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Mikaeltb


Jul 3, 2005, 9:40 AM

Post #1 of 709 (23819 views)
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Writing Sample Can't Post

I'm slightly apprehensive about the writing sample b/c I write in a variety of styles and get mixed feedback on all (some people like the metafiction, some the traditional, etc.) and am unsure of what programs look for. I know this is a bit of an impossible question but maybe just some thoughts would be helpful. personally I find metafiction to be impressive but slightly off-putting for that very fact-- the egoism of being clever involved. The corollary is true of tradionalist fiction-- nice, but less fireworks. So what do these people look for? Do they want to be blown away with your mind or know you can compose a well-crafted piece of verse? I know I'm making this a little black and white, but just throwing it out there.


silkfx2004


Sep 22, 2004, 10:27 AM

Post #2 of 709 (23495 views)
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Writing portfolio: Should I send this story? [In reply to] Can't Post

I am planning to go back to school for an MFA in fall 2005. To that end, I'm researching schools, studying for the GRE, getting my portfolio together, etc.

Re my portfolio: I wrote a short-short story that was accepted for a collection of women's erotica (Herotica 7, for those who are familiar with the series). Unfortunately, due to business reasons, the collection was never published, so the story rights reverted back to me.

I know it's hard to describe a story without actually posting it for people to read, but compared to most erotica I've read, this story is pretty tame. Basically it's a fantasy involving two women on a train...but most of the fantasy goes on in the mind of the narrator; the only actual physical contact is kissing (on the lips). Other writers (well, the ones I respect) who have read it say it's a great story.

I know that erotica is a special case, but I guess this question applies to anything that's considered "genre" fiction: Do I risk being taken less seriously if I include this story in my portfolio?


--------
Nobody but God gets it right the first time. Everybody else has to rewrite. --attributed to Stephen King


silkfx2004


Sep 22, 2004, 6:25 PM

Post #3 of 709 (23474 views)
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Re: [silkfx2004] Writing portfolio: Should I send this story? [In reply to] Can't Post

Okay, I guess everybody's keeping their 10-foot poles safely ensconced in their broom closets... :)

I have plenty of other "regular" fiction to include in a portfolio. I was just wondering about this particular piece seeing as it was accepted for publication and I actually did get paid for it (a whopping $45).


--------
Nobody but God gets it right the first time. Everybody else has to rewrite. --attributed to Stephen King


hapworth


Sep 22, 2004, 7:09 PM

Post #4 of 709 (23470 views)
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Re: [silkfx2004] Writing portfolio: Should I send this story? [In reply to] Can't Post

Silk,

I'd honestly have to read the story to respond. Is this literary erotica? Or does your story lean more towards a popular audience? Does the story work with language in interesting ways; does it raise complex questions (though not blatanlty proposed) about relationships, gender, what-have-you. I ask because there's plenty of literary fiction that pushes boundaries, both in terms of language and content. I don't think you need to fear a sexually-tinged story. I think you need to ask yourself if the story holds up well as story (that sounds vague, I realize). If you were to compare your story to other writers who have produced similar work, which authors would you name?

Your best bet, perhaps, is to slide in this story among other stories. This will show your range and will qualm any fears people may have. BTW, what schools are you planning to apply to?

Hope this helps,

Hapworth


freeverses
James Hall
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Sep 23, 2004, 10:50 AM

Post #5 of 709 (23455 views)
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Re: [hapworth] Writing portfolio: Should I send this story? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd agree with Hapworth -- it's hard to have an opinion this far away from your text. But I'd say that erotically-tinged material is really fine; Amy Bloom does it as does James Baldwin, and they are certainly two masters of the craft. Ask yourself if the sexuality is necessary to the piece, if it furthers characterization and the structure (not just the content) of the plot. Ask yourself, "why is this necessary to the piece" and maybe even, "why is this necessary to the piece's form?"

Best of luck to you --
James


wiswriter
Bob S.
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Sep 23, 2004, 11:29 AM

Post #6 of 709 (23451 views)
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Re: [silkfx2004] Writing portfolio: Should I send this story? [In reply to] Can't Post

I think the answer may depend in part on where you're applying. Some programs are likely to be more receptive than others, particularly those programs where aesthetic boundaries are stretched. Brown has held "Unspeakable Practices" conferences celebrating writing that's on the edge in terms of style or content. On the other hand, I don't know if I'd send lesbian erotica to Iowa. If I were you I'd be looking at what kind of writing the faculty is producing in deciding whether I'd be comfortable sending them a story with erotic content.


rooblue


Sep 23, 2004, 12:36 PM

Post #7 of 709 (23444 views)
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Re: [wiswriter] Writing portfolio: Should I send this story? [In reply to] Can't Post

Okay, everyone else is being extremely careful and pc on this, but I'm going to say what my mother would have said: "If you have to ask, if a doubt even crosses your mind, don't send it." Especially since you have other mss. that you feel are strong. If it had won a Pushcart or was in Best Am for that year I'd break the rule but since it wasn't, play it safe. I've only been at Warren Wilson for one term so what do I know but there wasn't anything even remotely erotic in any of our worksheets. Good luck whatever you do.


silkfx2004


Sep 23, 2004, 1:37 PM

Post #8 of 709 (23435 views)
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Re: [silkfx2004] Writing portfolio: Should I send this story? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for all the responses!

Yes, I would definitely consider this literary erotica. The challenge for this particular collection was to write about people getting together who wouldn't normally get together, e.g. different religions, races, abilities, genders, etc. Hapworth, I like your use of "sexually tinged"; that's a good way to describe this piece.

James, because this was written specifically for an erotica collection, the sexuality (actually it's more SENSuality than SEXuality, if you KWIM) is necessary to the piece. The narrator is someone who has never considered herself even remotely attracted to women, much less the woman to whom she ends up being attracted. So the story is pretty much her stream-of-consciousness thought process as this woman makes advances to her. It's basically a 3-page, 900-word sentence...but things are happening in the foreground; it's not all just stuff coming out of her head.

Alex, you happened to mention two of the programs I'm considering. :) But based on some other information I've been reading in this forum, along with other things (one being my desire to get the hell out of the Midwest), I'm having second thoughts about Iowa. I will definitely keep an eye out in my research to see what kind of work the faculty are doing.

Catherine, thank you for not being PC! My mother would have said the same thing. However, based on the other responses, I think I might be able to get away with sending this piece in my portfolio. Since my other pieces are pretty straight up and down in terms of fiction, this might let me show off my experimental side. (Okay, that last sentence can be read several ways now that I look at it...)

Thanks again, everyone!


--------
Nobody but God gets it right the first time. Everybody else has to rewrite. --attributed to Stephen King

(This post was edited by silkfx2004 on Sep 23, 2004, 1:39 PM)


freeverses
James Hall
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Sep 23, 2004, 10:42 PM

Post #9 of 709 (23415 views)
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Re: [silkfx2004] Writing portfolio: Should I send this story? [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, thank god for sensual sexuality. :) I do know what you mean, and can appreciate the distinction.

I actually think the piece (and by extension, the application) depends on the writing -- no matter what the content, it must fly its beautifully colored flag. (And then it might want to fly it under the aesthetic colors of the school to which you're applying). I don't think enough writing risks enough. I just hope that the sensuality isn't the only risk, really--but that it's a risk done for a larger reason.

That said, I also don't think there's enough literary writing that explores queer subjectivities. -- James


pongo
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Jul 3, 2005, 10:48 AM

Post #10 of 709 (23781 views)
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Re: [Mikaeltb] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Mostly, they want to see that you are serious about your writing, that you have some talent, and that you are ready to benefit from their program. As far as metafiction and all that, it will depend on which program you're applying to. Some have ideological preferences, some don't.

In general, though, the writing sample should just be what you think is your best work.

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/


Kaytie
Kaytie M. Lee

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Jul 3, 2005, 11:25 AM

Post #11 of 709 (23778 views)
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Re: [Mikaeltb] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

All that pongo said, and consider sending pieces that contrast, the equivalent of auditioning with a ballad and an uptempo if you were applying to music school. It sounds as if you are applying for poetry, true? In which case you have an opportunity to include a range of work if your verses are on the short side.

Prose writers must often find their best work that fits in 20 pages, making it harder to incorporate more than one piece.

(Aside: not only do admissions people want to be blown away, but they also want to know how their program can help you grow as a writer. Including some goals for your writing in your statement of purpose is a good thing.)


Kaytie M. Lee Last Updated November 2008

(This post was edited by Kaytie on Jul 3, 2005, 11:25 AM)


Mikaeltb


Jul 4, 2005, 9:03 AM

Post #12 of 709 (23757 views)
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Re: [pongo] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

i'm applying for fiction actually but the usual 30 pp. limit does allow me to give two smaller pieces-- a 'solid' story and a 'hey look at all my bells and whistles!...' thanks for the help.


jpril


Dec 13, 2005, 9:04 PM

Post #13 of 709 (23618 views)
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Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

How good does the writing sample have to be? I've workshopped a couple of stories for a little while now. They're okay, but they aren't great. They're not far developed. That's why I need to go into a program. So my question is: do I need to worry if my sample isn't stellar? It needs a lot of work, but I think it shows my creative abilities. Help!


pongo
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Dec 13, 2005, 9:26 PM

Post #14 of 709 (23612 views)
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Re: [jpril] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

The writing sample should show promise. After all, if you're already a fully mature writer, why are you going into an MFA?

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/


jpril


Dec 13, 2005, 9:44 PM

Post #15 of 709 (23610 views)
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Re: [pongo] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks - I've published a lot of non-fiction, but no fiction. I suppose my publications will help, even if my writing sample isn't perfect.


Aubrie


Dec 14, 2005, 11:57 PM

Post #16 of 709 (23558 views)
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Re: [jpril] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Alright, I've got a question as well. For a 25 page sample scenario: my short story is around 16 pages. It's def. my strongest work. I'll send that.
Do I leave it at that? OR, do I send a two page flash fiction, poetry-esque piece along with it? It's a bit more experimental and lyrical.
Perhaps this will work against me, perhaps not.
Advice?
Suggestions?
Any sanity to lend to me?


sarandipidy


Jan 3, 2006, 11:08 AM

Post #17 of 709 (23493 views)
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UOREGON MFA APPLICATION HELP [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi, I am having a bit of trouble with the MFA writing sample instructions. I am applying for poetry and I'm wondering if they actually want the pages double-spaced. Most programs waive that instruction for poetry, but they haven't specified this. Still, double-spaced poetry sample seems strange. Does anyone know? I would call them but they won't be in the office for three hours (I'm on the east coast)!


bullscheidt


Jan 3, 2006, 12:39 PM

Post #18 of 709 (23480 views)
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Re: [sarandipidy] UOREGON MFA APPLICATION HELP [In reply to] Can't Post

They should be in by now -- but I have to believe that is a misstatement. Too much of poetry is form. Best of luck!


Eilonwy


Feb 5, 2006, 11:49 PM

Post #19 of 709 (23373 views)
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Re: [Mikaeltb] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm applying for fiction, and as I read other people's posts here I realize that I'm a bit of a freak...much of my writing is in the form of very short stories. I am working on a longer one, though I don't know how long it will end up being, but most of my pre-existing stories end up around 1.5 - 2 pages, double-spaced.

So my question is, does anyone know whether very short (I don't know if the term 'micro-fiction' applies) stories are somehow inappropriate or the subject of opprobrium, in general? I like that my small pieces allow me to present a bit of variety, but I hope I'm not shooting myself in the foot by submitting so many small stories instead of one or two big ones.


miekekoo


Feb 6, 2006, 2:05 PM

Post #20 of 709 (23333 views)
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Re: [Eilonwy] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I say send whatever you think is your best work, regardless of length. Personally, I love short shorts and I included a few in my own sample, although there was a longer story in there as well.

There may be some people on admissions committees who don't like the form and will hold it against you, but if this is what you're writing, why would you want to go to a program whose professors aren't going to be supportive of it? I think generally though, the application readers will care about the quality of the stories, not the length. So embrace the freakishness, send out your samples (if you haven't already), do a dance to appease the MFA gods, and try not to stress about it.

Amy Hempel is a fabulous writer who writes very short stories almost exclusively. (Check out *Reasons to Live* if you aren't familiar with her work.) If hypothetically she were an unpublished writer applying to MFA programs instead of a professor teaching in one, I can't imagine the committee would turn her down because her stories were really short. It's all about the quality.

-Kate


__________



Jul 14, 2006, 3:10 PM

Post #21 of 709 (23165 views)
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TV-esque writing? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Gang:

Here's a new one. It involves George Saunder's comments in Kealey's book. According to George, he sees a lot of TV-esque writing in application packets, which he promptly rejects.

I've been trying to oultine some aspects of television writing that might influence fiction, but I've been coming up short. Perhaps it's because we've been spoiled lately with so much good television--as Kealey mentions, pretty much anything on FX or HBO offers more quality than you can shake a stick at, plus the stick. And I whole-heartedly agree. But so far, in my classes, only one thing's made me to sit up and go, Too TV!, and that was when characters started saying cutesy things at the same time, like they do in sitcoms.

Other than that, I got nothing. I'd like to add TV-esque as another layer to my car wash editorial approach before sending applications out, but what else should I be looking for? What has troubled George so?


six five four three two one 0 ->


Dewey

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Jul 15, 2006, 4:50 PM

Post #22 of 709 (23135 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] TV-esque writing? [In reply to] Can't Post

   
Hey Jr,

Yeah, ya know, I was wondering something like that myself when I read that quote in Kealy's book. I was thinking, "TV, huh, what now?" I mean, that's a pretty damn big category, TV. There's a zillion different stations with different target audiences and genres and all that. Personally, I decided to ignore his statement since I'm not applying to Syracuse and since it's too broad and vague a comment to address in any meaningful way. He really needed to elaborate or use just one good example. Since I don't know him, let alone share a brain with him, I can't possibly know what he means by TV writing. That's bad interviewing on Kealy's part, if you ask me. Anyways. I could guess at a meaning, but then that would just be my opinion of what bad TV writing is and I'm not a member of anyone’s acceptance committee. His statement seems personal, not necessarily something that bugs all instructors. So...if anyone knows him, they could probably ask him and see what he meant. I am not at all trying to sound like a smart ass. I honest to God wish he'd said more. It nagged at me too for a bit.
BTW, what schools are you thinking of applying to, Jr? Syracuse is one, I'm guessing. Just curious. My list just keeps changing. However, after the GRE debacle, I'm pretty much focusing in on non-GRE requiring schools. Man, I wish I'd listened to my instincts and stay'd away from that test - I know me, shoulda stay'd away. Let that be a lesson to all y'all who don't do the standardized testing thing so well or are just the type who chokes under pressure - do not let anyone muscle you into taking that thing! There are some great schools that don't require it. Of course, you can ignore the above statement if you're comfortable with the test - just know yourself/your limitations is all I'm sayin.
Sorry about the meltdown, Jr. Let me know about your schools. But as far as Saunders goes, I wouldn't worry too much on it - just stay away from clichés of any sort. You probably know a good story when you write one and I'm sure you've written some good ones. Trust your instincts. Are you taking any workshops right now? Anyways. Long log, too long...must be going...


__________



Jul 18, 2006, 12:47 AM

Post #23 of 709 (23059 views)
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Re: [Dewey] TV-esque writing? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey there...I intend to apply to schools where I've enjoyed the faculty's books, then everywhere that offers good funding. My list is probably similar to everyone else's.

Re: the TV style, I don't think it's just Mr. Saunders. My workshop instructors all made similar comments...I just can't remember the specifics. My instinct is that it has a lot to do with dialogue. After all, TV editing, 'jump cuts', or however you want to describe it, has had a profound influence on fiction, and there's just no getting around that. Michael Bay isn't just rewiring young minds with his profane inattention, he's also changing what we read in Mississippi Review every month. So I doubt applications get docked just because a story is tightly paced and moves around a lot. In fact, it seems to be encouraged.

Plus the way TV influences our speech is troublesome. What are we to do when TV not only mimics, but creates our dialogue? How many tongues has Joss Whedon manipulated? Can we faithfully represent certain demographics in our fiction without running into this problem?


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LitKnit


Jul 24, 2006, 3:17 PM

Post #24 of 709 (22957 views)
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Re: [Mikaeltb] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi everyone,

I tried to post a new thread but couldn't, so I am "replying" here with a question of my own.

I am applying to 8 low-residency schools. (Bennington, Vermont, Warren Wilson, Antioch LA, Goddard, Stonecoast, Spalding, Lesley).

About half of them allow application in one or more genres, while the other half allow only one genre.

Here's my dilemma: I consider my creative nonfiction to be my strongest work, and feel that it would give me a very realistic chance of being accepted at all of the schools. HOWEVER, I don't wish to work for 2 1/2 years in a genre I feel I've already exhausted my interest in. I want to study either poetry or fiction.

My fiction consists of one story about which my writing teacher and workshop mates raved; however, that is all I have. It is 16 pages. As for poetry, what little I have is very strong and I believe shows the promise the committees look for; however, I need about 6 more poems for my sample and I'm afraid new poems won't be as good, though I do have reliable mentors and reviewers to run the poems by before sending them.

I do have one essay coming up in a print mag; one essay published as a story at Mississippi Review online (could be called fiction that is) and a poem published online which also won an award from my undergrad English department. I hope these creds will help. I really feel that no matter what genre I study, I will apply myself to the highest standards. It's just a matter of getting in to the school.

What should I do? My most pressing desire is to get IN to these schools. With that in mind, should I apply in creative nonfiction, thus giving myself better odds of acceptance? Or should I apply in poetry/fiction, hoping it's good enough to get me in, and thus ensuring that I can spend my MFA time working on what matters most to me at this point in my life?

Has anyone here struggled with such decisions and what did you end up doing?

HELP!



pongo
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Jul 24, 2006, 4:17 PM

Post #25 of 709 (22953 views)
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Re: [LitKnit] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I haven't been in that position, but I think it's a good idea to decide what you want to study in the MFA program. What do you hope to get out of the program? If it isn't an improvement in some aspect of your writing, you are likely to be terribly disappointed. And if it is an improvement in some aspect of your writing, you should know something about what that is.

So I think first you need to choose what you want to write for your thesis -- if not a particular project, at least a genre. That doesn't mean you have to abandon all other genres for the two years you're in the program, of course. Then send your best material in that genre, no matter what else you've got published or ready to show.

If you apply in one genre and switch immediately to another, you have been lying to the school, and some schools don't think that's a good idea. I guess it depends on how comfortable you are with being dishonest.

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/


LitKnit


Jul 24, 2006, 4:27 PM

Post #26 of 709 (8121 views)
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Re: [pongo] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi David,

Thanks for your advice. I wasn't planning to apply in one genre and then switch. Whatever genre I go with is what I will study.

Ideally, what I'd like to do for my thesis is a book of poetry. I even have the title in mind and a whole selection of poem themes in my head. Some of the writing sample poems I already have done may end up fitting in there too.

My problem is that I won't be able to do this at all if I can't get in on the strength of the poetry I've already written. This is costing me so much money and time that I don't want to shoot myself in the foot. They all say "Send your best work..." but what if the work that is truly my best is not in the genre I most want to study?

Do you think it would be advisable (or stupid?) to write to the programs and ask them for their advice on this?

Thanks,
Laura


pongo
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Jul 24, 2006, 4:56 PM

Post #27 of 709 (8116 views)
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Re: [LitKnit] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

When I was applying to Goddard I had a question about how to apply (or even whether) and I called them. I got a call back from the head of the program, and we discussed my question, and I applied and got in (and graduated). So I'm prejudiced in favor of just asking the simple question.

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/


Amethyst


Jul 31, 2006, 1:32 PM

Post #28 of 709 (8059 views)
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Re: [LitKnit] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Personally, I don't think it is a good idea to start planning your thesis before you've even applied or been accepted anywhere. That's getting way ahead of things.

I do think it is a good idea to call the schools you want to apply to and ask as many questions as you have. When I was applying, I found the people who worked in the various program offices to be extremely helpful and more than happy to help you figure out whatever needed figuring out.

I would also say that your emphasis, when applying to schools, needs to be on your desire to do the work, and not on just getting in. Maybe that sounds counter-intuitive, but believe me--it is very true. One of the things that the schools try to get a sense of from your application is how much you want to be there, how driven you are to improve your writing. In your personal statement, you will have to address this in one way or another. If you come across as being burnt out on your genre, that sends up a giant red flag, no matter how great the writing sample may be.

So, if you want to write poetry, apply in poetry. If you don't think you have enough quality poems, then spend a few months writing more poems. Is there some reason why you have to apply right now? Since you are unsure of what genre you want to work on, you owe it to yourself and your writing career to explore. Give your self time and space--before applying-- to see if that really is the genre you want to work on.

At the MFA program where I am currently a student, there is a guy who switched genres--from fiction to poetry. When he decided to switch, he had to start from scratch and re-apply. The semesters he had already spent doing fiction did not count towards his poetry MFA. He was accepted into the poetry program, and believe me he is a killer poet. It is clear that writing poetry is what he was meant to be doing. Although I'm sure he wouldn't consider his time in the fiction program to be 'wasted' in any way, he did have to pay tuition for semesters that do not count towards his degree. So please, do give a lot of thought to what you want to do in your MFA program. You don't want to end up expending time or money that you don't have to.


Stella Jervis


Aug 13, 2006, 5:33 PM

Post #29 of 709 (7969 views)
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Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I have a longer story that's 25 pages double-spaced that I think is perty good. But if I send that story, it's the only thing they would read because of the page-maximum. Do you think it's better to send two or three works so they see more of range of my writing style? I know people say "send your best work," but did anyone else just send in one substantial work, or is the norm to send in more? Thanks!


pongo
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Aug 13, 2006, 5:56 PM

Post #30 of 709 (7968 views)
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Re: [mieleja] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I sent in a chunk of the novel-in-profress when I was applying. I had a 100% success rate (I was accepted at the only place I applied).

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/


writerle


Aug 13, 2006, 6:56 PM

Post #31 of 709 (7962 views)
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Re: [mieleja] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I had the same experience as Pongo. I sent in a portion of my novel in progress as well. I applied to two schools, and got into both. I think it is a good idea to send your very best work. If that's a single longer piece, then send that, or a portion of it. If you feel the shorter pieces are more representative of your best work, then send a couple of those. Good luck!


zyzzyvas1


Aug 13, 2006, 9:08 PM

Post #32 of 709 (7954 views)
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Re: [mieleja] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I used one 25-pg story (it was the best thing I had). I went 7 out of 12.


bastedos


Aug 20, 2006, 12:03 PM

Post #33 of 709 (7874 views)
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Re: [zyzzyvas1] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

My trouble is that I only have one good sample right now at around 12 pages. I have a bad problem with starting stories and never finishing them, so it is important for me to write out the first draft in full. I am a bit worried about the stories I am currently working on, because I cannot get them workshopped as I am out of school. I suppose, I will have to join some online groups.


__________



Aug 22, 2006, 5:40 PM

Post #34 of 709 (7812 views)
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Re: [bastedos] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I didn't know where to put this one...

But what schools, other than Arkansas, allow you to first submit just the writing sample? It seems like such a time and money saver for everyone, only sending the application if they like your writing....


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laughingman


Aug 24, 2006, 12:38 AM

Post #35 of 709 (7762 views)
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Re: [Aubrie] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I have the same question Aubrie had on this thread almost a year ago. I'm in a situation in which I have two great stories but can only fit one into a twenty-five or thirty page limit school ap. I've talked to three peers and I've decided which piece I want to use, but it's only sixteen pages... leaving nine or fourteen pages of deadspace depending on the requirements of the ap. (the other good story is twenty pages.) I'm thinking about including either a two pg or a four pg "short short," but the style of each is pretty different from the style of the piece I'm sending (and they are dif from one another) and I'm afraid of sounding either a) stylistically unfocussed or b) schizophrenic. (not that any of them sound crazy.) I'm wondering, then, about 1) your thoughts on single story submissions and 2) sending out a few pieces that demonstrate some 'variety' in one's work. Thanks,

Peter


In Reply To
Alright, I've got a question as well. For a 25 page sample scenario: my short story is around 16 pages. It's def. my strongest work. I'll send that.
Do I leave it at that? OR, do I send a two page flash fiction, poetry-esque piece along with it? It's a bit more experimental and lyrical.
Perhaps this will work against me, perhaps not.
Advice?
Suggestions?
Any sanity to lend to me?



simplythat


Aug 24, 2006, 1:07 AM

Post #36 of 709 (7758 views)
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Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Here's a question.

Now I know that we are supposed to send our best work to programs, but has anyone ever gotten into an MFA program by sending in new, unworkshopped work?

I only ask this question because I graduated with my B.A. in CW back in 2005, and I was mainly a fiction and playwriting focus. I am planning to apply for nonfiction programs for my MFA, as I feel that it is really the area I want to work in, but my writing sample will have to consist completely of new work...I've never workshopped any of my creative nonfiction.

Is there much success rate with submitting new material in applications? I know no one can give me a specific answer, as you never really know, but does it happen much?

The whole thing is making me nervous, making me procrastinate and making me wonder if I shouldn't just apply for fiction (since I can revise work that has been workshopped) at a school that encourages cross genre work.


GDClark
George David Clark
e-mail user

Aug 24, 2006, 9:20 AM

Post #37 of 709 (7747 views)
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Re: [simplythat] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I also graduated with a BA in creative writng in 2005, but I felt I needed another year to get my creative sample to the point where I could compete with the best young writers in the country. I wasn't switching genres but I had some of the same fears about unworkshopped poems. A former professor took a look at some of my new work but really didn't offer a great deal of feedback, so the burden of critiquing was really all mine. You've got until Dec for most of you apps, right? Try putting your sample away for awhile and come back to it with fresh eyes in a couple months. Use that time to nail down you statement of purpose, reccomendations, etc.

My best work hadn't been workshopped so I turned it in and hoped for the best. Things worked out fine, and I can't imagine I would have had the same success with the work I was doing the year before as an undergraduate. I got into my first choice school as well as other highly ranked/highly funded programs.

So the short answer is don't worry too much about your unworkshopped pieces. How much did you really get from the other undergraduates? If you have a good relationship with a former prof you should be able to send him some work and be pretty close where you'd be post-workshop anyways.

Good luck,
GDC


(This post was edited by GDClark on Aug 24, 2006, 9:30 AM)


pongo
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Aug 24, 2006, 1:06 PM

Post #38 of 709 (7730 views)
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Re: [simplythat] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Here's a question.

Now I know that we are supposed to send our best work to programs, but has anyone ever gotten into an MFA program by sending in new, unworkshopped work?


Me, for one.

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/


Clench Million
Charles

Aug 24, 2006, 2:36 PM

Post #39 of 709 (7714 views)
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Re: [pongo] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Moi aussi.


writerle


Aug 24, 2006, 5:27 PM

Post #40 of 709 (7695 views)
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Re: [simplythat] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I was accepted into two programs (I only applied to two) on a writing sample that had never been workshopped. It was the opening of the new novel I was working on at the time and, even though it had gone through a few rewrites, it was still pretty early draft. So it can be done.


Glinda Bamboo


Sep 12, 2006, 11:45 AM

Post #41 of 709 (7607 views)
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Re: [laughingman] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

laughingman and Aubrie: Send the best work. That sentence has been drilled into us for a reason. Don't worry if you're a little short of their maximum page count. It's better to send less work that is good than to tack on a few 2-page stories that you know are not as strong. As Kealey or maybe someone else said, don't give them a reason to reject you.

If the school asks you to send up to 25 pages (or 50 pages, or whatever) and you only have 16 pages of strong work, I think that's fine.

In an extreme case, my guess (a guess!) is that if the school asks for a *minimum* of 30 pages, and you send in a 20-page story that rocks their socks, they might not care you didn't meet the requirement. But what if you send that 20 page story and then a 10 page stinker? Maybe they'll think twice. (Just a thought...I could be wrong and maybe there are some schools that get upset if you don't follow the directions. I just know I don't want to include any writing that I don't feel entirely confident with.)

And if you're really not falling into the school's accepted page count guideliness...it's only September. Start writing and work hard. Find either an online or community group to help critique. Do whatever it takes to submit the best work possible without resorting to adding on things that you know are not as strong just to fill space.


v1ctorya


Sep 18, 2006, 3:20 PM

Post #42 of 709 (7541 views)
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Re: [writerle] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Quick Little Question Re: Writing Sample.

I noticed on some schools sites it says to include a cover page. Now, does this mean that we don't put our names on each page of our manuscript in the header/footer (as I tend to do with EVERYTHING I send out, but this is business and school life and all forms that I create for my students) so that the reading and evaluating is 'blind' - meaning they assign numbers? Or should we keep our name on every page should something become disconnected, as happens quite frequently?

thanks so much,

V1c


pongo
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Sep 18, 2006, 8:29 PM

Post #43 of 709 (7522 views)
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Re: [v1ctorya] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Unless they ask that you not put your name in the header, put it there. A cover page is just a little neater.

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/


laughingman


Sep 29, 2006, 2:06 PM

Post #44 of 709 (7446 views)
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Exceding the page limit? [In reply to] Can't Post

Will you excede the page limit in yout apps? I'm planning to stay within the limit for most of my apps, but for schools asking for twenty pages I'm planning to send twenty-two (one 14 pages and one 8). If one of the other stories I'm working on shapes up well enough, I might consider sending it out to schools with twenty-five page limits, and could be submitting twenty-nine or thirty pages (14 and ~15 or 16).

This question isn't so much about my specific situation, though. I want to know if anyone else is planning to defy the "page max."

Anyone already in a program willing to admit they stretched the limit? If not... please share what you did submit relative to certain limits? (anyone send one great twelve page story and get accepted at a school that asked for thirty?)

thanks,

laugher


sibyline


Sep 29, 2006, 6:01 PM

Post #45 of 709 (7421 views)
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Re: [laughingman] Exceding the page limit? [In reply to] Can't Post

i stayed within page limits but i've figured out that less is more generally. just imagine people going through piles and piles of stories. they'll actually be much happier with you for sending 16-pages when the limit is 20, rather than sending 22 when the limit is 20. my current rule of thumb is to submit fewer pages than required, within reason. i didn't employ this strategy when i applied to programs, but it hasn't failed me for conferences and scholarships since then.


johnrguthrie


Oct 5, 2006, 2:45 PM

Post #46 of 709 (7353 views)
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Re: [pongo] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Everyone --

I've appreciated reading through the posts on choosing a MFA Program. There are a lot of good ones around these days.
I'm a student in the MFA program at Antioch Univesity LA (fiction/poetry).
For me, it's been a ideal program. I write every morning. (I have a webzine and publish other stuff here and there). The low residency format works well in that respect and provides flexibility when one needs it also.

Faculty: My experience with faculty has been strongly positive. For instance, I worked my first to terms with novelist Alma Luz Villenueva of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. She is now one of my favorite persons in the entire known universe. I'm working with poet and novelist Frank X. Gaspar this term, a fine mentor as well as a capable writer. I enjoy interacting online and during the June and December residencies with other students also.

I also appreciate the cultural opportunities and diversity of being in the megalopopolis of Los Angeles,

If anyone needs specific information that I might be able to provide concerning Antioch's world class MFA program, you're more than welcome to get in touch.

John

PS -- I'm an atypical student in that I retired from medicine--operated a Family Medical clinic in the foothills of Appalachia. But atypical is OK at Antioch. jrg

John R. Guthrie
3424 Palermo Court
Simi Valley, CA 93063
805 579 9552
johnrguthrie@adelphia.net




.


Fear&Loathing


Oct 9, 2006, 1:14 AM

Post #47 of 709 (7287 views)
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Re: [Mikaeltb] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Just a word to the wise on the writing sample. Your first three to five pages probably weigh in much more than the remaining pages (not that these are unimportant after you pass a couple hurdles).

If Iowa accepts something like 700 applications- let's say, with each writing sample having 25 pages- that's 17,500 pages a person on the admissions committee has to read. Over three weeks, that's 833 pages a day. Realistically, let's say they read three pages of each writing sample...that's 100 pages a day over three weeks. Keep in mind they have their normal personal and professional lives to lead.

My friendly advice - if you work on anything, work on your first three pages.

I could have my math wrong.


__________



Oct 9, 2006, 2:22 AM

Post #48 of 709 (7276 views)
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Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post

Has anyone considered using an unobtrusive, twelve point font other than Times New Roman? I've never read a book in Times New Roman. And leading scientonomers agree, everything influences reader perception. I'd like to experiment, pre-application, with a few alternatives. Anyone know any bookish fonts? Something in an early Barthelme, perhaps?

Or do you guys think anything other than Times New Roman is going to send Mary Gaitskill running?


six five four three two one 0 ->


__________



Oct 9, 2006, 2:25 AM

Post #49 of 709 (7275 views)
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Re: [Fear&Loathing] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
if you work on anything, work on your first three pages.
______________________________________________________


Agreed. But I'm hoping readers are a little more charitable and will read the first two pages of both stories. Geoffrey Wolfe says he does that, at least.


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HopperFu


Oct 9, 2006, 7:37 AM

Post #50 of 709 (7267 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Has anyone considered using an unobtrusive, twelve point font other than Times New Roman? I've never read a book in Times New Roman. And leading scientonomers agree, everything influences reader perception. I'd like to experiment, pre-application, with a few alternatives. Anyone know any bookish fonts? Something in an early Barthelme, perhaps?

Or do you guys think anything other than Times New Roman is going to send Mary Gaitskill running?


stick with 12 pt Times New Roman. I don't know if it is really the best font or not, but it is the standard, and when you are reading through a stack of manuscripts, non-standard sticks out, and never in a good way. I'm a reader now for Epoch, and everytime anybody pulls out something using non-standard font there's a big groan.


pongo
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Oct 9, 2006, 9:56 AM

Post #51 of 709 (8134 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Has anyone considered using an unobtrusive, twelve point font other than Times New Roman? I've never read a book in Times New Roman. And leading scientonomers agree, everything influences reader perception. I'd like to experiment, pre-application, with a few alternatives. Anyone know any bookish fonts? Something in an early Barthelme, perhaps?

Or do you guys think anything other than Times New Roman is going to send Mary Gaitskill running?


In fact, professional manuscripts are often (formerly always) prepared in a monospaced font, such as Courier or Cincinnatus. As an editor and teacher, I am slightly prejudiced against Times Roman because it is denser and harder to read. One of the Bookman variants is much easier on the eyes.

But, whatever you do, don't get fancy. Your aim in choosing a face is to make it readable, not decorative. You want to highlight your writing, not your design skills.

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/


__________



Oct 9, 2006, 10:13 AM

Post #52 of 709 (8130 views)
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Re: [pongo] Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks, guys.

Very interesting. I do plan to avoid to getting fancy. Though I've always thought, in publishing at least, there's always a correlation between font and material. I notice, for instance, that funnier, postmodern stuff like Barthelme or David Foster Wallace often appears in a font with rounder, bubblier letters.

I don't like the way Times New Roman reads, either, but no way do I want to stick out...


six five four three two one 0 ->


sibyline


Oct 9, 2006, 10:13 AM

Post #53 of 709 (8128 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Has anyone considered using an unobtrusive, twelve point font other than Times New Roman? I've never read a book in Times New Roman. And leading scientonomers agree, everything influences reader perception. I'd like to experiment, pre-application, with a few alternatives. Anyone know any bookish fonts? Something in an early Barthelme, perhaps?

Or do you guys think anything other than Times New Roman is going to send Mary Gaitskill running?


Tricky question. Based on reading for Epoch, I'd say stick with Times unless you know what you're doing. I'm really sensitive to these things being a former graphic designer, so I have a lot of biases. I don't like photocopies or inkjet prints. I like nice paper, but not too nice (anything watermarked screams trying too hard). I think Palatino and Garamond and Bookman are all fine, though it depends on the author. Fonts other than times can look more professional, but also somewhat desperate. It's a total package.

I recently sent out stories to journals, and my formatting choices were extremely generic. I thought about designing letterhead for myself, but decided after a few tries that it has to be exactly right for it to read as professional rather than desperate. I thought about using nice watermarked paper for my cover letter, but ended up using regular nice office paper for similar reasons. There's still something really comforting about receiving a nice, professional manuscript with no bells and whistles, then being wowed by the prose.


sibyline


Oct 9, 2006, 10:18 AM

Post #54 of 709 (8126 views)
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Re: [pongo] Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
In fact, professional manuscripts are often (formerly always) prepared in a monospaced font, such as Courier or Cincinnatus.


I'd say about 95-99% of our manuscripts at Epoch come in a non-monospace font, and manuscripts that arrive in Courier are usually from older authors. So I think these days, Courier has become associated with a manuscript that's old-fashioned. I don't like Courier because it kills more trees. If I were running a mag, I would encourage authors to send manuscripts double-sided.


bighark


Oct 9, 2006, 8:09 PM

Post #55 of 709 (8094 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post

Don't be cute with fonts. It's not your job to set type, and doing so before acceptance is presumptuous.

Your manuscript really should use use Courier or Times. If you can 't use Courier or Times, use something that looks a lot like Courier or Times.

If you use anything else, pray that the editor/screener/adcom doesn't notice. Seriously. If you use something like Comic Sans, you may as well have submitted your story on a beach towel instead of paper.


(This post was edited by bighark on Oct 9, 2006, 8:13 PM)


bighark


Oct 9, 2006, 8:11 PM

Post #56 of 709 (8093 views)
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Re: [sibyline] Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post

I was never a big fan of Courier until I had to scan hundreds of manuscript pages every day. Those old-time editors were on to something.


HopperFu


Oct 9, 2006, 9:57 PM

Post #57 of 709 (8077 views)
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Re: [bighark] Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
If you use anything else, pray that the editor/screener/adcom doesn't notice. Seriously. If you use something like Comic Sans, you may as well have submitted your story on a beach towel instead of paper.


I actually like courier, but I think about 90% of the submissions I've read are in Times New Roman. And you better pray hard, as Bighark says, because when you are reading a bunch of submissions in a row, you notice any deviation (including cheating on line spacing). Stand out with your writing.


pongo
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Oct 9, 2006, 10:35 PM

Post #58 of 709 (8072 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post

Incidentally, the old preference for monospaced fonts was not for readability, but for the convenience of the designer. Twelve-point Courier, and most monospaced faces, give you ten characters to the inch, and the designer could run a ruler down the page and know pretty well how much space the text would take in whatever face she was using, based on known correlations.

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 9, 2006, 10:38 PM

Post #59 of 709 (8070 views)
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Re: [sibyline] Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To


Tricky question. Based on reading for Epoch, I'd say stick with Times unless you know what you're doing. I'm really sensitive to these things being a former graphic designer, so I have a lot of biases. I don't like photocopies or inkjet prints. I like nice paper, but not too nice (anything watermarked screams trying too hard). I think Palatino and Garamond and Bookman are all fine, though it depends on the author. Fonts other than times can look more professional, but also somewhat desperate. It's a total package.


Really? Paper matters? Good to hear about Palatino-- it's my default font and I'm always switching to New Times Roman because it's mentioned often as the preferred font.


pongo
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Oct 10, 2006, 11:32 AM

Post #60 of 709 (8053 views)
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Re: [wilmabluekitty] Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post

Paper doesn't matter that much. Just use a nice 20-24# bright white and you'll be fine. This is the same stuff you steal from the cabinet in the office.

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


Oct 10, 2006, 12:50 PM

Post #61 of 709 (8041 views)
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Re: [pongo] Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post

David is correct. I think Sib was saying that you want to search for that happy median - shy away from both the overly expensive (think resume paper) and the overly cheap. Really cheap paper doesn't read well (it's very thin and not particularly bright). David's reccomendations for weight (20-24 pound) and bright white are are the way to go.


sibyline


Oct 10, 2006, 8:39 PM

Post #62 of 709 (8010 views)
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Re: [wilmabluekitty] Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Really? Paper matters? Good to hear about Palatino-- it's my default font and I'm always switching to New Times Roman because it's mentioned often as the preferred font.


keep in mind that i'm super-anal when it comes to these things, but i think investing in a high-grade office paper is a good idea. hopperfu's right that it's a happy medium, but i would be more specific. most generic office paper isn't good enough, methinks. bright white 24 lb. paper works well for me. not 20lb., not regular copy paper. anything with a watermark like thesis or resume paper is too fancy.


__________



Oct 10, 2006, 10:52 PM

Post #63 of 709 (7996 views)
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Re: [sibyline] Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post

Now I picture myself in latex gloves, spreading the manuscript over a scale, blowing off dust with one of those mechanized straws. All great advice.

I thought of another, related, issue, which I hope others might share. In certain stories I have a few small chunks I could set off in non-standard fonts. For example, things within the story that are typed on a label, written by hand, or spray-painted on a wall. In books I see this all the time. But then again, I fear it will look amateurish to the AWP, which seems to fetishize such things. You guys think it would really be so bad if had something like this:

...spray-painted on the wall was:

BLAH BLAH BLAH [typed in an expensive, commercial, spray-paint font]


six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Oct 10, 2006, 10:53 PM)


rooblue


Oct 10, 2006, 11:34 PM

Post #64 of 709 (7988 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post

Amy,
I've had this problem. One of my stories has a hand-written sign in it. I ended up using courier bold, since the rest of the story was Times New Roman. This wasn't for my grad school app but still I felt funny sending it out. The story hasn't been accepted anyplace yet. I'm sure this font issue is the only thing holding it back! :-o


HopperFu


Oct 11, 2006, 10:26 AM

Post #65 of 709 (7966 views)
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Re: [rooblue] Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post

Interesting question. Hmm. Do you describe the writing as "spraypainted on the wall" or whatever? I'd suggest maybe Italics of whatever font you are using.
By the way, I'm not basing this suggestion on any sort of professional credentials, but rather that you want your writing to speak for you, not your formating.
And please don't blow dust off the manuscript with a straw. Professors check for any biological matter, and spittle would immediately disqualify you.


Glinda Bamboo


Oct 11, 2006, 10:47 AM

Post #66 of 709 (7962 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm certainly no authority on this matter, but I would say do not use the fancy spray-paint font. I think that would look very amateurish. As someone else mentioned recently, it's not our job to design the type...whenever a story or novel is accepted for publication, the magazine/publisher worries about that.

Keep it in the same font as everything else. Maybe you could use italics or quotes or something, but I don't think we need to see a spray paint font to understand that those are the words spray painted on the wall. :)


bighark


Oct 11, 2006, 11:25 AM

Post #67 of 709 (7956 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post

If I were your editor, I would caution you against using fonts to do the job of your writing. As the author, it's your job to describe what the handwriting or spraypainting looks like. Using a goofy font cheapens your work--especially if the spraintpainted or handwritten phrase is the only place in your story where you plan to use a stylized font.

I can understand if you want to experiment with typography in order to make a philosophical statement about communication or epistemology or even ontology, but if the only point of using the "expensive, commerical, spray-paint font" is to show how something was spraypainted then I think you would indeed come off as amateurish.


__________



Oct 11, 2006, 11:31 AM

Post #68 of 709 (7955 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post

Ah...that's what I feared.

Now that absolutely everything is available for free over the internet, I get tempted. In one story a character has something magic markered on his hand. And I'm telling you, Pirate Bay has not only given me handwriting fonts in the hundreds, but fonts where each letter comes with multiple, random variances. So it actually looks like handwriting, not a font. Amazing!

I certainly don't mean to contest anyone's advice (I happen to 70% agree)...but, with most things, I doubt my own doubting. Rainbow Stories by Vollmann is one of my favorite collections, and that book, I just now remembered, is littered with wacky fonts that do add something, IMHO. I guess it gets back to that essential problem most beginners struggle with, one of brushing up against 'the rules'. People are discouraged from the get-go from even trying certain things, like the character looking in the mirror, or just waking up, etc. It's easy to read Gardner, my favorite curmudgeonly authority on writing, and forget that someone like Vollmann breaks every one of his rules with such panache you never notice or care. I just hope, whenever I exit academia, I can remember to chunk the training wheels and live confidently by my own rules.

...which I think is related to fonts, somehow.


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pongo
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Oct 11, 2006, 12:33 PM

Post #69 of 709 (7941 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post

The fancy typography you see in books is the work, usually, not of the author but of the designer. Unless you're selling your services as a designer -- or applying to schools to get an MFA in design -- leave that work to the experts.

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


Oct 11, 2006, 12:49 PM

Post #70 of 709 (7937 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Fonts? [In reply to] Can't Post

The next story I"m workshopping for class (you get a sneak peek hopperfu) has several IM conversations in it, which I set off by one inch off the margin, single-spaced, and put in Arial 10 pt. In my opinion, it still looks professional while communicating that the mode of these sections are distinctly different from the rest of the story. I know this breaks typographic conventions, but I guess I'm a bit of a rebel that way. :) The good part is that epigraphs are often set off in this manner in professional manuscripts, so there's precedent.

If I were you Junior Mass, I would most likely just set the spray painted text in a larger, sans serif font, to demonstrate that it's spray painted and big. It implies that you're not being so unprofessional that you're elbowing in on graphic design territory, while communicating what you want to communicate.


hamholio


Dec 12, 2006, 11:57 PM

Post #71 of 709 (7798 views)
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Re: Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

A more basic question: staples? paper clips? separate the two (or more) stories or bind them together? table of contents?

Perhaps that's getting a bit too anal. . .


(This post was edited by hamholio on Dec 12, 2006, 11:58 PM)


laughingman


Dec 13, 2006, 2:52 AM

Post #72 of 709 (7775 views)
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Re: [hamholio] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm seconding the staples/ paper clips question. I'm sure they get both. I'm leaning toward staples. Can we get a concensus?



In Reply To
A more basic question: staples? paper clips? separate the two (or more) stories or bind them together? table of contents?

Perhaps that's getting a bit too anal. . .



HopperFu


Dec 13, 2006, 7:11 AM

Post #73 of 709 (7761 views)
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Re: [laughingman] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

It really doesn't matter that much, but use paper clips.
Either way, your name, title of work, and page number on every page.


Banyon


Dec 13, 2006, 8:08 AM

Post #74 of 709 (7756 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Hm... for poetry people, I assumed we didn't need page numbers. For my poems that exceeded one page I put a little note on top of the second page that said something like "Poem A, Page 2, no stanza break." But if we paperclip our poems together and don't number the manuscript pages, then the poems could get out of order and be read out of order. Which would completely defeat the point of me agonizing over which poems to put first!

I don't know if there's a question in here. Maybe the question is, "How strongly do committees prefer paper clips?"

Next year I'm sure I will laugh at myself for worrying about these things:o)


HopperFu


Dec 13, 2006, 8:11 AM

Post #75 of 709 (7755 views)
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Re: [Banyon] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Yeah, if you want them read in a certain order, then page numbers. I mean, page numbers can't hurt. Also, if you have poems that are more than one page and the packet gets shuffled or dropped, it's easier to put them in the right order.
Paper clips are the standard for lit mag submissions, and for the most part, for writing samples, as well. Most people like having the option of putting pages to the side on a thick manuscript, or for poetry, pulling a few poems out to look at more closely.
Though, again, none of these things will affect whether or not you get in....
Still, it's more fun than obsessing about if your writing sample is good enough.


JKicker
Jonathan

Dec 13, 2006, 10:30 AM

Post #76 of 709 (8255 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I'll join the crowd of obsessives- any consensus on whether or not to include the two manuscripts together as one 25 page document or to seperate with paperclips into two documents?


HopperFu


Dec 13, 2006, 11:26 AM

Post #77 of 709 (8245 views)
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Re: [JKicker] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Okay, again, not that it really matters, but this is what I did:
I numbered them sequentially (story one was pages 1-19, story two was pages 20-37), and then paper clipped each story individually and then used a larger paperclip (or maybe a small binder clip, I can't remember) to attache them together as a single document.


HopperFu


Dec 13, 2006, 11:27 AM

Post #78 of 709 (8244 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

By the way, if it makes anybody feel any better, I spent about twenty minutes staring at the paperclip choices at OfficeMax last year, trying to figure out which paperclips gave me a better chance of getting in....


laughingman


Dec 13, 2006, 11:40 AM

Post #79 of 709 (8240 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Which ones did you decide on? =)


HopperFu


Dec 13, 2006, 12:12 PM

Post #80 of 709 (8232 views)
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Re: [laughingman] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Actually, instead of using paperclips, I encased my writing sample in twelve cubic yards of concrete. I wanted to make sure they noticed it.


JKicker
Jonathan

Dec 13, 2006, 12:30 PM

Post #81 of 709 (8228 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Actually, instead of using paperclips, I encased my writing sample in twelve cubic yards of concrete. I wanted to make sure they noticed it.

hahahaha, you're the man hopper. All I have to say about this process is "ugh". This forum is just an invitation for me to worry-gasm all over the place, its hard to resist asking even more annoying questions but I will attempt to refrain... until Cornell is out the door anyway.

cheers


v1ctorya


Dec 13, 2006, 1:28 PM

Post #82 of 709 (8209 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I printed mine on fruit roll-ups, thought it made it original, and I encouraged everyone to 'ingest my words' to get the full appreciation.

They were bound together with licorice whips.

Off course, I'm a diabetic so went for irony.


BuckeyeBrooder


Dec 17, 2006, 7:12 PM

Post #83 of 709 (8139 views)
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Re: [v1ctorya] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm submitting two stories to every school I'm applying to. How should I number the pages of my sample? 1-20; 1-20? or 1-40?


sibyline


Dec 17, 2006, 7:40 PM

Post #84 of 709 (8130 views)
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Re: [BuckeyeBrooder] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

i just numbered mine separately when i applied, though i know hopperfu did a table of contents and numbered his sequentially. i think both approaches are fine unless the school has specific instructions.


jargreen

e-mail user

Dec 18, 2006, 12:34 AM

Post #85 of 709 (8091 views)
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Applying in stages [In reply to] Can't Post

Howdy,

Those of you who have been there, done that wth this application process, I'm wondering something. These schools surely won't mind (if they haven't specifically requested otherwise) if our various application materials come at different times, will they? For instance, my profs sent in their rec letters last week, about the same time that my GRE scores should have arrived. But I'm taking advantage of mid-January and early February deadlines and continuing to work on my writing sample. If my writing arrives nearly two months later than the other materials, surely that won't reflect negatively on me. And surely there won't be a big mix-up in their offices.

Best,
Ryan


renapoo


Dec 18, 2006, 12:45 AM

Post #86 of 709 (8086 views)
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Re: [jargreen] Applying in stages [In reply to] Can't Post

I think they generally like to have your actual application (online or wherever) submitted first, along with the fee, so that the paperwork is there and you have an application number assigned to you and whatnot. But that's totally not what I did, I sent in my GREs and transcripts first, then did the online app and then sent in my writing samples and letters of rec. I think (hope) they're used to dealing with things out of order and it's not such a big deal. I figure the most important thing is paying the fee and sending the writing sample, so I send the w.s. in with delivery confirmation so I'm sure it got there.


HopperFu


Dec 18, 2006, 8:44 AM

Post #87 of 709 (8066 views)
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Re: [jargreen] Applying in stages [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
...if our various application materials come at different times,...


Don't worry about it. As soon as they get anything - anything - with your name on it, they make a file and put all future materials in. They're used to it. I think I sent my GRE scores in like two months before the rest of my stuff last year. Most places don't look at applications until the deadline has passed, and the ones that do look early will wait until your application is complete.


BlueVelveeta


Dec 19, 2006, 7:59 PM

Post #88 of 709 (7954 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

Though, again, none of these things will affect whether or not you get in....
Still, it's more fun than obsessing about if your writing sample is good enough.

Seriously. When I dropped my last application off at the post office, I was relieved, elated. For 5 seconds. And then came the obsessive wondering about whether or not my handwriting on the stamped postcard I included looked too childish, whether my choice of stamp would please the admissions committee, if the fact that I live all the way out here in California would work against me.

Perhaps a percentage of our application fees should be refunded in the form of tranquilizers.


cboisseau


Jan 7, 2007, 7:46 PM

Post #89 of 709 (7826 views)
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Re: [johnrguthrie] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi John. Thanks for the offer of being a resource. I'm getting ready to apply to low-residency MFA programs. I also am a nontraditional student, I suppose. I am 45, a journalist who has been working in corporate communications for five years. With daughter recently having graduated with her bachelor's degree, I'm ready to break out and do more writing that I want to do for the next phase of my career.

Two questions: Do you know any of the nonfiction faculty at Antioch, and if so can you share your impressons?

Secondly, I've never submitted a manuscript before, and I'm needing a few pointer on the formatting. I can't seem to find it on this forum.

I have half a dozen stories. Do I put a title on each page? Where do I put my name? Page number(s)? Spacing? Font and point size (Times New Roman and 12 point I gather, but I may be incorrect.)

Thanks for any guidance you can provide.
Charles Boisseau
crboisseau@yahoo.com


hamholio


Jan 8, 2007, 5:43 PM

Post #90 of 709 (7742 views)
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Re: [cboisseau] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Charles,

I can only help with your second query. Twelve point Times New Roman (or a similar serif font) is a safe standard, although, it's up to you. Double spacing is encouraged, and perhaps an understood given, unless the dept. web page states otherwise.

I only put my name and page number on each of the pages. I think sending only 2-3 stories is suggested, but if your six stories are short or "flash fiction" or something of the like, you'll probably want to send them so that you can approach the page recommendations (usually 20-30 pages, dbl spaced.)

I paper-clipped my two stories individually and sent them all off. If your stories are meant to be read in a specific order, I might specify that with a contents page, or sequential numbering throughout (I numbered mine individually.)

Hope that helps.


cboisseau


Jan 8, 2007, 6:01 PM

Post #91 of 709 (7734 views)
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Re: [hamholio] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you! Yes, that does help. One less thing to concern myself with. Trying to get these writing samples together in the next week or two.

Charles


Glinda Bamboo


Jan 26, 2007, 3:21 PM

Post #92 of 709 (7630 views)
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Re: Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

So I know I promised myself and everyone here that I would not look at my writing sample once I submitted all my apps, but I recently had to glance through it (for non-MFA reasons) and ugh! I may have made the wrong choices. Not that I think the stories I submitted are horrible, but I have some serious concerns that a few of my others better represent my talent and style. I know there's no point in obsessing, but right now I feel really down that I might have wasted 10 MFA applications on lesser stories.

We will see what happens. I can't do anything about it now, anyway.


piratelizzy


Jan 26, 2007, 4:08 PM

Post #93 of 709 (7605 views)
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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Glinda,

I've alternated between feeling confident that "of course" these (my submissions) are good and "Oh, gods above, what have I done?" since submitting my first application back in November.

Part of the problem is that I feel like I may not be the best judge of my own work, much as I'd defend it to the last. There is also the uncertainty of not knowing exactly what I'm up against, i.e., whatifminearegoodbuteveryoneelsesareGREAT? Too--and this may not apply to others on the board, though I'd be curious to know if anyone else feels they fall into this category--my stories are quirky and offbeat, and I am afraid that they won't be considered "universal" enough to garner much of a readership or be publishable.

It's all part and parcel of this application process, I think. At the very least it should provide good practice for the next round, should we need to apply again.


'sup?!

(This post was edited by piratelizzy on Jan 26, 2007, 4:12 PM)


hamholio


Jan 26, 2007, 4:44 PM

Post #94 of 709 (7575 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Oh, I would love to know the quality of work that has been accepted before to get a better idea of what I'm going up against -- I'm sure we all would. Whenever I see someone that applied or was accepted has a blog/livejournal, I definitely scope it out, not out of malice or a desire to feel better than them, but so I know whether or not I might have a place at the table. Oftentimes I feel on par with what I see and am glad that other people with such strong interests in literature are also applying; occassionally I feel inferior, out of my league with someone that works harder and writes better or, inversely, superior due to the banality or voiceless nature of the blog.

It's hard to tell based on that, since blogs are mostly first-draft writing and rarely fiction. Perhaps after I get accepted or rejected to all of my schools I'll post some of my portfolio -- or maybe that's foolish! I'll think about it.


(This post was edited by hamholio on Feb 5, 2007, 9:25 AM)


piratelizzy


Jan 26, 2007, 5:03 PM

Post #95 of 709 (7561 views)
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Re: [hamholio] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

 
Yeah, checking out other people's writing is kind of like scratching an itch. Instant relief ;-) I try not to give in too often, though. But like you say, it's more out of curiosity about whether my own writing even measures up. Groovy graphics on your page. The planet Mars makes an appearance in one of the stories I submitted with my applications.


'sup?!


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 26, 2007, 6:12 PM

Post #96 of 709 (7529 views)
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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey Glinda and Others,

I know this is going to sound like an Oprah-ish answer ... but I think that we'll be all right so long as our story(ies) somehow capture what it is we're wanting to do, and capable of doing, with our fiction. If you showed them the essence of who you are as a writer, then you should feel confident that you gave it your best shot.

It seemed that most of the stories I wrote prior to Dec. '06 were fairly well-received by classmates and professors, and I suspect they may have shown some promise (to somebody under the influence), but I thought I was capable of something more - after all, most of those stories were scrapped together the night before they were due in class. So I wrote a brand new story based upon some ideas that had been incubating in my head for a couple months and submitted it to all my schools (it was 35 pages, so it exceeded most page limits). The schools that wanted two stories got "Lake Winnebago" and one of those older ones. I suppose that I could have really screwed myself, because what happens if my plot is not well-developed, what if there are some inconsistencies in characterization, what if there were a bnuch of typoes in taht frist drfat? But I have no doubt that this story represents what I want to show these schools, so I've had a peace of mind on the matter since mailing it to that first school.

I'm curious: Did anybody else do such a crazy thing as write a last-minute story?

Best,
Ryan


LateApplicant


Jan 26, 2007, 7:44 PM

Post #97 of 709 (7506 views)
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Re: [jargreen] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, not a last-minute story, but a last-week story. As a general rule, I think doing this kind of thing is not very smart (especially if one is, like me, a slow writer, who needs to shelve the piece for a month or so before taking a second look and spotting thousands of things to rewrite), but in your case it seems you did the right thing, provided you're certain that that is the kind of writing you want to pursue. I like what you did. And I like the epiphanic way in which you came to that realization (God am I ruining Joyce's little trick-word. But writing programs have already ruined it anyways, right?). In my case, about a week before deadlines I happened to write a short short that showed a different kind of writing from that of my portfolio, but it wasn't such a radical breakthrough. It just showed a broader range -- and yes, I do like the story, too. A couple of friends gave it a read and provided feedback, but I'm afraid I didn't have enough time and distance from the story to polish it as it should be. So, in my case, it might be a double-edged sword. But we'll see...


piratelizzy


Jan 27, 2007, 7:27 PM

Post #98 of 709 (7416 views)
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Re: [jargreen] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Sure did. I'd been sending out the same two stories and then one day I wrote something in one sitting and sent it off to two schools along with the first two stories. Of course I proofread it. And I am someone whose productivity seems to come in waves--I won't work for two or three weeks and then suddenly sit down and pound two stories out in a few days. Then I like to leave them a few weeks and revise when I have more distance .

So even though I really felt good about that third story, I had not had enough time to revise it and make it shine. I am afraid that it went off too unpolished to do me any good and just hope it won't hurt my chances too much.

Then again, there is so much uncertainty with this application process. Oftentimes I felt like I just needed to go with my gut feeling, and mostly I've done just that.


'sup?!

(This post was edited by piratelizzy on Jan 27, 2007, 8:06 PM)


Glinda Bamboo


Feb 2, 2007, 8:40 AM

Post #99 of 709 (7292 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Last night my writing group critiqued one of the stories I did not send to MFA programs. When I pulled it out two weeks ago, I realized it was stronger than I'd thought...possibly stronger than what I sent. And I think my critique group just confirmed that. Man, I have never been so unhappy to get positive feedback before. I'm kicking myself for not sending this story. I totally had room in the page count to include it....darn.

Oh well. Maybe I can use this story next year if I don't get in anywhere this time around.

(FYI, this might be a hint to go with your gut. I planned on including this story for months, but then I workshopped it in two other groups and started to have doubts. Now I see that, with revisions, it certainly is one of my strongest pieces, just as I originally suspected. Stupid me with my stupid judgment and second-guessing.)


LateApplicant


Feb 2, 2007, 12:15 PM

Post #100 of 709 (7236 views)
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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Glinda,

Yeah, second-guessing oneself is silly. But then -- and I say the following with respect and sympathy, because I tend to do the same -- stop doing it! "If I'd sent this story instead of that one..." That's all part of the same silly, unproductive game. And the funny thing is that this MFA appl. process is such a crapshoot that sending (what you now think is) your best story probably wouldn't have made much of a difference. That is, maybe some comm. member would have loved it, and others wouldn't have. And, instead, maybe the latter will go crazy for the stories you actually sent. You never know what they will like at the moment they have the page in front of them. (There's an article here at P and W by an actual comm. member that is quite revealing of how much of a crapshoot the process is even on their side!). Also, remember that you said that now, after revision, the story looks like your strongest piece. So maybe now it is indeed your stronger piece. But, without these revisions, maybe the story would have done you a disservice.

A clarification: I'm not saying that the process is such a crapshoot that anything can get you in, and anything can leave you out. No. You have to be a minimally good writer and have potential in order to be admitted. But after you pass that threshold, it all becomes incredibly subjective even for the people making these choices. So there's no way to predict what they will like.

And, to end on a funny note that shows how much I sympathize, let me say I did go back and forth when I had to choose my pieces, too. I drove my friends crazy, and ended up sending different stories to different places, depending on what my mood dictated at the different moments -- usually, I'd wait till the very last day to see whether I'd have some sort of revelation. The only revelation I had was that I wasted tons on money on overnight shipping.


piratelizzy


Feb 2, 2007, 2:11 PM

Post #101 of 709 (7396 views)
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FSU [In reply to] Can't Post

There was much to agonize over as far as writing samples went... (So thankful the applying's over... though the waiting is difficult in its own ways).

Incredibly, at least to me, Florida State asked for *one* story. Just one! I tend to write shorter pieces, and this requirement begged the question then of whether my short shorts (not flash fiction, oh god no... usually in the 1500 to 4000 word range) could stand on their own competing against someone else's 25-page stories. I mean, it's an interesting question. Does a story have to be longer to have substance. I say no, but I did not want to take the chance of someone on the adm comm thinking it was a weak submission on length, so I sent two stories. I figure my two stories add up to about as much reading time as a normal one. And a reader always the option of discarding one of the stories.

This decision was made after a lot of deliberation, and I guess I feel like that was the way to go--my gut was speaking to me again that day. At the same time, I'd hate to think of someone being pissed off that I did not follow the rule of sending just one.

So many "ifs" while I wait. So many questions.


'sup?!


__________



Feb 2, 2007, 6:13 PM

Post #102 of 709 (7336 views)
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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

(I workshopped it in two other groups and started to have doubts.)



So...you had three different reactions? This is what makes me doubt workshops altogether... opinions will vary, of course, but I pulled one story--the one I was most sure of--after it was savaged by a second group. I left the first class feeling I was the next Joyce, and the second ready to slash my wrists. I wonder if, in the end (as you seem to suggest), we should just learn how to trust ourselves...


six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Feb 2, 2007, 6:16 PM)


Arkinese


Feb 2, 2007, 10:30 PM

Post #103 of 709 (7295 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] FSU [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Incredibly, at least to me, Florida State asked for *one* story. Just one! I tend to write shorter pieces, and this requirement begged the question then of whether my short shorts (not flash fiction, oh god no... usually in the 1500 to 4000 word range) could stand on their own competing against someone else's 25-page stories. I mean, it's an interesting question. Does a story have to be longer to have substance. I say no, but I did not want to take the chance of someone on the adm comm thinking it was a weak submission on length, so I sent two stories. I figure my two stories add up to about as much reading time as a normal one. And a reader always the option of discarding one of the stories.

Didn't you just love that? "A story." A friend of mine who is applying to other schools but not FSU laughed and said, "...Seriously?" I ended up sending what I consider my best story which is 20 pages exactly. I think you sending two short shorts is probably fine, especially if you consider both to be strong works. I would have liked to have sent two just because my 20-pager and my 5-pager are completely different in all aspects. But 25 pages isn't two short shorts!

The other good requirement is South Carolina's: A "sustained work" of fiction. ...What? So I sent the 20-pager since it's the best and the longest.


(This post was edited by Arkinese on Feb 2, 2007, 10:37 PM)


piratelizzy


Feb 3, 2007, 1:14 PM

Post #104 of 709 (7247 views)
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Re: [Arkinese] FSU [In reply to] Can't Post

Yeah, it's like the Eleusinian mysteries of the writing world. And here we are, waiting to be initiated. God knows what hallucinogen we'll be forced to gulp down on the first day of our first workshop. And the language on some of the schools' websites made me roll my eyes sometimes.

I stopped re-reading my samples, but have felt an unsually strong appetite to read other stuff lately. I've been scouring through Donald Barthelme's stories and feeling like my writing is pretty tame and old-fashioned compared to the kind of stuff he and people like him were writing forty years ago. Hopelessly outdated me. Darn.


'sup?!


LateApplicant


Feb 3, 2007, 2:15 PM

Post #105 of 709 (7228 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi A. B.,

Here's a thought: maybe we should separate two different issues: confidence in one's work, and the impact of the suggestions we receive in workshop. Granted, these two things tend to go together, but, as writers, we should try to keep them apart. That is, if I have enough confidence in my work, and am therefore able to see whether, say, this story of mine is salvageable or not -- and let's assume that, in this particular case, I know the story is indeed salvageable, even fairly good --, then I will be able to distinguish feedback that is constructive (that is, suggestions that make me see "blindspots", things that I might do to strengthen the story, etc.) from feedback that is simply useless or destructive. Then, if I'm sure the story is good enough, I'll be able to disregard the useless feedback, instead of taking it as evidence that the story isn't good. If we can take that attitude, we'll certainly benefit from the workshop experience. Because, while it's true that everywhere we'll have divergent opinions and feedback that is (probably unintentionally) misguided, we'll also have good suggestions that will improve our work. I think it's worth it to go into workshop in search of the latter; that is, weeding out the suggestions that don't resonate with me and my work.

Of course, easier said than done... Hope this helps, though.


Tapeworm


Feb 6, 2007, 1:00 AM

Post #106 of 709 (7132 views)
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What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

This would probably be easier with Fiction...

I have yet to find a thread in which people discussed what there stories, or poems, were actually about. I am curious as to what kind of stories people sent to their schools. Is this aloud? Is it dangerous? Is there a reason it hasn't been brought up? Or am I just really bad at searching the forums?

So, if there is no harm in doing so, I wouldn't mind to hear what you folks submitted. It doesn't have to be an analysis; a simple few sentences should do the trick. Give me the, "It's okay to share!" and I'll give the low-down on what I submitted.


malber


Feb 6, 2007, 1:17 AM

Post #107 of 709 (7126 views)
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Re: [Tapeworm] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, even if it's not okay, I don't care. :)

I submitted two pieces to every school (all 11) that I applied to. One was a 19 page story about a vaccuum repair conman. Along with his boss, he goes around to retail stores trying to convince the managers he has been authorized to fix their vaccuum. The other, an 11 pager, was about an obsessive flyer-er who competes for a town's telephone pole space with a woman who doesn't even know he exists. But really, they're both about truth and beauty and humanity (yeah right :))


prosaic70


Feb 6, 2007, 1:29 AM

Post #108 of 709 (7121 views)
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Re: [Tapeworm] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

I had 2 stories too...
an 18 pager with 7-8 sections, from the point of view of a kid 14-18 years old (depending on the section) and charting his descent from small-time liar into a chronic basket case.
and a 12 pager from the point of view of an orphan who goes through a succession of bad masters, till he triumphs by becoming a judge (set in 19th century India); pretty much a basic picaresque story and a riff on lazarillo de tormes...


Tapeworm


Feb 6, 2007, 1:41 AM

Post #109 of 709 (7119 views)
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Re: [malber] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

Haha, the synopsis of your second story made me laugh.

I applied to 10 schools, had 3 stories, and, depending on the requirements, either sent 2 or all 3.

15 Pager: A man with a love for feet tries to win back the heart of a lost love who recently tiled his bathroom floor. The journey takes place in a single day and in such exotic locations as the floorcoverings department of a home improvement store, a beach, and an ER awning.

15 Pager: Two siblings turn to Magic Grow animals as a means to feed their dying camp now that their minister father has passed away. The sister is becoming a young woman, while the younger brother tries to make sense of his role in the camp, in the family, and in life.

7 Pager: A married couple has lost their only son, and when a mightly strong snowstorm comes into town, they invite a homeless man over for dinner in hopes of doing something kind and filling the empty space in their home. Tears fall.


jargreen

e-mail user

Feb 6, 2007, 1:42 AM

Post #110 of 709 (7119 views)
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Re: [malber] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

Those are awesome plots, malber. My stories feel very conventional to me, boring perhaps. I sent one 35-page story to all eight of my schools, and an additional 10-pager to the three schools that explicitly recommended sending two. My big story was about a group of suburban Milwaukee teenagers who take a trip up to a family cabin on Lake Winnebago in 1989 to spy on their parents who are having a hippie revival weekend. The second story was told from a young boy's perspective as he looks back on his grandmother's death and the eerie suspicion caused by her last words to him - "Don't you never listen to the devil." I must say, the process of selecting a writing sample was different than I'd imagined it would be: "Never Listen to the Devil" was to be the centerpiece of my sample, but even though it was written three years ago, I still never got around to revising it; dissatisfied with my earlier work, I wrote "Lake Winnebago" the weekend before it was due at Michigan. Yeah, I love my chances.


malber


Feb 6, 2007, 1:48 AM

Post #111 of 709 (7113 views)
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Re: [jargreen] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

thanks, jar.
hey, you might not think you've got a good shot, but damn, you have to admire the moxy :)


Tapeworm


Feb 6, 2007, 2:01 AM

Post #112 of 709 (7107 views)
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"hippie revial"? That sounds juicy. Tell me the kids find their parents partaking in an earthly orgy.


hamholio


Feb 6, 2007, 8:59 AM

Post #113 of 709 (7066 views)
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My stories were centered around character and voice. In one Richard Nixon is compared to Christ, 4th graders are compared to wrestlers and a teacher's nebulous feelings force her to move from Nebraska to Illinois.

The other was a rambler that experiences September, compares himself to everyone and suffers a bloody nose that keeps him from desired intimacy. Was it self-sabotage or simply the rambler's nature?


__________



Feb 6, 2007, 10:16 AM

Post #114 of 709 (7033 views)
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Re: [hamholio] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

Sweet. This is like that list in the back of Best American, except fun. I held off on sending out my application, but the stories were:

-- A group of fetishists hires a deaf woman to lip read and transcribe the inaudible conversations of movie extras. She then solves a mystery.

-- A divorcing couple can't make Hair Club for Men payments, must fend off Hair Club repo man. Meanwhile, their neighbor, a dying, elderly man, is busy killing off his friends; he can't bear dying without knowing how their 'stories' end.


six five four three two one 0 ->


gfisher


Feb 6, 2007, 10:40 AM

Post #115 of 709 (7009 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

I sent off one heavily revised story, which I may have gone overboard with and am still not happy. Also sent one that was not polished, but works. For example, I am still working on the issue of conveying the passage of time properly. But I liked the story, the prose, and the ending.

1: Abotu a middle-aged woman returning to S America after years abroad to visit her dying father, facing the reasons why she left, then the feelings of why she suddenly wants to come back, etc. A piece about place and belonging and idealizing.

2: Follows a boy to his old age, who is a follower, and follows his way through life meeting different people that direct him to the next people, his wife, etc. At the end is, unconciously, somewhat himself, without having realized it, makes decision...

you know the drill...


lculli18


Feb 6, 2007, 11:07 AM

Post #116 of 709 (6987 views)
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Re: [gfisher] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

I submitted two pieces. One is a short (7 pages) excerpt of what I hope will become a longer work about the death of a family's matriarch.
The other (about 20 pages) is a story about two women who live above/below each other in an apartment building, so they are basically living lives "separately together."


piratelizzy


Feb 6, 2007, 11:39 AM

Post #117 of 709 (6959 views)
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Re: [lculli18] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

Two stories for most schools, three in two cases:

1. Eight pages, tidier and more succinct than #2 below, though with more plot. An afternoon in the life of a tomboy crossing over into adolescence, with a coda giving a glimpse of a coming breach in family life.

2. Twenty pages, more attention to form than plot, a little rambling. About a young guy in jail, though set in his head.

3. Ten pages, unorthodox structure, scratchy language (think "record scratching," more or less). Two women have a philosophical argument about working and growing old; one takes a shower.


'sup?!


bighark


Feb 6, 2007, 12:00 PM

Post #118 of 709 (6932 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

1) 13 pages about a man who tries to retreat from failure by trying to live like a college kid.

2) 7 pages of what my most recent litmag rejection letter describes as "a quirky, upsetting piece."

I only submitted this next one to two places, Johns Hopkins and The Art Institute of Chicago. It's a little freaky.

3) 31 pages, bifurcated into parallel columns. Right-hand column is a found object, the transcript of an internet relay chat where one of the participants overdoses and dies. Left-hand column features a chat "bot" from the right-hand column going through an ontological crisies as its faces the death of its creator.


muttonfish


Feb 6, 2007, 12:09 PM

Post #119 of 709 (6922 views)
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Re: [bighark] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

Sounds like you should have sent number 3 to Brown. You would have been a lock. <joke, sort of>


piratelizzy


Feb 6, 2007, 12:10 PM

Post #120 of 709 (6919 views)
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Re: [bighark] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey biggie,

#3 sounds cool as heck! Interest definitely piqued. I've been wanting to write something with a machine as protagonist. And the machine's name is William Burroughs. Hahah. Don't know why that cracks me up. Except that "machine" sounds so thirty years ago and too mechanical. I'm afraid I'm not digital enough. And anyway, what would Chekhov say?


'sup?!


bighark


Feb 6, 2007, 12:13 PM

Post #121 of 709 (6917 views)
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Re: [muttonfish] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

Sadly, Brown said no thanks to that piece two years ago.


Arkinese


Feb 6, 2007, 1:33 PM

Post #122 of 709 (6879 views)
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Re: [Tapeworm] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

I applied to 14 schools and fortunately I was able to submit only two stories to almost all of them because I think my third story is....it's speculative and I've edited it like 47 times and...you know...it's weird and maybe needed to be "killed" as Stephen King would say.

Anywho...

5-pager: I used to think I couldn't write fiction because I sounded too phony. But then I wrote this piece in the voice of a 17-year-old boy who goes on his first date (I'm 26 and female), "based on a true story" and it sort of took off from there. It's funny but kind of poignant because this kid has a really awful date.

20-pager: Minor-league baseball pitcher who just had Tommy John surgery stuck at home, in the suburbs of Chicago, rehab-ing his arm. Dad's a drunk, Mom's miserable, he wants to go to Spring Training with his girlfriend and get away from his family, especially his football-obsessed dad. Psychic-ly predicted the Bears losing the Super Bowl (schools may find it a little weird when they read it because I obviously wrote it before the Bowl), probably shouldn't have sent it to UIUC now that it actually happened....

17-pager: the spec fic...involves temporal lobe epilepsy, a Nielsen TV ratings diary, a brain with the narrative voice of an automechanic from Brooklyn, and a TV who talks like a Paris Hilton Valley Girl groupie.


I didn't even realize the Super Bowl issue as I watched it on Sunday. I would have changed the location but I set the story in Chicago before I ever titled it. It became the father-son dynamic and at the end of writing, I looked it over and thought: "Duh. Call it 'Bears and Cubs....'"


Elika619


Feb 6, 2007, 3:00 PM

Post #123 of 709 (6826 views)
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Re: [Arkinese] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

Everyone's stories sounds so interesting! Here are mine:

1) a 12-pager, about a miserly old man who lives in a small town in Georgia, terrorizing the neighborhood kids.

2) another 12-pager, about a Japanese woman working as a housemaid/on a pineapple plantation in 1920s Hawaii.

Anyways, I've resolved not to read them now that I've sent them off.


Tapeworm


Feb 6, 2007, 3:12 PM

Post #124 of 709 (6811 views)
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Re: [bighark] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

"'a quirky, upsetting piece'"

Ahaha...what the hell does that mean? Does that me they liked it, but were so troubled by it they kicked it out? Or they found it frustrating? I wish I got a rejection like that.


OneWriter


Feb 6, 2007, 6:12 PM

Post #125 of 709 (6742 views)
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Re: [Elika619] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

I know absolutely nothing about your story except that it's about a Japanese woman working as a housemaid on a pineapple plantation in 1920s Hawaii, and already I'm intrigued. I think it might be the pineapple. I bought a fresh one the other day at the market; it is such an interesting shaped fruit, and it seems like such a setting would be teeming with potential description and language. Sounds cool.


Elika619


Feb 6, 2007, 8:16 PM

Post #126 of 709 (7446 views)
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Re: [OneWriter] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you OneWriter!!! That is exactly what I need to hear as I'm biting my nails down to the quick, waiting to hear from schools. It's definitely a story I would like to expand into a novel.

And you're right, there's nothing like a good pineapple. Although, based on my research, they are NOT fun or easy to grow!


__________



Feb 8, 2007, 1:10 AM

Post #127 of 709 (7343 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

Good idea, malber...

So did these summaries kind of surprise anyone? I imagined stodgier stuff being sent; these are things I'd love to read.

And I know it's a small sample, but I wonder why the apparent disconnect between these lively critters and what the small journals publish from MFA grads and students. You know, those dry, meaning-infused tales of What It Means To Be Human. Don't get me wrong, I love those, too, but there's this lingering fear of homogeneity that's got me down...



six five four three two one 0 ->


Arkinese


Feb 8, 2007, 5:44 AM

Post #128 of 709 (7323 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

I forgot to mention my nonfiction summaries which I submitted to two schools. And I agree, Junior Maas, that sometimes the What It Means to Be Human pieces can be a little overwrought. I think everyone who's discussed their stories here has included some great plots and characters that stand out. And they run the gamut from historical fiction to character studies, which is great because you get all the diversity.

I hope my nonfiction avoids being overwrought because none of it is "My Whole Life Story and I Deserve Another Chance" (as one of David Sedaris's students wrote :) When I reflected on aspects of my life, I used a lot of humor to temper it (at least that's what my writing group said) so it didn't become melodramatic. I think it would be depressing to take myself so seriously that I couldn't see the "fun" in some of the situations.

1) Essay about a series of car accidents I had (some my fault, others not) all throughout a struggle with health. The accidents feature various good times including a lawsuit, a drug addict, a jackass, an unnecessary trip to the ER, and my car finally dying just when my insurance record was cleared. Good work, car.

2) Profile of an 80-year old baseball coach from my alma mater who's set all kinds of records in NCAA baseball and coached players like John Olerud and Mel Stottlemyre.

3) A one-page essay about feeling weird in college because I was 25 and still working on my bachelor's.

Anyone else apply to nonfiction programs who wouldn't mind sharing their essay topics?


EastCoastPoet


Feb 10, 2007, 6:31 AM

Post #129 of 709 (7187 views)
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Re: [Arkinese] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

I included a handful of form poems in my writing sample...does anyone think this is bad? good? I hate how form is frowned upon by a lot of poets today, especially editors. If I am not mistaken my second or third poem in every portfolio was a sestina. Any thoughts?


wilmabluekitty
Wilma Weant Dague

Feb 10, 2007, 9:08 AM

Post #130 of 709 (7170 views)
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Re: [EastCoastPoet] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

Form is having a bit of a revival. Some very fine poets(Marilyn Hacker, Annie Finch, Kathrine Varnes to name a few) are writing in form. And a sestina, is what I'd call a light form--because it doesn't involve meter. Almost every poet has done one--even Alice Fulton has one in her first book.


ghostracer


Feb 12, 2007, 1:00 PM

Post #131 of 709 (7072 views)
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Re: [wilmabluekitty] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm still waiting to hear back from schools and, having freaked out about sending a chunk of a novel as a writing sample, elected to write four new stories for the six schools I applied to. I don't think it was a very good idea. The un-workshopped element left me dangling nervously, and by the end I was just writing the stories because it seemed like the thing to do for the application. I think it was a really weird technique. I don't think I'm going to get into to any of my six schools. This was four new stories in one month, and they all strangely began to center around a similar theme of suicide. MFA programs brought me to the brink, I guess.


flyinghouses.blogspot.com




mlpurdy
Moriah Purdy

Feb 12, 2007, 1:18 PM

Post #132 of 709 (7055 views)
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Re: [wilmabluekitty] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

I wouldn't worry about including form poems in our writing samples. We should take ownership of our work, regadless of its shape. As long as we have reason behind it, I think we'll be OK.
We take to much stock in the word "free" in free verse, and run the risk of our language coming across as haphazard and sloppy. I'll admit to being as guilty as the next person that this happens sometimes in my work.

By the way, Wilmabluekitty, don't you think Fulton's fractal verse is her own type of form? Just because it's not traditional doesn't mean she's not writing in form. It's at least a guiding structure. I think a lot of even traditional forms have become guiding structures rather than strict guidelines for more contemporary poets. We recognize them, but they are somehow revised.


SweetJane


e-mail user

Feb 12, 2007, 2:18 PM

Post #133 of 709 (7023 views)
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Re: [mlpurdy] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

mlpurdy,

Couldn't agree with you more on the form issue. When I was first applying (and also submitting work to mags), I sometimes felt like I was at a disadvantage because quite a bit of my poetry--including a 40 page senior thesis!--is prose poetry. In the end, my writing sample had a significant amount of prose poetry because I know it's something that I very well might be writing in graduate school, and I certainly don't want to misrepresent myself! If a school is uncomfortable with any sort of specific form, even a lack of form, I think it's better that they reject you based on a writing sample well before you arrive an an environment where you writing interests might not be welcome.



In Reply To
I wouldn't worry about including form poems in our writing samples. We should take ownership of our work, regadless of its shape. As long as we have reason behind it, I think we'll be OK.
We take to much stock in the word "free" in free verse, and run the risk of our language coming across as haphazard and sloppy. I'll admit to being as guilty as the next person that this happens sometimes in my work.



SJ

"Oh, all the poets they studied rules of verse
and those ladies, they rolled their eyes"


v1ctorya


Feb 12, 2007, 4:39 PM

Post #134 of 709 (6972 views)
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Re: [ghostracer] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I'm still waiting to hear back from schools and, having freaked out about sending a chunk of a novel as a writing sample, elected to write four new stories for the six schools I applied to. I don't think it was a very good idea. The un-workshopped element left me dangling nervously, and by the end I was just writing the stories because it seemed like the thing to do for the application. I think it was a really weird technique. I don't think I'm going to get into to any of my six schools. This was four new stories in one month, and they all strangely began to center around a similar theme of suicide. MFA programs brought me to the brink, I guess.



My mantra has become, "eh, there's always next year" as a story I wrote the other day I already love way more than the ones I used, feels more honest and 'story-y" to me.

I had three that I picked and peiced together, all told they equaled 30 pages, but two made 25 exactly. Am I good or what? ;)

One was a last minute flash (500 words) addition because an editor gave it a positive review, just told me to tighten it a bit then resend, so I tightened then sent of to colleges. It's about a nurse on her first rotation through the terminal patients floor, and the man who forgets her name.

the main one was maybe too topical, the aftermath of a school shooting on one family, and how they end up choosing to live in delusion, at least for the time being, rather than the harshness of truth.


BlueVelveeta


Feb 12, 2007, 5:02 PM

Post #135 of 709 (6951 views)
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Re: [SweetJane] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

Well said, SJ.

I ended up submitting a portfolio consisting of only 8 poems, though I'd originally started out with about 20. The previous version included a lot of older work for which I'd received substantial validation, and thus I felt confident in its quality though not in its representation of the themes, focus and style of my current work. Ultimately, I decided I would be compromising my intent to find "the right school" if I applied only with work unrepresentative of where I am poetically now. To ease my mind, I included one of my older "safety" poems, but it fit in nicely with the other 7 (the overarching theme is location).

It's hard to not overanalyze retrospectively, though, isn't it. Is a portfolio of 8 poems enough; the poem that I'm now certain is my strongest ended up being fourth in the set, and might never be read if the first three aren't attention grabbing; the first poem, though tightly revised linguistically, houses a logical flaw that somehow escaped the notice of myself and my readers until, oh, two weeks ago; and the final poem is an adaptation of a form developed by Irving Layton, whom many poets view (reasonably) as a misogynist. : /


wilmabluekitty
Wilma Weant Dague

Feb 12, 2007, 5:50 PM

Post #136 of 709 (6920 views)
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Re: [mlpurdy] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To


By the way, Wilmabluekitty, don't you think Fulton's fractal verse is her own type of form? Just because it's not traditional doesn't mean she's not writing in form. It's at least a guiding structure.



Oh, absolutely. I don't know poet who pays more attention to language and form than Fulton does. Unfortunately, fractal verse is not recognized as "formal" by the vast majority of formalists. And newer forms like fibs are looked at with suspicion by traditionalists.


(This post was edited by wilmabluekitty on Feb 12, 2007, 5:56 PM)


mlpurdy
Moriah Purdy

Feb 12, 2007, 8:08 PM

Post #137 of 709 (6874 views)
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Re: [wilmabluekitty] What did people write about? [In reply to] Can't Post

I feel like traditionalists should be open to the entry of new forms, though that would make them less traditional, now wouldn't it! But they're right in a way, less "formal" in the sense that Fulton's poems don't fit a predetermined mold, so fractal poetics is more like a method in some senses.


Quote
Unfortunately, fractal verse is not recognized as "formal" by the vast majority of formalists. And newer forms like fibs are looked at with suspicion by traditionalists.



ajholtz


Feb 16, 2007, 5:23 AM

Post #138 of 709 (6762 views)
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Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey guys, I'm desperate to read some people's writing submissions - everyone is very cryptic about it on here, but perhaps I just haven't found the forum entitled 'Submissions'
I'm not applying till next year, so I'm definitely not competition, just genuinely curious about the styles, stories and voices people have.
If anyone is willing to let me read their application piece please let me know.

Amy


malber


Feb 16, 2007, 8:22 AM

Post #139 of 709 (6737 views)
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Re: [ajholtz] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

well... people may be hesitant to comply with this request, methinks.


renapoo


Feb 16, 2007, 8:26 AM

Post #140 of 709 (6732 views)
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Re: [malber] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

Some people this year & last have had their application stories published in lit mags, so you can search the forums for the specifics and then check out the journals. Otherwise, I think you're going to have to wait until you find people applying next year who are willing to do a trade off---I proofread yours, you proofread mine kind of thing. Also, if you know anyone who teaches in a graduate program (or undergrad), or if you have a friend in an mfa workshop, you can ask them to read one of your stories and tell you if it's way off the mark.


ajholtz


Feb 16, 2007, 9:03 AM

Post #141 of 709 (6721 views)
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Re: [malber] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

i think it's slightly ridiculous that no one wants someone else to read their submission. we writers have got a serious ego/paranoia thing going on.
i'm happy for anyone to read my stuff, but if no one wants to read it i'm back at square one.
i find it hard to believe that NO ONE wants to share.

i would be perfectly capable of going to a bookstore and getting a journal, but i live in england until next year, and it's pretty impossible to find those publications here, at least under $20. besides, they're not always the best indications of the writing trend.


malber


Feb 16, 2007, 9:11 AM

Post #142 of 709 (6711 views)
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Re: [ajholtz] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

i sent you a message, ajholtz, re: this topic.


BridgetB


Feb 16, 2007, 9:32 AM

Post #143 of 709 (6696 views)
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Re: [ajholtz] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey ajholtz,

I wouldn't call this an issue of ego or paranoia; personally, I just don't get your request. If you want an example of great writing that comes out of MFA programs, check out a book by a writer who's graduated from one, or do a search for lit mags with stories posted online (Missouri Review has a number of stories posted on their site). I'm not sure how reading a sample by someone who hasn't yet been accepted to an MFA program will help you. For me, my writing style is my own; reading someone else's sample will only muddy the waters and make me question what I'm doing. So write on with your bad self. Be confident in your own style. And if there's any question in your mind about whether or not your work will get your admited to an MFA program, well, there's only one way to find out: by applying.

Good luck!
BB



v1ctorya


Feb 16, 2007, 9:33 AM

Post #144 of 709 (6695 views)
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Re: [ajholtz] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
i would be perfectly capable of going to a bookstore and getting a journal, but i live in england until next year, and it's pretty impossible to find those publications here, at least under $20. besides, they're not always the best indications of the writing trend.



Except, they can be. People have mentioned their stories used for the MFA application being published in Tin House, etc. You can pick up those issues or go to the websites and for free read a snippet, which gives a good indication of the writing style. Some have full stories online anyway.


ajholtz


Feb 16, 2007, 9:44 AM

Post #145 of 709 (6678 views)
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Re: [v1ctorya] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

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


renapoo


Feb 16, 2007, 9:51 AM

Post #146 of 709 (6661 views)
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Re: [ajholtz] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

You might have more luck later this year, when people are getting ready to apply rather than having just applied. Not to be rude, but what's in it for us? For those who are waiting to hear from schools, exchanging writing samples at this point is kind of moot. If you post a similar message this summer you might get a different answer.


bighark


Feb 16, 2007, 9:55 AM

Post #147 of 709 (6654 views)
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You must chill [In reply to] Can't Post

AJ,

You've been here for two days. Five of the six posts that you've made on this site involve seeing other people's work. You may be anxious to see how you measure up as a writer, but you need to realize that we're in the middle of notification season. People are feeling really vulnerable right now, and sharing their work with some internet stranger who may reveal some weakness (real or imagined) in their writing sample is not exactly the most appealing thing in the world.

When you're in the second and third weeks of February next year, you'll feel the exact same way.

I'm sorry that you're meeting some resistance right now, but I assure you that you'll find this a very helpful and friendly forum once things calm down. If you stick around and let people get to know you , I'm sure you'll have no shortage of offers to swap stories and statements of purpose.


lculli18


Feb 16, 2007, 10:02 AM

Post #148 of 709 (6641 views)
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Re: [ajholtz] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

I think you may have better luck in about a month-- once applicants have been notified (and hopefully accepted). I haven't let anyone read my final submission (not even my husband... or come to think of it, myself) because I know that there is NOTHING I can do to change what I submitted, but there are probably a ton of changes I could have/should have made. Even if you wouldn't offer any feedback, as I writer I know you'd have plenty stored up in your mind-- and knowing that is enough! I'm kind of trying to avoid cognative dissonance as best as I can, I guess.

In a month- once acceptances are pretty much set, those of us who got in will probably be willing to share to help others, and those of us who didn't would be willing to share to help ourselves and help strengthen our applications/submissions for next year as well.

Right now, at least for me, I prefer to lock it up and temporarily throw away the key (in a marked spot in the landfill) until I know my fate. I'm already WAY too neurotic about this process to add additional fuel to the fire!


ecphraticknolls


Feb 16, 2007, 10:02 AM

Post #149 of 709 (6640 views)
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Re: [ajholtz] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, I’m applying in poetry… but you should consider where most applicants are at the moment—we are at a point of anxiety. We don’t know where we have gotten in, or where we have the potential to get into. Very few people have gotten the head nod saying that they are actually “good enough” to actually attend a top rated MFA program. I suppose there are some well published poets/authors out there who are applying this year… but most of us, I think, aren’t. The current period is the worst, since we are all waiting daily to find out. We are all stressed. We are all nervous. (on some level anyway) I’m sure you’ll have better luck with people who applied last year/ after people get in places this year.


ajholtz


Feb 16, 2007, 10:11 AM

Post #150 of 709 (6626 views)
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Re: [ecphraticknolls] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

all right, sorry, everyone for being insensitive...i know i'll be in the same place next year (of course, you know for me, this all starts about now!).

good luck, i'll try again in the summer.


ajholtz


Feb 16, 2007, 10:14 AM

Post #151 of 709 (8093 views)
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Re: [ecphraticknolls] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

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

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


bighark


Feb 16, 2007, 10:36 AM

Post #152 of 709 (8065 views)
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Re: [ajholtz] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

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

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


malber


Feb 16, 2007, 11:11 AM

Post #153 of 709 (8043 views)
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Re: [bighark] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

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

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


v1ctorya


Feb 16, 2007, 11:27 AM

Post #154 of 709 (8021 views)
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Re: [ajholtz] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post


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



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


ajholtz


Feb 16, 2007, 11:35 AM

Post #155 of 709 (8013 views)
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Re: [v1ctorya] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

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

So. Again, sorry, lets all be friends.


vronsky


Feb 16, 2007, 12:13 PM

Post #156 of 709 (7980 views)
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Re: [ajholtz] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

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

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

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


BlueVelveeta


Feb 16, 2007, 1:00 PM

Post #157 of 709 (7932 views)
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Re: [malber] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

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

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

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


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


__________



Feb 16, 2007, 2:48 PM

Post #158 of 709 (7872 views)
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Re: [bighark] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

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

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

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

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

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


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


allisonbarrett


Feb 16, 2007, 2:50 PM

Post #159 of 709 (7867 views)
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Re: [BlueVelveeta] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

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


EastCoastPoet


Feb 16, 2007, 3:26 PM

Post #160 of 709 (7833 views)
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Re: [ecphraticknolls] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

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


BlueVelveeta


Feb 16, 2007, 4:12 PM

Post #161 of 709 (7793 views)
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Re: [allisonbarrett] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

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


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



piratelizzy


Feb 16, 2007, 4:31 PM

Post #162 of 709 (7762 views)
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Re: [BlueVelveeta] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post


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


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

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


'sup?!


SevenFreckles


Feb 19, 2007, 7:46 PM

Post #163 of 709 (7643 views)
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Selections vs completed stories [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Everyone,

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

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

Anyway... any thoughts?

Thank you!

SevenFreckles


__________



Feb 19, 2007, 8:18 PM

Post #164 of 709 (7620 views)
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Re: [SevenFreckles] Selections vs completed stories [In reply to] Can't Post

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


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minna pratt


Feb 19, 2007, 9:08 PM

Post #165 of 709 (7584 views)
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Re: [SevenFreckles] Selections vs completed stories [In reply to] Can't Post

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

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

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


jargreen

e-mail user

Feb 19, 2007, 11:06 PM

Post #166 of 709 (7528 views)
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Re: [minna pratt] Selections vs completed stories [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Minna Pratt,

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


__________



Feb 19, 2007, 11:16 PM

Post #167 of 709 (7518 views)
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Re: [minna pratt] Selections vs completed stories [In reply to] Can't Post

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

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


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Arkinese


Feb 20, 2007, 8:21 AM

Post #168 of 709 (7464 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Selections vs completed stories [In reply to] Can't Post


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

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


__________



Feb 20, 2007, 4:15 PM

Post #169 of 709 (7377 views)
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Re: [Arkinese] Selections vs completed stories [In reply to] Can't Post

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

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

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

That link again, which is super on-topic:

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


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apelavin

e-mail user

Feb 20, 2007, 7:32 PM

Post #170 of 709 (7311 views)
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Re: [minna pratt] Selections vs completed stories [In reply to] Can't Post

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

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

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


LateApplicant


Feb 20, 2007, 7:43 PM

Post #171 of 709 (7297 views)
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Re: [apelavin] Selections vs completed stories [In reply to] Can't Post

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


wilmabluekitty
Wilma Weant Dague

Feb 20, 2007, 8:56 PM

Post #172 of 709 (7262 views)
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Re: [maggiekate] Can SOMEONE let me read their piece?? [In reply to] Can't Post

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


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


scheherazade


Feb 20, 2007, 10:31 PM

Post #173 of 709 (7209 views)
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Re: [LateApplicant] Selections vs completed stories [In reply to] Can't Post

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

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


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Feb 21, 2007, 11:30 AM

Post #174 of 709 (7133 views)
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Re: [scheherazade] Selections vs completed stories [In reply to] Can't Post

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

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


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

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

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


mingram
Mike Ingram

Feb 21, 2007, 2:25 PM

Post #175 of 709 (7064 views)
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Re: [pongo] Selections vs completed stories [In reply to] Can't Post

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

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

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

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

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


dersins


May 30, 2007, 12:11 PM

Post #176 of 709 (7785 views)
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Short-shorts: how many to send? [In reply to] Can't Post

It's never too early to start thinking about my writing sample, right?

Most of my best work is very short. 500 - 1500 words, in fact. If a program asks for something like "2 or 3 stories totaling 25 - 30 pages in length" would it be a better idea to submit 2 or 3 stories totaling 10 - 15 pages in length, or to submit 4 or 5 stories totaling 20 - 30 pages in length?

In other words, should I aim to meet their story count or their page count?

(For the sake of argument, assume all stories are of equal quality.)


piratelizzy


May 30, 2007, 12:31 PM

Post #177 of 709 (7781 views)
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Re: [dersins] Short-shorts: how many to send? [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't know the best answer to that, dersins, but I can offer this:

Austin's program, out of twelve I considered last year, seemed to me to hold the strictest requirements concerning length of writing sample. Even so, when I wrote Austin's administrator to ask about going over the limit, the short answer was that if I felt the extra story added to the quality of my writing sample, I should go ahead and go overboard.

Hope that helps.


'sup?!


__________



Jul 3, 2007, 8:10 PM

Post #178 of 709 (8019 views)
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Writing sample (formerly: Benny) [In reply to] Can't Post

Damn. And here I thought I'd made at least a semi-controversial post re: the content and quality of application manuscripts. I was hoping someone else would chime in with their own views or experiences, with or without chiding.

Is this allowed? Can I ask without sounding totally desperate? I'm in a race for facts, man.


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(This post was edited by motet on Jul 8, 2007, 11:05 PM)


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Jul 3, 2007, 8:58 PM

Post #179 of 709 (8011 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Benny [In reply to] Can't Post

Okay, Junior, I'll bite. :) What are the ten most common mistakes the applicants make?


http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


__________



Jul 3, 2007, 10:00 PM

Post #180 of 709 (8005 views)
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Re: [jlgwriter] Benny [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey there.

Well, let's see. Anyone else read Muscle & Fitness during their early, lanky teens? If so, then you probably noticed there's like ten things to be said about gaining muscle -- and that Muscle & Fitness repeated those ten things over and over, in various guises, until you learned to stop wasting your money and a new troup of 8th graders cropped up to replace you.

And aren't writing books the same way? They recycle the same advice ad nauseam. I just meant the majority of stories I read seemed unaware of this advice. Basic stuff, like at the sentence level, No passive voice, mister!, or, Nouns and verbs, good! Adverbs and adjectives, bad!. General, commonly held notions that apply to most types of writing. And then beyond that, the few general things you can say about structure. Such as: Begin at the beginning, or Why not lead with a scene, rather than that two page ponderous philosophical section?.

Not that the rejected stories were all bad. In fact--and this really irked me--I thought a lot of them showed more promise than the accepted ones. You could easily throw a Burroway book at them and emerge minutes later with something competent and interesting.

Another thing I found curious was I guess a matter of subject matter and tone. Almost everyone wrote about youngsters. The successful ones steered clear of what you'd expect from a youngster: rehashes of 90210 romance, rehashes of movie-of-the-week abuse dramas. Or, for guys, tales that glorified sex, drinking, and whatever else is new-ish and cool at 21.

What I took away was, if you think you're cool, if you think the subject of your story is way cool, stop. Kill your enthusiasm at the door. Affect a jaded outlook at once. (Don't appear too enthusiastically jaded, though -- that is young and amateurish).

Best strategy, in a nutshell: include young characters if you want, but don't be stereotypically young. Don't be experimental or artsy. Don't take chances. (Yes -- even if you're applying to an 'experimental' school). Be a muted kind of jaded. No TV plots. No TV dialogue conventions (i.e. two characters saying the same thing at once). Get a writing book or ten, edit for the ten or so things they all say not to do. Open university journal, mimic format and punctuation.

And that was pretty much it.


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Jul 3, 2007, 10:01 PM)


bennyprof


Jul 3, 2007, 10:44 PM

Post #181 of 709 (7993 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Benny [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Hey there.

Well, let's see. Anyone else read Muscle & Fitness during their early, lanky teens? If so, then you probably noticed there's like ten things to be said about gaining muscle -- and that Muscle & Fitness repeated those ten things over and over, in various guises, until you learned to stop wasting your money and a new troup of 8th graders cropped up to replace you.

And aren't writing books the same way? They recycle the same advice ad nauseam. I just meant the majority of stories I read seemed unaware of this advice. Basic stuff, like at the sentence level, No passive voice, mister!, or, Nouns and verbs, good! Adverbs and adjectives, bad!. General, commonly held notions that apply to most types of writing. And then beyond that, the few general things you can say about structure. Such as: Begin at the beginning, or Why not lead with a scene, rather than that two page ponderous philosophical section?.

Not that the rejected stories were all bad. In fact--and this really irked me--I thought a lot of them showed more promise than the accepted ones. You could easily throw a Burroway book at them and emerge minutes later with something competent and interesting.

Another thing I found curious was I guess a matter of subject matter and tone. Almost everyone wrote about youngsters. The successful ones steered clear of what you'd expect from a youngster: rehashes of 90210 romance, rehashes of movie-of-the-week abuse dramas. Or, for guys, tales that glorified sex, drinking, and whatever else is new-ish and cool at 21.

What I took away was, if you think you're cool, if you think the subject of your story is way cool, stop. Kill your enthusiasm at the door. Affect a jaded outlook at once. (Don't appear too enthusiastically jaded, though -- that is young and amateurish).

Best strategy, in a nutshell: include young characters if you want, but don't be stereotypically young. Don't be experimental or artsy. Don't take chances. (Yes -- even if you're applying to an 'experimental' school). Be a muted kind of jaded. No TV plots. No TV dialogue conventions (i.e. two characters saying the same thing at once). Get a writing book or ten, edit for the ten or so things they all say not to do. Open university journal, mimic format and punctuation.

And that was pretty much it.



Thanks. Lot of great info there. The part about not taking chances is a little depressing, but I'd figured as much. As I posted earlier in this (or maybe another) thread, there seems to be a certain tone that communicates legitimacy to the literary world... if I were to try and describe it, I'd call it "quiet, but powerful," but, now that I think about it, "a muted kind of jaded" might be more accurate. Or maybe my description is a positive spin on the same concept, in a way? Maybe not. In either case, thanks for your post.

Incidentally, what were a few of the plots out of the fifteen stories you read? Anything sensational? I don't mean sensational, as in "great," but sensational as in stories about crime, murder, mahem, etc... or were they all fairly quiet, domestic stories?

Did any of them employ a fast, visceral style? Any crime noir? I'm thinking of the Will Christopher Baer/Bret Easton Ellis type stuff. Maybe "edge" is a better word.

Thanks,
Benny


__________



Jul 3, 2007, 11:08 PM

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Let it be known that I made my crappy word mininum tonight -- I deserve to slack off!

Also that these are just the impressions I took away from a few applications, and that they just might in no way resemble reality, so who knows. (Then again, 15 stories is a legitimate chunk of data, given acceptance rates). But like you, I'm super hungry for anything quantifiable, so:

Based on what I saw, stay far, far away from anything that resembes genre fiction. Even if you think you're writing the super-literary kind of stuff popularized by a Lethem or a Doctorow, don't. You're not.

Quiet domestic tales. Yes. Just stay away from what pedants call 'easy answers', and stay away from any quiet domestic stuff that you might have copped from TV.

I happen to love early Bret Easton Ellis, but really, who can pull that stuff off but a young Bret Easton Ellis? His kind of decadence is already borderline goofy. This is what I meant by the young man's glorification of sex, drinking, the just-so-unbearable suburban ennui, etc. STAY AWAY!

I did promise not to discuss the plot details of any stories people were nice enough to e-mail me. But who knows. Like Hop said, people are nice. You could always e-mail these students for their take on things.


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Jul 3, 2007, 11:10 PM)


bennyprof


Jul 3, 2007, 11:30 PM

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Quote
Based on what I saw, stay far, far away from anything that resembes genre fiction. Even if you think you're writing the super-literary kind of stuff popularized by a Lethem or a Doctorow, don't. You're not.



"You're not." Ouch! You've never seen my writing. ;)

Heh, I know what you're saying... although it's a helluva a lot of fun to play around with, it's tough to pull off without sliding into melodrama. A very fine line to walk, and who's to say I'm not crossing it? We are not the best judges of our own work. Tough to get far enough away from it, even with the passage of time, for a truly objective self-evaluation.

Thanks for the advice -- I'll keep it in mind.



bennyprof


Jul 4, 2007, 12:08 AM

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I should also mention that this type of fiction isn't all I write... it's just what I've been into lately. And it definitely doesn't involve "the young man's glorification of sex, drinking, the just-so-unbearable suburban ennui, etc."

Content-wise, it's not in the same realm. I was speaking more to the pace, tone, voice, etc... humorous (I hope) pessimism without the pretentiousness/air of superiority/trying-to-be-hip-a-little-too-hard vibe you sometimes get with that breed of narration. Like I said, it's a fine line, and I do my best to walk it.

But yeah, some of my stuff leans toward a certain genre.




(This post was edited by bennyprof on Jul 4, 2007, 12:31 AM)


mingram
Mike Ingram

Jul 4, 2007, 10:37 AM

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But what's the end-game of all this second guessing? That you get into an MFA program?

I can see how that's appealing as a short-term goal, but if you're writing "to please" in that particular way (to be middle-of-the-road, to make a committee happy, etc.) not only will your writing suffer -- because you won't be writing what you want to write -- but you'll probably lose your mind once you actually start a program. Because there will be far too many disparate voices to try to please within a given workshop.

I guess this is easy to say since I have an MFA already, but you pretty quickly realize that the degree -- like that first publishing credit -- is only one really small step in a long process of trying to find success (however you define it) as a writer. And while I loved getting an MFA,and got a lot out of it, it's not an important enough step to sacrifice your aesthetics over. In my experience, the people who did the best work in grad school were the ones who knew what they wanted to write and, while they certainly incorporated the critiques they got, were ultimately pretty headstrong about what they were doing.

Plus, let's say you write a couple boring domestic stories just to get into a hypothetical MFA program that admits only those who write boring domestic stories. Is that really a place you want to spend the next two to three years?


kevin82


Jul 4, 2007, 12:31 PM

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I disagree about conforming to the Burroway school and not taking any risks just to get in. Of course everyone's opinion is shaped by their own experience, but I took a lot of risks with the two stories I submitted and am very happy with the results: got into a great program and getting both stories published. About being experimental, I think it's more about finding a form that fits the function, a style that fits the content of the story, and that's something craft books don't allow much room for. I think it's important that people starting out learn all those Burroway rules but then (once they have worked through all those standard amateurish impulses) be able to move on and not feel chained to those rules (or try to chain anyone else to them in a workshop).

And so people are trying to conform to these rules just to get into a program -- and yet isn't the biggest concern about MFA programs that they homogenize everyone's writing? Aren't we the ones doing the homogenizing?


bennyprof


Jul 4, 2007, 2:05 PM

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In Reply To
But what's the end-game of all this second guessing? That you get into an MFA program?

I can see how that's appealing as a short-term goal, but if you're writing "to please" in that particular way (to be middle-of-the-road, to make a committee happy, etc.) not only will your writing suffer -- because you won't be writing what you want to write -- but you'll probably lose your mind once you actually start a program. Because there will be far too many disparate voices to try to please within a given workshop.

I guess this is easy to say since I have an MFA already, but you pretty quickly realize that the degree -- like that first publishing credit -- is only one really small step in a long process of trying to find success (however you define it) as a writer. And while I loved getting an MFA,and got a lot out of it, it's not an important enough step to sacrifice your aesthetics over. In my experience, the people who did the best work in grad school were the ones who knew what they wanted to write and, while they certainly incorporated the critiques they got, were ultimately pretty headstrong about what they were doing.

Plus, let's say you write a couple boring domestic stories just to get into a hypothetical MFA program that admits only those who write boring domestic stories. Is that really a place you want to spend the next two to three years?



You've just addressed and, in my opinion, superbly summarized the concern I was about to voice in my next post. It's one thing to do everything in one's power to avoid amateurish mistakes, and quite another to conform to an aesthetic standard expected by the top schools in a conscious attempt to "play the game," so to speak.

I think I'd rather submit the kind of stories I like to write and be turned down than show them an inaccurate representation of my work and, once I'm accepted and able to write what I enjoy again, come to realize my style is not a good fit with the program. Thanks, great post!


(This post was edited by bennyprof on Jul 4, 2007, 2:06 PM)


bennyprof


Jul 4, 2007, 2:07 PM

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In Reply To
I disagree about conforming to the Burroway school and not taking any risks just to get in. Of course everyone's opinion is shaped by their own experience, but I took a lot of risks with the two stories I submitted and am very happy with the results: got into a great program and getting both stories published. About being experimental, I think it's more about finding a form that fits the function, a style that fits the content of the story, and that's something craft books don't allow much room for. I think it's important that people starting out learn all those Burroway rules but then (once they have worked through all those standard amateurish impulses) be able to move on and not feel chained to those rules (or try to chain anyone else to them in a workshop).

And so people are trying to conform to these rules just to get into a program -- and yet isn't the biggest concern about MFA programs that they homogenize everyone's writing? Aren't we the ones doing the homogenizing?



Excellent points.


Clench Million
Charles

Jul 4, 2007, 3:10 PM

Post #189 of 709 (7884 views)
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Let me add just another voice saying I wouldn't worry too much about not writing boring domestic stories.

Yes, there are a lot of programs that look for that, but there are plenty of good ones that do not. I write stuff that might be said to fall into the realm of Lethem or Saunders and I was able to get into a fantastic MFA program. Maybe I would have gotten into more programs if I"d gone for some Raymond Carver rip offs, but as has been said you are going to be writing what you want to write so would you really want to sneak into a program with domestic fiction and then turn around and write magical realism that the program isn't going to support?

In my program, maybe a majority of people write the kind of work that seems like typical mfa work (realist, domestic, etc.), but I'd say at least 40% write in other styles and genres. I've seen everything from southern gothic to literary sci-fi to surrealist fiction to magical realism to hyper-realist stuff.

So from my experience, I'd say don't worry too much about everyone writing the same ol' "mfa fiction." There are definitly programs where this is not the case.


__________



Jul 4, 2007, 8:42 PM

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Thanks, everyone.

I'm pretty much in agreement, but I feel I should clarify a few things, because I find this subject terribly important and interesting.

Mainly I'm trying to suggest that for anyone here, things are probably more hopeful than acceptance rates would imply. To me this all seems like professional sports--where even minute changes can rocket you above your peers. And really, the bulk of it has nothing to do with plot, genre, humanity, or even the larger syntactical shennanigans we'd call "style". It has to do with a lesser, more basic form of editing that could apply to any style. So I believe that anyone who's internalized the few basic writing lessons found in any text is already way ahead.

I'm more conflicted about the whole "bending your style to get in" thing. But let me tell you how reading these manuscripts has effected my own aesthetic: it really hasn't. Rather, it's changed my thinking on the selection of material I plan to submit. I seem to write two types of short stories. The first, and closest to my heart, is a kind of flowery, emotive, po-mo type beast with acrobatic prose and risks that don't always pay off. The second, and the type I now plan to submit, is a much safer kind of stripped down, traditionally plotted, colloquially languaged George Saunders knock-off that better demonstrates, I think, the "clean" type of writing these programs look for. After reading a few of the underwhelming successful stories, it was clear that schools just want reassurance that you've absorbed the few standard lessons. I don't want to compromise my values, but still -- it's hard to ignore this fact.

The truth is that schools seem to want screenplays.

Here. Let me illustrate the point with the opening paragraphs of two stories I happen to love. The first, from Yellow Rose, by William Vollmann, is quite dazzling, I think:

When I put Jenny's picture up against my glasses her face fogs into a pale yellow moon mistily aswim in the darkness of her hair and high school uniform, because as ageing progresses (so I once read), the minimum distance required for the eye to focus on an object increases, which depresses me and incites me to strategies of avoidance, such as chewing psilocybin mushrooms. Two bitter grams of these infallibly "increase the absolute blue space/of the sky from my embrace", as Baudelaire said about something else. I still pretend that when this expansion takes place, easing my surroundings farther outward on the circumference of a wheel radiating spokes of isolation, then whatever I look at crawls beyond that fatal focal length of vision, like a dreamer fleeing through the molasses of a nightmare, reaching the end of the world at last and jumping into indigo where monsters never reach...

And so on. I read a slew of rejected stories like this. And I know it's all a matter of taste, but to my mind, Vollmann is infinitely more talented than say, Steve Almond, another writer I admire. Here's the opening of his The Idea of Michael Jackson's Dick:

Bramble was talking about Michael Jackson again.
"What I think he's done is he's bleached his dick. He's tried to turn his dick white."
"You can't turn your dick white," I said.
Bramble poured himself another vodka. "Are you Michael Jackson?" he asked. "If the answer is 'No, I'm not Michael Jackson,' then I don't know why you're talking about his dick."
"Has he even got a dick?" said Delk.
"Oh, he's got a dick," Bramble said. "He's got a dick alright."
We were on Delk's porch, watching the sun flame out over our neat little southern city...


Both good stories. But imagine their analogues, penned by students who merely show "promise". The first type, even if that is your school's particular bag, is either perfect, or goes horribly awry due to the tiniest of mistakes. The second story, the screenplay -- dialogue and stage direction, essentially -- is much, much easier to pull off. And to my mind, less satisfying, and more boring. However, it does demonstrate sound, if trite, principles, and looks pretty much like a reasonable facsimile of a story.

All I'm saying is that schools seem to enormously favor type B, be they Iowa, Montana, or somewhere reputedly more 'experimental'. Now I suffer no delusion telling me I'm the next Bill Vollmann. I do, on occasion, write some JV, Almond-esque stuff I don't particularly like, but I'm sure will appeal to a broader range of schools. If it gets me there, gets me funding, and time to write, then hey. There's no permanent plan to bend my aesthetic to each workshop comment.

Concerning plot and genre, remember that magical realism still gets shelved in the literature section. Crime, romance, fantasy: I do think these are legitimate dangers. Programs take anyone's application fees, but do they really take genre? I really really doubt it. For that, there's like a couple of places that focus on popular fiction, but that's pretty much it...

Sorry for the longwindedness, but that's a good sampling of my current frustration...


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Jul 4, 2007, 10:31 PM)


mpagan


Jul 5, 2007, 1:03 PM

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Junior,

I think you’re missing one very important point. Whether you write specific genre fiction, or fall into the “realist” or “experimental” category, it’s the quality of the writing that always wins the day. So if you write crappy domestic dramas, or pen silly experimental pieces, then of course your work sucks. But just because you like to write domestic dramas, or experimental work doesn’t mean you’ve bought a ticket to a certain MFA program. If the work sucks, it sucks. Conversely, domestic drama written well, with lots of imagination and psychological insight transcends its genre. The same can be said of any style you work in as long as you do it to the best of your abilities. Let’s face it a lot of this is very subjective, so yes some reviewing committees at some MFA programs might pass on a really great experimental writer in favor of someone working in the realist tradition. But I also believe that most of these committees are not sacrificing quality in favor of taste. Meaning, the realist writer that gets chosen over the experimental writer, is still a writer who shows great promise, and the school might feel they can provide that writer with the tools he/she needs to become even better and the experimental writer can be better served elsewhere.

So I wouldn’t “conform” my writing if I were you to get into programs. Chances are if you naturally like to write a certain kind of fiction and decide to “knock-off” another style just because you think that will get you into some great program and because you think you can carry off that style, the work you produce will be less than stellar. Who knows, maybe you can “mimic” other styles and come up with a rocking piece. I doubt that a writer can do that without truly loving the style they are mimicking. But if you say one style sucks and makes you feel icky – then how can you truly write a piece with enough emotional power and truth to make it a successful work. Again, if you can, then chances are you don’t dislike the style you say “bores” you all that much.

In the end, isn’t better just to do what you love? Isn’t that the reason to go to an MFA program in the first place? Lord knows it’s not for the fame and fortune. You should go to the school that responds to your work as you’ve honestly presented it, with all your passion and hard work scrawled all over the darn thing!

Don’t settle for being a cheap imitation, or a really good mimic of another style just to get into an MFA program. For that join a high stakes corporate environment where that kind of “hiding” and compromise is rewarded—with fat bonuses I hear.


mingram
Mike Ingram

Jul 5, 2007, 2:42 PM

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Of course it's hard to speak with any authority about someone else's work, but I will say that if you're not excited about writing something -- if you're bored by it, even a little bit -- readers will almost certainly be unexcited and bored by it.

One of the biggest problems I've noticed when reading stories for Barrelhouse -- and I think this is true of MFA applications, too -- is what Frank Conroy used to call "abject naturalism." Basically, a bunch of believable, realistic things that happen in a believable, realistic order, but that don't have the shape of a story. I guess this is kind of a fancy way of saying stories that are boring, but it's a particular kind of boring. Like Raymond Carver without the tautness or subtext. Like, you'll be reading and think: that's a very detailed and rather vivid description of the protagonist buttering her toast, but what the hell does it have to do with anything? It's all just a bunch of people moving around rooms without doing anything interesting, or meaningful.

Sometimes bad undergrad workshops can foster this kind of writing, I think, because most of the comments you get are about things that aren't believable -- i.e., "I don't think she'd really ask him out," or "That's not how you hotwire a car." So then the writer starts thinking the goal is just to write a story that works, in that very basic way of being true to life. Instead of taking risks and writing a story that's interesting.


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Jul 5, 2007, 3:11 PM

Post #193 of 709 (7760 views)
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This is such a great discussion, especially since I'm in the process of preparing my own low-res mfa applications. I've been having an almost parallel conversation with an mfa grad about the form and substance of short fiction, and I've come to the conclusion that a good short story is all about expansion within the constraints of the form. How do you take your reader on an unexpected journey that will still lead to the perfect conclusion? And, in the process, use an economy of words to make it happen?

Every word has to be necessary. The language and diction should be precise and clean. The adventure needs a surprise turn or two, and the ending should evoke: "Aha! Of course!"

What a challenge that is for the writer. I'm convinced that if you can pull it off in short fiction, you can do amazing things in the novel where you have more room to play.

Jeanne


http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Jul 5, 2007, 5:22 PM

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Well-put, jlgwriter. Well-put! This ongoing discussion is certainly forcing me to rethink my aesthetic process and approaching the short story with risk. I think this quote from Flannery O'Connor (quoted from a book entitled, "The Short Story Companion" by Tom Bailey) sums it up:

I often ask myself what makes a story work, and what makes it hold up as a story, and I have decided that it is probably some action, some gesture of a character that is unlike any other in the story, one which indicates where the real heart of the story lies. This would have to be an action or gesture which was both totally right and totally unexpected; it would have to be one that was both in character and beyond character; it would have to suggest both the world and eternity.




popeye


Jul 7, 2007, 2:44 AM

Post #195 of 709 (7806 views)
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This is a really complex topic, and I want to preface my response by saying I don't know what the hell I'm talking about but then again most of us don't.

I've been lurking on this conversation for a few days and it has set my mind spinning. Unfortunately right now I have had a few drinks and will probably be less than coherent, but that has never stopped me before...

Maybe there is a perfect MFA application story, maybe it is all about adhering to a dominant aesthetic, maybe it has everything to do with content or form and if you make it like a screenplay you're on the right track. Maybe you can even craft exactly the kind of story that will please just about everyone, but the fact of the matter is that the people who make decisions on MFA acceptances (current students, faculty, faculty spouses, etc) are making a subjective judgment on what they respond to. When they read your submission they say to themselves - a) This bores me and it goes in that pile - b) this is interesting I want to keep reading. That is it. Period. That is the entire process. It is the same thing an editor or agent will do, make an intuitive judgment about your work. You can not try to figure out what they will like or respond to, it is not about being in the top thirty or forty or fifty it is not about your style or your genre or how much dialog and action you use it is about something intangible that makes any reader respond to the work in an engaged manner. This is not something you can calculate.

You need to submit your best work. The work that your readers have responded to and the work you feel most engaged with personally. If you try to fake it you are screwed. If you do what is true to you as a writer and a program responds to it and accepts you then that will be a good program for you, with faculty and students who will support you in the pursuit of your voice and your subjects.

If you want an MFA, for whatever reason (time to write, academic career, lit world connections) the only way it will be of any value to you is if you approach it in a way that is true to who you are as a writer. So, if you are experimental, genre specific, kitchen domestic, or just plain weird then you should pursue that and research programs and apply all over the place until you find the right one for you. It doesn't matter what the ranking are or who went to what program, what matters is that you are in a program that drives you, inspires you, and makes you do your best work.

Try sending out one of your stories. You will get a load of rejections. When you get an acceptance it is because you connected with the editors. This is good. As a writer your goal is to connect with people whether they are readers, editors, or MFA acceptors.

So don't try to get into your fantasy program. Try to get into a program that connects with you. If you are sweating the acceptance rates you are in the wrong field. This is art people. It is subjective, wonky, and worthless (aside from what people are willing to pay for it). So forget about the GRE, don't worry about what kind of boring stories "they" like and just send in what represents you.

Otherwise what the eff are you doing trying to be a writer.

As Alan Sherman said "Good advice cost nothing and it's worth the price."

David Kahane


Rambler


Jul 7, 2007, 3:14 PM

Post #196 of 709 (7764 views)
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This is the best piece of advice I've read on this topic thus far.
As a newish writer, I have been worrying numbers and asthetics and subjects in my head so much that they all got knotted up. Finally, I just said, "I need to write for me." And out came a few semi-good stories. And those are my pieces that I'm going to send off to the schools that I'm interested in.

I can't say popeye's advice in any better words. But in art, as in life, you just gotta be yourself and let the chips fall where they may. Maybe the captain of the football team won't ask you to prom, but maybe you really wouldn't have wanted to go with him anyway.

I understand that you need to be smart when playing the application game, but I don't think this game really has standard rules. Or at the very least, it didn't come with an insert explaining the rules of the game.

So what else can you do?

You write what you are, and put it out there. And much like eHarmony, hope there is a match.

But worrying over everything, second guessing yourself, or trying to outsmart the system (whatever the heck that is) isn't going to help you get in.


__________



Jul 7, 2007, 9:33 PM

Post #197 of 709 (7729 views)
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True, but what I still find interesting are those cases where someone writes better in one style than, well, their preferred style. There was this classmate I sort of saw as a more extreme version of myself; we bonded over our love of David Foster Wallace, and he tried really hard to write these sprawling, acronym-clogged masterpieces in the same vein. The problem was they really sucked. Like, hard. You couldn't even tell what they were about. He could, however, write these awesomely concise little tales that dazzled everyone. Now he's applying to programs, and I think it's a safe bet he won't get into his preferred schools with his whacked-out style. We haven't kept in touch, but I'm dying to know how this'll all play out for him.


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Jul 7, 2007, 9:35 PM)


mlpurdy
Moriah Purdy

Jul 10, 2007, 1:15 PM

Post #198 of 709 (7595 views)
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I think there should be a combination of two things to consider when putting your sample together - what you feel to be your strongest work, the work you're passionate about, the work you feel represents you, AND what your friend/readers tell you. The truth is, we get so close to our own writing that we can't always see what it's doing, we just get so excited about the risks we're taking and how that's fueling us intellectually, without regard for how the audience is necessarily receiving that information. So we have to depend on other readers to inform us what isn't working, and humble ourselves enough that we can see what the person means by their criticism, and adjust as needed. Maybe if your classmate had heard/considered your criticism, his more risky stories would have worked better with some adjustments.

I DO NOT think anyone should try to conform your work to what you think the program wants. First of all, that is absolutely impossible to guess, even based on the faculty member's own style. Second of all, do you really want to be accepted on the basis of work that you don't really consider your own, or work you're really interested in? I know I wouldn't (and didn't, by the way, and it paid off for me).

Just be open and smart about your own work. Stuff it in a drawer and look at it fresh a few weeks later. Listen to your friends/readers who should be honest with you about the risks that aren't paying off for you, and the risks that are.


bennyprof


Jul 16, 2007, 9:20 PM

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Ok, this might be a slight departure from the present conversation, but I thought I'd revive the thread a bit by asking a question about sample length. I know I've read about this very subject in this very forum (maybe even in this very thread) but some fresh insights couldn't hurt.

After looking over the page limits for the schools I'll be applying for, it seems the average is around 30, with a few of the schools having a maximum of 25. And it goes up from there -- I think Iowa's is upward of 50-60? The ultimate goal, of course, is to send your best work, however long it happens to be, as long as it conforms to the application guidelines for length.

Anyway, I'm planning to aim for around 25 pages, with three stories total. One will almost certainly be a story I've had published, which is four pages long, and I'll include two more with a combined total of 20-21. Not sure why, but that feels like the "sweet spot" to me. Also, I'd like to send the same stories to every school I apply to (and I plan to apply to at least 12 programs), so a sample that fits neatly within the guidelines of every one of them seems logical -- or maybe just convenient. ;)


What I'd be curious to learn are some specifics -- sample lengths, total number of stories, etc. -- from people who have been accepted to top MFA programs in the past. If you wouldn't mind naming the program you attend/attended that would be great as well.

I'm not trying to find some magic bullet formula for acceptance or anything, as I realize that the quality of writing is the deal breaker... just trying to get a rough idea of the norm.

Thanks!
Benny

p.s. Also, if any of you would be generous enough to show me one of the stories that led to your acceptance, I would very much appreciate it. Again, not trying to find some secret formula, just trying to get a feeling for (a more solid idea of) the narrative qualities that grab the attention of these programs. If you'd be willing to share, send me a PM and I'll reply with my e-mail address. Thanks!


__________



Jul 16, 2007, 11:36 PM

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UC Irvine used to have a page featuring student bios and selections of their stories to promote their reading series. You still might be able to find it in Google cache...or the internet archive, if you find a dead link, but not the page.

UMass used to have a couple of student stories up on their web site...look under the links for their literary journal CRATE.

Most schools also have alumni links; you could always look at their first collections for a sense of their best possible scenario, I guess.


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Zash
Zachary Ash

Jul 22, 2007, 7:29 PM

Post #201 of 709 (7118 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Here's an excerpt from the interview that accompanies this month's MFA rankings in the Atlantic.


In terms of the application, would you say that the writing sample is the most important part?
That’s what I kept hearing. It can be frustrating that you can’t send them 500 pages of your work so they can really get a sense of it. Instead, you send them somewhere from 10 to 50 pages on average and from that some sort of determination gets made. A couple of the people I spoke to in some of the better programs talked about how they had agonized over whether to send this short story or that one, or a little of this and a piece of that, because they understood how crucial the samples are.
A number of the top programs told me, “We had 12 slots,” let’s say, for fiction writers. “We offered our first twelve, and all twelve accepted and came here.” I heard that from a number of the top programs, and I know that a lot of students apply to all of these programs. So it suggests to me that each of these programs, either consciously or unconsciously, is choosing certain types of writers. That then shapes what their programs are like. For example, if Michigan gets all the writers that they offer places to on the first round and Iowa gets all theirs and Irvine gets all theirs, and yet all these people applied to all three programs, then that suggests that there is no absolute as to who are the best. It’s a matter of something about each of their writing appealing to someone in a particular program, which indicates a good match.


bennyprof


Jul 22, 2007, 8:12 PM

Post #202 of 709 (7110 views)
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Re: [Zash] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
A number of the top programs told me, “We had 12 slots,” let’s say, for fiction writers. “We offered our first twelve, and all twelve accepted and came here.” I heard that from a number of the top programs, and I know that a lot of students apply to all of these programs. So it suggests to me that each of these programs, either consciously or unconsciously, is choosing certain types of writers.

Or perhaps it suggests that somebody's doing a little fibbing about their offer acceptance rates? ;)


ajholtz


Sep 11, 2007, 6:46 AM

Post #203 of 709 (6995 views)
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Re: [bennyprof] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

hey all, just working through a very large not-in-school-anymore writing block and trying to finish my sample for this year's application. don't suppose anyone would like to do an exchange and help me make mine make sense??
i'm happy to read and help where i can as well, but i really need some writing community support here! pm me if you're interested...

amy


aluminum


Oct 8, 2007, 7:07 PM

Post #204 of 709 (6862 views)
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Re: [ajholtz] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Hello everyone,

I am applying to MFA Programs for Fall 2008, and after much debate, I have decided to apply to only six schools. Because my list of schools is so short, I can complete each application with the specifics of that university in mind (faculty, course offerings, teaching or no teaching, style). Before the deadlines I would like to have read a good amount of literature from each institution.

I was wondering if anyone currently attending Brown University, Cornell University or the James Michener Center would be willing to post their writing sample? Please PM me if you are not comfortable posting here. I am trying to get a feel for the style and skill level that each program is looking for....

thanks


bighark


Oct 8, 2007, 7:31 PM

Post #205 of 709 (6858 views)
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Re: [aluminum] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi, aluminum. Welcome to the forum.

The schools you're looking at are among the selective in the country. There's no mystery as to what they're looking for: They want the best. You don't have to look over applications of accepted students--simply read your Glimmer Train and Missouri Review and Tin House and Opium and any other literary journal that strikes your fancy.

A word of caution: Trying to tailor your applications according to what you perceive are the desires of particular programs is a perilous course. You'll be much better off, believe me, if you just send the best writing you have to the places that interest you most.

Also, if I may be so bold, I would advise you to reconsider going with such a short list of schools. Six is a good start, but you can easily double that pool with equally selective MFA programs with faculty just as good and funding just as generous as the ones you mention.


aluminum


Oct 8, 2007, 9:08 PM

Post #206 of 709 (6842 views)
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Re: [bighark] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks Bighark,

I agree with you, in theory. I am certainly going against the grain and would not recommend such a short list of schools to other potential applicants. However, because of extemporary things in my life right now, I have decided to keep my choices more focused. I can almost guarantee that I will be applying again in 2008, in which case I will most definitely broaden my horizons.

You say to read Glimmer Train, Tin House, and Missouri Review to get a good feel for what those writing programs are looking for, but isn't it true that each program (especially Brown with its "experimental" bent) is looking for something different? I write in several different genres and styles, and as much as I would love to include a mix of everything in my writing sample, I am forced to deal with a page minimum... and so, now you see why I am asking this question.


bighark


Oct 8, 2007, 10:18 PM

Post #207 of 709 (6831 views)
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Re: [aluminum] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I totally hear you on the genres and writing styles front. I have a rather schizophrenic portfolio myself, so I can relate. The thing is, though, that it's impossible to anticipate what kind of writing will most excite an admissions committee.

For starters, you don't even know how the admissions committee works or who will be on it. I mean, let's take Brown, for example. Brown has more than fifteen full time faculty members. Do you think all of them serve on the adcom in any given year? I mean, what happens if you try to send something that may be right up Robert Coover's alley on the year that John Edgar Wideman or Brian Evenson is sorting fiction apps?

I mean, even if you do get the reader you intend, what's to say that the person gets excited by stuff written in a style similar to his or her own? I mean, one of the biggest surprises I had with one my waitlist applications was discovering which faculty member was pulling for me and for which piece. I sent a very experimental story to a school who had who I thought would be a very sympathetic reader. That person wasn't even on the adcom. The person who pulled my piece was a very traditional writer who I'd never have guessed in a million years would like my stuff.

The best thing you can do is send your best writing period.

Good luck


__________



Oct 8, 2007, 11:15 PM

Post #208 of 709 (6818 views)
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Re: [bighark] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Oh, the agony!

But while we're still at this, what do you guys think of sending something named after a fictional story in one of the faculty member's own works? Would this come across as total ass-kissery (even if I legitimately did use the title as a jumping-off point), or would I get an amused, knowing chuckle and maybe a closer read?

Agony!


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Oct 8, 2007, 11:17 PM)


aluminum


Oct 9, 2007, 10:55 AM

Post #209 of 709 (6777 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Bighark,
I am beginning to understand you better. Thanks for the further explanation.

Junior Mass,
Don't do it!


mpagan


Oct 9, 2007, 12:59 PM

Post #210 of 709 (6762 views)
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Re: [aluminum] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

In regards to getting a good idea of the level of writing top schools expect, I'd say, as everyone else is saying, just send what you feel is your best work right now. I know that is hard, but trust me it saves you from making awful errors in judgment. Reading the Mississippi Review or Tin House is not going to give you an accurate picture of the work these schools accept. The work you read in those magazines represent A) Work that has been labored over for quite some time. B) In some cases edited with the help of a professional. C) Work that delivers more on quality than potential.

These magazines are full of seasoned writers delivering seasoned material. If not then they are full of MFA'ers who are working hard on material while learning in a serious environment about their craft. I think most schools - and really all of them are competitive in a way, are looking for exceptional promise, or at least what they believe is promising. Your work does not have to be publication ready; just show the potential to "live" off the page. They'll help you get to the point where your work is fit to exhibit alongside what you see in top literary magazines. So what I say is, in addition to trying to show as much craft as you can at this stage of your writing career, make sure you samples have a whole lot of life. It's the spark that will get you in. If that sounds a little too sparkle dusty, then just give it all you got with no regrets.


HopperFu


Oct 9, 2007, 1:21 PM

Post #211 of 709 (6757 views)
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In Reply To
as much as I would love to include a mix of everything in my writing sample, I am forced to deal with a page minimum...

Actually, that's probably a bad strategy. Your goal isn't to show range but to show talent (whatever the hell that means). I've heard from a number of profs that they'll read an application package with a story that's great and then a second piece that negates the strength of the first.
I think with Brown - which is basically known as experimental (unless somebody can refute that) and takes pride in that - you should tailor for your more experimental pieces, though again, who knows exactly what that means.
With pretty much every other school, however, you should just use your best pieces. If you have access to readers - other writers, writing teachers, etc. - have them read as many of your stories as you can to help you pick out the strongest. When I applied, almost all of my readers kept picking the same story (one that I hadn't thought was my best).
I agree that trying to play 'guess what the reader wants' is a sort of self-defeating game. Reading committees change, and going by what a person writes is often a very bad way of understanding what he or she likes to read.
This isn't going to help you choose your pieces, but I know that when I've read slush piles - and don't kid yourself, this is just a giant version of the slush pile in a lot of ways - the pieces that jump out at you are startlingly self-evident in the way that they sparkle with life and vividness. It doesn't really have much to do with subject matter or anything else as much as it does with the things that nobody can really define.


brig


Oct 9, 2007, 6:00 PM

Post #212 of 709 (6725 views)
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reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

i am reapplying to some of the same schools this year as i did last and wondering about resubmitting the same work(s) from the last go-round. any opinions/suggestions? is this advisable?


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Oct 9, 2007, 6:32 PM

Post #213 of 709 (6715 views)
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Re: [brig] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, if those works didn't get you in last year, why should they get you in this year?


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/


brig


Oct 9, 2007, 7:06 PM

Post #214 of 709 (6707 views)
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perhaps with additional work/revisions...??


__________



Oct 9, 2007, 7:09 PM

Post #215 of 709 (6705 views)
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Re: [brig] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

Were you high up on the waitlist at these schools?

That's the one instance I'd consider sending the same stuff...because I'd worry they'd like the new stuff even less.


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pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Oct 9, 2007, 7:17 PM

Post #216 of 709 (6701 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, if the work has been radically revised, go ahead. But if your newest stuff isn't better than your old stuff, maybe it's time to think about a different hobby. (Unless your old stuff is, say, The Great Gatsby.)


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/


brig


Oct 9, 2007, 7:28 PM

Post #217 of 709 (6698 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

i do not intend to send the exact same samples - but was merely wondering about resubmitting a particular story that I felt confident about and had tried to improve upon...
again, i have not decided to do this - just curious if it is worth considering.
i cannot even pretend to know the intricacies of this process...though it seems that many who post here have a much better idea than i, which is why i ask.


HopperFu


Oct 9, 2007, 8:06 PM

Post #218 of 709 (6682 views)
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Re: [brig] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

Brig: the reason you don't want to do it, even if you significantly improved your writing, is that if you were a strong candidate last year, there is a reasonable chance that somebody would remember having read the same story last year - and remember that they rejected it. And if they don't explicitly remember it, if you get the same reader (reading pools at a lot of schools aren't terribly large, so it's fairly likely) they will have a feeling of familiarity when the read it, which is not a good thing.
Even if you've substantially revised it, unless it really is your best piece of work (by far, I think), it's not the best idea for the above reasons.
And yeah, there's the "if it didn't get you in last year, why will it get you in this year?" question. But given the somewhat arbitrary nature of all of this, it's not quite that simple.


brig


Oct 9, 2007, 8:34 PM

Post #219 of 709 (6675 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

thanks, hopper. i appreciate the insight...


somag


Oct 10, 2007, 2:37 AM

Post #220 of 709 (6643 views)
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Re: [mpagan] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks mpagan; your post was really helpful to think about the putting together a sample process (and not being completely cowed that my stuff likely isn't glimmer ready)
- somag


stephkarto1
Stephanie Kartalopoulos

Oct 10, 2007, 9:00 AM

Post #221 of 709 (6625 views)
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Re: [brig] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

For another perspective, also remember that you don't know the circumstances of applications last year. What I mean is that you don't know what writing filled the applications you were pitted against. And you don't know the circumstances of the application pool this year.

If it is a story that you really, really love, and if it is truly one of your strongest pieces, then I do not see the problem in including it in your writing manuscript. Maybe it's the stories that surround the one in question that need consideration?

Or maybe it's a restructuring of your statement of purpose, maybe some language that needs to be included about your reapplication to the school and about the direction you have been taking as a writer and how the stories you are submitting fit in with that?

I'm just saying that if it is a story that YOU really believe in and that will make you feel like, no matter what, you put your BEST application together, then why not include it in your manuscript. The whole application process is so strange, so unpredictable, so subjective, and so frustrating because of how much you don't know and how much you can't control (ie it's not at all like applying for a master's degree in Anthropology or Russian History where the things you need to consider in assembling an application are more obvious and more, I guess, easy to predict). The best thing that you can do is push forward an application that you believe in completely and that you think represents who you are, how you write, and all the things you look forward to learning from what each particular MFA program makes available to its students.

Just my 2 cents. For whatever it may be worth.


HopperFu


Oct 10, 2007, 9:45 AM

Post #222 of 709 (6621 views)
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Re: [stephkarto1] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd agree with what all of Stephanie said as well, even when it contradicts what I might have said earlier.

Your writing sample is the ultimate trump card. Play the best hand you can.


__________



Oct 11, 2007, 7:43 PM

Post #223 of 709 (6553 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

Alright, so maybe none of us should send George Saunders a story called Little Red-Faced Cop on the Beat.

I'm still looking for an edge--any edge! What about using a font from your application reader's last book? For instance, George Saunders would be Bembo, a lively, yet classic little number revived in the 1920's. A little subconscious recognition? Hmm? Hmm?


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stephkarto1
Stephanie Kartalopoulos

Oct 12, 2007, 11:22 AM

Post #224 of 709 (6510 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

I know you're being a bit playful here, but let me respond with some seriousness:

Your writing should be all of the edge you need. Seriously. Sticking with a traditional Times New Roman or Arial 10-12 point font, which seems to be the standard for anything either professional or academic in nature, is really what you should be doing. Anything else will *likely* reek of amateur and will take attention away from the value of your actual writing.

But that said--have fun! Good luck! I remember when I applied to MFA programs (long enough ago so that tomorrow I have to take the GREs in order to have scores to send to creative writing PhD programs...because my GRE scores from MFA applications have all gone and expired!) I regularly had some strange dreams that involved different schools I had sent applications to and how and when I would hear about the programs. For the most part, my dreams revolved around UF (my first choice and--well--my alma mater), Oregon (which was sort of a second choice for me), and George Mason (which I didn't care AS much about but which made an impression because I had a pretty awesome phone conversation with the program director while I was applying). The dream that I remembered with the best detail--and that seemed the most bizarre and interesting--was UF.

Strange things happen to the mind when it comes to these applications. I'm right there with you, only for PhD programs this time around. I need to be careful, or I will start having dreams that Aliki Barnstone and I are making baklava together. I could mistake such a dream as "a sign" that I'll get into Missouri. Or something like that.

(the thought of such a dream makes me giggle, actually)


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Oct 12, 2007, 12:56 PM

Post #225 of 709 (6495 views)
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Re: [stephkarto1] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

Haha. I've had a unusual dream that pertain to my writing samples--actually picturing the admissions committee making sure each paragraph, each word, and each thought pertain to the story. Yikes! Oh well I, too, am taking the GRE's tomorrow afternoon and I just hope I score well considering I'm not the greatest when it comes to standardized testing.

By the way, stephkarto, did you end up at UF with your MFA? UF is my second pick for the MFA.


stephkarto1
Stephanie Kartalopoulos

Oct 12, 2007, 1:35 PM

Post #226 of 709 (8570 views)
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Re: [seemingmeaning] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

Yeah, I did. UF was my first choice over the whole 2 years I researched programs, it was the first application I sent out, and it was the only school that I *really* wanted to go to. It was also my only outright acceptance (I did get into George Mason from the waitlist, and for 3 of my schools I had to rescind my application due to some family emergencies that made it impossible for me to get my *entire* application in by a reasonable time). UF really turned out to be the right place for me--I learned so much, my experience was overwhelmingly rich (and not only with my writing and with the work I did in workshops and in my thesis with Sidney Wade--I had some really amazing literature-based academic experiences, found a scholarly love in comic books scholarship, and organized academic conferences ON TOP OF--the writing, literary translation, teaching, etc. etc. etc...). Also, having moved from Boston, it was VERY nice to pay so little rent as I did in Gainesville. I will say that it was sort of tough whittling down my financial obligations to live on the stipend UF offers, but it is do-able and I was able to do it (though because I am me--filled with strange anxiety and the desire to eat out every now and then and to get the better brand of olive oil (something my Greek relatives would be proud of), I did get some very part-time jobs. NONE of my writing, teaching, or academics suffered one bit, though).

I can never recommend UF enough to anyone. It's one fantastic program, and for all of the hokiness of "The Florida Gators" (and the school's colors--blue & orange) and how that fills the town of Gainesville, G'ville is actually a pretty cool little place to spend a couple of years. It's also a very reasonable place to be a poor grad student for a couple of years (ie the cultural offerings are limited enough that you don't feel like you're missing out, but there is just enough to, I guess, punctuate your experience with some non-creative writing-related fun).

To ANYONE who is sending applications to MFA programs: I more than highly recommend UF. Even if you don't think that you really want to go there. The application fee is incredibly small (something like $30), the application (from what I remember) does not require a statement of purpose, and the faculty will read your work very carefully and *discuss* it and whether they think that they have stuff to teach you and stuff to work on with you based on your talent and their collective talent. Whether you get in or not, your application will be very carefully and thoughtfully considered. And aside from the glory of an actual acceptance--that sort of means a lot. It's nice to know that someone cares...


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Oct 12, 2007, 2:34 PM

Post #227 of 709 (8558 views)
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Re: [stephkarto1] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

That's great, stephkarto. Your post makes me really excited and positive enough that I've made the right decision in choosing UF. Hell, the more I hear about their program, the more I want to move UF as my top school for the MFA. And I didn't realize that the application fee was so cheap, too. Is it possible if you can send me a short e-mail--I have additional questions I would like to ask. Thanks!


stephkarto1
Stephanie Kartalopoulos

Oct 12, 2007, 2:41 PM

Post #228 of 709 (8557 views)
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Re: [seemingmeaning] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

Drop me an e-mail any time about UF. Seriously. I love that program, loved my experience, and would be happy to talk to anyone (especially on the poetry side of things). Not every part of my experience was perfect--there's a lot of stuff that sort of took me by surprise when I was there--but even the not-amazing stuff was fine. (Ultimately, EVERY school and EVERY town has good things and bad things about it. You just have to find a combination of good and bad that works for you. For me, that was Gainesville and UF...)

But drop me a line any time. The next week and a half is pretty tough for me, schedule-wise. I take the GREs very early tomorrow, I have extra office hours with my students all day Sunday, poetry group Sunday night, work at my office job on Monday, office hours Monday night, and then Tuesday I leave for almost a week to Las Vegas for my office job. I'm sort of busy, but never too busy to read an e-mail and send something back within a few days!


Scrat1


Oct 25, 2007, 5:37 PM

Post #229 of 709 (8478 views)
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Re: [stephkarto1] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

How many hours/days/months/years has everyone spent on their writing sample?


mpagan


Oct 25, 2007, 9:10 PM

Post #230 of 709 (8450 views)
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Re: [Scrat1] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

I was thinking about this recently,

For one of my stories I spent half the year - working maybe an hour or two - in between working full-time for 5 days a week- but I was able to workshop this story at a summer conference as well this past summer- so that was time well spent - then for the second story the process seem to fall into place in less time - maybe a month for getting the story down - then another month revising- but it was an easier go than the first. So I guess it just depends on the story your writing.


__________



Oct 25, 2007, 11:35 PM

Post #231 of 709 (8425 views)
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Re: [mpagan] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

Sub question: how much help (and what kind) did you receive?

Undergrad I spent two months on a first draft. Workshopped it twice. One class loved it, the second hated it. Tossed that one. Six months on what I feel is my best work. 15,000 words--too long. Tossed it. Trying a minimalist approach that'll jibe with page limits. Thinking of paying a famous editor to read, laugh at it.


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jacarty
Jessie Carty
e-mail user

Oct 26, 2007, 9:23 AM

Post #232 of 709 (8391 views)
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Re: [Scrat1] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

that is an interesting question.
i'm in poetry so it might be harder to guage.
i know i spent at least a month just choosing what i would send and then probably another month revising.

--Jessie


http://jessiecarty.com


Yugao


Oct 26, 2007, 11:09 AM

Post #233 of 709 (8371 views)
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Re: [Scrat1] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

Both of my stories were first drafted last summer (2006). I'm still working on both, though I spent much of my writing time over the last year working on a novel, so I haven't been steadily working at these particular stories. They've both been revised and workshopped several times, but I still don't find them satisfactory. One needs about 1-2 more drafts and I'll probably continue to work on the other until December.


mpagan


Oct 26, 2007, 12:42 PM

Post #234 of 709 (8356 views)
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Re: time spend on drafts [In reply to] Can't Post

This discussion of time spent on drafts can get tricky - since you can spend forever on one story and never really feel like it works - or like it one month - hate it another - at least that happens with me sometimes. Then other times you write something in a short amount of time and it somehow works.

But in the end - if you've put in the time - productive, moved the story forward and polished it till you can polish it no more - kind of time, then it will show. It may still need some work, but at least it will showcase some of your stregths in addition to your weaknesses. My samples right now, I think, show promise or at least what I am capable of doing. I like them some days, have issues with them the next, but I overall feel satisfied that I've given them all I got at this point, before applying to school.


maanprophet


Oct 29, 2007, 2:17 PM

Post #235 of 709 (8282 views)
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Re: [Scrat1] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

I wrote a story in two days that both my professors hailed as my best to date, and it was far cleaner than the second story that I'd worked and reworked over three months. Go figure.

On an unrelated but relevant note, I had my thesis advisor comb over the story with the perspective of the admissions board (He's on Michener's). It was a very strange and frustrating experience--the fact that a better story doesn't make a better admissions story is a difficult pill to swallow. You have to show them not that you can write, but that you can tell a story. Well, show a story. Hrmm. There's still a great deal of work to be done.


lostmyshape


Oct 29, 2007, 3:03 PM

Post #236 of 709 (8267 views)
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Re: [maanprophet] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I had my thesis advisor comb over the story with the perspective of the admissions board (He's on Michener's). It was a very strange and frustrating experience--the fact that a better story doesn't make a better admissions story is a difficult pill to swallow. You have to show them not that you can write, but that you can tell a story. Well, show a story.

interesting... can you be more specific as to what your advisor suggested? and what they might be looking for? and how a "better admissions story" isn't always a "better story?"


maanprophet


Oct 29, 2007, 9:04 PM

Post #237 of 709 (8216 views)
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Re: [lostmyshape] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, part of it is that I'm more on the experimental, post-modern edge of things. I ain't featuring in Glimmer Train any time soon.

But a lot of it was that these professors have to tear through a few hundred first-reads in a day or two. They quickly find either reasons to like you or reasons to discard you. More specifically, my advisor wanted to see action immediately, things happening, so he can get hooked in easier. Also, the first exchange of dialogue is extremely important because it shows you that you can write conversations.

The fact that nobody was talking till page six was a risk I'm taking. Does that make sense? Does a story without dialogue for six pages necessarily and always bad? Of course not. But for the purposes of the application, you want stories that are jump right into action you show and not tell. For someone like me, who doesn't focus on straightaway literary fiction, it's kind of tough to get used to/take, but after blowing last year's apps by mistakenly believing the schools would buy into my brand of super cool, I understand that I'm playing their game and applying to their schools.


Good luck to all.


__________



Oct 30, 2007, 12:06 AM

Post #238 of 709 (8196 views)
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Very interesting, very frightening.

There was a Michener Center story in the Best New American Writing (or Best of the Fiction Workshops) '98. Very pomo-ish, minimal dialogue, about people playing cards or something. It gave me hope. But I guess it's better to 'experiment' once you actually get in.

If I read one more thing like this, I'll explode. I mean, who cares if their eyes get tired? Who cares if they have to--gasp--read! for a week during their sinecures. Not me. We're paying them, for godsakes. Read those manuscripts, boys!

My new opening gambit:

Assistant DA Rick ManCusso could't talk with Manny "The Grease" Greasinski's knife wedged into his throat.
"I'm having trouble talking!" Assistant DA Rick ManCusso said, Manny "The Grease" Greasinski's knife wedged into his throat.


Is this what you want? Aaaaaaaahh!

I mean, gosh.


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Oct 30, 2007, 12:08 AM)


bennyprof


Oct 30, 2007, 11:28 AM

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Well, part of it is that I'm more on the experimental, post-modern edge of things. I ain't featuring in Glimmer Train any time soon...

... For someone like me, who doesn't focus on straightaway literary fiction, it's kind of tough to get used to/take, but after blowing last year's apps by mistakenly believing the schools would buy into my brand of super cool, I understand that I'm playing their game and applying to their schools.



Can you expound on what you mean by "super cool?" Are you talking subject matter-wise, prose style or both? (One of my pieces is a little avante garde-ish, though not to Lynch/Barthelme proportions.)


mpagan


Oct 30, 2007, 12:41 PM

Post #240 of 709 (8138 views)
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The expectations of the people who will read your samples can only be guessed at with little certainty. In the end it will come down to subjective measures that one hopes is based on a readers ability to discern talent in work that is not yet fully formed. So if you write something that is "experimental" or "realist" the hope is that if you've written it well, or indicate in your work some talent a school feels it wants to work with, then you've done all you can do at this point.

I kind of bristle at these distinctions between, "experimental" and "realist"
when it comes to describing your work. As if somehow they are mutually exculsive - that a realist work can't display some experimental construction, or an experimental piece is not allowed to reflect the real world in some poignant way. Quality fiction has a way of making itself known no matter what guise it wears. I'd concentrate on writing good work and sending in samples that reflect you labors. If that is not enough to get you into a school then keep working and doing what you got to do. But don't hitch your wagon to what you "think" schools want and styles of writing that are in or out of favor for one reason or another.
Write what you got to write and work at it.


maanprophet


Oct 30, 2007, 2:26 PM

Post #241 of 709 (8120 views)
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Well, my best piece last year was a novel excerpt. Instead of cutting the piece to its most coherent short story form, I kept in all the funky things I love about my novel: very poetic experimental sections, posthumous letters, and the like.

Taken in context, I've gotten great feedback about those devices. In a MFA application, it's a very, very dumb idea. I thought the form of my novel was so badass and was sure they'd see it too. The story inside the excerpt is, I still feel, really, really good. This may sound obvious or trite but you're much more likely to wow them with your ability to nail the basics of storytelling then with the flash of your style and diction. They want to care about the story, not think it's "super-cool." This is something I'm still struggling with, and why I question my maturity in reapplying this year.

Good luck again.


aiyamei

e-mail user

Oct 30, 2007, 3:16 PM

Post #242 of 709 (8110 views)
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Maanprophet, I respect what you're trying to do, but I would also caution you not to be too quick to bow. Think about what you're talking about -- it's not the right way to make a German chocolate cake or calibrate your sprinkler system, it's not even the right way to play a violin, which, while an art, arguably still has more of a right and wrong to it. You're talking about fiction. Last time I checked, while there is a right way to make yourself an easy-read for a mass audience, there's still no "right" way to put together a masterpiece. I completely understand that you're just talking about what will get you past the gatekeepers at these schools, and it makes sense that compromises would have to be made, but you sound dangerously close to internalizing the presumed values of these schools. That is problematic for you, but also for our literary culture at large, which doesn't need any more conformists than it already has. Remember -- an artist must be fierce, independent, wise. If you are giving up a great deal of what you love in order to play ball with these schools, I say to hell with 'em.


maanprophet


Oct 30, 2007, 10:35 PM

Post #243 of 709 (8059 views)
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Thanks for you concern, and I'm all about your ideals. And I'd love to think of the MFA as being just about art and artists, but unfortunately I feel a lot more goes into it.

Look, my writing is my writing. I write because that's the closest I get to exploring who/what/why I am. I'm not concerned about that. But I think it's important to realize that the application and the writing sample are a picture of who you are and what you can do. Oftentimes what these schools want consists of specific things (and excludes other things). If I want to attend these schools, I need to take this into account. The thing is I feel like I could really benefit from getting an MFA. While some people need it to experiment, someone like me needs to use it to really focus.

I write for myself and even if I never got published again I'd write until I die. That's a part of me. But I recognize that if I want to grow as a writer, and work in their schools, I need to show them that I have skills worth them improving. Is this selling out? Playing the game? I don't know. I'm just looking for time to write.


__________



Oct 31, 2007, 1:35 AM

Post #244 of 709 (8039 views)
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Heck, I'd like to hear more about what your teacher said.

I know I'm cynical, but my perspective is closer to Brenden Fraser's in School Ties: give 'em what they want (brevity, dialogue in the first scene), then take what you need (time, money) without compromising your values. Better to stand up later and tell 'em you're really Jewish/postmodern.

The standard argument against this is that you'll fare better at whatever tiny school has the chance to recognize your crappy genius, or that you're sellling out your values. But crap, I say. I think we'll do better with a big wad of cash. My application story is just that -- an application story, designed to show that I understand certain things. It is separate from my 'real' work.

This is like the zillionth mention of poor tired administrators forced to read a hundred stories. It would be really fun to make a list. Number one: dialogue up front. Hook me in! Show me you can write a conversation!


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mpagan


Oct 31, 2007, 12:39 PM

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I don't have a crystal ball or anything, so if that "strategy" works for you - then good for you.

But if you're going to tailor your writing to some perceived idea of what MFA programs want to see, because you want to go to school so bad, what makes you think you'll pull of that kind of writing. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but do you think it's easier than your "true" work? Also, is the kind of work you truly love doing so out there that you think no school will be able to understand and appreciate it? I'm sure there is a genre for the type of work you do, how does it compare? It doesn't have to be on the same level, but if it mirrors some of the quality and contains some of the craft then I say send the work you are doing in - instead of an imitation of what you think MFA programs want to see.

Thats just my pie-in-the-sky view I guess.


MissEsquire



Oct 31, 2007, 1:59 PM

Post #246 of 709 (7979 views)
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In Reply To
I know I'm cynical, but my perspective is closer to Brenden Fraser's in School Ties: give 'em what they want (brevity, dialogue in the first scene), then take what you need (time, money) without compromising your values. Better to stand up later and tell 'em you're really Jewish/postmodern.

The standard argument against this is that you'll fare better at whatever tiny school has the chance to recognize your crappy genius, or that you're sellling out your values. But crap, I say. I think we'll do better with a big wad of cash. My application story is just that -- an application story, designed to show that I understand certain things. It is separate from my 'real' work.


I agree that everyone would do better with a big wad of cash (never was a big fan of School Ties, but maybe that's because Brendan Fraser reminds me of Moose from Archie), but what kind of guidance are you going to receive in the actual program if you duped the admissions board into accepting you? The ideal situation here is that your program of choice accepts you for your Jewishness/po-mo-ness (and who says po-mo writing can't also have brevity?) If not, wouldn't it be better to be in a place that nurtures your style rather than end up in Extremely Well-Funded Workshop #1, only to receive lame feedback from your peers and teachers? Maybe I'm just misunderstanding your comment here and you actually did mean that you're modifying the order of your story rather than throwing the admissions board something that doesn't represent you at all. The difference between being Jewish and being po-mo is that you can hide being Jewish.


mingram
Mike Ingram

Oct 31, 2007, 6:32 PM

Post #247 of 709 (7938 views)
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This discussion reminds me of my freshmen comp. students, who sometimes claim their papers aren't good because the assignments are too boring, and are hemming in their creativity. "I was doing way more creative stuff in high school, so this stuff's just, like, too simple for me." To which I always respond: "Great, it should be really easy for you to write an A paper, then."

It's hard to write a straightforward, scene-driven realist story that grabs the reader's attention and holds it until the end. If you can do that -- whether you're "faking" it or not -- you're a really talented writer.

But if you're thinking about your own writing as a by-the-numbers exercise, I'll guarantee you it'll suck. Rule number one -- which should be obvious but for some reason rarely is -- if you're bored by what you're writing, people will be bored by reading it.


mrshankly


Oct 31, 2007, 11:45 PM

Post #248 of 709 (7903 views)
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The notion of an admissions board feeling duped by a disparity between your application submission and the work you end up doing while in the program is, quite frankly, ridiculous. If your application contains an excellent realistic story that gets you admitted to Prestigious Program X and then, during your first semester at PP X, you realize that you're actually into fragmentary pomo narratives and you start writing really excellent fragmentary pomo stories, NOBODY is going to give a shit. Your instructors, if they're good, will want to see you grow as a writer, regardless of the "school" your fiction belongs to. Your peers will have no idea that you're a lapsed Alice Munro acolyte. And regardless of where you go, and what style of fiction you write, you will have people in your workshops who "get" what you're trying to do, and people who don't.

I write realistic stories. I hate 99% of pomo narratives. In each of my workshops (I went to NYU) there were people doing realism, and people writing Donald Barthelme-esque stories. Some of the best critiques I got for my work came from people doing pomo stuff, and some of the best commentary and analysis for the Barthelme folk often came from people doing realism. Thinking "I write experimental stuff so I have to go to Brown" is typical, but I don't know if it's the best way to approach the application process. (Which is not to dissuade anyone from applying to Brown--it's obviously a top program.) If you're in any one of the top 30 or 40 programs, you're likely to be surrounded by people who have read a lot, and are well-versed in any narrative style you can think of. Just because somebody works primarily in style y doesn't mean s/he isn't qualified to analyze a story written in style z.

With that in mind, apply with the story you're most enthusiastic about, not with the one you think the admissions board will appreciate the most. If you've written some insane pomo fugue that you think kicks ass, send it. Don't play it safe with the realism you're kind of lukewarm about.

My 2 cents.


__________



Nov 1, 2007, 6:15 AM

Post #249 of 709 (7878 views)
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Re: [mrshankly] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

I probably overstated my case. Think of it this way: Barthelme wrote some lengthy, convoluted pieces with little or no dialogue, no 'scenes'. He also wrote some snappy little scene-driven numbers that were no less weird. (Think "Sentence" vs. "City of Churches").

It doesn't have to be a matter of realism. You can write in different modes and still sound like 'you'.

Plus I hate to say it, but my own experience has matched up with these tales of bleary-eyed administrators. I was an editor of a tiny, tiny local journal once, for about five minutes. The first stories I pulled had a lot of white space and tended to read almost like screenplays. I often look for the same thing late at night when I'm reading a new journal.

It gets to me, it gets to me....

And no lo to this, by the way:

It's hard to write a straightforward, scene-driven realist story that grabs the reader's attention and holds it until the end. If you can do that -- whether you're "faking" it or not -- you're a really talented writer.

It's hard to write a good story, period. And for me, trying new things has really paid off. I don't think a more practical approach to applications is necessarily faking it.



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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Nov 1, 2007, 6:19 AM)


MissEsquire



Nov 1, 2007, 10:28 AM

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In Reply To
The notion of an admissions board feeling duped by a disparity between your application submission and the work you end up doing while in the program is, quite frankly, ridiculous.


Yes, you're right. My choice of words was bad there. What I was trying to say is that I don't understand why you wouldn't put your best work forward - whatever it is - and leave the rest to...whatever forces are at work in making selections. If it's po-mo and it's good, it's good. If it's a traditional narrative and it keeps people reading, that's good, too. If your particular brand of cool doesn't appeal to the schools you've applied to, then maybe it's time to try something different. But hedging bets seems impossible in the application process. It makes me go crosseyed just thinking about it.

Of course, this is assuming that your best work is your po-mo work, which leads back to my confusion as to whether we're talking about writing specifically for an admissions board, or just choosing less-"risky" stories that you're still confident with.


(This post was edited by MissEsquire on Nov 1, 2007, 10:31 AM)


aiyamei

e-mail user

Nov 1, 2007, 12:58 PM

Post #251 of 709 (7024 views)
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This actually reminds me a lot of the advice I was getting while looking for an agent. The query letter has to "hook" them immediately, reel them in; it has to be punchy, eye-catching, tell a good story, make them want to see your novel for the sake of finding out what happens next, etc. This, in turn, translates into what is likely to make people pick up your book at a store and take it home even if they've never heard your name.

So sure, I think it makes sense to work with that part of human psychology that seems to love a good story, whether your reader happens to be an agent, an admissions committee member, or a bookstore browser. However, I would say based on my own experience: there is more than one way to do this. A "good story" is a stylistic choice, yes, but it doesn't have to involve realism, or dialogue, or any of the other things that are being taken for granted as part of good storyness in the above discussion.
p.s. I am also completely flummoxed by the "Jewish" variable as used above. What does it mean to quell your "Jewishness" and then let it out after you're admitted?


MissEsquire



Nov 1, 2007, 4:18 PM

Post #252 of 709 (6996 views)
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In Reply To
p.s. I am also completely flummoxed by the "Jewish" variable as used above. What does it mean to quell your "Jewishness" and then let it out after you're admitted?


It's a reference to School Ties (the film).


embreyj


Nov 8, 2007, 8:03 AM

Post #253 of 709 (6890 views)
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novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

Every school I'm applying to says to send in a collection of short stories OR a self-contained section of a novel (captials added for my own emphasis). Does this mean I can't send in two short stories and a small section of the novel I'm working on?


bighark


Nov 8, 2007, 8:12 AM

Post #254 of 709 (6887 views)
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Not at all.

As long as you follow the guidelines for length, you can send whatever you want.


BLUECHEESE


Nov 19, 2007, 3:14 PM

Post #255 of 709 (6739 views)
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I’m applying in poetry, and I’m really starting to put together my manuscript—I’m wondering what I should include. Is it okay to have a variety of voices/forms? I’ve never actually taken a poetry class, and I’m unpublished, but I’ve made a point of schooling myself over the last couple of years. So, I don’t know how I’m going to fair.

I’m all over the place… Sapphic odes, Sonnets, heroic couplets, modernist lines, organic form, forms I’ve invented…. and I’m just starting to mess around with the pastoral and lyric.

Or, should I just submit stuff that tends towards the type of poetry I want to write… (well, I’m not really sure what I want to write… )

Strangely, I’d like to go somewhere that has a decent stipend/reputation. Simply for the purposes of the post-MFA-job-market. I’m sure one can get a great education from any school on the list—especially any of the ones with smaller class sizes—but yea.

It is so strange how places like Boise State, or Colorado State can have the most amazing faculty. But they get totally ignored. I’ll be applying to both as backups. Dan Beachy-Quick… Martin Corless-Smith… come on! But when I look at something like “Foetry,” I don’t get the feeling that Iowa is ripping off the system, or that the teachers are “better,” but I do get the feeling that they can be more selective in which poets they take in… thus, making a the peer group better. Every person I’ve talked to, has said the peer group matters above all, when it really comes down to it. Though, there are always horror stories coming out of iowa, it seems.


stephkarto1
Stephanie Kartalopoulos

Nov 19, 2007, 4:44 PM

Post #256 of 709 (6715 views)
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Janet Holmes is actually an amazing professor, an amazing editor (she runs Ahsahta Press), and an amazing program administrator. If you get into her program, you'll be in great hands. Regardless of the BS that Foetry promotes or wishes to promote about her. She's a really good judge of character, a good judge of *writing,* and a person who enjoys reading a very diverse range of poetry so long as it's rock-solid. She also comes out of the Warren Wilson program and has had an interesting career as a writer, editor, and as one who gives readings of her own work.

As for what to submit there--don't think just about JH's own writing (or about the stuff she writes about on her blog!!!), but think about the work she's drawn to for publishing through Ahsahta. That might give you guidance. Also, it goes without saying, that ultimately you should submit the work that you consider to be your best, your most dynamic, and *most* representative of your voice as a poet--regardless of what form that voice takes.

Good luck with your manuscript compilation and with your applications. I don't know about Colorado's program, but Boise is one of those programs that's phenomenal despite its lack of press. I know it only as a place that's serious about craft and writing and as a place that seeks to encourage and nurture its students to take chances. When it comes to your writing and how you will develop as a writer, I don't know what could possibly be better (unless it's UF, but I have my own admittedly biased reasons for promoting Florida's program...).

Good luck.


BLUECHEESE


Nov 19, 2007, 4:52 PM

Post #257 of 709 (6710 views)
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Thanks, yeah, the Boise State program just seems awesome.

Well, Colorado State is damned cool, too.
Sasha Steensen, Dan Beachy-Quick, and Mathew Cooperman
Steensen won the Alberta prize for her book about magic... it is so strange/cool. Dan Beachy-Quick's books are amazing. I don't know much about Cooperman, but yeah, he seems interesting. It is also cool to see a program with top up-and-coming poets.


BLUECHEESE


Nov 19, 2007, 5:02 PM

Post #258 of 709 (6708 views)
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BTW, are you at UF? how is that going?


stephkarto1
Stephanie Kartalopoulos

Nov 19, 2007, 6:00 PM

Post #259 of 709 (6696 views)
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I graduated from there in 2003 and have kept in touch with my professors and with the friends I made while there. The program just really did so much for me and for my writing, and the experience I had while there was one of the most enriching, nurturing, challenging, and life-changing I can say I have ever had. And I've certainly had a lot of, well, "experience" in my life.

I was lucky. I wound up getting accepted to my 1st choice program, and it wound up really fulfilling all of my expectations and hopes--and then some. I learned more than I ever thought I could in a writing program. *shrug*

And I just wish that sort of luck and experience for anyone who applies to programs and who really, truly wants to gain all of the experience that the MFA program they *really* want can offer.


BLUECHEESE


Nov 19, 2007, 6:44 PM

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Well, to ask the always often scoffed at question (and I guess it doesn't really matter, since 2-3 years of funded writing kicks ass, period... and it seems like you enjoyed the experience)

...but how is job hunting going among those you know from the program...


(This post was edited by BLUECHEESE on Nov 19, 2007, 6:46 PM)


stephkarto1
Stephanie Kartalopoulos

Nov 19, 2007, 8:09 PM

Post #261 of 709 (6669 views)
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My classmates are all employed or in PhD programs in literature. They're all writing and submitting to journals. They're doing what they can...which is what most people who are not yet at a point where they have amassed enough poems to form a coherent manuscript and submit to first book competitions--and then win--are doing.

The MFA degree is not a professional degree. It can give you the opportunity to segue into a profession, if you choose, but it also gives you experience and skills that you can use to your benefit as you keep on searching to find whatever job it is that you are OK enough working while still writing your poems.

For me, the big thing is teaching. I adjunct, but I have a full-time job with very understanding neurologists who do medical research and who are medical monitors for a rather substantial clinical trial program for people with Multiple Sclerosis. I also have a steady freelance writing gig at the Museum of Fine Arts here in Boston that I have had for a year and a half. And I have a writing group, my writing, some time to read (though not much mid-semester), and I am applying to PhD programs in creative writing. For a while I taught writing at the college level in an educational nonprofit. I've found ways to pay my expensive Boston rent and still teach and still write.

*shrug*

It works for me. At least it does now. But I have no spouse, no boyfriend, really, and my family is just a 5 hour bus ride away. I have friends who I have made in the last 4.5 years who have become a stellar support system, and I have a great support system with my friends from Florida. Not everyone wants what I have. But I don't want what a lot of other people have (or want, for that matter).


BLUECHEESE


Nov 20, 2007, 4:19 AM

Post #262 of 709 (6628 views)
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I don't know, I just like the idea of being able to get a tenure track position... or at least the posibility of one. I suppose the whole -publishing a book thing- is a problem... and I may end up getting a phd in philosophy (or english critical theory), but I can also see myself being burned out after a few years, and leaning toward the more 'organic' types of thinking that poetry allows me.


stephkarto1
Stephanie Kartalopoulos

Nov 20, 2007, 7:26 AM

Post #263 of 709 (6623 views)
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You know, I don't know of anyone who has gotten a tenure track job without significant publication.

And the way the job market has been going the last few years for teaching jobs even for freshman comp and in English departments--less jobs, more applicants--even full-time, non-tenure-track jobs are going more often to those with PhDs.

An MFA is not a professional degree. Doesn't mean it won't steer you in a direction, just that this is not its primary goal. Go for an MFA if you really truly want the time for your writing. If your more important goal is that tenure track job, well, then go straight for PhD-ville.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Nov 20, 2007, 1:16 PM

Post #264 of 709 (6574 views)
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In some departments -- ones that are big enough -- an MFA does count as a terminal degree for a full-time job. In my own department -- 46 people, not counting junior lecturers like myself -- we have a fair number of folks who have the MFA but no PhD. Well, about 20%. But we are large enough to have a creative writing program, where an MFA makes sense as a terminal degree. It doesn't make sense in a purely academic program.

Of the new lecturers, at any rate, I am the only MFA -- one out of nine. But the department has no trouble with me staying on or teaching literature or even creating writing seminars.

This is an exception among the places where I've taught (8 colleges and universities so far), but such exceptions do exist.


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/


bennyprof


Nov 26, 2007, 9:21 PM

Post #265 of 709 (6465 views)
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Re: [pongo] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

This might have been answered elsewhere, but if you're sending multiple stories (in my case, three with 24 total pages) for your writing sample, do you staple it all together or staple each story separately?


(This post was edited by bennyprof on Nov 26, 2007, 9:22 PM)


bighark


Nov 27, 2007, 8:38 AM

Post #266 of 709 (6418 views)
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Re: [bennyprof] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

Don't staple.

Use paperclips or binderclips, but do not staple unless you are asked to do so. I used tiny binder clips on my individual stories and essays and bigger clips to clasp them together (so the fiction was in one place, essays in another, etc.).


HopperFu


Nov 27, 2007, 9:21 AM

Post #267 of 709 (6411 views)
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Re: [bighark] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

Assuming you make it to the final rounds, the application committee may want to make photocopies to pass around. Paperclips are easier. Name / Title / Page Number on every page of every story. Times New Roman, 12 pt. Font, double spaced, indent first line of every new paragraph.


BLUECHEESE


Nov 27, 2007, 11:49 AM

Post #268 of 709 (6382 views)
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Yeah, staples aren't the way to go. It shows that you probably haven't submitted anything for publiction--and thus aren't that aware of what you are getting yourself into. You might want to simply look up sites about formatting submissions, and go from there. Listing titles, page numbers, and your name on everything... like hopperfu said... is important.

I wonder if I should list like, "TITLE, new stanza" on the top of every page of my poetry manuscripts... hmmm.


monarca


Nov 27, 2007, 12:12 PM

Post #269 of 709 (6375 views)
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Re: [BLUECHEESE] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

Oh no. No one told me I had to worry about staples!


BLUECHEESE


Nov 27, 2007, 12:20 PM

Post #270 of 709 (6370 views)
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I'd worry more about the writing sample and how good it is than staples, it is just something to keep in mind when putting everything together. If you want to come across as someone who doesn't know much about publishing, but is a brilliant writer, then by all means, staple away... thinking about the whole package can be important... it all comes together, and presentation, can, I think, affect the way the poems are viewed.

If you put a childrens finger painting in a sleek frame, it almost comes off as modern art... ha! >.O


bennyprof


Nov 27, 2007, 12:54 PM

Post #271 of 709 (6358 views)
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In Reply To
Yeah, staples aren't the way to go. It shows that you probably haven't submitted anything for publiction--and thus aren't that aware of what you are getting yourself into.



Think you might be overstating it a bit, but it certainly doesn't hurt to do everything the way they want it done. The main reason I asked it that way was that several of the programs I'm applying to are specific about wanting it stapled. Which led me to sort of assume that the standard for MFA subs might be different than publication. (...I've had a story published and used paperclips when I submitted it.) Not sure why that would be the case, but anyway...

Good to know for sure, though. Thanks!


(This post was edited by bennyprof on Nov 27, 2007, 1:04 PM)


HopperFu


Nov 27, 2007, 1:09 PM

Post #272 of 709 (6349 views)
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In Reply To
Oh no. No one told me I had to worry about staples!


You really don't. If your writing is good enough (or a match - they aren't always the same thing) you'll be fine. Staples really aren't a big deal. 8 pt. single spaced comic sans serif is.
When submitting work:
a) follow the guidelines given by the program / magazine for submitting
b) in the absence of guidelines, your goal is to have your manuscript noticed for nothing other than the quality of your writing. There is an almost perfect connection between weird fonts / paper / binding / etc. and bad writing. I think the best bet for not being annoying is:
- 12 pt. times new roman, double spaced, first line of every new paragraph indented, white paper, printed one side of each page (not two sided, even though it saves trees)
- name, title, page number on every page (bottom or top, doesn't really matter)
- stapled or paper clipped (my preference is paper clipped, but again, doesn't matter)
- at the top right or left on the first page your name, address, phone, email, and centered on the first page (bold, underline, italic, in 14 pt font, somehow set off, with perhaps two line breaks after it) your title

Ultimately, however, this is not the sort of thing to obsess on. Don't try to be cute or to reinvent the wheel.


monarca


Nov 27, 2007, 1:25 PM

Post #273 of 709 (6345 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

Awesome. I wasn't too worried. It's just funny how many small things can trip you up. For the samples I've already submitted I did staple, but the kept the rest simple and clear (name on every page and 12-pt times new roman, etc...). I guess I won't lose sleep tonight imagining horrified admissions committees throwing my stapled manuscripts into the garbage. (Although I do feel silly. My day job involves a fair amount of copying and I'm always complaining about staples!)


BLUECHEESE


Nov 27, 2007, 5:05 PM

Post #274 of 709 (6307 views)
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Honestly, the only way to go--is to submit everything in a trapperkeeper!


bennyprof


Nov 27, 2007, 6:21 PM

Post #275 of 709 (6295 views)
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Yep... and don't forget the yellow legal pads for your writing sample, written in pink magic marker, strawberry-scented and sprinkled with glitter. Why take any chances, I say.


Rambler


Nov 27, 2007, 10:24 PM

Post #276 of 709 (7203 views)
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BLUECHEESE--
You made my day by simply using the word trapperkeeper.
Other fond memories of the eighties: side-ponytails, jelly-shoes, big bangs, etc.
By the way, if I remember reading in between the lines correctly, I think you, too, are applying to ND.
Have you sent your application in?
I'm fiction.


BLUECHEESE


Nov 28, 2007, 2:25 AM

Post #277 of 709 (7180 views)
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No, I won't have everything ready for a little while... still tweaking stuff like my sop and writing sample. (20 pages of poetry?!?! MONSTERS! Not that I don't have it, but I've been working on more like 15... so that adds another 5 poems to brood over... damn them....)


jaywalke


Nov 28, 2007, 9:17 AM

Post #278 of 709 (7164 views)
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In Reply To
Yep... and don't forget the yellow legal pads for your writing sample, written in pink magic marker, strawberry-scented and sprinkled with glitter. Why take any chances, I say.


My unicorn stationery beats your yellow legal pad, horns down.


monarca


Nov 29, 2007, 12:51 PM

Post #279 of 709 (7081 views)
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Re: [jaywalke] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

Fabulous! My trapperkeeper has a unicorn on the cover. I knew I was gonna do something right!


mingram
Mike Ingram

Nov 30, 2007, 1:05 AM

Post #280 of 709 (7024 views)
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The story I applied to Iowa with was in the fall 2006 Baltimore Review, and if anyone wants to PM me, I'll be happy to send it to you.

I realize, on typing this, that it might sound kind of pompous or whatever, but I certainly don't mean it that way. In fact., I think the story has a number of problems. I just remember that when I was applying I really wished someone would let me read a story that got them in somewhere, so I'm willing to share mine.


gmiller1122


Dec 1, 2007, 8:32 AM

Post #281 of 709 (6939 views)
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In Reply To
Yep... and don't forget the yellow legal pads for your writing sample, written in pink magic marker, strawberry-scented and sprinkled with glitter. Why take any chances, I say.


Haha. This reminds me of reviewing applicants' resumes. Rainbow stationary, pink paper with violet ink, script fonts, and headshots (as if they were applying for a bit part on a soap opera) -- these things came across the desk more than you might think.


"Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved." - Willam Jennings Bryan


mingram
Mike Ingram

Dec 1, 2007, 3:39 PM

Post #282 of 709 (6900 views)
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Hey, thanks for everyone who PM'd me. I'm not ignoring you ... I'm going to put together an email in a couple days, once I've got a few more minutes.


bennyprof


Dec 1, 2007, 10:35 PM

Post #283 of 709 (6857 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

What about margins? Is one inch all the way around the set-in-stone standard, or is 1.25 on the left and right okay? (Just noticed that my default was set up at 1.25 for some reason.) I know one of the programs I'm applying to specifies one inch... the others don't.


HopperFu


Dec 2, 2007, 8:03 AM

Post #284 of 709 (6819 views)
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the totally honest answer is it doesn't matter.
I think that more than 90% of submissions tend to use the default Word margins (1.25), so I wouldn't worry about it.
That being said, if a place specifies a certain thing, I would do whatever they specify, even if it is 30 pt. bold Garramond with .02 margins on yellow Unicorn / Rainbow paper.


bennyprof


Dec 4, 2007, 8:47 PM

Post #285 of 709 (6697 views)
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In Reply To

In Reply To
Oh no. No one told me I had to worry about staples!


You really don't. If your writing is good enough (or a match - they aren't always the same thing) you'll be fine. Staples really aren't a big deal. 8 pt. single spaced comic sans serif is.
When submitting work:
a) follow the guidelines given by the program / magazine for submitting
b) in the absence of guidelines, your goal is to have your manuscript noticed for nothing other than the quality of your writing. There is an almost perfect connection between weird fonts / paper / binding / etc. and bad writing. I think the best bet for not being annoying is:
- 12 pt. times new roman, double spaced, first line of every new paragraph indented, white paper, printed one side of each page (not two sided, even though it saves trees)
- name, title, page number on every page (bottom or top, doesn't really matter)
- stapled or paper clipped (my preference is paper clipped, but again, doesn't matter)
- at the top right or left on the first page your name, address, phone, email, and centered on the first page (bold, underline, italic, in 14 pt font, somehow set off, with perhaps two line breaks after it) your title

Ultimately, however, this is not the sort of thing to obsess on. Don't try to be cute or to reinvent the wheel.



One quick question regarding the above:

"...and centered on the first page (bold, underline, italic, in 14 pt font, somehow set off, with perhaps two line breaks after it) your title"

-This is somewhat surprising to me. I've always been told (and read in various guides) that when it comes to submitting for publication one should never fancy up the title in any way. Just plain old text. No italics, no bold, no underline, same size font. Is this not as big a deal as some have made it out to be?


(This post was edited by bennyprof on Dec 4, 2007, 8:53 PM)


HopperFu


Dec 4, 2007, 11:55 PM

Post #286 of 709 (6661 views)
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I don't think it's a big deal either way. The issue is that when most people do anything unusual with fonts / style, they do too much and they suck at it. For myself, I leave it in the same font and size but just center the title and make it bold. Can't imagine it matters. I mostly do it so it's clear that it's the title and not just part of the text. Again, though, if using italics or bold or not using italics or bold for your title are what get you bounced, then you never had a shot in the first place.
Most of my opinions about submitting come from seeing hundreds of examples of what NOT to do.... Mostly, you just don't want to be the person that the readers laugh at and say, 'wow, did you see this purple ink?'


maanprophet


Dec 10, 2007, 9:40 AM

Post #287 of 709 (6541 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

Sort of on the same lines, do you think it's prudent/beneficial to tell readers that a story is in fact a novel excerpt? I've worked very hard to make it a stand-alone piece, so I'm not too concerned about that. I'm just not sure if and where I should mention that the piece is a novel excerpt. Thoughts? Cautions?

Thanks, and good luck to those who have deadlines this week.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Dec 10, 2007, 9:52 AM

Post #288 of 709 (6538 views)
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If you are trying to get into the program as a novelist, you should tell them that the sample is an excerpt; it shows that you have enough of a novel to be able to take an excerpt.


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

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

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


MissEsquire



Dec 10, 2007, 4:23 PM

Post #289 of 709 (6485 views)
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What are schools' general rules on portfolio length? For example, if a school says "at least thirty pages" and you have twenty-eight...Is that a stringent rule? Will readers toss your portfolio into the woodstove?


bighark


Dec 10, 2007, 4:31 PM

Post #290 of 709 (6480 views)
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Don't sweat the length requirement.

Your application won't be dismissed because you submitted 28 pages of writing when 30 were requested. Similarly, you won't deep-six your application because you sent 34 pages when the program wants no more than 30.

Send your best stuff.

Good luck


MissEsquire



Dec 10, 2007, 4:39 PM

Post #291 of 709 (6473 views)
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In Reply To
Don't sweat the length requirement.

Your application won't be dismissed because you submitted 28 pages of writing when 30 were requested. Similarly, you won't deep-six your application because you sent 34 pages when the program wants no more than 30.

Send your best stuff.

Good luck


Good to know. I had this image in my head of instructors in Dickensian fingerless gloves warming their hands in front of a portfolio-fueled blaze. Christmassy, no?


HopperFu


Dec 10, 2007, 5:03 PM

Post #292 of 709 (6465 views)
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Re: [MissEsquire] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

Basically, if your story is good, they'll read past the page limit (or they won't care if it is shorter), and if your story is bad, it doesn't matter how long it is.
I think the page limits are more like guidelines.
1. Send your best work.
2. When in doubt, send less rather than more.


Zash
Zachary Ash

Dec 10, 2007, 5:28 PM

Post #293 of 709 (6460 views)
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Will this fly? I submitted a single 15-page story to Brown. The MFA web page says: The suggested length of a writing sample is 30-40 pages of fiction. But they also say go for quality, not quantitiy, and this 15 pager is my best work. Am I in trouble?
zash


bennyprof


Dec 10, 2007, 5:44 PM

Post #294 of 709 (6455 views)
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Re: [bighark] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm in a similar situation -- my writing sample comes to around 23 pages, and two of the schools I'm applying to say "at least 30" pages.

Should I try to whip up another 8-10 page story in the next few weeks, or is it better to send what I have? Seven pages seems a bit too under.


bighark


Dec 10, 2007, 5:55 PM

Post #295 of 709 (6450 views)
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Benny,

If it were my application, I would just send the 23 pages that I know are good.

If you happen to be able to whip up a kick-ass seven-pager in the next couple of weeks, go ahead and knock yourself out. If you don't think the new story is quite fully cooked by the time the deadlines roll around, though, don't put jeopardize your application by sending it.

As far as MFA applications go, one good story plus one bad story equals two bad stories.

Good luck!


HopperFu


Dec 10, 2007, 6:09 PM

Post #296 of 709 (6444 views)
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In Reply To
As far as MFA applications go, one good story plus one bad story equals two bad stories.


This may be the best quote I've ever read about this. Right on.

Don't worry about sending too little (unless you send a two page story). If your fourteen page story kicks ass, at the very worst they will ask you to submit another story (which, yes, means that you should be working on your 'just in case they ask me for another one' story once you get everything in the mail).


bennyprof


Dec 10, 2007, 7:00 PM

Post #297 of 709 (6425 views)
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Cool, just as long as they don't automatically throw it out for not following directions, which honestly didn't sound all that unlikely to me given the number of apps they usually receive. (Indiana and Penn State are the two I'm referring to.)


(This post was edited by bennyprof on Dec 10, 2007, 7:23 PM)


Zash
Zachary Ash

Dec 10, 2007, 8:00 PM

Post #298 of 709 (6408 views)
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Re: [bennyprof] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

thanks


Scrat1


Dec 11, 2007, 12:08 AM

Post #299 of 709 (6367 views)
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In Reply To

As far as MFA applications go, one good story plus one bad story equals two bad stories.


I wonder to what degree that is true, because one story is likely to be better than the other one. I have trouble believing they won't take both stories into account and will only look at the worst story as an indicator of your talent. Of course if one story is terrible you aren't going to get in, but I don't think that is really what's being asked. What if one story is good and the other is mediocre?


__________



Dec 11, 2007, 3:48 AM

Post #300 of 709 (6344 views)
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The real dilemma, it seems, is simply knowing which is the good story.


six five four three two one 0 ->


bighark


Dec 11, 2007, 9:07 AM

Post #301 of 709 (6624 views)
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If one story is good and one story is mediocre, the person who sent two good stories gets your spot.


__________



Dec 11, 2007, 10:12 AM

Post #302 of 709 (6614 views)
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Re: [bighark] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

New question! Is there, like, any anecdotal evidence about how much of a story they feel compelled to read before chucking it? While the writing's fine, my story just isn't very interesting until a page or two in. I'd cut the boring out, if I can only find a way. Oh dear God--tell me they give you at least a double spaced page or two before throwing your money down the drain...


six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Dec 11, 2007, 10:13 AM)


lostmyshape


Dec 11, 2007, 11:02 AM

Post #303 of 709 (6592 views)
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In Reply To
I'd cut the boring out, if I can only find a way...

you can always cut. find a reader who can tell you what's necessary and what isn't.

or reorder! get the interesting stuff on the first page (start with the action) and do the exposition later. don't worry about "the reader needs to know this to get to this." most readers (of lit fiction, at least) can suspend doubt and go with what they're reading if you let them in on the details later (but quickly).

good luck!


Scrat1


Dec 11, 2007, 12:14 PM

Post #304 of 709 (6566 views)
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In Reply To
If one story is good and one story is mediocre, the person who sent two good stories gets your spot.


Right, and that makes sense. But I was asking about the logic behind the "one good story and one bad story equals two bad stories." How bad does that "bad" story have to be in order to make them ignore your good story too? That's what I was asking.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Dec 11, 2007, 12:27 PM

Post #305 of 709 (6559 views)
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In Reply To
New question! Is there, like, any anecdotal evidence about how much of a story they feel compelled to read before chucking it? While the writing's fine, my story just isn't very interesting until a page or two in. I'd cut the boring out, if I can only find a way. Oh dear God--tell me they give you at least a double spaced page or two before throwing your money down the drain...


I've never been on an admissions committee, but I have been an editor, and I was always careful to read at least the first paragraph of a submission, plus the cover letter.

When you're reading a great many bad stories, you can recognize them pretty easily. And if you miss one that turns great on page five, so it goes.


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/


mpagan


Dec 11, 2007, 12:43 PM

Post #306 of 709 (6553 views)
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I don't think people consciously send in one "good" story and one "mediocre" story. If that is the case, then yes, they've shot themselves in the foot.

You can't account for the tastes of different readers. But if they love one story and are not wowed by the second, then I imagine, those are the breaks. It does not make the one story they liked bad. It just means someone else with two stories they liked will maybe make a better impression. Who knows.

For the purposes of an MFA admissions commitee I am thinking that a bad story is one that displays zero sense of craft and life. The rest is taste. So if you can make magic happen once, but someone else does it twice - then the latter might leave a more favorable impression. Then again it might depend on the quality of your magic.

Four applications done! 6 to go!


__________



Dec 11, 2007, 1:31 PM

Post #307 of 709 (6537 views)
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Damn, that sounds rough. I'm hoping an admissions committee, since we're doling out a thousand bucks on apps, would be a little more thorough. What's giving me hope are those accepted stories I was lucky to read; none of them were ready for publication. (None except the two I read from Iowa--which did get published).

It's weird, though, that when schools discuss applications, they seem to emphasize the story, how you begin and end things, and never the fancy writing. (Or maybe that just goes without saying?)


six five four three two one 0 ->


Scrat1


Dec 11, 2007, 1:50 PM

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In Reply To
I don't think people consciously send in one "good" story and one "mediocre" story. If that is the case, then yes, they've shot themselves in the foot.


I'll use myself for example. I have one story that I am supremely confident in. But it is short -- only about 1600 words. The other one is just shy of 5000 words and it contains some of the best writing I've ever done. However, in order to give it some more trajectory I found it necessary to add a subplot that I don't think quite works. If I put it away for a month or two and took it back out I could look at it with fresh eyes and re-work it, but alas, I'm out of time. So this is what I mean by 'mediocre.' The prose is good; the characterization is good; I'm very proud of the introduction and the ending. But there is a parts where I think a committee member might scratch his/her head and think, "What exactly is he going for here?"


monarca


Dec 11, 2007, 4:28 PM

Post #309 of 709 (6484 views)
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Hey- I just wanted to give a public THANKS! for sharing the story from the Baltimore Review/Iowa application. I was on the list of people who got it. It was a pretty great gesture and I really enjoyed your work, too.

I mostly wanted to read it to know if, when it comes right down it, I could actually compete. Everyone talks about work being "good enough" for somewhere like Iowa, but it can be frustrating to read that as an applicant. How do you know what might be "good enough" without an example?

Now that my applications are in (almost entirely, come on letter writers!), I really want to know if my sample will be able to compete with the sample read before or it after it. If I can't obsess about me, I want to obsess about everyone else, I guess! Anyways, the example really helped me. I think I can compete. That doesn't mean I'll make the cut, but I'm hopeful. Which is a great way to feel. (Until about Feb, I imagine, when fear of rejection and hopelessness will take over.)

Thanks again!


Scrat1


Dec 11, 2007, 5:05 PM

Post #310 of 709 (6466 views)
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In Reply To
That doesn't mean I'll make the cut, but I'm hopeful. Which is a great way to feel. (Until about Feb, I imagine, when fear of rejection and hopelessness will take over.)


Yeah, I imagine substance abuse is not uncommon when it comes to Jan/Feb/March. Not only are people waiting, but it's winter too.


motet
Dana Davis / Moderator
e-mail user

Dec 11, 2007, 6:42 PM

Post #311 of 709 (6439 views)
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In Reply To
If one story is good and one story is mediocre, the person who sent two good stories gets your spot.



Well, yes, that makes sense because the two first good stories are equal and the second mediocre story loses to the second good one.

But judging from the genesis of the thread, what I think is being asked is more along the lines of, "What if one story is really good and one story is mediocre vs. another submission with only one really good story?"

Any way to predict?


__________



Dec 11, 2007, 7:13 PM

Post #312 of 709 (6430 views)
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It's much harder to get published than it is to get an MFA. I have no idea what 'average' or 'good enough' means for Iowa's twenty spots, but I wouldn't use it as a yardstick for other schools. (Setting the bar much too high, and all).


six five four three two one 0 ->


bighark


Dec 11, 2007, 8:27 PM

Post #313 of 709 (6412 views)
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I don't think anybody can really predict how an admission committee will behave.

I've been visiting this forum for over three years, and I've seen baffling combinations of acceptances and rejections from past forum members. I mean, who can explain why someone gets accepted at Iowa but not Ohio State? Why Syracuse and not Virginia? Why Columbia but nowhere else?

Does one mediocre story cancel out a good one? I don't know. Maybe it does at Cornell. Maybe Irvine sees things differently.

The only thing that a person can hope to do is have the admissions committee like their writing sample, and all the different writing sample advice I've seen over the years has boiled down to the same basic idea: Send your best stuff. That, to me, seems like a sensible thing to do. Send your best stuff. It's good advice.

So in terms of this advice, I don't think questions like "Will they overlook my one mediocre story?" are productive. The more important question, I think, is, "What am I doing with a mediocre story in my writing sample?"


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Dec 11, 2007, 8:47 PM

Post #314 of 709 (6404 views)
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Re: [bighark] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

And, of course, what you think of as a mediocre story someone else may think is hot stuff, or may think shows an interesting failed ambition. More than we like to think about this process is really a crap shoot.


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/


rpc
ryan call

Dec 11, 2007, 10:13 PM

Post #315 of 709 (6383 views)
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Re: [pongo] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

i will add this:

we recently had an openhouse type thing at mason, and that exact question came up from a prostud - does a mediocre story detract from a good story in the same manuscript?

our director answered along these lines: no.

the reasoning is, i suppose, that the good story establishes for the selection committee (read: program faculty locked in a conference room with three hundred or so application manuscripts) that the candidate understands such and such about writing, or can do such and such in her writing. the mediocre story, then, may not be up to that standard, but it shouldn't negate the potential/success of the good story.

as for comparing two candidates' manuscripts, i have no idea what goes on. my rather idealistic hope is that the faculty rarely compare candidates, and instead read each manuscript with these two questions in mind: how can the candidate benefit from our knowledge/teaching? and how can the program benefit from the candidate? depending on how an MS answers those questions, it is held or turned down.

thoughts?

also, i apologize if i have repeated what has already been said - i am sort of just barging into the thread here.


<HTMLGIANT>


forthedogs


Dec 12, 2007, 6:50 AM

Post #316 of 709 (6328 views)
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Re: [monarca] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

just wanted to second this, monarca. it was really generous of mike to send his story. and it was an excellent story. i really enjoyed reading it.

thanks again, mike.


Scrat1


Dec 18, 2007, 12:33 AM

Post #317 of 709 (6210 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Assuming you make it to the final rounds, the application committee may want to make photocopies to pass around. Paperclips are easier. Name / Title / Page Number on every page of every story. Times New Roman, 12 pt. Font, double spaced, indent first line of every new paragraph.


I know how you do page numbers, but I'm pretty sure I don't know how to insert wording for my name/title in the margin.

Edit: Nope, I just fooled around in MS word and couldn't figure it out. I don't see why putting my name on every page is important -- do the admissions committees shuffle them up and toss them in the air or something?


(This post was edited by Scrat1 on Dec 18, 2007, 12:39 AM)


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Dec 18, 2007, 12:50 AM

Post #318 of 709 (6204 views)
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Re: [Scrat1] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

If you put the information in the header, it will appear at the top of every page. In MS Word, go to View, Click on Header/Footer, and a dialogue box will pop up. Type your information in the dialogue box. If you want it all to appear at the right hand side of the page, just tab the text over to the right. To put in a page number, you will need to click on the icon that says "insert page number." Word will automatically number the pages sequentially. If you don't want a page number on the first page, you need to click on the icon that formats the page and allows you to check "different first page."

Hope that helps. And yes, the main reason they need this info in your header is that they do pass the pages around. Things get lost, mixed up, or stacked in the wrong pile. But if you have your name, title, page # on there, it's easy to put it all back together.

Hope that helps.

Jeanne


http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


Scrat1


Dec 18, 2007, 2:28 AM

Post #319 of 709 (6194 views)
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Re: [jlgwriter] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the help. I'm not exactly what you would call technologically proficient.


bennyprof


Dec 18, 2007, 3:51 AM

Post #320 of 709 (6183 views)
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Re: [bighark] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

Just an FYI... every single program I've called so far (about a half dozen of the popular ones... Cornell, UC Irvine, Wisconsin, etc. ) has said they prefer staples.

Surprising, really. The paperclip / binder clip theory made perfect sense to me. But yeah, not a big deal either way. If it comes with a clip they'll just remove it and staple.



HopperFu


Dec 18, 2007, 6:37 AM

Post #321 of 709 (6179 views)
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Re: [bennyprof] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

Yeah, there isn't really one "right" way to do this. Your basic goal is to not be the person who uses purple ink and pink unicorn paper.


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Dec 18, 2007, 9:59 AM

Post #322 of 709 (6164 views)
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Re: [bennyprof] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

Staples are probably fine for the MFA applications, but it's important to know how to do this because most markets require paperclips. Bennyprof, when I look back at my applications, I think it was a mixed bag on the staples vs. paperclips. One place specified staples, one requested paperclips, and one didn't specify. (I only applied to three places.)

Glad to be of some "techno" help. :)

Jeanne


http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


bennyprof


Dec 18, 2007, 12:04 PM

Post #323 of 709 (6139 views)
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Re: [jlgwriter] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

Yeah, I do appreciate the advice. I've sent things off to publications before, so I've known the standard formatting for a while. Just didn't know if preferences were different with MFA apps, and it turns out they are (at least in some cases).

Thinking along the lines of headers... the ones I've sent so far have only had page numbers (no name/title), which I think is less distracting and a little cleaner. Just seeing all that extra junk in the upper right hand corner bothers me. I'm sure those on the panel are used to it by now, but still... unless they specify it's probably how I'll send the rest of them.

If at some point I did decide to do the name/title thing, would I need to write the entire title up there, or just the first word? (I've never been able to find a resource that answers this question. One of my titles is fairly long.)

Thanks,
B


(This post was edited by bennyprof on Dec 18, 2007, 12:06 PM)


Zash
Zachary Ash

Dec 18, 2007, 12:33 PM

Post #324 of 709 (6129 views)
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Re: [bennyprof] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

Minnesota wants paperclips.


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Dec 18, 2007, 12:35 PM

Post #325 of 709 (6127 views)
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Re: [bennyprof] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

I would just use a couple of key words from the title if it's really long. For example, if your title is "The Importance of Being Ernest," you might put "Importance Ernest" in as your key words.

Make sense? You just need something that will help the reader/editor identify the story quickly.

Jeanne


http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


HopperFu


Dec 18, 2007, 12:44 PM

Post #326 of 709 (7665 views)
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Re: [bennyprof] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

I do name, email, phone, address, page number and full title at the bottom of every page (in 8 pt font) in the footer.
I think it looks fine and stays mostly out of the way, but it is there just in case they need it. You do want, at least, your last name, title (or a recognizable part thereof), and page numbers just in case some sort of funny mishap occurs involving wind turbines and alcohol.
Again, though, mostly what you want to do is have nobody notice what you did because YOU weren't the person who wrote their submission in blood on the back of a live goat.


bennyprof


Dec 18, 2007, 12:51 PM

Post #327 of 709 (7664 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

LOL, your examples get better each time. (Was that a reference to Barth's Anonymiad?)


bennyprof


Dec 18, 2007, 1:00 PM

Post #328 of 709 (7660 views)
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Quote
I would just use a couple of key words from the title if it's really long. For example, if your title is "The Importance of Being Ernest," you might put "Importance Ernest" in as your key words.

Make sense? You just need something that will help the reader/editor identify the story quickly.

Jeanne



Makes perfect sense. Thanks!


borntorun


Dec 18, 2007, 2:15 PM

Post #329 of 709 (7639 views)
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Re: [jlgwriter] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't know at all if this was a good idea, but for my fiction submission I put my name on the left, I centered my title, and put the page number on the right in a footer. Again, it probably doesn't correspond to real submissions, but it seemed to be the least obtrusive way of getting all the information on each page.


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Dec 18, 2007, 2:27 PM

Post #330 of 709 (7634 views)
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Re: [borntorun] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

I wouldn't worry about it. That should be fine.

Jeanne


http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


HopperFu


Dec 18, 2007, 4:40 PM

Post #331 of 709 (7606 views)
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In Reply To
LOL, your examples get better each time. (Was that a reference to Barth's Anonymiad?)


(sounding a little uncertain) Why yes... it was.... (sound of me frantically trying to find Barth's Anonymiad so I can read it)


__________



Dec 18, 2007, 5:07 PM

Post #332 of 709 (7592 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

This may be the dumbest question ever, but does anyone feel an obligation to be, I dunno, somewhat flowery in their writing sample? I spent so much time making my narrative sound conversational, now I worry they'll read it and say, It's just like someone talking! We need a capital 'W' Writer, not a talker! Or that they won't recognize various grammatical errors as intentional. Hm.


six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Dec 18, 2007, 5:09 PM)


Zash
Zachary Ash

Dec 18, 2007, 5:38 PM

Post #333 of 709 (7582 views)
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In Reply To
they won't recognize various grammatical errors as intentional.

This sounds bold. Are the errors in dialogue or in a first-person narrator's voice? If so, that's fine. But if you're bending or mangling the rules of standard English in order to be edgy, you may want to reconsider or let a good critic see the story. On second thought, the 'errors' will probably make sense in context, the way the non-standard prose makes sense after a while in the first chapter of The Sound and the Fury. Honestly, I have no idea what I'm talking about. We're all doomed. Merry Christmas. Where's the eggnog?


__________



Dec 18, 2007, 5:57 PM

Post #334 of 709 (7574 views)
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Re: [Zash] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

It's a first person thing, not any kind of Joycean trick. I'm probably over thinking it...but there's still that What if? factor. Nothing like application season to make you feel doomed.


six five four three two one 0 ->


Zash
Zachary Ash

Dec 18, 2007, 6:19 PM

Post #335 of 709 (7563 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

Indeed. I think you'll be fine. Sometimes a first-person story that's a bit off, unorthodox, or non-standard is the freshest and most memorable. Capturing a unique, raw voice and carrying it through a work consistently is quite a feat, and no doubt the admissions committee will take note. Write your story the way you write your posts, Junior Maas, and they'll let you in just for the yucks. Everyone likes a good laugh. Plus your comments sound smart.


(This post was edited by Zash on Dec 18, 2007, 6:20 PM)


borntorun


Dec 18, 2007, 6:30 PM

Post #336 of 709 (7558 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

The "flowery" prose dilemma is actually my main concern right now. I guess you could say I'm a minimalist--although my writing style is really nowhere deserving of any kind of term and I never feel comfortable comparing myself to anyone--and it seems like the kind of samples I see (in Best New American Voices and the like) tends to be the more loquacious, filled with some kind of metaphor every third line and it seems like every sentence has a minimum of five commas. I'm not knocking that style (I enjoy the occasional DeLillo or Stanley Elkin and my favorite undergrad class was on Melville), but it would be nice to know if any of the current or recent MFAers were of the Vonnegut/Carver/Paluhnik mode and not of the McCarthy/Morrison/etc. group. (I read mostly novels, so the short story comparisons are thin).

It really doesn't matter, though. My apps are in the mail and I now realize that I'm not as relieved and I haven't emptied my mind about this as much as I thought I would have. It's going to be a long couple of months.


bennyprof


Dec 18, 2007, 6:50 PM

Post #337 of 709 (7552 views)
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Re: [borntorun] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think it's an issue of being flowery or not. I think they'll be more interested in the internal consistency of the voice (as someone mentioned above). Does the style serve the narrative? If the answer is 'yes' then you've got nothing to worry about. I think language can, however, get in the way of narrative -- draw too much attention to itself -- but that's more an issue of restraint. Not taking a metaphor too far, making descriptions interesting without going overboard (to the point where they've become a distraction), etc.

If your writing is loquacious they're going to want to see that you're in control and using the style effectively.
If your writing is more simple and straightforward... they're going to want to see that you're in control and using the style effectively.

In the end, I think it mainly comes down to their gut feeling, which can leave one with a sense of complete and utter helplessness.
I'm right there with you.

-B

p.s. I'd also avoid cliches like "complete and utter helplessness."


(This post was edited by bennyprof on Dec 18, 2007, 6:51 PM)


MissEsquire



Dec 28, 2007, 1:45 AM

Post #338 of 709 (7452 views)
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I think that the greatest favour everyone who's applying to these schools can do for themselves is to send off their best material and then try their darndest to forget that the whole application process is underway, not speculate about what's going to happen. Take up knitting or accordion. Perhaps try curling. That is what I've decided to do. Nothing worse than starting the new year with an ulcer. Seriously, if you're second-guessing your narrative after sending off your portfolio, give yourself a break for a few months and think about it when you hear back from the schools. After the work that we've all put in just in submitting these applications we ALL deserve Masters degrees....in submitting applications.

Happy new year, all.

MissEs.


(This post was edited by MissEsquire on Dec 28, 2007, 1:49 AM)


Zash
Zachary Ash

Dec 28, 2007, 2:00 AM

Post #339 of 709 (7448 views)
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Re: [MissEsquire] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

Good advice, Miss Esquire. I've sent in six of ten applications so far, and when they're all done, I'll turn my attention to writing new work, submitting stories, and reading good books. I gave it my best shot. Second-guessing will drive you mad. Good luck to everyone.
zash


DMiller


Dec 28, 2007, 9:37 AM

Post #340 of 709 (7422 views)
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Re: [Zash] novel and short [In reply to] Can't Post

Once all my applications are gone, I'm going to turn my focus to my other big goal for 2008: getting a crossword published in The New York Times. That way, if I get rejected from everywhere, I can at least have a side accomplishment to brag about.

And if I fail at both, then, well, I dunno... I guess I'll change my name and leave the state.


mr.shankly


Jan 11, 2008, 2:55 PM

Post #341 of 709 (7299 views)
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UT Austin [In reply to] Can't Post

Does anyone know if you're supposed to include an example of your secondary field? I'm applying for fiction (primary) and poetry (secondary.) For some reason, I've had it in my mind for months that I was suppose to send poems as well. Recently, after reading the website again, I can't find any mention of this. If the answer is "no," I'll feel a bit of relief (for the sake of my application), but also a bit of concern (for the sake of my sanity.)

Once this is all over, I've decided to hibernate in a cave with boxes of Goldfish crackers, alcohol, and the Harry Potter series. Each of which provide a sense of adolescent security. Except for the alcohol. Maybe I'll take juice boxes.


DMiller


Jan 11, 2008, 3:28 PM

Post #342 of 709 (7286 views)
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Re: [mr.shankly] UT Austin [In reply to] Can't Post

No, there's no sample for the secondary concentration. You just mention your experience in it (very) briefly in the statement.


Rambler


Jan 12, 2008, 1:13 PM

Post #343 of 709 (7210 views)
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Re: [mr.shankly] UT Austin [In reply to] Can't Post

I think I, too, will follow your sage advice about the goldfish, Harry Potter series, and juiceboxes.
Book Two has been sitting on my nightstand for about a month now.
I can't wait to finish up this process.


Zash
Zachary Ash

Jan 12, 2008, 8:27 PM

Post #344 of 709 (7156 views)
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Re: [Rambler] UT Austin [In reply to] Can't Post

Is the 15th a postmark deadline for Texas/Michener?


bennyprof


Jan 12, 2008, 8:49 PM

Post #345 of 709 (7148 views)
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Re: [Zash] UT Austin [In reply to] Can't Post

Nope... received-by deadline. You could overnight it on Monday, though.


RaoulDuke
Cobra Cobachi

Mar 16, 2008, 11:09 PM

Post #346 of 709 (6951 views)
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Rick Bass Conference [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Raysen


Jul 28, 2008, 1:38 PM

Post #347 of 709 (6771 views)
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Length of short story(ies) [In reply to] Can't Post

Most MFA schools require 2-3 short stories of 20-25 pages (double-spaced). I'm finding it extremely difficult to submit two stories of approx. 10-12 pages (dbl spcd) each, much less three of 6-8 pages each. I can't seem to cut them down and still capture the depth!

I know at Iowa, you can send three stories of at most 100 pages total (for all three stories). And they don't seem to place any limits on the length of the personal statement.

I'm not sure if I have a question other than to rant about the required shortness of my short story submissions. If you can glean some questions from my post, please feel free to answer them.


RaoulDuke
Cobra Cobachi

Jul 28, 2008, 1:53 PM

Post #348 of 709 (6765 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Length of short story(ies) [In reply to] Can't Post

Raysen

As you already know, the writing sample is the most important aspect of the process. My writing sample was 35 pages in length, which made places like Iowa and Michigan perfect to apply to given the fact that they accept more pages (Michigan allows up to 40 pages). But for other schools (like Madison, SIUC, Purdue, Notre Dame, N. Michigan) I sent an email to the person in charge of program coordination asking if my writing sample would be acceptable given its length. I received timely responses from all those I contacted, and only two were somewhat short and negative in tone.

What's most important is ensuring that your best work is represented by your writing sample, so if you feel that yours is either too long or too short, simply contact those responsible for fielding questions and ask.


Rocl


HopperFu


Jul 28, 2008, 1:59 PM

Post #349 of 709 (6761 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Length of short story(ies) [In reply to] Can't Post

If a school has a page limit of 20 to 25 pages, they are most likely looking for one short story with a maximum of two (or even three) that would still fit in that page limit.
If you have a good story that is twenty pages, just send that one.


Raysen


Jul 28, 2008, 2:01 PM

Post #350 of 709 (6758 views)
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Re: [richardkae] Length of short story(ies) [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks Richard.

I'm always hesitant to contact the Admissions office of the schools I'm applying to. I don't want to give them the impression that I'm such a bother. But I wish the details of the writing sample were made more clear:

1. word count limits per story
2. font (I'm assuming standard 12-pt)
3. spacing (I'm assuming double-spaced)
4. margins (I'm assuming 1-inch, left and right)
5. name, address, phone number, email, page number -- location on page


HopperFu


Jul 28, 2008, 3:01 PM

Post #351 of 709 (8114 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Length of short story(ies) [In reply to] Can't Post

1. word count limits per story
2. font (I'm assuming standard 12-pt)
3. spacing (I'm assuming double-spaced)
4. margins (I'm assuming 1-inch, left and right)
5. name, address, phone number, email, page number -- location on page


1. this follows from page count if you use standard formatting, which is...
2. Times New Roman, 12 pt
3. double-spaced
4. default Word is fine (I believe it is 1.25 inch), as is 1-inch, left and right
5. doesn't really matter, but I put it all in a footer in 8 pt font in two lines, with my name, story title, and page number on top (left, centered, right, respectively) and my address, phone, email on the second line


ejdifili
Emily

Jul 28, 2008, 5:40 PM

Post #352 of 709 (8089 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Length of short story(ies) [In reply to] Can't Post

Like someone else said, if there is a 20-25 page limit, just send your best story. I wouldn't try to condense other work down to six pages if I were you. That may jeopardize the quality of your work, which you DO NOT want to happen.

Also, as was also posted previously on the forum, one good story + one mediocre story= a poor application--I think I made this mistake last year. The program that ultimately accepted me had a 25-page limit, so they only received my one best story. The second story I sent along with other applications wasn't as good, I don't think, and may have worked against me. I have this impression because of some feedback I received from a prof at one of the programs that rejected me (he had taught me in undergrad). He kind of implied that the faculty had really liked one of my stories, but felt the other wasn't as strong. I don't know for sure if this is why they rejected me, but it certainly could have been a liability if they were trying to decide between me and another candidate.


Raysen


Jul 28, 2008, 6:07 PM

Post #353 of 709 (8082 views)
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Re: [ejdifili] Length of short story(ies) [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the advice, ejdifili.

Now, I won't feel too bad if I send only one story when they CLEARLY asked for two or three.


Yugao


Jul 28, 2008, 8:10 PM

Post #354 of 709 (8059 views)
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In Reply To
Also, as was also posted previously on the forum, one good story + one mediocre story= a poor application--I think I made this mistake last year. The program that ultimately accepted me had a 25-page limit, so they only received my one best story. The second story I sent along with other applications wasn't as good, I don't think, and may have worked against me. I have this impression because of some feedback I received from a prof at one of the programs that rejected me (he had taught me in undergrad). He kind of implied that the faculty had really liked one of my stories, but felt the other wasn't as strong. I don't know for sure if this is why they rejected me, but it certainly could have been a liability if they were trying to decide between me and another candidate.


My experience was different, for what it is worth. My strongest story was on the long side, and that was the only story I sent to the schools with a lower-page count limit. I was not accepted at any of these schools. Schools with a higher page count limit received my strongest story (the long one) and a more uneven shorter story. I was accepted or waitlisted at several of these schools. Again, I was not confident in this shorter story and almost all of the positive feedback I have received has been about my longer story, the one I felt was much stronger. So in my case, one strong story wasn't enough, but a strong plus a mediocre story was.


ejdifili
Emily

Jul 28, 2008, 10:20 PM

Post #355 of 709 (8039 views)
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In Reply To
Thanks for the advice, ejdifili.

Now, I won't feel too bad if I send only one story when they CLEARLY asked for two or three.


I wasn't suggesting you send one story to schools that request more than one--that would be assinine.

Obviously, if a program CLEARLY asks for two or three stories, then send them what they request. However, most programs that CLEARLY request more than one story will state a "maximum of 40 pages," or something like that. I know you said that "Most MFA schools require 2-3 short stories of 20-25 pages (double-spaced)," but I have never heard of a program requiring multiple stories and still setting a limit of 25 pages. I say this having researched many programs and having applied to nine of them. It's possible we are talking about different places, but I encourage you to go back and take another look at the requirements.

If a program does state a "maximum of 25 pages," then you are probably safe sending one story. "Maximum," obviously, does not mean you must supply 25 pages, but that your sample should not exceed that length. The program I will be attending had a maximum of 25 pages, so I sent one 15-page story and was accepted.

The point of my previous post was that I think my application to that particular school ended up being superior because only my best work was sent. Other schools requested two stories, so I sent two stories--the best ones I had, at the time. A year later, I look back at my second piece and don't think it was that good. Of course, I will never know whether it was that mediocre story that got me rejected from various programs, but I suspect it could have been part of the problem. In retrospect, I wish I'd only sent my best story to the schools where I had that option.

You said: "I'm finding it extremely difficult to submit two stories of approx. 10-12 pages (dbl spcd) each, much less three of 6-8 pages each."

I was merely cautioning you against slashing through your best work to try and fit into a page limit that you may have, in fact, misinterpreted. Most of the stories I have written are 15-17 pages, and because I am not Jorge Luis Borges, I can't imagine cutting them in half and still having them be remotely successful. In my experience, most stories that turn up in workshops or even in literary magazines are also about this length, so I doubt "most" MFA programs expect applicants to produce multiple quality pieces of only 6-8 pages. Some people like writing extremely short fiction of that nature, but I think it is difficult to pull off, especially if you are trying to force it.


(This post was edited by ejdifili on Jul 28, 2008, 10:27 PM)


Sugah


Jul 29, 2008, 10:07 AM

Post #356 of 709 (8001 views)
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Re: [ejdifili] Length of short story(ies) [In reply to] Can't Post

I just have to duck my head in here with a little bit of humor. I didn't find the P&W board until after all my applications were in. I also didn't ask for a whole lot of guidance from my mentors during the process. After all, I was in my final year of undergrad study - I should be able to read and follow instructions, right?

Well, each of the four schools I applied to last year had a different page count for the sample - though I don't remember reading "maximum" in any of the instructions. So, I put together a different package for each school, each exactly the number of pages they requested: 20 pages here, 25 pages there, 30 pages to another school, and finally, 50 pages to the school I'm attending - the only one that offered funding.

I was fortunate in that three of those four schools accepted me. The one that didn't was my alma mater, and I received a very nice note that the MFA profs wanted me, but "there's this unwritten rule" that favors applicants from other institutions.... yadda yadda yadda.

The really funny part was hearing from profs and program directors who wanted to discuss this piece or that piece - and I couldn't keep straight what I'd sent them! I did a lot of bluffing until I could pull enough details so that I could discuss it semi-intelligently. My suggestion? If you mix and match your work, keep a list of what you sent where near the telephone!

Peace & Love,
Sug

_____________________


http://sugahsshack.blogspot.com


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Jul 29, 2008, 10:50 AM

Post #357 of 709 (7992 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Length of short story(ies) [In reply to] Can't Post

Raysen,

I would call them and ask. When I was applying to programs last year (all low-res), several had different page requirements. Like you, I had a lot of stories that were in the 15-20 page range. When I called, some of the programs told me they want to see as much of my writing as possible, that I should get as close to maximum page count as I could. Others said one good, longer story that was about 3/4 of the maximum page count was fine. All of them advised against drastically cutting a story that was too long or trying to expand a good short story that was way too short.

For most of my submissions, I chose the best of one of my longer short stories, coming up 2-3 pages short of the maximum page count. On one submission, I sent the best of my longer short stories and a short, short. Interestingly enough, that school was my first rejection.

I'm now quite happily into my second semester at Vermont College. The story I used for my application was also submitted to my first workshop and has been torn apart and is still awaiting another rewrite. (Other projects have moved forward on the priority list, alas!)

Oh, I made up a list of questions before I called, including questions about the dorms, the climate, the age of the students, etc. Rather than guess, call and ask. People are usually quite helpful.

Just my thoughts.

Jeanne


http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


__________



Jul 30, 2008, 5:56 PM

Post #358 of 709 (7934 views)
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Re: [jlgwriter] Length of short story(ies) [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes -- ask!

I learned a lot about different schools just by e-mailing them my questions. For instance, which schools had professors who'd take the time for a decent, considered response -- and which ones had egotistical douche bags who'd basically just send you an Eff You. That's something no one puts on their homepage.

:)


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Jul 30, 2008, 5:57 PM)


Raysen


Aug 6, 2008, 7:35 PM

Post #359 of 709 (7845 views)
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Critical essay [In reply to] Can't Post

Boy, I really wish we could start our own threads. grumble...grumble...

Anyway, I have a question about the CRITICAL ESSAY. Some MFA schools require that you submit a copy of a critical paper you wrote in an undergrad English class (in addition to the 2-3 short stories). Well, I took no such class. How do you recommend I handle this?

I have emailed the relevant schools but none have replied...yet.

Thanks!


Yugao


Aug 6, 2008, 10:15 PM

Post #360 of 709 (7820 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Critical essay [In reply to] Can't Post

I would submit a critical paper from another class, such as an Art History class. I think they are looking for analytical ability with this type of writing. If you've been out of school for a while, I would consider writing a new draft and refining some of my ideas. I was twenty-one when I graduated from college, and thirty-one when applying for MFA programs, so I felt my old academic papers were too immature in expression and that the points made were relatively superficial.


(This post was edited by Yugao on Aug 6, 2008, 10:16 PM)


Raysen


Aug 6, 2008, 10:23 PM

Post #361 of 709 (7813 views)
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Re: [Yugao] Critical essay [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I would submit a critical paper from another class, such as an Art History class. I think they are looking for analytical ability with this type of writing. If you've been out of school for a while, I would consider writing a new draft and refining some of my ideas. I was twenty-one when I graduated from college, and thirty-one when applying for MFA programs, so I felt my old academic papers were too immature in expression and that the points made were relatively superficial.


I have been out of school for awhile and I have nothing left from my undergrad days. Not even in my garage. I didn't even take Art History. Maybe I should just write a 15-20 page paper on my own discussing why James Joyce's famous short story "The Dead" did nothing for me.


silkentent
Margaret DeAngelis

e-mail user

Aug 6, 2008, 11:13 PM

Post #362 of 709 (7807 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Critical essay [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To


I have been out of school for awhile and I have nothing left from my undergrad days. Not even in my garage. I didn't even take Art History. Maybe I should just write a 15-20 page paper on my own discussing why James Joyce's famous short story "The Dead" did nothing for me.



I'd read that paper!


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


mpagan


Aug 6, 2008, 11:51 PM

Post #363 of 709 (7798 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Critical essay [In reply to] Can't Post

Raysen - just curious

which particular MFA programs ask for a critical paper from your undergrad years?

I don't know of too many programs that are that specific about the origin of the critical essay. I'd imagine that as long as you write one now and submit it along with your application your fine. I am thinking of columbia when I say this.


symmetrical


Aug 6, 2008, 11:52 PM

Post #364 of 709 (7797 views)
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Re: [silkentent] Critical essay [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm in a similar situation in that i have no existing essay to use for such a purpose, so I pretty much ruled out any school requiring a critical essay as part of their application. Ohio state, Washington, and Purdue all fell off the list as a result, but I can live with that.


Raysen


Aug 7, 2008, 12:33 AM

Post #365 of 709 (7789 views)
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Re: [mpagan] Critical essay [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Raysen - just curious

which particular MFA programs ask for a critical paper from your undergrad years?


U of Washington (Seattle) and Purdue. There may be a few others but I if there were, I dropped them from my list. Washington and Purdue are still on my list and I'm doing my due diligence on them.


hidro


Aug 17, 2008, 1:38 PM

Post #366 of 709 (7678 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Critical essay [In reply to] Can't Post

 i'm getting confused about the writing sample. a lot of people are saying to just submit your strongest short story if there's a 20-25 page limit, even if that story is like 17 pages. other people have told me to submit excerpts from maybe 3 different stories to show my versatility. i see advantages and disadvantages to both. any more opinions about this?


RaoulDuke
Cobra Cobachi

Aug 17, 2008, 7:08 PM

Post #367 of 709 (7642 views)
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Re: [hidro] Critical essay [In reply to] Can't Post

I would suggest sending a full story, even if it's a couple pages too short. If it's 10 or more pages short, then consider putting something else in there that is concise and won't take away from your portfolio. It seems to me that programs will want to see your ability to tell a story. Take for instance the fact that many writers have problems writing endings. Hypothetically you could send a few snippets of your most climactic moments, without showing the committee any inkling of your ability for resolution or rising action.
Basic lit terminology aside, I would send my best work and hope for the best.
Personally, my writing sample was one short story of about 35 pages, so don't get too hung up on page length unless it is explicitly mentioned on the program website (i.e Madison).

Rick


Yugao


Aug 17, 2008, 7:29 PM

Post #368 of 709 (7637 views)
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Re: [hidro] Critical essay [In reply to] Can't Post

I had more luck at schools that received a longer writing sample. That was just my experience, but it seems like committees often want to see more than one piece, even if the applicant could technically fill the length requirement with one story.


Dovlatov


Aug 18, 2008, 1:05 PM

Post #369 of 709 (7584 views)
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Re: [Yugao] Critical essay [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi. Any thoughts out there on the best way of handling the page count if your writing sample is six or seven pages over the limit? Edit? Just send one story? Or send them both as is? I'm thinking of a couple of programs that have a limit of 40 pages. I would like to send both stories, but don't want my chances dinged because the writing sample is over the page limit. Thanks!

Also, what do people think about sending a full story and only the first half of another, in order to meet the page count maximum? Do you get dinged for a partial story or is it in your best interest to include another sample of your writing?


(This post was edited by Dovlatov on Aug 18, 2008, 1:09 PM)


bighark


Aug 20, 2008, 9:34 AM

Post #370 of 709 (7504 views)
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Re: [Dovlatov] Critical essay [In reply to] Can't Post

You can fudge the page limits by a few pages. If there's a 40 page limit and you send 47 so you can get two whole stories, you'll be fine. The page limits are there to prevent people from sending an overwhelming amount of material. Going a few pages over is perfectly acceptable.

Do not send partial stories.


Dovlatov


Aug 20, 2008, 10:23 AM

Post #371 of 709 (7492 views)
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Re: [bighark] Critical essay [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks, Bighark! I definitely won't send a partial. Everyone I've spoken to since that post has advised against doing that .

In Reply To
You can fudge the page limits by a few pages. If there's a 40 page limit and you send 47 so you can get two whole stories, you'll be fine. The page limits are there to prevent people from sending an overwhelming amount of material. Going a few pages over is perfectly acceptable.

Do not send partial stories.



__________



Aug 20, 2008, 1:35 PM

Post #372 of 709 (7464 views)
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Re: [Dovlatov] Critical essay [In reply to] Can't Post

It's always a good idea to ask. I received a very thoughtful reply from Wendy Rawlings, head of Alabama's program, in response this question, and she laid out what would and would not fly. I definitely will be sending them excerpts of some of my longer stories, in addition to the one complete story that demonstrates the typically demonstrable things.

Don't forgo your dreams of partials!


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germericanqt


Sep 9, 2008, 3:29 PM

Post #373 of 709 (7354 views)
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A bipolar sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I hope I'm not the only one who is still in the stage of experimenting with different voices and styles. I have an idea of what my voice is but I'm not ready to settle into it yet. Because of this, I'm thinking about including two very different kinds of stories in my portfolio to show the MFA programs that I'm flexible, adaptable, and have the ability to master more than one style.

Do you think that will work for me, or against me? Assuming that both stories are strong and polished, if one of them is a first person present tense packed full of descriptive, roll-off-the-tongue style sentences, and one is a third person past tense in a more minimalistic vein, what message will that send to the readers? Will they be impressed by my range or disturbed by my inconsistency? I felt that my portfolio last year suffered because the stories were so similar in tone, voice, and scope. I don't want to make the opposite mistake this year.


(This post was edited by germericanqt on Sep 9, 2008, 3:32 PM)


__________



Sep 9, 2008, 3:48 PM

Post #374 of 709 (7348 views)
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Re: [germericanqt] A bipolar sample [In reply to] Can't Post

The consensus is that it's the story's quality -- not its type -- that matters. Showing range won't hurt you, provided you send your best work.

I think Tom Kealey discusses this a little on his blog. He included a more lyrical, experimental piece along with his standard fare, and that, according to Tobias Wolfe, earned him a Stegner.

Anyway. Different teachers look for different things; it's hard to know what'll tickle anyone's particular fancy. Hence the P&W refrain: Send your best work!


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zebulon


Sep 11, 2008, 2:49 AM

Post #375 of 709 (7233 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] A bipolar sample [In reply to] Can't Post

What about with poetry samples? Where it's more like 10-15 poems, how much room should be reserved for "other" poems, experiments that (you think) went well? For formal poems? I think I have a few, but will they come off as 'poems I wrote for an undergrad workshop' (though, now that I think of it, I was never actually assigned in any formal poems in any undergrad workshops) The general rule of 'your best' is so subjective, it's hard to not hope there's some golden balance of "getting a good feel for your voice" and "willing to take chances."


germericanqt


Oct 24, 2008, 11:37 AM

Post #376 of 709 (7344 views)
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Critique [In reply to] Can't Post

I have a friend who sat in on several MFA classes while getting his MA in Journalism. He critiqued a story of mine for me and it was a very good critique, lots of specific advice on improving the story, lots of line by line analysis. He told me that he'd be happy to do the same for my application portfolio for his usual going rate of $1/page. That seemed more than fair so I had that in the back of my mind as I finished the stories I plan on submitting. I contacted him recently and he raised his rate to $2/page plus a speed fee if I want it read in less than a month.

Now I really have to think about this. Do you think it would be wise to pay $50 or more to get my stories critiqued, or should I forgo that since the MFA programs are looking for potential, not necessarily polish? I can get the stories to a certain level of polish on my own. I'm sure his critique would help, but I don't know if it's worth it. Help?


HappyCianci



Oct 24, 2008, 12:26 PM

Post #377 of 709 (7325 views)
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Re: [germericanqt] Critique [In reply to] Can't Post

G, I wouldn't do it if I were you. Although his would be a useful perspective, it is just one, and you could probably pass your story to a few lit-savvy friends who would tell you what they thought for free, and you might even come away with a more well-rounded picture. Plus like you said, you can do a certain amount of polishing on your own. Just my two cents-- we're spending enough money on these applications already!


germericanqt


Oct 24, 2008, 12:51 PM

Post #378 of 709 (7317 views)
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Re: [HappyCianci] Critique [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
G, I wouldn't do it if I were you. Although his would be a useful perspective, it is just one, and you could probably pass your story to a few lit-savvy friends who would tell you what they thought for free, and you might even come away with a more well-rounded picture. Plus like you said, you can do a certain amount of polishing on your own. Just my two cents-- we're spending enough money on these applications already!



That's what I was thinking. Thanks for your feedback!

That gives me an idea... does anyone want to do a portfolio exchange? I.e. three or four people exchanging the stories they want to submit and workshopping each other? Everyone gets something out of it. The only objection I can think of right of the bat is that we're competing against each other, which might make us less inclined to give good, solid criticism. We can either try and find people who are applying to mostly different schools, or just get over ourselves.

Anyone interested? Time is almost out, for some schools, anyway. Personally, I want to have my portfolio finished and ready to go by mid-November. I have four different submissions coming to a total of forty pages. (I'm submitting three max per school; I had to do some tailoring.)


silkentent
Margaret DeAngelis