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MFA Fiction Programs - Questions & Concerns
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sibyline


Mar 24, 2006, 3:17 AM

Post #26 of 344 (7378 views)
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Re: [viviandarkbloom] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post


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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?


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 (7373 views)
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Re: [sibyline] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

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

Post #28 of 344 (7362 views)
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Re: [Dr. Bathybius] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post


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

Post #29 of 344 (7339 views)
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Re: [sibyline] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post


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

Post #30 of 344 (7335 views)
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Re: [murasaki] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post


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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 (7269 views)
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Re: [aeval415] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

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 (7255 views)
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Re: [rapunzel1983] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

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 (7254 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

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 (7250 views)
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Re: [rapunzel1983] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

Well overall program size doesn't necessarily correlate directly to classroom size....


rapunzel1983
Marisa Lee

Mar 25, 2006, 4:32 AM

Post #35 of 344 (7240 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

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

Post #36 of 344 (7232 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post


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

Post #37 of 344 (7219 views)
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Re: [sibyline] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

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

Post #38 of 344 (7184 views)
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Re: [bighark] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

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

Post #39 of 344 (7164 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Fiction Acceptance Rates? [In reply to] Can't Post

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 (7141 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

Post #41 of 344 (7112 views)
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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

Post #42 of 344 (7107 views)
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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 (7093 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 (7067 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

Post #45 of 344 (6952 views)
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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

Post #46 of 344 (6945 views)
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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 (6935 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 (6909 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

Post #49 of 344 (6889 views)
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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

Post #50 of 344 (6882 views)
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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...

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