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Mikaeltb


Jul 3, 2005, 9:40 AM

Post #1 of 709 (23876 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 (23552 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 (23531 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 (23527 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
e-mail user

Sep 23, 2004, 10:50 AM

Post #5 of 709 (23512 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.
e-mail user

Sep 23, 2004, 11:29 AM

Post #6 of 709 (23508 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 (23501 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 (23492 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 (23472 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 (23838 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 (23835 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 (23814 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 (23675 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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e-mail user

Dec 13, 2005, 9:26 PM

Post #14 of 709 (23669 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 (23667 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 (23615 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 (23550 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 (23537 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 (23430 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 (23390 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 (23222 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

e-mail user

Jul 15, 2006, 4:50 PM

Post #22 of 709 (23192 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 (23116 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?


six five four three two one 0 ->


LitKnit


Jul 24, 2006, 3:17 PM

Post #24 of 709 (23014 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 (23010 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/

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