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creative8
John Smith


Sep 20, 2004, 1:45 PM

Post #1 of 213 (8922 views)
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Preparing for an MFA Can't Post

Two or three years from now, I'll be trying to get into MFA area . Those who went to MFA schools whether hi-res or low-res. What advice can you tell undergraduates so they can prepare themselves to be accepted at MFA's. or how to get over if you're not accepted at MFA schools.
e.g--be nice to your professors so they can give you letters of recommendation.

please be specific.



thanks
js


(This post was edited by motet on Feb 22, 2007, 6:57 PM)


hapworth


Sep 20, 2004, 3:00 PM

Post #2 of 213 (8907 views)
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John,

You can increase your chances of MFA acceptance if you work on your writing a lot. More than any other part of your application, the creative writing sample will be make or break. GRE scores, rec letters, statement of pupose, grades are somewhat important, but I'm willing to bet that a knockout creative portfolio will overshadow not-so-great GRE scores, rec letters, statements of purpose, and grades.

Do you attend an undergrad institution that offers workshops? Are there faculty members who actively publish creative writing? You should enroll in workshops and/or form close relationships with faculty who can help you with your work. If your undergrad English department doesn't offer workshops or doesn't feature many poets or fiction writers, you might check out opportunities available in your community or online. Really, your writing is your ticket.

I don't know what to say about how to get over not being accepted. Aside from your writing sample, you stand your best chance of being accepted if you apply to 8-10 schools. If you have some sense of how strong your work is, this will help you decide the top and bottom levels of your range. Although others would disagree, I don't recommend taking a shot at Iowa, Cornell, or Cal/Irvine if your stuff's clearly very rough. I see too many students attack "top ten" schools only to suffer rejections. I know successful authors who have graduated from MFA programs like Alabama and Wichita State. Research as many programs as possible and target 8-10 schools that represent reach schools and safety schools for your talent level. For one student, that might mean applying to Iowa on down to Alabama. For another student, that might mean applying to Alabama on down to, oh, I don't know Wichita State. :-)

I hope this feedback helps,

Hapworth


creative8
John Smith


Sep 20, 2004, 3:09 PM

Post #3 of 213 (8905 views)
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Hapworth(why are you named hapworth, I'm sure you're worth your weight in gold).

Very, very good. hapworth. Aside from regular classes, I'm attending workshops of known authors, sit in with literary agents , read Poets and Writers, and interact in Speakeasy.. to get to know writers like you.

good day , hapworth..

js


(This post was edited by creative8 on Sep 20, 2004, 4:25 PM)


creative8
John Smith


Sep 20, 2004, 4:35 PM

Post #4 of 213 (8892 views)
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In Reply To
, but I'm willing to bet that a knockout creative portfolio will overshadow not-so-great GRE scores, rec letters, statements of purpose, and grades.

Hapworth


How do you know if you have a 'knockout creative portfolio" ? What are the contents of a creative portfolio? If you're doing an MFA in poetry, does the portfolio consists of several related poems? If you're doing an MFA in fiction,
does the portfolio consists of a novel or related short stories running on a theme?

The above quote from Hapworth sounds like it's a form of a Stegner fellowship where your degrees or grades or recommendation don't matter but your writing samples do .

js.


(This post was edited by creative8 on Sep 20, 2004, 4:45 PM)


pongo
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Sep 20, 2004, 6:43 PM

Post #5 of 213 (8877 views)
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Humility is a big help (although an author also needs a dose of arrogance, too). Recognize that you can learn from those with greater genius or more experience, and figure out how to do it.

I strongly recommend taking a year or two off between the BA and the MFA. You can work on your writing, get an idea of the job market, and learn your strengths. College is a great time to play in all the fields, but for an MFA you're going to have to pick one genre to work in, and you should know which one you want that to be.

dmh


rutha


Sep 20, 2004, 6:56 PM

Post #6 of 213 (8874 views)
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Just to add (or reiterate) I point I made earlier when this subject came up in another thread, I agree, the most important thing is your writing. But it's also important to note that many creative writing programs are part of a larger English dept, and you may have to meet their requirements as far as GPA, GREs, English background (though I've heard that some are moving away from that and are looking for more well-rounded writers who may not have "traditional" backgrounds). You can still get in if they like your writing but you may not qualify for financial aid (an assistantship/fellowship, etc.). BTW, Wichita State is one of those programs that I applied to and got in, but had a hard time getting aid because I didn't fit the "profile" of an English major grad (I'd never taken a lit course above the 100 level, and their program was rather rigorous in terms of credits in lit that you had to take -- as many if not more as you would for workshops). They did wait list me for an assistantship, but I opted for another program. Hope this helps!


creative8
John Smith


Sep 20, 2004, 9:13 PM

Post #7 of 213 (8863 views)
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though I've heard that some are moving away from that and are looking for more well-rounded writers who may not have "traditional" backgrounds

rutha
___________________________________________________________

what is a 'traditional' background? Is this a major in Literature or English?
What is a profile of an English major grad? Some of the best writers or poets in literature as history proved don't have these backgrounds. I've read that majoring in English doesn't make you a great storyteller or being a major in Lit doesn't make one a great writer either.

For financial assistance, whose income are they looking into ? My parents or mine(no income at all). In college, they look at your parents' income to get aid. Even then, some students who have received scholarships at Ivy-league universities didn't enroll because they couldn't afford the expenses even though they were admitted.

very, very good rutha--I hope you win a contest one of these days. i responded to your post in contest rules.







(This post was edited by creative8 on Sep 20, 2004, 9:16 PM)


bighark


Sep 21, 2004, 12:16 PM

Post #8 of 213 (8846 views)
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Woah!

You write "What is a 'traditional' background? Is this a major in Literature or English?" Don't worry about this.

There's no "traditional" background for an MFA student that I'm aware of. George Saunders, for instance, is as fine of an American writer/MFA graduate that I can think of, and his undergrad degree was in engineering.

While there are some programs (Ohio State and Western Michigan come to mind) that require students to have an English lit background, I don't think you need to worry about which major your choose. Most MFA programs really don't care about your background, so choose a course of study that interests you. The undergraduate experience is like nothing else you'll encounter in life--you won't have another chance to indulge your intellectual curiosity like this ever again, so study whatever you want.

You write, "What is a profile of an English major grad?"

Your guess is as good as mine, buddy.

You write, "Some of the best writers or poets in literature as history proved don't have these backgrounds. I've read that majoring in English doesn't make you a great storyteller or being a major in Lit doesn't make one a great writer either."

Sounds like your instincts are correct. If you want to study art history or theater or physics or business, go right ahead.

You write, "For financial assistance, whose income are they looking into?"

This is an excellent question. Fortunately, "financial aid" for graduate school doesn't work the same way it does for undergraduate work.

Since you have a lot of time between now and when you intend to apply to graduate school, I encourage you to take a look at the ways different programs handle tuition and financial assistance. You may be surprised at how this works.

For starters, financial assistance in graduate school is nearly always merit based. Your income or your parents' income is never really part of the equation.

Different programs do things different ways.

Some programs offer full tuition remission and fellowship support for their students for each year of the program. These programs are typically small and selective, accepting only 10 writers a year. Fellowship can include a job as an editor on the program's literary journal, a T.A.ship, or graduate assistantship, and usually gives a student between 8,000 and 16,000 to live on for the year.

Some programs offer full tuition remission to all students but fellowship support to only some. Like the above example, these schools are typically small and selective.

Some programs offer tuition and fellowship awards to some students and not to others. These programs are larger than the above examples but are no less competitive. Iowa works this way. In such a program, incoming students are awarded support based on certain rubrics. These awards are granted from both the graduate college and the program itself, so criteria can vary. For example, a graduate college may award a student fellowship support based on a very high GRE score (think 1500 or above) or undergraduate GPA. The program itself, meanwhile, would never consider anything beyond the manuscript as a basis for award.

Anyway, in this model, it's possible for a non-English lit major with a sub-par GPA and poor GRE scores to get accepted to a program like Iowa (one of the finest in the nation) and receive no fellowship or tution support.

Finally, some programs offer little or no support at all. Schools like Columbia, Sarah Lawrence, and most of the low-res programs do not offer tuition remission or fellowship support for first-year students. These are also excellent programs.

You may ultimately elect to apply for traditional financial aid in the form of loans through the program that you intend for a number of reasons. Perhaps you only get a partial tution remission, or maybe your fellowship of 7,500 isn't enough to live on without having to get a job. If you play your cards right, though, you can skip this altogether.

Good luck to you.


creative8
John Smith


Sep 21, 2004, 1:33 PM

Post #9 of 213 (8836 views)
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very very good bighark. I would like to take credit for the questions of 'traditional' background or 'profile of an English major grad'(they're rutha's).

your answer can be a paper already,"What undergraduates need to know if they want to go for an MFA in creative writing." You are indeed a writer
bighark. You write with much sense. What kind of a hark are you? a Raiders' of the Lost Ark?

with much thanks,

js


(This post was edited by creative8 on Sep 21, 2004, 1:36 PM)


rutha


Sep 21, 2004, 2:04 PM

Post #10 of 213 (8830 views)
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Since I brought it up, what I meant by "traditional" is an undergraduate English major where you've taken a lot of English/American lit classes, maybe some undergrad writing classes too. And big hark is right, there are a lot of options, every program is different, and there are lots of writers from all backgrounds (besides Saunders, Ethan Canin, a medical doctor who I think teaches at Iowa fulltime now after graduating from there a few years back, comes to mind, among many others...)

JS, good luck with your research/decisionmaking --


WinstonAMC


Oct 15, 2004, 3:43 PM

Post #11 of 213 (8787 views)
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I am just finishing up a senior year at a liberal arts school with one of the finer creative writing programs in the country for undergrad and am close to finishing all the workshops here. How much does this experience put one ahead of the game as so many schools accept such minute percentages? Thanks


rutha


Oct 15, 2004, 5:51 PM

Post #12 of 213 (8780 views)
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For MFA programs, it's all about your writing (along with some other things, as we've talked about here), but the primary factor is your work. If you've done a lot of writing in your undergrad workshops, you probably already have a pretty good portfolio of work developed -- that's going to really help you a lot. And the fact that you're serious (as shown by your preparation). I would also think that you've worked with some people who can give you some very good recommendations (and might even have some connections?). So that's my take -- hope it helps.


WinstonAMC


Oct 15, 2004, 7:25 PM

Post #13 of 213 (8774 views)
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Thanks,
Along the same lines, are a couple of good recommendations from famous writers going to be wildly better than a good recommendation from just anyone familiar with your writing. Does it really make that much of a difference?


rutha


Oct 16, 2004, 1:02 AM

Post #14 of 213 (8761 views)
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I'd say that if you happen to have a teacher who is also famous person (somebody like Joyce Carol Oates or Toni Morrison, for instance), then by all means, I'd use them as a recommendation! But I think the bottom line is having a teacher/writer that you respect who can comment in detail about your work and who knows you and your potential -- famous or not. Ideally you'd want someone you've had a class with and who has seen your work develop and grow, who can talk about your ability to work with a story or poem and take it to a polished, final product, and perhaps even how you'd contribute to an MFA program as a participant. My sense is that teachers you have had will most likely have written letters before for other people, and should have a pretty good idea of what a good letter should contain. Again, though, it's all about your writing sample, how it "fits" with what that particular program is looking for, whether they think you have promise and can benefit from the program. In other words, you can be a fabulous writer and still get turned down -- the whole thing, as anyone who's gone through the process can tell you, is maddeningly subjective.

That's my two cents.

Anyone else have thoughts on this?


wiswriter
Bob S.
e-mail user

Oct 16, 2004, 9:08 AM

Post #15 of 213 (8757 views)
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Having experience in a good undergraduate creative writing program will help you. Not having any life experience between that and your MFA will hinder you. The old saw says write what you know, and there's concern among MFA folk and the literary world in general about overprofessionalizing, about too many writers having nothing to write about except writing. My advice to any young writer graduating from college would be to consider spending a few years in the real world before you jump into the MFA. If you do jump in, it might be a good idea to demonstrate to the committee, ideally through your manuscript but also if possible through your essay or recommendations, a level of maturity and diversity of life experience exceeding that of the typical college senior.

As for the question about who makes the best recommender, the best thing obviously would be a famous writer who knows you and your writing well. But I think the knows-you-well part trumps the famous part. The point of a recommendation is to tell the committee something. I think a recommendation from a famous person who doesn't have much to say is just going to irritate them.

Care to divulge which undergrad program you're in?

Good luck! Keep us posted about what you're thinking, where you're applying, etc.


WinstonAMC


Oct 16, 2004, 7:12 PM

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thanks for the words of advice, just getting nervous about applying to places. I think you are completely right about not going strait into it. I'm at kenyon and I was talking to my current poetry professor's about mfa programs/advice. She was very adamant about two things: taking a year off at least before you go and making sure you get money. David Lynn, who'se the editor for the kenyon review, walked by and said something along the lines of getting some experience under your belt. So I think what you say is quite true. As far as programs? I'm definately going to apply to a good number of them, Brown sounds appealing. I hear it's focused on experimental writing. I have been doing alot of that since my second fiction class but don't want to be hemmed in by an insistance upon it as there are many other valid approaches to a story. Does anyone know what Brown's program is like more specifically?


WinstonAMC


Oct 20, 2004, 4:02 AM

Post #17 of 213 (8717 views)
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Hey everyone, thanks again for the hope. I was wondering, I am to an extent interested in experimenting but not trying to (hope I am not reiterating something i said earlier) be hemmed in by an insistance upon that. What programs are open minded about such things. Anyone in one that knows etc? Thanks


scheherazade


Feb 20, 2007, 10:48 PM

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I've wanted to write for most of my life, but tucked it aside throughout my practical teens and early twenties, and only recently realized there's nothing else I want to do. I've started taking some night classes to coax my inner writer out of hiding, but I'd like to eventually break free from the day-job/night-passion life and pursue an MFA in creative writing. Given that I have about a year until the deadline for the next application cycle, and 18 months before the program would commence, what things can I do to prepare myself for an MFA? There are a few ideas that come to mind, and some combination of all may be ideal, but the more time I spend on any one of these pursuits, the less I will have for the others. Which should be my priorities for the upcoming year?

-Taking writing classes at night school; options include focusing within my genre (fiction/novels), sampling other genres (screenwriting, poetry, nonfiction, short story), or taking related (but more marketable) courses like magazine publishing and journalism

-Freelance writing for magazines to build a bit of a portfolio (for schools that want a multigenre portfolio), practice writing and finding ideas, and getting paid instead of paying tuition for the learning experience

-Working at my day job, or picking up a part-time job teaching test prep to gain teaching experience and save money for MFA tuition and living expenses

-Saving up my spare time to read all the great books I've ignored (I was a science major in school, so I have a LOT of catching up to do)

-Living life! Being free to explore and find ideas - but also spending money and not doing the aforementioned things



I'm focused on preparing for the MFA, so what can I do now to best prepare for 18-30 months down the line?


chopsaw


Feb 21, 2007, 7:50 AM

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Before I did the MFA route I took a couple of writing classes that were very helpful. I also disciplined myself to write every day. I would certainly suggest trying to get some clips under your belt. A good place to start is with newspapers, and then work toward magazines.

The other thing is to read. You must enjoy it. If not, you're in for quite a time. I would suggest grabbing Francine Prose's "How to Read Like a Writer." I'm certain other posters will have some good advice as well.

If you want to write I would suggest that your job be as far removed from writing as possible.

Best of luck with your endeavors.


pongo
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Feb 21, 2007, 11:25 AM

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I agree that the best preparation for an MFA is to write and read as much as possible, but I don't agree that you should keep your work as far from writing as you can.

When I wrote my first novel, I was working as a book editor. When I was finishing up my MFA, I was working as a staff writer on a newspaper. I realize that not everyone can compartmentalize, but not everyone can't, either.


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chopsaw


Feb 21, 2007, 11:31 AM

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Just my two cents. I'm certain there are plenty of people out there that can work as editors, copywriters, etc., and write damn fine novels. I happen to be of the sort that needs to break things up a bit.


ghostracer


Feb 22, 2007, 1:25 PM

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First of all, you're doing a good thing by deciding this early on in the application process that this is something you're going to do this year. I applied (and am currently waiting to hear from six schools, and I'm thinking the 3-4% acceptance rate is going to knock me out of contention) last year, and didn't decide until about July or August. Two things gave me extreme paranoia:
1) Recommendations. This mostly went alright for me, but I had to send in my last rec late to 5 out of my 6 schools. I think they all accepted it, but it drove me nuts for the month I was waiting to attach the final portion of my application. I would recommend you get your recommendations sent to you as soon as possible. That way, you can have them sitting on your desk, waiting to be mailed, and it will motivate you in yet another way.
2) Writing Samples. This is the other reason I don't expect to get accepted--I didn't trust my instincts enough on my writing sample. Instead, I tried writing new stories, making them flashy and silly, and they are probably going to be regarded with contempt. I would recommend doing as much writing as possible up through the summer. But work on short stories, it seems that most schools prefer them, and most self-contained chapters are hard to decide on.

Night time writing classes are good. I took one myself last year, and some of the other students' interest in MFAs opened me up to it. My personal feeling on workshops is that they are most useful for thinking about writing for an audience. I personally didn't submit any "MFA writing samples" to my workshop, and I regret that.

I think writing freelance would be very helpful for your application, but I also think it's pretty hard to find freelance work. Then again I've never forced myself to find any.

Basically it's never too early to start. You don't want to be doing what I did and ruining the holidays in December with frantic scrambling to complete the necessary materials.


flyinghouses.blogspot.com




malber


Feb 22, 2007, 7:31 PM

Post #23 of 213 (8483 views)
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Scheherazade: there is only one thing that matters with MFA apps - the writing sample. If you want to do fiction, you should focus on that, not worrying about freelance writing. Yes, it might be a great experience, and certainly it wouldn't hurt you, but working on your sample (on your own, workshopping it online, in a night class) would give you the biggest advantage.

also, check your programs and see if they require the GRE. its not a huge important thing, but if you need it, getting it out of the way is a plus.

so just write. revise, revise. write some more. that's the best advice i can give you.


scheherazade


Feb 22, 2007, 8:27 PM

Post #24 of 213 (8452 views)
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In Reply To
Just my two cents. I'm certain there are plenty of people out there that can work as editors, copywriters, etc., and write damn fine novels. I happen to be of the sort that needs to break things up a bit.



Unfortunately, I have to agree with chopsaw. I don't think I could write if I spent my entire day with words - I find it hard enough to meet deadlines for my night school workshop on top of a day job where I read research articles and interviews and write reports. And this is a job where writing skills and artistic expression mean very little. I don't think I could handle a job that is any more language-centric and still find the energy to write. But I envy anyone who can!


scheherazade


Feb 22, 2007, 8:57 PM

Post #25 of 213 (8440 views)
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Thanks for the tips. Definitely some important things to keep in mind when during the application process. I still have a few months before I need to focus on the application, but I'll remember to give myself plenty of time. I bought a GRE prep book, and I've been researching on the Internet those sort of application details they don't really tell you on program websites (for example, your 20 page writing sample should probably be composed of 1-2 short stories that you've workshopped extensively beforehand).

I have the application process in the back of my mind, but given that I have some time still, I'd be especially interested to know if there are things I can do to prepare for the degree program itself, especially for someone who didn't major in English or Creative Writing in undergrad. Reading Francine Prose's book is an excellent suggestion - I'm on the library waiting list for that one. I'm trying to spend a lot of time reading, but is it better to push myself to read as many classics as possible, or focus more on books that appeal most to me (which can be classics, but often aren't)? I'm trying to balance between classics and brain candy, because the fun books inspire me more as a writer, but sometimes I'll find a book that is both classic and candy.

I'll probably do a little freelancing, because I feel like that's an easy way to develop my voice but also find material, and doing interviews helps me get over my shyness. Not to mention it pays. Plus, I may apply to a multi-genre program that requires a writing sample in 2-3 genres - so published clips would be a great portfolio addition, and presumably could be something to list in applications for other schools as well. But it won't be my key focus.

I'd still love to hear any other tips about things a person can do to prepare for an MFA - either for the application process or the program itself. Read a lot? Write a lot? Live a lot? Save up? Ideally, you'd do a little of everything, but is there one thing that is most important or most overlooked?


malber


Feb 22, 2007, 9:13 PM

Post #26 of 213 (3332 views)
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well, i definitely didn't save up... :) of course, i'm not in yet... AND i only applied to programs who fund all their students. so there's that...

i wasn't an english undergrad either, so to prepare, i took a few classes at Eastern Michigan (upper level fiction for undergrads)... then i got rejected from a few schools my first time around (only applied to 3 highly selective places...and i was NOT ready). so i ended up working on (and this april, finishing) my M.A. in creative writing! so i HOPE i'm ready :) who knows, though?

as far as reading... there are few people you should read, but i wouldn't jam Joyce and Faulkner down your throat if they aren't your thing. i think MFA's are often about what's happening now in fiction, so i'm kind of focusing on the modern masters of short story/novel writing... my list would include:

Haruki Murakami, Donald Barthelme, William Trevor, George Saunders, maybe Ben Marcus and David Foster Wallace if you want some experimental. i really enjoyed "The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories" if you're looking for a collection. some great writers there: Lipsyte, Saunders, Powell, Bender, Wallace, Wells Tower, among others.


v1ctorya


Feb 23, 2007, 10:00 AM

Post #27 of 213 (3276 views)
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A note about the GREs- if you don't take them before September then that book is worthless, they're doing a major overhaul. Personally, I prefer the test now, it's shorter in time (soon it will be two sections of verbal and two of math, and you can't take it as often - only 20 test dates or so will be offered as well. Just a point to ponder.


jaywalke


Feb 23, 2007, 10:31 AM

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In Reply To
as far as reading... there are few people you should read, but i wouldn't jam Joyce and Faulkner down your throat if they aren't your thing. i think MFA's are often about what's happening now in fiction, so i'm kind of focusing on the modern masters of short story/novel writing...


This is an interesting discussion. I was just reading an article on Stephen Dixon's retirement from Johns Hopkins, and he mentions the reading background of students here:

"When I give stories to undergrads, I'll ask who's read Tolstoy. Nobody's read Tolstoy. Or I mention James Joyce, when we read a story from Dubliners, maybe one or two have read a story in high school. When I first started out, kids were much more serious as readers, and I could actually have literary discussions
with them, which I cannot do now. Even the ones who are the most avid writers are not avid readers. They just want to write.It's a paradox. It hasn't really stopped undergrads from becoming better writers than the readers who were writing before. You would think just the opposite. But then there's a problem. We grew up on Dostoevsky, Conrad, if there was ever a serious name, we read that writer. It also told us what not to write, because if the thing has been taken up
already, and you have a history of having read it, you want to go on to something new. So a lot of students are sort of writing what's already been written."

Complete article here: http://citypaper.com/printStory.asp?id=13229


Mainer


Feb 23, 2007, 10:45 AM

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Joyce and Faulkner should be jammed down throats with reckless abandon. IMHO, "The Dead" and "The Bear" should be required reading for any writer of fiction.


malber


Feb 23, 2007, 10:51 AM

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Re: [Mainer] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

i'm not saying they aren't good, mind you. i'm not saying that i haven't read them. i'm saying if you haven't read a lot of classic literature, the surest way i know to really put you off on it would be to try and digest Ulysses. Maybe Faulkner was the wrong "other author" to add to that list of two, though.

and as far as that idea of "i can't have a literary discussion with my students anymore" goes, maybe he just can't have a discussion about the same people. yes, joyce and faulkner are both brilliant... but they don't speak to me in the same way as some of the newer (arguably less brilliant) writers do today.

i know i'm going to be killed for saying this, though.


jaywalke


Feb 23, 2007, 11:02 AM

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In Reply To
i'm not saying they aren't good, mind you. i'm not saying that i haven't read them. i'm saying if you haven't read a lot of classic literature, the surest way i know to really put you off on it would be to try and digest Ulysses. Maybe Faulkner was the wrong "other author" to add to that list of two, though.

and as far as that idea of "i can't have a literary discussion with my students anymore" goes, maybe he just can't have a discussion about the same people. yes, joyce and faulkner are both brilliant... but they don't speak to me in the same way as some of the newer (arguably less brilliant) writers do today.

i know i'm going to be killed for saying this, though.



I don't think it's a classic vs. modern argument. He is saying they don't read at all. I try to read like the women I've dated: broad and shallow, old and young. (Malber: THAT is a statement to get one killed. I don't think the Barnes & Noble Classics mafia is coming after you. I'll draw their fire, you make a run for it. :-)

"Ulysses" drove me nuts, too.


(This post was edited by jaywalke on Feb 23, 2007, 11:06 AM)


Mainer


Feb 23, 2007, 11:13 AM

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I'm not trying to argue with anyone, I just think people are afraid of some writers unnecessarily. I suggest to writing students that they start with the short stories. I also suggest they read Ulysses and Faulkner's novels with some help--preferably a seminar course or annotated reader's guides.


malber


Feb 23, 2007, 11:25 AM

Post #33 of 213 (3202 views)
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Re: [Mainer] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

yeah, mainer. i don't disagree. but he said he'd been away from lit for most of his life... and he mentioned reading the "classics". to me, that set off warning bells, like "don't send him into that stuff unprepared!"

also, i think it's important to know that almost nobody writes like that anymore. some would argue we're getting worse as writers, but i think we just speak to a culture much different than when the classicists wrote. just a thought.

annotation is KEY though. i just reread Lolita (i recommend!) with an annotated version and it was SO MUCH more interesting... i didn't get half of the references he was making.


jobieh
Jobie Hughes
e-mail user

Feb 23, 2007, 11:38 AM

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In the most recent issue of Poets and Writers, and I'm simply saying this because it somewhat follows this conversation and not because I agree with it, but Walter Mosley writes "Many writers, and teachers of writing, spend so much time comparing work to past masters that they lose the contemporary voice of the novel being created in this day. You will not become a writer by aping the tones and phrases, form and content, of great books of the past..."

I would agree for the most part that it is very rare to see books written in the style of Faulkner, or Joyce (though I simply believe that nobody could write like Joyce if they wanted to, though that's a good thing), and maybe that is why contemporary writers connect better with the audience these days, though I think it's a shame that few books are written anymore with the levels of complexity of these greats as well. Milan Kundera maybe, but that's about all I can think of off the top of my head.


pongo
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Feb 23, 2007, 11:49 AM

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Re: [scheherazade] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

The most important single thing you can do to prepare for the program is the most important single thing you can do to improve your writing: practice thinking like a writer. When you read something, think about how and why the author did it that way, and what you can learn from it. When you write something, think about how and why you did it that way and not some other way.


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/


Mainer


Feb 23, 2007, 12:12 PM

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Great advice, Pongo.
Francine Prose's new book, Reading Like a Writer, is a fantastic resource for understanding how to think along those lines. I had very low expectations for the book, but I was blown away by its depth and insight.

Style issues aside, Joyce's stories are a perfect place to learn how to read like a writer. "Araby" and "The Dead" are masterpieces of story writing and aren't dated in the least when it comes to technique and craft. And that's why Joyce should be read.


piratelizzy


Feb 23, 2007, 12:19 PM

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In Reply To
I don't think I could write if I spent my entire day with words


I work as an editor and I find that it's just the opposite for me. The more I write, the more I discover myself as a writer, the more exciting writing gets. I only wish I had more time to apply the momemtum to my personal projects. The biggest obstacles for me are my commute and the number of hours I have to spend keeping up with the tasks of making a living and staying afloat (as basic and spare as I try to make my life).

As far as how to prepare... I would say just write. Find your voice. Write, write, write. Get better. If going to classes and workshopping your writing motivates you to keep writing, then do that. Not everyone will want/need to go the way of classes, though. Some people--like me--enjoy writing as more of a solitary endeavor. Writing is writing; it is not workshopping... But preparing yourself to be a writer will take exploration, discovery and practice. So get that done, however you can. Oh, and yeah... Read. No one's mentioned Flaubert, but he is really "the source" of the realist vein of writing that still dominates fiction. And read some criticism, too, if you can stand it. It can provide perspective for some people.


'sup?!

(This post was edited by piratelizzy on Feb 23, 2007, 12:38 PM)


EastCoastPoet


Feb 23, 2007, 2:41 PM

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The greatest advice I ever received as a writer came from Dr. Herbert Woodward Martin, my "mentor" if you will. He said, and of course I'm paraphrasing, "The only way you're ever going to become an excellent poet is to read. Read everything and everyone. No one has the ability to write anything unless they've read everything." And I find it to be true, not just for poetry. You may be able to write a poem or story without having really read much before, but how can you honestly expect to be any good? You need to know how others have written in the past, how others are writing now, to really understand how writing works at all. You might be saying, "Well, I have my own style," or "I'm an excellent writer now and don't bother reading much." Guess what? You'll only stay as good as you are now, then. If anyone honestly thinks they can say otherwise, feel free. But I seriously doubt anyone can refute the idea. People don't read as much as they used to and I really do believe that that has added to the decline of writers in the last few decades.


ghostracer


Feb 23, 2007, 3:05 PM

Post #39 of 213 (3074 views)
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That's a very nice way of putting it--you can't write unless you've read everything. It makes writing seem easier, though reading everything would seemingly take forever. But I agree that this is the main reason for the decline of writers in recent years. I also think it has something to do with the landscape of popular culture. "People don't read anymore" because books don't have the presence they used to. Books get made into movies, people prefer to consume the time-allotted version, and the whole process of digesting the art becomes constricted within a visual or attitudinal framework. But writing is so old compared to filmmaking. There is so much more history to situate into a context, but at the end of the day the medium has not changed, no technology will change literature. Perhaps laziness has infected the world at large. But who will value time spent with a book? If other people insist on thinking people who read are lazy, then the people who read are moved to write, so they don't look so lazy anymore. I think it's a problem with American literature but it probably lends a unique element to the work that is produced.


flyinghouses.blogspot.com




piratelizzy


Feb 23, 2007, 3:31 PM

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I was just reading an interview with Robert Olen Butler at Bookslut (oh, how that name makes me cringe, though) and he seems to think that reading will never go extinct, no matter the hoopla about the book being dead. He says that literature pertains to a "voice of the soul" or "dream voice" in a way that cinema and other media do not. (Though I think the best cinema can come close to approximating the impact of the best literature on the individual processing/enjoying/experiencing a piece).

I tend to agree with Butler. And I think people want to read, and that when tomorrow's Mark Twain comes along, people will recognize her and flock to her (or him ;-).

If writers aren't reading, we can't hope that others will read what we write. That much seems clear to me.


'sup?!


jobieh
Jobie Hughes
e-mail user

Feb 23, 2007, 3:48 PM

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Re: [piratelizzy] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Ahh yes, the almighty Bookslut web magazine. You know, it's actually located here in Chicago, and when I moved here in September and the first time I saw it I was like, "Wow, can they get away with that?" I hadn't heard of it before, but it's plastered everywhere and they have all kinds of readings and events and they advertise in all the papers and I see it nearly everyday, and I still haven't gotten used to that word. Not that I mind it at all, because I don't, but it's still like getting smacked in the face each time I stumble upon it.


scheherazade


Feb 23, 2007, 11:09 PM

Post #42 of 213 (2982 views)
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Re: [jaywalke] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Interesting discussion. I have no problem with Joyce and Faulkner being my key classics to attack first. For more arbitrary reasons, they were already at the top of my own list, along with Flannery O'Connor, perhaps because I'm intrigued by southern gothic (Faulkner & O'Connor), and fascinated by anyone described along with my first love, Nabokov, as a "prose stylist" (Faulkner & Joyce).

After reading B.R. Myers' attack on modern "literary fiction" in A Reader's Manifesto: An Attack on the Growing Pretentiousness in American Literary Prose, I'm a bit skeptical of trying to write after reading only contemporary fiction. I do read contemporary stuff, but I base my decisions more on instinct than on what is hot in the literary scene. So this ends up including some literary darlings like Martin Amis and Michael Chabon, but it also includes nonfiction writers (Susan Orlean, AA Gill), genre writers (Peter Abrahams, Elmore Leonard), and whatever looks good at the bookstore or library or recommended in a magazine. I consider that my candy. But now I'm trying to balance candy reading with more vegetables: the classics that, at the least, are a good source of fibre, but hopefully are even quite tasty once you get used to the flavor. I'd be ashamed to make my living as a writer without having read some of the more well-known classics, and without continuing to read more of them throughout the years. I'm wary of only reading contemporary fiction, because although it may teach you what current literature looks like, you can't really understand where it's going unless you understand where it's coming from.


pongo
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Feb 24, 2007, 10:50 AM

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Re: [scheherazade] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

If all you've read is contemporary fiction, you haven't started your reading yet. How can you try to write when you don't know what Defoe and Cervantes and Murasaki and Fielding and Austen and Zola and Flaubert (and on and on) did with the same human materials?


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

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

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vronsky


Feb 24, 2007, 12:04 PM

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Not to mention THE RUSSIANS. Jesus Christ, the Russians.


darredet
Darren A. Deth


Feb 24, 2007, 12:45 PM

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Re: [Mainer] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Indeed. While Faulkner is not being jammed down my throat, Joyce's "The Dead" is scheduled for digestion in two months. I'm in the graduate program at Vermont College. In the program I've read Anne Tyler; The Best American Short Stories of 2005; Flannery O'Connor; Andres Dubus; Raymond Carver (of course), and a multitude of others. It's a great time for discovery, both about one's own writing as well as the wealth of good writing that is out there.


LateApplicant


Feb 24, 2007, 1:12 PM

Post #46 of 213 (2892 views)
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Re: [pongo] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Couldn't agree more with those of you advocating the reading of the classics. Not only will you become a better writer, but a better reader as well. You'll realize, for instance, that many "great" contemporary American writers aren't that great. Just an example: remember all the hype couple of years ago about The Girl With the Flammable Skirt by A. Bender? I don't mean to trash her; she is indeed a talented young writer. She might become a great writer. But as for the aforementioned book, it's just an efficient rehash of Italo Calvino's (Italy) and Julio Cortazar's (Argentina) stories. "Efficient rehash" sounds a bit too harsh; let's say she's heavily influenced by them. Is that bad? Not at all. It's probably part of the process of growing as a writer. But a truly great writer manages to incorporate her influences and turn them into a distinct voice. Bender might very well come to achieve that. But she hasn't yet. And still, everybody went crazy about her. Oh her originality, her creativity, her imagination! She was honest enough to say Calvino was one of her favorites, and a big influence on her. If she doesn't buy too much into the idea that she's a great writer, I'm sure she can grow and become one. But complacency might kill her. And us. For instead of going to those great story-writers, we'll be enjoying the second-hand versions that are promoted in our (sometimes provincial) America. And, fed on second-hand lit, we won't ever become good writers.

Again, I don't mean to trash A. Bender; I like her and think her chances of becoming a great writer are very good. And I don't mean to trash American lit in general, of course.


Lglabor


Feb 24, 2007, 1:27 PM

Post #47 of 213 (2880 views)
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I also find it interesting that many if not most of the writers folks are referring to as the "classics" in this discussion were and remain incredibly innovative, breaking new literary ground, and that many if not most of the writers being cited as contemporary are, in my opinion, not terribly innovative or producing fresh new ways of working with language and considering the human condition at all. Woolf, Joyce, Faulkner, Proust, Borges, Melville, good lord even or especially Fielding from the 18th century and Cervantes from the 17th--sheesh, sit down to read them and you're all flipped around, you think 'did I go to the postmodern section by mistake?' So for me, this is the reason the so-called classics are vital: to be challenged as both reader and writer, to broaden my view of the horizon of the literary possible. I speak, by the way, as someone who did not take a single English class in college and have been trying over the last few years to make up for it by a self-defined course of the classics; it's blown me away to discover what a wild ride such a course can be.


LateApplicant


Feb 24, 2007, 2:20 PM

Post #48 of 213 (2861 views)
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Ditto. Couldn't have said it better, Lglabor! (I share that feeling that for good post-modern fiction, I gotta go to Cervantes and the like... :)


JKicker
Jonathan

Feb 26, 2007, 12:52 PM

Post #49 of 213 (2782 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Your comment about the best cinema being somewhat equivalent to the best writing is timely for me after having watched the Oscars last night. For a couple of the awards like best original screenplay they showed clips of the movie with someone reading the screenplay over top of it. For every clip, I found myself thinking that it was much more powerful hearing the words than merely watching the action. Instead of just watching the general look through his binoculars down at the battlefield, you got "General Tsu peered through his binoculars at the worn torn beaches below. Two hundred tanks were mired in the sands, but still approaching omninously." (paraphrased). I just don't get that same stimulation from watching the same thing. There's definately something lost in the translation from the mind's eye to reality.


lculli18


Feb 26, 2007, 1:37 PM

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I personally enjoyed the "portrayal of writers" montage...


piratelizzy


Feb 26, 2007, 2:27 PM

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1. I am a big cinema junkie as well as a lover of lit, and I definitely feel as moved by just about anything directed by Fassbinder or Claude Chabrol, say, as by Madame Bovary or The Cherry Orchard. When I see a great film, I am as awed as when I read a great novel. The best directors are concerned with the same themes you find in the work of the great writers, and it's just as exciting to see something innovative up on screen as it is to run across a gem of a short story unexpectedly in some journal or anthology.

2. I wanted to ask this... Whether anyone here thinks there is room in the world of MFA/workshop fiction for such oddities as satire or historical fiction or other less-popular forms. I ask this because it seems to me that the overwhelming majority of fiction "out there"--and by corollary, I presume in the MFA programs as well--is of an uber-realist bent... I know that a few programs are amenable to metafiction and "experimental" fiction (although I think most of what gets labeled "experimental" is stuff that follows in the footsteps of work that was done thirty years ago, e.g., by Barthelme, Gaddis, Pynchon, etc.). But I wonder whether there are people writing outside of those two streams of the realist and experimental, maybe using established forms like satire. Is there room for people like those, in the world of the MFA?


'sup?!


bighark


Feb 26, 2007, 2:39 PM

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Re: [piratelizzy] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I can't speak from experience, lizzy, but I have to believe that the answer is yes.


In Reply To
Is there room for people like those, in the world of the MFA?



(This post was edited by bighark on Feb 26, 2007, 2:41 PM)


pongo
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Feb 26, 2007, 4:00 PM

Post #53 of 213 (3905 views)
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Re: [bighark] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

There are probably MFA programs that don't like anything but a narrow range of literary interests, but you don't have to go to one of those. I know there are programs that are open to anything, and nothing you name is particularly outre. There are even programs that will let you write screenplays.


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/


piratelizzy


Mar 5, 2007, 3:42 PM

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Preparing for MFA apps 2007-2008? [In reply to] Can't Post

For those of us thinking ahead to the next application season, given that the consensus on "getting in" is universally emphatic on the importance of the writing sample, I wonder what your thoughts are on this:

Many people on this board mention their previous workshop experiences in passing. It would seem that at least a sizable number of us (including yours truly) have "workshopped" their writing. Some people have stressed how important it is to workshop stories before sending them as samples with applications. I find this somehow counterintuitive... Certainly no program divulges a requirement for previous enrollment in creative writing workshops. I would think, too, that any number of people are out there who've never workshopped their work but whose talents nonetheless exist.

Does anyone think that pre-MFA workshops or writers' retreats are de rigueur and/or beneficial for gaining entry to MFA programs? Any thoughts?


'sup?!


apelavin

e-mail user

Mar 5, 2007, 5:58 PM

Post #55 of 213 (3787 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] Preparing for MFA apps 2007-2008? [In reply to] Can't Post

If someone's writing sample blows them away, I'm pretty sure they won't care about previous experience. On the other hand, if it's down to two candidates for the last spot, and the committee likes their samples equally, and they both have good recommendations and come off as nice, hard-working people in your personal statements, then the question of workshop experience could come into play. In other words, it might happen in a few borderline cases, but it's probably not worth worrying about if someone doesn't have the chance.

Applications aside though, I'd say it's always worth a lot of effort to participate in workshops, retreats, etc. just because they can have a tremendously positive effect on someone's writing. It's not necessarily what you hear about your own piece(s) (although good feedback always helps, and positive feedback helps with confidence) so much as a series of writing insights you'd pick up in general discussions and while other people's pieces are being workshopped. But that doesn't make them necessary for anyone.


scheherazade


Mar 5, 2007, 7:58 PM

Post #56 of 213 (3763 views)
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I basically understood it that a workshop is by no means mandatory but it's probably more helpful than not, if you can afford the time and cost. If you're confident in your writing, then you certainly don't need to workshop your submission. I imagine there are significant numbers of MFA students who never workshopped their admission stories (although when you exclude the number who sought comments from boyfriends, wives, parents, teachers, or writing peers, this number is probably much smaller).

Given the competitive nature of admissions and funding, it may be worthwhile to do every little bit you can to increase your potential of getting into the school you prefer or winning a more generous fellowship. In that sense, workshops can help you see your stories from eyes other than your own, and unlike sharing your stories with friends and family, workshops give you the opportunity to see the work of other student writers and give you a better sense of how your writing compares to others in your peer group (which can give you a better idea of whether you're ready for the MFA, or whether you stand a chace at the more competitive schools). If you haven't done a lot of workshops in the past, doing a pre-MFA workshop can also give you a better idea of what to expect in the MFA program, and can help you find a few teachers to write letters of reference.

But do you need to workshop your application stories? That's a good question, and I'm not an MFA student so I can't say for sure. I think 95% of people can probably improve their stories by workshopping them. But if the cost is prohibitive, you lack the time to attend the workshop, or if the course is geared to more of an introductory level, I don't think it's necessarily worth the time. Unless your writing skills are still fairly undeveloped, I don't think a workshop would make the difference between MFA admission and no MFA admission, but it might make the difference between admission to a top 20 versus a "they offer an MFA degree?" program.


piratelizzy


Mar 6, 2007, 12:38 PM

Post #57 of 213 (3713 views)
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Thanks for your replies. I've personally found workshops destructive, rather than constructive. In one workshop, the teacher paid no attention to or dismissed most of us with rushed, superficial, paltry feedback. He seemed to like his students young, female and blonde--but who doesn't, right? In the other workshop, the students were mostly beginning writers. I've yet to find a workshop where I've felt like I could make progress as a writer. It's part of what I'm hoping to find in an MFA program.

I was not thinking in terms of having to demonstrate that one has gone through workshop before, but more in terms of whether a story that's been workshopped emerges with a certain uniform gleam that programs are looking for. And I continue to wonder whether this might mean that workshops limit rather than foster the growth of individual writers. (These are questions I have... I am not arguing one way or the other.)


'sup?!


jaywalke


Mar 6, 2007, 1:04 PM

Post #58 of 213 (3694 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] Preparing for MFA apps 2007-2008? [In reply to] Can't Post

I was at the West Virginia Writers' Workshop last summer, and we had a Q&A with a few journal editors (Kestrel & Crab Orchard Review are the two I remember). I asked them:

"With the explosion of MFA programs and MFA holders, are you seeing better work in the submission pile?"

After a pause, Allison Joseph answered that she saw more "polished" work, but not necessary greater talent. John Hoppenthaler jumped in and agreed, and it seemed that the consensus among these folks was that: (workshop) polished = better.


mlpurdy
Moriah Purdy

Mar 6, 2007, 1:32 PM

Post #59 of 213 (3669 views)
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Re: [jaywalke] Preparing for MFA apps 2007-2008? [In reply to] Can't Post

Even just taking a summer workshop is worth it. Try the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. Not only do you get to walk on the beach every morning, the faculty members they bring in are amazing. I don't know if it's too late to register or not, I decided not to go this summer... but it's worth a shot. I too, tried a local workshop and it wasn't worth it AT ALL... but at the FAWC it was a lot of serious writers, some MFA candidates, some published writers, all kinds... but I can pretty much guarantee that the people who go there take it seriously so you're bound to get some good feedback and maybe even meet a few people who would be up for reading for you in the future, when you're closer to the actual application process.


piratelizzy


Mar 6, 2007, 1:34 PM

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Re: [jaywalke] Preparing for MFA apps 2007-2008? [In reply to] Can't Post

So they said "polish" is better than "talent"? (Sorry, I don't mean to paint these as exclusive of each other... I am trying to process some internal questions I have about all of this, and want to get as much info as I can. I do appreciate everyone's comments).


'sup?!

(This post was edited by piratelizzy on Mar 6, 2007, 1:38 PM)


jaywalke


Mar 6, 2007, 1:53 PM

Post #61 of 213 (3647 views)
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In Reply To
So they said "polish" is better than "talent"?


No, polished is better than unpolished. Talent is a kitten of another color, and it doesn't have much to do with any degree, in their opinion. More MFA holders means a greater percentage of the work in the pile has been workshopped, and is therefore polished. We can, of course, argue all day about whether or not "polished" means better (smoother!) or worse (boring with no sharp edges!), but this little editorial slice seemed to think it was better.


Why am I hungry for Polish sausage all the sudden?


tenderloner
Geary'n Hyde

Mar 6, 2007, 2:41 PM

Post #62 of 213 (3625 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] Preparing for MFA apps 2007-2008? [In reply to] Can't Post

I read that as "Polish." That's just too damn specific!


piratelizzy


Mar 6, 2007, 3:11 PM

Post #63 of 213 (3615 views)
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Mmmm... Tofurky vegetarian kielbasa. It's not too bad, actually.


'sup?!


piratelizzy


Mar 9, 2007, 11:56 AM

Post #64 of 213 (3551 views)
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Best Young American Novelists - Granta [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't know where else to post this, and it seems relevant to the discussion that's been going on here recently.

http://www.bestyoungnovelists.com/...can-Novelists-2-2007

Curiously, many of these writers (and apparently they're not all novelists, by the way--weird choice of terminology by Granta) were not born in the U.S. Then again, Nabokov, Conrad, Kundera, Garcia Marquez (who turned 80 this last Tuesday--Happy Birthday, Gabo!!!) and many, many others can be considered immigrant writers (migrating not necessarily to the U.S.).

Granta's BYAN list of ten years ago included the likes of Jonathan Franzen, Lorrie Moore and Sherman Alexie. Judges this year included A.M. Homes and Edmund White.


'sup?!


catenz
CATenz

Mar 9, 2007, 12:25 PM

Post #65 of 213 (3535 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] Best Young American Novelists - Granta [In reply to] Can't Post

hi piratelizzy,

just saw your post and had to respond. in my mfa program, the satirists were adored most. check out some of the less-known schools i.e. not iowa, wisconsin, nyu, columbia, and you will find a home for your writing. really. just check out some of the new lit mags out there; tin house, for one, may not be entirely satire but it definitely isn't uber-realist.


piratelizzy


Mar 9, 2007, 5:45 PM

Post #66 of 213 (3470 views)
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Re: [catenz] Best Young American Novelists - Granta [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks so much, catenz!


'sup?!


scheherazade


Mar 11, 2007, 10:31 PM

Post #67 of 213 (3399 views)
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MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

Okay, here are a couple more general MFA questions that have come to mind:

- My primary interest is fiction, but I'm increasingly interested in non-fiction as well. What do most MFA programs mean by offering non-fiction as a genre? Does this generally refer to journalistic non-fiction or something closer to memoir? I personally have nothing memoir-worthy to write, but I do love magazine writing. Is there a place for both in typical MFA non-fiction workshops?

- People like Tom Kealey tell you to choose an MFA program based on funding opportunities first and foremost. But what does "full funding" really mean? If you attend a school that covers tuition and provides a $10,000-15,000 fellowship, can you expect to survive for 2-3 years without a part-time job (other than teaching) or without having to save up beforehand or take on any loans? Obviously, this varies by the city, but if you could get "full funding" in Minnesota or Austin or Iowa City or Irvine, could you be reasonably free of financial worry throughout the program?


Fear&Loathing


Mar 11, 2007, 11:15 PM

Post #68 of 213 (3382 views)
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Re: [scheherazade] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

...you still have to worry about summers and how you're going to pay next month's rent after you graduate. It'll seem better if you come straight from undergrad because you haven't been earning money in the real full-time world to know what you're also giving up.


Aubrie


Mar 11, 2007, 11:20 PM

Post #69 of 213 (3376 views)
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Talk amongst yourselves [In reply to] Can't Post

Wasn't sure where exactly to post this, but found it interesting:


(This post was edited by motet on Mar 15, 2007, 7:14 PM)


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Mar 12, 2007, 11:15 AM

Post #70 of 213 (3313 views)
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Re: [scheherazade] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

- My primary interest is fiction, but I'm increasingly interested in non-fiction as well. What do most MFA programs mean by offering non-fiction as a genre? Does this generally refer to journalistic non-fiction or something closer to memoir? I personally have nothing memoir-worthy to write, but I do love magazine writing. Is there a place for both in typical MFA non-fiction workshops?


Most MFA programs in non-fiction are in creative non-fiction, which includes memoir but also includes personal essays of all sorts. For more traditional magazine work, journalism training is better -- but a good writer with a strong point of view can make a way in magazine writing without any specialized training.


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/


scheherazade


Mar 13, 2007, 10:34 PM

Post #71 of 213 (3234 views)
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Re: [pongo] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

Most MFA programs in non-fiction are in creative non-fiction, which includes memoir but also includes personal essays of all sorts. For more traditional magazine work, journalism training is better -- but a good writer with a strong point of view can make a way in magazine writing without any specialized training.



Thanks, pongo. I have actually taken a class in magazine writing, and I know it's something I could have some success with if I focused on it (some day, right?) but I was just wondering in the sense that some MFA programs either require or encourage you to take courses in a 2nd (or 3rd) genre, and I wondered what they really mean by "creative nonfiction". If the focus pretty consistently is memoir or personal essay, then that wouldn't make the multi-genre MFA a strong selling point to me.


mp213
Maryam Piracha

Mar 14, 2007, 10:16 AM

Post #72 of 213 (3183 views)
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Re: [pongo] UNDREGRAD PREPARATION FOR MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Granted, I've only read a few pages of this discussion but I was recently rejected from UMich's program and like a fool, it was the only one to which I applied. I was 19 when I graduated from undergrad and 21 when I applied. So I waited for two years, but I still don't fall into the age group apparently. Does maturity in age matter? It's a question I've struggled with a lot. I manage a writer's website catering to the subcontinental writers and although we're a close knit group, we do dish out brutal critiques.

I don't really have a particularly great GPA and because UMich didn't require GRE test scores, I didn't give them - a mistake I'm not going to repeat this time around. The writing sample I sent in consisted of three of my very best short stories.

My question is - what did I do wrong? Does the GPA weigh in? Did the lack of GRE scores go against me? I realize 12/600+ applicants is a long shot, increased by the fact that I'm an international applicant but I need to know: what really counts?

Yeah, I know...it's the writing sample, but damn it! It was a good writing sample. What're they looking for?

I need help.


later.


malber


Mar 14, 2007, 11:20 AM

Post #73 of 213 (3158 views)
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Re: [mp213] UNDREGRAD PREPARATION FOR MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

mp213 -

the honest truth of the application process is that there is absolutely no way to know what the admissions committee of any one school is looking for. schools like michigan no doubt get many applications that represent students who could potentially thrive in their program. they can only take so many... 2-4% are very low figures. here's how i calculate it: half the people who apply are easy to reject for one reason or another. so 300 left. half of those, or 3/4 perhaps, are inferior writers than myself (i hope!). that still leaves 75 applications i'm competing against at a school like michigan. after that, it's all personal taste. the point is, you can be in the top 10% or even 5% and still not make it.

i myself applied to 11 programs, have been rejected from 6 (the usual suspects of michigan, michener, syracuse, etc.). but i only applied there understanding that it was an extreme long-shot, even with an excellent packet (which i believe i had). because i wanted to get an MFA, spend some time on my writing, i also applied to a few schools who got less than 500 applicants for 6 spots. because of that, i'm in at Ohio State, Penn State, Bowling Green, etc.

of course, i'm a little disappointed, but i honestly believe i can be happy working on my writing anywhere. and because i only applied to schools with full funding, i can afford to go wherever i got in!

at least, that was my theory.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Mar 14, 2007, 12:09 PM

Post #74 of 213 (3136 views)
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Re: [scheherazade] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

Thanks, pongo. I have actually taken a class in magazine writing, and I know it's something I could have some success with if I focused on it (some day, right?) but I was just wondering in the sense that some MFA programs either require or encourage you to take courses in a 2nd (or 3rd) genre, and I wondered what they really mean by "creative nonfiction". If the focus pretty consistently is memoir or personal essay, then that wouldn't make the multi-genre MFA a strong selling point to me.


I'm not sure what else creative non-fiction could be if not memoir or personal essay. There's the personal book, but that's really just a long personal essay. Creative non-fiction is non-fiction written with the techniques of fiction. A lot of magazine work fits into this, of course, but a lot doesn't.

On the other hand, if you can write about something form a personal point of view (as John McPhee does about geology or shipping or endless other topics), how would that hurt you as a magazine writer? (A personal essay doesn't have to be about you; it needs a personal point of view.)


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/


mp213
Maryam Piracha

Mar 14, 2007, 1:25 PM

Post #75 of 213 (3102 views)
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Re: [malber] UNDREGRAD PREPARATION FOR MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I think I'm still getting the hang of this forum, especially since it's not as user-friendly as most others.

I understand what you're saying.

So does the gpa not matter much at all? It wasn't horrible or anything, but I'm being realistic about this.

I'll be giving my gre this august as well, so let's see how that goes.

Reading up on several threads in this forum has shown that if you get an idea of the style of writing of faculty members, it helps during application. The thing is, is that I don't want to change my writing style for a particular program. I've taken pains developing something unique, not an offshoot of something else and the writer's community I'm a part of has greatly helped.

Is there any particular strategy that accepted mfa applicants have put into implementation or anything? lol. I realize that's a strange question, but I'm entirely serious.

Although Michigan's program was among the top contenders, my enlarged list of 10 programs for this year has a lot of lower shooting ones as well. For one, I had absolutely no idea that Michigan's program was so highly placed so huge reality check!

All I know is when I found out in 2003 that there was a program catering for something I loved doing, I had to be there.

The thing is, and this is a question I've struggled with for the last four years - does age matter? I was 19 when I graduated and 21 when I applied, so I waited for two years. I am now currently 22.

I just need some sort of guideline...is there any specific thing that people have done that's...well...worked?

later.


(This post was edited by mp213 on Mar 14, 2007, 2:31 PM)


piratelizzy


Mar 14, 2007, 1:32 PM

Post #76 of 213 (4943 views)
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Re: [pongo] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

Biography, too. Sure you can get creative with biography. How about creative journalism? In Cold Blood is probably close to being some form of journalism.

I'm going to go ahead and give props to John McPhee, too. His Coming Into the Country is absolutely one of my favorite books. He makes writing look effortless. Or at least he makes reading effortless. And a great pleasure. Nothing about that book feels forced. It's very beautiful.


'sup?!


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 29, 2007, 11:06 AM

Post #77 of 213 (4868 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey everybody,

I joined this site as a recommendation from Kealy's MFA blog, and, Christ, what a great venue! When reading everyone's posting (some instructive, some informative, some hilarious), I adore how we're all passionate about the written word and, of course, it puts a nice smile. After seriously reconsidering my academic career plans with three-years of research (i.e. pondering whether a MA and Ph.D in American Studies or English literature is even worth the effort), I decided to make plans to get an MFA in Fiction. As for preparation, I'm taking various classes through an esteemed creative writing workshop in NYC called, "The Writer's Studio." I plan on taking five different classes through their program, work up a writing portfolio, and possibly use it as a writing sample. Also, on the side, I'm writing book reviews for various literary journals to keep my writing sharp and in shape. So, as for advice, can anyone tell me whether I'm on the 'right' track in pursuit of an MFA? Again, I'm strictly interested in writing fiction (short stories). Also I've researched the schools in where I want to attend (and, of course, it's based on faculty strength, funding, etc). Here's the list:

1. University of Wisconsin-Madison (my favorite writer, Lorrie Moore, as you all probably know, teaches there)
2. Cornell University ('nuff said!)
3. Florida State University
4. Syracuse University
5. Brooklyn College
6. University of Virgina

Once I get a good grasp on craft and technique, I think I'll start focusing on the other grueling aspect: taking the GRE, writing POS, getting LORs, etc etc.

Thanks for listening and, as always, keep on writing!

Guy Anglade


hamlet3145


Mar 29, 2007, 1:49 PM

Post #78 of 213 (4825 views)
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Re: [seemingmeaning] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Guy,

I think you are definitely on the right track. Also, by all means, polish up and send out work that you generate while taking these writing courses. There is no rule you have to have an MFA to publish and getting into journals can only help your application. You picked some great programs there on your list. Know though that Cornell and Virginia have extremely low acceptance rates. (The others are just very low) =) I think what you will likely hear from folks on the board is to add a couple of more program to your list. The going rule of thumb these days is to apply to at least 8 programs with 12 being ideal (if you can afford all the application fees).

Good luck!

--Jason


(This post was edited by Hamlet3145 on Mar 29, 2007, 1:52 PM)


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 29, 2007, 2:12 PM

Post #79 of 213 (4806 views)
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Re: [Hamlet3145] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey Jason,

Thanks for your suggestions. Upon looking at my choices, I realized that I'm applying at some tough schools (esp. Cornell and UVA). Yeah, right now I'm slowly trying to get into a writing 'habit' (i.e. write, at least, an hour per day while working as an editor and part-time bookseller. Though, it's a good thing considering all of my work consist of words, words, and words). During my time at the Writer's Studio and work, I'm keeping a bird's eye view on the literary marketplace for publication; you know, Ploughshares, StoryQuarterly, Tampa Review.

I tried to think of eight to nine schools, but couldn't find any. Can you suggest other MFA programs specifically in the east and midwest? For some reason I'm not impressed with Michigan nor OSU's faculty. And how's your time (am I correct?) at Montana? Is that in Missoula? Thanks again

--guy a.


piratelizzy


Mar 29, 2007, 2:29 PM

Post #80 of 213 (4793 views)
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Re: [seemingmeaning] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Guy,

Look here:

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

and here

http://creativewritingmfa.blogspot.com/

for lists of programs all over the country.

Best of luck, and let me know if I can help you with questions about the application process.

~Lizzy


Quote
I tried to think of eight to nine schools, but couldn't find any. Can you suggest other MFA programs specifically in the east and midwest?



'sup?!


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 29, 2007, 2:50 PM

Post #81 of 213 (4777 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

Man, i've been searching for the pw.org creating writing program listing link for days. (Slaps forehead!) Thanks a bunch, Lizzy. Thanks for the lists, piratelizzy! I'll let you know if any questions pop up.


lculli18


Mar 29, 2007, 3:21 PM

Post #82 of 213 (4758 views)
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In Reply To

1. University of Wisconsin-Madison (my favorite writer, Lorrie Moore, as you all probably know, teaches there)


I heart Lorrie Moore! :)


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 29, 2007, 3:27 PM

Post #83 of 213 (4754 views)
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Re: [lculli18] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

No joke, lculli18. Lorrie Moore's Birds of America and Like Life changed the way I read fiction, life, and reinvigorated my interest in short stories. And its for those (and other) reasons is why I want to take fiction writing seriously. Christ, I mean, what a terrific writer. I can't wait to see her read in a few weeks!


hamlet3145


Mar 29, 2007, 3:32 PM

Post #84 of 213 (4751 views)
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Re: [seemingmeaning] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

Hmm, other schools in the Midwest and east. I take it other geographical locations are completely out?

Here's several of note though:

East:

George Mason University
UMASS Amherst
University of New Hampshire (pretty new program but good buzz)
U. Maryland
UNC Greensboro
UNC Wilmington
University of Florida
Brown

Midwest:
Washington University in St. Louis
University of Minnesota
Columbia College Chicago


And if you can be persuaded to look at the north-west, Oregon, Montana and Washington are a cluster that folks often apply to and are of similar caliber. I've had a great time at Montana; the only real drawback to the program is that only about half the students get a TA. The new director, Prageeta Sharma, has said that funding for all is a major goal of hers however and I actually have a list of tricks to make out of state tuition more bearable. Beyond the great faculty and classmates the major selling point is the location. Western Montana is pretty much the most beautiful place I've ever been (and I grew up in Maine). Campus is nestled against a mountain and the town, well, it’s bisected by one of the more literary rivers in this country:


Quote

”Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

I am haunted by waters.” ~Norman Maclean



--Jason


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 29, 2007, 4:14 PM

Post #85 of 213 (4732 views)
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Re: [Hamlet3145] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

Yeah. I did picture Montana (and the school) has a very serene and great location. I perused the UMinnesota site and what they offer looks really good. Sometime later tonight I'll give the other programs a try and jot down notes on funding, etc. I almost feel overwhelmed (and I have yet to submit a story for publication!) Either way, as Mos Def would say, big ups!

--guy a.


wilmabluekitty
Wilma Weant Dague

Mar 29, 2007, 6:01 PM

Post #86 of 213 (4703 views)
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Re: [Hamlet3145] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

If you're interested in a young program, the University of Kansas just started an mfa. Also Indiana is good. And Southern Illinois at Carbondale.


(This post was edited by wilmabluekitty on Mar 29, 2007, 8:38 PM)


bighark


Mar 29, 2007, 6:36 PM

Post #87 of 213 (4685 views)
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Re: [seemingmeaning] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

Here's a list of funded Midwestern MFAs. This is not exhaustive.

Bowling Green State University
Purdue University
Southern Illinois University
The Ohio State University
University of Illinois
University of Indiana
University of Iowa
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota
University of Notre Dame
University of Wisconsin
Washington University (St. Louis)


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 29, 2007, 9:50 PM

Post #88 of 213 (4644 views)
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Re: [bighark] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey Bighark,

Thanks for your list. I did look at Purdue's MFA program as I, at the time, was thinking about pursuing a MA in Lit and American Studies. As a city, West Lafayette doesn't seem like an appealing city. UW-Madison is a top choice and I may relook into Iowa's (although it's the toughest programs around) and OSU's website. Minnesota, however, looks VERY intriguing especially since Charles Baxter teaches over there. I like how the site presents each writer's teaching philosophy. So far, my list--albeit tentative--looks like this:

1. UW-Madison
2. Emerson College
3. Cornell University
4. FSU
5. UVA
6. Brooklyn College
7. University of Minnesota
8. Syracuse University

I'm going to start, possibly this weekend, outline all of the schools funding, deadlines, and admission requirements to get a clearer picture. I know Cornell's funding package is sick!


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 29, 2007, 9:58 PM

Post #89 of 213 (4640 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey piratelizzy,

Answer this one for me: before even starting the app process, is it even necessary to start taking the GRE? I know some schools don't even require the GRE and place more emphasis on one's writing samples, personal statement, and recommendations. But, curious to know, should I begin? The plan is to attend a MFA program when around fall 2009 (I think attending school at age 30 sounds plausible, n'est-ce pas?).

--guy a.


rpc
ryan call

Mar 29, 2007, 9:58 PM

Post #90 of 213 (4640 views)
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Re: [seemingmeaning] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

and just a quick update on mason
which maybe ive already said somewheres around here

we just hired helon habilla and courtney brkic
which i think will be good for the program
will add some new, diverse faculty voices to the mix


courtney has a new story out in the current missouri review
and i think helon just published anew novel?


<HTMLGIANT>


wilmabluekitty
Wilma Weant Dague

Mar 29, 2007, 10:02 PM

Post #91 of 213 (4637 views)
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Re: [seemingmeaning] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

If you need funding, plan on taking the GRE. No need to foucus on non-writing related fields. Just the writing and the verbal.


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 29, 2007, 10:25 PM

Post #92 of 213 (4624 views)
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Re: [wilmabluekitty] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

10-4, wilmabluekitty. Copy?


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 29, 2007, 10:26 PM

Post #93 of 213 (4622 views)
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Re: [rpc] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

That's interesting. I just published a book review in the current missouri review. I'll have to give the story a read once it comes in. I'll look at George Mason as well.


hamlet3145


Mar 30, 2007, 9:04 AM

Post #94 of 213 (4574 views)
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Re: [seemingmeaning] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

One thing about the GRE--it's the Grad School that cares about it not the creative writing department. You basically just have to clear whatever minimum they have established. (Usually not a big deal at all).


HopperFu


Mar 30, 2007, 9:10 AM

Post #95 of 213 (4572 views)
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In Reply To
is it even necessary to start taking the GRE?


Many if not most schools require the GRE (just the general test, not the English specific) for admission by the graduate school, which is not the same as admission by the writing program which is 95% writing sample with statement of purpose and letters of rec mostly the other 5%.
As for making a list of schools, one of the things you'll find if you go through and track who has been accepted where, is that there is no such thing as a safety school. There are plenty of people here who have been admitted to "top" schools and rejected from so called "safety schools." Don't rule out a school that you want to go to just because it is hard to get in, and don't assume that less prestigious schools are easier to get into. If you want to go to an MFA program (as opposed to one specific or a few specific ones), the general advice is to apply to 8 - 10 schools or more depending on what you can afford and your tolerance for the pain of paperwork....

My advice, by the way, is to get the GRE out of the way with so it's one less thing to worry about. Also, line up your letters of rec early so that you have time to follow-up and to make sure that they get in.
The main thing is, of course, the writing sample, but the other stuff needs to get done as well.


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 30, 2007, 9:25 AM

Post #96 of 213 (4563 views)
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Great advice, HopperFu. I did noticed, as you pointed out, that there's really no such thing as a 'safety school.' I've read under the "GRE and GPA" post that some were accepted in top schools with really low GRE scores and a low GPA. So really, it's all a crapshoot. I suppose I'll probably take it around mid-summer, even though I plan on attending either for 2009 or 2010. From what I recall, you're studying at Cornell n'est-ce pas? As noted in previous posts, it's one of my top two schools.

--guy a.


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 30, 2007, 9:28 AM

Post #97 of 213 (4559 views)
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Re: [Hamlet3145] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

I noticed that with some schools. The general consensus is basically this: whip up a writing sample, get recommendations, and work on my statement of purpose. I should probably take few notes on what I'm going to write about.


piratelizzy


Mar 30, 2007, 10:37 AM

Post #98 of 213 (4542 views)
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Re: [seemingmeaning] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

C'est ca, Guy. Take the GRE early and knock it out of the way. I took mine about a year and a half before applying.

Don't just "whip up" a writing sample, but give yourself enough time to polish it to a shine. If there's one thing I wish I'd done more of, it is revision. Start early and keep working on it. Your classes should help with this. (By the way, since it sounds like you're in NY, I've heard good things about the workshops at the 92 St Y and at the West Side YMCA at W 63rd).

Then I'd secure those recommendations. I've been out of school for a while, so those were a source of stress.

Oh, and if I were you, I'd try to add at least two more schools to that list.

Good luck!


'sup?!


eesa


Mar 30, 2007, 10:50 AM

Post #99 of 213 (4528 views)
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In Reply To
Hey piratelizzy,

Answer this one for me: before even starting the app process, is it even necessary to start taking the GRE? I know some schools don't even require the GRE and place more emphasis on one's writing samples, personal statement, and recommendations. But, curious to know, should I begin? The plan is to attend a MFA program when around fall 2009 (I think attending school at age 30 sounds plausible, n'est-ce pas?).

--guy a.


I took the GRE a full year before I sent in my applications, and I am so glad I did. I knew there was a chance my scores would be important in determining funding, and it turns out that they will. I studied over a winter break between semesters, when nothing was happening. I'm glad I didn't have to worry about taking it when I was working on putting together the applications. [Make sure you don't lose your score sheet, though, like I did, taking it so far in advance. It wasn't a big deal but I don't know my scores off the top of my head so I had to call up and pay to find out.]


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 30, 2007, 10:51 AM

Post #100 of 213 (4528 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

I wonder if I should call or e-mail my professors. I called up one of my former professors to ask if she can take a look at my book review (which, unfortunately, she didn't considering her teaching and writing schedule consumed her time). I wonder if I should let them know immediately that I'll be applying for a MFA program within the next two years? Any suggestions? May will make it three years since I graduated.

And, you got it, I am living in NY (Brooklyn, but born and raised in Harlem). Yes, 92nd St Y offer some fantastic lit (and writing) courses taught by a diverse group of writers and such (Joyce Johnson and Hettie Jones (?), I believe, teach one or two courses at the Y). I did schedule one course in book reviewing, which was later cancelled because of low enrollment. Poo!

I think 8 schools should suffice (just to, at least, save myself from all of the paperwork). I have enough money to pay for two more, but I'll save it for the second round. Regardless, piratelizzy, we'll see.

Yeah, I'm going to try and write (and revise or "deepening" as my teacher calls it) as much until sending out my best piece. O the hard work!


HopperFu


Mar 30, 2007, 10:52 AM

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In Reply To
some were accepted in top schools with really low GRE scores and a low GPA...

Some schools have minimums for these, but the reality is that if your scores don't totally blow it doesn't matter; for the most part the GRE / GPA is a requirement for the graduate school, which is not the same as the writing program (though you do have to get approved by the grad school, and a GRE / GPA that is off-the-charts low is going to be a problem).
The writing sample is really where everything hangs in the balance. For 90% of the applications to any program the GRE / GPA doesn't matter at all because the writing sample disqualifies you in the first place.
I suggest getting the GRE's out of the way with and taking care of Letters of Rec, transcripts, other paperwork, etc., as early as you can because then it's just one thing that's out of the way, and most of that is pretty brainless.
Statements of purpose are important, but they - along with letters or rec - don't matter one whit if your writing sample isn't good enough to get you into the final round.

As for writing samples, my suggestion is to try to write as many stories as you can between now and whenever you start to apply, and to try to get critical feedback on as many of them by as many different people as you can. Then, work the hell out of a few stories to try to make them as good as possible. In general, the more you write the better you get, and the more you write the more likely you are to have a gem that you can use to apply with....


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 30, 2007, 10:54 AM

Post #102 of 213 (3052 views)
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Hello essa,

Say, how about taking the GRE two years before? Is that too much or enough time?


HopperFu


Mar 30, 2007, 10:57 AM

Post #103 of 213 (3050 views)
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In Reply To
I wonder if I should call or e-mail my professors. I called up one of my former professors to ask if she can take a look at my book review ...

You can wait until it is closer to the time; say August of the year you are applying. Three months is plenty of notice. Just make sure you have a list of three people who will give you EXCELLENT recs.

As for the book review, while it is cool (Mo Review is a good journal), it will make almost no difference for your applications. You can't use a book review anywhere on your application (I suppose under the resume parts you could). Don't expect to submit a book review as an example of your work. You are applying on fiction, so that is what will be considered by application committees


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 30, 2007, 11:05 AM

Post #104 of 213 (3040 views)
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So, okay. Three months before the deadline (which the deadline for most schools fall between December and February, correct?). As of now, I have a list of three professors that will write recommendations, along with one more prof as backup.

I suspect a book review will not fall under the rubric of a 'writing sample.' Jokingly I asked a rep from Cornell if a book review is acceptable as a writing sample; luckily, she knew I was teasing :)


eesa


Mar 30, 2007, 11:06 AM

Post #105 of 213 (3038 views)
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Two years is more than enough time, but I don't think it's too much. Your scores stay good for five years, I think? You can take the test pretty close to the application due dates, but you won't want to deal with it then. But you could wait till the summer before to take the test, if you wanted to. I suggest buying a review book and working on it when your life isn't especially busy, but only take the test if you're sure you're going to apply so that you don't waste a lot of time and money.


wilmabluekitty
Wilma Weant Dague

Mar 30, 2007, 11:07 AM

Post #106 of 213 (3038 views)
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It seems that NYU would be a natural for you, since you're in NYC. Doesn't Edwidge Danticat teach there?


bighark


Mar 30, 2007, 11:15 AM

Post #107 of 213 (3031 views)
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GRE
Your GRE scores are good for up to five years, so there's absolutely nothing wrong with taking the test early and applying later.

Letters of Recommendation
Ask for your letters around the end of September / beginning of October. ou may want to quote December 1st as the day by which you hope to receive the letters. Since the earliest applications are due on December 15, this will give your writers plenty of time to compose something for you while still give you some wiggle room in the event that someone ends up missing the deadline (it happens all the time).




seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 30, 2007, 11:16 AM

Post #108 of 213 (3030 views)
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Eesa,

That's good. I think I am certain that around 2009 or 2010, I plan on getting a MFA. So, most likely, I'll take the GRE this August just to get the gargoyle off my shoulders. I already have a book I bought three years ago (GRE for dummies), which, I think is one of the best study guides out there.


eesa


Mar 30, 2007, 11:19 AM

Post #109 of 213 (3027 views)
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The test changed a lot since I took it, so you will probably need a new book. The website has some details about the changes, I'm sure, but I don't know what they were.


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 30, 2007, 11:20 AM

Post #110 of 213 (3027 views)
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Hey wilmabluekitty,

I met Edwidge Danticat last November when she did a short reading at St. John's University. Right now she lives in Miami and did taught at NYU (and UM--Miami, not Michigan) for a while. I had NYU on my list, but, later scratched it off the list. :(


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 30, 2007, 11:23 AM

Post #111 of 213 (3024 views)
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Oh really? Does the GRE still include the writing portion? I remember that's one section I didn't want to deal with, especially if I were to write a something on some bogus topic!


piratelizzy


Mar 30, 2007, 11:29 AM

Post #112 of 213 (3018 views)
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For letters of rec, I think I noticed one or two schools state that they must not be older than a year. But other than that, I´d say secure them early. (I think two years is much too early, but you could ask in the summer before you send off your apps.)


'sup?!


jaywalke


Mar 30, 2007, 11:46 AM

Post #113 of 213 (3006 views)
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In Reply To
GRE
Your GRE scores are good for up to five years, so there's absolutely nothing wrong with taking the test early and applying later.


As a matter of fact, it might be better to take it now. Starting in September the GRE is going to change dramatically. ETS mentions a little about it on their website, but it is also covered in the Princeton Review study guide (_Cracking the GRE_, which was $20 well-spent, IMO). The test is going to be much longer--something like 4 hours to finish! Ugh.


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 30, 2007, 1:24 PM

Post #114 of 213 (2967 views)
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A 4-hour test?! That's bonkers! Does that include the writing portion as well?


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 30, 2007, 1:32 PM

Post #115 of 213 (2961 views)
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GRE general test change in September link from ETS website:
http://www.ets.org/portal/site/ets/menuitem.c988ba0e5dd572bada20bc47c3921509/?vgnextoid=784c73e2fed90110VgnVCM10000022f95190RCRD&vgnextchannel=bf8146f1674f4010VgnVCM10000022f95190RCRD


storyends


Mar 30, 2007, 10:45 PM

Post #116 of 213 (2911 views)
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  2009 or 2010? Wow, talk about not procrastinating. That's quite a bit of advance planning you're doing.

I find this very interesting. Do/did most people put this much pre-planning into their application process? Personally, getting an MFA had been something I'd tossed around for three years since graduating college, but I didn't do any work toward applying until August 2006, when I knew for sure that going for an MFA was what I wanted. Asking my references for letters of rec was the moment that I officially felt like I was "on the clock", point of no return. I did all the application work in the subsequent five or so months*. If I'd made up my mind to pursue an MFA, I don't think I would have the patience to let an application cycle pass by, much less two, unless I had some sort of prior commitment that I knew would preclude me from enrolling earlier.

By the way, since UW-Madison is your top choice, you should keep in mind that they accept poetry and fiction students in alternating years. The fiction classes are entering fall of 2008 and fall of 2010. I almost certainly would have applied there had they been accepting fiction writers for this incoming class. So you either have nine months or two years and nine months to apply to UW-Madison!

-storyends

*Of course I was still working on my writing before then (though not specifically with MFA in mind) and I was already casually studying for the GRE (if by "study" you count subscribing to a bunch of Word of the Day email lists). This was my version of early preparation.



In Reply To
Eesa,

That's good. I think I am certain that around 2009 or 2010, I plan on getting a MFA. So, most likely, I'll take the GRE this August just to get the gargoyle off my shoulders. I already have a book I bought three years ago (GRE for dummies), which, I think is one of the best study guides out there.



ptld


Mar 30, 2007, 11:14 PM

Post #117 of 213 (2905 views)
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I only decided to apply to mfa's in late August, and like you I started feeling like the clock was ticking as soon as I asked for letters. It was nice though, two professors that I asked said I was the first to ask. I felt like I was more on the ball then I actually was. Though application process was frantic, I really don't know if I could have done it any other way. I needed that sort of pressure and approaching deadlines (which is part of why I want an mfa). I'm hoping among other things to treat myself to a little writing bootcamp.


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Mar 31, 2007, 1:09 AM

Post #118 of 213 (2888 views)
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Ha! That's true, storyend. In fact, the choice to attend a MFA program by 2010 was based on UW-Madison's acceptance policy. So, for sure, this should give me enough time to work on my writing, study/retake--if necessary--the GRE, etc etc.


madgraceflint


Apr 1, 2007, 2:43 AM

Post #119 of 213 (2822 views)
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I'm also curious for those of us who haven't been in undergrad for a while what people recommend as far as getting feedback for writing.

I've been in two poetry workshops and one short fiction workshop during and after my undergraduate work. I've had mixed experiences (a workshop I took during my undergrad was led by an incredible writer who was a lackluster teacher) with the benefits of workshops, and would like to get a better sense of what to expect on the graduate level.

I've been researching online writing courses (I'm currently living and working out of the US), and was also wondering if anyone had any positive or negative experiences with:

The University of Wisconsin-- Madison

UC Berkeley Extension School
Stanford's Continuing Studies Program
UCLA Extension Writer's Program

Berkeley and Wisconsin seem to say that they offer classes which one can finish in 6-12 months-- does anyone know if that means their classes are more tutorial-based with one teacher guiding your work and not as much student interaction?

Also, I've been more primarily a poet in recent years, but my original love was in fiction, and now I seem to be leaning towards creative non-fiction or memoir, would it be too basic to take a beginner course that touches on all these genres to figure out what sort of concentration to aim for in my application?

Thanks in advance.


casicasi


Apr 2, 2007, 2:52 AM

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madgraceflint -

I have taken an ucla extension class in fiction and I'm getting ready to take another one. Overall I liked the experience as I felt my writing improved a lot during the eight weeks. Some of the things I liked was the format was easy to navigate and I liked the classroom like setting, instead of a tutorial sort of program.

I was going to try a class with a different program, but it seems like ucla's extension program has the most variety, maybe I try one of those tutorial classes later.

One thing about ucla's program is that if the instructor usually sets up certain deadlines so if you are going to be away from internet access it might be difficult to complete the assignments although my intructor was pretty flexible. There are was also some students who didn't take the class as serious as other, but I would say about 70 percent of my classmates put a lot of effort into their critiques and assignment.

I hope this was of some help.


madgraceflint


Apr 2, 2007, 10:55 AM

Post #121 of 213 (2695 views)
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Thanks so much casicasi! I'm probably going to have intermittent e-mail access through the summer, so perhaps one of the more flexible programs might work better this go-round. I just want to make sure that I get some good feedback on my work, and some more tools for the revision/creation toolbox. I'm a little nervous.

From my experience with workshops, sometimes the teacher might not get what I'm trying to accomplish with something, but another student might, so the variety of opinions is helpful.

Or there's the nice cheerleading sort of workshop where work is considered "good", but feedback on what makes it good or how to go about generating good work is kind of limited.


Moonshade


Apr 2, 2007, 1:54 PM

Post #122 of 213 (2636 views)
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madgraceflint, I took a UCLA Extension Writer's Program about two years ago and I was very pleased with my work from that class. The Intructor gave weekly assignments of 1. reading and posting comments on the stories, 2. critquing other classmates work and, of course, 3. submitting your own material.

I took the fiction (short story) course and I learned a great deal over those eight weeks. I would be up for taking another course through them too.

If you're not to sure which genre you want to concentrate in for your application, I think it would be wise to take a course that touches on all of them. It sounds like the genres you're interested in would go under the umbrella of "creative writing." It's best to know exactly what you want to write, and what your strengths and weaknesses are before you apply. With the rise of MFA applicants, you'll want the strongest application possible.


__________



Apr 2, 2007, 2:01 PM

Post #123 of 213 (2632 views)
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Re: [Moonshade] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

You know, you guys could just get together for free.

If that $500's really burning a hole in your pocket, hell, I'll take it...


six five four three two one 0 ->


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Apr 2, 2007, 2:23 PM

Post #124 of 213 (2617 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Sorry to go off-topic here, but for those--like myself--interested in applying a MFA at Syracuse, Brooklyn College, and UW-Madison, the GRE is not required. Yes, folks, I repeat, the GRE is not required to get into their program. Yipee!


malber


Apr 3, 2007, 2:35 AM

Post #125 of 213 (2534 views)
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right, but it IS required by a lot of others... people recommend taking it so that you don't limit yourself to places you can and can't apply.

as for OSU's program: take another look... i'm probably heading there next year, and it seems amazing. Lee Martin was a finalist for the pulitzer, Lee K. Abbott is considered one of the masters of the short story, and Erin McGraw and Michelle Herman both have fantastic reputations as well. just some thoughts. they're a program on the rise, i should think. plus, everyone is funded (a good number with fellowships!) and Columbus is a pretty cool city.


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Apr 3, 2007, 9:36 AM

Post #126 of 213 (3520 views)
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Re: [malber] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

You're right, Malber. GRE is required for other programs, which I plan to take regardless. Out of the eight schools, only five schools state that the GRE is crucial for admissions into a MFA program. To make sure that the admissions webpage for UW-Madison, Syracuse, and Brooklyn College were correct, I called each institution and spoke to the MFA graduate director AND graduate admissions. Sure enough, it's accurate. So, yes, a polished and well-executed writing sample (as mentioned in this--and other--forum) is your first ticket into a graduate program.


hamlet3145


Apr 3, 2007, 10:39 AM

Post #127 of 213 (3504 views)
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My main gripe with the GRE (other than its complete irrelevance as a measure of worth for a creative writing applicant) is the cost. You only get four "free" score reports to send out to schools and then need to pay for each additional report. Considering that by and large these scores are sent electronically (with all the incured expense of an e-mail) the company, then, is making about 4 bajillion percent profit.

IMO, the only worry people should have about the GRE is 1) remembering to take it and 2) being able to pay for it on top of all the application & transcript fees. For a full boat of 12 program applications one can easily be out over $1000 dollars in total cost.


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Apr 3, 2007, 10:47 AM

Post #128 of 213 (3499 views)
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That's true. I recall scheduling for the GRE during undegrad, then later heard each test taker can send scores to only four schools for free--and, of course, a tacked-on fee of $15 for each additional school. Yes, it's a corporate scam and, yes, your last point is right on the mark. Then again I promise myself to apply to only 8 schools, lest spending $1000 would blast a hole through my savings!


hamlet3145


Apr 3, 2007, 10:50 AM

Post #129 of 213 (3496 views)
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You know, I keep mentioning 12 schools but truth be told I "only" applied to 8 myself. =)


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Apr 3, 2007, 10:57 AM

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Re: [Hamlet3145] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

At least you applied to 'a' program and get in. Then again, I'm going to wait until I turn 30 or 31 once I start applying for a MFA program. Here I come Ploughshares magazine!


madgraceflint


Apr 3, 2007, 1:47 PM

Post #131 of 213 (3460 views)
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Re: [Moonshade] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the feedback on the UCLA extension program Moonshade! It's good to get more feedback. Did the instructor also advise you on published stories to read and things to look for in them?


madgraceflint


Apr 3, 2007, 1:50 PM

Post #132 of 213 (3458 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Junior!

You know, I've done workshops with people who just met up to write and read what they'd written. I guess I'm looking for a more rigorous and careful kind of feedback than what I've experienced so far.

And unfortunately, most of my friends aren't interested in poetry (or perhaps that's a nice way of telling me they don't like mine?... ulp!).

If you know of any good online communities of serious writers, though, I'd be interested.


madgraceflint


Apr 3, 2007, 1:53 PM

Post #133 of 213 (3455 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Of course, I realize the speakeasy is a place serious writers hang out, but I'm under the impression we're not supposed to be doing crits here...


wilmabluekitty
Wilma Weant Dague

Apr 3, 2007, 9:28 PM

Post #134 of 213 (3405 views)
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Re: [seemingmeaning] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Is it permissable to send a photcopy with the promise of official scores if accepted?


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Apr 3, 2007, 9:34 PM

Post #135 of 213 (3402 views)
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Hey wilmabluekitty,

It's unclear when you say, "the promise of official scores." But, from what I gather, you're asking is it okay to send a photocopy of your GRE scores to a specific institution, n'est-ce pas?


wilmabluekitty
Wilma Weant Dague

Apr 3, 2007, 9:37 PM

Post #136 of 213 (3397 views)
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I mean, instead of paying fifteen bucks a pop. send a photocopy of your scores and say that you'll have ETS send them if necessary.


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Apr 3, 2007, 10:09 PM

Post #137 of 213 (3386 views)
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Ah, yes wilmabluekitty. I may take that route, but it depends on the department whether they take photocopied scores and such. We'll see


rpc
ryan call

Apr 4, 2007, 10:29 AM

Post #138 of 213 (3328 views)
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Re: [seemingmeaning] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

acc. to cnn
ets wont be using the new gre after all

so yeah

http://www.cnn.com/...hanges.ap/index.html


<HTMLGIANT>


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Apr 4, 2007, 10:45 AM

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Sheesh. I just printed out the article and it appears that the ETS test-makers decide to scrap the old idea! HA! What a joke.


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Apr 4, 2007, 10:47 AM

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And it was meant in a good way!


motet
Dana Davis / Moderator
e-mail user

Apr 7, 2007, 9:15 AM

Post #141 of 213 (3226 views)
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In Reply To
Of course, I realize the speakeasy is a place serious writers hang out, but I'm under the impression we're not supposed to be doing crits here...



That's correct and if someone has posted their original work and I've missed it, I'd appreciate your pointing me to it. Otherwise, exchanging original work privately for critique, or critiquing the particulars of a program, a process or a place, is perfectly acceptable.

Dana


__________



Apr 7, 2007, 7:22 PM

Post #142 of 213 (3168 views)
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Hey guys.

No one posted their work. I was suggesting, since there are only, what, twelve or so spots in an extension class, you guys would be better off just e-mailing work among yourselves instead of paying $600 for a moderator. Seriously. Those classes are a meaningless credit. And aside from peer commentary, what you're getting are lame exercises sniped from any number of books straight from the the Half-Price $1 bin. You could just as easily decide to be accountable to each other...for a big, big savings!

Just my opinion.


six five four three two one 0 ->


mccrary

e-mail user

Jan 29, 2008, 4:15 PM

Post #143 of 213 (3005 views)
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Re: [creative8] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I was just wondering if Universities are more likely to accept a writer into their MFA program if they've been published before. I've only been published twice, besides in my current university's literary magazine, and I was hoping that it would help my chances.
Does anyone know?


writerteacher


Jan 29, 2008, 7:21 PM

Post #144 of 213 (2945 views)
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Re: [idreamincursive] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi, idreamincursive --

The common wisdom is no, having publishing credits will not give you a bump. What the program committee cares about first and nearly last is your writing; does it show promise, and can the program nurture it and help it develop? So, your writing sample is by far the most critical part of your application. (They also want to know that you're a relatively "normal" person in the social sense; that you won't bring big weirdness and cause disruption and/or dysfunction to the program...but those concerns come after they're sold on the writing sample.)

Publication is no testament to quality, of course, and it's hard to think of something more subjective than taste. There are plenty of pieces in lit and glossy mags that are pretty mundane, after all. Present company excepted! Congratulations on the pubs.

Actually, if I were on an admissions committee and I saw a applicant with a slew of (respectable) credits, I'd wonder why s/he were applying -- to pick up a teaching credential/terminal degree? It's a legitimate reason, and I'd expect to see it explained in the personal statement, but the writing sample still would have to win me over.

Anyway, publication won't hurt you and may advance your credibility with the graduate school if there are other areas of your app that are not strong, like undergrad GPA or GRE scores. The Creative Writing committee, though, doesn't give a rip about those things as I understand it.

It's a goofy process, but really pretty straightforward considering the subjectivity involved.

Best wishes!


malber


Jan 29, 2008, 11:41 PM

Post #145 of 213 (2878 views)
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yeah. what writerteacher said. they don't care about anything, literally anything, until they love your writing sample. then, they make excuses to let you in... too many pubs? she'll be a tribute to the program. not enough? we can mold her. GPA low? who among us hasn't let grades slip...


monarca


Jan 30, 2008, 1:28 PM

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amount of work? [In reply to] Can't Post

I was wondering if anyone had an idea on how much work MFA students tend to bring into the MFA program versus how much original work they generate inside the program. Do a lot of MFA students bring an already solid body of work to their program with hopes of polishing everything up? Or do more MFA students come into their programs ready to start new things?

I'm worried about this because I feel as though most of the work I've done already is work I don't necessarily want to stick with. Even the pieces I submitted with my application aren't pieces I want to publish. Not to say that they couldn't be, just that I'm not interested in dragging them into an MFA program if I have the opportunity to start newer stories that I'm more excited about.


Sugah


Jan 30, 2008, 1:34 PM

Post #147 of 213 (2791 views)
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Re: [monarca] amount of work? [In reply to] Can't Post

I couldn't tell you which schools, but a couple on my list (Pitt, PSU, Chatham, Carlow) specify that only work generated while in the program fulfills the manuscript/thesis requirement. As far as any individual course, I can't say. I'm flying blind right now.


http://sugahsshack.blogspot.com


ptld


Jan 30, 2008, 2:37 PM

Post #148 of 213 (2752 views)
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Re: [monarca] amount of work? [In reply to] Can't Post

based on the people i know, everyone has generated the majority of their work while here. even people who came in hoping to polish away seem to have outgrown their work really quickly and taken up newer and bigger projects. i started working on something over the summer so i wouldn't show up empty handed. i was pleased with my piece, but then i wrote something much better over the next three weeks for my second workshop submission and haven't looked back since.


symmetrical


Feb 8, 2008, 2:16 PM

Post #149 of 213 (2619 views)
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NEW - rec. letters [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm planning on applying for 2009, and am starting to think about possible letter writers. I've had two CW teachers who were both visiting fellows for the year, one went on a stagner fellowship, and the other is a fromer stegner fellow who is still here (Wisconsin-Madison). Any thoughts/advice on whether there are any written/unwritten rules concerning getting letters from these people? Does tha fact that they're not yet full faculty members make them less credible or less useful in any way? I'm hoping not, since I don't have too many other options.


unsaid78


Feb 8, 2008, 3:32 PM

Post #150 of 213 (2582 views)
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Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey all,

I'm planning to apply for an MFA in poetry for 2009. I'm wondering if anyone else who is preparing applied for the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets this year? I figure if I get accepted (they only take 10) then that will help me polish off my writing sample.

So I'm getting a taste of anxiety because I googled and I found where someone posted on their blog that they received notification that they got in already. The website says they notify in March!! I'm not complaining that they started early I just want a letter too!

Did anyone else here apply? Heard anything yet?


www.mfachronicles.blogspot.com - Follow us as we begin our 1st years in MFA programs!


bighark


Feb 8, 2008, 3:49 PM

Post #151 of 213 (3650 views)
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Re: [symmetrical] NEW - rec. letters [In reply to] Can't Post

For creative writing, the faculty status of an applicant's letter writer does not matter in the least.


ejdifili
Emily

Feb 9, 2008, 11:42 AM

Post #152 of 213 (3585 views)
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Re: [symmetrical] NEW - rec. letters [In reply to] Can't Post

You should check out Tom Kealey's book about the Creative Writing MFA.

He emphasizes that it is more important to have rec. letters from someone who really knows you instead of a generic letter from some "big name" academic. A lot of people apply to MFA programs later in life, when they have been out of school for years. In that case, Kealey says you should seek a recommendation from someone who knows you professionally, in your community, or whatever. Although, you should still get at least one letter from somebody who is familiar with your writing.

I really recommend Kealey's book if you are unsure about the process. Granted, a lot of the material in the book is based upon his opinions, but I still found it to be really interesting and helpful.

Good luck!


scheherazade


Mar 11, 2008, 8:31 PM

Post #153 of 213 (3457 views)
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Re: Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm leaving a job I hate and am going to spend the next year focusing on my writing, with the possible aim of applying to MFAs for Sept 2009. During this year I still need to make money, but I'm waffling between a few possibilities. So if you had a year where writing was your primary aim, but where money was still an issue, what would you do:

1) Take some menial job and work as few hours as possible so you can spend as much time as you can reading, writing, and exploring the world around you (in whatever ways your meager income will allow)

2) Take a job that interests and challenges you, that may provide material for your writing but at the same time may cut into your energy or time for writing. You'll get lots of story ideas but you might also get sucked into climbing that ladder and before you know it you've set your writing aside for this other career.

3) Take a job that pays well, but doesn't particularly interest you or help your writing. If it's a straight 9-to-5, you'll still have a few hours each day to read and write, and you can sock away a few dollars to help you in the lean MFA years, or to spend the summer before school starts traveling or relaxing.

4) Some other option?


Vesuvia


Mar 11, 2008, 11:33 PM

Post #154 of 213 (3379 views)
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Re: [scheherazade] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Scheherazade,

All of this is going to depend on the demands of the particular job, the office environment (maybe it's easy to take some time to write during the day, maybe not), and your own personal level of discipline.

From my experience, it's been very, very difficult to hold down a full-time job (~50 hours/week, more sometimes) and still find the time to write. Especially because my job is interesting, stimulating, challenging, and I want to be fully devoted to it. That means I'm usually exhausted, both physically and mentally, at the end of most work days, and rarely in good form for writing. It's not to say that you couldn't do it, just that I find it nearly impossible. My job has been a great experience, has given me perspective that has helped my writing, and I wouldn't trade the years I've spent in my job for anything - but from here on out, now that I want writing to be my first priority, I know that I can't do both, thus the shift to MFA world for me.

If you can find a job that's really straight-up 9-5 with no other demands on your time or your mind, then that might be a viable option. And the first option sounds do-able as well, since living on a "meager income" is probably good practice for MFA life anyway :) and if the goal is to write, the extra time is going to help make that happen.

Someone on the Speakeasy (I can't remember who) talked about working intensely for 5 months, then taking 5 months off to explore the world and write. This sounds like a pretty good deal to me - sort of the best of both worlds - and if you can swing it (e.g. can go 5 months w/out health insurance, don't have tons of loans or debt already), then this sounds like a great option.

Good luck!


aiyamei

e-mail user

Mar 11, 2008, 11:47 PM

Post #155 of 213 (3365 views)
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Re: [scheherazade] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

If I were you, I would do a variation on 2):
2) Take a job that interests and challenges you, that may provide material for your writing but at the same time may cut into your energy or time for writing. You'll get lots of story ideas but you might also get sucked into climbing that ladder and before you know it you've set your writing aside for this other career.

So the variation is this: you indeed take a job that interests you and challenges you and gives you story ideas, but is NOT a career track. You might be surprised at what it is. Have you ever read the Alice Munro short story, "Turkey Season"? I think that's what it's called. Much of the story is descriptions of what it's like to gut turkeys. You have to do that kind of work to know how to make a story of it. And yet, somehow I don't think you'll get sucked into climbing the ladder of it and before you know it, set aside writing for it! Unless you've always dreamt of becoming a turkey baron. Who knows. But: it's ripe with possibilities for literature.

My novel came out of a job like that.



(This post was edited by aiyamei on Mar 11, 2008, 11:50 PM)


jaywalke


Mar 12, 2008, 10:14 AM

Post #156 of 213 (3302 views)
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Re: [scheherazade] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
So if you had a year where writing was your primary aim, but where money was still an issue, what would you do:

2) Take a job that interests and challenges you, that may provide material for your writing but at the same time may cut into your energy or time for writing.

3) Take a job that pays well, but doesn't particularly interest you or help your writing

4) Some other option?


I say go for a mixture of your #2 and #3. Dead-end jobs tend to put you in with a soul-sucking crowd. My suggestion is to get a job at a university. You get to be around smart people who understand the desire to learn, there are libraries near at hand and a lot of other activities, and you are (in general) working for a place that is concerned with something other than profit.

The stakes are low in academia, which ratchets down the pressure and the chance for long hours. It's not that education isn't important, but there are no dying patients or screaming clients/stockholders, and the drama is generally small and amusing if you keep it in perspective. I like my job and find it interesting, but when I walk out the door at 5pm it evaporates until 8am the next day. I have no trouble spending three hours a night on my low-res grad school work.

I'm trying to fill a position right now that requires editing skills, so I'm raiding the English Depts. of the two nearby schools. I didn't get many applicants, however, because the job title has "admin" in it. This is a position that, along with admin stuff, gets to edit papers for major journals, with good pay (great for the area) and full bennies, but people see that word and think: "secretary, not good enough for me." Don't be snobby, and you can find some interesting stuff.

Option 4, obviously, is gold-digging. You need a sugar-momma/daddy.


Lyz
Lyz
e-mail user

Mar 12, 2008, 11:41 AM

Post #157 of 213 (3259 views)
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Re: [Vesuvia] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I have spent the last year working at a menial job that gives me just enough money without any pressure or expectations and plenty of time to write.

Now, I am going into a low-residency program and in order to pay for it I am looking at getting a full time position at my company. A lot more hours, travel, etc. It will be challenging and engaging, but I am afraid that I am not going to have anytime to write.

I know other people have done it, with kids to boot. I have a very supportive husband and my work place is supportive too. So I guess I shouldn't complain. But I go back and forth between wanting this job and hoping they turn me down. BUt I can't go into debt.

*Sigh*

Life works itself out, I suppose. My job is to just keep writing.


http://shopoftheheart.blogspot.com


spamela


Mar 12, 2008, 12:02 PM

Post #158 of 213 (3223 views)
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Re: [Lyz] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I suggest (and I am not even kidding): Naps. Naps after my 9-5 office job helped me reset and rest and get into a place where I could sit down at the computer and write for a few hours every day for my low-res program.

It seems daunting but then you're in the thick and you find a rhythm and you just, well, do it. Also, keep in mind how much money you are paying for the privilege of being overworked. That helped keep me motivated.


Glyph


Apr 12, 2008, 12:14 PM

Post #159 of 213 (3101 views)
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Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post

So, I found out that I'm technically waitlisted at a school, but that my chances of actually getting in are slim to none based on my ranking (I'm in the teens and they only accept 6 students). The director of the program sent me an email in which he described the applications they received this year:

"This has been a remarkable application year--we have amid the applicants three already published novelists who want to write their second novel with us. Some applicants have a long short-story publishing record and want to work on their novels with us. Compared to last year's worthy applicants, this has been night and day, and we have joked that none of us fiction teachers, if younger, would have gotten into our program if we had to compete with this pile."

I put this post in the "Preparing for an MFA" thread because it seems clear to me that this particular program puts a great deal of stock in whether or not applicants have a publishing record. It doesn't really seem fair, and it makes me wonder how many other programs operate like this. I realize that there are many people out there who get into programs without prior publishing experience, but is the trend changing? Are we competing with a pool of candidates who want to get an MFA just to work on their second novel? I'm interested to hear what other people think about this.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Apr 12, 2008, 12:28 PM

Post #160 of 213 (3094 views)
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Re: [Glyph] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think the message there is that you need to get published to get into the program. The director was just a little blown away with how many people were published already. Let's face it -- as a program gets more competitive, it's harder for people with promise but no achievement to get in, and this applies to grad programs in math and sociology as well as the arts. But the director expressed his surprise at this year's crop, so it isn't the normal state of affairs.


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/


Yugao


Apr 12, 2008, 4:16 PM

Post #161 of 213 (3037 views)
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Re: [Glyph] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post

I am essentially unpublished, and while I was rejected from many schools, I was accepted to several very good programs. I have only a small publishing record: a few essays, some creative non-fiction. I don't think I even mentioned the few things I have published, because I felt they were not significant or relevant. Obviously, my being unpublished did not matter to the schools who admitted me. Perhaps I was rejected from some schools because I hadn't published, but I doubt it. It is far more likely that my work just didn't appeal strongly to the faculty on some admissions committees.


mpagan


Apr 13, 2008, 3:21 PM

Post #162 of 213 (2937 views)
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Re: [Yugao] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post

Same deal here.
Actually I've never sent any of my work out for publication and only have a small amount of completed stories and a few pages of a novel.

I got into Michigan

I think it was purely based on promise - so it happens.

I think most programs like to have a diverse range of experience levels.


__________



Apr 13, 2008, 5:12 PM

Post #163 of 213 (2895 views)
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Re: [Glyph] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

"This has been a remarkable application year--we have amid the applicants three already published novelists...

---------------------------

This kind of sucks, actually. It sounds like more and more published novelists are treating the MFA like a Stegner-type fellowship. Why would instructors even go for this, when many only have one published novel themselves?


six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Apr 13, 2008, 5:12 PM)


Glyph


Apr 13, 2008, 5:37 PM

Post #164 of 213 (2875 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post

That's exactly how I feel about it.


In Reply To

In Reply To

"This has been a remarkable application year--we have amid the applicants three already published novelists...

---------------------------

This kind of sucks, actually. It sounds like more and more published novelists are treating the MFA like a Stegner-type fellowship. Why would instructors even go for this, when many only have one published novel themselves?



ejdifili
Emily

Apr 13, 2008, 6:11 PM

Post #165 of 213 (2858 views)
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Re: [Glyph] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
That's exactly how I feel about it.


In Reply To


This kind of sucks, actually. It sounds like more and more published novelists are treating the MFA like a Stegner-type fellowship. Why would instructors even go for this, when many only have one published novel themselves?


I totally agree as well. I fully recognize that I'm not, like, the reincarnation of Hemingway or anything; nor am I at the zenith of my writing career. This is why I want to pursue an MFA in the first place: in order to improve. But it seems like things are getting so competitive that you already have to be pretty advanced/accomplished to even get into a program. I keep telling people I wish I'd been born 15 or 20 years earlier, because I think it was just a lot easier to get into grad school back in the day.


calumnia


Apr 13, 2008, 6:12 PM

Post #166 of 213 (2856 views)
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GPA and B.FA's in Creative Writing [In reply to] Can't Post

I wasn't sure where to put this question but it's part of my preparation for my MFA so this seemed like a good spot.

Disclaimer: I'm aware GPA is one of the least important factors in applying, but a few of the programs I am interested in ask for it and I'm having trouble converting my Canadian GPA to American.

Would anyone who did their undergrad in the States (ie: most of this board) be willing to explain how their graduating GPA is calculated? My university calculates on a 9.0 scale but only uses 300 and 400 level courses.

Also: any idea if an undergraduate degree in creative writing will put me ahead of the game? Students in my program come out with 4 years of workshop experience, so at the very least we are familiar with the procedure and have had our writing critiqued.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Apr 13, 2008, 7:01 PM

Post #167 of 213 (2832 views)
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Re: [ejdifili] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post

I had a published novel when I applied to MFA programs, and when I came out my writing had been completely transformed. It wasn't just a break of two years so I could write without my wife nagging that I was wasting my time. I am writing stuff now that would not have been possible before the MFA, at a level that I'm pretty sure I would not have reached without it.

Just because people have published, don't bar them from improving their craft in whatever way is best for them.


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/


__________



Apr 13, 2008, 7:37 PM

Post #168 of 213 (2811 views)
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Re: [pongo] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post

Gotta say, I do find this idea a little wacky -- We must quit denying published authors their opportunities!

I'm not claiming absolutes, but surely we must draw the line somewhere. Surely if Tom Perrota saw George Saunders applying to his program, his eyebrows would go a little crooked. But why? Saunders doesn't outsell most published authors. And he could use some moneyed time to write. And I've never read one interview where an author claimed his art was through growing.

Just seems to me that fellowships already exist for these guys. And now schools admit students who already have an MFA. I know a poet from Iowa for chrissakes applying for a second one because he can't find a good teaching job. I mean, I feel for these guys, but still...


six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Apr 13, 2008, 7:40 PM)


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Apr 13, 2008, 8:15 PM

Post #169 of 213 (2788 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post

Fellowships are not available to most published writers. I mean, you can apply for them, but you ain't gonna get one based just on having a book published. And a fellowship is not a learning opportunity, in most cases.

And this idea that an MFA is nothing more than a chance to write for two years is wacky. I did a lot of work on mine, and on my craft. If I'd wanted to sit at home and write, I could have saved a lot of money (I was not funded at all, aside from a couple of hundred bucks -- total, for the two years -- from the state of Vermont).


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/


MissEsquire



Apr 13, 2008, 9:36 PM

Post #170 of 213 (2740 views)
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Re: [calumnia] GPA and B.FA's in Creative Writing [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey Calumnia,

I applied from Canada this year and found some conversion charts and formulas online. Also, had gone through (some of) an undergrad creative writing program - which I'm pretty sure is the same one you went to, because I recognize the GPA scale. I also wrote a creative honours thesis. Unfortunately, undergrad experience in creative writing does not really put you ahead of the game in terms of anything that you might write on your application form, but workshopped work will obviously be stronger than writing that hasn't been scrutinized by others and edited. McMaster has a handy conversion scale here: http://careers.mcmaster.ca/students/education-planning/virtual-resources/gpa-conversion-chart


(This post was edited by MissEsquire on Apr 13, 2008, 9:40 PM)


ejdifili
Emily

Apr 13, 2008, 9:37 PM

Post #171 of 213 (2739 views)
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Re: [pongo] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I had a published novel when I applied to MFA programs, and when I came out my writing had been completely transformed. It wasn't just a break of two years so I could write without my wife nagging that I was wasting my time. I am writing stuff now that would not have been possible before the MFA, at a level that I'm pretty sure I would not have reached without it.

Just because people have published, don't bar them from improving their craft in whatever way is best for them.



I, for one, I did not mean to offend published writers with my statement. I only meant to express my own discouragement at the highly competitive nature of acceptance to MFA programs.

Though I have not technically been published, I did win first place in a respected short story contest. Still, I have not, as yet, been accepted to any of the nine programs to which I have applied; all I have to date is a wait listing. Clearly, my writing does not suck, but I feel I still have a lot to learn. I certainly don't consider myself on a par with people who already have extensive publishing records; it disheartens me that I am in competition with such individuals just to have a chance at a learning opportunity.

Though I can continue to learn, improve my work independently and continue submitting pieces for publication, I doubt I will personally get very far until I have a chance at an MFA. This is because my regular job is so demanding that I have very little time left over for writing; I really do need 2-3 years to focus exclusively on my work.

Of course, no one is in a position to "forbid" anyone else from applying to MFA programs if s/he wishes, regardless of his/her previous accomplishments. And just because you published one novel doesn't mean you're already Charles Baxter. It just means you are a hell of a lot further along than I am, and I doubt my capacity to even catch up with you and be able to compete without a shot at the MFA. So, it essentially becomes a vicious cycle.

Maybe I am just bitter, but you might feel the same if you were in my position.


Sal P


Apr 13, 2008, 10:47 PM

Post #172 of 213 (2711 views)
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Re: [ejdifili] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post

I think we just have to respect the programs' decisions on who is and is not a good fit for their MFA. If programs just want highly experienced writers who are sure to publish and make their program look good, then that's their decision. But, eventually, the word will get out that they're just a glamor program, a grant with a degree attached. That's why I think we see unpublished writers getting into even the top programs. They want good writers, the publishing credits are less important to the skill level.

We'd never tell a chemist who's been out of undergraduate school for 10 years and worked for Dow that they are too experienced to get a masters or a doctorate in their field. The same rules apply to us, as annoying as it is to compete against far more experienced candidates.

I've done poorly this first round (one waitlist, 4 rejections out of 5 applications) but I'm pretty sure it's because I sent bad stories and not because my publishing record is rather slim.


fiorava
Valerie Fioravanti

e-mail user

Apr 13, 2008, 11:17 PM

Post #173 of 213 (2692 views)
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Re: [ejdifili] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post

Years ago, the Speakeasy had a forum on the post-MFA life. I know that, as someone entering an MFA program, I found the discussion there both illuminating and seriously daunting. I think a thread like that one has serious value in understanding the life most of you are currently seeking.

Writers are pursuing multiple MFAs (thus the highly published competition) because they have few alternatives. A TA generally pays more than adjuncting (teaching on a per course basis), so post-grads are often teaching 4-7 courses at a time to get by, usually at 3-4 universities. Full time jobs, particularly in CW, are hard to come by. I have a friend with two books who just completed her second unsuccessful job search. I am fortunate to teach only creative writing, and I teach at both the extension and the graduate level, but I am still paid per course with no benefits. I spend a lot of time hustling for new and better work opportunities.

Publishing is the answer? Well, my short story collection, where four of the stories published were nominated and/or special mentioned for awards, has been on the market for two years. It's been close to a sale twice, each time the book was orphaned when the interested editor left the company (once to take a more lucrative job in magazine publishing, once by death). Every writer I know has a similar story to share, so it's not even unusual (okay, the death part was). Remember those short story collections with partial novel deals agents used to pull off? Well, writers like Eugenides, Packer, Diaz either took years completing novels or haven't finished yet. Now your agent expects you to finish the novel before she tries for that two-book deal. If you spend every free non teaching or editing moment working on the novel that will thrill your agent, your current or future employers will ask questions like, "Why haven't you won any more of those nifty awards that make us look so good?" or "Why haven't you published outside your genre this year--we hired you for your versatility?"

Now, I think my writing life is a modest one that is on the right track. I write. I teach. I edit. I worry about time and money and what my obsession is doing to the rest of my life. But, it's the life I wanted, just at a much slower speed than I ever expected. The truth is that many writers are using the MFA to be a cushion-period in the early stages of a difficult and demanding career. For those of you who just want a chance to learn and improve, that seems cruel and unfair. Which seems to be a good dose of what the writing life is like. Competition is fierce, and good fortune can be as much about luck and timing than talent and preparation. Luck can also come and go. I know we all dream of that Pulitzer or sitting on the couch across from Oprah, but if you want to write, persistence under daunting circumstances is a good skill to develop.


cantonioni


Apr 14, 2008, 1:40 AM

Post #174 of 213 (2647 views)
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Re: [fiorava] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post

Amen.


aiyamei

e-mail user

Apr 14, 2008, 9:44 AM

Post #175 of 213 (2594 views)
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Re: [ejdifili] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I doubt I will personally get very far until I have a chance at an MFA. This is because my regular job is so demanding that I have very little time left over for writing; I really do need 2-3 years to focus exclusively on my work.


I think it's very unfortunate that you think this way. Neither historically nor worldwide is it the case that most successful literary novelists have MFAs, nor is it even the case now in the U.S. What makes you think that you would have to have an MFA to "get very far"?

I know you feel you just don't have the time, but try to unbend this kind of thinking. You can find a less demanding and stressful job. You can start writing a novel that is important to you. You can start to really work. There are many good books on fiction-writing, many of which are written by the very same people who would be teaching you if you went to grad school, only that in the books they have distilled a lifetime's worth of lessons into the clearest and most concise form -- the written word, which is their natural element anyway.

I used to think the way you do. Then I re-focused, re-prioritized, and re-structured my life, and now I'm reaping the fruits. As those who know me here can attest, it's not that I am so sure that I could not have benefitted from an MFA. I'm sure I could have. But it is also high time we acknowledged what is to be gained by skipping it, so that no one falls into the trap of believing that their work must of necessity be stalled until the day they can join a program.

By skipping an MFA you gain:
-- freedom from anxiety of influence of peers
-- freedom to live in ways highly idiosyncratic and intense, about which you can write with a level of passion that would perhaps be watered down if you were living in a more culturally mediated way
-- experience at the very jobs and in the very milieus that writers complain of as sapping time and energy from the writing desk, but which are often the best stuff of fiction. And no, you will never know what those jobs are like just by having a friend with the job, or doing research on it for a few months. It's not the same.
-- (This last point is the most ephemeral, but I think it's also important.) The life of the writer is not incidental to his or her work. Ultimately it becomes part of the larger text. Do you want your life to be the story of how you became part of the American literary-academic system, a fellowship here, a grant there, a life of applications, a life of heightened socialization? If you do, then that's fine. That's one choice. But it's not the only choice, and it's not necessarily the most artistic, nor the most trail-blazing, nor the most vicious or true or beautiful.

I truly have nothing against MFAs, and I'm happy to admit how much a person has to gain by having one. I just think that in the current American climate, there's not enough articulation of what is to be gained by skipping it. In a phrase: grand-scheme independence.


katiej


Apr 14, 2008, 11:34 AM

Post #176 of 213 (3857 views)
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Aiyamei:

you are amazing. Thank you for your consistently eloquent and lucid voice. I wish you all the best success with your writing.

grand-scheme independence: yes, yes, yes, yes.


LaurenS


Apr 14, 2008, 11:52 AM

Post #177 of 213 (3847 views)
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Need to be published to get an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I have mixed feelings. I definitely support writers of all stripes continuing to hone craft and work with mentors. On the other hand, it's hard being young, passionate, inexperienced, and forced to compete against writers far more seasoned than yourself.

Having typed that, of course, it occurs to me that such competition is what real life is about. :)

There are lots of ways to improve one's writing without committing to an MFA: workshops, retreats, online classes, etc.


jvogtman


Apr 14, 2008, 12:27 PM

Post #178 of 213 (3827 views)
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Re: [aiyamei] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post

I figure I'll throw my thoughts in here too, because certain things you have discussed beg for another point of view.

Your opinion is definitely a useful one to have out there, esp. when there probably are a lot of writers fresh out of undergrad who think the only way to "become a writer" is to get an MFA, which I agree is an unfortunate way of thinking. However, I think most of us on this forum are not trying to "become" writers--we are writers, and we have thought long and hard about getting an MFA, taking into consideration all our other options, including the ones you pointed out.

In my own experience (and I venture to guess some others have had a similar experience), I got out of undergrad with tons and tons of debt, got a hugely time consuming job to pay for it, and tried to write whenever I found the time, and snuck in reading during my breaks at work and wrote down story ideas on post-its. I come from a rather lower middle class background, so it has never been an option for me to lead a "trail-blazing" life. And I think most people are in the same boat--we must work to survive, and unfortunately working a lot takes away so much writing time that it would take so so much longer to finish that book, and then who knows if it will ever be published? I think a lot of people decide to get MFAs not because it's the only option for them, not because they have a burning desire to become "a part of the American literary-academic system, a fellowship here, a grant there, a life of applications" (which is ridiculous to assume anyone's life could be reduced to), but because the option IS out there, and it does truly seem the best option--one gets funded time to write, feedback from other hardworking writers, a community, connections to the literary world, teaching and/or editing opportunities, and let's face it, it is much much easier to get published when one has an MFA from a well-known school. It might sound cynical, or depressing, but isn't it the truth? I'm not saying the only way to be a writer is to have an MFA (I doubt anyone here thinks that), but that for some people, sadly? or maybe not so sadly?, the MFA is quite possibly the only way to start a successful writing career. The art can be developed without the degree, but the "career" can't, I don't think, for a lot of people. (Obviously I realize there are exceptions).

And while I'm not at all some kind of cheerleader for MFA programs, I have to take issue with what you wrote about skipping an MFA (mainly for the aesthetics they promote):

1. The anxiety of influence--that's all around us anyway, and there's really no escaping it. By skipping an MFA program one is not bypassing the anxiety of influence, as long as one continues to read lit journals and other literature. And if one is a strong enough writer one can bypass the anxiety of influence anyway. I think the benefits of having a literary community far outweigh the detriments. Only if one is a really weak writer will one be swayed to write the way one's peers are writing.

2&3&4. Art vs. life--As Flaubert and other writers throughout history have suggested, life IS sometimes ancillary to art. A writer does not need an intense, passionate, crazy life to write passionately and intensely. And one does not need to travel to a particular place to write about it, or work a particular job to write about it. Isn't that the whole point of imagination? Isn't that the whole point of fiction, of art? We are not merely describing events in our life (that would be creative nonfiction, no?) we are creating a life on the page. Also, just because one makes the choice to get an MFA or a fellowship or one works in academia does not preclude the person from living a beautiful, interesting life. In fact, I think if we all stopped living right now, and confined ourselves to desks for the rest of our lives, we'd still all have more than enough to write about because one mundane day of some everyman's life (even if that everyman is a professor and works in academia) is more than enough to make a great piece of literature (as proven by countless authors, esp. Joyce).

Sorry if this comes across as sharp; I just felt the need to defend not MFA programs but those who decide to attend them. Ultimately it's a personal decision, and I think most people (hopefully; I have faith in people's intelligence) think long and hard and weigh all their options before deciding to apply.


Blanca78


Apr 14, 2008, 12:35 PM

Post #179 of 213 (3815 views)
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I don't know, I'm definitely not an expert, but I just don't buy that prior publications matter when it comes to being accepted to a program. I know of at least one person who published extensively and didn't get in. I have not published and got into three good fiction programs and was wait listed at a fourth. At the open house for the program I'm attending (Ohio State), I didn't meet a single person with publications prior to admission, although several of the current students have publishing while in the program (including one who got a book deal with Doubleday his second year, but that's an amazing story unto itself). I don't think publication or lack thereof affects someone's "right" to attend an MFA program. In the end, to me, it's about someone deciding that he or she desires the time and space to write that a program offers, but most of all, to learn and grow as a writer; I think application readers are sensitive to the desire to learn. I know that's what I emphasized in my statement of purpose. I applied because I felt I was at a point in my writing where I needed to push it further and I knew I would benefit from being in a more rigorous community of writers than I have encountered in my every day life. For me, the academic framework is ideal for that, but other people might not need it.


LaurenS


Apr 14, 2008, 1:02 PM

Post #180 of 213 (3761 views)
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Re: [Blanca78] Need to be published to get an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I just got in somewhere without being published, so it certainly can be done.

I guess the main conclusion that I can come to is basically what many have already said: admissions are more competitive than ever, and writers from all over the experience map are applying.

It's hard out here for a pimp of ideas.


Vesuvia


Apr 14, 2008, 2:14 PM

Post #181 of 213 (3707 views)
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Re: [jvogtman] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post

Well said!


ejdifili
Emily

Apr 14, 2008, 4:11 PM

Post #182 of 213 (3647 views)
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In Reply To
In my own experience (and I venture to guess some others have had a similar experience), I got out of undergrad with tons and tons of debt, got a hugely time consuming job to pay for it, and tried to write whenever I found the time, and snuck in reading during my breaks at work and wrote down story ideas on post-its. I come from a rather lower middle class background, so it has never been an option for me to lead a "trail-blazing" life. And I think most people are in the same boat--we must work to survive, and unfortunately working a lot takes away so much writing time that it would take so so much longer to finish that book, and then who knows if it will ever be published?


I think many people have had valid perspectives on this topic, including aiyamei. I agree that many writers, sadly, become so focused on getting into MFA programs that they lose sight of their actual work. I myself have written very little this past year because I have spent most of my free time applying to MFA programs and agonizing over my lack of acceptances. That's my own fault, though.

At the same time, I have to agree with jvogtman's above sentiments. My job, teaching high school, holds a tremendous amount of responsibility and time commitment. However, I chose this occupation because I love it and it gives me inspiration. I guess I could give it up for a less "demanding" cube job, but that would make me (personally) so miserable that I wouldn't be able to write. Furthermore, I'm unfortunately not in a position to structure my whole life around my desire to write. That is, I can't just pack up and retreat to rural Tuscany for six months to work on my novel.

I would, however, be able to structure my entire life around writing--for 2-3 years, anyway--if I were in an MFA program. Thus, the desire to attend.


gcsumfa


Apr 14, 2008, 5:05 PM

Post #183 of 213 (3594 views)
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I think there has been a lot of overreaction to Glyph's post. Considering the sensitive time right now (people dealing with rejections), this is understandable. But

He/she posted one letter from one MFA program director. However, the reality is that most MFA graduates never publish a word AFTER earning their MFAs, so I seriously doubt that his or her post was anything more than a tremendous exception.

Also, sometimes I think grad directors exaggerate when breaking the tough news. Supposedly, every application season is "amazing...and the field is filled with 1,000 Updikes and Zadie Smiths. Whatever.

Publishing shouldn't be rushed; worry about writing publishable material (or promising material with the potential to be published) before worrying about whether or not you're "published." I know a lot of writers who published stuff way too early in questionable venues, and many of these folks now wish they could "unpublish that poem in the Rats Ass Review: An Online Journal of Literature. Also, it often takes a year or two for a story to poem to even appear in a print journal or magazine, not to mention 4-6 months just to have the piece accepted, so you're already short on time between now and the next application season.

Also, even if his post is somewhat true, it's certainly only true for the most competitive programs. If you only apply to the Brown's and UVA's and Iowa's of the world and ignore the smaller, less prestigious programs with committed, hungry teachers, decent literary journals, and solid funding, you can't really complain.


(This post was edited by gcsumfa on Apr 14, 2008, 5:13 PM)


__________



Apr 14, 2008, 5:37 PM

Post #184 of 213 (3562 views)
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Re: [gcsumfa] Glyph [In reply to] Can't Post

   

"...part of the American literary-academic system, a fellowship here, a grant there, a life of applications..."

Sadly, it does happen -- a least, it happened to a couple of my teachers. No books yet, and the stories they putter around are all about the sad, lonely plight of the associate professor. Their life suffers, their art suffers. Reminds me of that Onion headline: Tow-Truck Driver Has Great Idea For Tow-Truck Movie.

So one vote for rural Tuscany. I guess that's what Fulbrights are for.

Anyhoo, I don't mean to offend published authors either (someday I hope to become one!). I know some published authors would relish the learning opportunity. It's just that others, including the ones I know (and the ones who already have an MFA) do not. They would relish the subsidized free time, the break from a bitter job search. They're already published (and publishing) and aren't entirely gung-ho about community or critiques. That's all I'm saying.

And if you read closely, this doesn't contradict fiorava's post (which was very thoughtful, and I'm grateful for). Nutshell: it's hard finding a job, and people will do anything for time, money. (What I don't get, though, is why some of these severally degreed people don't just get a job outside of academia...)



six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Apr 14, 2008, 5:40 PM)


gcsumfa


Apr 14, 2008, 5:51 PM

Post #185 of 213 (3542 views)
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Id also like to address this idea of the MFA giving students time to writewhile its certainly true that the MFA experience gives one time to write (compared to many other real world jobs), many new MFA students naively entire programs with the idea that theyll spend all of their time writing. Lets seein my MFA program, I taught a 2/2 load of freshman comp (hard work if done correctlyand certainly tiring, not to mention brain deadening once one reads the 50th essay about little Johnny crashing his fathers SUV on the way to the SR prom), edited the literary journal, and took literature seminars in addition to my workshops. I probably spent 40 hours per week (sometimes more) on teaching freshman comp (class prep and grading in addition to teaching), editing the literary journal, and doing work for my literature classes in addition to all of this supposed time to write.

Then there's the issue of the summer (or summers) between years. Many programs only fund students for the academic year. So what are you going to do that summer in between your 1st and 2nd year? You'll probably have to find a summer job in order to eat/supplement your stipend, though some folks borrow loan money in the fall and put it away for the summer.

So, really, the point is that theres no way around the fact that finding time to write is hardeven if youre in an MFA program.


aiyamei

e-mail user

Apr 14, 2008, 8:58 PM

Post #186 of 213 (3472 views)
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Re: [jvogtman] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post

I feel bad about returning to this topic of the relative value of the MFA in general, since it's not actually the topic of the thread...but jvogtman's long post is so full of interesting things that I hope I'll be pardoned.

First of all a caveat: basically jvogtman is right about everything. But I am also right, and I'll continue the argument so as to make a house in which anti-MFA dreams can live, mine and those of others. I know that not everyone has these dreams, and if you want to go to another house -- again, I'm not trying to talk anyone out of it. I'm just trying to offer an alternate romance.

Secondly, in arguing that a non-MFA writing career can be hewn, I'd like to make it clear that I'm not coming from a position of hereditary wealth, parental support, spousal support, or what have you. I'm currently supporting myself -- barely. I'm living on lentils. They are extremely cheap and apparently with rice make a complete protein, or so I've been told. They're actually quite delicious. The reason that I've been living for weeks on these things (I also eat outmeal sometimes) is so that I can live where I need to live in the city in Europe in which my novel takes place, where I am still in the throes of the passions that gave rise to it, while I devote what feels like herculean energy to the final brawl with that novel, and what a brawl it has been, and how much my agent, who plucked me out of the slush pile, has poured into critique of that novel at this point, to the extent that I'm embarrassed. So just to get it out of the way: if "trail-blazing" is going to be read here as bohemian, international, holly-golightly, bizarre, then you can lead a trail-blazing life with a lower middle-class background. Actually you can do it with any kind of background. Finances are not the issue. Flexibility is the issue. If anyone wants to know how they can go to Tuscany for six months and work on their novel, all without a trust fund, just pm me. The idea that it is somehow ok to suspend a career (as a highschool teacher in your case, ejdfil) in order to go to an MFA program, but that it is not alright to suspend that career in order to put the exact same amount of time and energy into writing a book, is something that is simply an evil of our age.

Thirdly, the idea that you don't need to experience things in order to have enough to write about, that your imagination is enough -- is a position that holds sway at the moment, but it is not necessarily right, especially not for everyone (and incidentally I could go into a long argument to prove that most writers whose works have stayed with us over time have lived very intense and interesting lives, or sought out experience in the most intense manner, not Flaubertian at all. Speaking of whom, the famous bourgeois himself was actually pretty insane during his travels in Africa.) The point is that the argument of not needing experience is important to us right now because it counters that modernist fallacy of our parents' generation, that the only real school of fiction is the school of hard knocks. And yes, you're right that that is a position that needs to be countered. Of course writing can be taught in an academic setting, and should be taught there too. And yes, you can write for a lifetime only using what experience you have after having survived your childhood, and that's well and good if it works for you, if it _feels_ like it's enough to you personally.

But what if instead of that you want to write about things that no child could dream of, that you know you yourself could not have dreamt of only one year ago? And what if the crucible of the process of discovery-of-undreamt-of-life/acute-experience/transformation-of-experience-into-prose is more important to you than the prose itself, although you'll be damned if you don't learn every prose technique as well, by the way, in order to harness it to those stories of which you and others could not have dreamt if you yourself had not gone for them to the edge of the volcano? Jvogtman, could it be that you do not believe in the existence of the volcano? To be clear, I am by no means saying that you can only find it abroad, or in other odd locales. I'm saying you can only find it outside your comfort zone, and that may well mean leaving the loop of social identifications, groups, programs, etc. I have spent enough of my life applying for things and being a part of programs, within the politics of groups, that I know that they can easily become the central drama and concern of one's life; yes, maybe a dying relative or a love affair intrudes with something more true and violent now and then, but the lazy melodrama of prestige and social identification CAN take over the majority of thought energy, and often does -- and so I stand by what I said before.

But again, my arguments before and now are more passionate than I actually feel -- they are meant as an encouragement to those who have had the good fortune (?) to be rejected from programs!


owenj


Apr 15, 2008, 1:53 AM

Post #187 of 213 (3376 views)
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Re: [aiyamei] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post

Another point - all the people who published prior to getting MFAs somehow found the time to write and improve, so maybe not a bad way to do it? Wait a few years, see if you're really committed, then re-apply? I waited a few years between my BA and MA and then again before heading off to get a PhD - had shitty jobs, all that, but still managed to find time to write and get better, published, got fellowships, etc - so it's not like you have to do one or the other.


vmsf


Apr 17, 2008, 7:14 PM

Post #188 of 213 (3231 views)
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Advice for first-time teachers [In reply to] Can't Post

To change the topic a bit, I'm wondering if anyone has advice for first-time writing teachers. As part of my MFA program, Im required to teach 1 class per semester, alternating between creative writing and comp. I'm thrilled but a little apprehensive. Any advice or resources you can recommend are much appreciated, from the practical (how to balance writing time and teaching time, etc) to the pedagogical (how to teach specific writing topics, etc). Feel free to PM me.

Thanks so much!


sicofelephants


e-mail user

Apr 18, 2008, 1:56 AM

Post #189 of 213 (3141 views)
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Re: [vmsf] Advice for first-time teachers [In reply to] Can't Post

Yeah, I'm wondering the same thing. I have to start teaching classes at UT the first semester I get there. WOO YEAH. I'll totally do it for the money they're giving me.

A lot of places will require you to take a class on how to teach. Not sure about your particular school, though. Still, even if you take a class on teaching, it'll be concurrent with the class you're having to TA for the first time. Ah well. Most jobs I've had just throw you out into the wild and make you find things out for yourself.

And you could always take hints from mistakes you've seen your own professors make. Like, don't talk to your students during a mid-term exam about their weekend plans and then expect them to take you *entirely* seriously. Haha. Personally, I don't have a problem with that, but a lot of students like to see their instructors exercise their authority. Otherwise you come off as incompetent. A "noob", if you will.


(This post was edited by sicofelephants on Apr 18, 2008, 1:58 AM)


LaurenS


Apr 18, 2008, 9:23 AM

Post #190 of 213 (3104 views)
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Re: [vmsf] Advice for first-time teachers [In reply to] Can't Post

Book recommendations:

Tobin, Lad. Writing Relationships: What Really Happens in the Composition Class.

Moffett, James. Active Voice: A Writing Program Across the Curriculum.


vmsf


Apr 18, 2008, 11:30 AM

Post #191 of 213 (3052 views)
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Re: [LaurenS] Advice for first-time teachers [In reply to] Can't Post

thanks!


vmsf


Apr 18, 2008, 10:24 PM

Post #192 of 213 (2938 views)
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Re: [sicofelephants] Advice for first-time teachers [In reply to] Can't Post

Just picked up 3 books that I'm finding helpful:

Writers as Teachers, Teachers as Writers
Jonathan Baumbach, ed.

Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft
Janet Burroway

The Writing Workshop Notebook: Notes on Creating and Workshopping
Alan Ziegler


AncaLS


Apr 30, 2008, 1:40 PM

Post #193 of 213 (2746 views)
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Re: [vmsf] Advice for first-time teachers [In reply to] Can't Post

Books I've found helpful:

Nuts & Bolts, edited by Thomas Newkirk
Writing at the Threshold by Larry Weinstein
Writing Without Teachers by Peter Elbow

Useful websites:
http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/teachtip.htm#questions

For all things grammar & more:
http://owl.english.purdue.edu/
I love OWL.


vmsf


Apr 30, 2008, 1:59 PM

Post #194 of 213 (2740 views)
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Thanks, AncaLS!


AncaLS


Apr 30, 2008, 2:46 PM

Post #195 of 213 (2728 views)
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Re: [vmsf] Advice for first-time teachers [In reply to] Can't Post

You're welcome!

That writing-teaching balance is pretty precarious (for me, at least). I've been teaching comp. for the past year and ESL before that. Writing and teaching have always butt heads.

Now that I'm looking into MFA programs (for 2009?), I know that I don't want to teach more than one comp. class a semester (if I can help it) while I'm back in school and focusing as much as possible on fiction writing.


vmsf


Apr 30, 2008, 4:57 PM

Post #196 of 213 (2682 views)
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Re: [AncaLS] Advice for first-time teachers [In reply to] Can't Post

It's helpful for me to know that you've found it challenging to balance your writing and teaching. If you have any tips, I'd be interested in hearing them. Also, I'm sure you're well versed in the MFA application process, but if not, please PM me with any questions. I feel like I've learned a tremendous amount in the past 6 months, both from my own experience and from others on this message board and elsewhere.

Best of luck to you!


ejdifili
Emily

Apr 30, 2008, 5:13 PM

Post #197 of 213 (2672 views)
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In Reply To
It's helpful for me to know that you've found it challenging to balance your writing and teaching. If you have any tips, I'd be interested in hearing them.


Personally, I find that teaching taxes my creativity in a somewhat similar manner as writing. That is, I have had other jobs that basically involved filing, organizational tasks, etc., and these use a different part of your brain, I think. As a teacher, you have to come up with new ideas every day to keep the students' attention. I find that, after school, I don't have much brain power or physical energy left for writing. Besides that, teaching can be very time-consuming.

My advice would be, first of all, to take full advantage of summer or any other breaks: write as much as possible during these times. Also, try to block out some time on the weekend for writing. For some people, it works to write in the morning. I'm not a morning person, so I couldn't see myself getting up at 5am to work, but some people do it. That way, at least your brain is still fresh.

Granted, I have been pretty bad about finding time to write over the last year, actually. It's my own fault, of course, but teaching--especially full time, and especially if you work with kids--is very draining.

In the end, as a teacher of any level, you may often feel like your work is never done. There are always more papers to grade, more lessons to plan, more things you could be doing. Sometimes you just have to drop it all and focus on writing for a few hours.


captaintodd
Todd Thomas


Apr 30, 2008, 5:56 PM

Post #198 of 213 (2653 views)
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Re: [ejdifili] Advice for first-time teachers [In reply to] Can't Post

I would love to be a crayon-yellow happy sun drawn by loose hands, with beaming arms of encouragement, BUT I have mostly negative things to say about teaching. The amount of work it is, compared with every other job i've ever had (and i've had a lot!), is just huge! And the pay is clearly just average to low. It's a CRIME! And they expect you to to be some sage source of knowledge, ever-spouting with creativity and energy to communicate. You suddenly play a political role as a presenter and a rep. of a school. You're on your feet all day! The facets of your job are never-ending.

I've been able to get the most writing done while working as an accountant. As a teacher, I think I wrote two poems the entire year. I think there is much to be said about using another part of your head and finding work that doesnt require daily planning and grading on top of doing the actual work...

THAT SAID, teaching puts you in touch with a hundred interesting minds, everyone just pouring over new material. That experience has to offer up something precious, right? Inspiration? Beauty? Mastery of subject? Yes to all!! Time for yourself? Not unless you don't need your sleep / want to feel like you're always taking yourself away from your teaching...

Now, part-time teaching like most programs offer to you is another thing. I'm just speaking from my experience teaching full-time while trying to maintain some kind of writing life.


ejdifili
Emily

Apr 30, 2008, 6:22 PM

Post #199 of 213 (2642 views)
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In Reply To
I would love to be a crayon-yellow happy sun drawn by loose hands, with beaming arms of encouragement, BUT I have mostly negative things to say about teaching. The amount of work it is, compared with every other job i've ever had (and i've had a lot!), is just huge! And the pay is clearly just average to low. It's a CRIME! And they expect you to to be some sage source of knowledge, ever-spouting with creativity and energy to communicate. You suddenly play a political role as a presenter and a rep. of a school. You're on your feet all day! The facets of your job are never-ending.


The crayon sun image is amusing :)

I agree that teaching is not for everyone. This is why it can be a good experience to teach part time for a couple of semesters as a grad student. You can find out if you like the work or not without being involved in some heavy job contract, or thrown in for a year with a bunch of demonic teenagers.

Personally, I like teaching. And thank God, because it's really the ONLY professional occupation I seem to enjoy. Other than writing, obviously, but I don't count on ever living exclusively off that.


(This post was edited by ejdifili on Apr 30, 2008, 6:23 PM)


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Apr 30, 2008, 6:49 PM

Post #200 of 213 (2632 views)
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Re: [ejdifili] Advice for first-time teachers [In reply to] Can't Post

Teaching is the best thing I've ever done for money.

That won't be true for everyone, but it is true for at least one.


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/


yeahright


Apr 30, 2008, 7:57 PM

Post #201 of 213 (4283 views)
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In Reply To
let's face it, it is much much easier to get published when one has an MFA from a well-known school.


And the evidence of this is where? Personally, I'm friends with five published authors (none self-published or friend published) who don't have MFAs. Two are best sellers (one we're talking Central Park Manhattan view best selling). One doesn't even have a college degree.

Now will someone who spends two to three years writing full-time, working on craft, growing as a writer, thinking, living, breathing writing have better success getting published than someone who doesn't? Hell, yea. But that it's easier to get published with an MFA from a well known school is completely fallacious. Prove it.


AncaLS


Apr 30, 2008, 9:12 PM

Post #202 of 213 (4265 views)
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Re: [captaintodd] Advice for first-time teachers [In reply to] Can't Post

I actually just took a job as a paralegal to see if another kind of work would allow me to save more creative energy, since teaching does seem to zap it all away. So far, even if the work itself is less engaging (or maybe because it isn't), I do have more energy for writing.


In Reply To

I've been able to get the most writing done while working as an accountant. As a teacher, I think I wrote two poems the entire year. I think there is much to be said about using another part of your head and finding work that doesnt require daily planning and grading on top of doing the actual work...



__________



Apr 30, 2008, 11:42 PM

Post #203 of 213 (4233 views)
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Re: [Heroics Manias] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post

Are you kidding? An MFA from the right school can make all the difference. Of course, we might be just talking journal pubs, here. Some editors initially separate the MFA's from the non-MFA's. And a good percentage cull the ones from Iowa or Irvine and put them in a special pile. Doesn't mean they'll get published, but they do get special attention, whether it means a first read, or, at one college mag I worked for, any read at all.

And I think with poetry, it's even worse. Think of all the post-post, post-avant, Langpo, experimental writers. Like abstract painting, some of it is so easy to produce, you need a degree to legitimize it. Think of all the experimental poets from UMass, and how their poems and books are mostly published by UMass alumni. For almost everyone else, the only way to get a poetry book published is through the university-sponsored contest system. And those are all judged by a very small number of MFA-embedded, careerist poets.

Dunno about agents and full length fiction, but I imagine an MFA from Iowa or Irvine would confer a small advantage, at least in the getting read department. But here, the experience of my friends and acquaintances has been the same -- the MFA didn't really matter.


six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Apr 30, 2008, 11:44 PM)


yeahright


May 1, 2008, 9:52 AM

Post #204 of 213 (4188 views)
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In Reply To
Are you kidding? An MFA from the right school can make all the difference. Of course, we might be just talking journal pubs, here.


I'll give you that point. The big name schools seem to be very good at creating short story writers. But when I look at the MFA big ss writers who have gone on to write novels or at least work on novels, there is, IMO, a failure there. Why did Nathan Englander take ten years to write A Ministry of Special Cases? Why does Z.Z. Packer still not have a novel out yet?

One of these days an MFA program is going to wise up and do a little refocusing and allow the novel to be workshopped over the course of the program and create as many novelists as they produce ss writers.


HollinsMFAer
Luke Johnson


May 1, 2008, 11:05 AM

Post #205 of 213 (4172 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post

While I see your point as far as the top tier programs go, I'd argue that listing you're an MFA student at all, regardless of the institution, might put you at a disadvantage. As you said, some journals seperate MFA folk from the rest of the pile right off the bat. I think it's much wiser when sending out work, if you are an MFA student, to simply list any publications you may have rather than starting off the bio with "I am a student in the MFA program at so-and-so university." And if there are no pubs, simply tell them where you're from, some jobs you've held. My thinking is that a journal editor is much more likely to want to publish an unknown, unpublished everyguy than just another unpublished MFA student. All this merely to say, I disagree that a prestigious MFA puts anyone on the short-track to publication, though obviously if you're in one of these programs one would hope you can write pretty damn well, and thus rightly earn many acceptances.


http://www.lukejohnsonpoetry.com


writerteacher


May 1, 2008, 1:02 PM

Post #206 of 213 (4139 views)
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In Reply To
One of these days an MFA program is going to wise up and do a little refocusing and allow the novel to be workshopped over the course of the program and create as many novelists as they produce ss writers.


There already is an MFA program with a novel workshop. VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) offers traditional short fiction workshops, but there's also a 2-semester novel workshop open to second- and third-year students. Faculty rotates every year, but since all the instructors are successful novelists (as well as good teachers), there's very little grousing about not being able to get the "ideal" instructor.

I'm taking novel workshop starting in the fall. The idea is to have a complete first draft by the end of the spring semester. There's a maximum of 8 students. A student can develop the novel or short stories or a combination as a thesis. I'm hoping to have both a collection -- possibly two -- and a novel by the time I'm done.

I'm excited and a little freaked.

Anyway, VCU is the only program in the country (last I checked) that offers an MFA novel workshop; they've offered it for the last eight years, and it dovetails with the annual First Novelist Award, which is a prize open to any first-time novelist published by a U.S. press in the previous calendar year. Last year's award went to Peter Orner.

I read somewhere recently that novel workshops are derided by MFA programs, largely because they're "harder" to teach/lead than short fiction. To that I say, feh; it's all debatable. I'll let you know how it turns out for me this time next year.

WT


yeahright


May 1, 2008, 1:29 PM

Post #207 of 213 (4119 views)
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Re: [writerteacher] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post

See, having completed two novels, I don't see that a two-semester novel writing workshop with a goal of a completed first draft is much use. I guess I would have to see how it was done in a more specific sense, but what flubbed up Englander was overwriting and last I heard with Packer, she had the same issue, something like 500 pages and counting and only 2/3 of the way done.

How many first drafts of first novels are 75,000-90,000 industry standard? Can a program teach its students to get a novel from first inkling to this word count in two semesters?


writerteacher


May 1, 2008, 2:18 PM

Post #208 of 213 (4098 views)
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Re: [Heroics Manias] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post

I really think there are two advantages. First (and this goes for any kind of MFA writing) is the discipline of committed writing. I am going to draft a novel; it is expected that I do; my success in the program depends on it; I've chosen to challenge myself in this way. There will be serious readers and an experienced writer dedicated to my success checking my progress and guiding me along the way. I'll have deadlines (which is *very* motivating for me, though I know other writers don't work well with them) and because of all this, I will draft a novel.

That's more than an awful lot of would-be novelists accomplish.

Second, I think, is doing away with idea that writing a novel is something that "real writers" do, after they've taken baby-steps with short stories. This is a whole other discussion, but the VCU novel workshop is presented as "just" another form of writing; not something to get all clenched over. (Although I'm pretty clenched.)

I don't know about word counts or how first drafts come out or how they're supposed to come out or if it's different for everyone (which is what I suspect). I just know that I am committed to writing a novel and my program is giving me the time and guidance to do it, and I'm grateful.

As I said, I'll report back dutifully a year from now.

WT


bighark


May 1, 2008, 5:14 PM

Post #209 of 213 (4054 views)
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Re: [writerteacher] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post

SAIC has a novel workshop.


hamlet3145


May 1, 2008, 5:21 PM

Post #210 of 213 (4050 views)
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Re: [bighark] Need to be published to get an MFA? [In reply to] Can't Post

Also, Kevin Canty teaches a novel workshop at Montana about every other year or so.


unsaid78


Jul 30, 2009, 8:54 PM

Post #211 of 213 (3785 views)
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MFA Collab Blog [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey all,

We're starting a collaborative blog for people who are entering CW MFA programs in Fall 2009. This blog could be a good way to record how people progress through different programs and how the MFA contributes/doesn't contribute to their future decisions. So far, 1st years from UVA, Virginia Tech, Minnesota, Hollins, and SIU-C have confirmed interest in contributing. If anyone else is interested in collaborating on the blog, please send me a PM with your email address so I can add you as a contributor.

We're calling it The MFA Chronicles. :)

Thanks!


www.mfachronicles.blogspot.com - Follow us as we begin our 1st years in MFA programs!


taraberyl



Jul 31, 2009, 12:31 AM

Post #212 of 213 (3746 views)
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Re: [unsaid78] MFA Collab Blog [In reply to] Can't Post

i can't contribute but i DO want to read it so post the link when it's up!!


unsaid78


Jul 31, 2009, 12:54 PM

Post #213 of 213 (3696 views)
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Re: [taraberyl] MFA Collab Blog [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey! We've got the blog up and introductory posts are trickling in! One of us already has homework! lol Check out http://mfachronicles.blogspot.com/

We are still open to contributors who are starting in 2009 so please PM me with your email address so you can be a part of The MFA Chronicles!


www.mfachronicles.blogspot.com - Follow us as we begin our 1st years in MFA programs!

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