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dylj


Dec 14, 2009, 4:01 AM

Post #576 of 710 (8953 views)
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Re: [Mikaeltb] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

For the sake of anxiety and insatiable curiosity, I'm interested in seeing what other applicants' writing samples look like.

So this is a case of You show me yours, I'll show you mine (my writing sample and list of schools).

Any writing samples from previous years (successful or not) would be greatly appreciated as well ...

I'm poetry. PM me with your email and I'll send you my stuff.


karinr
Karin Rosman


Dec 14, 2009, 2:59 PM

Post #577 of 710 (8892 views)
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Re: [Zuleika Dobson] Formatting [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it has to do with how complete the action is in itself. If you want three separate actions, the bartender creating a pause, you break it up. If you want these actions grouped together, as in no one is really paying attention "here's your beer I got other things to do," you put it together.


kbritten

e-mail user

Dec 14, 2009, 5:46 PM

Post #578 of 710 (8848 views)
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Re: [dylj] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

If anyone would like to swap writing samples for fiction, I'd be down. I'm getting worried about my writing sample and I'm wondering how successful I'm going to be in this process. It kind of sucks, since I spent a lot of money and really don't want to go through this again. I also can't imagine asking for recommendations again, holy hell I feel bad that... anyone else feeling this way? I finished the last of my applications last week and now just need to pay the fees for two schools. I would be kind of mad if I don't get in anywhere, but oh well... what's a girl to do??


rubythief


Dec 15, 2009, 2:10 PM

Post #579 of 710 (8779 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I feel the same way about recommendations. They are my least favorite part of the process - I know it's such a chore to write them, and I hate asking. I'm only applying to a couple of schools, too - I can't imagine asking someone for seven or eight letters!


Zuleika Dobson


e-mail user

Dec 15, 2009, 8:32 PM

Post #580 of 710 (8703 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I really hope I won't have to go through this process again. Honestly, I have no idea if any schools will accept me. What I write seems to be the opposite of what most people submit, and I feel that the MFA programs will not like it.

However, an overly optimistic friend asked me today, "What happens when you get into all 13 programs?" Obviously this will never happen--but maybe it's the positive thinking we should aspire to in these times of minor crisis. After all, worrying is like a rocking chair (it gives you something to do but gets you nowhere).


"Every spectator is a coward or a traitor."


WanderingTree


Dec 15, 2009, 8:57 PM

Post #581 of 710 (8689 views)
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Re: [Zuleika Dobson] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I feel the same way about my apps. I applied last year and was only wait listed at a couple of places (and both my app stories had been published in well-regarded journals). But I think many of those rejections came from being ill informed about programs. At places accepting less than 10 people a year, programs are looking not only for promising writers but also for people that will fit into their literary community. I hope that I applied to the "right" schools for me this year. Fingers crossed and group hug.

(This post was edited by WanderingTree on Dec 15, 2009, 8:59 PM)


kbritten

e-mail user

Dec 15, 2009, 9:10 PM

Post #582 of 710 (8681 views)
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Re: [WanderingTree] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

It's good to hear that people are also feeling this way... well, I guess it's good?? It's at least reassuring.

Wandering Tree - you mentioned my other fear, which is that I applied to the wrong programs. I have a few schools with higher admit rates, but most of my schools are in the 2-6% range, which makes me nervous. I only applied to schools that I really wanted to attend, with decent funding, in areas that I would be happy to live in, but I just don't know. I also applied to a few programs with a traditional leaning (Iowa), but also a a few with a more experimental leaning (Notre Dame, Alabama). It's just hard to know who's going to like your story. But, I am definitely worried about my list being too exclusive.

Just out of curiosity and for the sake of conversation while we wait forever, what was your list last year and what is your list this year? I know you are in poetry, but I'd like to know what your "aesthetic" is. In other words, tell me about your experience last year!


WanderingTree


Dec 15, 2009, 9:54 PM

Post #583 of 710 (8657 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Actually I'm fiction ; - )

Last Year: Cornell, Indiana, Syracuse, WUSTL, Wisconsin-Madison, Brown, Virginia, Notre Dame, Michigan, Johns Hopkins

This Year: Brown, Notre Dame, WUSTL, Illinois, Southern Illinois, Wisconsin-Madison, Arizona State, Penn State, Syracuse, Iowa, Texas-Austin, UNCG

Some overlap and some additions with programs at various levels of selectivity. Most of my choices this year were governed by the work of alumni and professors (with funding in mind as well). My aesthetic? Who knows, but I'd say I lean toward the experimental/genre-bending realm.


kbritten

e-mail user

Dec 15, 2009, 10:11 PM

Post #584 of 710 (8647 views)
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Re: [WanderingTree] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Yeah, I see what you mean about your list. That's pretty impressive that you were even waitlisted at a few of those programs. We're actually applying to a few of the same programs by the way :)


orthetiger


Dec 15, 2009, 11:46 PM

Post #585 of 710 (8634 views)
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Re: [rubythief] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I feel the same way about recommendations. They are my least favorite part of the process - I know it's such a chore to write them, and I hate asking. I'm only applying to a couple of schools, too - I can't imagine asking someone for seven or eight letters!


ugh, try asking for fourteen. I feel terrible! I really, really don't want to have to ask again. I might be going a little bit overboard, but it's worth it... so far.


Zuleika Dobson


e-mail user

Dec 16, 2009, 12:45 AM

Post #586 of 710 (8621 views)
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Re: [orthetiger] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I am applying to 10-13 schools (still on the fence about a few with spring deadlines), which was why I decided to use Interfolio. There's absolutely no way that I would volunteer to inflict such abuse upon my trio of professors/instructors, though I know a few schools specifically ask for additional forms even with dossier services. To hell with them, I say. If it matters that much, I wouldn't want to go there anyway.

I sent in three applications today for my Dec 15th deadlines after going over every word of my writing sample and not sleeping for 48 hours. This actually improved my submission significantly, but to quote Durrell:

"No mummies, chunks of tissue latched to bone; no pillars of salt, no cadavers, have ever been half so dead as we are today."


"Every spectator is a coward or a traitor."


HarveyK


Dec 16, 2009, 1:01 AM

Post #587 of 710 (8614 views)
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Re: [WanderingTree] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Actually I'm fiction ; - )

Last Year: Cornell, Indiana, Syracuse, WUSTL, Wisconsin-Madison, Brown, Virginia, Notre Dame, Michigan, Johns Hopkins

This Year: Brown, Notre Dame, WUSTL, Illinois, Southern Illinois, Wisconsin-Madison, Arizona State, Penn State, Syracuse, Iowa, Texas-Austin, UNCG

Some overlap and some additions with programs at various levels of selectivity. Most of my choices this year were governed by the work of alumni and professors (with funding in mind as well). My aesthetic? Who knows, but I'd say I lean toward the experimental/genre-bending realm.


Try UMass, Florida, Irvine, Alabama next year if you don't get in anywhere this year. Oh, NYU too if you can afford it.


WanderingTree


Dec 16, 2009, 1:52 AM

Post #588 of 710 (8587 views)
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Re: [HarveyK] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Yeah, I considered those. They were on my "long list" but I cut them out for various reasons (namely funding and location).


WanderingTree


Dec 16, 2009, 2:06 AM

Post #589 of 710 (8582 views)
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Re: [Zuleika Dobson] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

"If it matters that much, I wouldn't want to go there anyway."

Yeah, I feel this way when it comes to the "personality" of admissions office staff. Admissions office employees are representatives of the university. They are the first line of contact for potential students.

SO, it boggles my mind why some admissions offices are notorious for a bad bedside manner (to put it gently). It makes one wonder how the rest of the university is run and how students are treated.

Personally, I become more excited about a program if their graduate admissions office appears to be a well-oiled machine. I become even more excited if the people I talk to on the phone are helpful, gracious and organized.


rue721


Dec 16, 2009, 12:21 PM

Post #590 of 710 (8509 views)
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Re: [WanderingTree] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree that kindness from the admissions department goes a long way--as does a welcoming tone and clarity on the website.

I applied to UF this year 90% because I liked the way their website talked about writing. And when I submitted my application to Michigan yesterday and read "We're so excited that you've applied!" on their confirmation email--yes, it did feel good. MFA applications are so (SO!) high-anxiety...and it's wonderful to read a friendly or encouraging sentence.

BUT I wonder how much of the admissions department attitude is just a reflection of regional culture? Thinking about it, I'm not surprised that a Mid-Western school would use peppy exclamations in its emails, or that a Southern school would seem very gracious...Of course, I'm too shy to actually speak to human beings, so I don't know how the admissions department acts in person or over the phone--nor whether it matters, as a student.

I went to a school for undergrad that is a bit infamous for being curt and cold, but its registrar *is* efficient in terms of getting transcripts out, etc--and that's what *really* matters to me, as a student/graduate. Of course, it's the opposite for the Career Center--I wish *they* were a little less hasty to get the easy job candidates placed and thought more about everyone else.

But c'est le vie. I just wonder if the admissions department might be more of representative of the *local* attitudes, as opposed to the *campus's.*


aiyamei

e-mail user

Dec 16, 2009, 1:32 PM

Post #591 of 710 (8485 views)
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Re: [rue721] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

In general, too, admissions people are their own breed.


ashleyke


Dec 16, 2009, 6:48 PM

Post #592 of 710 (8447 views)
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Re: [aiyamei] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey all,

I'm new to the boards but now that I have discovered them I am beyond grateful. I am certainly working down to the wire for these MFA apps due in January. I spend hours working on them, but I really get very little done - there is something very stifling about all of the pressure. It is certainly making it hard to think clearly!

That being said, I have a question of opinion for you all. I did a piece that involves several scenes and flashbacks. When there is a change in time, the paragraphs are divided by a set asterisks (****). Being a short story, there are only four of these line breakers. When I first wrote it, i was in a fiction workshop it was pretty commonplace. Now, as I prepare one of those stories for the writing sample, it feels like cheating. Should I remove these and make sure my verb tenses accurately reflect a change in time or place? Or is it alright to keep them?

I thought you all would know!


WanderingTree


Dec 16, 2009, 7:08 PM

Post #593 of 710 (8438 views)
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Re: [ashleyke] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

**** and its variations is totally kosher. Many, many established writers do it. I think it just really depends on your story and characters. Do you think more immediacy is gained by using the same tense but with different sections to organize time/place etc.? What are the other reasons for the section breaks? Also, there's no limit on how many breaks you can have in a short story. Robert Coover, for example, used about 100 section breaks in his short story, "The Babysitter".

(This post was edited by WanderingTree on Dec 16, 2009, 7:10 PM)


rue721


Dec 16, 2009, 11:59 PM

Post #594 of 710 (8392 views)
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Re: [WanderingTree] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I used the

***

breaks, too. Why wouldn't they be fair game? Don't worry, I don't think ease and clarity = cheating ;)

No offense, but maybe you're finding "problems" like this and feeling unproductive because you're actually finished? I have the tendency to "over-fix," too--and it has killed many a piece. If you can't let the stories go yet, maybe a beta-reader at least? Just a friendly thought from a fellow perfectionist :)


Zuleika Dobson


e-mail user

Dec 17, 2009, 11:49 AM

Post #595 of 710 (8327 views)
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Re: [ashleyke] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I have flashbacks/change in time too and decided to send it off without using any ***. I have an extra line in between paragraphs instead. Saw it done somewhere--I think as long as you indicate the change with some sort of accepted signal to readers, it's not problematic nor distracting.


"Every spectator is a coward or a traitor."


Zuleika Dobson


e-mail user

Dec 17, 2009, 11:56 AM

Post #596 of 710 (8326 views)
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Re: [WanderingTree] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

A self-deprecating, tongue-in-cheek website is basically a godsend in times like these. There are two schools I'm applying to with approaches that make the Naval Academy seem like Susie Sunshine.

Have you ever seen Hunter's site? Loved it.


"Every spectator is a coward or a traitor."

(This post was edited by Zuleika Dobson on Dec 17, 2009, 11:57 AM)


rue721


Dec 17, 2009, 12:15 PM

Post #597 of 710 (8313 views)
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Re: [Zuleika Dobson] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

If anyone feels comfortable talking about it: How long were your writing samples, by the way? I know they say shorter is better, but my favorite/most personally representative story is 12K. It had three *** breaks and maybe fifteen scenes. It also takes place in a foreign country and involves weird science/a crazy-ish person.

On the one hand, it is a good representation of the work I do, and gave me a chance to show off all my skills.
On the other: no, not domestic fiction. Or possibly even literary fiction. It's a pretty extreme story in terms of plot and setting, and because of the page/word limits of my top choice schools I couldn't send another story as companion/comparison.

Plus, for the schools with especially short page limits, I had to go with another couple of stories altogether--one of which is relatively domestic and the other of which is magical with barely any realism. I chose them because I thought they played off one another well, and they let me show at least most of my skills. They also are both "complete" feeling stories, not excerpts--which gives them a huge leg up for me because I've been writing mostly scripts and novels for the past year or two.

How did you choose which story/stories to send?


WanderingTree


Dec 17, 2009, 12:57 PM

Post #598 of 710 (8296 views)
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Re: [rue721] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Most programs got one ~ 6,500 story. It's definitely one of my strongest pieces and has received a good amount of feedback in workshop and personalized responses from editors at a couple of top journals. More than anything, the story makes me feel warm and fuzzy : - ) Some writers talk about being in "a zone" when they had written their best work. I think I wrote this story while I was in this rare mindset. I knew it was just different after I finished. Genre wise? I'd say walking the fence between domestic realism and magical realism.

Some programs that allowed for more got this story plus either a 2,500 (again walking the genre line) or a 5,000 word published story (realism with a very international/cross-cultural lean). One program, Brown, got an entirely different 2nd story clocking in at about 5,500 words. This story had a little under 50 ~~~~ breaks.

I spent a lot of time researching programs and reading the work of faculty and alumni. I'd say a good percentage of my decisions were based on this research. The other 50% or so was based on both my gut feeling and the feedback I had gotten thus far on newer work. Even though I had some reservations about sending "less traditional" work to some programs, I had to go with what was representative of what I wanted to do and what was among my strongest work at the time I mailed off applications.

(This post was edited by WanderingTree on Dec 17, 2009, 12:59 PM)


Zuleika Dobson


e-mail user

Dec 17, 2009, 1:32 PM

Post #599 of 710 (8284 views)
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Re: [rue721] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I just focused on cutting it off when the majority of my important characters had been introduced. I had to trim some dialogue for the schools that have an "under 25 pgs" requirement, but all my samples begin and end the same way.

Mine also is not domestic fiction. It takes place in several countries and involves some bizarre individuals (though in another way). I'm not sure what category it falls into. In some ways, it's the opposite of experimental--in other ways, I'm guessing no one has a similar premise, topic, or 'style' (cringe--I hate that word).

Basically, it's received very promising feedback, but it's far from what most schools expect or receive, I think. I've decided that I won't let this deter me from using this sample, but that if I didn't get in anywhere, I'll submit something entirely different in the future while continuing to work on this piece.


"Every spectator is a coward or a traitor."


taraberyl



Dec 17, 2009, 3:27 PM

Post #600 of 710 (8262 views)
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Re: [rue721] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

wow upon reflection i realize how complicated my writing samples got.
i used some combination of 4 stories:

story A = 30 pages
story B = 11 pages
story C = 9 pages
story D = 5 pages

only one or two schools with the highest maximum page numbers got story A, because while i think it is my most complex and accomplished piece i wanted to show variety, and i have confidence in all of these pieces (or equal confidence in them - getting more anxious as we await our replies...)
what's funny (to me) is how the schools with 25 page limits got three stories that totaled exactly 25 pages (stories B, C, and D). a happy accident but it makes me feel like a tailor.
since most schools asked for a 30 page sample of 2 stories, B and C were most commonly used. one of them is experimental in voice, and the other more straightforward.

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