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MFA Fiction Programs - Questions & Concerns
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MattElz
Matt Elzweig
e-mail user

Jan 9, 2005, 11:35 PM

Post #1 of 344 (21229 views)
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MFA Fiction Programs - Questions & Concerns Can't Post

Hi,

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

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

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

Thanks.


(This post was edited by motet on Feb 18, 2006, 3:02 PM)


WittyName32


Mar 3, 2005, 12:23 AM

Post #2 of 344 (21126 views)
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UC Davis is down to earth, led by the director, Pam Houston, a very generous person who doesn't put on airs. It's an MA program, so that means you take three lit classes over six quarters.


MattElz
Matt Elzweig
e-mail user

Mar 3, 2005, 12:36 AM

Post #3 of 344 (21122 views)
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Re: [WittyName32] Non-Fluffy MFA fiction programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks. I'll check it out. Are you in it? I'm sure this is addressed on the site, but does an "MA" rather than an MFA mean that you can get an MA in English literature and Creative Writing simultaneously? How does the degree read?

Matt


Kelsie


Mar 3, 2005, 1:40 AM

Post #4 of 344 (21118 views)
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Re: [MattElz] Non-Fluffy MFA fiction programs [In reply to] Can't Post

I've spent a good deal of time with Pam Houston--both in person and with her work. She is brilliant and so easy to talk to.

Check out her book "Cowboys Are My Weakness" for a taste of her short fiction style.


wiswriter
Bob S.
e-mail user

Mar 3, 2005, 7:25 AM

Post #5 of 344 (21109 views)
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Re: [MattElz] Non-Fluffy MFA fiction programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Matt: Yes, you'll see this discussed elsewhere back in the archives, but basically, an MA is more of an "academic" degree and an MFA is more of an "arts" degree. The MFA is considered terminal (it's definitely killing me), while the MA is often a component on the way to a PhD. MAs in creative writing are usually English degrees with a creative writing emphasis. In the MA programs you'll take more literature courses and do more academic writing than in an MFA program, which is focused more heavily on the creative work. The MA is often but not always shorter, in some cases a single academic year. People who are interested not only in writing but also in the academic study of literature and potentially a PhD and a full-time teaching career should consider an MA. You can do an MFA and a PhD but it usually takes longer. Probably the best known MA in creative writing is the one-year program at Boston University. Johns Hopkins has had a renowned one-year MA program but I heard recently that they're changing it to an MFA - maybe someone here can confirm that.


rooblue


Mar 3, 2005, 12:26 PM

Post #6 of 344 (21081 views)
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Re: [wiswriter] Non-Fluffy MFA fiction programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Wiswriter, I don't think Johns Hopkins abandoned their MA program. They just added an MFA program -- very competitive -- I heard they take six, that's right six, students a year, and that most of them are from the MA program, which as you know is itself highly competitive. I have never seen a post here about the Johns Hopkins MA program. I know someone who finished there last year. Last I heard she was thinking about applying to Warren Wilson for a low-res MFA. She is a person who likes school, suffice it to say.


WittyName32


Mar 3, 2005, 6:44 PM

Post #7 of 344 (21042 views)
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An MA in English-Creative Writing is more versatile than an MFA, I'd say. With one, you can teach literature and creative writing classes at the junior college level. Also, if you're not tired of school and you want more time to write, you can go for an MFA and it doesn't look as weird as if you already have an MFA. And if you're STILL not tired of the Academy, you can get a Ph.D, and then field questions from people who'd like to know why you didn't just go to medical school, if you planned on hitting the books for so many years.


hapworth


Mar 4, 2005, 5:23 PM

Post #8 of 344 (20986 views)
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Re: [MattElz] Non-Fluffy MFA fiction programs [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not sure what you mean by non-fluffy. This fluffiness you describe (being obsessed with the identity or being obsessed with credentials) probably depends on the people in the individual deparatments.

If you mean non-fluffy to mean rigorous, the program at Alabama is challenging. I left after the first year (later did an MA in creative writing) because i simply wasn't ready for grad school, but the MFA there lasted four years. You could do it in three if you killed yourself. Students took comprehensive exams and, like most programs, finished with a novel or book-length volume of stories/poems. The lit/theory requirements were also steep, so students graduate with a very strong lit background.

Hapworth


jwoodcanyon

e-mail user

Mar 4, 2005, 9:45 PM

Post #9 of 344 (20957 views)
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Matt,

There has been good answers to your questions about rigor, but don't for a moment think that most MFA or PhD programs won't place some focus on who is winning what prize, who is getting funding (and who is not), where students are getting published. In fact, some of the most serious programs are ones where a good portion of the faculty AND students will pay some to much attention to these things. And, sometimes, it can be done in the way you complained about in your initial post. But this is much more an issue of individual personalities, and regardless of your art or trade or where you'll go (school and otherwise), you'll need to find ways to deal with it.

Joseph


sibyline


Feb 17, 2006, 11:05 AM

Post #10 of 344 (20918 views)
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Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

I have no idea why, but I'm having a late freakout about grad school, which is odd because I just got accepted to Cornell and am really happy about that. Maybe it's just that I now have this resource and am eager to ask all those burning questions that have been bottled up throughout the application process.

Acceptance rates? Are these published anywhere? I've heard that Iowa is actually less selective in a sense because of the number of students they admit, but what are we talking about? 1%? 3%?

It would be great to have published statistics. Hard facts. But if anyone has any idea about Iowa, Hopkins, Brown, Michigan, Michener Center, or Cornell, which were the programs I applied to, you can help relieve me of my delayed anxiety. Thanks much.


sibyline


Feb 17, 2006, 11:22 AM

Post #11 of 344 (20910 views)
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ok. i'm answering my own question. michener says on their web site that their acceptance rate is less than 2%. eep. it's good that i'm not super-enthusiastic about texas, otherwise i'd be wringing my hands right now.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Feb 17, 2006, 11:31 AM

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I don't know whether this applies to writing programs, but my experience with posted acceptance rate statistics is that they are made up by people who want the school to look more selective.

dmh


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

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

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


HopperFu


Feb 17, 2006, 12:10 PM

Post #13 of 344 (20882 views)
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Iowa has had for the last two years, about 750 applicants. They admit, I believe, around 25 students a year, and according to the website, 2/3rds get financial aid. Only a few get a two-year fellowship.
Not sure about the rest, but I think it's pretty much hard to get in anywhere that offers funding. I've never heard of a school that is easy to get in AND offers money.


sarandipidy


Feb 17, 2006, 1:38 PM

Post #14 of 344 (20847 views)
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What do you think about this:

Oregon says they get about 400 apps each year, and pick 6 or 7 students for each genre. Do you think it's evenly split, 200 and 200, or do you think it's more fiction that poetry (or vice versa)?

This is so unhealthy.


sibyline


Feb 17, 2006, 1:55 PM

Post #15 of 344 (20837 views)
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oh, i say we can indulge our anxieties for a bit.... from what i hear, there tend to be more fiction than poetry applicants (which makes sense). how much more i'm not sure about.


mingram
Mike Ingram

Feb 17, 2006, 2:42 PM

Post #16 of 344 (20813 views)
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Iowa gets between 700 and 800 applications each year in fiction; 25 people get in, though sometimes it's maybe 24 or 26 or 27. The funding thing on the web site is a little misleading; the truth is, everyone gets some kind of funding, whether teaching, fellowship, or research assistantship -- the dollar amounts vary, but in all those cases it should be enough to cover tuition and at least some of your expenses (if you're teaching, you can cover tuition and live -- though by no means lushly -- without any loans or additional income). In your second year, financial aid is re-upped and generally everyone gets the chance to teach at least a section or two of creative writing if they want it. I get the impression the new director (Sam Chang) wants to make the aid thing less complicated and more even -- the challenge to that, I imagine, is coming up with the funds. But she does seem committed to working at it.

I have no idea how many apps Iowa gets each year in poetry, though I know the number is lower. There are 25 spots available there as well.


HopperFu


Feb 17, 2006, 2:44 PM

Post #17 of 344 (20810 views)
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it's more healthy than heavy drinking, which is the alternative. though slightly less addictive.


rapunzel1983
Marisa Lee

Mar 22, 2006, 9:19 PM

Post #18 of 344 (20558 views)
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What do MFA graduates do? Do they work for magazines or publishing companies or get teaching jobs.... or just go back to doing whatever they did before getting the MFA? Like being a legal assistant, for instance. Or something like that--unrelated to writing. Does anybody have an idea what the statistics look like?

What are good jobs for writers, anyway? I think John Gardner wrote that he considers a good job for a writer to be like... being a waitress, so you can write between lunch and dinner.... or being a newspaper delivery person.... or a night watch person... or a taxicab driver so you can talk to a spectrum of people.... or selling flowers in a nightclub....

Personally I think it would be a little hard to survive with an income like that. Not hard, but I would rather just move back in with my parents and not pay any rent. I mean, do you know how many flowers you have to sell to make a monthly rent of like $400? And that's not even expensive rent. I've never understood why it's considered so bad to live with your parents. I think it's an excellent way to save money. If you just get a job in your hometown and pay nothing for rent or food, you pocket everything. It shouldn't be socially taboo. Working for the sake of working, 9-5ing to pay for your lifestyle in which most of what you do is work, is kind of useless, unless you're building your credentials and gaining valuable life experience. it's like running in a hamster wheel.

Anyway, so what are your chances, if you graduate from a top MFA program, of getting a nice job (not lucrative of course) but one that builds your credentials and helps you out with your writing career?


theapplepicker


Mar 22, 2006, 9:35 PM

Post #19 of 344 (20550 views)
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I live with my parents. I pay rent. For most of my life I lived here for free, and now that I have some income, I feel that it's important for me to contribute financially. They have certain costs here, and I do have a place to keep my stuff and Internet access. I benefit from those things so I pay a little bit for that benefit.

But I do agree that there shouldn't be this stigma, that it should be perfectly fine to live with one's parents (provided, of course, that they don't mind you staying with them!).


mingram
Mike Ingram

Mar 23, 2006, 1:26 AM

Post #20 of 344 (20496 views)
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Actually, you can make a lot of money as a waiter, depending on the city and the restaurant.

And living with your parents is okay, I guess, as long as it doesn't drive you crazy. I love my parents, but I have no desire to live with them again.

As for what MFA grads do after graduation -- all kinds of things. Some people have had work experience beforehand that they use to find jobs again. Since I had experience, for instance, as a journalist, editor, business/technical writer, I may try to string together some part-time freelance work and maybe adjunct somewhere. Or maybe I'll be a waiter again or get a job at the local market. I really have no idea.

Some people do get full-time teaching jobs right after graduation, but it's fairly rare, I think. You really need a book and an MFA. Some people have agents or even book contracts by the time they graduate, but that's not a majority either, I don't think.

So, I guess that's not much of an answer. But that's because I don't think there are one or two or even twenty things that people do -- it's really all over the place.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 23, 2006, 1:42 AM

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The top MFA programs (such as those you applied to) admit between 1 and 4% of applicants based on what I can tell.

Iowa, for example, admits about 3.33% (25/750)


Dr. Bathybius


Mar 23, 2006, 12:24 PM

Post #22 of 344 (20424 views)
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In Reply To
...between 1 and 4% of applicants...Iowa, for example, admits about 3.33% (25/750)


I wonder, though, out of the 750 who apply, how many can be considered decent writers, even for the college level. I've met plenty of people--young people, especially--who think just because they're smart or coddled by the right Ivy league school or like to drink beer and wear a beard like Hemingway, they're somehow Writers (in the capitalized, romantic sense) and should apply. Then you read their work, and the magic (and sometimes the grammar) is just not there. Is there a reasonable guess as to how many viable applications are actually floating around? The 3% number seems kind of hokey; also, perhaps it scares away neurotic folk who really have a shot, compared to the brash I'm A Writer types who'll jump right in?


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 23, 2006, 1:02 PM

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Well, certainly in my experience most of the people who think they can write can't. I wouldn't be surprised if a fair number of Iowa students aren't very good.

As anyone who has worked for a national lit mag (by which I just mean non-student work) knows that most of the writing sent out is atrocious. The majority of it is so unbelievably bland or bad you can't imagine how anyone could imagine it was publishable. I would not be surprised if a lot of these people who are willing to submit their writing all over the place and trying to get into MFA programs as well.

Recently the Mid-American Review had a 25 year anniversary issue where they published only unpublished writers. I remember reading through the bio section and seeing an amazing amount of writers who had recieved MFAs years ago. If a fair number of MFA graduates can't get published for years, we can probably assume a good number of the applicants are even less publishable...


viviandarkbloom


Mar 24, 2006, 12:13 AM

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What's it like for people who go to MFA programs to workshop novels, chapter by chapter? It seems that they are sort of limited, since a chapter is always tethered to the rest of the novel. They can't turn it on its head the way you can when rewriting (and completely rethinking) a short story. Has anyone here tried to workshop a novel start to finish?


aeval415


Mar 24, 2006, 1:26 AM

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In Reply To
What's it like for people who go to MFA programs to workshop novels, chapter by chapter? It seems that they are sort of limited, since a chapter is always tethered to the rest of the novel. They can't turn it on its head the way you can when rewriting (and completely rethinking) a short story. Has anyone here tried to workshop a novel start to finish?

I don't generally post but I thought I'd answer this one. I'm getting my MFA and we've done both in workshops..as in read novels chapter by chapter and read entire novels. It's very dependent on how the prof looks at it and the class size. My larger workshop (12 people) has read some novel chapters now and for the most part it's hard to comment without seeing the entirety of the piece. In that workshop we don't do rewrites we just keep producing more raw material so we can polish it in the summer. In my other workshop we just read two novels. The workshop only has 5 people so it was doable. We mostly talked about where the novels lost focus for us as readers rather than sentence level things. The writers are going to begin revisions starting at this point and working on sections of their novels until they get to the end. I didn't submit a novel but I feel like this is the wiser path to take even though it was a lot more work for the rest in the class.


sibyline


Mar 24, 2006, 3:17 AM

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In Reply To
What's it like for people who go to MFA programs to workshop novels, chapter by chapter? It seems that they are sort of limited, since a chapter is always tethered to the rest of the novel. They can't turn it on its head the way you can when rewriting (and completely rethinking) a short story. Has anyone here tried to workshop a novel start to finish?


I was concerned about this too. At Cornell, since there are only eight people in workshop at one time, page limits are flexible and people have been known to workshop about 150 pages of fiction at one time. So there was someone last semester who workshopped a whole novel that was in two parts. The novel I'm working on is in three parts that are between 100-150 pages long, so I'll probably workshop it in three sections.


Dr. Bathybius


Mar 24, 2006, 3:53 AM

Post #27 of 344 (8548 views)
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Good lord...am I silly for planning to go in with just a few good short stories and trying to work on a longer work while in school? Sounds like everyone's going in with scads o' pages.


sibyline


Mar 24, 2006, 7:37 AM

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In Reply To
Good lord...am I silly for planning to go in with just a few good short stories and trying to work on a longer work while in school? Sounds like everyone's going in with scads o' pages.


I wouldn't worry about it. Pages tend to add up when you're working on a novel. I write upwards of 1,000 words a day when I'm working on mine, but short story writing is a lot slower because you have to fit in so much more in such a small amount of space. I've only written one story in my life that I would consider good. The rest are serviceable to absolutely poor. I'm very bad about showing god awful work-in-progress but I'm just going to have to suck it up.

Now I heard a rumor that someone is coming into my program with two top-tier journal publications, a novel drafted, and another one on the way. Now *that's* intimidating. :)


murasaki
Marie Mockett
e-mail user

Mar 24, 2006, 9:42 AM

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In Reply To

In Reply To
Good lord...am I silly for planning to go in with just a few good short stories and trying to work on a longer work while in school? Sounds like everyone's going in with scads o' pages.


I wouldn't worry about it. Pages tend to add up when you're working on a novel. I write upwards of 1,000 words a day when I'm working on mine, but short story writing is a lot slower because you have to fit in so much more in such a small amount of space. I've only written one story in my life that I would consider good. The rest are serviceable to absolutely poor. I'm very bad about showing god awful work-in-progress but I'm just going to have to suck it up.

Now I heard a rumor that someone is coming into my program with two top-tier journal publications, a novel drafted, and another one on the way. Now *that's* intimidating. :)



Aw, but he's a sweetie. I wouldn't worry. ;-)


sibyline


Mar 24, 2006, 9:45 AM

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In Reply To
Aw, but he's a sweetie. I wouldn't worry. ;-)


Oh, ok. I'm taking him down then. Fiction slam, man! Fiction slam!

I"m following the example of a fellow Harvardian (or is that Harvardite?):
http://www.devilducky.com/media/42822/


(This post was edited by sibyline on Mar 24, 2006, 9:50 AM)


rapunzel1983
Marisa Lee

Mar 24, 2006, 11:53 PM

Post #31 of 344 (8444 views)
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If I'm interested in completing a massive amount of work, and if I'm a very prolific writer, would it be better to go to a small program (with 5 people) rather than a bigger one? Because workshops would be smaller, etc. anybody know people in programs who have churned out a ridiculous amt of text for everyone in workshop to read?

I find that in workshop if you submit a 35 page novel chapter to a group of 12 people and everyone else is submitting 7-12 pages, you look extremely self-indulgent and if the chapter is bad, it looks like you're trying too hard.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 25, 2006, 3:26 AM

Post #32 of 344 (8430 views)
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Why would a small program be better?
If you are going to piss off classmates by submitting tons of work each workshop, then wouldn't it be better to spread this work amongst 30 classmates instead of the same 4 each semester?

(just a thought)


rapunzel1983
Marisa Lee

Mar 25, 2006, 3:31 AM

Post #33 of 344 (8429 views)
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No, because then you waste tons of paper.

It's best if it's a small number of people. Actually best is if it's just a prof who really likes you.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 25, 2006, 3:38 AM

Post #34 of 344 (8425 views)
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Well overall program size doesn't necessarily correlate directly to classroom size....


rapunzel1983
Marisa Lee

Mar 25, 2006, 4:32 AM

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That is a good point. I will have to investigate when I visit my programs.

Actually, I've been wondering about that. If the program accepts 5 fiction writers a year, I'm assuming a workshop wouldn't have more than 10 people (first and second year combined at the most). sorry if I'm being bitchy today. I'm kind of bored and pissed off.


sibyline


Mar 25, 2006, 8:26 AM

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In Reply To
Why would a small program be better?
If you are going to piss off classmates by submitting tons of work each workshop, then wouldn't it be better to spread this work amongst 30 classmates instead of the same 4 each semester?

(just a thought)



Somehow, even your "just a thought"'s manage to sound combative and seem to court a flamy response, but I think I've normalized.

Every program size has its advantages and disadvantages. The main issue I have with being in a small program is the inability to avoid being with someone whose work/personality I really don't like, and also having only one workshop option per semester. I may have issues with large page counts if the work being submitted is drivel, but I certainly wouldn't get "pissed off" about workshopping a novel, especially given that the person I'm workshopping is someone I have a lot of investment in, seeing as we work in the same literary mag, and are friends and stuff.

The small program advantage I think is more apparent in terms of attention from faculty. Also, having eight students and that risk of things being inbred at Cornell is ameliorated by the two-year lectureships afterwards, which means that a fair number of graduates stick around and are available to talk. One exciting thing for me about visiting last month is that I got to be friends with the second year students, so I have other people around to talk to if I have workshop frustration issues.


bighark


Mar 25, 2006, 10:28 AM

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I'm disturbed that someone would think that the volume of a classmate's submission could be something that merits resentment

You write at the rate at which you write.

If your gut reaction to a fellow workshop particpant's writing is "but that takes time away from meeeeeee," then you've got a lot of growing up to do.

Anyway, if volume becomes an issue, I'm sure the workshop moderator will find a way to handle it fairly.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 25, 2006, 2:06 PM

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Well it seemed like rapunzel was assuming people would be annoyed, so taking that assumption it seems like having more students would be better for that.

I'm not sure what the "takes time away from me!" thing means. If grad workshops work like they did in undergrad, time isn't going to be taken away from anyone. A certain amount of time will be allotted to a story (say, a class) and a teacher isn't gonna say "Well, lets skip bighark's story so we can do Clench's again!"

Volume seems to be only an issue to the degree it can be handled in a workshop setting. Grad school probably provides more room to do this than undergrad, but in undergrad you have maybe half a class to do a story and if you are turning in a 50 page novel-in-progress, there won't be time to handle it. You can only cover so much in that time frame. (Of course, in undergrad you could assume as syb said that it was drivel, so that was an added annoyance.)


aeval415


Mar 25, 2006, 3:24 PM

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I hate to out words into someone's mouth but I think bighark may have meant that reading 250 pages from those in your workshops takes time away from your own writing in a way very much different from reading a 20 page story. I can say since I came to grad school I've become very defensive of my time. I don't think this is a bad thing and once I leave here I'll need that. I say that but I mean in terms of teaching. I'm willing to give my students much less of me then classmates in my workshops. I haven't at all been resentful of the time it takes to read these manuscripts because I figure if my classmates took the time to do this work I should take the time to help them out. I would expect them to do the same for me. Also, reading novels in their draft form has been an amazing experience. You get to see the process involved instead of just the polished published pieces we normally have a chance to look at. So if you're planning on working on a novel in workshops and you're heading off to your first year as a MFA, you should ask the program how the deal with novels in progress. For example, I know they're thinking of having a workshop offered here on occassion that just deals with novels and your ability to get into the class will be to have a full novel draft completed.


edwriter



Mar 25, 2006, 4:21 PM

Post #40 of 344 (8316 views)
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Re: [bighark] Fiction Workshop [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, it's possible that context/circumstance matters here (as in so many other discussions).

Some MFA programs (in this case, I'm happy to say my former program is among them) have policies on ms length for workshop. 25 pages is the max per fiction submission. We submitted twice during the residency week and four times during the semester, so ultimately you could have up to 150 pages critiqued per residency/semester.

At one residency, a classmate submitted the full 25 pages, which was fine, but then he apparently expected us to read an appended 10-page single-spaced synopsis of the novel chapters that preceded those 25 pages. I told my classmate flat-out that I wasn't reading the synopsis. I had signed on to read 25 pages and to critique those pages, and I had two other classmates' work to read and critique for the next day's workshop, too. (Low-res students know how intense those residencies are.)

Later (we had an online workshop system in this low-res program) the classmate submitted another 25 pages, which again would have been fine, but in this case the 25 pages were not contiguous--the sample was made up of the last two chapters of his novel, followed by the first chapter. Again, I said that I had signed on for a critique--I had a set amount of time to critique his work and my other classmates' work prior to the deadline we all had to meet, and I would be happy to critique either the first chapter or the last two chapters, but I wasn't writing up two critiques for him that month. He disagreed, vehemently (those chapters were all from the same work, after all, he said). But the instructor agreed with me. So I ended up writing a critique of the last two chapters. And my classmate was very unhappy with me.

I'll add that this came after a semester in which I had "experimented" by submitting two short stories that even combined fell under the 25-page limit. The resulting critiques reflected that my classmates' attention had been too divided. In the end, I came to realize that it was better to submit fewer pages, if it meant that they were contiguous. And frankly it always annoyed me when people went beyond the 25-page limit. A few lines or even half a page, fine. But I felt the rules were there for a reason, and it really bothered me when others disregarded them.

I think everyone agrees that it's important to be grown-up in a workshop for grown-ups. But sometimes childish, self-centered behavior is in the eyes of the beholder.


Quiet Americans: Stories
http://www.erikadreifus.com



soft petal


Mar 25, 2006, 6:09 PM

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Re: [edwriter] Fiction Workshop [In reply to] Can't Post

What's the difference between three chapters and three scenes, critique-wise?


edwriter



Mar 25, 2006, 6:14 PM

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Re: [soft petal] Fiction Workshop [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm sorry, but I don't think I understand your question. Are you talking about critiquing a play/critiquing a story? I haven't been in a playwriting workshop, so I really couldn't address that.

Best,

Erika D.


rapunzel1983
Marisa Lee

Mar 25, 2006, 6:49 PM

Post #43 of 344 (8268 views)
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Re: [edwriter] Fiction Workshop [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the thoughtful comments, everyone.

I have no problem reading other people's work, just for the record. In fact, I'd really like to see another grad student's novel. I want to know what it looks like in progress, so I don't get tunnel vision with my own work. And of course if I want to teach someday, this will be good experience. I'm sorry if I came across as self-centered. I really don't mean that. I was in a bad mood yesterday.

You know, I think you're right. As long as I put maximum effort into every page, I shouldn't anticipate or assume that my peers will be upset with me. I think a novel workshop sounds like a good idea. I like the idea of having completed a draft ahead of time for the prereq. I think the problem with my undergrad institution was that we had people of all different levels with different work habits... some had never written a short story; others had written a novel already; some would hand in a scatter of scenes, others a few chapters at once, and others, a few stories (really really short stories). There just wasn't any coherency. And nobody got anything done. Not the fault of the prof's! Just the fault of the student body. It was the best it could have been but not v. productive.

I did have one problem with being self-indulgent. Once when I was 19 I submitted a long chapter which was terrible. To this day I still haven't out-lived the shame!


Windiciti



Mar 25, 2006, 9:28 PM

Post #44 of 344 (8242 views)
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Re: [aeval415] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

I happen to know that one of the programs that accepted me has separate courses for the novel. Also summer workshops have separate offerings for short story writers and novelists.

Frankly, I think it would be a dreadful bore to receive more than 10 or 15 pages of fiction from anyone at once.
If you are writing novel chapters you should be in a separate class, unless you can keep it to a short story length.

Regardless, the professor should set a page limit.


uadelta21


Mar 30, 2006, 10:28 AM

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Larger Fiction Programs? [In reply to] Can't Post

Anybody know what the large fiction programs are - if any? Large as in more than 6 people, like a lot of them seem to be.

I thought Arizona State had a relatively large program, but now they say they are accepting far fewer people than in the past in order to fully fund them. Great, but that leaves the rest of us with a slim to none chance of getting in.

I ask this because I was rejected this year and hope to apply again, but with a more strategic plan that will increase my odds.

At this point I don't need to get into the #1 school, just want to get an MFA at a decent place!


sibyline


Mar 30, 2006, 10:35 AM

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Re: [uadelta21] Larger Fiction Programs? [In reply to] Can't Post

off the top of my head, i think of umass as being relatively big, also michigan takes twelve i think, as does notre dame. then obviously iowa and columbia.


bighark


Mar 30, 2006, 10:55 AM

Post #47 of 344 (8110 views)
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Re: [uadelta21] Larger Fiction Programs? [In reply to] Can't Post

Large programs are just as selective as small ones--just ask the 718 people who didn't get one of the 25 fiction acceptances as Iowa this year.

I understand the desire to beat the system (boy do I), but I just don't think the admissions process works that way.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 30, 2006, 12:22 PM

Post #48 of 344 (8084 views)
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Re: [bighark] Larger Fiction Programs? [In reply to] Can't Post

Clumbia takes about 70 in all three genres. Iowa 30. Umass around 30 or 40 too, I think.

I think NYU takes a good amount. There are others too.

But I disagree with bighark. Yes, even the large programs are pretty crazily selective, but thye aren't "just as selective."

If Iowa takes 30 out of 700, that's over 4%
If Columbia takes 70 out of 1000, 7%

OTOH, UVa or JHU taking like 10 out of 650 applicatoins is closer to 1.5%.

7% is still a tiny amount, but its a higher than 1.5% for sure...


sibyline


Mar 30, 2006, 1:10 PM

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Re: [Clench Million] Larger Fiction Programs? [In reply to] Can't Post

i've been told (though we never know the actual statistics) that JHU takes 5 or 6 people out of around 600 applicants, Cornell 4 people out of 400-500. so less than 1% is the actual statistic. it's like winning the lottery.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 30, 2006, 1:20 PM

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Re: [sibyline] Larger Fiction Programs? [In reply to] Can't Post

According to TK's book they take 6 fiction writers, but also 4 poets. So 10 total.

Although now I'm wondering if all the total application numbers I've been hearing from schools were for fiction alone or all genres...


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Mar 30, 2006, 1:25 PM

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Rosemont MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Anyone know anything about this program?

dmh


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

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

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


sibyline


Mar 30, 2006, 1:26 PM

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In Reply To
According to TK's book they take 6 fiction writers, but also 4 poets. So 10 total.


ah. also, there are supposed to be fewer poetry applications than fiction, so the percentages might be different. i got confused because my impression was that iowa took 25 in fiction and 25 in poetry. ah well....


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 30, 2006, 1:35 PM

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Re: [sibyline] Larger Fiction Programs? [In reply to] Can't Post

Wow, you are actually right about that. I thought it was 25 total, but apparently its over 60 total.


clarabow


Mar 30, 2006, 3:32 PM

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Programs Overseas? [In reply to] Can't Post

Anyone know about the programs in other countries? I'm looking at City University London right now...any thoughts?


ApollosQ


Apr 4, 2006, 7:56 PM

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In Reply To
Anyone know about the programs in other countries? I'm looking at City University London right now...any thoughts?



Don't know London, but I did apply for Trinity College Dublin a few years ago, well before I was ready or qualified. It was in its 2nd year as Ireland's only creative writing masters program. They took only 12, and they came from all over the world.

I seem to recall there being very few such programs in the UK as well, but I can't be sure. My guess is it's probably a lot more competitive over there, but again, that's a guess.

--Dan


clarabow


Apr 5, 2006, 6:28 PM

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Re: [ApollosQ] Programs Overseas? [In reply to] Can't Post

Why do you think it's more competitive (in London)?

If anyone has experience with the (relatively young) MA Creative Writing/Novels program at City University London, I sure would appreciate your advice.


TFo


Apr 5, 2006, 10:05 PM

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Re: [clarabow] Programs Overseas? [In reply to] Can't Post

I applied to University of East Anglia, which I think is understood to be the best fiction writing program (MA, not MFA) in the UK. It's very well established, and a really dynamic program, but I imagine it's *very* competitive. I have no idea to what extent, though. I don't think I'm likely to get in, but who knows.

There are a lot of part time programs that seem really interesting - both Oxford and Cambridge are beginning such programs in the fall, but you'd have to find something else to do in Oxford or Cambridge part time, which might be difficult/costly.

Bar Ilan University in Israel has several well established MFA programs that allow writing in English.

I've also heard good things about the Trinity College Dublin program, and I might apply there eventually, but I have to figure out if I can go back to Dublin. Living there once might have been my limit...


sovietsleepover


Apr 6, 2006, 2:02 AM

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Re: [clarabow] Programs Overseas? [In reply to] Can't Post

I know Bath Spa University (in Bath, England--the name is apt to lead someone down the wrong track!) has a graduate level writing program, and though it's not overseas per se, there are quite a few Canadian programs. (Incidentally, I've run across mention of a South Korean university that also offers a graduate writing program in English, but the cursory examination of its website yielded almost no information in English, so I'm kind of suspicious.)

Funding for foreigners, probably especially non-EU citizens, can be tricky. Plan accordingly! Additionally, I'm not sure how the MFA degree is structured, but in general UK & EU masters & PhD programs tend to be much more self-directed & narrowly focused, which is apparently detrimental if you plan to get a job in the US when you finish--you're not qualified (or certifiably qualified) to teach broader lower-level subjects. Then again, tenure-track writing jobs are typically contingent on publication rather than education, so I may be entirely wrong. Either way, if teaching is your goal (or a stepping stone en route), this may be something to check on.


oliviasfortunes


Apr 22, 2006, 1:08 AM

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Websites [In reply to] Can't Post

First of all, I accepted the offer at Indiana fiction last week. Go me!

I want to know about any MFA websites or blogs out there run by students. For example, I know the Iowa workshop MFA students have a couple - earthgoat, ropes of sand and burning babies (something like that) on blogger.

Any others out there? I heard both UMass and Columbia have some, but don't know the addresses.


deweese


Apr 25, 2006, 2:34 PM

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Re: [oliviasfortunes] Websites [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not sure if there are any group blogs among current/recent UMass students, but there are several poetry sites.

Current Students:
Jon Link & Natalie Lyalin run http://www.glitterponymag.com
Seth Parker runs Skein Magazine- not sure if it has a web presence.

Crate (in-house magazine where MFA students post new work/work in progress)
http://www.umass.edu/english/eng/mfa/crate/

Recent Grads:
Travis Nichols audioblog - http://weirddeer.blogspot.com/
Brian Henry - http://versemag.blogspot.com/
Rob Casper & Co. - http://www.jubilat.org
Justin Lacour - http://www.kulturevulture.org/
Ethan Paquin - http://www.slope.org/
William Waltz - http://www.conduit.org
Matthew Zapruder/Lori Shine - http://www.wavepoetry.com/
Noah Eli Gordon - http://braincasepress3.blogspot.com/


boy named sue


May 2, 2006, 4:18 PM

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Re: [deweese] Websites [In reply to] Can't Post

ok, this may be a huge shot in the dark...but are there any phd people floating around out there? i'm wondering if anyone has any insight to offer regarding trying to write while completing a PhD (espcially one in a completely unrelated field).

i know phds are time- and energy-intensive, and my particular field is going to involve more-than-normal-amounts of coursework and a lot of lab-type research. so, if there's anyone who's tried to maintain his/her writing during this process, i'd love to hear how you did it. did you keep a reading/writing schedule, or did you just squeeze it in when you had a chance? how difficult was it? how much did your productivity (and maybe even creativity) suffer?

also -- another shot in the dark, is there anyone interested in a research/academic career (again, field unrelated to writing/literature)? i'm just curious about how, if i decide to do an mfa after the phd, it will affect me to have basically a two year gap.

and this is probably a belated consideration, given that i already made my decision, but what about the order in which you do the degrees? i know i would get different, and hopefully better, things out of the mfa if my writing matures more, but i'm worried that it may not improve at all, given the amount of time phd students are expected to put in. any thoughts?


wiswriter
Bob S.
e-mail user

May 3, 2006, 8:38 AM

Post #62 of 344 (9393 views)
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Re: [boy named sue] Websites [In reply to] Can't Post

I was in a PhD program years ago, before my MFA, and that's when I began writing fiction seriously. Never finished the PhD; I went into the field as a practitioner and wound up as an ABD lifer. Actually I found it easier, time-wise, to work fiction around a PhD than around a full-time job. Though the hours were long at times my schedule was a lot more flexible than later when I tried to be a writer and a 50-hour-a-week wage slave. That didn't work at all. Fortunately I'm self-employed now.

The bigger issue for me when I was a PhD candidate was brain fatigue. I had no classes on Fridays and could spend a lot of the day writing if I wanted. But by that time my thinking mind needed a rest. What can you do, though? That's the #1 challenge of being a writer - getting it done and surviving somehow until someone's willing to pay you for it. I'd say the PhD life - in fact anything in the academic world - is more writing-friendly and less soul-withering than spending all your prime time in a cubicle or office on someone else's whim.


edwriter



May 3, 2006, 10:05 AM

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Re: [boy named sue] Ph.D. [In reply to] Can't Post

I earned my Ph.D. (in history) in 1999. While I was writing my dissertation I also finished my first novel ms. The idea for the novel came to me through archival research I conducted during the summer of 1996 for my dissertation.

Looking back, I think it was one of the most productive periods of my working life. I was teaching (history and history and literature), writing the dissertation, and writing the novel. I'm not sure exactly how I did it, but I know that I tried to work on the dissertation in the mornings and the novel in the afternoon. In some way, writing the dissertation was the "work" I had to do before I let myself get to the "fun" of the novel.

I also found courses/conferences, especially during the summers, extremely helpful. I went to the Iowa Summer Writing Festival every year (multiple courses) between 1997 and 2000.

I kept teaching, but I was pretty sure I didn't want to pursue the academic-career-as-an-historian route. So I began teaching writing, too. I applied to low-res MFA programs (began one in the spring of 2001, just at the time I signed with an agent to represent the novel; finished in 2003). Unfortunately, the novel never sold. It's now my proverbial "first novel in the drawer." And I'm looking for another agent for my short story collection.

Best,
Erika D.


Quiet Americans: Stories
http://www.erikadreifus.com



Stroudb

e-mail user

May 4, 2006, 2:42 PM

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Re: [edwriter] Ph.D. [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi,
I'm currently working on a PhD (in mid-dissertation) and about to take a hiatus to do an MFA (I plan to come back to the PhD, especially as this is all at the same school and post-MFA it'll be either lecture or back to grad school).
In terms of degree, if you want to get a job in academia in the field you're doing your PhD in, then you should definitely get the MFA before you get the PhD. Or so I've been told by the faculty here (Michigan). Because of the nature of the academic market (unless your field is one where it's easy to job) they'll just take somebody else because they'll think you're not serious or some crap like that. You can get an MFA mid-PhD (which is what I'm trying to do) but I've had near unanimous advice that to get the MFA after you finish the PhD would be academic career suicide (of course, I'm not sure I'm going to pursue an academic career, but I want to keep my options open).

In terms of writing during the PhD--what's worked for me, like the poster above, is to set aside a writing schedule and stick to it. A lot of people I know came into the PhD wanting to write fiction too, but haven't really done so. The only way I've been able to keep up, I think, is by setting aside time each day--even if it's only fifteen minutes during ultra-busy semesters--to write.

What another poster said is true too, though. Over the course of the PhD there'll be tremendous brain fatigue. The hours are great for trying to write, since they're so flexible, but often your papers/diss. take up so much brain space it's hard to concentrate on anything else.


Windiciti



May 4, 2006, 3:24 PM

Post #65 of 344 (9284 views)
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Re: [edwriter] Ph.D. [In reply to] Can't Post

Good luck, Erika with marketing your short story collection!

In looking over the Novel and Short Story Writers' Market, I was a little discouraged, for myself, to see how few publishers there are for story collections. In my case, this is premature, what I am really looking for is a magazine, almost any for one of my short stories!
However, I know how in tune you are to the market, and how dedicated, so I'm sure you will find the right publisher.

BTW, my writing teacher announced last night, that his second novel is being published in hardcover in 18 months by thepermanentpress, a small prestigious publisher. Can't tell you how thrilled I was to see him get the recognition he deserves!

Hope you will too.


Art
Arthur J. Stewart
e-mail user

May 6, 2006, 8:37 AM

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I completed a PhD that involved a lot of field and lab work (plus required coursework) and offer the following comments. If you're doing the work in a subject area that you love, youwill be in creative power-house mode most of the time, so you can get more done that you think -- well above program requirements. In fact, the more you do, the better. A PhD requires lots of writing, also -- so the basics for completing a PhD program plut the candidate into an ideal position for developing "outside" writing skills. Programmatic conditions encourage excellent exposure to new ideas and perspectives; mental acuity; the need to read, and read, and read some more; the need to write; and opportunity to establish the work habits needed to get everything done (i.e., goal-oriented effort). In distilled form, no less!

What worked for me then works now, later: strict structure for non-programmatic writing. EVERY day, 4:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. During that time, only creative writing was permitted. The other 22.5 h per day was programmatic, minus the minum amojnt of time needed for sleeping and eating.


boy named sue


Jun 12, 2006, 10:36 PM

Post #67 of 344 (8785 views)
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Re: [Art] Websites [In reply to] Can't Post

Art, Erika, Stroudb, and Bob,

Thanks (very belatedly) for your insights. You've definitely given me a lot of think about...but I guess I will have to figure out most of this as I go along. Thanks again - it always helps me to hear about others' experiences.

bns


Miss Write


Oct 12, 2006, 10:13 PM

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Transferring Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Bumping this thread up so I can get some feedback.

I am in the first semester of my MFA. I'm miserable, but not because of the program. We're living in a small town, and my husband and I are having difficulties finding a job that pays more than $6. (We have a kid to support.) We're living off of loan money and family handouts, but it can't continue. I don't have a TAship, and most of the funding is in the form of a loan. There is little hope that it will get any better next year (or the year after.) To use a tired phrase, the well is pretty much dry. I can't eat. I can't sleep. Worst of all, I can't write. The stress is consuming me.

I'm thinking about transferring to a program in a larger city before things get much worse. It is going to be a struggle to stick it out until the end of the semester, but I think we'll have to. I don't want withdrawals on my record, and I'm hoping to get LORs from my professors here.

I wanted to get some input since I'm not in the best frame of mind. Do you guys think it's best to cut my losses and leave at the end of the semester? I honestly don't know how we'd make it through another semester (let alone two more years.)

I'm worried about how this will impact my applications in the future. I think I have a legitimate reason to leave, but I'm not sure how adcoms would look at it.


wilmabluekitty
Wilma Weant Dague

Oct 12, 2006, 10:48 PM

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In Reply To
Bumping this thread up so I can get some feedback.

I am in the first semester of my MFA. I'm miserable, but not because of the program. We're living in a small town, and my husband and I are having difficulties finding a job that pays more than $6. (We have a kid to support.) We're living off of loan money and family handouts, but it can't continue. I don't have a TAship, and most of the funding is in the form of a loan. There is little hope that it will get any better next year (or the year after.) To use a tired phrase, the well is pretty much dry. I can't eat. I can't sleep. Worst of all, I can't write. The stress is consuming me.

I'm thinking about transferring to a program in a larger city before things get much worse. It is going to be a struggle to stick it out until the end of the semester, but I think we'll have to. I don't want withdrawals on my record, and I'm hoping to get LORs from my professors here.

I wanted to get some input since I'm not in the best frame of mind. Do you guys think it's best to cut my losses and leave at the end of the semester? I honestly don't know how we'd make it through another semester (let alone two more years.)

I'm worried about how this will impact my applications in the future. I think I have a legitimate reason to leave, but I'm not sure how adcoms would look at it.


First things first--do you love the program? Have you found someone who'd be willing to speak up for you? I was in similar situation as an undergrad when my student loan didn't go through and I told my workstudy boss and she sent me to the financial aid office and voila--more money!

I was also in a similar situation where I live now--we were scraping by on my husband's new professor salary in a small town. I couldn't even get a six dollar job--you have to know someone just to get a job at Wal-Mart. Finally, I got hired by the school system as a paraeducator and things are better. No time to write though.

When my husband was working on his PhD we had three kids under five--so my working was pretty much out of the question. I'm not ashamed to say we relied on public assistance for a short while--my son needed surgery and it was the only way we could find to get it. Don't be ashamed of getting help to better yourself--you'll be a taxpayer soon enough.

And I don't think anyone would look down on you for leaving if that's what you have to do. Best of luck.

Wilma


blueragtop


Oct 12, 2006, 11:30 PM

Post #70 of 344 (8631 views)
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Re: [wilmabluekitty] Transferring Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Miss Write,

I am glad you posted this. Last week I started talking about this on the main MFA thread. I'm glad you posted this, so people can see what I was talking about. Good luck with everything, and if you aren't happy, the advice is simple: Leave. No need to go poor for a writing degree. This is what I was saying over on the other thread. For some people, this will be a real eye opener.

Oh yeah, I'll say it again. Don't pay for an MFA. C'mon people.


Miss Write


Oct 13, 2006, 12:09 AM

Post #71 of 344 (8625 views)
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Re: [melos] Transferring Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the advice, melos and Wilma.

I have borrowed the maximum for the school year already, and I don't think it is wise to go even further into debt. Eventually, the money will run out. If I leave now, almost all of my hours will transfer, so it won't be a total waste. I do love the program, but not so much so that I would send my family into poverty for it. Last week we were digging out quarters from the couch cushions.

I came here to write, but in the past two months I have done less writing than ever before. All I do is worry about money.

When I applied last year, I kept telling myself what I read here and other places: "Don't pay for an MFA. Don't pay for an MFA." That went totally out the window when I got into my first choice program. I was so excited about getting in there, and we decided that we had to try to make it work. After all, what else was I going to do? Big mistake. I should have waited a year or two and reapplyed.

I'm angry at myself for having made such a stupid decision. I want an MFA, but my family shouldn't have to suffer for it. Before I started the program, my father-in-law called me selfish for doing this. I was hurt and offended, but now I'm starting to feel that he was right. I'm not giving up on getting the degree somewhere, but right now I feel like I'm on a sinking ship.

Sorry for the depressing post. I'm really emotional right now.


v1ctorya


Oct 13, 2006, 12:51 PM

Post #72 of 344 (8588 views)
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Re: [Miss Write] Transferring Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

this is exactly why funding is my top priority. You can't write if you're spending all your time and energy searching for money to live off of. Later, when life settles, you have something to write about but not during the time that's supposed to be devoted to it!

That's why my list is fluctuating. While I love Montana if I get in but no funding, not good.


Glinda Bamboo


Oct 13, 2006, 1:01 PM

Post #73 of 344 (8583 views)
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Re: [Miss Write] Transferring Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Sadly, it seems obvious that this program is not working for you. It's one thing to be willing to pay for an MFA if it's somehow feasible, but it sounds like this degree will put your entire family's financial future in jeopardy. And what's the point of going into all this debt if you can't even write because of the stress? It sounds like cutting your losses is your best option right now.

I can't imagine that leaving after one semester would hurt your chances of getting in somewhere else later. And now you'll even have LOR from MFA professors. Sounds okay to me.

As far as your relative telling you this was a selfish decision -- ouch. But many people out there consider pursuing a dream/passion (such as getting an MFA to give yourself time to write a chance to improve) instead of doing something practical (like holding down a corporate job or getting a money-making degree) selfish. I say phooey to that. You should be proud that you're not only willing to take a chance on your writing, but also able to admit this was a mistake and pull out.

Best of luck being admitted into a fully-funded program in the future.


laughingman


Oct 13, 2006, 8:01 PM

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Hi Miss Write,

It sounds like you're in a position where you can't get too much encouragement, so I thought I would weigh in, too.

If you can, I would try to finish out the semester. If not, cut and run. There's no shame in admitting you're not financially stable enough to finish out a program. I'm sure that your writing will do nothing but improve over time. If you're writing was good enough to get into a program once, I'm sure it will be good enough to get into the same or another program down the line when you're more solvent. I can't see your pulling out early adversely affecting your instructors' willingness to write letters of recommendation. And if another program likes your writing later on, surely a brief explanation of the situation in your statement of purpose for that program will mollify them/ quell any fears they have concerning your past.

Pertaining to the relative and the "selfish" comment: Not many people get a chance to pursue a dream (not many people have the guts to even think about it). I have nothing but admiration for anyone who had a chance and jumped at it.

Best of luck,

Peter



In Reply To





(This post was edited by laughingman on Oct 14, 2006, 1:49 AM)


darredet
Darren A. Deth


Oct 13, 2006, 8:52 PM

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Miss Write:

Is taking a leave of absence an option for you? I'm just wondering if taking a semester or two off would put you on better footing financially. Also, it could afford you the time to research other means of funding your education. And you should look into writing conferences and groups to keep you in touch with others as you work on your material.

If I were in your situation I would try to finish the semester.

As far as "don't pay for the MFA" is concerned, I totally disagree. Almost every cent of the program I'm in is being financed by loans. I'm married, have two kids in elementary and junior high, two mortgages and a car payment. So, yes, I'll probably be paying off my MFA with my Social Security checks. But I will be happy that I followed my dream and didn't allow myself to be on my deathbed when I'm 80, lamenting a lost dream. Better to be spiritually rich and a little poor than vice versa.

I wish you all the best. Keep us posted.

Darren


wilmabluekitty
Wilma Weant Dague

Oct 14, 2006, 12:06 AM

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Thanks for the advice, melos and Wilma.

I have borrowed the maximum for the school year already, and I don't think it is wise to go even further into debt. Eventually, the money will run out. If I leave now, almost all of my hours will transfer, so it won't be a total waste. I do love the program, but not so much so that I would send my family into poverty for it. Last week we were digging out quarters from the couch cushions.

I came here to write, but in the past two months I have done less writing than ever before. All I do is worry about money.

When I applied last year, I kept telling myself what I read here and other places: "Don't pay for an MFA. Don't pay for an MFA." That went totally out the window when I got into my first choice program. I was so excited about getting in there, and we decided that we had to try to make it work. After all, what else was I going to do? Big mistake. I should have waited a year or two and reapplyed.

I'm angry at myself for having made such a stupid decision. I want an MFA, but my family shouldn't have to suffer for it. Before I started the program, my father-in-law called me selfish for doing this. I was hurt and offended, but now I'm starting to feel that he was right. I'm not giving up on getting the degree somewhere, but right now I feel like I'm on a sinking ship.

Sorry for the depressing post. I'm really emotional right now.


So, is borrowing your only option in terms of financial aid? Have you begged argued and cajoled the financial aid people? Sometimes they can pull a rabbit out of their hats that you never knew existed.

It's not necessarily selfish to pursue your dreams/destiny. What kind of example do you want to set for your kids? That money is more important than meaning? As far as it being a mistake--I don't think so. I'm a strong believers in daemons and you were directed there for a reason. It may be that you've gotten what you needed and you can move on. Lots of people quit and continue elsewhere--no biggee. Do what feels right--it seems that when things fall into place, then the right decision has been made.

I fully understand how hard it is to write when you're worried about how to feed the kids. Hang in there. Undoubtedly things will improve and you will look back on this time with a certain nostalgia.


Clench Million
Charles

Oct 14, 2006, 3:19 AM

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Quote

As far as "don't pay for the MFA" is concerned, I totally disagree. Almost every cent of the program I'm in is being financed by loans. I'm married, have two kids in elementary and junior high, two mortgages and a car payment. So, yes, I'll probably be paying off my MFA with my Social Security checks. But I will be happy that I followed my dream and didn't allow myself to be on my deathbed when I'm 80, lamenting a lost dream. Better to be spiritually rich and a little poor than vice versa.


I agree.
Funding should be as important as issue to you as it needs to be. If you are in a situation where you can afford to pay some money for an MFA and you get into a quality program that doens't fully fund you, then by all means take it. It is all about the situation you were in. There are a lot of great programs that have great funding, no doubt, and I'm sure we would all like to be in them, but the fact is there aren't THAT many great programs with great funding and, given the subjective nature of the field, one can easily end up not getting into one of those programs. Is it better to spend 5 years applying to programs and never getting in and then settling on a weak program taht will fund you instead of going to a great program that doesn't fully fund you?

Well, that totally depends on the situation. For some people it would be smart, for others it would be a horrible mistake.

This is really no different than undergrad. Some people can afford to go to an expensive private school, others can only afford a cheap in state school with a scholarship.

As for the thread, it sounds like Miss Write is in a situation where not being mostly funded is not an option, at least in her prsent location. That sucks. I hope things work out for you Miss Write. Best of luck with transfering or getting more money.


Weege


Oct 15, 2006, 7:04 AM

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First off, I won't tell you to stay or to go -- that's a decision you've got to make with your family. I can, however, tell you that dropping out won't necessarily derail your writing career, or even your path to an MFA. I dropped out of UMass in 2001 for not so dissimilar reasons. I'm now working on my degree at Warren Wilson.

Have you thought about low-residency? Especially since you have a family, you should consider the possibility. And sure, you pay for it, but money is relative. I mean, the education was "free" at UMass, but I made $11,000 a year. At WW, I pay something like 10,000 a year -- but I have a real job. So the net amount is a lot higher. Sometimes "free" can cost more than you think.

But I didn't write this post to pitch low-residency programs. Just know that whatever program you're in right now needn't be your only chance ever to get the degree.

Best of luck --


wiswriter
Bob S.
e-mail user

Oct 15, 2006, 7:17 PM

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In Reply To
Ao the net amount is a lot higher. Sometimes "free" can cost more than you think.


I'm glad to see someone other than me post this. Nowhere does "full support" mean as little as it does in a residential MFA program.

TA-ships and other forms of MFA support are a good deal if you're able to live frugally without outside responsibilities such as family, or if you have easy outside income to fill the gaps, or if your income possibilities at a day job are dismal. But if you have a decent day job, generally you will do better financially by subtracting and/or financing low-residency tuition and keeping your job than you will by quitting work for 2-3 years and going into an MFA program at "full support."

This is why the choice between low-residency and residential MFA programs should usually be about time and freedom to write and not about money.

Nothing is worse, financially, than doing a residential MFA program without support in the form of thousands of dollars of gift aid (not loans). Dream or not, you're asking for financial trouble when you get out - trouble that will wreak havoc with your attempts to take an easy or flexible job that allows you to keep writing. Those two or three years off to write may cost you the opportunity to write again for a long, long time.

I would get out of that unfunded program and go into one with better support, or get a decent day job and go low-residency. No one's going to care where you started your MFA. They only care where you finished it. The old saw is mostly true: You shouldn't pay for an MFA. If you do, it should be a low-residency MFA with good financing and a decent day job to support it.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Oct 15, 2006, 8:58 PM

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No one's going to care where you started your MFA. They only care where you finished it.


And even that, not very much.

dmh


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

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

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


wilmabluekitty
Wilma Weant Dague

Oct 15, 2006, 10:17 PM

Post #81 of 344 (9785 views)
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Without the publications to back it up, an m.f.a. won't get you very far. For a really inspirational story of hardship to success, you can't beat Carolyn Chute's bio.


mrshankly


Nov 13, 2006, 1:25 AM

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i know earlier on this thread people were asking about applications vs. acceptances. i go to nyu. the year i applied there were 890 applicants (poetry and fiction combined) for 37 spots.


jlr


Mar 28, 2007, 8:12 AM

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Hi all,

I'll be headed to a fiction program this fall with limited funding and teaching opportunities. It's a state school, so the financial situation doesn't look too dire, but I was still wondering: does anyone know a resource for finding independent scholarship money/grants for writers? Entering contests seems like a good way to raise one's profile, but not necessarily to fund one's MFA.

Likewise, anyone know of summer teaching opportunities (international or stateside) for MFA candidates that are not linked to a specific program? Has anyone looked into the prospect of TAing at the community college level?

I'm just starting my research and will post any information I find. In the meantime, if anyone can chime in, I'd appreciate it!

JL


piratelizzy


Mar 28, 2007, 10:11 AM

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Try FastWeb.com, jlr. You'll fill out a profile and they will show you a list of funding opportunities that match your background. I've found a couple of fellowships I've applied for that way. They have ads that you must opt out of, though, so you know.


'sup?!


hamlet3145


Mar 28, 2007, 10:35 AM

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"Has anyone looked into the prospect of TAing at the community college level?"

Technically, that would be adjuncting, but yes, it's possible. I've done it. BUT, I already had an M.A. from Iowa State. That said, a number of community colleges will let you teach without a master's degree if you have a certain number of graduate credits. I doubt you could arrange for a tuition waiver though as, I assume, where you adjunct would be a separate institution from where you take your MFA coursework. Still, it's good experience and better that working at Micky Ds. =) In case you are wondering adjuncting, say, a composition class pays about $3000. Give or take a bit depending on where you are.

As for national creative writing scholarships? I don't know of any. As usual the arts get the shaft in this area. (Now, if we were all studying cyptography, there is some pretty sweet funding available from the NSA).



Tapeworm


Mar 29, 2007, 2:38 AM

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This isn't very specific, but, does anyone know how many fiction students Alabama admits each year?


ajbrady


Mar 30, 2007, 1:07 AM

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not sure where else to put this but just saw a notice about a new start up MFA at rutgers, here is the link

www.mfa.newark.rutgers.edu. apparently taking apps now for fall 2007


gcsumfa


Apr 12, 2007, 12:46 AM

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In Reply To

In Reply To
No one's going to care where you started your MFA. They only care where you finished it.



Hate to break it to you, but no one really cares about your MFA degree period, save for the 000001% of the population who might know that Iowa has a really famous, good creative writing program called the Iowa Writers Workshop.


scheherazade


May 11, 2008, 3:30 AM

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I have a guilty secret to admit. I'd rather write good stories that sit on the "popular" end of the spectrum than beautiful prose that wins the hearts of literary critics. I don't want to churn out formula novels, but I think I'd be happier to write like Stephen King than like Paul Auster. Would it be a mistake to pursue an MFA?

I like the idea of having 2-3 years to devote to writing, to formally study literature and feel more legitimate in my knowledge of the subject and possibly be qualified to teach (which is particularly useful as someone who never did an English degree), to be able to live in and explore an interesting region of the U.S. (as a Canadian citizen this would be pretty difficult to do otherwise), and, yes, to have reason to delay getting a "real job" or otherwise feeling pushed to settle into life. I'd like to have a better understanding of poetry and dramatic writing, to meet other young writers, to learn from some great teachers, and to enjoy some of the adventures of being a student. I can write clever, poetic prose. But I want to write stories that people - not just writers, but also my family and coworkers and neighbors - would enjoy reading. I like plot just as much as I like a finely crafted sentence.

Should I be bothering to go the MFA route? Is marketability a dirty word in MFA circles? If I could get funding to justify the degree financially, would it be worthwhile for an aspiring popular novelist to do an MFA? Or would it be better to keep writing part-time and go it alone?


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

May 11, 2008, 11:38 AM

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Not all MFA programs are the same. Some even have programs in popular fiction. Do your research and you might be surprised.


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/


hamlet3145


May 11, 2008, 12:59 PM

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I think an MFA can help your writing (and your prospects) regardless of what genre you wind up in.

I can't remember his name, but there is some recent award winning graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop who just got a multi-book Vampire novel deal for a non-inconsequential amount of money.


dunnkc


May 11, 2008, 2:14 PM

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"I can't remember his name, but there is some recent award winning graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop who just got a multi-book Vampire novel deal for a non-inconsequential amount of money."

The writer's name is Justin Cronin. He did graduate from Iowa, and he also taught at Warren Wilson -- he kindly helped me with my recommendations this year. I took a workshop from him last summer when he sold the vampire trilogy, the first book of which is called The Passage . He did make some serious money on the sale, which is great, and he brought champagne to the workshop meeting that night. I believe that Fox 2000 also bought the film rights, too.
His first two books were very literary, domestic dramas, but yes, this one is a post-apocalyptic vampire book. I heard him read from it, and it is very good. Even though it is a subject with mainstream appeal, the prose is excellent. So yes, a literary writer can write a book that appeals to a mainstream market. Obviously Cronin believes in the MFA, since he completed the degree, taught in an MFA program, and recommended several programs to me. I'm sure that it helped him to develop his writing skills, regardless of which subject matter who chose to apply them to.

I am very excited to read the book, which will come out in summer of 2009.


Moonshade


May 11, 2008, 4:47 PM

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No need to feel guilty, Scheherazade, if "popular" fiction is what you want to write then write it.
You can still pursue an MFA is that's what you choose to do.

In fact, there's a school in Philadelphia that has an Master of Arts in Writing Popular fiction. Seton Hill University.
Here's the link, http://www.setonhill.edu/o/index.cfm?PID=13

I think as writers, we can get caught up in what "type" of writer we want to be. But a good story
is a good story, whether you have an MFA after your name or not. I have read Stephen King
for years and I'll take him anyday over some of the more "literary" writers whose stories bore
me to tears.

Orson Scott Card is a science fiction writer and yet he has a Ph.D. David Morell (he wrote
the original Rambo novel that was turned into a movie franchise) has a Masters degree. And
Walter Mosely writes the Easy Rawlins mysteries and he has a Masters too. So clearly, you
can earn an MFA and choose to write what you please. Good luck.


(This post was edited by Moonshade on May 11, 2008, 4:51 PM)


Zash
Zachary Ash

May 11, 2008, 4:50 PM

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And if you do decide to go it alone, you can always enroll in online workshops or go to summer workshops. I've done both. Excellent, easy-to-manage programs are UCLA Extension, Gotham Writers Workshop, and the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. With any of these, you can pursue popular writing unabashedly.


(This post was edited by Zash on May 11, 2008, 4:52 PM)


scheherazade


May 11, 2008, 6:21 PM

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Thanks for the encouragement. I think Michael Chabon is probably my poster boy of an MFA grad writing stuff with popular appeal. If I had a trust fund or a large savings account, I'd probably just travel and live life and find things to write about. I don't, and so I certainly don't have the means to pay tens of thousands of dollars for an MFA degree. If I did any MFA it would have to be one that can pay my tuition and living expenses; there aren't a lot of programs that offer that luxury, and those that do seem to be on the more literary end of things.

If I'm putting myself in debt I don't think the degree is going to be that worthwhile to me in the end - because that just means I'm going to have to take on a job I dislike to pay my debt instead of being free to find part-time work that supports my writing life. I know I can take part-time classes through Gotham and at night school in my community, and I do this, but it's a lot harder to pour myself fully into my development as a writer when I'm dealing with a day job. The lure of the funded MFA is that you can have this safe space to focus only on your writing, to surround yourself with other people who have a similar goal, and you even get a degree at the end of it.

So I wondered if the professors in MFA programs would encourage writing sellable stuff - because there is sometimes a hostility to marketable writing among literary people. It's good to see that "popular" isn't necessarily a dirty word - I know Iowa in particular is considered by some to favor too popular an aesthetic - but I wonder if a student who had this philosophy would still face some pressure from some professors or classmates to take a more literary approach.


__________



May 12, 2008, 9:52 AM

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

These distinctions have always sort of baffled me, anyway. Right now I'm reading Mysteries of Pittsburgh, and in the back there's this little Chabon essay that details how he, at 22, felt conflicted over his desire to write popular fiction, but also fiction with excellent prose, as if the two were mutually exclusive. And years later, when he does get around to it, the book's released with this strange, almost apologetic marketing attached -- a literary writer, writing about detectives! What a lark! Weirdness, I tell you.


six five four three two one 0 ->


ejdifili
Emily

May 12, 2008, 3:04 PM

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In Reply To
But I want to write stories that people - not just writers, but also my family and coworkers and neighbors - would enjoy reading. I like plot just as much as I like a finely crafted sentence.


I think I am coming from a similar place. I am the first person in my family to study literature or writing, and none of my best friends are writers or "literary" type people.

I do think there is a lot of well-written "academic" fiction that "regular" people could enjoy if they knew about it and took the time to read. A major problem is that most people in the modern-day US just don't read that much.

I have respect for more experimental work and its authors, but it's just not my kind of thing. I wouldn't consider that I do "pop lit," but I admit that I write more for the sake of crafting characters and telling stories than for doing super innovative things with language. Maybe this makes me an inferior writer in some people's eyes, but that would be pretty pretentious.

All this being said, I will be starting an MFA program in the fall, and I'm not really concerned that I'll be a stylistic outcast or anything. I have participated in multiple workshops--both at the undergraduate and graduate levels--and I never felt like my work was undervalued for being "conventionally" realistic and linguistically straightforward.


sicofelephants


e-mail user

May 12, 2008, 4:31 PM

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Just be sure you know how the schools you apply to feel about that kind of fiction. Some schools will explicity state on their FAQs page that they do not do genre fiction. So, if you want to write the next Hannibal Lecter series, just be sure you know whose school you're trying to do that through or you may be disappointed by your application results.

Personally, I'm hardcore into the "pretty" lit. Currently reading a book on why Neruda was such a ground breaker in Spanish-language poetry. I know French and Spanish, so translation studies interest me as well. For me, it was exciting to apply to schools that had foreign language requirements because I know they'll place an emphasis on language and how we can use it. I also dig experimental poets big time. I could care less if I ever sell a book of poems, and I don't know that huge publishing success will ever be a goal of mine.

Just as there are schools for people with my interests, I'm sure you'll find a school that'll work for you and prepare you for a successful, pleasing life.


GDClark
George David Clark
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May 13, 2008, 5:29 PM

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FIU might be a program for you to take a look at. An interesting blend of popular and more "literary" faculty.


aiyamei

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May 13, 2008, 9:10 PM

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


hamlet3145


May 13, 2008, 9:52 PM

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

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


jaywalke


May 14, 2008, 12:37 PM

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In Reply To
What the heck is it with MFA grads and vampires?



Perhaps they are all very vein.

I know, I know, aorta stop.


ElRi


May 14, 2008, 5:23 PM

Post #103 of 344 (9177 views)
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Re: [scheherazade] Popular vs Literary [In reply to] Can't Post

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


scheherazade


May 15, 2008, 12:41 AM

Post #104 of 344 (9112 views)
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In Reply To
Elizabeth Kostova graduated from a prestigious MFA program (Michigan), and afterward got a million dollar book deal for The Historian, a vampire novel. I tried to read it and it was quite pulpy. Just thought I'd put that out there as an example of how an MFA helped someone write a popular Stephen King-ish novel.



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


scheherazade


May 24, 2008, 12:01 AM

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Re: MFA Fiction Programs - Questions & Concerns [In reply to] Can't Post

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


Clench Million
Charles

May 24, 2008, 11:48 AM

Post #106 of 344 (8902 views)
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In Reply To
I know every school will be different, but in general, is having a car a necessity for an MFA student? I know even the funded programs won't cover gas and car payments, but I'm wondering if this is something I should be budgeting for when I apply to MFA programs. Other than the schools in suburban California, are many schools located in places where a car is a near-necessity? Do most MFA students tend to have a car? Or is it usually a luxury item?


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


ejdifili
Emily

May 24, 2008, 12:24 PM

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In Reply To
Do most MFA students tend to have a car? Or is it usually a luxury item?


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

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

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

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


scheherazade


May 25, 2008, 2:42 PM

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

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


ejdifili
Emily

May 25, 2008, 6:08 PM

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What happens in the summers during your typical MFA program?


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

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

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

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


aathema


May 25, 2008, 10:46 PM

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

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

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

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



http://www.postmfa08.blogspot.com


daleth


Jul 10, 2008, 2:43 PM

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


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

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

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

Thanks.



Daleth Demented (Blog)


daleth


Jul 10, 2008, 2:53 PM

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

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


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



Daleth Demented (Blog)


ctodto


Jul 17, 2008, 5:54 PM

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

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


Zash
Zachary Ash

Jul 17, 2008, 8:56 PM

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


yeahyeahyeah


Jul 17, 2008, 8:57 PM

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I don't want to live in a sad, ugly, or violent world for that long. Which leaves me with a happy grown up fairy tale kind of world, full of conflict, sure, but not full of unhappy people.

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

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


daleth


Jul 17, 2008, 9:49 PM

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



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

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



Daleth Demented (Blog)


ctodto


Jul 18, 2008, 1:34 PM

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


v1ctorya


Jul 18, 2008, 3:45 PM

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



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

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

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

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

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


yeahyeahyeah


Jul 18, 2008, 4:06 PM

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



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

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

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

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

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

Good luck to you.


v1ctorya


Jul 19, 2008, 4:53 PM

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In Reply To

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



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



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


suzhounese



Jul 22, 2008, 10:11 AM

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

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


writerteacher


Jul 22, 2008, 10:18 AM

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


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


Raysen


Jul 29, 2008, 1:44 PM

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Returning to the topic of Fiction Acceptance Rates:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


jacarty
Jessie Carty
e-mail user

Jul 29, 2008, 1:58 PM

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Good post :)

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


http://jessiecarty.com


writerteacher


Jul 29, 2008, 2:16 PM

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

WT


umass76


Jul 29, 2008, 2:29 PM

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WT,

Good point. Another wrinkle: I'm not convinced programs--or at least all programs--are looking for "polish," or equate polished writing with good writing. Some are looking for "promise" (innovation, daring, intuition) with suitable polish and a clear ability to achieve it fully later on, and are indeed wholly comfortable that such polish will come eventually--helped along the way, and helped enormously at that, by a few years working on craft in the MFA.

I have a feeling a lot of "polished" but largely uninspired fiction and poetry gets turned away from MFA programs every year.

S.

MFA Rankings & Acceptance Rates at: http://www.sethabramson.blogspot.com/


(This post was edited by umass76 on Jul 29, 2008, 2:30 PM)


Raysen


Jul 29, 2008, 2:30 PM

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writerteacher, I do agree with you that the selection process is very subjective. And I did not mean to put down those excellent writers who did not get acceptance letters from MFA programs. The main thrust of my post was that there are a lot of "bad" (as I view them) writer-applicants out there and I was merely playing the role of a cheerleader for all the good writer-applicants who are worrying about the 1-4% acceptance rates.


aiyamei

e-mail user

Jul 29, 2008, 3:43 PM

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Great post, Raysen. I was laughing. I'm wondering, though, how you explain that so many of these terrible writers from your group got into the nation's best programs? It kind of undercuts your thesis, doesn't it? If these terrible writers are getting in, then it really DOES seem random, like as if the 1% acceptance rate should be seen as precisely a 1% chance, for one and all.


Raysen


Jul 29, 2008, 4:25 PM

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In Reply To
Great post, Raysen. I was laughing. I'm wondering, though, how you explain that so many of these terrible writers from your group got into the nation's best programs? It kind of undercuts your thesis, doesn't it? If these terrible writers are getting in, then it really DOES seem random, like as if the 1% acceptance rate should be seen as precisely a 1% chance, for one and all.


Yes, you're right. My example does undercut my proposition! LOL! I guess I was trying to say that if some of these terrible writers got in, so can you. Heck...I'm not sure anymore.

I'll just revert to what writerteacher said -- it's (mostly) subjective.


v1ctorya


Jul 29, 2008, 4:45 PM

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Well, I was told by a prof. at a university that it really is a greater percentage depending upon your work I guess. that whole cut the wheat from the chaff type stuff. So if your work shows promise, maybe half of those who submit show promise, so instead of competing against 300 apps you're competing against 150.

But it's all really subjective on their part. They can be searching for the diamond in a rough because if your writing makes Joyce cry with its beauty, why do you need a writing program?

IDK, I'm just getting all worried as I hear how tough it's becoming to get into a good program, and I had to turn down my offer froma good program a while ago (for reasons Seth offered in this blog or another, I only applied to about 5, got into one, then stuff happened and I didn't trust that area to continue my medical issues, wanted a place with a better hospital system.)

I'm applying to about 13 places, but already all oogy about it.

(I also don't like the idea of saying people in your writing group suck. I tend to think it's just a different taste at play. For instance, I'm looking for a new writing group not because I think mine has bad writers, but because what they write is not what I tend to like to read, though they can do it well.)


daleth


Jul 29, 2008, 6:44 PM

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In Reply To
Returning to the topic of Fiction Acceptance Rates:

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

My point is, obviously, that the applicant pool is not filled with Michael Chabons, Deborah Eisenbergs, and John Cheevers. It's filled with Joe Bores and Jane Blands. ... So, even if a school admits only 1-4% of the applicants, my guess is that (...and it's only a guess), that roughly 50% to 66% are terrible writers with no potential or hope for improvement. That increases your odds.

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



That's a great point. I completely agree. I only applied to one school (Michigan). Before applying I actually went over and talked to one of the professors (well-known writer whose name I will not drop) about applying, and he cautioned me about their low acceptance rate, warned me not to get my hopes up, etc. I could not have cared less about the acceptance rate, for the very reason you cite. And I got in.

It's worth pointing out to people who actually can write that they shouldn't let low acceptance rates send them spiraling into despair. I mean, I would not recommend only applying to one school if you're geographically mobile and intent on getting in on your first try, since that's more of a risk than you need to take; and I would recommend, before applying, doing what you can to get a realistic perspective on the work you've produced so far (since that--and not your talent in and of itself--is what your application will be judged on). Join a writing group, take a class, yada yada--get some outside perspective on your work. But then, apply to the schools where you actually want to go; don't let their acceptance rates put you off.


Daleth Demented (Blog)


suzhounese



Jul 29, 2008, 8:58 PM

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I also wouldn't fret about it. I applied to the one school that I wanted to attend and it worked out. We all think that we can write or else we would not bother applying.


spamela


Jul 30, 2008, 1:04 PM

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Re: [yeahyeahyeah] Popular vs Literary [In reply to] Can't Post

I met a student at the Writer's Workshop last year who was writing fantasy. Really, the popular vs. literary distinction is blurred anymore. I used to work in genre publishing and the truth is, genre fiction is the best bet for making money in fiction publishing if you want to have a career primarily as a writer (and not, say, a writer/teacher). It's all too easy to get stuck in mid-list hell by having a lit fic book that doesn't sell. Then you're kicked out by your publisher and have to start all over again with a bad track record.

There are some programs that specifically cater to genre writers, but really, I get the feeling that most programs will give you guidance to write what you want to write if you're producing good work.


Raysen


Jul 30, 2008, 1:43 PM

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Re: Popular vs Literary [In reply to] Can't Post

You know, when I made the ultimate decision to write for the rest of my life (not too long ago), I embarked on my first project: a thriller. (Because thrillers sell!)

I decided that my protagonist was going to be a former Navy Seal on a personal mission to retrieve his kidnapped sister. (Okay...don't laugh just yet...) (...and why did the kidnappers just happen to kidnap the sister of a former Navy Seal? How unlucky...) So, I went to the library and did some research on the training of Navy Seals as well as info on various guns and knives. My story was set in Thailand, so I did some research on Thailand. Well, after one year, I finished that 260-page novel. I set it aside to let it age and pickle with time.

Then, I read some books on how to write and took some workshop classes and read some really good books (Ishiguro, McEwan, Dickens, Wharton, etc.) and a bunch of really good short stories in anthologies (just to get the lay of the land).

After a year, I reread my Navy Seal novel and I couldn't believe how crappy it was; how hokey and unbelievable the plot was, and how shallow the characters were. It was just plot-driven.

I never sent that book out. And I'm glad.

Now, I write mostly introspective short stories based on my life. I do very little research because everything is from my life. I had my stories workshopped and everyone loves them (or so they said), including my MFA-grad teachers. I hope they weren't just trying to boost my ego. Objectively, I look at my work and I like them.

I think if you've got the talent and a knack for research, go for the genre work, if that's your thing. I personally like Stephen King, but I know I couldn't do the stuff he does. It would feel forced and dishonest, like my first novel (unpublished) about the Navy Seal guy on a vengeance. (Hmmm...sounds like Rambo)

That said, one should probably spend one's MFA years learning the craft, not necessarily learning about a particular genre. But if you can do both, that's great!

p.s. that one year I spent writing my first (disastrous) novel was a very valuable experience, btw.


(This post was edited by Raysen on Jul 30, 2008, 1:49 PM)


ejdifili
Emily

Jul 30, 2008, 3:36 PM

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In Reply To

My point is, obviously, that the applicant pool is not filled with Michael Chabons, Deborah Eisenbergs, and John Cheevers. It's filled with Joe Bores and Jane Blands. Most of them can't write to save their lives.


I worked at a nationally recognized literary magazine for a few years, and I can share my experience in assumption that the pool of submissions we had was similar to what MFA programs receive.

We did get some number of stories that most literary-minded people would consider objectively low-quality. That is, work that was poorly edited, full of cliches, and showed evidence that the writer had probably had very little formal instruction about writing or literature in general. But really, those submissions only made up a small percentage of submissions. Then, you get an even smaller percentage (out of maybe 200 stories per month, we're talking 1 or 2) that really knock everyone's socks off across the board.

Most of what you get are stories that are actually good, but neither indisputably amazing nor obviously horrendous. Then, the problem is sifting through them and deciding which ones--if any--are worthy of publication.

On one hand, I think it would be foolish to forego application to MFA programs due to intimidation by a hypothetical pool of writing samples. Of course, not everyone applying for an MFA is John Cheever. On the other hand, it's equally foolish to assume that the majority of applicants are talentless idiots, and that your own writing will inevitably shine as superior to all. In my opinion, that kind of thinking can get you into trouble; personally, a little anxiety and competition helps me work harder and edit more closely. As I have posted previously on this forum, the MFA application process was a very humbling experience for me. When I applied, I had no realistic idea of the vast numbers of people who apply to these programs nationwide. Iowa alone received over 900 applications last year, and I'd wager that at least 800 of them represented what most would recognize as "decent" writing.

The moral of this story: you very well might be a phenomenal writer, but so are a lot of other people out there.


blueragtop


Jul 30, 2008, 4:04 PM

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Re: [ejdifili] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

Boy, do we have a totally different take on this. In my opinion, out of the 900, it was easy for Iowa to get down to 100. There's no way that 800 people applying had solid work. Hell, even in top MFA programs only a few talented people really stick out. Whether people want to admit it or not, most writing out there is just plain awful.


umass76


Jul 30, 2008, 5:44 PM

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Re: [melos] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Melos,

I don't know what your experiences have been, or what your observations are based on, but as a former Poetry Editor for a literary magazine I can say Emily's 100% on the mark. Those who haven't edited often assume that the slush pile is not only horrific but huge; the reality is that perhaps 15% of submissions are immediately seen as low-quality, about 10% (at most) are immediately seen as highly publishable, and the other 75% (to 80%) is in a huge gray area of competent but uninspired work. I have no doubt MFA applications are the same way. Anyone who thinks 80% of the people committed enough to writing to pay $1,000 to apply to MFA programs are atrocious writers is engaging in some wishful thinking. Iowa had about 950 fiction applications last year, and my guess is that 200--at the very most--could immediately be placed into the "definitely no" bin at Dey House, about the same number in a "definitely of interest" sort of pile, and the rest represents competent but uninspired work which is good enough to get someone into an MFA program somewhere, but the question is A) which one, and B) whether in the individual reader's opinion potential talent is seen above and beyond the mere technical competence on display. Applicants to a school with 950 applicants would do well to see themselves as part of an applicant pool of 950 people--no more, no less. And that doesn't (by any means!) mean don't apply (I don't know that anyone on this board has said that), simply that one should be realistic and take calculated risks--which means applying to a range of programs (in terms of class sizes, applicant pool sizes, acceptance rates, reputation scores, etc.) and not just running it up the flagpole of every single top ten program and seeing what sticks, or re-assessing MFA acceptance rates in a way that unrealistically makes every program seem eminently accessible. That way lies heartbreak and frustration.

My two cents,
Seth


(This post was edited by umass76 on Jul 30, 2008, 5:47 PM)


Clench Million
Charles

Jul 30, 2008, 6:31 PM

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Re: [melos] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Boy, do we have a totally different take on this. In my opinion, out of the 900, it was easy for Iowa to get down to 100. There's no way that 800 people applying had solid work. Hell, even in top MFA programs only a few talented people really stick out. Whether people want to admit it or not, most writing out there is just plain awful.



On the question of literary magazines, I agree with melos. I've worked for several literary magazines, including a few high quality and well regarded ones, and at least 50% of submissions can be tossed out after a page. And I'm probably on the generous end... most readers I've seen can and will toss 95% or more of the submissions they get after a paragraph or two. The vast majority of submissions to literary magazines are either unreadable or technically competent but completely devoid of art, fire, blood, originality or inventiveness.

In the bigger name literary magazines I've worked at or read for, the editors would have loved to publish from the slush pile. They were desperate too. But the editors were typically lucky to find one story and one or two poems from the slush that were worth publishing and instead had to rely on solicited work or work by regular contributes.

I disagree with melos on the level of MFA program applications though.

With a literary magazine you are looking for something that is publishable and most of what you get is not. But with an MFA application what you are looking for is hidden talent. You are trying to see who has something that can be nurtured. Whose future work might be publishable.

The standard being judged is completely different, I think.


Yugao


Jul 30, 2008, 7:00 PM

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Re: [melos] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Boy, do we have a totally different take on this. In my opinion, out of the 900, it was easy for Iowa to get down to 100. There's no way that 800 people applying had solid work. Hell, even in top MFA programs only a few talented people really stick out. Whether people want to admit it or not, most writing out there is just plain awful.


Ethan Canin said that when he first started teaching at Iowa, about half of the application stories were bad, and that now hardly any are. His statement is from the Atlantic article, Where Great Writers are Made. Now, I don't know if he personally takes a look at all the application stories or not, but it was an interesting comment on the applicant pool.

When applying, I assumed that there were going to be many other strong applicants. Even 100 strong applicants out of 900 makes for plenty of competition.


(This post was edited by Yugao on Jul 30, 2008, 7:01 PM)


dorchester


Jul 30, 2008, 10:07 PM

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Re: [Yugao] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

 
I was a TWF at Iowa a few years back and did some of the preliminary readings of applicants work, and I have to agree with Seth on this one. About 10% were definitely yes, 10-15% were definitely no, and the other 75-80% were maybes. The reason for this was because most students entering grad school still have some developing to do. In some cases, the stories were incredibly tight and polished, but not all that engaging; in other cases, the writing was incredibly original and innovative, but kind of out of control. An argument could be made for admitting either type of applicant, but it's always a tough call. Personally, I tended to give higher marks to the applicants who were taking more risks, but that's just me. In the end, it was usually left up to the faculty to decide, and they have such a good eye for talent up there, such a good track record with picking great writers, that they seemed to consistently make the right choice.


Raysen


Jul 30, 2008, 11:09 PM

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In Reply To
I was a TWF at Iowa a few years back and did some of the preliminary readings of applicants work, and I have to agree with Seth on this one. About 10% were definitely yes, 10-15% were definitely no, and the other 75-80% were maybes. The reason for this was because most students entering grad school still have some developing to do. In some cases, the stories were incredibly tight and polished, but not all that engaging; in other cases, the writing was incredibly original and innovative, but kind of out of control. An argument could be made for admitting either type of applicant, but it's always a tough call. Personally, I tended to give higher marks to the applicants who were taking more risks, but that's just me. In the end, it was usually left up to the faculty to decide, and they have such a good eye for talent up there, such a good track record with picking great writers, that they seemed to consistently make the right choice.


After they divide the applicants into the 10% YES, 10-15% NO, and 75-80% MAYBE, I'm guessing that they go to the Personal Statements of the YES candidates. If they get 1,000 applicants, 10% is 100, which is more than the 60-70 they accept each year. The Personal Statements will put you over the top.

Just guessing, of course.

If the Admissions Committee just get to my Personal Statement, I'm confident I'll get in. But my writing sample? I don't know. As others have said, it's very subjective.


dorchester


Jul 30, 2008, 11:39 PM

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Raysen,

It's been a while, and I don't want to make any claims about how they do things at Iowa now, but my sense is that if they're actually reading your personal statement, then that means you're in close contention for a spot. I also want to add that all of the submissions are read by the director, Lan Samantha Chang, even the 10% marked "definitely no," and that all of those submissions in the "maybe" and "definitely" category are read by at least two faculty members. So, in other words, even if two TWFs give a submission the highest marks possible, the faculty could still turn the person down. Similarly, if someone falls into that gray middle ground, the faculty may see something the TWFs don't and decide to admit that person anyway. It's a very democratic process, I think; lots of checks and balances. So, if you do actually end up getting in, it means that at least five or six people have read your submission and been impressed. And considering who some of these people are, that speaks very well of your future as a writer.


Raysen


Jul 31, 2008, 12:19 AM

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Re: Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

Reading all these threads...sometimes, I read some of your posts and I feel totally pumped and confident and other times, I'm a wreck and often wonder how deeply I will fall into depression if no one accepts me. LOL!


mpagan


Jul 31, 2008, 11:26 AM

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I think when you commit to being a serious writer you are always going to vacilate between confidence and depression.

As for acceptance rates- the different views above in this thread shows you how unpredictable this process can be.

assume no safety - but put all your energy into your work, which is all you have in the end.

I went through this process last winter - it sucked - but I learned tons.
applied to 11 schools - most top tier - rejected at all except for one (Michigan) - my first choice - yes even over Iowa - just my personal pref for what I wanted from a school. But I too would have been depressed if I did not get into one. But I was also prepared to carry on and attend more workshops and finish my collection no matter what.

So to me getting accepted to MFA programs boils down to a convergence of faculty and program preference and your particular voice - a perfect storm if you will of events - a phenom you can't anticipate no matter what you know about the weather out in MFA land.

Hey! Can you believe I just got a second rejection from one school last week? I laughed - but it still triggered my anxiety from the winter - trust me this is going to suck - sorry. But know that your writing should be the thing that gets you though this. Oh - and lots of Happy Hours with friends who don't understand your pain, but listen anyway; and ice cream.

Good Luck


(This post was edited by mpagan on Jul 31, 2008, 11:27 AM)


daleth


Aug 1, 2008, 12:15 PM

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Re: [umass76] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

Doesn't that actually support what Melos said? He/she said, out of the 900 applicants to Iowa, it was probably easy to whittle it down to 100. In other words, just over 11% were so good that they had an actual chance of being admitted. That fits with you saying "about 10% [of submissions]... are immediately seen as highly publishable." The work is whittling down from that 10-11% to the number that you actually have room for. Sure, 75-80% may be competent or even pretty good, but id you only have room for, say, 5% of all the submissions/applications you get, is one of those competent-or-pretty-good people going to be admitted (or published) over one of the phenomenal writers from the top 10-11%? I can't imagine why they would be.


In Reply To
Hi Melos,

I don't know what your experiences have been, or what your observations are based on, but as a former Poetry Editor for a literary magazine I can say Emily's 100% on the mark. Those who haven't edited often assume that the slush pile is not only horrific but huge; the reality is that perhaps 15% of submissions are immediately seen as low-quality, about 10% (at most) are immediately seen as highly publishable, and the other 75% (to 80%) is in a huge gray area of competent but uninspired work. I have no doubt MFA applications are the same way.



Daleth Demented (Blog)


daleth


Aug 1, 2008, 12:20 PM

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Congratulations on getting into Michigan! It's a great place. I think it beats Iowa hands down, but I'm not exactly objective. :-)

Re your application experience, I know what that's like: for undergrad, I applied to five schools and got rejected by all but my top choice. Weird how that happens sometimes. It's like... destiny, man! :-)


In Reply To
I went through this process last winter - it sucked - but I learned tons. applied to 11 schools - most top tier - rejected at all except for one (Michigan) - my first choice - yes even over Iowa - just my personal pref


Daleth Demented (Blog)


umass76


Aug 1, 2008, 1:54 PM

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Re: [daleth] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Daleth,

I was referring to the initial read, not the final selection. Meaning, every school has a pile of applications they create during the admissions cycle called something like "definitely a candidate," and 10% of applications can, when read by the first reader, be immediately seen as belonging in this pile. But of the 75% to 80% I've suggested are in a "gray area," a large percentage will end up in the "definitely a candidate" pile, too--that initial 10% may have struck that particular first reader pretty hard, but almost certainly a different first reader would have been struck by a moderately different 10%. That point of disagreement is reflected in the fact that the 75%/80% grouping contains many manuscripts which some readers, but not others, will like. And if those "some readers" are the final decision-makers, we see how that 75%/80% pile is and was always in play.

Look at it this way: if latent talent is difficult to spot in young fiction writers (as it is, because only a percentage of them are already writing publishable work, which is no slight to them, given their just-out-of-college age), then the only possible point of agreement across several application readers will be "sufficient technical competence to one day achieve professional gloss." What I'm saying is, up to 85% (10% plus 75%) of applications will meet this standard, and then the issue becomes the soft science--really, near-magic--of trying to spot ingenuity, innovation, verve, nerve, daring, imagination, and so on. It's actually quite hard to get readers to agree on that (because so much of it seems to be, at times, wrapped up in individual aesthetics) and therefore all manuscripts which meet the technical proficiency requirement are "in play."

Out of a pool of 900 applicants, that's way, way more than 100. More like 700 or so.

Be well,
Seth


(This post was edited by umass76 on Aug 1, 2008, 1:55 PM)


daleth


Aug 5, 2008, 1:57 PM

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Re: [umass76] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Umass,
A selection method that reduces 900 apps to 700, when you only have ten spots to fill, isn't much of a selection method. It sounds like what you're describing is the absolute first pass, where the evaluators toss out a bunch of "definitely nots"--but it seems totally unwieldy to me for a school with ten slots to fill, and limited numbers of people on the evaluation committee, to give serious consideration to seven hundred applicants. In other words, they must go through a couple more passes to whittle the 700 down to something manageable. If they didn't, the process would just be completely unfeasible.

Even assuming every faculty member in the department is an evaluator, how many faculty members would you need to read that many stories in that amount of time--particularly given that applications come in during the semester, so it's not like the faculty members have tons of free time to devote to the process. Some schools get two or even three stories per applicant! Just given the limited nature of time itself, there must be a few passes: "Out of these 900, which are the definite nos? <Toss them out.> Okay, out of the remaining 700, which stories are the worst? <Toss them out.> Okay, out of the remaining 500..." And so on, until they're left with the best X number of applicants--with X being a number small enough for the admissions committee to give serious attention to in the time available.

And while of course there are always subjective, aesthetic concerns in play, when I was at Michigan a faculty member told me that if any reviewer said no to a given applicant's story, that applicant was removed from the pile of potential acceptances. That's how you whittle 900 applications down to five or ten slots. And that's what it means, or at least that's what it meant at Michigan at that time, to be in the top 10% of applicants: there are some applicants that all the reviewers agree are contenders. When you have 90-100 applicants that everyone thinks are contenders, you're simply not going to sit around debating whether to admit an applicant that Professor X thinks is a contender, but Professor Y thinks is not.

Now, obviously the situation might be different for poetry, just because a reviewer can read 10-20 pages of poetry much faster than 25-50 pages of fiction. But just talking about fiction--I mean, picture the stack of paper for each applicant; picture just the stories, not all the other things they submit (rec letters, etc.). Now multiply that by 900. Yikes! That has to be slashed before they start giving anyone truly serious consideration. So when it comes down to it, it probably is going to be the top 10%--that group you referred to as "definitely candidates"--that gets the serious consideration. It may take a few passes to whittle down what exactly that group is, and to determine whether the applicants who are right on the fringes of that group should be seriously considered or not (as you noted, "a different first reader would have been struck by a moderately different 10%," so the fringes could contain applicants that not quite all readers liked). But that's how it's going to end up shaking down. That's where the evaluators are going to start debating aesthetic preferences, considering recommendation letters, and so on.


Daleth Demented (Blog)

(This post was edited by daleth on Aug 5, 2008, 2:07 PM)


umass76


Aug 5, 2008, 3:02 PM

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Re: [daleth] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Daleth,

I'm afraid you've made your point only by changing the terms of the question. The original question--or, rather, the original point--was made by Raysen, and it was that "most [MFA applicants] can't write to save their lives," and that therefore the practical acceptance rate for a writer with any kind of talent whatsoever is much higher than the listed rate. Specifically, Raysen said that, in any given applicant pool, "roughly 50% to 66% are terrible writers with no potential or hope for improvement. That increases your odds....so, if you can write and write fairly well (but not perfect), don't worry about your prospects [of getting in]." It was that comment I was responding to, by way of pointing out that because, in fact, most applicants are actually able to write "fairly well," no such discounting of acceptance rate can be hypothesized. You, in contrast, agreed with Melos--and therefore, by extension, Raysen--who proposed that it was "easy to whittle it down" from 900 applicants to 100 for the very reasons Raysen had put forward.

But now, with your last post, you've agreed with my assessment instead: "Sure, 75-80% may be competent or even pretty good..." Now, if the question originally on the table was simply whether or not it was "easy to whittle down" 900 applicants to 100, we could say, sure, even if 75-80% of applicants are "competent" or "pretty good" (your words), a unanimous faculty vote at the average MFA program will separate the wheat from the chaff pretty quickly, and reveal "pretty good" as being "not good enough" for the top programs.

That's true.

But that wasn't, actually, the original issue. The original issue was how sanguine a writer who can "write fairly well" should be about getting in--i.e., whether they're competing against 100 other applicants, or, as I proposed, 700. As to that, I think you and I are in agreement. We're only in disagreement if you change the phrase "fairly well"/"pretty good" to the new word you've used, "phenomenal," as if to say that any writer whose work is "phenomenal" need not worry about competing against 900 others. Well, that's true also. But it's likewise true that, out of 900 writers, less than 10 are phenomenal, which means that, of the 900 people reading this thread and wondering whether it is (per Raysen and Melos) easy to dump in the bin the work of most of the other 899 applicants they'll be competing against, only 10 of those 900 can answer "yes." Which would make Raysen's entire point pretty minimal in its application or relevance to this or any other audience. The point was only interesting if it was true as applied to those who write "fairly well." Now that you've changed the terms of the discussion, of course it's relatively easy to make the point.

Two other thoughts: one, every program (that I know of) requires a unanimous faculty vote for admission, because every school (with the exception of about five or ten) accepts few enough people that it's altogether reasonable to expect the faculty can all agree on every member of an entering class. Second, at some places, like Iowa, there are readers other than the faculty, so yes, in fact, there are enough readers to give every manuscript--apart from the 200 or so (out of 900) in the "definite no" category--"serious consideration." But it would be a mistake to think that the "faculty unanimity" phase comes before each and every applicant must individually impress at least one (usually two) individual readers. And since pleasing one person is much easier than pleasing (say) eight or nine, a lot of writers will actually move on to the "faculty unanimity" phase which, in your vision, are instead weeded out immediately. That's incorrect. Which, once again, emphasizes why Raysen's view, and math, are likewise incorrect.

Be well,
Seth



(This post was edited by umass76 on Aug 5, 2008, 3:03 PM)


Raysen


Aug 5, 2008, 3:05 PM

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Don't put much stock in what I said. I was merely guessing based on my experiences in writing groups. I have no other basis in fact of the quality of the writing samples by the actual pool of MFA applicants.

I defer to the opinions of those people who were actually involved in the Admissions process, and it appears that some are represented here in this forum.


(This post was edited by Raysen on Aug 5, 2008, 3:06 PM)


__________



Aug 5, 2008, 6:26 PM

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Egads, man. I'd like to hear more from dorchester on this one! I just can't believe that 80% of Iowa applicants are 'maybes'. Why would this number be so much higher than for lit journals? Simply because teachers place bets on 'future ability'?

If that's true, then I wonder how they whittle it down. Things seems more disturbing when you consider that most who do make it in appear to be rich white Ivy Leaguers...or folks born into heartwarming semi-poverty in another country who went to Ivy League schools on scholarship. One Iowa blogger even reports that (on the poetry side at least) they tend to admit the bored daughters of uber-rich, Rockefeller-type families -- because those daughters will one day marry, become even more bored, and bestow endowments.

I mean...Ack! 80%!? This makes the whittling down process look even worse... !


six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Aug 5, 2008, 6:28 PM)


umass76


Aug 5, 2008, 7:03 PM

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There are definitely a number of Ivy Leaguers here (as well as many more who are not Ivy League graduates), but where is your "white" and "rich" data coming from? Particularly the "rich" part?

S.


Clench Million
Charles

Aug 5, 2008, 7:06 PM

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Quote
Egads, man. I'd like to hear more from dorchester on this one! I just can't believe that 80% of Iowa applicants are 'maybes'. Why would this number be so much higher than for lit journals? Simply because teachers place bets on 'future ability'?


While before I said decisions for MFA programs are harder than for lit journals, since journals need polished finished work but MFA programs need writers who they think have potential... I do agree there is no way anywhere near 80% of applicants are in any kind of serious contention for a spot at a top program.

The fact is, at a desirable lit journal you are lucky to have 2 or 3% of the slush pile be in real contention. And maybe at max 10% even given real consideration. At least 90% of submissions are tossed long before an editor sees them... and most time much more than that. Most slush readings I've been to would have several readers and a giant pile of slush. Out of that we were lucky to get 5 or 6 worth passing on to the editor. Most of the time the editor would toss all of those after a quick glance.

As I said, MFA programs work differently since you are looking for potential and you are of course getting less "submissions" than a good journal does. Still, it seems improbable to me that the percent with a real shot goes from 3% to 80%. I doubt it even goes to 30%.

At a program that accepts 10 students I would be surprised if even 40 students had any real shot at getting in. My guess is that most programs whittle their list down very quickly and only have a few applicants to quibble over for a few spots (the other spots given automatically to the best applicants). The process varies I am sure. Most programs probably mandate at least a few readers. But the assumption that the majority of applicants have little chance at getting into a desirable (desirable being defined as getting lots of applications) school seems correct to me. You will notice that most of the time people either get accepted into no schools or accepted and waitlisted at several.


ejdifili
Emily

Aug 5, 2008, 7:21 PM

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In Reply To

If that's true, then I wonder how they whittle it down. Things seems more disturbing when you consider that most who do make it in appear to be rich white Ivy Leaguers...or folks born into heartwarming semi-poverty in another country who went to Ivy League schools on scholarship.


I don't know how true that is. Some schools (like Indiana University, for example) are explicitly committed to fostering racial diversity in their program. So, they definitely don't admit only rich white people. Also, I have met students from various top-20 programs, and not all are from the Ivy Leagues. In the program I am entering this year, I think only one incoming student holds a BA from an Ivy League school; others come from both lesser private universities and also state schools.

Realistically speaking, I'm sure it does happen that people get into MFA programs because of "connections," like who they or their family knows, or how much money their family has donated to the institution in the past. One would be naive not to recognize this as the way of the world. Nonetheless, I believe it is definitely possible to get accepted to a competitive program merely on one's writing merit. The applications sometimes ask how much money the candidate him or herself earns per year, but I don't think they have any reason to know about the income of a graduate student's family.

I, for example, was accepted to a program now listed in Seth's top 10, but I promise you that I had absolutely zero connections to that university, and my family is niether significantly wealthy nor significantly poor or downtrodden.

It is my understanding that final acceptance decisions can be based on things like previous grades or degrees, letters of recommendation, personal statements, etc. I don't think those elements get you into the final running, but I've heard that's what committees use to distinguish between applicants they may view as equally qualified based on their writing samples.


__________



Aug 5, 2008, 7:45 PM

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I was just speaking of Iowa...and I did say 'appear'. I have no hard data of where everyone did their undergrad.

Sometimes it can be disheartening, though, hearing from former students, or reading various blogs (like Matt Miller's blog), or (very recently) flipping through all the Best New American Voices on my shelf. There are usually two stories from Iowa (the max allowed), and the contributor's notes are strikingly similar. Harvard! Harvard! Harvard! Or I was born into the middle-class squalor of China, India, Germany, Sri Lanka -- and then I went to Sarah Lawrence and Harvard!

Line that up with the eerie sameness of the stories, the 'best' from every workshop, the horrible discovery that they all share the same voice, demonstrate the same learned techniques (1st sentence: journalistic prose, two character names and a situation. 1st paragraph: journalistic prose, appeal to the senses, pungent smell mentioned, exotic food munched...), and you're left with...what. Sickness? Despair? I don't know. Even the people with politically correct names spinning tales of the homeland write the same dreck as everyone else; the puffs of steam just rise from a certain type of baked Asian fruit pie instead of a Big Mac.

No offense to anyone who anyone who went to Harvard. I know they're a swell bunch of people. Some of my friends went there, and they are very swell. It just makes me wonder if there are any other schools...

Perhaps I shouldn't comment after a night spent perusing Best New American Voices.


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Aug 5, 2008, 7:50 PM)


Yugao


Aug 5, 2008, 7:48 PM

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I'm not sure how an admissions committee could definitively conclude how well off I am by my application. Only one standard application question might have revealed my socioeconomic status, the one that asked me to state the highest degree earned by each parent.

I visited two schools before making my decision, and my impression was that it was the work that counted. Faculty wanted to discuss my work and my plans. They didn't seem to have any interest in finding out whether or not I had a trust fund or if I came from a family of philanthropists.

"Top" programs can't maintain their reputations by admitting the bored and talentless. They need to admit people with the talent and initiative to gain some success in this very difficult field. As well, we are talking about very elite graduate programs that offer funding and fellowships. It isn't illogical to presume that people who were competitive undergraduate candidates would also be competitive graduate candidates, for whatever reason.

I do not have an Ivy League degree or immense family wealth, and I feel like I was treated fairly during the application process.


Clench Million
Charles

Aug 5, 2008, 7:50 PM

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Maas:

That might be more of a commentary on BNAV, which has always struck me as a really boring and bland anthology not at all worthy of its name, than MFA grads as a whole.

Although I never went to an Ivy League college, it wouldn't surprise me if they are over represented in MFA programs. But I doubt that is because the programs pick them for that reason. I bet a lot apply. Rich liberal parents are more likely to support an artistic career path than a lot of other families.


Raysen


Aug 5, 2008, 7:54 PM

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In Reply To
I'm not sure how an admissions committee could definitively conclude how well off I am by my application.


Well, this is where the Personal Statements come in. Someone could write: "I've always wanted to be a writer...blah blah blah...My dad is a billionaire industrialist...blah blah blah. We've given so much to charities and educational institutions. blah blah blah. And I'm open to new challenges and sooooo willing to learn from the amazing faculty members at _____________."


Yugao


Aug 5, 2008, 8:01 PM

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I know you are kidding, but no one gets around to reading the personal statement when the writing sample is bad.


__________



Aug 5, 2008, 8:09 PM

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Unless 80% of the applicants are maybes...hence my original point. ;)


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Raysen


Aug 5, 2008, 8:19 PM

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In Reply To
I know you are kidding, but no one gets around to reading the personal statement when the writing sample is bad.


Yeah, I was kidding of course, but for the sake of this example, we have to assume the applicant passed the initial writing sample filter. Thereafter, I think that, as Ethel Merman sang, ANYTHING GOES!


ejdifili
Emily

Aug 5, 2008, 10:04 PM

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In Reply To
Sometimes it can be disheartening, though, hearing from former students, or reading various blogs (like Matt Miller's blog), or (very recently) flipping through all the Best New American Voices on my shelf. There are usually two stories from Iowa (the max allowed), and the contributor's notes are strikingly similar. Harvard! Harvard! Harvard!

Well, yeah, I know what you mean because I feel that way when reading Poets & Writers magazine. It seems like the majority of featured authors (those who hold MFA degrees, anyway) are graduates of Iowa, Irvine, Columbia, Michigan, etc. Especially Iowa, of course. Clearly, there are successful writers in this world who hold degrees from lesser-known schools, but it does make me stop for a minute and wonder if I'm doomed because Iowa rejected me. Of course, there would certainly be a lot of us in that boat. But, whatever... all you can do is keep writing, reading and generally striving toward improvement.


daleth


Aug 6, 2008, 1:28 PM

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Unless 80% of the applicants are maybes...hence my original point. ;)



If 20% of the applicants are serious contenders, no one's ever going to give a second glance to the other 80%. 20% of the applicants is, for most schools, still far more people than they have room to admit. The only people whose personal statements, rec letters, etc. are going to get looked at are the ones in that 20%. If 10% are contenders, 10% are definite no's, and 80% are maybes, it's still only going to be the top 10% who really get looked at, because--again--most programs get something like twenty to fifty times more applicants than they possibly have room to admit.


Daleth Demented (Blog)


vorgefuhl


Aug 6, 2008, 1:38 PM

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Quote
(1st sentence: journalistic prose, two character names and a situation. 1st paragraph: journalistic prose, appeal to the senses, pungent smell mentioned, exotic food munched...)


I like this, you should expand this into a ten-page essay.


Raysen


Aug 6, 2008, 2:08 PM

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In Reply To

Quote
(1st sentence: journalistic prose, two character names and a situation. 1st paragraph: journalistic prose, appeal to the senses, pungent smell mentioned, exotic food munched...)


I like this, you should expand this into a ten-page essay.


Forget the essay. I'm waiting for the novel!


umass76


Aug 6, 2008, 6:57 PM

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All,

I think the conversation about what percentage of applications fall into this category or that one is difficult to have because the terms of the discussion keep changing.

I had just noted that there was general agreement that 75% to 80% of applications to MFAs are "competent [or better]," and very quickly the question was whether or not 75% to 80% of applicants are "in serious contention" for a coveted spot in a top MFA program. Those are two different things, especially when the initial question was, "How quickly can/does an MFA program discard X% of applications as 'definitely no'...?" My point was, a "definitely no" application is one that is not competent.

First readers, and sometimes second readers, are not authorized to willy-nilly toss away applications by writers who are "competent [or better]," which I think we agreed makes up 75% or so of the total applicant pool. My point, then, was that for those who claim that 90% of applications never get past a first reader, that's wrong--probably 75% get past the first read.

It simply doesn't prove anything--and isn't saying much--to observe that a group of four or five faculty, cloistered in a room for several hours, can quickly look through a large volume of "competent [or better]" work and get to a point where there are forty applications for ten spots. Fine, they can do that. But that has absolutely nothing to do with the initial purpose of this conversation, which was to ask whether "competent [or better]" writers could reasonably say that, in fact, they're only in competition with 10% of the applicant pool. The answer is, no, they can't say that.

The reason is because, when the faculty are in that room and they get down to the last forty applicants, those applicants are exceptional. Which means that only exceptional writers can even conceivably claim to be competing against (say) 39 other writers instead of 899. And that assumes that a writer is the very best judge of his/her talent, which is an odd premise on a board where everyone is applying to an MFA--where, by definition, we expect others will be a better judge of our talent (to an extent) than we are.

Be well,
Seth

MFA Rankings and Acceptance Rates at: http://www.sethabramson.blogspot.com/


(This post was edited by umass76 on Aug 6, 2008, 6:58 PM)


Clench Million
Charles

Aug 6, 2008, 7:48 PM

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I very much agree that this discussion has featured evolving terms. Most people seem to be talking about different things. Understandable when talking about "competence" in writing and not wishing to sound insulting to the applicant pool.

My personal assumption though is that the majority of applicants, at least 70% if not more, do not make it past the first round. (I won't say "first read" because I assume most programs mandate each application get at least two pairs of eyes.) I do believe that second readers are authorized to toss manuscript and I do assume that the vast majority of applicants who get a "no" from the first reader will get a "no" from the second.

The way I understand it is that most schools have their main faculty (I'd assume four to eight teachers) get in a room and start reading. Since these are the big teachers anyway, certainly if two of them say no the manuscript is going to be tossed. Some schools probably work differently with initial "readers" who are not part of the faculty... in that case, I'd expect over 50% of the applicants to move to round two. But when the faculty gets to reading I bet they chop quite quickly. They have to. They already know only a handful of applicants have a shot at getting in and if a manuscript isn't catching anyone's eyes there is no need to go through a dozen rounds tossing out 50 applications each time until a manageable number is reached.

So in that sense, I think the initial poster was correct in assuming that most applications get tossed very quickly. I will not claim the "definite nos" are incompetent or not, but I have little doubt that the majority of applications are definite "no"s. If a school accepts 5% of its applicants there is no way that 20%, much less 80%, are "maybes" in any real sense of that term, which I think is the question. Most get tossed in the first round and then the rest of the time is spent whittling a small number of applications down.

This is, however, a very different question than whether or not someone who is merely a good writer can get through to the final rounds since the majority of applicants are horrible writers (which the initial poster also claimed). But I do believe that the good majority of applicants get tossed quickly after the first round.


Clench Million
Charles

Aug 6, 2008, 7:57 PM

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As to the more essential question (or what I think is the more essential question here) of whether being a "decent" or "competent" writer is enough to get you to the top 10%... I think that is an impossible question to answer since there will be no agreement over what counts as "competent." It depends entirely on how you use those terms and from reading this thread it seems clear to me that everyone is using it in different ways.

My guess is that if you work is good enough to be getting nice responses from literary journals, if not publications, you are likely to jettison to the top 10%. Beyond that, it is hard to say because these words have no definition we can agree on.


__________



Aug 6, 2008, 9:09 PM

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Iowa Maybes [In reply to] Can't Post

It's the term 'maybe' that keeps tripping me up. To me, if someone's a 'maybe', it means they're a contender -- a maybe. And 80% just sounds awfully high; especially when Iowa's the only program everyone knows about. I wonder, How they could they not get loads of manuscripts from every crazy out there? I'd expect a full 20% to arrive in feces-smeared envelopes from Unibomber types, people in cabins with hooded sweatshirts -- and not the cool hipster kind!

But, as I said, it's the end product that troubles me, that really causes me to doubt such high numbers. Because flipping through journals and Best New American Voices can be troubling. This is when competency stops being a term of admiration, becomes something ugly and fearful and slightly fascist that must be ran from, very, very quickly.


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Aug 6, 2008, 9:13 PM)


Raysen


Aug 6, 2008, 9:44 PM

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In Reply To

But, as I said, it's the end product that troubles me, that really causes me to doubt such high numbers. Because flipping through journals and Best New American Voices can be troubling. This is when competency stops being a term of admiration, becomes something ugly and fearful and slightly fascist that must be ran from, very, very quickly.


Notwithstanding your position, I'm still applying to Iowa. Heheh...


silkentent
Margaret DeAngelis

e-mail user

Aug 6, 2008, 9:45 PM

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In Reply To
It's the term 'maybe' that keeps tripping me up. To me, if someone's a 'maybe', it means they're a contender -- a maybe. And 80% just sounds awfully high; especially when Iowa's the only program everyone knows about. I wonder, How they could they not get loads of manuscripts from every crazy out there? I'd expect a full 20% to arrive in feces-smeared envelopes from Unibomber types, people in cabins with hooded sweatshirts -- and not the cool hipster kind!



The application itself costs something -- upwards of $100 when you add in the transcripts and the postage and the copying or printing costs. (I am agog at the people who say they're applying to 15 schools "this year.") And if you're admitted, there is cost. I think that would keep out a lot of the crazies.

I asked somebody at Bread Loaf about this last year. He was a reader for the admissions committee. I asked him what percentage of applications is completely unsuitable, especially since there is no application fee. The percentage of manuscripts who have talking animals and end with "thank God it was all a dream" is lower than at magazines because once you're admitted, you have to pay, instead of the journal paying you. I would think that the prospect of having to come up with at least part of $20,000 a year would keep a large number of the crazies out.


Margaret DeAngelis
Markings: Days of Her Life
http://www.silkentent.com/Trees


Yugao


Aug 6, 2008, 10:24 PM

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As I understand it, not all stories get a full read. I asked about this at one school and was told that professors (at least at that school) don't have time to go on reading pages and pages of work that will obviously not make the cut. The acceptance rate at that school was less than 5% for fiction this year, which means many hundreds of applicant stories had to be culled. I do think that experienced faculty members can probably tell from the first page or so which manuscripts are worth considering.


(This post was edited by Yugao on Aug 6, 2008, 10:26 PM)


Raysen


Aug 6, 2008, 10:28 PM

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In Reply To
As I understand it, not all stories get a full read. I asked about this at one school and was told that professors (at least at that school) don't have time to go on reading pages and pages of work that will obviously not make the cut. The acceptance rate at that school was less than 5% for fiction this year, which means many hundreds of applicant stories had to be culled. I do think that experienced faculty members can probably tell from the first page or so which manuscripts are worth considering.


This is very disheartening, but I understand the practical necessities. I'm just sad that the Admissions Committee may not get to THE TWIST at the end of each of my stories. Dammit.


Clench Million
Charles

Aug 6, 2008, 10:40 PM

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In Reply To
As I understand it, not all stories get a full read. I asked about this at one school and was told that professors (at least at that school) don't have time to go on reading pages and pages of work that will obviously not make the cut. The acceptance rate at that school was less than 5% for fiction this year, which means many hundreds of applicant stories had to be culled. I do think that experienced faculty members can probably tell from the first page or so which manuscripts are worth considering.


One would hope that with the applications fees people are paying they would at least get a full read... but it wouldn't surprise me if that wasn't the case.

Certainly in literary journals, the vast majority of manuscripts don't get more than a page or two read.


writerteacher


Aug 6, 2008, 10:44 PM

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In Reply To
I would think that the prospect of having to come up with at least part of $20,000 a year would keep a large number of the crazies out.


But for many (most? Seth?) programs, you don't have to pay; they pay you to attend with a fellowship and tuition remission, or with a TA-ship and tuition remission. (Yes, not all programs offer full funding, and those that do may not fund everyone equally, but still.) You may have to pay for fees or books, and unless you've independent means you'll certainly be living like a monk in most cases, but a huge part of the attraction and meteoric popularity of MFA programs is that chance that you can be sustained, without taking out loans, to focus on your writing for two or three or four years. It's the academic equivalent of an artistic grant.

So, popping $40-100 on an application seems like a *really* good bargain for such a potentially huge return on the investment, even if you're crazy.

Especially if you're crazy.

My friends can't believe I'm being paid to go to school. Neither can I.

I do agree that the effort it takes to pull together an application may be a deterrent to someone who is on the fence or not serious about writing or schooling, but we all know there are plenty of horrible writers who are terribly, terribly serious about it, so I'm not sure effort has much of an effect on the ratio of good/competent applications to goofy ones.

Cheers,
WT


mpagan


Aug 7, 2008, 12:28 AM

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This all seems too complicated.

If the school your applying to accepts 1 to 4 percent of the applicants it receives - then you should adjust your expectations accordingly (or bitch and moan about the possibilities until you get accepted or rejected)
When they say they admit that percentage - then that is your forecast - you have a 1 to 4 percent chance of getting in - no matter how good you think you are or your friends and teachers say you are - you have a 1-to-4 percent chance, or whatever percentage. Who cares who gets culled at what stage? You don't know how you're going to fare in that process. No one does. Your applying to Iowa or Michigan? Then you have a 1 percent or 4 percent chance - end of story.

Your work might get trashed in the first round at Brooklyn, or you might rocket to the top at Michigan -your feelings about your work and about other peoples work (i.e. the whole most applicants writing sucks attitude) won't change that.

I applied to 11 schools last year - rejected at all save one - Michigan.

I would have been grateful to get into any one of the programs I applied to because I want to better my work. Thats just me.

To those applying, don't psych yourselves out with percentages, just apply with a hope and prayer - and put all that energy into the sample - it's the only thing you have in the end. Sounds harsh maybe, but I think it's the best way to approach this - unless you like crawling through little mental rat mazes that get you no closer to any real cheese.


(This post was edited by mpagan on Aug 7, 2008, 12:32 AM)


__________



Aug 7, 2008, 1:37 AM

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Hey, I'll decide what mental mazes entertain me!

Sorry, but you're giving us lottery odds...which bear no resemblance to reality. Iowa is not a lottery. Lan Samantha Chang doesn't scribble your name on a ping-pong ball and and dump it in a big round bubble gum machine; there are several factors that affect your odds.

...even if it does seem random.


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Clench Million
Charles

Aug 7, 2008, 1:42 AM

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In Reply To
Hey, I'll decide what mental mazes entertain me!

Sorry, but you're giving us lottery odds...which bear no resemblance to reality. Iowa is not a lottery. Lan Samantha Chang doesn't scribble your name on a ping-pong ball and and dump it in a big round bubble gum machine; there are several factors that affect your odds.

...even if it does seem random.


Agreed. Saying anyone who applies has the same 1-4% chance is like saying if we are playing pick-up basketball and there are five dudes left for the last spot they all have 20% chance. Sure, on a math level they might... but the 6'3" athletic dude probably has a better shot than the fat 5'5" dude.


dorchester


Aug 7, 2008, 1:44 AM

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Things seems more disturbing when you consider that most who do make it in appear to be rich white Ivy Leaguers...or folks born into heartwarming semi-poverty in another country who went to Ivy League schools on scholarship. One Iowa blogger even reports that (on the poetry side at least) they tend to admit the bored daughters of uber-rich, Rockefeller-type families -- because those daughters will one day marry, become even more bored, and bestow endowments.

I mean...Ack! 80%!? This makes the whittling down process look even worse... !




Once again, I feel the need to respond to some of the things being said about Iowa on this messageboard. First of all, the notion that Iowa only accepts Ivy Leaguers is absurd. I can remember a few students from Ivy League schools when I was there, but the vast majority were from state universities, small liberals arts colleges, and even a few community colleges. For years, in fact, Iowa was known for accepting students who hadnít even graduated from college (I donít think they can get away with that now). But the point is, all they care about there is how good a writer you are, regardless of where you went to school. In fact theyíre probably the program that places the least weight on GPAs and GRE scores. As for the diversity issue, thatís equally absurd, and all you have to do is look at some of the important writers who have come out of there over the years: James Alan McPherson, Rita Dove, Sandra Cisneros, Bharti Mukherjee, Susan Power, Gish Jen, Abraham Verghese, Lan Samanthat Chang, or more recently, Yiyun Le, Sue Kwok Kim, Nam Le, ZZ Packer, etc. I could go on and on. The point is, if youíd actually ever spent a day there, youíd realize how ridiculous this type of statement was.

Anyway, every now and then I feel the need to respond to these types of statements, and Iíve been wondering recently why it is the Iowa seems to incur so much wrath. In Edward Delaneyís interview about his rankings in the Atlantic, he makes the point that ďIowa is everyoneís favorite piŮata,Ē and this is of course the price you pay for being perceived by the general public as the best program in the country. In other words, people rarely take shots at other strong programs, like UVA or Cornell or Michigan, because they donít feel that they need to degrade those programs in order to establish their own (or their programís) superiority. And, of course, a part of me understands this. But whatís troubling to me is the way the program, and the students in the program, are so vilified and misrepresented. When I was there, the students were warm, generous supportive and kind. They also happened to be incredibly talented writers, but that was beside the point. They were, first and foremost, good people. Moreover, what people need to understand is that the students there, at least when I was there, care far less about Iowaís famous reputation than it seems students at every other MFA program do. In fact, I would be hard pressed to remember one conversation in which anyone even talked about Iowaís ranking at all, except to say that they were surprised they got in. I was even there when the famous 1997 US News rankings came out, and I donít think anyone said more than two words about it, whereas I remember my friends at other programs getting extremely worked up about where their particular program fell on that list.

All of which is to say that while students from various other programs feel the need to degrade Iowa, the students at Iowa donít feel the need to degrade them. In fact, I donít think Iíve ever seen one negative post on these messageboards from an Iowa grad belittling another program. Mostly, you have good people like Seth, who, if anything, are championing other programs. And Iím sure if you asked the typical Iowa student what they thought of a program like, say, Michigan, theyíd probably say ďThatís a great program!Ē Not ďThatís a great program, but not as good as ours.Ē Because, quite frankly, they donít care. Theyíre not thinking about that or talking about that, in part, because thereís an understanding there (perhaps because of the famous legacy) that one has to be humble, that one canít believe too much in the external significance of things, and that all that really matters is trying to do the best work you can do every day. And if thereís one reason why so many Iowa grads have actually had success itís probably because this belief is so ingrained in them.

So why is it then that this incredibly cool, supportive environment, filled with nice, humble, hard-working writers, who are just as insecure and unsure of themselves as writers at any other program in the country, why is it then that this place incurs so much wrath? I think part of it is the top dog issue, but I think, more specifically, it relates to a kind of frustration, which is perfectly understandable. The students from other programs see their program getting better, increasing their financial aid, improving their faculty, etc., and yet, no matter how much their programs improve, they canít seem to shake the public opinion that Iowa is still the most prestigious program in the country. And the problem is, itís kind of a futile battle to fight. The fame and legacy of The Writersí Workshop is just too ingrained in the public consciousness at this point. And Iím not talking about MFA students, or even writers, here. Iím talking about the general public. The Iowa program is simply a part of popular culture. Itís the one program that people who donít know anything about MFA Programs know about. Itís the one program thatís written about the most, talked about the most, referenced the most, etc, and thatís just not something that people can control or reverse. Once something is part of the public consciousness, once a certain opinion is formed and reinforced by the media, it becomes extremely hard to compete with, and so I think thatís where some of this frustration comes from. Iowa begins to represent some sort of giant machine that canít be stopped, and so the only thing people can do is take pot shots at it. And of course the fact that so many of its graduates continue to have success only fuels this resentment

But what I want to express to people here is that neither the students, nor the Iowa Writers Workshop itself, are doing anything to perpetuate this public opinion. Just look at the Iowa website compared to other programsí websites. Considering all of the famous alumni and past faculty and honors they could list, itís pretty amazing how humble and understated their website is. But thatís the attitude there. Thatís Iowa. Theyíre not interested in posting flashy advertisements in Poets & Writers or The Writerís Chronicle or others trade magazines, like so many other programs do. Theyíre not even interested in attracting more applicants. In fact, when I was there, they actually sent out a list of all the other MFA programs out there as a way of discouraging applicants from only applying to Iowa and also as a way of helping those other programs grow.

So, what Iím saying to the people who feel the need to attack Iowa is ďlet it go.Ē What youíre attacking is an idea, a public opinion, and one that canít be easily reversed. And the thing is, the students at Iowa arenít even invested in this public opinion, at least they werenít when I was there, so why should you be? They arenít walking around feeling superior to you, so why should feel the need to cast dispersions on them or their program? The only thing you should be focusing on is your own work and the quality of it, because, in the long run, that all that really matters. Thatís the main thingóprobably the most important thingóI actually learned at Iowa.


__________



Aug 7, 2008, 2:23 AM

Post #180 of 344 (10369 views)
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Re: [dorchester] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not sure, but if this is directed at me in particular...

I assure you, I have no Iowa wrath. And I've never heard anything snotty about Iowa students, how they do or do not look down on other students or feel superior to other writers. That, too, strikes me as absurd.

My only concerns (and my ambivalence about applying) just have to do with things I've heard or read from Iowa students, as well as the work of students selected or not selected for their program. It was an Iowa student (Matt Miller) who (along with a few others) suggested that because of Iowa's funding (or lack of funding) they throw in a few Rockefeller debutantes each year. This would of course be along with the other cheerful, earnest, and super-talented and deserving folks. That does concern me a wee bit...though I'm the first to admit I have no Gallup poll in hand.

The Ivy League thing is more of a personal kind of fear. Meaning I don't object to Ivy League schools, or friends who've attended those schools, etc. I simply see, over and over, in contributors notes and so forth (and especially Best New American Voices, which tells you the two writers Iowa values most in a given year) a preponderance of pedigreed overachievers. Again, nothing wrong with that. But when I relate this data to the bland eerie sameness of the output -- what Iowa teachers considers its best product, I admit, it worries me. We're all familiar with the MFA cookie-cutter argument, and I do wonder if the professionalization, the overachieve-ifying correctness of the short story, in all its same-itude, is currently underway.

The 'diversity' issue relates to this as well. It at least appears that for all Iowa's commitment to diversity (a goal I support) -- it might be a bit misguided. Sure, the names might look PC or exotic, but the actual fiction is (or at times can appear to be) the same bland, by the numbers affair, a difference in name only. To read something like Midnight's Children, where the author's background or experience does factor -- mightily! -- into the work, then to move on to someone like Jhumpa Lahiri, who's been through the American creative writing mill, well, that's quite a difference! And one that does not give me big amounts of hope for grad school.

These are old arguments, but ones relative to my life at the moment. And they center more on the selection process than the selectees. I hope no one's offended by my sort of thinking out loud, here.


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Aug 7, 2008, 2:27 AM)


dorchester


Aug 7, 2008, 3:01 AM

Post #181 of 344 (10356 views)
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In Reply To
I'm not sure, but if this is directed at me in particular...


Junior Maas,

Thanks for your response. I used a quote from your post, but my comments were not directed at you in particular. Your comment was just one of many I've noticed on this messageboard and on the MFA Blog over time. Typically, these types of comments begin "I heard from a friend who knew someone who went to Iowa . . . etc," and often times they're two or three people removed from the source. In other words, these are things that people state as fact, even though they're not based on any hard evidence, data, or firsthand experience. They're speculations, rumors, heresay. And since I actually spent two years of my life there I feel the need, from time to time, to dispel some of these rumors, since the vast majority of them are completely untrue.

And, of course, one of the most common, and untrue rumors that tends to circulate is the one you just mentioned: that Iowa produces a cookie-cuuter type of writer, a New Yorker type of writer, that there's no stylistic diversity there, and so on. And again, this couldn't be farther from the truth. When I was there, there were plenty of experimental writers, writers who were playing around with different genres, writers who were writing magical realsim, etc. The only thing that these people had in common was that they were all good at what they did.

Anyway, my post was more of a personal reflection on why Iowa seems to be the target of so many rumors and speculations, and, like I said, I think it's rooted in a lot of things: jealousy, resentment, bitterness about being rejected, fear of not getting in, etc. These are all natural emotions, things all writers experience, but what I want to express is that the people who are casting these dispersions are casting them at a place that is completely unpretentious, laid back and supportive and at a group of writers who are probably among the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. It would be one thing if the program, or the writers there, were constantly rubbing it in people's faces, but they're not. In fact, they're doing the opposite of that. They're holed up in their apartments writing stories and poems. They're basically keeping a very low profile. That their work gets recognized in BNAV and other anthologies, or that they win certain awards, or get published in certain places, is not their fault. There's no conspiracy there. They're simply producing good work and that work's being recognized.

That's all I wanted to say.


aiyamei

e-mail user

Aug 7, 2008, 10:20 AM

Post #182 of 344 (10313 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

Best New American Voices here or there, I would like to point out, as far as elitism, that the great post-War American writers have all emerged from the working and middle classes. It's a bit weird, isn't it? Before WWII, there were a lot of Fitzgerald, Faulkner, T.S. Eliot types -- rich kids from the South and Midwest who were sent East for school and became huge. I feel like, Mr. Amory Blaine (no less! -- your moniker suggests you have a particular sensitivity to this issue, perhaps?), that when you refer to "rockefeller debutantes" you are anachronistically focused on this bygone era. If you consider the writers who have risen to prominence since that time, you'll notice they are all from working-class or lower-middle-class backgrounds -- Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Toni Morrison, E.L. Doctorow, etc.

But I'm not going to keep listing people. There's been enough written about this trend in American letters. The point is that if you want to attack elitism in America, there are other, much more worrisome situations than fiction. Within fiction you'd be hard-pressed to find someone from a really rich family who's had any big success. The children of the rich simply aren't hungry enough these days, I suppose.


mpagan


Aug 7, 2008, 10:55 AM

Post #183 of 344 (10298 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Iowa Maybes [In reply to] Can't Post

uh...ok

the top schools still let in only 1-4 percent. That really doesn't change anything for you - right?

One way or another those are the odds

and by all means apply despite those odds - I'm not saying one shouldn't, its just misleading to think there is a way to predict your chances in this system - that sadly does resemble a lottery but is not - just a highly selective and SUBJECTIVE process.

good luck!


mpagan


Aug 7, 2008, 11:10 AM

Post #184 of 344 (10296 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Iowa Maybes [In reply to] Can't Post

there are many factors that determine your chances - but the applicant is not privy to the inner workings of the committee - maybe that year they don't want more experimental writers - maybe more realist - who knows? Maybe the selection committee and the readers just value something different in someones work who is less polished or are looking for star power-- who knows? You don't. I don't. So maybe it's not like picking dudes for a pick-up basketball game- maybe it's somethiing a lot more complex than that. I'm not saying it's random. I'm just saying that if you apply to say Cornell - that you can't assume your application zooms to the top 20 percent under consideration - simply because you think, or your teachers think - you're a great writer. ( or your an ethnic minority - or from an Ivy, or had someone famous write you a rec.) I see how it makes people feel better, but that kind of logic really doesn't do anything more for you.

What does work in your favor? Apply to a good mix (low-high acceptance rates) Or a whole lot of top programs.

Either way - it is what it is.


(This post was edited by mpagan on Aug 7, 2008, 11:12 AM)


Raysen


Aug 7, 2008, 11:25 AM

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I just want to say that I was the first one in this thread to use the basketball analogy. Now that it has also been picked up by other learned folks, I'm very proud of this accomplishment.


daleth


Aug 7, 2008, 12:30 PM

Post #186 of 344 (10267 views)
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In Reply To
80% just sounds awfully high; especially when Iowa's the only program everyone knows about. I wonder, How they could they not get loads of manuscripts from every crazy out there? I'd expect a full 20% to arrive in feces-smeared envelopes from Unibomber types, people in cabins with hooded sweatshirts -- and not the cool hipster kind!

Heeheeheeheehee :-)


Daleth Demented (Blog)


daleth


Aug 7, 2008, 12:38 PM

Post #187 of 344 (10265 views)
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Re: [aiyamei] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post


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Before WWII, there were a lot of Fitzgerald, Faulkner, T.S. Eliot types -- rich kids from the South and Midwest who were sent East for school and became huge.

I'm a little puzzled by that statement. T.S. Eliot was pretty much Brahmin, okay, but Fitzgerald?! "His father, Edward Fitzgerald, was a salesman, a Southern gentleman, whose furniture business had failed. Mary McQuillan, his mother, was the daughter of a successful wholesale grocer..." http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/fsfitzg.htm
That certainly doesn't sound like the background of a "rich kid" to me. And Faulkner, who dropped out of college after about a year, worked as a bookstore clerk, postmaster, scoutmaster... He did come from "an old southern family," as they say, but whether that meant the family had any money, I don't know.


Daleth Demented (Blog)


aiyamei

e-mail user

Aug 7, 2008, 1:02 PM

Post #188 of 344 (10257 views)
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Re: [daleth] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

Ah! Point well-taken. I just assumed that if the families had the money to send the kids to Princeton/Harvard, in those days before financial aid, they were sort of Brahmin types. But indeed, perhaps not. Then, we are still left with rich poets and impoverished novelists. And wasn't it Edmund White who said that all great American novelists come from declining families?

All I'm trying to get at, in general, is that the American literary scene, at least as far as fiction, is in no way dominated by the children of the elite. Generally, we are a scrappy bunch. And this is true in many other countries as well. My best attempt at an explanation is: writing long works of fiction is a discipline that offers very little gratification, and what gratification it does offer is very slow in coming, something that only those who grew up with a certain amount of deprivation are inured to. But who knows, really, why it is.


__________



Aug 7, 2008, 8:16 PM

Post #189 of 344 (10200 views)
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Re: [aiyamei] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hmmm...that's an interesting point, but I don't think it contradicts my own (or my worry, not really a point) about a certain amount of rich-folk padding in one particular grad school. These wouldn't be the kidz to go on and blow-up on the lit scene anyway; just a band of trustafundians hoping to extend their youth on into their thirties...

As fiction goes, I have no political theories. I think it would make an interesting study. But poetry...what a sad state of affairs! Half of it can only appeal to an educated elite. It takes long, long hours with Mrs. Deleuze and Guattari to justify this work, these nonsense, word salad poems that are essentially mad libs, Oulipo with pretension. Now that kind of poetry, the kind children can write, you just have to buy your way into. And that's kinda sad.

But fiction, who knows.


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whyGA77


Aug 7, 2008, 10:17 PM

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GRE and admissions [In reply to] Can't Post

I applied to 7 schools last year and, regrettably, didn't get into any of them. I've gone over again and again in my head why I was rejected, but I know it's no use. I'm going to try again this year and hope my luck changes.

So, to get to my question: I know some programs state that they require the GRE and some don't, but do the actual MFA programs require it, or do you have to get into the graduate school first and then your application is passed onto the MFA program? I took the GRE last year and didn't do very well, so should I take it again? Could my low scores have prevented me from getting into the graduate school itself and the MFA board never saw my portfolio?

I'm just a little confused as to how this works, because I know that everyone always says, "GRE scores mean nothing, it's all about your writing sample," so what weight DO the GREs actually have?

Thanks everyone!


Raysen


Aug 7, 2008, 10:32 PM

Post #191 of 344 (10168 views)
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In Reply To
I'm just a little confused as to how this works, because I know that everyone always says, "GRE scores mean nothing, it's all about your writing sample," so what weight DO the GREs actually have?

Thanks everyone!


I haven't even applied to MFA programs yet. However, I have read this forum thoroughly in order to gain all the info I can gather to gain an advantage over all you other future applicants. Heheheh. Anyway, from what I've read, GREs don't mean anything. If the writing program wants you, it'll take you unless the strong arm of the graduate school comes down hard against you. That's all anyone can really say unless someone here posts a real life story.

The low GREs probably didn't hurt you, but who am I say? It's your writing sample. That's not to say your writing sample was bad or anything like that. It's just that they can only take 1-4% of all applicants so the schools are collectively turning down thousands of otherwise qualified students (and in many cases, very well-qualified).

I've read posts here that say that they got GREs in the 700s with 3.7+ GPAs and they still did NOT get into many schools. So, in sum, it's not your GREs or GPAs. That's what I learned from reading the hundreds and hundreds of posts here. It's all about the WRITING SAMPLE!

With that said, I know some schools (e.g., Ohio State) publicize minimum GREs and GPAs. Whether they strictly follow this rule, I don't know for certain.


(This post was edited by Raysen on Aug 7, 2008, 10:37 PM)


__________



Aug 8, 2008, 12:34 AM

Post #192 of 344 (10145 views)
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Re: [Raysen] GRE and admissions [In reply to] Can't Post

I think at most schools that's true. Studio programs just want you to meet the minimum academic requirements; more 'academic' programs (like Texas State) place greater emphasis on your GRE, but it won't trump your writing sample.

BUT: if your GRE doesn't meet a school's requirements, you are in trouble. Some places (like Irvine) won't even consider you. (In fact, there's an interview where Geoffrey Wofle urges these folks not to apply). At other schools, like Syracuse, it'll mean a battle between departments -- and the writing side doesn't always come out on top.

So if your GRE doesn't meet requirements, you should probably retake it.


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Aug 8, 2008, 12:35 AM)


DylanTaiNguyen


Sep 18, 2008, 1:18 PM

Post #193 of 344 (9968 views)
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Getting both an MA and MFA in Fiction [In reply to] Can't Post

Hello everyone,
In the 90s, I received an M.A. in Fiction from Boston University, a degree that's now been changed to an M.F.A. The thing is: I want to go back to school, specifically to get another M.F.A--also in Fiction. Am I crazy? Probably. But I feel that I still have so much MORE to learn, and I've been craving a literary community, and time to write, and more advanced craft classes....

My question: will admissions committees think that I'm out of my mind? Will they somehow discriminate against me because I already have an M.A.? (For the record, I did fine at B.U. My professors and I got along, they gave me good grades--and part of my thesis got published as a short story and helped get me into art colonies.) The program was simply too short for me. One-year: four workshops. It seemed that I blinked, and it was over. Like a summer love affair. Also, I went to B.U. straight out of college. I think I'd get so much more out of the degree now that I'm in my mid-thirties.

Actually, I've done some research, and I've discovered that Z.Z. Packer ("Drinking Coffee Elsewhere") has both an M.A. from Johns Hopkins and an M.F.A. from Iowa--both in fiction, I presume. And one of the Columbia professors, Lucy Brock-Boido has two Masters degrees as well. So I think my situation is not unheard of.

But I'd appreciate any feedback anyone can give. Would admissions committees give my candidacy serious consideration? Might they disqualify me somehow? Or is my situation a lot more common than I realize?

I hope that the committees will see my decision to get another degree as evidence of my passion and my willingness to continue learning. The (sort of) problem is that I'm a very very slow writer. I don't want them to think that I'm semi-retarded. ;-) In the past 12 years, I've published only 3 short stories. I'm not ashamed of this fact, though, because I've also been working as an entrepreneur, a job that allows me only about 1 hour of writing time a day. Now I just want to write full time... Do I bring all this up in my application? Basically, it all boils down to the fact that I want to keep learning, but I don't want the committees to feel that I'm washed up, or that I don't have a burning drive to write.

Thanks in advance for any help

Dylan


Tabby


e-mail user

Sep 18, 2008, 7:57 PM

Post #194 of 344 (9917 views)
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Re: [DylanTaiNguyen] Getting both an MA and MFA in Fiction [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey,

That you have ANY pubs is a leg up on most applicants. At my MFA program, the profs all said that they were most interested in potential. I wouldn't dwell on your speed or output for the past ten years, but focus in your letter on your desire to have another chance to focus, if that makes sense. That's what the MFA is all about in my mind. Again, it's going to come down to your current writing sample (I would submit something new), and if profs feel like they'd like to work with you.

I would think that your program was an MA at the time is all that matters. I have also heard (unofficially), that while people have second MFAs (at least from Iowa) that these people are pretty much all stars.

I don't know, my instinct is that you apply to the schools you want, and not worry about it.


http://www.kellykathleenferguson.com


Baggott


Sep 26, 2008, 10:41 PM

Post #195 of 344 (9779 views)
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Re: [DylanTaiNguyen] Getting both an MA and MFA in Fiction [In reply to] Can't Post

It's common, and at Florida State we'd look very kindly on the MA from Boston U. Very kindly. Remember, too, that this gives you the possibility of applying for a PhD in Creative Writing, as well. FSU has both the PhD and MFA; and sometimes that's the tougher choice -- you're qualified for both, which one do you really want?

Julianna Baggott, Assoc. Prof., FSU
www.juliannabaggott.com


moomoocow42


Sep 29, 2008, 2:04 PM

Post #196 of 344 (9665 views)
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Re: [whyGA77] GRE and admissions [In reply to] Can't Post

A little late to this conversation, but to flip the question -- does anyone know how much weight a GPA is given to an application? I know that some schools have really strict requirements (and I'm not applying to those schools), but I wonder how important it is to the schools that consider a whole application "holistically." I'm in the strange situation where I scored decently on my GREs but have an atrocious undergrad GPA. Anyone have experiences or knowledge they'd like to share?


My MFA Blog -- Watch me slowly lose my sanity.


bighark


Sep 29, 2008, 9:34 PM

Post #197 of 344 (9614 views)
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Re: [moomoocow42] GRE and admissions [In reply to] Can't Post

Every school handles admissions differently, but I think it's safe to say that admissions committees won't even look at your GPA unless they're going to recommend you for acceptance into their program.

For example, let's say you apply to Notre Dame.

Your Notre Dame application includes the application form, your statement of purpose, your letters of recommendation, and your writing sample. The adcom won't go through your whole application at the start of the application season. Why would they? They'll read your writing sample first and make a decision based on it. If your writing is weak, the whole application is tossed. It doesn't matter if you had a 4.0, perfect GREs, and an LOR from Alice Munroe. If the writing isn't there, you're not going anywhere. If the committee likes your writing, though, they'll look at the rest of your application. At this point, they'll consider things like LORs, purpose statements, etc.

Notice I didn't say grades. Even at this stage, grades aren't part of the admissions decision.

For the sake of argument, let's say that your writing sample blows them away. They don't even care about your purpose statement or LORs. They're in love and want you to come to their school. What happens next in the admissions process is the program needs to recommend you for acceptance to the graduate college. This is where the whole GPA and GRE thing comes into play. The creative writing program didn't even look at your grades. They don't care. The only people who care are the administrators behind the graduate school.

If your grades and scores are decent, this step is no big deal. If your grades or scores are really, weak, though, then the program will have to make a case for why you should be admitted to the school.

Does that make sense?

Anyway, I don't think it's anything to really worry about. Yes, there are the schools like Ohio State or Irvine that state right up front that they have a GPA requirement, but you know which schools those are and won't be applying to them.

If your writing is special enough to get through the screening processes, then the admissions committe will look at your transcript and decent GREs and figure you weren't that engaged as an undergrad but could probably handle graduate level work just fine now that you're a little more mature.

Good luck to you.


moomoocow42


Sep 30, 2008, 12:01 AM

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Re: [bighark] GRE and admissions [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the very detailed, very kind advice, bighark. It's very helpful. At this point, I think I'm just trying to psych myself out -- if I'd only stop for a moment to breath and think every now and then, I wouldn't have this trouble. And it's only October! My girlfriend's gonna have a tough winter...


My MFA Blog -- Watch me slowly lose my sanity.

(This post was edited by moomoocow42 on Sep 30, 2008, 12:04 AM)


Tabby


e-mail user

Sep 30, 2008, 4:34 PM

Post #199 of 344 (9517 views)
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Re: [moomoocow42] GRE and admissions [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey moomoo,

Don't be afraid to eat a chocolate bar and take a walk. Seriously!


http://www.kellykathleenferguson.com


moomoocow42


Oct 1, 2008, 7:31 PM

Post #200 of 344 (9443 views)
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Re: [Tabby] GRE and admissions [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the advice, Tabby. Consider it taken!


My MFA Blog -- Watch me slowly lose my sanity.


germericanqt


Oct 1, 2008, 9:13 PM

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Second Time (or more) [In reply to] Can't Post

How many, like me, applied last year and didn't get in, or got in but decided to reapply? Where did you apply and what did the outcomes look like? Do you feel more confident or less confident this time around? Are you reapplying to any schools? If so, why? If you don't get in this time, what will you do?

I applied to UC Irvine, U Virginia, Boston U, and Johns Hopkins. I was rejected by the first three and waitlisted at JHU. I feel like I have a much better understanding of the process this time around. I've applied to more schools, been more organized, and put more time in so far than I spent last year. I worked hard last year, but I'm better prepared this year. I wouldn't say I feel more confident, because I was pretty confident last year (mainly because I didn't comprehend how competitive the process is), but I feel pretty good. With twelve schools on my list, including six that have up to five times higher acceptance rates than the ones last year and one school that almost accepted me, I think I have a good shot. I'm reapplying to all of last year's schools but Boston U. Why? Because they're still some of my top picks, and I think that my writing sample this year is different enough and shows enough improvement that a school which rejected me last year might take another look. If I don't get in this time around, it's really hard to say what I'll do. I'll be heartbroken for sure. Might lose all will to live. I can joke about it, but it will be a tough experience for me.


HappyCianci



Oct 1, 2008, 9:32 PM

Post #202 of 344 (8728 views)
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Re: [germericanqt] Second Time (or more) [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm in the same boat, germericanqt. I applied to seven schools last year, was rejected outright by five, accepted at Notre Dame, and waitlisted (and later rejected) at NYU. I ultimately decided I wasn't enthusiastic enough about Notre Dame to spend my only MFA years there.

This time, my list of programs is twice as long. Like you, I included a bunch with much higher acceptance rates than say, Irvine. Although I'm still applying to Irvine hah.

I feel more confident this year, I think because I'm going to shop my writing sample around to all my poet friends, and get as much feedback as I can about what will make a strong addition, and what should be cut. Last year I believe I made the mistake of including too much new material, and of just generally going solo with my sample and SOP. MFA programs are about community, right? So I figure I had better get comfortable with the group ethos now anyway.

Well I wish you, and all the other veterans good luck this time around. I don't know what I'm going to do if I don't get in anywhere. Cry into my laptop until it sustains water damage, most likely.


empiricalhubris


Oct 5, 2008, 1:35 PM

Post #203 of 344 (8648 views)
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Re: [Miss Write] Transferring Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey everyone,

I'm in the first semester of an MFA program and am thinking about transferring. Unlike many who have responded to this post, funding isn't an issue for me at my program. I've got a teaching assistantship, health insurance, and a full ride. The faculty is great, and one of my profs is helping me immensely outside of class. Some of the issues I'm butting up against are the location (too far away from home, which would be okay if the place was more interesting), the focus of the program (the program I attend has a specialization in a kind of writing that excited me when I applied but annoys me now in that it is going to distract me from writing), and the availability of solid workshops in my genre (most classes here are in others). The english dept. here also has very limited options as far as lit. classes go. The biggest issue puts me at hazard for being arrogant, but I'll just go ahead and say it: I don't feel as though this program will challenge me.
I know I'm lucky, having a supportive environment and a full ride, and I feel terrible for wanting more but I want to be at a program that will challenge me and help me grow (please note: I realize most of that is on me, I just want the best environment to do it in), not one that focuses on the genre or kind of writing that I don't want to do.
So here are my questions:
Am I being an asshole? Should I just take what I can and stick around until I'm done, working to develop and grow on my own and with the help of the aformentioned professor?
Has anyone else transferred succesfully? How did you go about doing it?

Any advice or thoughts are much appreciated.


owenj


Oct 6, 2008, 9:48 PM

Post #204 of 344 (8531 views)
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Re: [empiricalhubris] Transferring Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not sure if this is the case, but I have a feeling very few programs are going to take credits from your MFA program, so you'd probably be starting over, although I would say that's what you want to do anyway, since part of your graduate experience is getting to know the people with whom you're working. If anybody knows this to be different, please correct me, I'm not 100% on this. Anyway, it doesn't hurt to apply and see what happens. You might be at a disadvantage in that you've done a year of work where you are and are going to raise some questions, I think, as to why you want to go somewhere different, but you might as well try and find out.


spamela


Oct 7, 2008, 1:30 AM

Post #205 of 344 (8505 views)
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Re: [empiricalhubris] Transferring Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

I am not being snarky or trying to be dismissive when I say that I think an MFA program can be as challenging as you need/want it to be at the writing level. From the workshop perspective, certainly, sometimes, a workshop might seem more like a workshop-lite, or a workshop-with-many-polite-and-kind-people-but-not-a-critical-or-dissenting-voice-in-the-bunch. However, it was my experience that at some point during my MFA program, no matter how critical or lite my workshops were, they just stopped mattering in terms of my own work. At some point, you sort of run off on your own path and maybe start turning in work that is less important to you anyway because, frankly, the workshop model isn't always the best model in regards to learning the craft of writing. Sometimes, running with your own weird and crazy ideas is.

This is all a long-winded way of saying: I wouldn't try to talk you out of transferring, but be aware that a lot of people I know who've gone through both reputedly "tough" and reputedly "easy" MFA workshop experiences have all felt, at one point, that the workshop just wasn't...totally...working for them anymore.

That's in the feedback sense. In the teaching sense, I think they're generally useful in that they teach you how to teach workshops.

Of course, if not being academically challenged enough is your main concern, I'm not sure there's a way to figure around that. Just wanted to relay a workshop opinion from the other side of the (post MFA) fence.

In any case, good luck to you! I hope you find the perfect place for you.


spamela


Oct 7, 2008, 1:47 AM

Post #206 of 344 (8503 views)
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Re: [spamela] Transferring Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

and now I see that I misread the word "availability" in your post as "quality"! Oops. Obvs, having an MFA does nothing for the old close-reading practices. So, sorry if my comments are absolutely unhelpful to you. But that's my story and I'm sticking to it.


Tabby


e-mail user

Oct 7, 2008, 1:46 PM

Post #207 of 344 (8457 views)
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Re: [empiricalhubris] Transferring Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

I have heard of one person transferring, but more for personal reasons than being unhappy with the program. I have no idea if this person lost credits. Given the MFA is so short, maybe the "transfer" was more like a "do over." I did transfer a few lit credits from an aborted MA, so if you choose to reapply, then maybe use this time to knock a few of those out.

I notice it's only October, so maybe you're having an initial panic? The hard part is you could transfer, and not be any happier. The MFA is anything but a perfect process. I remember having to completely readjust my preconceived notions. Ah, so many star-glossed ideas that came tumbling down. If you are making those few friends, establishing those one or two professor contacts, and can stand the area, and you're not going in debt...that's more than a few checks in the plus column. Having one professor who works with you one on one is a huge asset. I know people who went their whole MFA getting very little face time.

Of course, I'm no help because I loved my program, loved my friends, loved the place, blah, blah, and more blah. The MFA wasn't what i thought it would be, which isn't to say I didn't come to love what it was. Was that because I'm adaptable? Arrived wanting to love? I certainly know people who griped through the very program I went through all swimmy-eyed.

Sadly, this is one of those sucky "nobody knows the right decision but you" things. Hope the situation becomes more clear one way or the other.

As for the workshops filling up, don't be afraid to advocate for yourself. There's always a way in. There's always more money for somebody. Administrators and faculty love to whine and moan but can't nobody but no one play Chicken Little like a bunch of academics.

http://www.postmfa08.blogspot.com/


http://www.kellykathleenferguson.com


luvrbuoy


Nov 5, 2008, 10:32 AM

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Re: [Tabby] Transferring Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

"At the patron's request, this post has been deleted."




(This post was edited by motet on Nov 28, 2008, 6:44 PM)


jaywalke


Nov 5, 2008, 11:14 AM

Post #209 of 344 (8317 views)
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Re: [luvrbuoy] Transferring Programs [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
The instructors have created an environment wherein I cannot feel comfortable and learn. <snip> I've requested a transfer to this University's main campus back in the states at this semester's end, but am being told "no". I've been offered a refund of the entire semester's tuition to withdraw immediately.


Since I'm not there, all I can do is read between the lines on this one. Here's my $.02; spend it as you will.

Being offered a full refund to withdraw and simultaneously denied a transfer means, "we do not want you in our school, but don't have the balls to kick you out." I doubt that even the director is enthusiastic about your private sessions, so how much are you going to get out of them? At this point you are out, what, 8 weeks of time? Why flush another 8 to gain some empty credits? If it were me, I'd take the money and run. This has been a learning experience no matter what. Use the time and funds to travel and write on your own.

The first line up there is a bit disconcerting, and it may be why no one else is willing to tackle this question. It projects a victim's POV, a me vs. the world type of dynamic with no personal responsibility. As I've said, I can't (and really, really do not want to) know the specifics of your situation. Maybe you've really gotten the shaft. Perhaps you're an angel among a dozen pricks (because this sounds like a situation where other students have chimed in as well, as is their wont and prerogative). However, Occam's Razor suggests otherwise, and at the very least some shared responsibility.

The only reason I mention this last point is because you are talking about transferring. MFA programs are, to a very large extent, what you make of them. If there are workshop difficulties in your current location, there are no guarantees they will disappear in a new location.


luvrbuoy


Nov 5, 2008, 11:57 AM

Post #210 of 344 (8305 views)
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Re: [jaywalke] Transferring Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for your response. I did request help not a "reading between the lines" and your judgement. I never professed to be an "angel among pricks", and if I failed to present personal responsibility according to your standards, please forgive me.

Can a school just decide to kick someone out? Yes, there is more to the story here. There was no disciplinary action, simply the biased actions of a teacher. As a paying student, it is my right to get the education, is it not? From what I can see, yes, I have been given the shaft. And, yes the instructors have created this environment by not managing their classroom, nor teaching from a syllabus. I was "invited" into independent study with the assurance that I would be granted a transfer. What was I to do, say "no"?

This has been a traumatic experience. I am not simply here on the forum to whine. That was an honest request for help from those who have successfully transferred out of MFA programs. Compassion is appreciated.


bighark


Nov 5, 2008, 12:40 PM

Post #211 of 344 (8295 views)
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Re: [luvrbuoy] Transferring Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

I think jaywalke gave you some good advice. Abandon the credits--they're useless anyway--and get your refund.

If you're able, get a recommendation from someone at your current school. If that's not possible, then be as gracious as you can on your way out. Never say a negative thing about your experience to anyone on anything official--that goes especially for your next round of applications.

If you must, acknowledge your participation in the program and state simply and dispassionately that you left because it wasn't a good fit. That's it. That's all that's necessary. Anything more than that makes you look like the guy who can't play nice with others no matter what you have to say.

Anyway, I have not doubt that you can move on from this program to another. People do it all the time. Life happens. People get divorced or have babies or take calls from their sister saying that mom isn't well and you need to come home. People overestimate their ability to write and work and study or else underestimate the financial strain of being in grad school without funding. People get homesick. People get lonely. They don't like their cohort or teachers or whatever. The point is, people leave MFA programs all the time. Some of those people find new programs. Some don't.

I don't think it'll be possible to transfer credits, at least not anywhere reputable, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

If I were you, I'd take the refund and assemble a new batch of applications for the 2009-2010 admission year. If you hustle, you can still make all the major program deadlines.

Good luck, and I hope the next school works better for you.


jaywalke


Nov 5, 2008, 12:54 PM

Post #212 of 344 (8288 views)
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Re: [luvrbuoy] Transferring Programs [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Thanks for your response. I did request help not a "reading between the lines" and your judgement.


Allow me to extend my deepest apologies. I must have misunderstood the line:

"Any and all advice is appreciated."


HopperFu


Nov 5, 2008, 12:55 PM

Post #213 of 344 (8287 views)
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Re: [bighark] Transferring Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Everything Bighark said (with props for saying it so well) but wanted to emphasize the point that you will probably be better off in your applications if you do NOT think of this as a transfer, but rather as applying again.
Leave what baggage you can behind (and off your applications).

Cut your losses now. Today.


germericanqt


Dec 22, 2008, 3:44 PM

Post #214 of 344 (8096 views)
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Familiarity with the Faculty [In reply to] Can't Post

Some of the programs emphasize the importance of knowing the faculty's work (I'm thinking of Oregon in particular here). I didn't get around to reading work from all of the faculty before writing my statements of purpose, but since then I've managed to read something by at least one faculty member at almost all of the schools I'm applying to. Do you think I should let them know somehow that I've done my homework (since it doesn't appear in my application anywhere)? Or maybe at least at Oregon, especially since I greatly enjoyed Laurie Lynn Drummond's book of short stories?


RaoulDuke
Cobra Cobachi

Dec 23, 2008, 1:06 PM

Post #215 of 344 (8011 views)
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Re: [germericanqt] Familiarity with the Faculty [In reply to] Can't Post

I think if you do it with style it would be good. Maybe making a connection between the writing of the faculty and your own? I wouldn't go too overboard with it, but a brief mention would behoove your application, for sure. It's one thing I wish I would have done in my personal statement. Here's something I heard one our fiction professors say in workshop last semester: "I barely even read the statement of purpose. I just go straight for the manuscript, and if it's a borderline story, I might take a look at the SOP." Something to consider.

Good luck, happy holidays.


moomoocow42


Dec 23, 2008, 1:53 PM

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Western Michigan Address? [In reply to] Can't Post

Is anyone else having difficulty finding out the proper address to send the Western Michigan application materials to? I used the document provided on their website, which asks us to mail them here:

Dr. Jana Schulman, Graduate Director
Department of English
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5331

Which seems very vague to me... No building number? No P.O. Box? I probably should've done the proper research before sending the stuff through the mail, but I was anxious to get my materials out of my hands and out of mind. Now I'm checking the confirmation number given to me by the USPS daily, with still no confirmation of delivery. For all I know, the application's sitting in some no-man's land, undelivered. Anyone else having this problem, or have run into this problem?


My MFA Blog -- Watch me slowly lose my sanity.


germericanqt


Dec 23, 2008, 2:21 PM

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Re: [RaoulDuke] Familiarity with the Faculty [In reply to] Can't Post

No, I've already sent in my SOP's. I was wondering whether it's a good idea to e-mail some kind of an update to the graduate department, like, "Hey... just so you know, I read so-and-so and I think I could really gain a lot from studying with them because so-and-so." I'm guessing it's too late for that kind of thing and an e-mail would probably hurt my chances more than help them. I wish I could stick it in my SOP!

Happy holidays to you, too. :)


HopperFu


Dec 23, 2008, 2:39 PM

Post #218 of 344 (7984 views)
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Re: [germericanqt] Familiarity with the Faculty [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I was wondering whether it's a good idea to e-mail some kind of an update to the graduate department, like, "Hey... just so you know, I read so-and-so and I think I could really gain a lot from studying with them because so-and-so."


As you've indicated, this is not a good idea.


germericanqt


Dec 23, 2008, 2:44 PM

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Re: [HopperFu] Familiarity with the Faculty [In reply to] Can't Post

I know. Deep down I know that. Just as I knew, hoovering over the "add" button, that it was a bad, bad idea to add Professor Drummond as a friend on facebook. It's these MFA crazies, I tell ya. They're getting a hold of me already.


jaywalke


Dec 23, 2008, 2:46 PM

Post #220 of 344 (7982 views)
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Re: [moomoocow42] Western Michigan Address? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
For all I know, the application's sitting in some no-man's land, undelivered. Anyone else having this problem, or have run into this problem?


Regarding USPS -- I can't calm your fears, other than to say that this is their busiest time of year.

Western's English Department members all have their offices in the same building (Sprau tower), which is the tallest one on campus. The post office can't missi it. :-] I'm sure it will make it to the right place.

Remember that nothing happens on campuses between when grades are turned in (mid-December?) and when the semester starts again. Faculty disappear like the wind, and staff take time off, even if the offices are scheduled to be open. My building has 250 12-month appointment occupants, and I think there are a dozen people here today.


(This post was edited by jaywalke on Dec 23, 2008, 2:48 PM)


HopperFu


Dec 23, 2008, 3:08 PM

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Re: [jaywalke] Western Michigan Address? [In reply to] Can't Post

File under redundancy, but don't worry about the address thing.
For most colleges and universities the mail gets delivered to their mail room and they sort it by building.


moomoocow42


Dec 23, 2008, 3:27 PM

Post #222 of 344 (7968 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Western Michigan Address? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the prompt and detailed responses, Hopper and Jay, I really appreciate it. Whew. That's a load off my mind.


My MFA Blog -- Watch me slowly lose my sanity.


germericanqt


Dec 27, 2008, 6:02 PM

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MFA vs. Ph.D [In reply to] Can't Post

I decided last minute to apply to my alma mater's BA to Ph.D option, mostly out of consideration for my significant other (I'm still pretty set on going out-of-state, just to get a new perspective and fresh ideas). I'm just wondering if the benefit of having a Ph.D in Creative Writing instead of an MFA might outweight some of the disadvantages. I'll still get workshops, in-depth study of craft (perhaps even more in-depth than an MFA might offer) and I'll have a more impressive credential (especially considering that Utah is ranked #2 on the list of creative writing Ph.D's). I think it will all come down to which MFA programs I get into, but I thought I would see what others think. If it's down to MFA at the Michener Center or Ph.D at Utah, I'm off to Austin, no question. (I know, dream on, right?) But if it's Notre Dame vs. U of U, or even Alabama vs. U of U, I might have to stop and think.


germericanqt


Dec 27, 2008, 6:24 PM

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Re: [germericanqt] MFA vs. Ph.D [In reply to] Can't Post

CRAP! How come I didn't hear before that Vanderbilt is waiving the application fee?

I so, so want to apply now... but I've already asked my recommenders for an extra, eleventh hour LOR and I dursen't do it again. *sigh*

Is anyone else already obsessing about schools they should have applied to?


v1ctorya


Dec 28, 2008, 5:54 PM

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Re: [germericanqt] MFA vs. Ph.D [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To


Is anyone else already obsessing about schools they should have applied to?



Yes, and I applied to 13 as it was. I'm still thinking, "why did I leave off that school again? And that one? How come I didn't hear about that one? What really stopped you from applying to Alaska again?"


owenj


Dec 30, 2008, 9:58 PM

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Re: [germericanqt] MFA vs. Ph.D [In reply to] Can't Post

Just to clarify, Utah is ranked as a 'Top 5' PhD program by Atlantic Monthly - curious where you heard the #2 ranking? I don't think it matters much, though, rankings are pretty arbitrary - I think they can help you narrow the choices, but not definitive. Regardless, Utah is an awesome, well-respected program.

As far as the choice of MFA vs PhD - I would say it depends what you want out of a degree - it is true that a PhD may make you a more attractive candidate for teaching positions, but it's also a different degree from most MFA programs. I'm curious what you perceive to be the disadvantages? One obvious is that the BA->PhD will take you minimum five years. My experience has been that the focus on the study of lit and crit is higher in a PhD program than in most MFAs (most, not all!) in that you'll likely take more literature classes than workshops, and the year or more you spend studying for comprehensive exams is all about literature and criticism. I think that studying literature is as useful to a writer as taking workshops, so this might be what you're after - this was ideal for me, but if you feel like you're more interested in a 'craft' focus, the MFA might be a better choice, but again, this depends on the program. For example, if the ideal program for you is the Michener - I'm guessing a PhD program is very, very different. For one, in a PhD program you'll teach. At Michener you won't, but you'll also make more money at Michener. Also consider if 'time to write' is high on your list of reasons for grad school that a Phd doesn't really offer this (at least in the first 3/4 of my program) - I have time to write, but not any more than I did before I was in grad school. The difference is that all my time is devoted to thinking, talking, and writing about literature, which is great. Another consideration is that PhD programs are in some ways more competitive tham MFAs in that most applicants already have MFAs. I'm not sure how this works with BA->PhD admissions, in that you'll only be competing with (I assume) very talented people without MFAs, but I would cast your net as wide as you can - apply to as many programs as you can afford to and see what happens. Another thought is that it won't hurt you to go get an MFA and then pursue a PhD, which is what most of my colleagues have done. It'll take you another couple years to do, but if you're not really sure you want to commit five years to a PhD you might have a better idea of what you want out of the degree(s) after getting a 2 or 3 year MFA. It probably wouldn't hurt to go talk to the faculty at Utah, as well, if you're in the area.


umass76


Dec 30, 2008, 10:38 PM

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Re: [owenj] MFA vs. Ph.D [In reply to] Can't Post

Owen,

Just to clarify, The Atlantic Monthly didn't rank programs, Utah or otherwise. Salt Lake City is gorgeous, and Utah is a fine program (though, in poetry, the recent loss of Donald Revell to UNLV was a major blow) but the Atlantic article you're referring to contained a series of non-exhaustive "lists" (i.e., the author explicitly stated that other programs could have made each list, but were excluded for reasons that are unclear; it is for this reason that the list Utah appeared on was called "Five Top Ph.D. Programs in Creative Writing," and not "The Top Five Ph.D. Programs in Creative Writing"--the syntax was crucial and intentional there). In saying that Utah is ranked #2, the OP was referring to the only ranking ever done of Ph.D. in Creative Writing programs, the small and unscientific one (albeit more scientific than anything attempted by The Atlantic Monthly) here.

Best wishes,
Seth


owenj


Dec 30, 2008, 11:10 PM

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Re: [umass76] MFA vs. Ph.D [In reply to] Can't Post

Seth - Oh yeah, thanks for clarifying - the distinction was clear in my head, but right, Atlantic Monthly's list wasn't a ranking. I think the Atlantic Monthly's lists do a great deal for the reputation of the programs that did get mentioned (for whatever reason AM had for listing them) simply because it's the Atlantic Monthly, so in that sense their list is as valid as any attempt at a scientific ranking as far as the perception of the program. I think it's useful to attempt to quantify as much data as is available about a program as you've exhaustively done, but as far as how a program is perceived, the Atlantic Monthly lists go a long way toward the reputation of a program no matter how they're compiled. With PhD programs, as with MFA programs, I think it's hugely important to apply to as many programs as possible and go visit, sit in on classes, etc - I know many people who were admitted to programs with fantastic reputations and faculty only to thrive elsewhere with perhaps lesser known faculty and/or less funding based on talking to current students and getting a feel for what the grad student community is like, which to me, is as important as the more quantifiable aspects of a grad program. And, I know at least a few people who went to what they perceived to be 'better' programs, or programs with more money, only to be miserable because of the environment. Anyway, I don't think I'm saying anything that hasn't said before, but I think it's important to gather as much first hand information, especially with PhD programs, especially given the lack of data about them (compared to MFA programs.)

I'm certain Utah will find a great poet for Revell's vacant position, though, and in general I think it's a gamble to go to any program based on faculty for just that reason - you never know where they'll end up.


umass76


Dec 30, 2008, 11:24 PM

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Re: [owenj] MFA vs. Ph.D [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey there O.-- just want to apologize for starting my post with "just to clarify." I wasn't mocking you, I totally hadn't realized you started your post that way, it was an accident. I was sincerely just trying to clarify the one issue. Be well, --S.


owenj


Dec 30, 2008, 11:26 PM

Post #230 of 344 (8785 views)
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Re: [umass76] MFA vs. Ph.D [In reply to] Can't Post

Seth - haha, no sweat at all - I didn't take it that way - the clarification was a helpful clarification of my attempt to clarify.


grimson
Justin Bryant
e-mail user

Dec 31, 2008, 1:42 AM

Post #231 of 344 (8772 views)
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Re: [owenj] MFA vs. Ph.D [In reply to] Can't Post

It was a kind of jaw-dropping shock when those Atlantic rankings came out last year. I was in the NYU fiction program at the time, and never expected the program to make a top 10 list. I think they award a lot of 'star quality' points for people like E.L. Doctorow (who, admittedly, was incredible as my thesis advisor), Yusef Komyunakaa, Sharon Olds, Phil Levine, Francine Prose, and now Jonathan Safran Foer. And fair enough, those are big names. But the funding is very hit-or-miss (getting better I hear, but too late for me) and the program requirements are honestly not very challenging, to the point of almost being a joke (70 page thesis minimum for fiction, no foreign language or literature courses required, the craft classes very uneven in quality).

What I will say for NYU is that some of the lesser-known writers are simply fantastic instructors. Chuck Wachtel, Nicholas Christopher, and Irini Spanidou all just can't do enough for students, to the point of encouraging students to send them previous drafts or extra work, being very generous with their time, and in general, being obviously and completely dedicated to teaching, not just picking up a paycheck. And students on the poetry side say that Yusef, for one, is the same.

Overall tho, I was still surprised to see NYU make that list. I'm not going to dispute it though, as it certainly can't hurt me.


theootto


Feb 4, 2009, 5:04 PM

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Re: [germericanqt] MFA vs. Ph.D [In reply to] Can't Post

germericanqt,
did you end up applying for the U of U ba-phD thingie? I applied to the U of U for the regular phD track (i have a fiction mfa) and am getting really anxious. My friend got an acceptance call from them just about a year ago (tho' he ended up pursuing his phD elsewhere). I really love Melanie Rae Thon's work. and the area's so lovely. That's cool you did your BA there!

Oh, the waiting. Arg!


germericanqt


Feb 4, 2009, 5:09 PM

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Re: [theootto] MFA vs. Ph.D [In reply to] Can't Post

I did apply for the BA-Ph.D track. I think it's handled on a different time scale/in a different way than the normal Ph.D acceptances. I could be wrong though.

I'll let you know if I hear anything. Two of my recommendation writers are involved with the creative writing grad program, but I doubt they'll tell me anything ahead of time. The first reported Utah Ph.D acceptance from last year was this week, so we'll see what happens. Good luck!


theootto


Feb 4, 2009, 5:12 PM

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Re: [germericanqt] MFA vs. Ph.D [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the info! (Everyone has been so quiet lately, it seems!)

Good luck to you, too!


Audreyhurston


Feb 26, 2009, 8:54 PM

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Re: [theootto] MFA vs. Ph.D [In reply to] Can't Post

I haven't been accepted but I would like to know if there are any alumni out there from the following programs who can tell me anything about their experiences (I'm in fiction).

Va. Tech
Brown
UC Irvine
UMissouri St. Louis
UWAsh -- Seattle
UNLV


germericanqt


Feb 26, 2009, 9:03 PM

Post #236 of 344 (8252 views)
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Re: [Audreyhurston] MFA vs. Ph.D [In reply to] Can't Post

Please don't double-post, Audrey. Chances are people are going to read both threads.


Khalilah


Feb 28, 2009, 9:04 AM

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Making a 2 year MFA into a 3 year MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Has anyone ever negotiated a third year out of a two year MFA program? If so can you share how that was accomplished?

I'm interested in this because one of the interviewees in Kealey's book says that he really needed that third year of his MFA program to develop his writing to a point where his characters were at a distance from himself.


Khalilah


Feb 28, 2009, 9:13 AM

Post #238 of 344 (8117 views)
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Re: [germericanqt] MFA vs. Ph.D [In reply to] Can't Post

Not obsessing just kind of wishing that I HAD applied to UC Davis but that's just because I'm scared of living in the midwest and with my current acceptances and rejections the midwest looks like A HUGE strong contender but a few more acceptances in other regions may come through and I still have to visit the cornfields to overcome my fear.


swiviol


Feb 28, 2009, 12:02 PM

Post #239 of 344 (8075 views)
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Re: [Khalilah] MFA vs. Ph.D [In reply to] Can't Post

Why are you scared of living in the Midwest?

I've lived in Ann Arbor these past 4 years for undergrad ... great town :).


Khalilah


Feb 28, 2009, 12:45 PM

Post #240 of 344 (8046 views)
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Re: [swiviol] MFA vs. Ph.D [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm from New York and have lived mainly on the east coast i.e. always had the ocean within a 2 hour drive or cheap flight even when it meant going to Mexico (from Texas). Its just something I've never been exposed to -- the middle of the country, landlocked.


augustmaria


Feb 28, 2009, 1:29 PM

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Re: [Khalilah] MFA vs. Ph.D [In reply to] Can't Post

I moved from eastern Maine to Indiana and I'm glad I got out of the east coast for a while. Remember an MFA is only for two or three years and the midwest isn't another planet, just another part of the country full of good places and good people. I find getting out of my comfort zone is stimulating to my writing and to my personality as well. New places = good.


Khalilah


Feb 28, 2009, 1:51 PM

Post #242 of 344 (7999 views)
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Re: [augustmaria] MFA vs. Ph.D [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks Kate. Good to hear and encouraging to think about since region is important in my work. I plan to visit at the end of March to see for myself.


Raysen


Mar 10, 2009, 6:42 PM

Post #243 of 344 (7853 views)
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The ideal MFA candidate [In reply to] Can't Post

From the FAQ page on the University of Washington's MFA site:

What is a profile of the successful applicant?

Most successful applicants to our program have GRE scores above 600, a GPA of 3.7, majored in English, completed at least two writing workshops in his/her genre at the advanced level, and have completed his/her undergraduate degree within the last 2-10 years.


I don't satisfy most of this requirement and yet, I got into a couple of good MFA programs. (was also rejected by three good programs as well) The only requirement I satisfy is the GRE score. All else...ppphhhhfft!

I think this statement in the UW site scared me off applying to that school.


mollygolightly


Mar 17, 2009, 10:42 PM

Post #244 of 344 (7723 views)
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Re: [Raysen] The ideal MFA candidate [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey everyone,

I have a question. Is it possible to work full-time and get an MFA full-time? With a program like Columbia's?

Molly


Tabby


e-mail user

Mar 17, 2009, 11:21 PM

Post #245 of 344 (7693 views)
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Re: [mollygolightly] The ideal MFA candidate [In reply to] Can't Post

Without a TA, you would have time to work. But then it kinda defeats the purpose -- time to write.

I had a TA and thought I would try to work part time but abandoned that idea quickly. In retrospect, I'm %100 glad I focused on my MFA. An MFA is an amazing, but brief (!) experience. You simply won't get as much out of it if you are tethered by work.


http://www.kellykathleenferguson.com


bighark


Mar 18, 2009, 8:41 AM

Post #246 of 344 (7629 views)
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Re: [mollygolightly] The ideal MFA candidate [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm at a place where it's possible to work your class schedule around a traditional, 9-5 job. I even spent my first year working full time while going to school full time.

I don't recommend it.

Full time work takes bandwidth away from your writing studies, and full-time writing studies takes bandwidth away from work. Throw classes and readings into the mix, and you won't have time to do work or school properly.

And that's not even going into the sacrifices you have to make to get a work-friendly schedule. I mean, if the school's most famous, talented, generous writing teacher only works during the day, you'll never get a chance to take any of their classes.

Lots of MFA students work. I'm not trying to dissuade you from working. All I'm saying is it's not a good idea to pursue a traditional, 9-5 full-time job while going to school full-time at the same time. And that goes double if you're at a place like Columbia or my school, SAIC, where tuition isn't remitted for every student.

Good luck


ovni1013


Mar 19, 2009, 1:24 PM

Post #247 of 344 (7493 views)
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Re: [mollygolightly] The ideal MFA candidate [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Molly,
Personally, I wouldn't recommend that anyone work full-time unless you're in a low-residency program. I considered life as a part-time student with full-time employment, but decided to quit my job since part of the reason I was unhappy was because I didn't have enough time to write. It's definitely a big adjustment to go from 9-5-er to student. I knew I wanted to go back for my MFA so I put money aside for tuition while I was working. Now I only have to earn enough to cover my living expenses.

I'm at Sarah Lawrence and they're very accommodating when it comes to balancing work and school. Some of my classmates work FT and are students PT, and some have worked out independent study courses to suit their schedules. I'm sure that other schools are just as flexible. At SLC it's okay to change between PT and FT status if you feel overwhelmed. They also ensure that the PT schedule doesn't jeopardize your financial aid. Talk to someone in the programs you're interested in to find out what your options would be. That way, you'll be able to come up with a more realistic plan and figure out where you'll feel most comfortable.


lapwing


Mar 25, 2009, 12:18 PM

Post #248 of 344 (7349 views)
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Which genre? [In reply to] Can't Post

I thought I would throw this out there, among all the people wiser than I . . .

If you had to choose one genre to focus on for two years, would you go with (a) what you love but aren't good at (e.g., literary journalism) or (b) what you're "good" at (I mean, relatively speaking) but don't necessarily love (e.g., fiction).

If that's too vague, how about this: Do you feel that it's possible to reinvent yourself as a writer, or do most of us pretty much need to work with the kind of talent we seem to have, such as it is, and develop that to the fullest?

Thanks in advance if anyone is still around here and would like to throw in two cents. I really, really appreciate it.

--Lapwing/Pointless Joyce Reference


moomoocow42


Mar 25, 2009, 12:51 PM

Post #249 of 344 (7326 views)
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Re: [lapwing] Which genre? [In reply to] Can't Post

This will sound cheesy, but my gut reaction is to tell you to do what you love. But that may be the idealist in me. The question is, you say you "aren't good" at literary journalism, but what does that mean? Does that mean you're just a beginner at literary journalism, and have a lot to learn? Where are you in your developmental arc?

Being practical is important (ironic, because pursuing an MFA degree to begin with is probably one of the most impractical things you can do), and you wouldn't want to pursue something that you have no talent with. As an undergrad I took computer science, failed horribly, then switched to biology and continued to fail horribly. But then, it's so hard to quantify talent. Is talent the ability and desire to work 5 hours straight on something that most people wouldn't spend 20 minutes on? I hated computer science and biology. It was awful hard to wake up at six or seven in the morning for organic chemistry lab, yet I practically popped out of bed on the early mornings where I had creative writing classes. It was so easy for me to do that. Again, this is kind of obvious and cheesy, but passion, and the hard work that invariably follows, counts for an awful lot in whatever you do.


My MFA Blog -- Watch me slowly lose my sanity.

(This post was edited by moomoocow42 on Mar 25, 2009, 12:53 PM)


theootto


Mar 25, 2009, 1:28 PM

Post #250 of 344 (7294 views)
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Re: [lapwing] Which genre? [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree with moomoocow42: do what you love.

It's not like being "good at" fiction (i.e. your fiction has drawn more external encouragement than your literary journalism?) will realistically open any doors. With all the rejection that comes with being a writer, you've got to be doing what makes your gears grind.

Plus, I'd imagine that fewer people are pursuing literary journalism careers. That's a somewhat irrelevant incentive.


lapwing


Mar 25, 2009, 2:06 PM

Post #251 of 344 (9432 views)
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Re: [theootto] Which genre? [In reply to] Can't Post

Many thanks for the advice, moomoocow42 and theotto. My difficulty with literary journalism, for the record, is that I tend to be too timid in my interactions with the people I'm following around, with the result that I don't get what I need to write something decent. It's a question of my temperament being wrong for the task at hand. But what I do love is being away from desks of all kinds and, later on, crafting prose in my reporter voice, and also reading anything by Mitchell, McPhee, etc. So I hope there's a way around these quirks of personality. Anyway, I appreciate the reminder about how writing that isn't informed or nourished or generated out of passion may be admirable in some ways ("good") but also inauthentic. And yeah, I see what you mean about the disconnect between being practical and enrolling in an MFA program :)


Tabby


e-mail user

Mar 25, 2009, 3:22 PM

Post #252 of 344 (9388 views)
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Re: [lapwing] Which genre? [In reply to] Can't Post

If you are a good fiction writer, you will be a good literary journalist. I came from the opposite tack, I was good literary journalist and a lousy fiction writer, but I changed that.

Writing is some skill, and a great deal of discipline.

Short answer: Do what you love!


http://www.kellykathleenferguson.com


lapwing


Mar 25, 2009, 3:40 PM

Post #253 of 344 (9372 views)
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Re: [Tabby] Which genre? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks, Tabby (great blog, by the way!). It's inspiring to hear that you've been able to make room for both kinds of writing. I'd like to think that the glimmers of narrative intelligence, or whatever it is, that now and then turn up in my fiction will translate into CNF that involves significant reporting. But again, I appreciate the encouragement!


reality writes


Mar 25, 2009, 4:40 PM

Post #254 of 344 (9340 views)
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Re: [lapwing] Which genre? [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree with Tabby. I was a newspaper journalist for a few years, then did freelance newswriting for a few years after that. If you're writing fiction, you already have the storytelling skills that print journalism wants. I don't think school can teach you how to be a better interviewer. It's just trial and error. And really, your story tells you what holes you need to fill in it. You can always draft a story and then call back to ask more questions of your subjects.

And with the dismal outlook of newspapers and magazines these days, I think it's better to have something else to fall back on anyway. (i.e. - teaching literature, writing novels)


reality writes


Mar 25, 2009, 4:43 PM

Post #255 of 344 (9337 views)
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Re: [lapwing] Which genre? [In reply to] Can't Post

oh, and by the way, I'm going to my MFA to study poetry. ha. I just dabble in everything, I guess. So yes, you can totally reinvent yourself as a writer over and over again.


lapwing


Mar 25, 2009, 9:22 PM

Post #256 of 344 (9249 views)
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Re: [reality writes] Which genre? [In reply to] Can't Post

Now that's a reinvention, truly :)


Khalilah


Apr 11, 2009, 1:25 PM

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How the Admissions Committee Choose [In reply to] Can't Post

It took me about half an hour to decide where to post this and I hope that I've made the right decision and future MFA applicants find this useful. I recently visited Indiana U-Bloomington and had the good fortune to meet with all of the fiction professors who were on the admissions committee. One of them said the most enlightening thing to me. I'd read it before in Kealey's book but hearing it from the source (i.e. directly from an Admissions committee member who voted for my acceptance), it became salient and usable information for me. Anyway, this thing is that everyone on the admissions committee reads separately and chooses the people who meet two criteria for them: 1. Talented Writer 2. Writer whose work they'd want to read and help the writer to develop for the duration of the program.

Then everybody on the committee comes together and only those who all the admission committee members have on their list are waitlisted or accepted. So (I imagine for most programs -- the director at Irvine said something simliar in AWP), those who are getting in or making waitlists are those who all the admissions committee members feel are talented writers whose work they'd want to read and help develop for the next two to three years.

For me that was so important to hear as, for better or worse, ego or insecurity, I'd been struggling with why I hadn't been accepted by so many other schools. And now I know how to make peace with those rejections -- yes some of them I'm sure are coming from people who are just thinking "What?! She needs to get, and keep a day job!" but many of them probably were in the category of "she may be talented, but we don't all want to read her work and support her development for the next two - three years or we don't want to be engaged with her work as much as we want to engage the work of this other applicant".

So those rejection letter sentiments like the ones from Wash U, Michigan, Iowa and Irvine that say 'this rejection is not a reflection on your talent or potential' are valid and I think as we travel through this process and I see some people wanting to give up or seriously doubting their talent, we need to keep these standards in mind. Professors at both of the schools that accepted me let me know that there are people who they waitlist or reject who are very talented and go on to strong careers.

Furthermore, I think this sweeping connection that the professors have to make with your work speaks to the importance of doing as Purdue (and Oregon) suggest and read the work of the professors and maybe even some of their alumni and think about whether you are applying to a program whose professors are likely to connect to your work. Not that you have to write in the same style as the professors to whom you are submitting but I look at the two programs to which I was accepted and similar to these authors, my writing has some upfront drama, darkness and deals with some of the issues with which the professors are dealing.

I've at this point been privileged to read a short story written by a writer accepted to a program that rejected me and as soon as I finished it, it hit me why that committee would fall in love with her writing and not mine (we are on different ends of the spectrum in subtlety and experimentation) since, when I review the writing of the professors at that school, their writing would indicate a greater connection with her style of writing.

If I had it to do again, about five or more schools would fall off my list and I might have replaced them with two different schools whose financial packages are less than attractive, in an effort to send my writing to people who would get really excited about it. I read at least five pages of the work of every fiction professor at all the schools to which I applied and truth be told, I was only excited about the work of author/professors at five of schools and only swept away (like Khalilah you have to stop reading if you ever want to get this application in) by the work of the majority or all of the writers at three schools (two of which accepted me). So at least in my case, the connection aspect of the admissions/decision making process is reciprocal.

I hope that someone finds comfort or guidance in this post.



chop


Apr 16, 2009, 11:03 AM

Post #258 of 344 (8885 views)
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Re: [germericanqt] Second Time (or more) [In reply to] Can't Post

Hello--I have a question and am new to this forum. I applied to three MFA programs in Fiction (two full-time residency, and one low-res). I only was accepted to the low-res program, which has a good reputation. I was more excited about the full-time programs, but now that I only have the low-res option, I'm wondering if I should accept it. I am at a point in life (mid-30s) where i have to do this now (b/c of having kids, etc) and don't have the time to reapply next year to full-time programs. But, I wonder will I be "settling" if I go to the low-res program, or should i go, since I think I might regret not going at all? And I could definitely use the feedback, structure and credentials of the MFA program, so to not go might be silly and something I regret. I just wonder if I'm getting swept up by ideas of "rankings" and how I might have a better chance of getting published, etc if I went to a school with more famous faculty, etc...I know that's ridiculous, but it's just a lot of money to spend if I don't really NEED to go or am not totally passionate about this choice...but might i be once I got there? I don't know...the idea of spnding the money for only 20 days a year on campus does not sound exciting, like more of the same in my life now. But maybe I could really use the challenege and structure. I am so confused. Someone please help me make the decision to go or not to go.... :( Thanks!


LesK
Les
e-mail user

Apr 16, 2009, 11:21 AM

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Re: [chop] Second Time (or more) [In reply to] Can't Post

Chop,

Try thinking about it in terms of opportunity cost. If you chose to attend a full-time program, and got funding, it's entirely possible that the opportunity cost (i.e., the income you'd be giving up), even with a fantastic funding package, could be much more than that of paying for a low-res program and keeping your day job (whatever that may be). And, of course, if you're married or otherwise involved (you mentioned kids), then you also need to be mindful of the cost for your SO to move with you (if need be) and find a job....and in this economy, would your SO be able to find comparable work at another locale?

As for the difference between full-time and low-res, I don't think there's much difference between publication records of grads from top programs in either category, but I may be wrong. I do know that a number of successful writers in all genres have gone to schools like Warren Wilson, Lesley, Pacific, etc. Of course, I also strongly believe that, in many ways, a program is what you make of it, and what you can take to the University (or your home office or wherever)....but good teachers (obviously) help. To me, the two biggest disadvantages of low-res programs are that you don't have the opportunity to teach (for CV building, of course), and the sense of community is, well, a bit more like the sense of community here (on the PW boards). You can, obviously, make friends, connections, etc., but the opportunities to talk about literature, teaching, writing, or whatever over a few beers is clearly limited.

In short, it's really a call you need to make for yourself. That said, I would encourage you not to simply pass on the idea of doing an MFA. If it's your dream, make it happen. Hope this helps.

Les


chop


Apr 16, 2009, 11:39 AM

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Re: [LesK] Second Time (or more) [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks, LesK, for your thoughtful response!


Juliet73


Apr 16, 2009, 11:52 AM

Post #261 of 344 (8856 views)
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Re: [chop] Second Time (or more) [In reply to] Can't Post

Chop, I think it depends on what you want out of the MFA experience. There are so many reasons that people go for this degree, and I think that there are other ways to achieve the same outcome in many cases. A couple of the things you mentioned:

discipline: For a lot of writers, it is tough to become a disciplined writer without some external force (such as needing something to turn in for a workshop) motivating them to write. However, you may be able to find local/online workshop groups or start your own to create your own deadlines.

networking and working with well-known, gifted faculty: You could also get this by attending summer workshops and residencies anywhere in the world, or on a lower level, by going to readings in your area and meeting people that way.

Have you spoken to anyone who is currently enrolled in the low-res program you're considering? Maybe if you had a chat session or exchanged email with them, you could figure out whether or not you'd ultimately be disappointed. Personally, whenever a roadblock is thrown up for me (something that dashes my original dream), if there is an alternative, I often become convinced that the alternative was the best option all along and I just hadn't realized it. Maybe the same will happen for you. Anyhow, good luck making your decision -- I know it's extremely hard.


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Apr 16, 2009, 12:30 PM

Post #262 of 344 (8836 views)
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Re: [chop] Second Time (or more) [In reply to] Can't Post

Chop,

I'm in my third semester of a low-res program, and I have no regrets, although I had the opportunity to attend a residency program in my home state within commuting distance. Some things I can tell you about what I have learned from my low-res experience thus far:

It requires tremendous discipline.
You have to learn to manage your writing/reading time and manage it well. It doesn't seem like a big commitment, but the work load is heavier than you realize. At the end of each residency, you are sent home with a semester plan. For the next approximately 6 months (no spring, summer, or winter breaks with low-res), you will be submitting a packet of your creative work and some critical writing (based on your reading) every 4 weeks. The feedback you receive is detailed and personal. Remember, the faculty seldom have more than 5-6 students assigned to them, so they can put a lot of time into your writing needs.

There is a strong sense of community at the residencies and beyond.
Low-res students communicate via cyberspace, but a lot of us find ways to get together in real time. This summer, I will be traveling to my residency with a fellow low-res student who is two semesters behind me. Last winter, I traveled with another student. We visit fellow students near us, exchange work outside of the program requirements, go to each other's readings, cheer on our fellow students' successes, etc. I feel that my low-res program is especially nurturing. EVERYONE wants you to succeed. They give you leads on grants, publication opportunities, jobs, retreats, workshops...the support is fantastic. I've belonged to critique groups for years--some of them with well-known authors--and I have never found the community that I have with my low-res program.

The support lasts beyond your MFA.
Some examples: A friend of mine was referred to a faculty member's agent shortly after graduating. Her book went on to win some very prestigious awards.
Another grad started a literary magazine and encourages all of the program grads to contribute.
Another grad received a job offer to edit a different lit magazine.
Other students have networked into teaching positions at prestigious writing programs.
The faculty often works with students on special projects after they graduate. I know of two people who finished and published novels with faculty help AFTER graduating.

The faculty at my program are stellar.
I am well-read and have a good background in literature, but I have learned sooo much in the past two years. And my craft shows that. My advisors have pushed me to experiment with my craft, to reach beyond my comfort zone, to read authors I had never heard of, and to grow as a writer. I will be graduating next winter with a novel manuscript, a collection of some decent short stories, and some pretty solid critical writing under my belt. But all of that took hours of hard work. Hours and hours of late nights and long weekends on my part. And I suspect, I gave my advisors some long hours of work, too. :)

So, no, I don't think you are "settling" for a low-res program. Frankly, I can't imagine doing this any other way. The residency program I could have gone to is huge; the faculty is overloaded; and with the current economic crisis, the funding is rapidly evaporating. It has cost me some money to go the low-res route, but it's been worth every cent. Nope. No regrets. Well, just one...I don't want to leave! I'm looking forward to graduating, but I will really, really miss the structure and discipline. I'm just hoping I've matured enough to maintain this on my own!

You haven't named your low-res program (nor have I), but if you have more questions, feel free to PM me.

Jeanne
http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


chop


Apr 16, 2009, 1:41 PM

Post #263 of 344 (8799 views)
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Re: [jlgwriter] Second Time (or more) [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks, Juliet and Jlgwriter...
Wow, I have not heard any criticisms of low-res...Good luck to both of you, and I appreciate the insights you provided that will help me make a decision...gulp! :)


Greegle


Sep 22, 2009, 11:49 PM

Post #264 of 344 (8119 views)
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Re: [jlgwriter] Second Time (or more) [In reply to] Can't Post

Wow, helpful thread. JLG and Juliet, if you don't mind, I am curious as to what your Low-Res schools were, as I'm less secure as to how to seek out high quality Low-Res programs.

As for my question, I recently communicated with my favorite writing teacher from undergrad about writing me a recommendation and he told me he would write me five (5!). Considering everyone's advice in this messageboard as well as Kealey's book is to apply to as many schools as I can, I'm troubled. This professor's recommendation would easily be my most influential recommendation, since my other professors were generally on a different wavelength than I, and I'm guessing that I might be able to push him to 6 or 7 if I can present a strong enough case for each of them - but he is understandably hesitant about flooding the market with his recommendations.

My question is: should I just take take the flat number of 5 or 6 he gave me and work around it, or should I continue to try and apply to 12 or more schools, but with half of them getting less-than-stellar recommendations?

I anyone has an idea of another thread where this question would be better suited, feel free to let me know, as I'm as new as they get.

Thanks in advance...


bighark


Sep 23, 2009, 2:52 AM

Post #265 of 344 (8102 views)
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Re: [Greegle] Second Time (or more) [In reply to] Can't Post

Yikes. That's not very nice, is it? Flooding the market with his recommendation? That's a scream.

Anyway, I think the best you can do in this situation is make the recommendation process as easy as possible for this particular professor. Use online recommendations whenever they're available, and if you do have to work with snail-mail copies, be sure to send him everything he needs: pre-addressed stamped envelopes and whatever prompts or forms that may be required for a given school.

At this point, you may want to send him a letter detailing the schools where you intend to apply. Send all your schools. Arrange them alphabetically, and write a brief explanation for each. If your presentation is organized and professional, you might be able to convince this guy to change his mind.

Good luck.


libbyagain


Sep 23, 2009, 3:15 AM

Post #266 of 344 (8097 views)
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Re: [Greegle] Second Time (or more) [In reply to] Can't Post

I second Bighark's "Yikes" response.

Does your college/university have a venue dedicated to helping grads with application processes--professional files containing letters of recommendation, and. . . other information, I think (it's been ages since I did this--I forget). I know that many programs ask for a particular slant to their letters, and perhaps many also require a particular site or form on which the recommendation must appear. But perhaps a venue with a letter on file would ease things somewhat. If the guy's not personally responsible for sending out to tons of schools, then. . . he may feel differently?

If his reasoning really is that he doesn't want to "flood the market," not that he's looking for a way not to have to do all that work, then maybe you might consider presenting him with a list of the (presumably wonderful) schools where you're applying, together with a brief-brief-brief apologia re. the odds of getting into these schools and the wisdom of applying to a large number of them, and ask him whether he "has suggestions about which 6 of these he thinks his recc. might best suit." Maybe he has lines in to certain schools, etc. Ideally, too, he'd relent, seeing as how your process is so superbly thought-out, and he is a mote in your eye, a wrench in your smoothly-oiled works, and he doesn't really want to be. . . .

Good luck.

Edited to change spelling of "mote" from "moat," and thus prevent embarrassing gaffe.


(This post was edited by libbyagain on Sep 23, 2009, 3:17 AM)


aiyamei

e-mail user

Sep 23, 2009, 7:23 AM

Post #267 of 344 (8080 views)
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Re: [Greegle] Second Time (or more) [In reply to] Can't Post

Personally I think his behavior is downright weird. My understanding and personal experience is that regardless of how many forms they are asked to fill out, professors generally follow a pretty standard procedure, which is that they write ONE letter of recommendation for a given student, and then produce multiple signed copies, each of which is paper-clipped to the schools' respective forms.

Even if this teacher is not in that particular habit, still, the fact that he spoke of "flooding the market" suggests he's a bit bonkers. Completely unclear on the concept. Reminds me of a Mr. Boffo cartoon. You are ONE student. Therefore even if you apply to sixty schools, he's still only _essentially_ writing one letter, i.e. only recommending ONE person, i.e. there is no flooding going on. He's very much out of touch with the normal responsibilities of his profession.


Greegle


Sep 23, 2009, 6:38 PM

Post #268 of 344 (8026 views)
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Re: [aiyamei] Second Time (or more) [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for everyone for the responses. First, let me just say that I was reading into his statement when I said what I did about flooding the market. I, too, presumed that he would just have copied and pasted the same recommendation to all schools and a fear of flooding the market and diluting the value of his personal recommendation was the only idea that struck me as valid. Given a previous remark he once made to me about how he would only write me a recommendation for a job if he thought I would like it, I made an assumption, which may be altogether incorrect. Maybe he's just lazy, though I doubt it would be that simple.


I appreciate the idea about listing and explaining the inclusion of every school I intended on applying to, and hoping to persuade him thus, but left to my own devices, I was probably going to lowball it with 6 or 7 schools hoping he'd throw in an extra recommendation or two. I haven't yet responded to his e-mail with the offer of 5 recommendations, because I figure I should get my game plan figured out beforehand. I had been working with a number closer to 20 than to 5 before his e-mail (though I had been looking for more criteria to use to narrow it down. Mindlessly obeying him would actually be the easy way out). I started to try and narrow the list down today, but without even counting Low-Res schools, which I've currently done NO research on, I'm still looking at at least 6 or 7 I'd want to give a decent swing at.

So, if making my case fails and he, for whatever reason, sticks to 5 or only budges with 1-3 extra recommendations (the more probable route, I think) then what? Do you guys think applying to 6-8 schools still gives me a decent chance? Most schools hover around 3-5% acceptance as I understand it. That's still about a 25% shot, right?

(Like my math there?)


jamie_mu


Sep 23, 2009, 9:52 PM

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Re: [Greegle] Second Time (or more) [In reply to] Can't Post

Greegle,

I only applied to 6, mostly because of the cost of applications. I did okay. It's not unheard of to get into a few schools when only applying to handful. But it is more coomon to cast a wide as net as possible (cliched yet?). You could ask your letter writer how many schools he applied to when an undergrad, just to make him feel guilty.

I think your best bet is to figure out what five schools on your list would take his letter at more than the standard "this person isn't an a-hole" value. Does he personally know any of the professors on the adcoms of any of your schools to which you want to apply? If no, then prioritize the schools you think his letter would be most helpful with, see if he might bend his rule for a few more, and then find someone else. LOCs are just a minor step in the whole process. Unless you letter writer knows someone at a program then I wouldn't worry too much about having to go to another prof that might not know your work as well.

Good luck.

PS--one of my letter writers refused to deal with electronic LOCs, so I had to supply him with everything. These are challenges you have to get through.


gcsumfa


Sep 24, 2009, 1:27 AM

Post #270 of 344 (7945 views)
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Re: [Greegle] Second Time (or more) [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Wow, helpful thread. JLG and Juliet, if you don't mind, I am curious as to what your Low-Res schools were, as I'm less secure as to how to seek out high quality Low-Res programs.

As for my question, I recently communicated with my favorite writing teacher from undergrad about writing me a recommendation and he told me he would write me five (5!). Considering everyone's advice in this messageboard as well as Kealey's book is to apply to as many schools as I can, I'm troubled. This professor's recommendation would easily be my most influential recommendation, since my other professors were generally on a different wavelength than I, and I'm guessing that I might be able to push him to 6 or 7 if I can present a strong enough case for each of them - but he is understandably hesitant about flooding the market with his recommendations.

My question is: should I just take take the flat number of 5 or 6 he gave me and work around it, or should I continue to try and apply to 12 or more schools, but with half of them getting less-than-stellar recommendations?

I anyone has an idea of another thread where this question would be better suited, feel free to let me know, as I'm as new as they get.

Thanks in advance...


You might consider signing up for a dossier service, like Interfolio; it's $15/year and $4-5 per mailing.

It makes this entire process a lot easier; basically, he will send his letter to the dossier service, and then you will FW his letter from the dossier service to as many schools as you want--a lot easier on him, and a lot easier on you. If he has a problem with this, then--honestly--he sounds like a d-bag, and you should just get someone else to write a letter for you. I used Interfolio, and most of my profs were more than happy to oblige, because they just had to send the letter to one place, and it was all done online. I've never even heard of a letter writer complaining about his letter "flooding the market." Weird.

By the way, Interfolio allows you to waive your right to read the letter.


(This post was edited by gcsumfa on Sep 24, 2009, 1:33 AM)


PJwave1


Sep 24, 2009, 4:00 PM

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Re: [jamie_mu] Second Time (or more) [In reply to] Can't Post

Jamie_mu,

Sorry for this being off topic, but I remember you were one of the superstars here last season. Would you be interested at all in sharing a story? I've slept under a blanket of rejections for two MFA application seasons and although I've been in a number of workshops, I'd like to get some sense of what kind of writers the top choice schools are selecting. You got into Michigan and a bunch of other dream schools, right?


jamie_mu


Sep 24, 2009, 6:23 PM

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Re: [PJwave1] Second Time (or more) [In reply to] Can't Post

PJ

I don't think it was the quality of my writing that got me accepted, but more what I was writing about. Don't get me wrong, before applying I wrote a lot, read a lot, workshopped, and honed my craft, and I'm sure my poetry was equal to other applicants on a technical level. I felt the quality of my writing got me into the short-stack of possible accepted applicants, as Ha Jin mentions in an Atlantic Monthly article, ďLooking at the writing samples allows you to get to a list of 30 to 40 out of the 300. From there, each person in some ways deserves to be accepted. Thatís where other factors enter the discussion.Ē (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200708/edward-delaney-mfa/2) I think other factors in my life set my application apart from the rest, particularly subject matter. I write poetry primarily about my experience as a soldier in war. It is an experience that I believe few people are writing about. Also, because I was a soldier and came to school later in life, I was an older applicant, which I've believes helps. (Though, thinking about my current cohort, two students are fresh out of undergrad and 22-23 years old; I, too, just graduated, but I'm 28.) And so while the technical level of my poetry is probably similar to most applicants, my writing sample was unique because of its topic. Again, I worked hard as an undergrad, wrote and read a lot, maintained a high GPA, studied for the GRE, and made sure I was a competitive applicant regardless of my personal and unique experience. Two of my letter writers were not published writers but community college teachers who new my work ethic. The other letter writer was a poet who advised me on an honors thesis, but I'm pretty sure he didn't know anyone at the programs where I was applying (though an interesting guy who studied under Robert Lowell and other big names at Harvard).

So, I don't think I can offer any secret to success. Send your best work. Read and write a lot. Live life, and write it. It almost sounds trite. I do believe that this MFA business of applications for the most part is arbitrary. Adcoms are not looking for the best writers, they're looking for the best fit. No amount of workshops, revision, or reading will make you a better fit in a program. It's more of a gut feeling of each of the members of the adcom. You can't make someone want to work with you. The best you can do is show them you are willing to work (and work hard) with them.

I applied to six programs. I was accepted by U Mass Amherst, Michigan, UC Irvine, and Johns Hopkins. I was rejected by Iowa and Cornell.


__________



Sep 24, 2009, 7:28 PM

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Re: [jamie_mu] Second Time (or more) [In reply to] Can't Post

Wow. Did someone tell you this, or is that just your best guess? What makes the subject of war a good fit for your program? Are the professors retired military?

It sounds like you're being a bit hard on yourself.


six five four three two one 0 ->


jamie_mu


Sep 24, 2009, 7:48 PM

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Re: [Junior Maas] Second Time (or more) [In reply to] Can't Post

No one has told me anything. Everything is always a best guess.

I guess I was making two different points. It's not what I write about, but its uniqueness. Then I later opined on MFA applications and acceptances. Maybe I could have been clearer. I think I was successful in the application process because both the craft/technical level of my writing and the topics on which I could write with credibility made the members of adcoms excited to work with me. Does that make more sense?

I'm not saying everyone needs an edge to get into an mfa program. I'm just writing what I think.


fictionista


Sep 25, 2009, 11:05 AM

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Re: [Junior Maas] Second Time (or more) [In reply to] Can't Post

Certainly you don't have to be retired military to be interested in a soldier's point of view? And to want to cultivate it?


unsaid78


Sep 25, 2009, 12:08 PM

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Re: [jamie_mu] Second Time (or more) [In reply to] Can't Post

I get you, jamie-mu. Doesn't sound like you're being too hard on yourself to me since I often wonder how much of my getting in was based on the subject matter of my writing sample. I'm no soldier of war (kudos to you- I'm glad you're home), but I took, what I feel are, significant personal risks in the subjects of my poems. Now that I know more about one of the professors who chose me to be here and how he wrote a book about doing exactly what my poetry attempts to do, I feel like he knew he could nurture the poet who was writing what I was writing. He made the comment, "you've got an interesting narrative."


Quote
I think I was successful in the application process because both the craft/technical level of my writing and the topics on which I could write with credibility



I think you've made a valid point. Being able to effectively communicate your insider's perspective on unique subject matters is definitely one way to excite readers.

I'm glad this was brought up because I hadn't really taken the time to decide how I felt about it until now. I'm thinking it's okay.


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


Colder


Jan 17, 2010, 12:34 AM

Post #277 of 344 (8117 views)
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Re: [unsaid78] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post

I couldn't find this question being discussed anywhere, so I just thought I'd bring it up.

I recently read somewhere that teachers often advise students to omit any mention of their MFAs when writing cover letters. I had never heard that before.

Obviously, an MFA is still worth pursuing to learn more about the craft, but it was disappointing to hear that mentioning the degree can sometimes be a liability in getting published.

Their reasoning was that some people are just anti-MFA and with so many MFAs out there it just doesn't mean much anymore.

I'm not saying I agree with that at all. Just wanted to hear what people had to say about this topic.


WanderingTree


Jan 17, 2010, 1:58 AM

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Re: [Colder] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't get this anti-mfa thing either. There are tons of articles about the subject most which are full of poorly formed arguments and bat shit crazy logic. I mean, a lot of the books I read DO LIST on the jacket covers where authors got their MFAs. So, what? You can't list your MFA to get your foot in the door with an agent or a publisher but it's okay to stick it on your book? Like anybody knows or cares? "Iowa? What the hell? They got writers in Iowa?"

The hackneyed argument that MFA programs are destroying literature because it stifles originality and produces competent yet uninspired writers producing the same drivel rests largely on a few flimsy assumptions:

1) All MFA graduates become writers/continue to write

(Even directors of some MFA programs admit that less than 50% of their students will ever publish anything or continue to write seriously. Yes, there is probably more crap out there today but to blame this entirely on MFA grads is sort of silly. And it's been said before - a lot of people in MFA programs are still figuring out if they even want to be a writer.)

2) MFA programs directly influence a writers success/failure

(Nobody can prove this. Most writers don't "break out" until years and years after graduating and by then who can say what made that writer great or not so great)

3) Literature as defined only by "the establishment"

(Maybe there are a lot of well-crafted "wife cheats on husband on a Kansas farm while their daughter experiments with lesbianism" stories in some of the stodgier literary journals BUT some of the freshest writing can be found in the pages of journals based at MFA programs. And then there are the indie publishers (and publishers associated with journals) that do literary writers a wicked solid. Also, last I checked, large publishing houses found it quite difficult to sell literary novels (forget about short stories) that didn't include vampires, child soldiers or tucker max pina colada butt lotion date stories to the general public. So, who is to blame there? Society at large for letting our educational system go down the toilet? Grand Theft Auto? Fannie Mae and their buddies for helping us fall ass backwards into a recession? The Nosferatu? What is literature today anyway?

I also really want this camera: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JYhCp3eYMY

A projector on a digital camera? Sounds like a nice way to advertise to the world that you have an MFA. Take it to cocktail parties and project it on walls in big flashing letters.

(This post was edited by WanderingTree on Jan 17, 2010, 2:07 AM)


OldScribe2000


Jan 17, 2010, 4:16 PM

Post #279 of 344 (8030 views)
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Re: [WanderingTree] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post

"Tucker Max pina colada butt lotion date stories"

Oh my Gawd! I wanna read it! Where can I get a copy?


bighark


Jan 17, 2010, 4:39 PM

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Re: [Colder] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post

I've never been advised by faculty to be quiet about my MFA, but I do not mention it in my queries or bios. I'm grateful for the training I received, and I've learned a lot, but I just don't see how my MFA has anything to do with my submissions or public persona. For me, it feels like wearing my old letterman jacket. I'm proud of my high school and all (Go Hawks!), but it's time for me to move beyond past glories.

In any case, I certainly don't do what I do out of some fear of an anti-MFA bias.

Also, you should know that your MFA connections work more quietly. Naming your institution in a query probably won't do anything for you, but some day a mentor or friend may come along with a tip like, "So-and-so at XYZ Review is a friend of mine. Send that story/poem and mention my name," or, "QRS Quarterly publishes a lot of work like yours. Some of my former students, So-and-so and Who's-his-face and What's-her-deal, have had some success there. You should send your work."


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Jan 17, 2010, 5:48 PM

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Re: [bighark] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it's worth mentioning that an MFA CAN help you if you're querying agents. I've seen several agent websites and blogs that mention the importance of an MFA. One site even asks for the names of your mentors.

Never underestimate the value of networking. Just my thoughts...

Jeanne
http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


Colder


Jan 17, 2010, 6:15 PM

Post #282 of 344 (7976 views)
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Re: [WanderingTree] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I don't get this anti-mfa thing either. There are tons of articles about the subject most which are full of poorly formed arguments and bat shit crazy logic. I mean, a lot of the books I read DO LIST on the jacket covers where authors got their MFAs. So, what? You can't list your MFA to get your foot in the door with an agent or a publisher but it's okay to stick it on your book? Like anybody knows or cares? "Iowa? What the hell? They got writers in Iowa?"

The hackneyed argument that MFA programs are destroying literature because it stifles originality and produces competent yet uninspired writers producing the same drivel rests largely on a few flimsy assumptions:

1) All MFA graduates become writers/continue to write

(Even directors of some MFA programs admit that less than 50% of their students will ever publish anything or continue to write seriously. Yes, there is probably more crap out there today but to blame this entirely on MFA grads is sort of silly. And it's been said before - a lot of people in MFA programs are still figuring out if they even want to be a writer.)

2) MFA programs directly influence a writers success/failure

(Nobody can prove this. Most writers don't "break out" until years and years after graduating and by then who can say what made that writer great or not so great)

3) Literature as defined only by "the establishment"


I agree with all that, WT. So what do you think you would do? Would you mention your MFA/MFA candidacy in your letters?

Btw, "wife cheats on husband on a Kansas farm while their daughter experiments with lesbianism," I like those stories, heh.


(This post was edited by Colder on Jan 17, 2010, 6:17 PM)


Colder


Jan 17, 2010, 6:21 PM

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Re: [bighark] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I've never been advised by faculty to be quiet about my MFA, but I do not mention it in my queries or bios. I'm grateful for the training I received, and I've learned a lot, but I just don't see how my MFA has anything to do with my submissions or public persona. For me, it feels like wearing my old letterman jacket. I'm proud of my high school and all (Go Hawks!), but it's time for me to move beyond past glories.

In any case, I certainly don't do what I do out of some fear of an anti-MFA bias.

Also, you should know that your MFA connections work more quietly. Naming your institution in a query probably won't do anything for you, but some day a mentor or friend may come along with a tip like, "So-and-so at XYZ Review is a friend of mine. Send that story/poem and mention my name," or, "QRS Quarterly publishes a lot of work like yours. Some of my former students, So-and-so and Who's-his-face and What's-her-deal, have had some success there. You should send your work."


Thanks for the input, Bighark. Just out of curiosity, since you don't like mentioning your MFA in letters and bios, do you think it's a little silly when others do?


Colder


Jan 17, 2010, 6:26 PM

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Re: [jlgwriter] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I think it's worth mentioning that an MFA CAN help you if you're querying agents. I've seen several agent websites and blogs that mention the importance of an MFA. One site even asks for the names of your mentors.

Never underestimate the value of networking. Just my thoughts...

Jeanne
http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


That's definitely good to know. I'm guessing those agents represent writers of literary fiction, am I right?

I read this recently by the infamous blog personality named Miss Snark. In real life, she's a literary agent under a different name. I think she's primarily interested in commercial genre fiction. I'm not sure if she reps any literary fiction writers, but I have no idea.

"MFA programs turn out newly minted graduates like Willie Wonka turns out choccie bars. Too bad the supply doesn't get eaten up so demand remains the same. Out here in the real world, there aren't enough jobs for all those MFA holders. You spend two years and enough money to buy an apartment in Queens, and you're unemployable. Yum.

I also get a lot of query letters from said newly minted graduates. Treacle is the kindest word I can use to describe it. It's self involved, pretentious, and usually imitative. My view is that it takes quite some time to get over your influences and your teachers to find your own voice. Fresh out of graduate school is too soon. And those MFA programs tend to beat down the truly original voices.

What MFA programs DO provide is time to read, at least according to Jennifer Egan and Abraham Verghese, both Iowa graduates. Both have said that to me personally, and probably publicly as well.

So, if you're going to get an MFA so you can teach, think again.
If you just need time to read, there are cheaper ways to do it.
And if you're doing it to learn how to write, don't."


Here's the link to it: http://misssnark.blogspot.com/2005/12/mfa-programs.html


(This post was edited by Colder on Jan 17, 2010, 6:29 PM)


Woon


Jan 17, 2010, 6:56 PM

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Re: [Colder] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

"MFA programs turn out newly minted graduates like Willie Wonka turns out choccie bars. Too bad the supply doesn't get eaten up so demand remains the same. Out here in the real world, there aren't enough jobs for all those MFA holders. You spend two years and enough money to buy an apartment in Queens, and you're unemployable. Yum.

I also get a lot of query letters from said newly minted graduates. Treacle is the kindest word I can use to describe it. It's self involved, pretentious, and usually imitative. My view is that it takes quite some time to get over your influences and your teachers to find your own voice. Fresh out of graduate school is too soon. And those MFA programs tend to beat down the truly original voices.

What MFA programs DO provide is time to read, at least according to Jennifer Egan and Abraham Verghese, both Iowa graduates. Both have said that to me personally, and probably publicly as well.

So, if you're going to get an MFA so you can teach, think again.
If you just need time to read, there are cheaper ways to do it.
And if you're doing it to learn how to write, don't."


Here's the link to it: http://misssnark.blogspot.com/2005/12/mfa-programs.html


Actually, I've received similar advice from MFA types. If you want to learn how to write, just write. And read a lot of good books. Nevertheless, I applied to 13 schools. But I won't be devastated if I don't get in. I have options. Everyone does, believe it or not. The MFA is not the holy grail.


alamana
Jennifer Brown


Jan 17, 2010, 7:05 PM

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Re: [Woon] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm an MFA type, and my writing has improved 100 percent in one semester. That wouldn't have happened if I were just writing on my own.


Be regular and orderly in your life, that you may be violent and original in your work. -- Flaubert

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


WanderingTree


Jan 17, 2010, 8:30 PM

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Re: [alamana] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post

Woon/Alamana you bring up good points. No one NEEDS an MFA to be a successful writer. Many bestselling authors don't have the degree (or even any Literature related degree). BUT, as Granta's Best Young American Novelists (those under 35) suggests, MFA programs are getting writers from Point A to Point B a heck of a lot faster. It used to be that a writer was still considered "young" at 40 or even 45, now that age seems to be going lower and lower. 2-3 years of writing/reading/thinking time in a community supporting your art is a definite advantage.


OldScribe2000


Jan 17, 2010, 8:40 PM

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Re: [Colder] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post

Really? I often worry that my stories won't be taken seriously because I'm not able to mention an MFA education in my queries.


WanderingTree


Jan 17, 2010, 8:45 PM

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In Reply To

In Reply To

I agree with all that, WT. So what do you think you would do? Would you mention your MFA/MFA candidacy in your letters?

Btw, "wife cheats on husband on a Kansas farm while their daughter experiments with lesbianism," I like those stories, heh.



As with any letter to a stranger that you'd like to embrace professionally, I'd do research to see what they were all about. I'd ask other writers their opinions and if possible see if I knew anyone that has a connection to the person in question. Overall, I wouldn't try to hide the fact. And, of course, it really depends on which program you went to, what kind of connections you made there. If you went to a cash-cow MFA program and were riding on that alone, I could see an agent being a bit incredulous. If you went to Iowa or Irvine, mentioning that might serve you well in conjunction with your kick ass writing and some history of publication. Yes, names matter to people. At the end of the day, it's going to be about marketability, originality and quality of writing.

Miss Snark, as with many other bloggers, makes the faulty assumption that all MFAers are going to be flooding the academic job market and that all MFAers will be contributing to the decline of literature.

Also, I love stories about infidelity and lesbianism in the Bible Belt. It's got the likes of Proulx written all over it. Drop in an intellectual monster and I'll eat the story up whole.


WanderingTree


Jan 17, 2010, 8:50 PM

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Re: [OldScribe2000] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post

Scribe, literary journals don't care about degrees. Large publishers don't care about (or can't sell) the literary writing (the type without high concepts and intrigue) coming out of MFA programs (for the most part) anyway and often drop literary writers after their first book (including some of the faculty at the most prestigious writing programs). The only thing an MFA might say is that you've committed at least 2-3 years to writing, that you MAY be serious. But you know what else says you're serious, that you've slaved away to improve your craft and not going to give up? A string of journal publications or a polished manuscript.

I can think of a long list of successful writers that don't have MFAs and just kept submitting stories to journals and the books to agents.

(This post was edited by WanderingTree on Jan 17, 2010, 8:54 PM)


bergdalea
Abbie J. Bergdale

Jan 17, 2010, 9:21 PM

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Re: [Colder] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post

Okay. I'll bite. If not to write, read, or teach, why are so many of us applying to MFA programs? Certainly not for the campus dining halls. Say what you will about the MFA. College professors I've studied under (and come to admire for their writing/advising) have never once said, "You can teach college writing without an MFA! Sure! Give it a whirl." Nor have they said, "Posh on the MFA instruction. Your writing can self-evolve. Just give it another fifty-or-so years." Why is it so tsk tsk to admit that, hell yes, I want my MFA so I can teach. And write. And read. There, I said it. Shame on me. ;)

I do agree that one does not need an MFA to be published, but (finger's crossed) I'm going to take my chances.


bighark


Jan 17, 2010, 10:31 PM

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Re: [Colder] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it's silly when people write nonsense bios about like "Bighark is a jellyfish who lives in the dumpster behind his favorite tavern." Mentioning an MFA in a bio isn't silly--far from it--but I do suspect it's something most people stop doing once their publications add up. Sooner or later "So-and-So is a graduate of Writing University" needs to make way for "So-and-So's stories have appeared in Granta, The New Yorker, and the Paris Review."


Colder


Jan 17, 2010, 11:20 PM

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Re: [OldScribe2000] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Really? I often worry that my stories won't be taken seriously because I'm not able to mention an MFA education in my queries.


Sometimes I worry about that too. Evidently, it's true that the degree helps you sometimes, but I never thought it could actually hurt you until recently.

For some people, I think it might be fun to bash writers with MFAs. Maybe they read the fancy degree in the cover letter and they go into the story WANTING to hate it. That way they can reinforce their confirmation bias by saying, "Almost all the stuff I get from MFAers are bad. I'm glad I didn't get one." I think the writing has to be pretty amazing to reverse that feeling.

Btw, that's just speculation.


Colder


Jan 17, 2010, 11:27 PM

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Re: [bergdalea] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Why is it so tsk tsk to admit that, hell yes, I want my MFA so I can teach. And write. And read. There, I said it. Shame on me. ;)


Yes, I'm with you. It really bothers me that writers sometimes chide each other for voicing their ambitions out loud. There is nothing embarrassing about wanting to be published, selling books, making money, winning awards and getting tenured.

We all want those things. We don't have to be ashamed.

I guess the only thing that's embarrassing is when a writer EXPECTS those things to happen to them just because they're them.


WanderingTree


Jan 17, 2010, 11:53 PM

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Re: [Colder] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

In Reply To
Why is it so tsk tsk to admit that, hell yes, I want my MFA so I can teach. And write. And read. There, I said it. Shame on me. ;)


Yes, I'm with you. It really bothers me that writers sometimes chide each other for voicing their ambitions out loud. There is nothing embarrassing about wanting to be published, selling books, making money, winning awards and getting tenured.

We all want those things. We don't have to be ashamed.

I guess the only thing that's embarrassing is when a writer EXPECTS those things to happen to them just because they're them.



Totally. And I think people have to be realistic in that the MFA in itself guarantees absolutely nothing - even teaching positions. Perhaps more than any other kind of degree, the MFA requires a person to MAKE things happen through none other than hard work and taking advantage of every opportunity, while recognizing that for every story space in a journal, for every faculty position opening, there will always be several other people applying/submitting that are just as talented if not more so.


insertbrackets

e-mail user

Jan 18, 2010, 1:24 AM

Post #296 of 344 (7793 views)
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Re: [WanderingTree] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post

The long and the short of it is that to be a writer you have to actually write and primarily concern yourself with the business of writing. What the MFA does, ideally, is allow you to have the opportunity to do this while giving you access to a community of like-minded and talented peers and teachers, as well as time, perhaps the most precious commodity in these modern times. Our unobtanium if you will. The degree is a nice byproduct of our time in these programs since, in conjunction with demonstratable talent and whatnot, they allow us to make a living teaching. All this is to say that writing is a highly individualistic pursuit by nature, and our society has trended in directions that make it even more lonely and fruitless (in some respects). Do with that what you will, I'm the kind of person who can lemonade out of just about anything.

That being said, one of my advisors did advise me to not mention the degree, but also said I could use her name in the cover letters I sent to journals she had some connection to. I would argue that this is another perk of the MFA because it potentially helps you to navigate around the slush pile, where even good work goes to die.


Who told you I was a racist? Was it...a minority?
-T-Rex, qwantz.com Dinosaur Comics


__________



Jan 18, 2010, 5:50 AM

Post #297 of 344 (7766 views)
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Re: [insertbrackets] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post

My college fiction teacher -- who writes really good fiction, the kind I'd buy in a store -- has few publications, mostly in journals edited by his grad school friends. Which makes me think: What a cheat! And: Cover letter: not as important as who you meet in your MFA. And: Oh holy fuck, if he's that good, and can't get published anywhere, what does that say about my chances?

!


six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Jan 18, 2010, 5:51 AM)


klondike


Jan 18, 2010, 11:49 AM

Post #298 of 344 (7719 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post

I think everyone's forgetting that there's not one person reading and judging all these cover letters. The people on the receiving end of those things have tastes and biases just as varied and unpredictable as ours. One person might reject you because you don't have an MFA (or vice versa), another might take you more seriously because you have one (or vice versa), another might not read the cover letter at all and just read the work.


Colder


Jan 18, 2010, 4:28 PM

Post #299 of 344 (7641 views)
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Re: [klondike] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I think everyone's forgetting that there's not one person reading and judging all these cover letters. The people on the receiving end of those things have tastes and biases just as varied and unpredictable as ours. One person might reject you because you don't have an MFA (or vice versa), another might take you more seriously because you have one (or vice versa), another might not read the cover letter at all and just read the work.


That's the conundrum we're discussing here, so there's probably no answer as to whether or not we should mention the degree in our cover letters. I don't know, is there?


Colder


Jan 18, 2010, 4:30 PM

Post #300 of 344 (7639 views)
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Re: [insertbrackets] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
That being said, one of my advisors did advise me to not mention the degree, but also said I could use her name in the cover letters I sent to journals she had some connection to.


Thanks for the input. Did your advisor say why you shouldn't mention the degree? Are they for the same reasons I listed? Just curious.


pongo
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Jan 18, 2010, 5:35 PM

Post #301 of 344 (16843 views)
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Re: [Colder] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post

For what it's worth, I was a book editor and agent for a couple of decades in New York. I found that those who mentioned their MFA's were generally among the most insecure and untalented of the authors who sent me manuscripts.

It's just irrelevant to your qualifications as a writer; the manuscript is the only thing that counts, unless you're likely to show up on Page Six of the New York Post.


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/


Aaron_Ecyrb


Oct 5, 2010, 5:27 PM

Post #302 of 344 (15963 views)
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Re: [MattElz] MFA Fiction Programs - Questions & Concerns [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm curious about acceptances and how many schools everyone is applying to. I'm aware this is all subjective. I've had friends apply to 3 and get into 1 and apply to 12 and get into 1.

What do you think is a realistic number to apply to? The application fee aside, I'm willing to apply to 15 if I have to, and I know some great writers get denied the first round, maybe some of you would like to shed a little light for me on how many you applied to, and how many you got into, seeing the real numbers can be helpful. And did you apply to some of the top ten and then some lower tier ones or how did you do it so it worked out for your best interest? Thanks so much. -A


__________



Oct 5, 2010, 6:24 PM

Post #303 of 344 (15949 views)
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Re: [Aaron_Ecyrb] MFA Fiction Programs - Questions & Concerns [In reply to] Can't Post

You'd do well to spend a few minutes browsing the archives. This is one of about ten standard questions for which nervous applicants and nervous applicant profiteers have hammered out one smooth answer, these last few years.


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jala
Marie

Oct 6, 2010, 9:05 PM

Post #304 of 344 (15890 views)
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Re: [pongo] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
It's just irrelevant to your qualifications as a writer; the manuscript is the only thing that counts, unless you're likely to show up on Page Six of the New York Post.

While this is certainly true for publishing sake, working toward an MFA, I think, shouldn't necessarily have anything to do with publishing, in and of itself. The MFA is a valuable way, albeit not the only way, to become immersed in writing and reading, to work closely with talented writers (ideally both teachers and students), to form connections and bonds that sustain writers for a lifetime once the degree is finished. Of course there are more affordable ways to glean these same things--online groups and such. A friend of mine recently began a wonderful program that will be organized like an MFA only without all of the added stress and school loans, at www.literaryliving.com.


pongo
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Oct 6, 2010, 9:39 PM

Post #305 of 344 (15883 views)
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Re: [cmastrangelo] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post

Christa, the discussion was whether or not to mention the MFA in your cover letters. I am clearly opposed to that, but also clearly in favor of getting the MFA (at least for some people), having gone to all the trouble of getting one for myself.


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/


spamela


Oct 10, 2010, 8:09 PM

Post #306 of 344 (15812 views)
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Re: [pongo] MFAs and getting published [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't know--I was a book editor in NYC too, and I had an MFA. I knew another editor, an assistant and an agent with MFAs (the agent went to the same program I did) and we liked to talk about our programs. I loved hearing when submitting writers had MFAs. Another non-writer agent I know says on her website that she likes to hear when people have MFAs. So I don't really think blanket statements about how editors and agents view MFAs are true. At least, not now, when lots of people are getting MFAs and some of them happen to work in publishing. It's an achievement--put it in your cover letter if you want. No one's going to reject you just for having an MFA, and in the meantime, you might connect with a reader because of it.


TonyB79
Tony Baker
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Dec 10, 2012, 10:57 AM

Post #307 of 344 (14809 views)
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Re: [pongo] Rosemont MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Anybody know anything about this school/MFA program? They seem to have a pretty cool curriculum, but I was a bit thrown that they only have 800 or so students. I'm a veteran of big community colleges and universities, LoL.

As far as teaching positions and the like, would a degree from such a small school carry less weight? I just ask because I know nothing about the politics of such things...


Mercy is the mark of a great man.

I guess I'm just a good man.


pongo
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Dec 10, 2012, 11:48 AM

Post #308 of 344 (14806 views)
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Re: [TonyB79] Rosemont MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I think the most important factor in getting a tenure-track teaching job will be whether or not you have a book published. Where you got your MFA is nothing compared to that.

I happen to know a little about Rosemont. It's a pretty small school, with some interesting graduate programs, all of which is fine (if you want a bigger community, Rosemont is on the commuter line to Philadelphia), but if you want contact with the larger literary community, I don't think Rosemont will be your point of entry as much as some other schools.


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/


TonyB79
Tony Baker
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Dec 12, 2012, 10:19 PM

Post #309 of 344 (14751 views)
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Re: [pongo] Rosemont MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not concerned with getting a tenure track job, especially since most of what I've read seems to suggest they're becoming virtually nonexistent. I would just like to have the option of teaching, be it part-time or whatever else, as an alternate revenue stream. It's a way to bring in some extra money, and what the hell, it seems fun.

Between my bachelor's (which is in organizational communication, as opposed to creative writing or English) and the prospect of getting published, I feel fairly confident that I won't have to rely on teaching as a PRIMARY source of income. It would just be a nice option to have in my back pocket, so to speak.


Mercy is the mark of a great man.

I guess I'm just a good man.


pongo
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Dec 12, 2012, 10:34 PM

Post #310 of 344 (14750 views)
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Re: [TonyB79] Rosemont MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

You can get adjunct work with any MFA degree. Look for the program that will best meet your needs as a writer.


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/


TonyB79
Tony Baker
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Dec 12, 2012, 10:46 PM

Post #311 of 344 (14747 views)
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Re: [pongo] Rosemont MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

That's what I'm thinking. Rosemont looks like a good school, seems affordable if the aid I've been getting holds out, is close to a much, much bigger metropolitan area than what I'm used to (so I feel pretty confident about being able to find work), and I emailed them last night and again this afternoon and received some very friendly, prompt, and helpful replies. The director of the program says they're very open to genre fiction, and some of the workshops and lit courses they offer seem to reflect that (a mystery/horror writing workshop, lit courses on sci-fi, popular culture, and the depiction of witchcraft in literature, of all things, and courses dealing with how to write half-hour and hour-long television pilots). Their faculty don't seem to come from genre backgrounds, but the program director addressed that and said that they're still very open to working with different types of writers. So all in all I think it would be a good fit for me; I'm just concerned about how small it is, since as I've said, I'm used to 20,ooo students and above types of institutions. I wonder how different the atmosphere will be, and also wasn't sure if maybe smaller schools might be looked down upon by bigger ones, when hiring.


Mercy is the mark of a great man.

I guess I'm just a good man.


TonyB79
Tony Baker
e-mail user

Dec 12, 2012, 11:24 PM

Post #312 of 344 (14746 views)
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MFA Fiction Programs - Rutgers Camden and Seton Hill [In reply to] Can't Post

So I read a few encouraging things about Rutgers Camden in a post from a few years back - does anyone know how friendly they are toward genre fiction? Rosemont in PA and Rutgers are the main full residency programs I'm looking at right now - Stonecoast, Red Earth, UC Riverside, Seton Hill, and Western State CO, meanwhile, are the low res. programs that have caught my fancy.

Has anyone here been to Seton Hill? They offer a popular fiction track, which I like, and one of my creative writing professors from Sinclair Community College in Dayton actually teaches there part-time. But their site is very bare-bones, with not very much info about the program; gives the whole thing a bit of a fly-by-night feeling. Anybody have any thoughts?


Mercy is the mark of a great man.

I guess I'm just a good man.


pongo
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Dec 13, 2012, 7:49 AM

Post #313 of 344 (14742 views)
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Re: [TonyB79] Rosemont MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think the size of the program is much of a factor in hiring part-time faculty. I got my MFA at Goddard, which had about four hundred students at the time (in all programs), and I never had much trouble getting as much adjunct work as I could handle.


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/


DHouston
Dwayne Houston

Oct 23, 2013, 12:40 PM

Post #314 of 344 (13120 views)
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Full-residency programs for Genre Fiction Writers? [In reply to] Can't Post

I've scanned a few of these threads and Seton Hill seems to be the top recommendation for someone seeking a low-residency program for genre fiction/popular fiction.

Does anyone know of a FULL-RESIDENCY PROGRAM that are friendly toward Genre Fiction? I'm not looking to take a course in it, but it would be nice to submit story chapters from a vampire novel (yes, I said vampires...) and not be given the stink eye.


TonyB79
Tony Baker
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Nov 7, 2013, 4:47 PM

Post #315 of 344 (13045 views)
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Re: [DHouston] Full-residency programs for Genre Fiction Writers? [In reply to] Can't Post

The programs at Rutgers-Camden, Rosemont College, North Carolina State, and Southern Illinois University are confirmed genre friendly. Brown seems to be a toss-up, depending on who you talk to.


Mercy is the mark of a great man.

I guess I'm just a good man.


TonyB79
Tony Baker
e-mail user

Nov 7, 2013, 5:18 PM

Post #316 of 344 (13042 views)
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Re: [TonyB79] Full-residency programs for Genre Fiction Writers? [In reply to] Can't Post

ETA: I've recently heard the University of Kansas is very amenable as well, especially where sci-fi is concerned.


Mercy is the mark of a great man.

I guess I'm just a good man.


Ava
Ava Norling

Dec 29, 2013, 7:49 PM

Post #317 of 344 (11901 views)
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Re: [sovietsleepover] Programs Overseas? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm new to this forum, and so far must be missing something as to its organization; my apologies if I'm goofing by replying to this old thread. Please correct me if so.

I was unable to find much current information on Oxford University's MSt program, which is basically it's low-residency MFA equivalent. I'm a Canadian with a U.S. green card, but live overseas--Oxford's program would be very convenient for me in terms of logistics, and therefore merits looking into alongside the U.S. ones.

Does anyone here have any feedback on the low-residency program at Oxford?
Please point me in the right direction, if not….

Much obliged, Ava


(This post was edited by Ava on Dec 29, 2013, 7:57 PM)


dahosek
D. A. Hosek
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Dec 30, 2013, 10:10 AM

Post #318 of 344 (11878 views)
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Re: [Ava] Programs Overseas? [In reply to] Can't Post

I've been tracking MFA programs via which ones the writers in the assorted prize anthologies attended (and to a lesser extent where they teach) for a few years. Oxford hasn't popped up on my radar at all. Are you considering full-res at all? Also, some of the US-based low-res programs have overseas residency options, although they may require at least one US residency.

-dh


http://dahosek.com


Ava
Ava Norling

Jan 25, 2014, 3:09 AM

Post #319 of 344 (10943 views)
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Re: [dahosek] Programs Overseas? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi dh--
I can't consider full-res at this point; my young family's here in Saudi. I'll be able to fly in for low-res program residencies, wherever they may be. Oxford would be the most convenient!
I finished my applications to VCFA, Spalding, and Oxford, and am just getting set to complete the ones for Bennington and Converse College. Any thoughts on those programs? How would you order them, based on literary fiction for publication?
Thanks,Ava


dahosek
D. A. Hosek
e-mail user

Jan 25, 2014, 6:21 PM

Post #320 of 344 (10914 views)
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Re: [Ava] Programs Overseas? [In reply to] Can't Post

Converse doesn't show up in my rankings at all. Spalding only in Creative non-fiction.* Bennington ranks higher than VCFA. This is based on incomplete data so shouldn't be taken as a scientific comparison.
* I'd note that schools that score well in CNF tend to be quite different from those which score well in poetry/fiction.


http://dahosek.com


piratecaptainlady
Jane Dawson

Jan 28, 2014, 12:47 PM

Post #321 of 344 (10809 views)
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Re: [sibyline] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

So I haven't seen much activity for MFA Programs this go-round. Granted, it's January. But come on, someone freak out with me. I applied to nine schools:

Brown
Boulder
George Mason
Hollins
Oregon Corvallis
NCSU Raleigh
Stonecoast (low-res)
Wichita
Southern Illinois University

Not banking on Brown, and have no clue about the others. Where are you all sitting as we head into the waiting game?


merilung
Ariel Grucza


Jan 28, 2014, 1:34 PM

Post #322 of 344 (10797 views)
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Re: [piratecaptainlady] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm happy to freak out with you if you don't mind that I'm not the actual applicant! My writer-husband is very zen about the whole process and prefers to put the applications out of his mind while he concentrates on his undergrad thesis. I'm a control freak who feels like obsessing over his MFA applications will help me deal with the relocation uncertainty! He applied to:
  • Syracuse
  • UW Madison
  • Georgia College
  • UMass Amherst
  • Iowa
  • Vanderbilt
  • UT Austin - New Writer's
  • Alabama
  • Montana
  • Louisiana State
  • Mississippi - Oxford

I'm assuming Oxford is a rejection at this point because we haven't heard anything about making it to round two. I figure we'll know for sure in a week or so.

In Reply To
So I haven't seen much activity for MFA Programs this go-round. Granted, it's January. But come on, someone freak out with me. I applied to nine schools:

Brown
Boulder
George Mason
Hollins
Oregon Corvallis
NCSU Raleigh
Stonecoast (low-res)
Wichita
Southern Illinois University

Not banking on Brown, and have no clue about the others. Where are you all sitting as we head into the waiting game?



(This post was edited by merilung on Jan 28, 2014, 1:37 PM)


piratecaptainlady
Jane Dawson

Jan 28, 2014, 2:19 PM

Post #323 of 344 (10790 views)
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Re: [merilung] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

I feel ya. My husband and I have no idea where we're going to be next year either. He's graduating and he has to start applying to jobs NOW. It's really stressful.

That's a good batch on the list! I have a friend who made it to UT Austin. They have amazing faculty.


nine


Jan 28, 2014, 4:19 PM

Post #324 of 344 (10776 views)
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Re: [piratecaptainlady] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey!

I applied to two schools: U of Iowa and Oregon State (nonfiction). I got my applications in pretty early and for the past couple of months I haven't really thought about them. Now, being so close to February, I'm eager to be notified.

I've been wondering why there hasn't been much activity here. A few years back this forum looked totally different this time of year. Where is everyone? Facebook? At one point I thought the number of MFA applicants must have dropped significantly but I think this is pretty unlikely.


merilung
Ariel Grucza


Jan 28, 2014, 5:37 PM

Post #325 of 344 (10754 views)
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Re: [nine] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

piratecaptainlady - I know! I usually plan vacations 9+ months in advance. The idea of moving cross country on such short notice is driving me insane. I'm a little jealous of your application to Boulder - I really wanted my husband to apply there because I'd love to live in Colorado!
nine - ha, one can only hope that the number of applicants has dropped! I know that's not the case for Syracuse - we were at a George Saunders reading earlier this month and he said Syracuse had 600 applicants for six positions! Is it typical to be notified in February? I was under the impression that we'd be waiting until April.



(This post was edited by merilung on Jan 28, 2014, 5:43 PM)


nine


Jan 28, 2014, 7:46 PM

Post #326 of 344 (7123 views)
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Re: [merilung] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

merilung,

Wow, MFA application numbers have definitely remained strong.

It's my understanding that notifications can come anytime between late January and early April depending on the school. Check out this link to see when schools have notified applicants in the past:
http://mfaresearchproject.wordpress.com/...tion-response-times/


drea


Feb 4, 2014, 8:48 AM

Post #327 of 344 (6929 views)
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Re: [nine] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

another link that can add to/abate the anxiety of waiting to hear back from MFA programs:
http://thegradcafe.com/survey/index.php?q=fiction&t=a&o=d
filter it according to fiction or poetry, to see who has reported getting rejected/admitted to grad programs in the current year and past years.
good luck.


piratecaptainlady
Jane Dawson

Mar 2, 2014, 12:30 AM

Post #328 of 344 (6562 views)
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Re: [merilung] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

So has he heard anything yet? I got a rejection from Hollins and an acceptance from Stonecoast.


seniorfrog
Lily Be

May 15, 2014, 9:40 PM

Post #329 of 344 (5826 views)
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Re: [MattElz] MFA Fiction Programs - Questions & Concerns [In reply to] Can't Post

Hello,
I am new to this website and I have a question. I am wondering what the difference is between an MA in creative writing and an MFA. I am not planning to look for a job, so career prospects are not a concern. What I am interested in is the writing itself. I'd like to write fiction, both short stories and novels, and I would certainly be interested in constructive feedback from accomplished writers and peers alike, and, of course, I would like to read other people's work.
Any advice is appreciated--thank you!


seniorfrog
Lily Be

May 15, 2014, 9:54 PM

Post #330 of 344 (5823 views)
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Re: [seniorfrog] MFA Fiction Programs - Questions & Concerns [In reply to] Can't Post

Also, I wanted to add that since I am not after actual credentials, maybe a creative writing course through adult/continuing education would be an option. Thank you!


dahosek
D. A. Hosek
e-mail user

May 15, 2014, 10:01 PM

Post #331 of 344 (5818 views)
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Re: [seniorfrog] MFA Fiction Programs - Questions & Concerns [In reply to] Can't Post

Generally the MA is a shorter course of study. Adult/continuing education is a much more economical route by all means, and is a good way of seeing also whether you want to continue studying in a more formal setting or if the non-degree program is adequate for your needs.
-dh


http://dahosek.com


Truth and Fiction



May 19, 2014, 4:58 PM

Post #332 of 344 (5525 views)
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Re: [dahosek] MFA Fiction Programs - Questions & Concerns [In reply to] Can't Post

Consider starting by finding local writing groups or online writing groups. Meet other writers online who seem to share the same aesthetic or who write generally the same types of things and exchange work with them. It can take time to find the right readers, but this is a really useful way to ease into the workshopping/critiquing world. If you really have no interest in getting the degree credential of an MFA or an MA, I'd recommend this alternative route instead.

Writing conferences are another excellent way to workshop, gain feedback, and meet new writers. There are the big-name workshops -- Bread Loaf, Sewanee, Tin House, etc. -- but there are many, many more out there that are excellent options if you have a bit of expendable income and a week or so in the summer.

Very generally speaking, some MFA programs offer more writing/workshopping time while most MA programs have a larger focus on lit criticism, etc. But every program is different. While it's true some MFA programs are three or even four years long, many MA and MFA programs take two years to complete. You don't need to attend an MFA program to write, meet writers, and gain feedback (and I saw this as someone currently in an MFA program!), so don't go down this road unless you're sure it's what you really want.


Truth and Fiction


seniorfrog
Lily Be

May 29, 2014, 12:24 AM

Post #333 of 344 (5196 views)
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Re: [Truth and Fiction] MFA Fiction Programs - Questions & Concerns [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you everybody who replied!


seniorfrog
Lily Be

May 29, 2014, 12:23 PM

Post #334 of 344 (5181 views)
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Re: [theapplepicker] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

I think that not only shouldn't there be a stigma for kids living with their parents, but it's a natural thing for parents to help and support their kids regardless. I think it validates parents' lives and makes them happy and useful; and however kids benefit from it, parents benefit more.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

May 29, 2014, 1:58 PM

Post #335 of 344 (5175 views)
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Re: [seniorfrog] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

Having adult kids living at home doesn't validate parents' lives. It clogs them up. Parents have spent twenty or so years preparing kids to go out and live on their own; kids' failure to do so is a sign of parents' failure. It also makes it harder for them to go on vacation, although there is someone at home to take care of the dogs.


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/


seniorfrog
Lily Be

May 29, 2014, 3:45 PM

Post #336 of 344 (5170 views)
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Re: [pongo] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, I am of a different opinion. To me, a house without children is an empty house, no matter their age. Why would it be harder for them to go on vacation if there are adult children in the house? It's not like they need care. Also, I probably wouldn't view my parental mission as preparing my kids for independent living. I would view it more in terms of loving them and giving them security and a sense of being able to rely on their parents no matter what. But that's just my opinion. It may be outdated.


pongo
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May 29, 2014, 5:38 PM

Post #337 of 344 (5161 views)
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Re: [seniorfrog] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

I've had teenagers. I (and their mothers) have wanted them to know they could rely on us, but not have to.


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

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alirah
ali rahmani

Jun 29, 2014, 4:16 AM

Post #338 of 344 (3729 views)
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MFA for non-native english speakers [In reply to] Can't Post

I am a fiction writer from Iran, willing to apply for a creative writing MFA program in US. I just want to know if there is hope for a non-native English speaker to get an acceptance in one of the top MFA programs. Do you know the approximate percentage of creative writing MFA students from non-English speaking countries?
A number of my short stories and translations are published in online and paper magazines.(but they are in Farsi.) One of them won a national award for single short story. My first collection is going to be ready for publication in less than 6 months and I think it will be successful if it survives the cruel governmental censorship. My English is alright and I will be able to meet academic language requirements by putting a little more effort. But writing fiction in a non-native language is something else. I am thinking about 2 years of preparation before applying. But before starting this long process I just need to be sure that it's possible.
I really appreciate your help.


pongo
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Jun 29, 2014, 9:45 AM

Post #339 of 344 (3702 views)
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Re: [alirah] MFA for non-native english speakers [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think the percentage is relevant. An MFA program isn't much concerned with your native language, as long as your English is up to the requirements -- and even then they may make allowances if the quality of the work meets their standards. In applying to a U.S. MFA program, all that really counts is the work.

In fact, you may have an advantage, if they are actively looking for a diverse student body.


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/


alirah
ali rahmani

Jun 30, 2014, 12:16 AM

Post #340 of 344 (3594 views)
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Re: [pongo] MFA for non-native english speakers [In reply to] Can't Post

But what about the sample work? What if despite its artistic, well-elaborated structure of narrative, the sentences were not so elegant or neat or anything? Or even worse, it involved some grammatical mistakes? How do they react to a sample work which looks more like a bad translation of a promising story? Have applicants with similar conditions managed to get acceptance before? And if yes, how scarce were they?


pongo
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Jun 30, 2014, 8:58 AM

Post #341 of 344 (3561 views)
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Re: [alirah] MFA for non-native english speakers [In reply to] Can't Post

"Some" grammatical mistakes would not be a problem. Most American writers haven't mastered English grammar. Sentences that are not neat or elegant, as long as they make sense, are not a problem; many writers need help with style.

As to the translation, you'll need to bring your English to the point where your work reads like a good translation rather than a bad one.

Unless there's someone here who has come from a non-English-speaking country to get an MFA, or who has known someone like that, I doubt there are any data on the subject. However, I did a search on MFA+"non-native" and found a few references that required a test of spoken English (to make sure, I assume, that you can follow the classes). This tells me that they do accept at least some people in your position.


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/


(This post was edited by pongo on Jun 30, 2014, 9:01 AM)


dahosek
D. A. Hosek
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Jun 30, 2014, 11:05 AM

Post #342 of 344 (3553 views)
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Re: [pongo] MFA for non-native english speakers [In reply to] Can't Post

I know that Josip Novakovich and Mikhail Iossel both are non-native speakers who received M[F]As. Josip received his degree from University of Texas Austin, but also did other study in the US before that, earning both a BA and an MDiv. Mikhail received his MA in creative writing from University of New Hampshire which is where he did his first writing in English. So it's possible. The key thing is for your writing to be good. That does not necessarily mean grammatically perfect (see for example, Xiaolu Gio's A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers) where the linguistic deficiencies of the narrator (and perhaps of the author, I don't know) are an essential part of the narrative voice.

As a non-native speaker, you do have the advantage of being far more conscious of the operation of the language than non-native speakers. I've found that I'm more alert to some of how the writing works when I'm reading stuff in Spanish than in English, and Francine Prose makes a similar observation about reading works in German in her book Reading Like a Writer.

-dh


http://dahosek.com


alirah
ali rahmani

Jun 30, 2014, 11:12 PM

Post #343 of 344 (3520 views)
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Re: [dahosek] MFA for non-native english speakers [In reply to] Can't Post

I saw Mikhail Iossel's page and it turned out to be very inspiring. Apparently, he used to be a research engineer -as I am at the moment. and he came to US at the age of 31. (I'm 29 so I think I still got 2 years!) The only thing left is if I have as much talent which I guess you won't know for sure unless you dedicate yourself to work for at least a couple of years. thank you guys. you both gave me courage.


seniorfrog
Lily Be

Jul 14, 2014, 3:06 AM

Post #344 of 344 (3123 views)
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Re: [alirah] MFA for non-native english speakers [In reply to] Can't Post

The USA is a nation of immigrants, and there are lots of people here, including many outstanding ones, who were not born into English. I think if you have fresh, original and interesting ideas, you can get help with mechanics, so it shouldn't be much of a problem.

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