Mar 12, 2007, 3:19 PM
Post #95 of 2090
You're going to hear from detractors for every program. The detractors are also going to be louder than the supporters. I'd think harder before making decisions based on comments made by people you don't know. It could well be coming from someone you wouldn't trust to pick out a sandwich for you.
Re: [stephkarto1] Starting this up again, seeking your thoughts..
USM's Center for Writers, by the way, has been very generous with its students. Rick can be intimidating, but he cares about the students and looks after them. I know this sounds vague, but I'd rather not go into too much detail in a public forum. I'll just say that I see, time and time again, the Center doing what it can to help the students with their careers. These aren't just the strong writers, either. It's a small program, and you're on first-name basis with everyone, including the visiting writers when they come. I had lunch with Ann Beattie along with two other students. Tony Earley sat down next to me at his reception and shared his thoughts on writing and publishing. Amy Hempel whispered to me a private thought about metahpors in fiction after her Q & A. The year before I came we had Tim O'Brien, Percival Everett, Francine Prose, others.
Re: CW PhD programs in general, I'd suggest looking into as many as possible. University of Denver, Tennessee, Georgia, Missouri, Hawaii, Texas Tech, Ohio, Louisiana Lafayette, Houston, FSU, USC, USM, whoever else is out there. Unlike some MFA programs, most PhD programs can only accept a few people (viz. USC's two or four spots this year), and all applicants already hold MAs or MFAs. Give yourself some backups when you apply.
After you've heard back from the programs, if you can, try paying them a visit. I think it says a lot how the faculty treats you - you can tell if they really want you there or not, and how you might get along with them on a personal level. You can work with the best writer in the world, but if that person doesn't care about you as a student, as a human being, then it's not going to be a helpful experience.
I also agree with the general sentiment on "prestige." It comes down to which program is the best fit for you, really. James Kimbrell, who was the director of the FSU program, graduated from USM. Stephen Graham Jones, who directs Texas Tech, graduated from FSU. Angela Ball, who once directed the program at USM, graduated from Denver. Michael Knight, who (I think) directs the program at Tennessee, graduated from USM. It's a pretty small circle, each feeding into each other.
Re: LA, I'm from LA, grew up there. You cannot live in LA without a car. No way. USC is indeed in an unsafe neighborhood, and you wouldn't want to walk around the area. Most students commute to USC. That said, I think the city gets a bad rap. I don't think it's the best place in the world, but it's got a diverse culture, amazing restaurants, a great music scene, plenty of museums, all the positives of big cities. You just have to find your own little niche there.