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joysan


Dec 11, 2004, 6:37 PM

Post #1 of 333 (19838 views)
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Recommendations and reference letters Can't Post

I only studied with one poet during undergrad and haven't done anything official since. This particular recommender has decided he doesn't want to recommend me anymore despite having recommended me in the past. I'm a bit flustered as what to do :(.

/joy


(This post was edited by motet on Mar 11, 2006, 10:56 AM)


freeverses
James Hall
e-mail user

Dec 11, 2004, 7:43 PM

Post #2 of 333 (19824 views)
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Re: [joysan] Recommendation Runaround [In reply to] Can't Post

Dear Joy,

Wow, that's a real bummer. But such are the ways of the fickle heart. Did s/he give you any reason?

In any event, it looks like you'll have to ask other professors who know your writing to recommend you. Did you take any literature classes that focused on poetry? Maybe that professor wouldn't mind also taking a look at some of your poems?

Good luck with this snafu -- must not be easy.

Yours,
James


sharonlouise


Jan 4, 2005, 12:25 PM

Post #3 of 333 (19762 views)
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letters of rec from non-professors [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi--I've been out of school for a long time--I don't have any profs I can ask for a recommendation. Asked a friend of my father's, a lawyer-turned-published crime novelist, to write me one, he said yes....but we're not quite sure what to put.

was wondering--anyone else out there get letters of rec fom a non-teacher? & if so, how did you (or the recommendor) approach it?


bighark


Jan 4, 2005, 12:46 PM

Post #4 of 333 (19760 views)
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Re: [sharonlouise] letters of rec from non-professors [In reply to] Can't Post

Actually, for writing programs, I don't think that non-professor recommendations are a big deal. Two of my three recommenders are former supervisors, and I'm sure that there are lots of MFA applicants (particularly those who are a few years removed from their undergraduate degrees) that have done the same.

Anyway, your crime novelist friend should write a recommendation that speaks of your abilities as a writer. If you haven't done so by now, you should definitely send this person a few of your stories so he can get an idea of your style and ablities.

But you still need other recommendations, right?

I don't know how long it's been since you were last in school, but it wouldn't hurt to look up some of your old professors to see if they're still at your alma mater. Writing letters of recommendation for formers students is part of a professor's job, so don't worry about asking for such things.

I only have one former professor as a letter writer, but I didn't have a problem getting him to write for me. Even though I haven't seen this guy in ten years, he was happy to write my letters, and only asked that I help fill him in on what I've been doing since we last met.

If asking a former professor is absolutely out of the question, then your next best bet is professional writers and editors. Do not try to get friends or family to write for you--that's definitely frowned upon, and there are some places that go so far as to explicitly prohibit such letters. If you don't have any writers beyond the crime novelist (don't forget about any instructors you may have had at workshops, continuing education classes, or retreats), then go for bosses and supervisors. These people won't be able to comment on your writing, but they can write a letter that speaks of your ability to succeed in graduate studies.

Oh, one last thing---what are the deadlines for the places where you want to apply? You should give your letter writers plenty of notice so they can plan some time to write for you. If you're trying to apply for a Fall 2005 enrollment, you better start asking about those letters right now. It's only fair to give your recommenders plenty of time (about 4 weeks at least), so you need to get hopping.

Good luck!


sharonlouise


Jan 4, 2005, 12:57 PM

Post #5 of 333 (19756 views)
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Re: [bighark] letters of rec from non-professors [In reply to] Can't Post

thanks!! feel MUCH better. I can definitely get a supervisor to write one, and maybe (big maybe) an old prof....

Yeah, my deadlines aren't till Feb & March.
Was talking with the crime novelist (he's got some of my writing)... yeah, we don't want to say "friend of her dad's" for obvious reasons. But, I wonder how we should otherwise present our relationship? any ideas most welcome....


darredet
Darren A. Deth


Jan 4, 2005, 1:04 PM

Post #6 of 333 (19750 views)
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Re: [sharonlouise] letters of rec from non-professors [In reply to] Can't Post

Is the lawyer published? If so, I would say he/she is a published writing acquaintance.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Jan 4, 2005, 1:46 PM

Post #7 of 333 (19748 views)
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Re: [darredet] letters of rec from non-professors [In reply to] Can't Post

Most of my professors were dead or retired when I applied to grad school, so I didn't even think about asking them for recommendations. I went to two writers with reasonable track records (one of them as a teacher and critic) and asked them. They knew me as a person, but not particularly as a writer, and did a lovely (and successful) job.

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/


elli
Ellen Meeropol

e-mail user

Jan 4, 2005, 1:56 PM

Post #8 of 333 (19745 views)
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Re: [pongo] letters of rec from non-professors [In reply to] Can't Post

For one of my letters, I used a colleague from my writing group. We had been writing together for several years, and while her publication history (like mine) was small, she could speak to my commitment to writing, to my ability to critique and discuss craft, as well as to my writing. I think that in combination with two teachers' recommendations, it was acceptable.


Ellen

www.ellenmeeropol.com


sharonlouise


Jan 4, 2005, 3:08 PM

Post #9 of 333 (19740 views)
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Re: [elli] letters of rec from non-professors [In reply to] Can't Post

thanks for all the words of wisdom

was also wondering: are there any examples anywhere on the web of well-done letters of rec, or some kind of example like that?


libbyagain


Jan 4, 2005, 5:27 PM

Post #10 of 333 (19726 views)
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Re: [sharonlouise] letters of rec from non-professors [In reply to] Can't Post

Two things: 1. absolutely do NOT hesitate to ask old professors for a letter. If shyness and/or avoidance are issues for you (they are for me--big time) then please just take a deep breath, dive in and call during office hours. Students call quite regularly for letters from me, I do think it's part of my job, and I actually really enjoy the blast from the past. 2. In case an old professor refuses to write one, bear in mind what I wish I had when I myself asked, one year out of grad school, and said fellow responded "I don't feel I know your work anymore, and though I thought it was first-rate then, really now it's the merit of your publications that should speak for your candidacy. . . " I was embarrassed, sheepish, angry, hurt--and retracted like a hermit crab into a shell. I wish someone had mentioned then what I've found to be true since: professors who do that are piles of poo. I've had plenty of experience in those shoes since (being asked) and I can say without reservation: were I to respond in the way he did I would be a pile of poo or/and would need extensive therapy for whatever impulse made me respond that way.

Elizabeth


Wilding


Feb 15, 2005, 12:05 PM

Post #11 of 333 (19657 views)
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Re: letters of rec: Make it Easy for Them [In reply to] Can't Post

Don't contact anyone for a letter until you are prepared. You should have your own essay/s and publishing/professional updates ready to go. Some faculty will ask you to write your own letter that they will then edit themselves. While that may seem shocking it is not uncommon. You should have waiver forms and labels ready to go so that you don't bother them by follow up emails and letters. Keep it simple and make it easy for them to endorse your work by being organized and responsible. Send them a handwritten thank you afterwards and if you are accepted into a program thank them again for their support and time.


shadowboxer


Mar 7, 2005, 6:36 PM

Post #12 of 333 (19799 views)
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writing your own rec letter [In reply to] Can't Post

I asked a faculty member to write a rec letter, and he told me to write it myself. The letter is for an application for a travel fellowship. What are things that should be included? Any pitfalls to avoid?


mingram
Mike Ingram

Mar 8, 2005, 1:48 AM

Post #13 of 333 (19768 views)
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Re: [shadowboxer] writing your own rec letter [In reply to] Can't Post

That strikes me as a bit weird. This person doesn't have time to do it him/herself? Maybe this kind of thing happens all the time, and I'm just not aware of it. But is there perhaps someone else you could ask for a recommendation? Of course, my only basis of comparison is rec letters for graduate school, so maybe this is an entirely different ball of wax.


murasaki
Marie Mockett
e-mail user

Mar 8, 2005, 10:05 AM

Post #14 of 333 (19744 views)
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Re: [shadowboxer] writing your own rec letter [In reply to] Can't Post

Unfortunately, this is not unusual either in the academic world, or the corporate world. Think of this letter as a writing exercise in which you get to inhabit your teacher's mind. Explain how you know each other; point out any special/commendable work you may have done for him. Talk about why you think the travel would be a good opportunity for your growth. Make it clear that the funders will not be wasting their money. Good luck.


missnorao


Mar 8, 2005, 10:43 AM

Post #15 of 333 (19733 views)
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Re: [shadowboxer] writing your own rec letter [In reply to] Can't Post

One thing I would recommend if you are struggling with writing about yourself is to have a friend do it for you then spruce it up yourself. I've done this for friends in your position and I think it's easier because you won't be as hesitant about patting yourself on the back. If you have a writer friend or someone who is familiar with MFA programs, even better. Usually the professor will add things and make it his or her own as well.


Wilding


Mar 16, 2005, 6:25 PM

Post #16 of 333 (19669 views)
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Re: [mingram] writing your own rec letter [In reply to] Can't Post

This is a fairly standard request. Your former faculty member will review and edit it entirely to their taste but it gives you the opportunity to present yourself once again to them and call to attention to the points you want stressed. Generally speaking, choose three specific attributes and address them in context. What makes you stand out among other applicants? What are your strengths? Make sure you send the signed waiver form (if applicable) and pre-addressed labels (for the schools) to them. Their letters must be sent directly to the school, not with your application packet.

You should not approach anyone with a letter of rec request until you have written your own essay and can provide a draft for their letter, labels, etc. Make it as simple and easy for them as possible and thank them directly afterwards.


curbludgeon


Sep 18, 2005, 6:35 PM

Post #17 of 333 (20032 views)
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Letters of reference, fear and panic. [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey. This is my first post, though I've been lurking for awhile.

Some background- I'm preparing to apply for fall '06. I'm 80% settled on which programs I'm interested in. I have a tentative portfolio, and I've been polishing it furiously. I've taken the GREs- and even was satisfied with the results. Most recently, I've started work on my Statements of Purpose.

In short, this is something that I know I want to do, and I've been putting effort into the process. But, I seem to have a fear of reference letters. Part of my problem is just that fear, which I guess I should overcome by doing, et cetera; but also, I'm not sure to whom it'd be best to turn. So, I have questions. Like:

Is an MFA student an acceptable reference, if you've taken a workshop they ran?

What about a professor who instructed a workshop outside of your genre, who probably would have a good-but-not-great opinion of your work?

...An instructor with whom you're taking a workshop, during the semester when you're sending out applications? ("Hi, we've been acquainted for a month and one of my pieces has been workshopped; please write how great I am"?)

...Literature professors?

Any feedback would be helpful. I feel like there are too many ways I could shoot myself in the foot here.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Sep 18, 2005, 6:56 PM

Post #18 of 333 (20027 views)
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Re: [curbludgeon] Letters of reference, fear and panic. [In reply to] Can't Post

Anyone who is familiar with you or your work is an acceptable reference, but factor in how much clout the recommender is likely to carry (a professor will have more than a student, an award-winning author will have more than someone who hasn't gotten published, and so on), how well the person knows you (the more she knows, the more she can say), and how well the person knows your work. Writing teachers are better than lit. teachers. They're talking about your potential as a writer, after all.

And I'm not sure how much the recommendation really matters. I had two people who barely knew my work, but knew me reasonably well, and got in the one program to which I applied. All that really matters in most cases is your writing sample, and maybe the statement of purpose.

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/


darredet
Darren A. Deth


Sep 19, 2005, 10:50 AM

Post #19 of 333 (20013 views)
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Re: [curbludgeon] Letters of reference, fear and panic. [In reply to] Can't Post

I had references from two professors from two different MFA programs, whom I met through a writing workshop, give me letters of reference, as well as one I took an online course with as part of gearing up for the MFA.

Darren


Kelsie


Sep 20, 2005, 11:34 PM

Post #20 of 333 (19977 views)
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Re: [darredet] Letters of reference, fear and panic. [In reply to] Can't Post

And I had a well-published poet (workshop professor), a relatively obscure fiction writer (mentor), and my orchestra director (who knew nothing of my writing but could go on at great length regarding my work ethic/character) write my letters for me and got into 3 of the 4 programs I applied to.

In short?

Don't sweat it too much if you're confident about your portfolio!


hapworth


Sep 26, 2005, 7:41 PM

Post #21 of 333 (19918 views)
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Re: [curbludgeon] Letters of reference, fear and panic. [In reply to] Can't Post

Others have said it, but your work will be the biggest determiner. I doubt that high-profile recs would count much if your work was lousy. On the other hand, the combination of strong work and strong recs never hurt. I'd do the best that you can. Find people who can speak well about your skills. Work on that statement of purpose and the drafts of your creative writing. GRE scores don't mean much for MFAs (unless the English Dept. demands a certain minimum), but if you are happy with your GRE results, that's just icing, man. Sounds like your apps appear solid. Remember that admissions people take the whole view into consideration, not just any one part. You'll probably be fine. When I first applied to MFA programs (I eventually finished an MA and am now applying to doctoral programs), I had two community college professors and one okay four-year-college level poet/fiction writer/professor write my recs. I got into Bama.

Best of luck,

Hapworth


(This post was edited by hapworth on Sep 26, 2005, 7:43 PM)


curbludgeon


Sep 27, 2005, 12:11 AM

Post #22 of 333 (19908 views)
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Re: [hapworth] Letters of reference, fear and panic. [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the responses (you and all.) In my mental list of to-dos, I think "overcome initial panic about rec letters" has been checked off. All systems go, vroom.


clarabow


Mar 10, 2006, 7:55 PM

Post #23 of 333 (19762 views)
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Two Questions About Letters of Reference [In reply to] Can't Post

1. One of my referees, apparently, didn't send out all my letters. She's really old and I think she just had a bit of a careless moment. Do you think programs will hold it against me that I'm a letter short?

2. I want to send my referees a thank you gift, but am not sure what is appropriate (especially for professors). Suggestions re: thank-you gift etiquette would be appreciated.


andfw


Mar 11, 2006, 2:15 PM

Post #24 of 333 (19705 views)
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Re: [clarabow] Two Questions About Letters of Reference [In reply to] Can't Post

They might. I had a similar situation with my New Hampshire application, and was told that my application would be considered "less competitive" because they hadn't received one of my recs. It was way too late in the game to get another rec written and sent, so I told them not to consider my application, and not to cash my app. fee. Their secretary got surprisingly snarky about it, and I wound up in a somewhat heated exchange with her. Suffice to say, I wasn't surprised when I got my rejection letter.


In Reply To
1. One of my referees, apparently, didn't send out all my letters. She's really old and I think she just had a bit of a careless moment. Do you think programs will hold it against me that I'm a letter short?



clarabow


Mar 11, 2006, 8:34 PM

Post #25 of 333 (19666 views)
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Re: [jstgerma] Two Questions About Letters of Reference [In reply to] Can't Post

Hmm.

Did you send your recommenders thank you cards or gifts?

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