:20 AM

Post #10 of 127 (5065 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Autobiography in MFAs Can't Post

I disagree...I think most of the fiction you read is largely autobiographical and you just don't realize it. I don't think we're talking strict autobiography here; I think it's more a matter of drawing from your personal experiences when you're writing. And your sensibilities and emotions.


rooblue


Mar 30, 2006, 8:24 AM

Post #11 of 127 (5065 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Autobiography in MFAs Can't Post

Clench,
You simply can't mean that -- that "autobiographical stuff tends to be bad" --
Liars Club, This Boy's Life, A Death in the Family, Poisonwood Bible.

I could go on and on. Maybe you mean at the workshop level? I might argue that most stories, at the time they get workshopped, have a lot of work needed - -that's why they're in workshop.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 30, 2006, 12:28 PM

Post #12 of 127 (5020 views)
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Re: [rapunzel1983] The Waiting Game...Have you heard yet??? Can't Post

Given the huge proliferation of MFA programs, I have no doubt it is far, far easier to get into one today than before.

However, it might be harder to get into one of the top-top programs today. I'm not sure.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 30, 2006, 12:35 PM

Post #13 of 127 (5012 views)
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Re: [sarandipidy] Autobiography in MFAs Can't Post

I don't agree with you at all. However, I suspect (patially cause I kind of remember a similar post from you before) that you are using a very expansive definition of "autobiographical" that isn't really based on the actual definition. Weren't you the one who said that all stories start as some kind of emotion or a writers opinion/perspective on something or a thought in a writerss head and thus all stories are "autobiographical"?

Maybe it wasn't you, but if the above is what you mean or you mean a lot of stories tie in small details from a person's life (a news story they read once, the name of a boat they saw, a physical description based on their grandmother, etc.) then sure, I agree with you. Seems like a silly semantics game to me.

But are most stories autobiographical in any meaningful sense?
Defintely not.
At least not most of the authors that really inspire me (such as Nabokov, Borges, Saunders, Calvino, Barthelme, etc.)


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 30, 2006, 12:39 PM

Post #14 of 127 (5008 views)
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Re: [rooblue] Autobiography in MFAs Can't Post

rooblue: yes, I meant more at an MFA/undergrad/non-professional writer level.

Personal stories tend to be a crutch, at that level, for writers who can't create new voices and can't think up new plots. Their own voice and their own life are all they can work with.

Yes, at the MFA/undergrad level most stories are bad. But a larger percentage of autobiographical ones are, in my experience.

(Although at the professional level, I do often have a sneaking suspicion that horrible books I read tend to be autobiographical, such as "Prep" by Curtis Sittenfield, but it is hard to know as most novel writers know people are biased against boring re-tellings of their life, so they won't say if it is autobiographical or not.)


sk1grrl


Mar 30, 2006, 12:41 PM

Post #15 of 127 (5006 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Autobiographical Writing Can't Post

I think that this pronouncement about autobiographical writing is similar to the "no stories about children" requirement that was mentioned in another thread about submissions to BU. People have their own bizarre cranky rules, and I think that trying to follow them will ultimately really limit you as a writer. i'm speaking here about the strict definition of autobiographical, events that a biographer could pick out from your life and match up with the plot of a story.

I don't see how one could really avoid writing an autobiographical story in the general sense. That would be like trying to write a story the way someone else would write it--you inevitably bring to the table your experiences, your style, your interests, the way you perceive the tone of someone's voice. Why would you want to avoid that?


(This post was edited by sk1grrl on Mar 30, 2006, 12:52 PM)


Windiciti



Mar 30, 2006, 1:08 PM

Post #16 of 127 (4982 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Autobiography in MFAs Can't Post


Quote
Weren't you the one who said that all stories start with
some kind of emotion or a writer's opinion/perspective....


I'm the one who said that!
Most of my stories start with something I saw, heard, read, observed, happened to me or someone else, etc. etc.

Sometimes with a first sentence or word that comes into my head...I carry a little notebook in my purse for those inspirations.

And, as far as workshopping semiautobiographical stuff, it is TRUE as someone else said, no one should know.
That is if you clothe your tale with different details, not just those from your own life, so people can immediately tell, which would be a little jejune on the writer's part!

No offense here, this is not about anyone's writing---I don't know how or what my fellow posters write.

What we write though, and what we observe is inescapably filtered through our own experience. So sometimes to disguise the autobiographical nature of my tale, when it is too obvious, I will do it from another POV, etc., etc.
Also, in general, try to make sure that what I write is not always from the first person POV.

And, oh, yes! In my first workshop when I wrote something almost autobiographical, and someone questioned if that cd. have really happened, I did burst out with, "But it's true!"

The prof responded that fiction should be believable regardless, and I have learned that lesson since.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 30, 2006, 1:11 PM

Post #17 of 127 (4975 views)
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Re: [sk1grrl] Autobiographical Writing Can't Post

I'm not making any rules or requirements. Autobiographical fiction can be good. I'm just saying that, at this level, it normally isn't and, to answer Rapunzel's questions, I think the bias against such stories extends beyond the MFA world.

As for the "general" definition of autobiographical, yes, its basically a tautology.


pongo
Buy this book!


Mar 30, 2006, 1:13 PM

Post #18 of 127 (4975 views)
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Re: [Windiciti] Autobiography in MFAs Can't Post

Marisa, one of the major thrusts of my MFA study was learning how to make use of my own life as material. My novel isn't autobiographical in the traditional sense, but it does use autobiographical elements, and no one has complained about that part of it.

Some of the books I studied in that connection include The Ghost Writer (Roth), A Pair of Blue Eyes (Hardy), Bastard out of Carolina (Allison), and The Small House at Allington (Trollope). There's a huge difference between thinking your story is fascinating because it happened to you and making use of your own life because you can find a universal element in it.

dmh


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 30, 2006, 1:28 PM

Post #19 of 127 (4962 views)
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Re: [Windiciti] Autobiography in MFAs Can't Post


Quote

I'm the one who said that!
Most of my stories start with something I saw, heard, read, observed, happened to me or someone else, etc. etc.


I guess I'm just confused as to how a story based on something you read that happend to someone else could possibly be construed as "autobiographical?"

It seems tantamount to saying that everything you write, even a biography of Thomas Jefferson or a plot summary of Lolita, is autobiographical since the words came out of your head...


(This post was edited by Clench Million on Mar 30, 2006, 1:32 PM)


Windiciti



Mar 30, 2006, 2:04 PM

Post #20 of 127 (4947 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Autobiography in MFAs Can't Post

That's funny! It's also a good point.

I think when you are a new writer, you do write more autobiographically, but as you progress you do the other things I mentioned.

Since I write fiction, even if I write about Thomas Jefferson in a fictional way, I wd. still filter the facts through my own experience.

I have written stories with male and female protagonists, Americans, Brits, Hindus, Middle Easterners, Latinos, Jews, etc. from different POV's.
Obviously they are not all about me or my experiences.


sk1grrl


Mar 30, 2006, 5:08 PM

Post #21 of 127 (4896 views)
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Re: [Pongo] Autobiography in MFAs Can't Post


In Reply To
"There's a huge difference between thinking your story is fascinating because it happened to you and making use of your own life because you can find a universal element in it."


Thank you, I think that statement really sums it up beautifully.


bennyprof


Feb 2, 2008, 12:28 AM

Post #22 of 127 (5105 views)
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Post deleted by bennyprof

 


smulis


Feb 2, 2008, 12:38 AM

Post #23 of 127 (5096 views)
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Re: [bennyprof] Washington U Can't Post

...and Bashi did you mean Monday the 28th? the 25th was a Friday.
I suppose it doesn't make a huge difference but the 28th somehow seems more hopeful for the rest of us!


fel


Feb 2, 2008, 7:34 AM

Post #24 of 127 (5052 views)
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Re: [bennyprof] Washington U Can't Post

yes, bennyprof, i agree that it is completely irrelevant that the person accepted into indiana may or may not be of japanese origin. if that person was accepted, let us assume as we would in any other case that it is because the program committee liked the writing simple. i think it's unwise for us to speculate that anyone has been accepted at any school because of their national origin, or any other markers of identity.


(This post was edited by fel on Feb 2, 2008, 7:36 AM)


fel


Feb 3, 2008, 11:14 AM

Post #25 of 127 (5002 views)
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Re: [bennyprof] Washington U Can't Post

bennyprof, thank you for editing your post to exclude the mention of ethnicity/nationality as a basis for the person's admission to indiana university (i state this so it is clear what my post was in response to).

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