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ajholtz


Feb 16, 2007, 10:14 AM

Post #151 of 710 (8615 views)
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Re: [ecphraticknolls] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? Can't Post

My apologies, everyone, for being so insensitive - it'll be the same for me next year (and starts now, i'm afraid)

I'll try again in the summer. If anyone wants to read anything of mine (swap, shall we say), let me know.


bighark


Feb 16, 2007, 10:36 AM

Post #152 of 710 (8587 views)
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Re: [ajholtz] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? Can't Post

If you haven't been there already, you may want to visit the short story section of www.zoetrope.com.

Zoetrope is a peer review website where you have to review five stories for every one story you submit. The writers on Zoetrope are a diverse bunch. Some members are just amazing and some are abysmal. If you're interested in seeing what other writers of short fiction are up to (your peers, in other words), Zoetrope is an excellent resource.


malber


Feb 16, 2007, 11:11 AM

Post #153 of 710 (8565 views)
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Re: [bighark] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? Can't Post

though... LOTS of zoetropers hate even the IDEA of getting an MFA. i've heard numerous comments about not needing a "high priced degree to write better". and that is valid. i try to tell them: i'm going for the TIME it would give me to write... not the degree, per se. oh well.

that's a lot of CAPITALIZED words for ONE POST!


v1ctorya


Feb 16, 2007, 11:27 AM

Post #154 of 710 (8543 views)
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Re: [ajholtz] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? Can't Post


In Reply To
Much as i love the unconstructive debate on this, that's not why i wrote the question. I simply want to read someone else's work, whether you've got in or not, without searching the web and having to pick up a load of journals. If no one wants to, then tough for me i guess.



This is the part that kills me, you know you can find it but don't seem willing to look. You've got a year, we're apprehensive, no need to pressure already anxious people. Many have already posted their SOP's for us, and where their application peices are published. It's not hard to find these things.


ajholtz


Feb 16, 2007, 11:35 AM

Post #155 of 710 (8535 views)
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Re: [v1ctorya] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? Can't Post

There's really no need to perpetuate this argument - I've apologized, sincerely, and although I have an idea where to look, I'm no longer a student with a library, working hours, and bookstores galore at my disposal. And to be honest, I don't really consider those who get published in lots of review my writing peers, as I can't imagine my work being published there any time soon.

So. Again, sorry, lets all be friends.


vronsky


Feb 16, 2007, 12:13 PM

Post #156 of 710 (8502 views)
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Re: [ajholtz] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? Can't Post

I know this will sound a little vague and frustrating, but submit your best work. Use whatever time you have to seek out trustworthy people to read your work & help you select the best pieces.

It's not always helpful to read another person's sample. Admissions committees admit a pretty wide range of writers. Some people are writing at a top-tier literary journal level. Some are novices fresh out of college. Most people fall somewhere in the middle. But, if you're really curious (I know I was), I suggest you look for various MFA student publications online. This can range from online journals (someone already listed one source) to poems and stories published online by various MFA programs. I know University of Michigan publishes work by their poets online (I took a class with this girl http://www.umich.edu/...ewsE/04_06/poem.html) (I was an undergrad in a mixed grad/undergrad class...she was a second year MFA student by the time this was published, I think?).

People are on edge right now. Please don't take it personally. Hope you're able to find some people in real life with whom you can discuss your work.


BlueVelveeta


Feb 16, 2007, 1:00 PM

Post #157 of 710 (8454 views)
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Re: [malber] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? Can't Post

Good point, Malber. The reason I'm applying only now (7 years out of undergrad) is because I also felt that MFA programs were mostly a giant money-making machine for schools. To some extent, I still believe that is true, though only for some schools; after all, if programs are willing to help pay a student's tuition and to provide a stipend to literally buy her time to write, their interest has to be at least somewhat extra-monetary (recognizing, of course, that they earn future prestige with each award and publication received by alumnae). Ultimately, my mind changed because I, too, decided that there were few ways clearer than pursuit of an MFA to find time to write. The past 7 years have been interesting and enriching and I wouldn't trade them for anything, but I have noticed that it has become harder and harder to find that time. Work, volunteer, social and family obligations keep popping up, and it seems that I either have to relegate poetry to hobby status (I think I've gone off on this tangent before!) or draw a line in the sand to indicate that poetry is going to be my priority for a few years. I've chosen the second, although at this point, my hopes of beginning a program this September are rapidly fading.

I've started to consider alternate ways of making the time I want---for instance, I recently took a huge pay cut to leave my full-time job for a much less demanding part-time one (I'm lucky, too, as my fiancee is helping me make this financially possible). And yesterday evening, I began to put the same level of energy I put into MFA-program research into researching grants and fellowships. Assuming I am universally rejected (which, at this point, seems the most realistic assumption), I think I'll test the fellowship/grant waters; these may prove more competitive than MFA entry, and my lack of a fine arts degree may work against me, but hell, it's a viable alternative.

I don't really have a point here. I think I just needed to articulate that for my own piece of mind. : )


(This post was edited by BlueVelveeta on Feb 16, 2007, 1:02 PM)


__________



Feb 16, 2007, 2:48 PM

Post #158 of 710 (8394 views)
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Re: [bighark] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? Can't Post

I think it's only helpful to read work that schools have accepted, anyway. And only then, with caution.

Let me explain. As bighark points out, we know the submission spectrum--work will range from very bad to very good. Random submissions won't tell us anything new. Plus no way your tiny sample will accurately point to anything.

An accepted story, on the other hand, accounts for 20% of what your average school values. That's way more helpful. And the way I see it, it helps you determine what might be your best fit. Last year I e-mailed a few people on this board (already attending various schools), and simply asked what type of stuff was handed in for workshop; what the faculty and students were open to, what they valued, what they discouraged. That's helped me the most--in fact, I did a 180 in terms of where I'll apply.

Stuff you find in journals might motivate or depress you--but it doesn't represent the quality of work a school accepts. It's a best case scenario. And usually, it's stuff a writer's done long after they've left their program anyway. I'm sure, in most cases, their application stories were much worse.

You also have to remember that, even if you could read everything top schools accept, it would still seem random. People get into Iowa but nowhere else. People publish in Paris Review, but don't get into Syracuse. People get in everywhere. People get in nowhere!


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Feb 16, 2007, 2:54 PM)


allisonbarrett


Feb 16, 2007, 2:50 PM

Post #159 of 710 (8389 views)
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Re: [BlueVelveeta] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? Can't Post

It's too soon to assume you've been universally rejected! It seems like most people haven't heard anything yet.


EastCoastPoet


Feb 16, 2007, 3:26 PM

Post #160 of 710 (8355 views)
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Re: [ecphraticknolls] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? Can't Post

You're so right it isn't funny. I've gotta say, the poetry thing seems to be a bit tougher on here and fiction simply because of the numbers. Not all of us are "highly accomplished" poets (see here, have 45 journals under our belt). For some it's because of time (I've only been really waist deep in poetry for about 2 years now) and for others it's because they just haven't sent out. And besides, maybe for fiction it seems worth the time, but poets are so different! We're a bunch of fingerprints when it comes to style and content, etc. Who the hell know what makes us perfect for one school or not! So my advice to whomever it was looking for people to share, it may seem worth it to ask now, but I have a feeling you would be better off not knowing what most other people are writing. You don't want to catch yourself trying to imitate someone who was accepted at Cornell, Iowa, etc simply because they were accepted. We're all just a bunch of paranoid MFA blog checking freaks anyhow. *refresh*


BlueVelveeta


Feb 16, 2007, 4:12 PM

Post #161 of 710 (8315 views)
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Re: [allisonbarrett] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? Can't Post

You're right, of course, but my logic goes something like this: if I assume I'm rejected now, I can begin the mourning process. That way, should I be accepted, I'll be thrilled, and should I not be, I'll already be well on my way to being over it. This is why I didn't apply for an MA in Philosophy (or Psychology), by the way.


In Reply To
It's too soon to assume you've been universally rejected! It seems like most people haven't heard anything yet.



piratelizzy


Feb 16, 2007, 4:31 PM

Post #162 of 710 (8284 views)
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Re: [BlueVelveeta] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? Can't Post


Quote
I have noticed that it has become harder and harder to find that time.


I hear you on this. It's downright painful to feel years slipping by and the demands of making a living (four hour commute, two jobs, in my case) pretty much preempting my writing. And the older I get the more conservative, in terms of realizing just how rough it may be to move yet again and try to scrape by on even less than the income I squeak by on now.

I should have worked in banking and saved up a load of money to buy myself three years to write. Or something...


'sup?!


SevenFreckles


Feb 19, 2007, 7:46 PM

Post #163 of 710 (8165 views)
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Selections vs completed stories Can't Post

Hi Everyone,

I'm new to these boards so I apologize if this has already been discussed. If it has, could someone maybe point me in the right direction?

I'm wondering if anyone sent selections of longer works and what you all think the pros/cons of this kind of writing sample might be. Does it allow you to show a variety of your work or does it just seem choppy? Obviously, everything's all said and done with the applications for this year... but I'm completely useless right now with nervousness. I'm not sure I'm even making sense and I keep dropping things and running into walls.

Anyway... any thoughts?

Thank you!

SevenFreckles


__________



Feb 19, 2007, 8:18 PM

Post #164 of 710 (8142 views)
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Re: [SevenFreckles] Selections vs completed stories Can't Post

Kealey (author of the MFA Handbook) recommends against 'selections'. The temptation, for me, is to just send well-written portions of longer work, because my strengths are more sentence-based right now, less plot-friendly. But I think the consensus is that schools see right through this, and prefer stuff that's self-contained.


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minna pratt


Feb 19, 2007, 9:08 PM

Post #165 of 710 (8106 views)
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Re: [SevenFreckles] Selections vs completed stories Can't Post

I really struggled with this question / issue when I was applying this year. I wish I could have sent a self-contained story or stories, but I tend to write stories that are longer, like 50 pages. So for most schools I sent an excerpt of 25-40 pages (depending on the school's requirement) from a story that is over 50 pages long. We'll see if this works against me and I don't get in anywhere.

I think schools like self-contained stories better because they like to see that you can end a story well, or that you have some sense of some sort of narrative arc / shape. And that makes sense to me. But (as Tom Kealey has also said) in the end you want to send what you think is your best work, which is difficult (who can definitively say what qualifies as his/her best work?) For me, this one long story was what I ultimately believed was my best work -- and what most others agreed was my best work. It's risky to send one story / selection rather than two or three and it's risky to send a number of excerpts / selections rather than self-contained stories, but in some instances I think it's a better idea to take that risk. And schools can always (though they don't often) ask to see more of your writing if they're interested. I also explained in my personal statement that I tend to write longer stories, and hoped that would explain my case a little bit.

I'd be interested to hear if anyone else sent just one excerpt (say, from a novel or longer story) or a number of "selections" or even just one story opposed to two or three. It seems like most people on this board are saying that they sent 2-3 self-contained stories.


jargreen


Feb 19, 2007, 11:06 PM

Post #166 of 710 (8050 views)
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Re: [minna pratt] Selections vs completed stories Can't Post

Hi Minna Pratt,

I sent just one story to every place that would allow it. It was a 35-page story, so it exceeded most programs' page limits. Those programs that articulated that they wanted to see two stories, for whatever insane and stupid reason, got about 50 pages from me. I just don't write those 5- to 7-page short stories.


__________



Feb 19, 2007, 11:16 PM

Post #167 of 710 (8040 views)
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Re: [minna pratt] Selections vs completed stories Can't Post

Last year I spoke with several who sent one long story, edited to fit various requirements. One of them was a semi-self-contained excerpt, the first chapter of their novel. They were accepted or waitlisted by several top schools.

So that shouldn't scare you too much. And there's always that Steve Almond article where he mentions the people who wrecked their chances by sending a good, longer story, along with a much crappier shorter one.


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Arkinese


Feb 20, 2007, 8:21 AM

Post #168 of 710 (7986 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Selections vs completed stories Can't Post


In Reply To
And there's always that Steve Almond article where he mentions the people who wrecked their chances by sending a good, longer story, along with a much crappier shorter one.

I happen to be in the middle of Almond's Candyfreak. He's an awesome writer and I imagine the article is just as good -- do you have a link, Junior Maas? And have you checked out his new co-authored book Which Brings Me to You?


__________



Feb 20, 2007, 4:15 PM

Post #169 of 710 (7899 views)
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Re: [Arkinese] Selections vs completed stories Can't Post

Sure--it's part of P&W's MFA Toolkit:

http://www.pw.org/...11/MFA%20Toolkit.htm

I like the Almond too. And he seems to have a head for business; a slick web site with monthly newsletters, and when he runs out of stories for those journals, he keeps 'em deluged with short shorts. I swear, he's got a marketing team behind him.

That link again, which is super on-topic:

http://www.pw.org/...11/MFA%20Toolkit.htm


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apelavin


Feb 20, 2007, 7:32 PM

Post #170 of 710 (7833 views)
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Re: [minna pratt] Selections vs completed stories Can't Post

I've agonized over this question a lot, as I suspect is true of everyone who (like me) sent in an excerpt rather than one or two self-contained stories. I didn't feel like I had much of a choice; I started to work on a novel about a year ago--not that I meant to, I just watched with severe apprehension as the story I was writing mushroomed into something much larger than what I originally envisioned--and it was the only recent material I had. It was also the only thing I workshopped this year (about 25 pages of it at the Napa conference this summer).

I asked my workshop leader at Napa whether he thought it was even worth applying if this was all I could use, and his response was encouraging, although he put some caveats on it. Basically he thought that I would have a good shot wherever the admissions committees believed that my story was honestly going somewhere (and that I had a good idea of where). He added that he was pretty sure that some of the committees would see it that way, although that part may have been standard pep-talk fare.

Since that conversation I've felt like the disadvantages of excerpts were realtively minor, particularly at schools that allow 35+ pages (at least in my case; the excerpt I used starts on page 1 and takes a little while to get grounded). Sure, I probably didn't even make the first cut at several places, but given the overall odds that was all but inevitable anyway. Meanwhile, if I do get in somewhere, I'll know that they're interested in the work I'm doing right now, which will preempt at least some of the inevitable self-doubt when workshops start.


LateApplicant


Feb 20, 2007, 7:43 PM

Post #171 of 710 (7819 views)
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Re: [apelavin] Selections vs completed stories Can't Post

I've heard from a couple of friends at top programs that adm. com.'s are hesitant to make decisions based on a fragment -- unless it's a VERY self-contained piece. (And some places, for instance the Michener Center at UT Austin, explicitly discourage applicants from doing so). Having said that, another friend was in a situation pretty much like yours -- he found himself "stuck" with a novel excerpt, as it were. He sent that out: only a 22-page novel chapter (and NOT the first chapter!). He got in at a top program. Warning: he was flat-out rejected by 9 other programs. But he said exactly what you said: "I know these people like what I'm doing now." So, yeah, I guess you're at some disadvantage, but it's not like you're shooting yourself in the foot. If your current best work is a novel chapter, send the novel chapter. If they like it and they're not too biased against fragments, they'll take you.


wilmabluekitty
Wilma Weant Dague

Feb 20, 2007, 8:56 PM

Post #172 of 710 (7784 views)
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Re: [maggiekate] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? Can't Post

Yeah, I don't think anyone who hasn't gotten in would like to share, but maybe someone could start a journal/anthology of pieces that got people into the top schools? I think that'd be pretty interesting. And it would generate a lot of controversy, eh?


(This post was edited by wilmabluekitty on Feb 20, 2007, 8:58 PM)


scheherazade


Feb 20, 2007, 10:31 PM

Post #173 of 710 (7731 views)
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Re: [LateApplicant] Selections vs completed stories Can't Post

I won't be applying until next year (or possibly even the year after that), but this information about novel excerpts in applications raises a few questions. I tend to think in novels - I like being able to spread my ideas out in layers - and I'm not overly confident or especially competent in short story. Given that I have some time before my application cycle, should I focus on building some better short stories, or should I concentrate on my strengths and work on my novel(s) with the aim to include an excerpt in my application?

On that note, how do novels sit within the curriculum of the average MFA program? Within fiction workshops, can I work predominantly on novels or within the themes of my ongoing novel, or will I be expected to write a lot of short stories?


pongo
Buy this book!


Feb 21, 2007, 11:30 AM

Post #174 of 710 (7655 views)
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Re: [scheherazade] Selections vs completed stories Can't Post

I got into my MFA program on a novel excerpt, and wrote a novel as my thesis. i suspect most programs are amenable to novels.

As far as workshops go, my experience is from a low-res program, so we didn't have the continuity you might have at a traditional program, but there was no trouble workshopping a section; you just had to provide whatever context made the section comprehensible.


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/


mingram
Mike Ingram

Feb 21, 2007, 2:25 PM

Post #175 of 710 (7586 views)
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Re: [pongo] Selections vs completed stories Can't Post

It's probably a good question to ask of a program (or maybe current students within it?) I generally workshopped stories -- and they are easier to workshop, since they presumably are entities unto themselves -- but one semester I workshopped sections of a novel. That was also helpful, though differently so -- the critiquing was a bit more tentative, and also a bit more encouraging, because I think people are conscious of trying to not halt your progress on the book, and aware that some questions may be answered elsewhere, etc.

Iowa periodically offers a separate novel or novella workshop, though you'd take that in addition to the regular workshop (instead of a seminar) and it's not offered every semester -- I think it depends on what the faculty wants to teach, though maybe Sam is working to standardize it.

Elizabeth McCracken once said she would advise against sending novel segments when applying for fellowships (like Provincetown, which she'd been a reader for in the past) because people naturally like reading things that stand alone, and that have beginnings and endings.

But when applying to grad school -- well, I would guess novel excerpts are fine, if the writing is good enough. Of course that's just a guess -- different readers may respond differently to different things. Which is why, at the end of the day, all you can do is send the work you're most comfortable with and see what happens.

Case in point: I had one story that got me into Iowa and a couple other places, but which didn't get me a waitership at Breadloaf, and apparently wasn't good enough to get me into Austin or Ohio State. The same story was then rejected by a bunch of journals before being published by one, which liked it enough to nominate it for a Pushcart, and then an agent read said journal and liked the story enough to get in touch and ask to see more work. Which is to say: different strokes for different folks, I guess, or something like that. Also: that story is totally The Little Engine That Could.

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