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gingembre


Feb 22, 2006, 2:44 PM

Post #1 of 29 (4658 views)
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Style of faculty and alumni? Can't Post

Hey all,

I've been lurking on this board for almost a year now, and I just want to thank everyone for being so upbeat and supportive about the MFA admissions process. I've also been relieved to find out that I'm not the only one who is so obsessive about this waiting game.

My applications are already out, so I've begun the process of obsessing over every little detail of admissions decisions. My Dream School, Indiana, suggests on their admissions website to review the work of the faculty, as they will be the ones making the admissions decisions.

What does that mean??? I've looked up the work of current professors as well as program alumni, and it's done nothing for me but show how different their styles are from mine.


poetastin


Feb 22, 2006, 6:21 PM

Post #2 of 29 (4598 views)
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Re: [gingembre] Style of faculty and alumni? [In reply to] Can't Post

Buy their books is what it means...


gingembre


Feb 23, 2006, 9:48 AM

Post #3 of 29 (4540 views)
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Re: [poetastin] Style of faculty and alumni? [In reply to] Can't Post

Heh, you're probably right. I was hoping it would be some kind of indication of how they made their admissions decisions :(


sovietsleepover


Feb 23, 2006, 12:52 PM

Post #4 of 29 (4511 views)
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Re: [gingembre] Style of faculty and alumni? [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, it also means that the people who make admissions decisions have particular stylistic & thematic aesthetics, and that if you're, say, interested in avant-garde poetry it's probably good for you to know that the faculty isn't, which means that you're less likely to get in (& if you do, less likely to find good mentors while you're there) since your interests don't allign. Of course "support our faculty by buying their books" is partially what they're saying, but also don't decide on what schools you're applying to blindly on name or reputation alone. I think it's largely the same situation as literary magazines saying "please read a copy of our journal before submitting," because it's nice to have some familiarity with the publication's aesthetic history & how your own writerly quirks fit with it.


maanprophet


Jul 26, 2006, 10:03 AM

Post #5 of 29 (4374 views)
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Re: [sovietsleepover] Style of faculty and alumni? [In reply to] Can't Post

  Does anyone know who's replacing Geoffery Wolff at UC-Irvine? It seems like a pretty major shift for a major MFA Program--not sure if I'll still apply there or not. Anyone have any thoughts?


texasgurl
Stacy Patton Anderson

e-mail user

Aug 8, 2006, 8:42 PM

Post #6 of 29 (4251 views)
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Re: [maanprophet] Style of faculty and alumni? [In reply to] Can't Post

If Geoffrey Wolfe is the director of the program, then he's being replaced by Ron Carlson. I just came from the Napa Valley Writers' Conf. last week, where Carlson was teaching a workshop, and he mentioned it.


Stacy Patton Anderson
http://family-of-five.com


Glinda Bamboo


Jan 2, 2007, 12:39 PM

Post #7 of 29 (4069 views)
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Julie Orringer [In reply to] Can't Post

I noticed a few disparaging comments about Julie Orringer on this board. I read her short story collection How to Breathe Underwater before I was plugged into any of the gossip (that she only got the Stegner Fellowship because of her husband, etc.) and I have to say I really enjoyed it. I thought it was a fine collection, and still do. Then I discovered some people think she only achieved her success based on connections.

Just curious if anyone else out there is a fan of her book...or if perhaps gossip can affect our reading? I am not trying to stir the pot or get into a nasty debate; I'm just curious what others think of her book. I didn't like all the stories equally, of course, but I thought there was some strong stuff there.


__________



Jan 2, 2007, 6:16 PM

Post #8 of 29 (4010 views)
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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] Julie Orringer [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi there.

I'm among those who mentioned Orringer. I think she and her husband, Ryan Harty, basically cheated their way up certain ladders. Do I think they have talent? Julie, yes. Ryan, not so much. We know about Orringer because she stole the Stegner from some unknown, deserving person, then, in Cali, had the good sense to become friends with Eggers and the McSweeney crew. Good business sense, I guess.

Of course, I, and a growing number of others, won't pay for their stuff. As someone who'll pursue an MFA and maybe apply for fellowships later on (and just as a human being in general), that kind of behavior disgusts me. In fact, I've crossed Michigan off my school list, because who wants to be taught by someone like Harty, who's teaching position is based on one book that 'won' a rigged contest (Iowa Short Fiction--notorious for 'awarding' it's own students and faculty)?


six five four three two one 0 ->


blueragtop


Jan 2, 2007, 6:25 PM

Post #9 of 29 (4007 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Julie Orringer [In reply to] Can't Post

It's all about playing the game. Orringer seems to play it better than most. I've read her book. Nothing spectacular. Just get in the right circle, kiss some ass, meet some people and things will happen for you. I applied to Michigan, but for some reason (maybe cause people have brought it up today) I think something is up with that programs. A lot of politics. I'm not really sure.


bastedos


Jan 19, 2007, 7:50 PM

Post #10 of 29 (3886 views)
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Re: [melos] Julie Orringer [In reply to] Can't Post

  
When I began gathering information about applying to graduate studies in creative writing, I was told by a professor of mine not to bother apply to Michigan. Apparently they will not accept students from Michigan State. She told me that none of her students ever got in, even the best writing student she had ever seen with a 3.98 GPA. I think politics play a much larger role than people believe or will acknowledge.



In Reply To
It's all about playing the game. Orringer seems to play it better than most. I've read her book. Nothing spectacular. Just get in the right circle, kiss some ass, meet some people and things will happen for you. I applied to Michigan, but for some reason (maybe cause people have brought it up today) I think something is up with that programs. A lot of politics. I'm not really sure.



(This post was edited by bastedos on Jan 19, 2007, 7:51 PM)


laughingman


Jan 19, 2007, 10:04 PM

Post #11 of 29 (3851 views)
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Re: [bastedos] Julie Orringer [In reply to] Can't Post

Yeah, I can definitely see them sitting around the round table with Miss Three Point Nine Eight's story on the top of their "We loved it" pile and somebody noticed she was from Michigan State and tossed the whole app into the trash, doused it in gasoline, and threw a match on it...

Seriously. Everyone is on edge enough without this kind of paranoia.

And for what it's worth, pertaining to the other aspect of this thread, I've read both Orringer and Harty and their first collections were reminisnent of a lot of notable writers' first collections (I'm thinking Loorie Moore, Adam Haslett, Dan Chaon, Michael Chabon, and Charles D'Ambrosio, here) -- some of it was good, some was sub-par (and downright, eye-rolling bad), and a little bit (like maybe one or two stories--or a few paragraphs of one story--or one particular line) was really quite enviable and brilliant. The Stegner thing is questionable, but they both obviously had the talent to get into Iowa on their own and to get published in such mags as Tin House, Ploughshares, The Paris Review, Zoetrope, etc--why cry foul on their whole careers because two pretty damn good writers happened to get married?

(seriously, the teacher actually said "my best writer AND a 3.98"? What kind of writing teacher worth anything cares about a GPA? Michigan is a HIGHLY SELECTIVE PROGRAM... I'm sure there are plenty of schools that have never landed their best undergrad in Mighigan's MFA program.)

My message to next year's applicants: Don't worry about this perceived politics bullshit. If you write something VERY GOOD and submit it to a few programs, you'll probably get in somewhere. And if you're VERY GOOD isn't good enough, find somebody more serious to critique you and try again next year.


Glinda Bamboo


Jan 20, 2007, 12:22 PM

Post #12 of 29 (3786 views)
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Re: [laughingman] Julie Orringer [In reply to] Can't Post

I completely believe that connections or other factors (like if you won some prestigious award) can get someone into an MFA program. But I also believe that in general, they're looking for the best writing and if they love your writing, you have a shot.

It's unfortunate this professor tells students to not even bother applying to Michigan. That's a pretty defeatist attitude. Amazing writers get turned down by the top writing programs all the time. Sure, there's no guarantee that even a brilliant writer from Michigan State will get in -- but it seems pretty weak to not even try. And even weaker of the professor to suggest doing so.


blueragtop


Jan 20, 2007, 12:37 PM

Post #13 of 29 (3780 views)
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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] Julie Orringer [In reply to] Can't Post

This just like anything else. Politics are everywhere. However, I do feel that at some schools there is less nepotism going on. But in my opinion, Michigan is not one of those schools. I didn't buy it at first, but after reading through this forum and talking to a few people, my mind was changed.

I think people are being naive if they think politics and connections don't play a role. Sure, most people get taking on the merit of their sample, but I wouldn't be surprised if a handful of writers are choosen every year based on other factors. I applied to Michigan anyway, and looking back, I'm happy I added quite a few other schools to my list.


gina.bee


Nov 26, 2007, 1:30 PM

Post #14 of 29 (3492 views)
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U Washington Faculty [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi there,

Does anyone have the scoop on the current faculty at U of Washington? I was in touch with the office, and it looks like Heather McHugh will be on leave in the Fall (she was the one poet I really wanted to work with!)

Pimone Triplett, Andrew Feld and Rick Kenney will be the core poetry faculty (although Colleen McElroy will be there I believe). All I know of these poets are brief looks on google and amazon, and I'm reading McElroy's travel memoir. Does anyone have insight as to how these poets are as teachers and writers?

Any info. would be much appreciated. I feel like I'm applying blind at this point.

Gina


gg.scholastica
Gena Goodman


Mar 27, 2008, 1:47 PM

Post #15 of 29 (3308 views)
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Finding a non-Realist MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm sorry for resurrecting this thread in the midst of your 2008 MFA acceptance/rejection/choosing an offer scuffles. This has to do with future applications. (Right now, looking like Fall of 2010 will be my first round).

After being practically verbally assaulted by a professor today under the guise of an undergraduate "workshop" for refusing to write in a particular style (*cough* realism *cough*), I've decided I want to look at MFA's which have at least one faculty member of a differing style. Now, before we get all: "It's a workshop; constructive criticism is key!", I must explain that this wasn't the work being targeted. It wasn't even a speech about "The State of the Art", which he likes to give.

Forgive my complaints, but they have a point: what today has truly shown me is that I like stylistic diversity, and even if it isn't my way, I'd like for someone to think there isn't only one way to write a story. Does this strike a chord with anyone? Are there any particular faculty sets that would suit this fancy?


bennyprof


Mar 27, 2008, 2:11 PM

Post #16 of 29 (3278 views)
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Re: [Dyebiefyre] Finding a non-Realist MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Brown and UC Boulder are both known for being open to a variety of styles. UC Boulder just hired Stephen Graham Jones, a horror/thriller writer with postmodern influences.


spamela


Mar 27, 2008, 2:21 PM

Post #17 of 29 (3253 views)
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Re: [Dyebiefyre] Finding a non-Realist MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes! It does strike a chord with me. I had a similar exchange with someone on Godfrey's blog yesterday (was it you?). Here is a link I found a while ago that attempts to begin to answer this question:

http://nowwhatblog.blogspot.com/2007/11/experimentally-friendly-mfa-programs.html

It appears that really this is a list of experimental writer-teachers and where they teach. To this list I'd add Aimee Bender at USC and Gary Lutz (not sure where/if he's still teaching but would kill to work with him!).

Now, this of course assumes that people whose writing is innovative will be open to teaching writers who are interested in writing other than realism. I think it's a fair assumption to make, but it IS an assumption.

I got my MFA at a school that's not on this list and they were very open to experimentation. I think (thought I can't say for sure) that on the graduate level, teachers are quite aware of and open to different ways of writing. However, a lot if not most of them will probably insist that you master the basics of the craft before going off on experimental tangents. The "experimental" label should not be an excuse for poor or obtuse writing.


chelbeewrites


Mar 27, 2008, 2:32 PM

Post #18 of 29 (3233 views)
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Re: [spamela] Finding a non-Realist MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

My boyfriend got his MFAW at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago and they are very into experimental fiction. More so than narrative I believe.


__________



Mar 27, 2008, 3:42 PM

Post #19 of 29 (3179 views)
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Re: [spamela] Finding a non-Realist MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I love Gary Lutz...but the last time I checked, he was just teaching freshman comp, not MFA classes. Has this changed?


six five four three two one 0 ->


ptld


Mar 28, 2008, 12:16 AM

Post #20 of 29 (3054 views)
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Re: [spamela] Finding a non-Realist MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

i'm pretty sure that gary lutz teaches composition classes at one of the smaller penn state schools. he was apparently offered a job at syracuse, but it left him with too much writing time. he apparently prefers teaching 5-6 classes a term.


spamela


Mar 28, 2008, 9:18 AM

Post #21 of 29 (2994 views)
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Re: [ptld] Finding a non-Realist MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Jesus.


gg.scholastica
Gena Goodman


Mar 28, 2008, 11:43 AM

Post #22 of 29 (2928 views)
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Re: [spamela] Finding a non-Realist MFA [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
The "experimental" label should not be an excuse for poor or obtuse writing.



I entirely agree. And I thank you all for your suggestions (great link pamela, and thanks for the hints bennyprof!).

Though I was wondering... is "non-Realist" now synonymous with experimental? I don't really think of Realsim as "traditional" writing, but the popular form of our day. You know, a rejection of elevated language and a simplification of structure (esp. concerning narration- no more omnipotentence and very rare POV shifts. Same professor always loves going through classics and saying "no one would do it this way, today". Latest casualty: The older Marlow of Heart of Darkness). I would compare this to, say... Minimalism (probably the second most prevalent style today, I think), which does not eschew all elevated language but most description, and does not lean on simplicity, but rather on implying context.

Anywhoo, my two cents. While I'm not a minimalist, I've had a few professors who were, and wouldn't mind writing under them again. I think Realism is simply so popular as to assume that it is "the way we (America, 21st century) write", and those of other streaks (Minimalist, etc) have just enough of the minority rationality to recognize themselves as styles, and not law-writers of literature.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 28, 2008, 4:53 PM

Post #23 of 29 (2838 views)
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Re: [spamela] Finding a non-Realist MFA [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I got my MFA at a school that's not on this list and they were very open to experimentation. I think (thought I can't say for sure) that on the graduate level, teachers are quite aware of and open to different ways of writing. However, a lot if not most of them will probably insist that you master the basics of the craft before going off on experimental tangents. The "experimental" label should not be an excuse for poor or obtuse writing.


I don't know. There are surely some quote unquote traditional MFA programs that are open to experimental writing in workshops, but I've heard a lot of horror stories about writers who are somewhat experimental (which, yes, as another poster said basically means "anything that isn't domestic realism" these days) and had a horrible time getting good comments from teachers or faculty and felt they were basically outcasts their whole time. Personally I think an environment that promotes a diversity of aesthetics is ideal. Either way though, if the diversity of styles at a program is something you care about I would make sure to contact some students in programs you are deciding between and see how open to experimentation they feel things are.


spamela


Mar 28, 2008, 4:55 PM

Post #24 of 29 (2835 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Finding a non-Realist MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Maybe I'm being idealistic. I went to a low-res program, which is a non-traditional way of studying writing in the first place, so that may have helped. That might be another route to think about...


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 28, 2008, 5:25 PM

Post #25 of 29 (2806 views)
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In Reply To
Maybe I'm being idealistic. I went to a low-res program, which is a non-traditional way of studying writing in the first place, so that may have helped. That might be another route to think about...


I think the issue is probably less about faculty and more about peers. The fact is, most undergrad literature departments and workshops deal in a very narrow range of literature. Most people, at least it seems to me, come out of undergrad thinking that a literary short story is a domestic realism piece that ideally deals with drug abuse, disease, homophobia or racism and has more rumination than action and more of a pretty image to finish with than a real ending. More so that than, I feel most people are trained in the vocabulary of such work and that is their concept of workshopping. I know I was trained in this way at first myself.

As such, in many MFA programs if you turn in some weird Robert Coover or Donald Barthelme type piece the students probably won't understand how to talk about it and often neither will the teacher.

Maybe I'm being overly pessimistic, but like I said I've heard lots of horror stories about this (and plenty of testimonials have been posed on this board). I think a writer looking to do odder, more experimental stuff should definitly research the programs and not just assume that any given program will be helpful for that type of writing.

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