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timidsymmetry


Mar 2, 2008, 4:54 PM

Post #26 of 165 (11053 views)
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Re: [Blanca78] Michigan Program? [In reply to] Can't Post

Yikes.

You really needn't worry so much about being validated, because even an acceptance isn't anything to celebrate when seen as an indication of skill. Since you seem to be caught in an ineluctable cycle of status acquisition and self-doubt, and also come across as someone more interested in getting into an impressive grad school than actually writing impressively, I'm gonna make a blind guess and say that because you got into a few programs you feel this demonstrates your writing is even better than you thought. If this is the case you are wrong, and are inflating your ego with the emotional equivalent of inert gas.

Nothing is as humbling, to me at least, as reading the work of others who are also "good enough" to get into a top program. Good programs accept lots of dreck, good magazines accept lots of dreck, good journals accept lots of dreck. People seem impressed that I study where I do, but they shouldn't be. My adviser tells me that the admissions committee generally prefers manuscripts that seem "capably mediocre" over those that are demonstratively of better quality. Its just easier, she says. Not exactly the kind of thing my parents would put in the family christmas letter. "Our lovely so and so attends BIg Name School, a highly selective program that deemed her adequately good, but not really good."

I don't mean to take you down a peg. We're human, and subject to the human desire for recognition. But you seem to be interested in the wrong things, and extracting approval from dubious sources. The process of admission is essentially meaningless. Be glad some programs are giving you the opportunity to do something you enjoy.


Blanca78


Mar 2, 2008, 5:50 PM

Post #27 of 165 (11018 views)
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Re: [timidsymmetry] Michigan Program? [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree with you, and would say the same thing to someone else. I appreciate your comments, and am very happy to be accepted anywhere. It's true of me, and many many other writers, though, that writing is emotionally harrowing for a lot of reasons. Yes, I fully admit that I need validation. I wish it weren't so. But at the same time, it has taken me years to get to the point where I am writing work that I'm proud of, that I am able to push through self doubt and write steadily at all. I have never been one of those people who can sit down and bang out a story, who takes the high road and says productivity is everything, diligence over natural ability, blah blah. I squeeze my stories out bit by bit, and when they work, it's an incredible feeling. I think it's natural to crave validation. I think most people pursuing creative work would be lying if they said they didn't. I'm sorry if my first post is misleading. We all have insecurities, and this is as good a place as any to express them. Anyway, I didn't say I wanted to go to a "top five" program--I don't know that I do. All I'm saying is, it would feel really good to know I got into one, and I know I'm not the only person out there who feels that way. Shallow? Misguided? It is what it is. What you say about top programs and mediocre work is really depressing. All I know is, I want to be inspired and challenged by my peers, and I'm sure I will be wherever I end up.


mpagan


Mar 2, 2008, 6:16 PM

Post #28 of 165 (10995 views)
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Re: [timidsymmetry] Michigan Program? [In reply to] Can't Post

An acceptance isn't anything to celebrate when seen as an indication of skill?

Your advisor actually said your admissions committee generally prefers "capably mediocre" manuscripts over demonstratively better ones? Wow. that wouldn't make me feel good.

Although I agree with your sentiments about validation and such, I think you are perhaps taking an overly sober view of things. Undoubtly, the top programs are not over-stuffed with the best writers - superior writers pop up at other programs as well. We'd all be foolish not to know this.
I think it always boils down to tastes and sensibilites - but YOU SHOULD feel good about your skills if you get into any competitive program (which most are now) and then work to improve them further.
And if you ever found out that your program prefers ""capably mediocre" work over work that was "demonstratively of better quality" because it was "easier" you should maybe get yourself to another progam


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Mar 2, 2008, 10:07 PM

Post #29 of 165 (10933 views)
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Re: [Blanca78] Michigan Program? [In reply to] Can't Post

You know, in some ways it's not about the reputation of the program but about how the programs fits you. The best MFA program is the one that is the best match for your needs, goals, and talent.

How do you identify that in advance when everything is so competitive? All you can do is to apply to programs that appear to be a good fit and hope that you land in the right place. I may sound like a Pollyanna, but I believe that things have a way of working out for the best. If you end up in a back-up safety school, you may discover that it's the perfect place for you because you are matched up with an incredible teacher you would never have even considered on your own.

Just my thoughts...

Good luck to all who are still anxiously waiting.

Jeanne


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


Stroudb

e-mail user

Mar 2, 2008, 10:12 PM

Post #30 of 165 (10930 views)
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Re: [mpagan] Michigan Program? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi,
Just a quick response to some of the earlier questions about UM's program. I'm currently in my last semester as a fiction student here, and I can't say enough good things about the feel of the program here. One of the first big things is that everyone here pretty much gets along. You hear rumors of severe cattiness at other places, but that's not really a problem here (partly because of the size--no one having to fight it out for attention--and because of the equality of funding, albeit from different sources).
Another thing to mention (and I'm not sure how much of this goes into the letters) is all the great benefits. So, aside from your funding itself, you get reimbursed for sending stories and poems out ($50 a year), you get book money each winter break (another $50, given by an agent who once was the publisher at Time Warner), you can apply for travel funding for writing research (I just got back from a trip to Berlin heavily subsidized by the MFA)--and, well, the list of perks goes on (one student a year gets three weeks at a house in Ireland, for instance).

OK, so all that's good--but I think the major thing here, aside from having amazing fellow students, is the philosophy of the faculty. They preach long-haul work ethic here. That is, a lot of discussion centers around how you get through the next ten years, etc.--of sticking true to your art and forging ahead, and not worrying about advances and instant success. I mean, this program (and I'm sure several others can say the same) has seen graduates get book deals right after graduation, and others take thirteen years to get there. But no one looks down on one or the other--the focus is the work itself, and taking the time to get it where it needs to be. I guess I'm mentioning this because I think it's important and indicative of the feel of the program. I'm sure other programs can say much the same thing (George Saunders was just here, and talked to us about much of this, so I get the sense that Syracuse has a similar feel). But, basically, you don't have so much of egoes jockying to be the next big thing. Instead, you've got a program where people really care about their work. And a program that backs this up with substantial funding so that you can focus on your work (and that is very much the philosophy here--I actually witnessed a semi-subdued argument about the philosophies of funding between a professor in the Iowa WW and one of our professors, in which our guy made more or less that claim).

OK--I feel like I'm being insubstantive now, so I'll stop here. Post questions if you'd like and I'll try to check back in.
If not, see you at recruitment weekend!


timidsymmetry


Mar 2, 2008, 11:17 PM

Post #31 of 165 (10903 views)
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Re: [mpagan] Michigan Program? [In reply to] Can't Post

You're right, hearing the unofficial, though practical, admissions policy did make me question the program, but not in any serious way. Why should I question the quality of a story I publish just because many of the other items published in the same issue are, in my opinion, not very good? And the crucial correlative to this is that any one of those other writers can easily feel that way about my piece, too. Similarly, the fact that I can tell you without much chagrin that I was considered functionally capable but not exceptionally noticeable in my application would hopefully communicate that such an evaluation doesn't bother me too much. I'm still writing. I'm still publishing. The program effectively decided, and many programs would agree to something similar, that overarching talent was less desirable than a style they felt comfortable working with. Its a myth that only the best writers get in to the best program, or even the lowliest program.

Certainly, many very fine writers will receive MFAs from both ends of the bell curve, but you can't say that without saying many very poor ones do, as well. Iowa is Iowa because they produce accomplished writers, but lots of maintenance closets and fast-food fryers do, too.

Its my view that if you "should" consider it is an a mandate of talent, you must also acknowledge that some very nice people that write very poorly should operate under similar mandates, and those that didn't get in aren't as "good." I don't think many people would submit to that.

There is a post elsewhere in the forum from someone who had been publishing in some very, very competitive and highly-regarded journals. The poster apparently didn't get in to any programs s/he applied to, after TWO rounds of attempts. You should definitely read what umass76 says in his response to the posting.

You should be proud to get in. Thats great. But you can't with any earnestness console those who don't get in if you insist that quality trumps all, and was the reason you were admitted. Quality is subjective and not necessarily the most important thing to an admissions committee. None of the process that takes you to a program makes any sense. And admitting that will actually take the pressure off and make writing much easier.


mpagan


Mar 2, 2008, 11:31 PM

Post #32 of 165 (10896 views)
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Re: [Stroudb] Michigan Program? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for reminding us this is a thread about Michigan's Program.

I'm glad to hear the program is such a supportive place for writers

I'll be there at the end of march with plenty more to ask I'm sure.

I'm truly excited.


katiej


Mar 5, 2008, 10:52 PM

Post #33 of 165 (10768 views)
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U Mich Welcome Weekend - also Wisconsin? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm attending the U Mich Welcome Weekend later this month, and I'm planning to visit U Wisconsin while I'm in the Midwest (I'll be flying out from the West Coast). Is there anyone out there interested on going in on a rental car to drive out to Madison? I'm thinking of heading to Wisc on Sunday the 30th and returning to Detroit on Tuesday April 1st.
Anyone else looking at both schools who wants to split gas money?


smulis


Mar 5, 2008, 11:46 PM

Post #34 of 165 (10734 views)
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Re: [katiej] U Mich Welcome Weekend - also Wisconsin? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi. I got into both too. I'll pm you.


mannytheman


Mar 5, 2008, 11:46 PM

Post #35 of 165 (10733 views)
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Re: [timidsymmetry] Michigan Program? [In reply to] Can't Post

timidsym, are you fiction or poetry? could you tell a little something about how advising works at Mich? Do you get just one advisor?


miss.modular


Mar 5, 2008, 11:53 PM

Post #36 of 165 (10727 views)
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Re: [timidsymmetry] Michigan Program? [In reply to] Can't Post

[My adviser tells me that the admissions committee generally prefers manuscripts that seem "capably mediocre" over those that are demonstratively of better quality. Its just easier, she says. ]

Really? Why?


sayra


Mar 8, 2008, 9:24 PM

Post #37 of 165 (10603 views)
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Re: [sayra] Michigan Program? [In reply to] Can't Post

Just a warning to any potential poets--we are currently at Michigan in the middle of a very messy faculty hiring process in which it would seem the opinions of the student body were pretty ignored and which has really angered the bulk of the poetry student body. A great place for money, here, a great place for a community of writers, but, and I'm only saying this about the poetry half of the program, this can also be a place with some very detached professors (on a case by case basis, this isn't to damn them all at all, but to say that there is a certain palpable lack) and is a place that has just shot itself in the foot new-hire wise. I hate to say all this, because I love the program for my fellow writers, for the location, for the opportunities, for the money, and I very much do not regret my decision to come here because, as I've said, I love it for many reasons -- but if you're looking for a very invested group of professors or for a place that listens to its students' wishes when it hires, this isn't it. Feel free to message me with any questions.


whataneatgirl


Mar 9, 2008, 1:18 AM

Post #38 of 165 (10563 views)
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Re: [sayra] Michigan Program? [In reply to] Can't Post

That's actually extremely helpful, Sayra. Thanks for the insight.


Stroudb

e-mail user

Mar 9, 2008, 5:34 PM

Post #39 of 165 (10496 views)
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Re: [whataneatgirl] Michigan Program? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi,
Just wanted to note that this isn't the case with the fiction side of things here at Michigan--the fiction faculty as a group are very involved with, and supportive of, and responsive to the students (though I understand where Sayra is coming from on the poetry side of things).
It is the case, with the poetry side of things (so that it's all out there), that a job candidate who was much liked by the student body as a teacher/mentor/poet was passed over for someone who's more of a name (and maybe also a great mentor/teacher--I really don't know--the candidate favored by the students has been in town for a while, so everyone knows him, whereas the person chosen is a bit more unknown in those regards).


sayra


Mar 9, 2008, 11:16 PM

Post #40 of 165 (10429 views)
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Re: [sayra] Michigan Program? [In reply to] Can't Post

Stroudb (Hi!) definitely makes good points--I definitely think that the fiction side of the program is in a very different situation, and has been as long as I've been here--we've been (at least) a poet down for the two years I've been here, and, moreover, it would seem from all I can tell that the fiction faculty is definitely involved in the world of the students. So yay for fiction.

However, in terms of the job hire, I think it's key to note a couple of things: a) that there are a lot of bad feelings within the poetry program right now because of this hire, and b) that the discussion of this hire is not a statement about the competence of the new hire, but rather about the state of the faculty as it is, the presence of student voices within the decision making process, and, most importantly, the fact that the way this job hire was handled means that we are losing a valuable resource who has many ties to this program. Even if the new hire does turn out to be a good teacher, we are still losing an already proven excellent well-liked teacher and resource who has many ties to this community--which doesn't exactly mean that we're adding to the poetry program, but more substituting an unknown for a known.

As I think I've said before, I think how this information impacts thoughts on Michigan all depends on what you're looking for in a program, but I do think it's important that potential students are at least aware of what is going on in the poetry program right now.

Academic politics are fun for the whole family!


(This post was edited by sayra on Mar 10, 2008, 1:31 PM)


teapotter

e-mail user

Mar 10, 2008, 11:00 AM

Post #41 of 165 (10362 views)
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Re: [sayra] Michigan Program? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hello. As a second-year poet in Michigan's MFA, I'll weigh in all of this, painful as that is, because this does seem like a really pivotal moment for Michigan's poetry program, and one that recruits should be aware of. I've never written on this boards before and will mostly aim here for bullet points. (Also I drafted this yesterday evening, so I apologize if this is more in dialogue with StroudB than Sayra - god knows I don't know the etiquette.)

The pros of my experience:
-- This is a well-funded program. Well-funded for three years for some. Well-funded for two years for others.
-- The atmosphere remains surprisingly uncompetitive and supportive.
-- I've received good feedback in individual meetings with a couple of members of the faculty here, though you must be outgoing if you hope to meet one-on-one with the members of the faculty who are available for conference.

The bottom-line/why I'm posting this:
People should be aware of the fact that the poetry program, which has been weak in terms of faculty involvement, is in a really tenuous situation. Due to a recent job hire - one that many students feel in the dark about in terms of how student feedback was taken into account and how candidates were evaluated - we are (as Stroudb indicated) losing one of our most valuable mentors and resources. Hopefully the candidate who was selected will accept the job so that our faculty presence doesn't actually shrink in the fall, but regardless of that it's important that applicants know that, for years now, dissatisfied poets within our program have been directed to a resource/mentor who, after this job-hire, probably won't continue to work for free. At best, we have an unknown entering our system and replacing an unofficial but highly useful, valued and respected known. And at worst - ? In any case, this moment was key for a poetry program that has been "one-down" for years, and we're now looking at the very real possibility that access to professors or professor-like figures is about to get harder to come by.

I do want to reiterate that I am grateful to this program and I can also speak to that with anyone interested. The funding is great, I've met some great people, and really I've learned a lot about writing and reading and have watched my poems and my classmates' poems improve considerably during our time here. Time itself is a great gift, as is being in a community of writers.

These are all important and nuanced considerations, so I would be happy to answer any questions in more depth over email.


Teapotter

(This post was edited by teapotter on Mar 10, 2008, 1:04 PM)


sayra


Mar 10, 2008, 1:47 PM

Post #42 of 165 (10307 views)
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Re: [teapotter] Michigan Program? [In reply to] Can't Post

Just to clarify, because disclaimers are important, and because I don't think either teapotter or I want to sound like we're condemning this program in any way shape or form (we are very much not!!), all either of us is saying is that this is an uncertain time for the program, and that we can't say that everything in this program is absolutely perfect right now. Is that true of every program? Yes, every MFA program is clearly imperfect. I just know that I'd want to know all this if I were looking at schools, and that I relied on this board an awful lot when I was making my decision. So call this civic duty? Maybe? Anyway, the bottom line is that no one should be basing any decision solely on this information. This is a great school. I've loved it during my two years here. I have a great community, the program is the perfect size for me, the money is wonderful (and we don't have to compete with one another for it, which is I think one of the best things, since nothing can throw a community off as much as money--we're all funded equally). The fact that we have a year of teaching experience and a year with fewer responsibilities is a great mix. I've learned and grown so much here, and this has been a great program for me. So look at what you want to get out of a program and know that you can get loads and loads and loads and loads of wonderful things out of this one--but, as in any program, nothing is perfect. The most important thing to do is to think about what your priorities are when choosing a school, and what will fit you best. I would, two years later, I think definitely choose to come here again, even with the current state of things. This was the best fit for me, and I think would still remain that way. It just depends on what you're looking for--this is a very personal decision. Bright news is, as long as you're well funded, as you certainly are here, I don't think that you can go wrong with any MFA program. There is no wrong decision, just different strokes for different folks. So good luck and congratulations to all of you!


weltanschauung


Mar 14, 2008, 3:04 PM

Post #43 of 165 (10179 views)
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Lit classes? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hello all,

I'm curious about how many of the Michigan students/admits have a strong undergraduate lit background. I noticed the mention of the program's preference about this on its webpage and it's making me wonder whether I should spend the time and money taking some lit courses before the next admissions round (I managed to completely avoid it as an undergrad).

Any comments about this are appreciated. Thanks!

gwyn


Stroudb

e-mail user

Mar 16, 2008, 10:37 PM

Post #44 of 165 (10098 views)
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Re: [weltanschauung] Lit classes? [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't know that I'd worry too much about it. The main thing, aside from writing, would be to read. Some of my friends were admissions readers this year--and the most important thing, i gathered, is the writing sample (naturally). No one's going to say, well, the writing is really great, but they don't have that many lit classes... (and, in fact, several MFAs, as well as several professors, have come from non-lit university backgrounds, like the sciences, etc.) The writing is the main thing.


Raysen


Aug 8, 2008, 9:10 PM

Post #45 of 165 (9880 views)
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Michigan's own forum [In reply to] Can't Post

Is anyone else here wondering why Michigan's own MFA forum, which they maintain on their MFA site, is devoid of traffic? Not even a single post!


mpagan


Aug 9, 2008, 12:21 AM

Post #46 of 165 (9861 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Michigan's own forum [In reply to] Can't Post

In terms of current students - it might be easier for them to gab via facebook - or they actually talk to one another face to face - its a pretty friendly bunch that keeps in touch - at least that is what I observed when I visited in March.

Also - whats there to talk about all the time?

Folks seem happy and busy writing - I suppose if you're looking for insider info the folks on here will answer your Q's.

I can help if you like (warning - I don't actually start until sept) but i'll try - and def keep things honest


(This post was edited by mpagan on Aug 9, 2008, 12:23 AM)


Raysen


Aug 12, 2008, 7:45 PM

Post #47 of 165 (9766 views)
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Re: [mpagan] Michigan's own forum [In reply to] Can't Post

Where exactly is Michigan's MFA program housed? Is it Angell Hall?


mpagan


Aug 12, 2008, 9:22 PM

Post #48 of 165 (9750 views)
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Re: [Raysen] Michigan's own forum [In reply to] Can't Post

Yup -in Angell Hall
Also the Hopwood Room is in that building as well. Hopwoods are the literary awards given out every year (i think they give out over 70K in prizes - for undergrad and grads)


(This post was edited by mpagan on Aug 12, 2008, 9:24 PM)


Raysen


Aug 12, 2008, 9:30 PM

Post #49 of 165 (9744 views)
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Re: [mpagan] Michigan's own forum [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Yup -in Angell Hall
Also the Hopwood Room is in that building as well. Hopwoods are the literary awards given out every year (i think they give out over 70K in prizes - for undergrad and grads)


Where in Angell Hall?

I did my undergrad at Michigan and I only had three classes there. Some math classes at a large audtiorium and a small section (taught by a TA) in one of the small classrooms by the fishbowl. It's all a blur, actually. I just remember Angell Hall having very heavy doors.


Raysen


Aug 13, 2008, 10:28 PM

Post #50 of 165 (9688 views)
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Re: foreign language requirement [In reply to] Can't Post

Can anyone tell me about Michigan's foreign language requirement?

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