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piratelizzy


Feb 26, 2007, 2:27 PM

Post #51 of 213 (4177 views)
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Re: [JKicker] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

1. I am a big cinema junkie as well as a lover of lit, and I definitely feel as moved by just about anything directed by Fassbinder or Claude Chabrol, say, as by Madame Bovary or The Cherry Orchard. When I see a great film, I am as awed as when I read a great novel. The best directors are concerned with the same themes you find in the work of the great writers, and it's just as exciting to see something innovative up on screen as it is to run across a gem of a short story unexpectedly in some journal or anthology.

2. I wanted to ask this... Whether anyone here thinks there is room in the world of MFA/workshop fiction for such oddities as satire or historical fiction or other less-popular forms. I ask this because it seems to me that the overwhelming majority of fiction "out there"--and by corollary, I presume in the MFA programs as well--is of an uber-realist bent... I know that a few programs are amenable to metafiction and "experimental" fiction (although I think most of what gets labeled "experimental" is stuff that follows in the footsteps of work that was done thirty years ago, e.g., by Barthelme, Gaddis, Pynchon, etc.). But I wonder whether there are people writing outside of those two streams of the realist and experimental, maybe using established forms like satire. Is there room for people like those, in the world of the MFA?


'sup?!


bighark


Feb 26, 2007, 2:39 PM

Post #52 of 213 (4162 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I can't speak from experience, lizzy, but I have to believe that the answer is yes.


In Reply To
Is there room for people like those, in the world of the MFA?



(This post was edited by bighark on Feb 26, 2007, 2:41 PM)


pongo
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Feb 26, 2007, 4:00 PM

Post #53 of 213 (4134 views)
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Re: [bighark] Preparing for an MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

There are probably MFA programs that don't like anything but a narrow range of literary interests, but you don't have to go to one of those. I know there are programs that are open to anything, and nothing you name is particularly outre. There are even programs that will let you write screenplays.


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/


piratelizzy


Mar 5, 2007, 3:42 PM

Post #54 of 213 (4047 views)
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Preparing for MFA apps 2007-2008? [In reply to] Can't Post

For those of us thinking ahead to the next application season, given that the consensus on "getting in" is universally emphatic on the importance of the writing sample, I wonder what your thoughts are on this:

Many people on this board mention their previous workshop experiences in passing. It would seem that at least a sizable number of us (including yours truly) have "workshopped" their writing. Some people have stressed how important it is to workshop stories before sending them as samples with applications. I find this somehow counterintuitive... Certainly no program divulges a requirement for previous enrollment in creative writing workshops. I would think, too, that any number of people are out there who've never workshopped their work but whose talents nonetheless exist.

Does anyone think that pre-MFA workshops or writers' retreats are de rigueur and/or beneficial for gaining entry to MFA programs? Any thoughts?


'sup?!


apelavin

e-mail user

Mar 5, 2007, 5:58 PM

Post #55 of 213 (4016 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] Preparing for MFA apps 2007-2008? [In reply to] Can't Post

If someone's writing sample blows them away, I'm pretty sure they won't care about previous experience. On the other hand, if it's down to two candidates for the last spot, and the committee likes their samples equally, and they both have good recommendations and come off as nice, hard-working people in your personal statements, then the question of workshop experience could come into play. In other words, it might happen in a few borderline cases, but it's probably not worth worrying about if someone doesn't have the chance.

Applications aside though, I'd say it's always worth a lot of effort to participate in workshops, retreats, etc. just because they can have a tremendously positive effect on someone's writing. It's not necessarily what you hear about your own piece(s) (although good feedback always helps, and positive feedback helps with confidence) so much as a series of writing insights you'd pick up in general discussions and while other people's pieces are being workshopped. But that doesn't make them necessary for anyone.


scheherazade


Mar 5, 2007, 7:58 PM

Post #56 of 213 (3992 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] Preparing for MFA apps 2007-2008? [In reply to] Can't Post

I basically understood it that a workshop is by no means mandatory but it's probably more helpful than not, if you can afford the time and cost. If you're confident in your writing, then you certainly don't need to workshop your submission. I imagine there are significant numbers of MFA students who never workshopped their admission stories (although when you exclude the number who sought comments from boyfriends, wives, parents, teachers, or writing peers, this number is probably much smaller).

Given the competitive nature of admissions and funding, it may be worthwhile to do every little bit you can to increase your potential of getting into the school you prefer or winning a more generous fellowship. In that sense, workshops can help you see your stories from eyes other than your own, and unlike sharing your stories with friends and family, workshops give you the opportunity to see the work of other student writers and give you a better sense of how your writing compares to others in your peer group (which can give you a better idea of whether you're ready for the MFA, or whether you stand a chace at the more competitive schools). If you haven't done a lot of workshops in the past, doing a pre-MFA workshop can also give you a better idea of what to expect in the MFA program, and can help you find a few teachers to write letters of reference.

But do you need to workshop your application stories? That's a good question, and I'm not an MFA student so I can't say for sure. I think 95% of people can probably improve their stories by workshopping them. But if the cost is prohibitive, you lack the time to attend the workshop, or if the course is geared to more of an introductory level, I don't think it's necessarily worth the time. Unless your writing skills are still fairly undeveloped, I don't think a workshop would make the difference between MFA admission and no MFA admission, but it might make the difference between admission to a top 20 versus a "they offer an MFA degree?" program.


piratelizzy


Mar 6, 2007, 12:38 PM

Post #57 of 213 (3942 views)
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Re: [scheherazade] Preparing for MFA apps 2007-2008? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for your replies. I've personally found workshops destructive, rather than constructive. In one workshop, the teacher paid no attention to or dismissed most of us with rushed, superficial, paltry feedback. He seemed to like his students young, female and blonde--but who doesn't, right? In the other workshop, the students were mostly beginning writers. I've yet to find a workshop where I've felt like I could make progress as a writer. It's part of what I'm hoping to find in an MFA program.

I was not thinking in terms of having to demonstrate that one has gone through workshop before, but more in terms of whether a story that's been workshopped emerges with a certain uniform gleam that programs are looking for. And I continue to wonder whether this might mean that workshops limit rather than foster the growth of individual writers. (These are questions I have... I am not arguing one way or the other.)


'sup?!


jaywalke


Mar 6, 2007, 1:04 PM

Post #58 of 213 (3923 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] Preparing for MFA apps 2007-2008? [In reply to] Can't Post

I was at the West Virginia Writers' Workshop last summer, and we had a Q&A with a few journal editors (Kestrel & Crab Orchard Review are the two I remember). I asked them:

"With the explosion of MFA programs and MFA holders, are you seeing better work in the submission pile?"

After a pause, Allison Joseph answered that she saw more "polished" work, but not necessary greater talent. John Hoppenthaler jumped in and agreed, and it seemed that the consensus among these folks was that: (workshop) polished = better.


mlpurdy
Moriah Purdy

Mar 6, 2007, 1:32 PM

Post #59 of 213 (3898 views)
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Re: [jaywalke] Preparing for MFA apps 2007-2008? [In reply to] Can't Post

Even just taking a summer workshop is worth it. Try the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. Not only do you get to walk on the beach every morning, the faculty members they bring in are amazing. I don't know if it's too late to register or not, I decided not to go this summer... but it's worth a shot. I too, tried a local workshop and it wasn't worth it AT ALL... but at the FAWC it was a lot of serious writers, some MFA candidates, some published writers, all kinds... but I can pretty much guarantee that the people who go there take it seriously so you're bound to get some good feedback and maybe even meet a few people who would be up for reading for you in the future, when you're closer to the actual application process.


piratelizzy


Mar 6, 2007, 1:34 PM

Post #60 of 213 (3897 views)
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Re: [jaywalke] Preparing for MFA apps 2007-2008? [In reply to] Can't Post

So they said "polish" is better than "talent"? (Sorry, I don't mean to paint these as exclusive of each other... I am trying to process some internal questions I have about all of this, and want to get as much info as I can. I do appreciate everyone's comments).


'sup?!

(This post was edited by piratelizzy on Mar 6, 2007, 1:38 PM)


jaywalke


Mar 6, 2007, 1:53 PM

Post #61 of 213 (3876 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] Preparing for MFA apps 2007-2008? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
So they said "polish" is better than "talent"?


No, polished is better than unpolished. Talent is a kitten of another color, and it doesn't have much to do with any degree, in their opinion. More MFA holders means a greater percentage of the work in the pile has been workshopped, and is therefore polished. We can, of course, argue all day about whether or not "polished" means better (smoother!) or worse (boring with no sharp edges!), but this little editorial slice seemed to think it was better.


Why am I hungry for Polish sausage all the sudden?


tenderloner
Geary'n Hyde

Mar 6, 2007, 2:41 PM

Post #62 of 213 (3854 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] Preparing for MFA apps 2007-2008? [In reply to] Can't Post

I read that as "Polish." That's just too damn specific!


piratelizzy


Mar 6, 2007, 3:11 PM

Post #63 of 213 (3844 views)
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Re: [jaywalke] Preparing for MFA apps 2007-2008? [In reply to] Can't Post

Mmmm... Tofurky vegetarian kielbasa. It's not too bad, actually.


'sup?!


piratelizzy


Mar 9, 2007, 11:56 AM

Post #64 of 213 (3780 views)
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Best Young American Novelists - Granta [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't know where else to post this, and it seems relevant to the discussion that's been going on here recently.

http://www.bestyoungnovelists.com/...can-Novelists-2-2007

Curiously, many of these writers (and apparently they're not all novelists, by the way--weird choice of terminology by Granta) were not born in the U.S. Then again, Nabokov, Conrad, Kundera, Garcia Marquez (who turned 80 this last Tuesday--Happy Birthday, Gabo!!!) and many, many others can be considered immigrant writers (migrating not necessarily to the U.S.).

Granta's BYAN list of ten years ago included the likes of Jonathan Franzen, Lorrie Moore and Sherman Alexie. Judges this year included A.M. Homes and Edmund White.


'sup?!


catenz
CATenz

Mar 9, 2007, 12:25 PM

Post #65 of 213 (3764 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] Best Young American Novelists - Granta [In reply to] Can't Post

hi piratelizzy,

just saw your post and had to respond. in my mfa program, the satirists were adored most. check out some of the less-known schools i.e. not iowa, wisconsin, nyu, columbia, and you will find a home for your writing. really. just check out some of the new lit mags out there; tin house, for one, may not be entirely satire but it definitely isn't uber-realist.


piratelizzy


Mar 9, 2007, 5:45 PM

Post #66 of 213 (3699 views)
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Re: [catenz] Best Young American Novelists - Granta [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks so much, catenz!


'sup?!


scheherazade


Mar 11, 2007, 10:31 PM

Post #67 of 213 (3628 views)
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MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

Okay, here are a couple more general MFA questions that have come to mind:

- My primary interest is fiction, but I'm increasingly interested in non-fiction as well. What do most MFA programs mean by offering non-fiction as a genre? Does this generally refer to journalistic non-fiction or something closer to memoir? I personally have nothing memoir-worthy to write, but I do love magazine writing. Is there a place for both in typical MFA non-fiction workshops?

- People like Tom Kealey tell you to choose an MFA program based on funding opportunities first and foremost. But what does "full funding" really mean? If you attend a school that covers tuition and provides a $10,000-15,000 fellowship, can you expect to survive for 2-3 years without a part-time job (other than teaching) or without having to save up beforehand or take on any loans? Obviously, this varies by the city, but if you could get "full funding" in Minnesota or Austin or Iowa City or Irvine, could you be reasonably free of financial worry throughout the program?


Fear&Loathing


Mar 11, 2007, 11:15 PM

Post #68 of 213 (3611 views)
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Re: [scheherazade] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post

...you still have to worry about summers and how you're going to pay next month's rent after you graduate. It'll seem better if you come straight from undergrad because you haven't been earning money in the real full-time world to know what you're also giving up.


Aubrie


Mar 11, 2007, 11:20 PM

Post #69 of 213 (3605 views)
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Talk amongst yourselves [In reply to] Can't Post

Wasn't sure where exactly to post this, but found it interesting:


(This post was edited by motet on Mar 15, 2007, 7:14 PM)


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Mar 12, 2007, 11:15 AM

Post #70 of 213 (3542 views)
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Re: [scheherazade] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

- My primary interest is fiction, but I'm increasingly interested in non-fiction as well. What do most MFA programs mean by offering non-fiction as a genre? Does this generally refer to journalistic non-fiction or something closer to memoir? I personally have nothing memoir-worthy to write, but I do love magazine writing. Is there a place for both in typical MFA non-fiction workshops?


Most MFA programs in non-fiction are in creative non-fiction, which includes memoir but also includes personal essays of all sorts. For more traditional magazine work, journalism training is better -- but a good writer with a strong point of view can make a way in magazine writing without any specialized training.


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/


scheherazade


Mar 13, 2007, 10:34 PM

Post #71 of 213 (3463 views)
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Re: [pongo] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

Most MFA programs in non-fiction are in creative non-fiction, which includes memoir but also includes personal essays of all sorts. For more traditional magazine work, journalism training is better -- but a good writer with a strong point of view can make a way in magazine writing without any specialized training.



Thanks, pongo. I have actually taken a class in magazine writing, and I know it's something I could have some success with if I focused on it (some day, right?) but I was just wondering in the sense that some MFA programs either require or encourage you to take courses in a 2nd (or 3rd) genre, and I wondered what they really mean by "creative nonfiction". If the focus pretty consistently is memoir or personal essay, then that wouldn't make the multi-genre MFA a strong selling point to me.


mp213
Maryam Piracha

Mar 14, 2007, 10:16 AM

Post #72 of 213 (3412 views)
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Re: [pongo] UNDREGRAD PREPARATION FOR MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Granted, I've only read a few pages of this discussion but I was recently rejected from UMich's program and like a fool, it was the only one to which I applied. I was 19 when I graduated from undergrad and 21 when I applied. So I waited for two years, but I still don't fall into the age group apparently. Does maturity in age matter? It's a question I've struggled with a lot. I manage a writer's website catering to the subcontinental writers and although we're a close knit group, we do dish out brutal critiques.

I don't really have a particularly great GPA and because UMich didn't require GRE test scores, I didn't give them - a mistake I'm not going to repeat this time around. The writing sample I sent in consisted of three of my very best short stories.

My question is - what did I do wrong? Does the GPA weigh in? Did the lack of GRE scores go against me? I realize 12/600+ applicants is a long shot, increased by the fact that I'm an international applicant but I need to know: what really counts?

Yeah, I know...it's the writing sample, but damn it! It was a good writing sample. What're they looking for?

I need help.


later.


malber


Mar 14, 2007, 11:20 AM

Post #73 of 213 (3387 views)
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Re: [mp213] UNDREGRAD PREPARATION FOR MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

mp213 -

the honest truth of the application process is that there is absolutely no way to know what the admissions committee of any one school is looking for. schools like michigan no doubt get many applications that represent students who could potentially thrive in their program. they can only take so many... 2-4% are very low figures. here's how i calculate it: half the people who apply are easy to reject for one reason or another. so 300 left. half of those, or 3/4 perhaps, are inferior writers than myself (i hope!). that still leaves 75 applications i'm competing against at a school like michigan. after that, it's all personal taste. the point is, you can be in the top 10% or even 5% and still not make it.

i myself applied to 11 programs, have been rejected from 6 (the usual suspects of michigan, michener, syracuse, etc.). but i only applied there understanding that it was an extreme long-shot, even with an excellent packet (which i believe i had). because i wanted to get an MFA, spend some time on my writing, i also applied to a few schools who got less than 500 applicants for 6 spots. because of that, i'm in at Ohio State, Penn State, Bowling Green, etc.

of course, i'm a little disappointed, but i honestly believe i can be happy working on my writing anywhere. and because i only applied to schools with full funding, i can afford to go wherever i got in!

at least, that was my theory.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Mar 14, 2007, 12:09 PM

Post #74 of 213 (3365 views)
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Re: [scheherazade] MFA General questions [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

Thanks, pongo. I have actually taken a class in magazine writing, and I know it's something I could have some success with if I focused on it (some day, right?) but I was just wondering in the sense that some MFA programs either require or encourage you to take courses in a 2nd (or 3rd) genre, and I wondered what they really mean by "creative nonfiction". If the focus pretty consistently is memoir or personal essay, then that wouldn't make the multi-genre MFA a strong selling point to me.


I'm not sure what else creative non-fiction could be if not memoir or personal essay. There's the personal book, but that's really just a long personal essay. Creative non-fiction is non-fiction written with the techniques of fiction. A lot of magazine work fits into this, of course, but a lot doesn't.

On the other hand, if you can write about something form a personal point of view (as John McPhee does about geology or shipping or endless other topics), how would that hurt you as a magazine writer? (A personal essay doesn't have to be about you; it needs a personal point of view.)


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/


mp213
Maryam Piracha

Mar 14, 2007, 1:25 PM

Post #75 of 213 (3331 views)
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Re: [malber] UNDREGRAD PREPARATION FOR MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I think I'm still getting the hang of this forum, especially since it's not as user-friendly as most others.

I understand what you're saying.

So does the gpa not matter much at all? It wasn't horrible or anything, but I'm being realistic about this.

I'll be giving my gre this august as well, so let's see how that goes.

Reading up on several threads in this forum has shown that if you get an idea of the style of writing of faculty members, it helps during application. The thing is, is that I don't want to change my writing style for a particular program. I've taken pains developing something unique, not an offshoot of something else and the writer's community I'm a part of has greatly helped.

Is there any particular strategy that accepted mfa applicants have put into implementation or anything? lol. I realize that's a strange question, but I'm entirely serious.

Although Michigan's program was among the top contenders, my enlarged list of 10 programs for this year has a lot of lower shooting ones as well. For one, I had absolutely no idea that Michigan's program was so highly placed so huge reality check!

All I know is when I found out in 2003 that there was a program catering for something I loved doing, I had to be there.

The thing is, and this is a question I've struggled with for the last four years - does age matter? I was 19 when I graduated and 21 when I applied, so I waited for two years. I am now currently 22.

I just need some sort of guideline...is there any specific thing that people have done that's...well...worked?

later.


(This post was edited by mp213 on Mar 14, 2007, 2:31 PM)

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