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Glinda Bamboo


Aug 1, 2010, 10:34 PM

Post #151 of 172 (5053 views)
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Re: [Quixote] Age of students [In reply to] Can't Post

It does make sense and, frankly, if you do end up applying in 2012 after a period of self-study and practice, you will end up getting so much more out of the MFA program than if you entered now.

I applied for MFA programs about 4 years ago and didn't get into my top programs (I only applied to the super-competitive ones, like Iowa, Indiana, Virginia, etc.). I continued working hard on my own, even around a full-time job, and I now have multiple publications and also had success with contests. I didn't need an MFA program to accomplish this, and I believe learning to write and work on your own, as an adult around real-life obligations, is immensely valuable and is what MFA graduates are going to have to learn eventually, too. With that said, I think I may apply for MFA programs again this year, but now I'm secure in the knowledge that I'll do just fine even if I don't get in again.

As for the rest of your concerns, I'm guessing you have heard the often-repeated advice not to pay for an MFA degree. There are many fully funded programs out there. Of course, when you're 37 instead of 22, you also realize that taking a break from a real job to move to another city on a $10k stipend is going to end up costing you money anyway. It's just not as severe as having to take out loans to pay tuition, etc. This is what makes it tough for me -- I have a well-paying professional job and I'd have to quit it to enter an MFA program. But I figure this might also be the only time in my life I can take a 2-3 year break from the working world to have someone pay me a yearly stipend to write. To me, that's worth it.

Anyway, good luck. If your gut tells you to wait until 2012 to apply, then wait. An MFA really isn't necessary, even if it sometimes seems like every literary writer has one. It can be very helpful, and in some cases is a nice luxury, but it won't make or break you all by itself.


Quixote


Aug 1, 2010, 11:00 PM

Post #152 of 172 (5051 views)
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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] Age of students [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you, Glinda.

That's what I was hoping to hear. And yes, as to the advice you mentioned, I have definitely believed that paying for an MFA, while not necessarily foolish or anything, is obviously not something I want to do if I don't have to. That's another factor in my decision to wait a bit - I'd like to get strong enough work up to earn a decent financial ride, if it is at all possible for me. I won't know if I'm good enough for that until I'm good enough for that, I suppose. I want to give myself time to get there.

Your story makes me rest a little easier. I too have a job that pays decently and I'm not keen on leaving it to stack on more debt, especially if my gut tells me I'm not completely ready while my age sometimes hollers, you'd better hurry up, my man. By the time I start a regular full-residency MFA program (if I am able or willing to do so), according to this plan I would be 39. That did bother me at one point, but increasingly it doesn't. The reasons you mentioned are what make me feel more assured - I'm reminded again and again by various situations of the cliche but easily forgettable thought that I'm more interested in creating work I feel good about than anything else, and therefore see any program as simply a boon to that cause when I'm good and ready. If I'm not more sure on my feet, it seems like an unnecessary, self-imposed hurdle, and one that puts you in danger of chasing or courting that group or mentor acceptance or validation (not that validation of some kind isn't necessary) before you've found out more about what you have to say alone in a room.

At this point, if I attend a program, it will be to polish, deepen the work, get good, constant feedback, possibly have a little "community" to share with, and maybe make some connections, etc. All of that is immensely important. I'm not at all diminishing how valuable that is. It's no small thing. But for myself, I can't see the point of attending a program to do what I know I need to do by myself - the initial heavy lifting of finding out what I can really produce if left to my own time table. As you said, I'd be doing that anyway, were I to be a full-time, publishing writer, hypothetically speaking.

Thanks for the feedback. It helps me think this through.


(This post was edited by Quixote on Aug 1, 2010, 11:04 PM)


alamana
Jennifer Brown


Aug 2, 2010, 8:05 AM

Post #153 of 172 (5031 views)
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Re: [Quixote] Age of students [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Quixote--

I'm 39 and heading into my second year of a three-year MFA program. I quit being a lawyer to do this. It was the smartest thing I ever did. I felt like it was "now or never" time for me to get out of my career and focus on writing. If I hadn't made this commitment, my litigation career would have swallowed me and I never would have written much of anything. (But that is, of course, a personal problem. Many people, lawyers included, have great writing careers alongside of doing something else.)

I'm learning so much about writing, and learning it so much faster than I would have on my own. And I love being in a community of writers. There are people in my program who are younger, and people who are older, and we all decided the same thing--to put our writing first for at least three years (not that you can't do that outside of a program).

I do encourage you, as Glinda did, to wait a year and work on your own before applying to schools, since it sounds like that is what you want to do. This should give you a really deep sense of commitment before you start, and you will really beef up your writing sample for applications.

Best of luck! I am excited for you!


Be regular and orderly in your life, that you may be violent and original in your work. -- Flaubert

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


Quixote


Aug 2, 2010, 9:55 AM

Post #154 of 172 (5024 views)
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Re: [alamana] Age of students [In reply to] Can't Post

That's all really good to hear, Alamana. If you see this and can answer... may I ask, how long did you work on your application stories before you started?

Law is definitely a time-chewer; I've had a few friends in the profession. I had a different career that ate up lots of time in a previous life. I left it for a job that doesn't eat emotion and energy and time like that, though it certainly isn't as lucrative as my former role. But the money is OK and it gives me space to really focus on writing; with the world economy the way it is, I'm just happy to have insurance and a paycheck, etc. So, in that way, I'm immensely lucky. Even though this job does allow me time and energy to write, I still do want to at some point seriously consider an MFA program. It sounds like you are having the kind of experience I'd probably enjoy. Maybe some day I'll be in the same boat. Thanks for your time in responding and good luck with the rest of your program, and your writing.


(This post was edited by Quixote on Aug 2, 2010, 10:00 AM)


alamana
Jennifer Brown


Aug 2, 2010, 10:56 AM

Post #155 of 172 (5015 views)
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Re: [Quixote] Age of students [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Quixote--I began my stories about nine months before I turned them in with applications. Also, I workshopped them in online workshops (one with Gotham and one with the Writers Center in Bethesda, MD). This was very helpful. One of those workshops also resulted in a recommendation for MFA programs--and the teacher of the class offered without my even asking (something I will be forever grateful for).


Be regular and orderly in your life, that you may be violent and original in your work. -- Flaubert

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


kghoerth



Aug 2, 2010, 12:46 PM

Post #156 of 172 (4996 views)
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Re: [Quixote] Age of students [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it is definately a good idea to wait until you feel ready to begin. I sure didn't!

Oh my goodness... I think I was 19 when I started working on my MFA. I was lost, horribly lost. And I 'wasted' about two years in the program not focusing on my writing, working full time (as a teacher! ahh!), taking classes but not taking them seriously enough. Two years into the program, I needed an intervention. It was either take it seriously, or give it up.

I was very fortunate to find an on campus job that paid a decent wage and allowed me enough time to focus on my writing. Granted, my mistakes have caused me to take longer with the MFA (year 4 here I come!) but now I feel that I'm actually being productive, producing a body of work worth being labeled thesis. I need the extra time. A chapbook and several journal publications later, I'm feeling more confident at assuming this role of writer. The MFA is what you make of it, and there are many people out there who wash through programs and end up with and MFA, sure, but if you haven't produced a body of work throughout the process, you don't have a heck of a lot to back up that piece of paper. That's what I am deathly afraid of.

So in retrospect, I certainly should have waited. You're doing the right thing, building up your application, writing, and mentally preparing. I was just so excited to go go go, and I thought I understood everything about the world. Ah, youth. :-P


paligal


Sep 16, 2010, 6:50 PM

Post #157 of 172 (4791 views)
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Re: [Quixote] Age of students [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Quixote,

I just turned 38 and was in your shoes last year- really had this disillusionment with the direction my life was going, and thought, "It's now or never". I realized I was going to be 40 in a couple of years regardless, and I could be 40 with an MFA and new direction, or 40 and right where I was. So I applied to 9 MFA programs (Creative Nonfiction). 4 were mediocre programs on the west coast where I wanted to stay. The rest were top tier programs. I thought I would be lucky to get in anywhere. But I got into all the programs, with funding offers from those that had them. I'm now at U of Iowa in my first semester, still sort of stunned. There are 10 of us in the Nonfiction incoming class: 2 other people my age, about 4-5 that are early 30's, and the rest early to late 20's. I am taking a fiction class, and there is a woman in that class who is significantly older, probably late 50's or so. And I have met someone else who is in the Workshop who is in his 50's.

The benefit of the program is that it throws you in there with a lot of people focused on writing. You get feedback, you must produce, you are inspired. I would go for it.


kghoerth



Sep 17, 2010, 3:43 PM

Post #158 of 172 (4743 views)
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Re: [paligal] Age of students [In reply to] Can't Post

All ages in my program, too.

In my current workshop, I'd say the median must be in the mid 30's. I mean, there's a few fresh out of undergrads (ehm... me), but the majority are people that've returned after working for awhile or even some who already have their MAs in something else. So... all kinds :-) I think there's even a man who must be like in his late 50's. That's... older than my parents. LOL~

But you know what - the older folks tend to be better writers (from my own informal and naive observations)! So, I admire them a lot.


Quixote


Sep 19, 2010, 11:56 PM

Post #159 of 172 (4681 views)
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Re: [kghoerth] Age of students [In reply to] Can't Post

This is all good to hear.

I've thought about/been somewhat insecure about my regarding programs (not necessarily writing as an activity, obviously), but I definitely think that, had I got into an MFA program in my early years, it would have possibly been wasted on me, or at least I would not have known how to really own the process like I could do now, probably just because I'm older and less inclined to put up with my own past nonsense, laziness, lack of focus, etc.


Quixote


Sep 20, 2010, 12:12 AM

Post #160 of 172 (4677 views)
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Re: [Quixote] Age of students [In reply to] Can't Post

That's supposed to say:


In Reply To
This is all good to hear.

I've thought about/been somewhat insecure about my age regarding programs (not necessarily writing as an activity, obviously), but I definitely think that, had I got into an MFA program in my early years, it would have possibly been wasted on me, or at least I would not have known how to really own the process like I could do now, probably just because I'm older and less inclined to put up with my own past nonsense, laziness, lack of focus, etc.




jd-


Sep 20, 2010, 1:33 PM

Post #161 of 172 (4646 views)
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Re: [paligal] Age of students [In reply to] Can't Post

I am going back for an English Literature degree at (insert prestigious school) to work on my writing, get teacher references, and expand my literary horizons first. I have been working in IT(originally did information systems) so I'll be 31/32 when I am done and possibly entering MFA, I have about another year to research whether I will do it or not. Do I feel it is old? Do people think I am crazy for leaving a stable job? Yeah sure... but my old career is over with in my mind, and I want no part of it (I quit several jobs with good pay and benefits b/c I couldn't stand them, but something had to pay the bills.) I tried to like it, but it just isn't happening. I am an INFP so it just doesn't jive with me whatsoever (oh if only I would have taken some of this personality profiles earlier instead of trying to fit into a mold that wasn't me.) So, there is really no other option. I am driven and incredibly more focused than I was at 22...


bokmakierie



Sep 21, 2010, 3:15 AM

Post #162 of 172 (4616 views)
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Re: [jd-] Age of students [In reply to] Can't Post

I am 47, and applying to programmes for 2011. It's taken me all those years to find out that I am a writer, and what kind. I went to architecture school when I was 19 and imploded under the pressure to be CREATIVE, coming from an authoritarian school system and cloistered suburban family. I am much tougher now, and also much more flexible.

My view is that diversity is almost always beneficial in a group, including age diversity. I look forward to being challenged by the energy of people in their early 20s, and I know that my life experience will be of value to them. And hey! There are wise 20-somethings, and wildly naive middle-aged people. Being older in Western culture brings both disregard and authority. Being young, adulation and a lack of other kinds of power.

I have worried that selection committees will favour younger people, because of the trajectory into employment at universities. But I hear over and over and over again that it's all about your writing sample.


Glinda Bamboo


Sep 21, 2010, 9:38 AM

Post #163 of 172 (4604 views)
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Re: [Karen Martin] Age of students [In reply to] Can't Post

I really can't imagine MFA programs preferring younger students for any reason, really. All things considered, if your writing is equally as good as the 22-year-old fresh out of college, I'd imagine they'd prefer the student with more life experience. (It all depends, of course, and no two applicants are going to be identical except for their ages anyway.)

I never even thought that the selection committees would take their applicants' potential for teaching careers into consideration at all. Let's face it -- most MFA students are not exactly going to land on the fast track to a tenured position no matter what their age. There are just too many MFA grads and an extremely competitive academic environment for that to happen. What really counts in many cases is book publications anyway.

In any case, I think schools choose the writing they prefer. I'm not an expert in what programs are looking for, but I get the sense that most of them are happy to admit "older" students. You'll lend a different perspective to workshops. Application committees read through tons of applications from twenty-something writers; your age and your place in life is something that makes you stand out. Good luck.


jd-


Jan 9, 2011, 11:51 AM

Post #164 of 172 (4185 views)
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Re: [jd-] Age of students [In reply to] Can't Post

Just a bump on this...

Taking workshop courses still... And I still find it beneficial even though it isn't in an "MFA" program per se.

It might not be as effective, but ... it works for me and I'm not really interested in the degree itself more so than writing opportunities, I have no interest in teaching it for instance, plus I have a life, a partner, many things going on. Easier to be younger and just devote yourself to it.

I think right now, given the quality of the classes I am taking right now I might just keep on taking writing workshops a la carte at the university as it is a cheaper route than an MFA and also keeps me writing. I am scared the MFA program would be too inflexible and structured, I have been known to just fly out of the country for months at a time on a travel adventure... I stopped school at some point three times because of that.


(This post was edited by jd- on Jan 9, 2011, 11:55 AM)


299Broadway


Jan 13, 2011, 10:01 AM

Post #165 of 172 (4093 views)
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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] Age of students [In reply to] Can't Post

Sorry but I think it is naive to believe that age has nothing to do with the MFA selection process. Programs want reputation and to be economically viable, especially true with the market saturated with programs. A younger writer of equal skill is sure to be favored over an older one in most cases. Statistically they have a longer writing lifespan and, consequently, a higher chance of publication. As much as we would like to think differently, art is not immune to market forces.


cigarettes


Jan 13, 2011, 10:36 AM

Post #166 of 172 (4089 views)
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Re: [299Broadway] Age of students [In reply to] Can't Post

I hear, you, but I think that kind of strategic positioning doesn't really enter into decisions about individual applicants. (I'm the administrative assistant for an academic dept.--film, but prob. a similar dynamic.) Also, I know some people who teach in creative writing programs and have been on admissions committees. I truly believe that the people reading these applications are looking for talent first and a diverse and collegial atmosphere (a distant) second. They have to be around the people they admit for 2-3 years, after all. They don't particularly prefer to be around 22 year-olds--in fact, it's something I've heard people complain about: too many 22 year-olds. I DO suspect, though, because it is human nature, that admissions decisions will favor applicants who write more like the people doing the choosing.

In Reply To
Sorry but I think it is naive to believe that age has nothing to do with the MFA selection process. Programs want reputation and to be economically viable, especially true with the market saturated with programs. A younger writer of equal skill is sure to be favored over an older one in most cases. Statistically they have a longer writing lifespan and, consequently, a higher chance of publication. As much as we would like to think differently, art is not immune to market forces.



writerle


Jan 13, 2011, 11:20 AM

Post #167 of 172 (4083 views)
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Re: [299Broadway] Age of students [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Sorry but I think it is naive to believe that age has nothing to do with the MFA selection process. Programs want reputation and to be economically viable, especially true with the market saturated with programs. A younger writer of equal skill is sure to be favored over an older one in most cases. Statistically they have a longer writing lifespan and, consequently, a higher chance of publication. As much as we would like to think differently, art is not immune to market forces.


You're entitled to your opinion, of course, but the age range of students in my MFA program was 22 - 72 while I was there.


Mic
Mik Demeter

Mar 28, 2011, 12:22 AM

Post #168 of 172 (3744 views)
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Re: Age of students [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm 56 -- maybe too old.


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Mar 28, 2011, 1:03 AM

Post #169 of 172 (3741 views)
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Re: [Mic] Age of students [In reply to] Can't Post

I doubt it, Mic. I was 52 when I started my MFA. Nobody seemed to care about your age at my program. They only cared about your work.

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


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


Mic
Mik Demeter

Mar 28, 2011, 1:19 AM

Post #170 of 172 (3738 views)
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Re: [jlgwriter] Age of students [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I doubt it, Mic. I was 52 when I started my MFA. Nobody seemed to care about your age at my program. They only cared about your work.

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


Thanks, Jeanne.

Due to my circumstances, I'll have to go with National U.'s 100% online MFA. I am trying to find some scholarship and grant money to help with the cost but not having much luck.


creolequeen09
Judith Lorenz-Crunk
e-mail user

Jun 19, 2011, 2:55 PM

Post #171 of 172 (3394 views)
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Re: [flatiron10] Age of MFA students [In reply to] Can't Post

That is the great thing about an MFA Program or for education period at this time. At Antioch the ages of the writers ranged from 22 up to 82 with more than 50% over 45. So much insight was gleaned from talking to individuals from all walks of life and various ages and in finding out how each of us arrived at this point in our lives. I will just say when I completed my MFA I was over the hill. :-) But I write my journey so my hill is the size I want it to be with numbers distributed as I say. That's the great thing about being a writer because you say when, you say where, you say how etc.


"Writing from the heart is creating a legacy one word at a time."


maybemd


Jul 27, 2011, 5:14 PM

Post #172 of 172 (3149 views)
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Re: [creolequeen09] Age of MFA students [In reply to] Can't Post

54 and currently a student in a low-res. program. This semester's incoming students ranged in age from ~22 to their late 60's.

I think there were three PhDs in the group; one is a medical researcher who runs his own university lab, another with a PhD teaches at a college. One has an MFA in poetry and has returned to enter the fiction program. A couple teach at the high school level. One ran a lit mag and has had a career as an editor, now free-lancing. The diversity of both the students and faculty -- who ranged in age from early 30s into their 70s -- made for wonderful classroom discussions and workshops. A couple of the faculty do not have MFAs, and apparently do not feel the need to pursue one.

If you're concerned about socializing, then write on your housing preference form "loud dorm please". Those dorms were filled with younger people, many of whom were interested in co-ed partying into the early morning.

If you'd rather chill, then write "prefer quiet dorm" on your form. My quiet women's dorm had predominantly older students. Most of us are in long-term relationships so although guys did get invited over, there was no tiresome flirting or romantic drama. We gathered every evening after readings for wine and snacks in the dorm's living area and did "homework", played instruments and sang, and discussed our different genre and mentors and every writers' issue in the world (we live all over the country, and one of us in the Middle East). Most have been published, some have teaching positions or successful careers in other fields.

Overall, the residencies are amazing experiences.

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