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teeninga



Mar 3, 2006, 2:14 PM

Post #1 of 27 (4714 views)
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Calling all Canadians! Can't Post

Hi there,

I have noticed that there are a few other Canadians posting here and there in this forum. I was wondering if you have any comments/advice for a fellow Canuck hoping to get into an MFA program. I applied to UBC (they sent me a very nice rejection letter) and to the University of Guelph-Humber (haven't heard back yet.)

What have you chosen to do? Applied to schools in the US? Taken workshop courses ? Or have you only applied to the very few Creative Writing programs here in Canada?

I find it interesting that many Canadian writers have taken a path other than an MFA. For instance, Ann Marie MacDonald did three years of theatre school before writing plays and novels. Timothy Findley was an actor before becoming a playwright and novelist. Douglas Coupland went to Art school. Timothy Taylor was in banking, I believe. I have my heart set on an MFA, but maybe I need to keep in mind that many Canadians come to writing from unique backgrounds.

What do you think, eh?

Tina T.


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Mar 3, 2006, 4:05 PM

Post #2 of 27 (4676 views)
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Re: [teeninga] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not a Canadian, but I knew several at Goddard, so there doesn't seem to be much problem with them coming to US schools. At least not that one.

dmh


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candyann


Mar 3, 2006, 4:49 PM

Post #3 of 27 (4658 views)
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Re: [teeninga] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi, Tina,
I'm an American, but I live in Toronto and have also applied to the Guelph-Humber program. Here's my two cents (worth approximately 1.7 cents US :-) You're right, there are very few Canadian programs. As you know, the Guelph MFA is brand new, and I get the impression they are kind of "winging it"--the application process has already changed a couple of times midstream. That may be cause for concern or it may be growing pains for a new program.

I wouldn't describe myself as having my "heart set" on an MFA, and haven't got a lot of applications out there in the way that many folks here do. I applied because I have the Humber certificate, which has been around for awhile, and it counts as a credit towards the degree. Did you do the Humber correspondence course?

The writers I know up here do not by and large seem to have MFAs, but then I've met many of them through Humber, so many do have the certificate. In general writers and even publishing folks seem very approachable and down-to-earth in Toronto as opposed to what I imagine New York or LA is like. The lack of an "MFA atmosphere" (if there is such a thing) could be good if it means writers come to this with all sorts of backgrounds and not one workshop style. On the other hand, a certain kind of competitiveness that may exist among MFAers is not necessarily a bad thing, as many Canadian writers I know are not nearly pushy enough, in terms of marketing their own work--there's a strong sense of not getting "uppity" (i.e., American!)

One thing about the Humber certificate program that makes it different is that you get 100% of your feedback from a writer-mentor, and many of them are quite prominent. That might not be good if the writer is not a good teacher or doesn't give good feedback, but at least you aren't paying for comments from your peers. Yet a workshop can be good too. After the program was over, I met several others who had been on the correspondence course, and we've formed a good writing group that's still going strong a year later.

Hope some of this is helpful to you.


http://www.jeknowles.com


Vivien


Mar 3, 2006, 10:55 PM

Post #4 of 27 (4626 views)
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Re: [teeninga] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

I've heard nice things about the University of New Brunswick's writing program.


teeninga



Mar 4, 2006, 1:21 PM

Post #5 of 27 (4598 views)
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Re: [candyann] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

Candyann,

Thanks for the candid response. I haven't talked to anybody else who applied at Guelph-Humber, so its useful to get another person's perspective on the program. The mentorship angle is very healthy I think, but only if the mentor is truly encouraging and wants the learner to succeed.

We all need criticism in order to become aware of our shortcomings, but I don't believe it's healthy without some encouragement. I'm no baby that wants to be coddled, (I actually love it when people point out things to improve in my writing) but I can't see myself tolerating a hard nosed teacher that doesn't want me to succeed. I've gone off on quite the tangent, all to say that, if I get into Guelph-Humber, I'm going to speak with whoever is my mentor to get an idea of their teaching style.

So, what do you think of Toronto? I grew up in rural Ontario and have good memories of grassy rolling hills, farmland and hot summers. Not so great memories of grey-brown winters that drag on and on and on and on...
I've been really spoiled living on the west coast these past few years! Have you ever been to C'est What? It's a favourite bar when I visit Toronto.


candyann


Mar 7, 2006, 4:11 PM

Post #6 of 27 (4568 views)
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Re: [teeninga] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, I just heard today that we're supposed to get application forms & fees in now for Guelph. I assume that means my letters of recommendation got there. A bit of a sloppy process, but...

I ended up in Toronto for totally non-writing/career-related reasons, so in that sense, it's been better than I expected. Yes, winter goes on and on although this year has not been as bad as usual. I have heard of C'Est What but not been there. Probably should get out more--as good a reason to do graduate study as any? :-)


http://www.jeknowles.com


Lawn


Apr 22, 2006, 1:04 PM

Post #7 of 27 (4535 views)
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Re: [candyann] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

I've been rejected from UBC twice-once from low residency (which was probably a good thing-the tuition seems outrageous to me), and once from the residency program.

Not even waitlisted, which really hurt-considering I was a 90% average student during the five years that I spent in the department earning my BFA in Creative Writing. I took courses with graduate students, and even did a graduate course in my fourth year. I haven't put much effort into trying to get published though, this was probably a hinderance. The faculty has also changed considerably since I was a student there.

Being born and raised on the West Coast, I don't want to leave my home and relationship for two years-but the new MFA Guelph sounds appealing--especially with the Humber Correspondence option. I'd love to hear more about the application process and experiences around the program.

I don't think an MFA is necessary to be a good writer-but it is in Canada, becoming a standard for teaching at the post-secondary level. That's my ultimate goal-to teach writing, and I'd really enjoy the time to spend two more years writing and talking with writers.

For now, I guess I'll just be looking for a new writers group. Sorry for the pity party-I guess being rejected really was a wakeup call for me. You really can't take anything for granted.


Weege


Apr 22, 2006, 4:11 PM

Post #8 of 27 (4520 views)
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Re: [Lawn] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Lawn,

I feel your pain. A few years ago, I was rejected in my first round of MFA applications. Turned out to be a fairly helpful kick in the ass, though -- it stripped me of my illusions about my own work, and started me toward a more regular, disciplined approach to writing. I'm not saying this will hold exactly true for you; just that there may be a day ahead when you point back at this time and say, there, right there is where things started to change for me and my writing.


candyann


Apr 24, 2006, 1:56 PM

Post #9 of 27 (4476 views)
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Re: [Weege] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi you all, I just got rejected from the Guelph MFA. I don't expect this is helpful to know, except I'm feeling sorry for myself and this seems to be the place to share ;-) Anyway, I hope an MFA isn't necessary but would have preferred to choose that for myself.


http://www.jeknowles.com


teeninga



Apr 24, 2006, 3:21 PM

Post #10 of 27 (4461 views)
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Re: [candyann] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

I too was rejected from Guelph-Humber and UBC. It was my first time trying for an MFA, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I wish there were more programs here in Canada, especially ones which
don't require a B.A in english. (Mine was in drama.) How many people know they want to be a writer when they're 17??

Anyhow, it's nice to bitch somewhere. This upcoming year I'm apprenticing at a theatre, so I'm feeling highly optimistic that my playwriting skills will improve. I really shouldn't complain, because I'm very happy with this unique opportunity at a theatre. Hopefully after this experience, I'll get a chance to work on my short story and non-fiction writing skills!

Besides an MFA, what do you folks think are valuable, helpful experiences for a beginner writer?


candyann


Apr 25, 2006, 1:00 PM

Post #11 of 27 (4417 views)
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Re: [teeninga] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, it's nice to have sympathy. I did know I wanted to be a writer when I was 17, but I also knew I didn't want a degree in English...who knew someone would want me to have one, someday? And I would love suggestions on how to solve the conundrum that you need an agent to get published; you need to impress an agent first as much or more than you would a publisher; and MFA programs want a list of publications before you go there. Doesn't sound to me like much of a program for apprentice writers!

On the helpful front, Lawn is right: writers['] groups are invaluable. I don't know what I would do without mine, personally or professionally. The Humber correspondence program, which I did complete, was a big help even though the agent there still rejected my work, in the end. (Might not have hurt as much had it not happened the same week as the Guelph rejection...ugh.)

OK no more self-pity. Back to writing.


http://www.jeknowles.com


Lawn


Apr 28, 2006, 10:10 PM

Post #12 of 27 (4384 views)
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Re: [candyann] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, Candyann, I think that the stakes in Canada are so high (and the creative writing funding-especially at UBC-is so low), that it is in the interest of departments to pick those students who are good shots at becoming the next young thing. However, just like any grad program, a good writer's group will test your mettle if you're willing to put effort into it.

Every writing dept has their politics--I know quite a few successful and unsuccessful UBC grads-and I think more than anything success comes with persistence. Wegee is right. You just have to keep working and be aware of yourself.

Keep writing away!


candyann


May 3, 2006, 9:22 AM

Post #13 of 27 (4330 views)
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Re: [Lawn] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the encouraging words. I am a little late to be the next young thing anyway!


http://www.jeknowles.com


scheherazade


Feb 13, 2007, 11:03 PM

Post #14 of 27 (4259 views)
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Re: [teeninga] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

Hello fellow Canadians!

I'm thinking seriously about doing an MFA because my undergrad was in science and I'd like to have the opportunity to do a little more formal literary study on the side of my writing.

But I find the Canadian writing world to be a little too insular and inbred and times, and so I'm very hesistant to go to UBC if I can avoid it. The program at UNB is too focused on English lit for my tastes, although I keep forgetting about this new program at Guelph-Humber. Then again, I did my undergrad at Guelph and if I can help it I'd like to go somewhere much, much different for some variety. So if I can swing it, I'll probably end up going stateside for a few years.

I'm currently doing a certificate in Creative Writing through the University of Toronto's School of Continuing Studies, which, in lieu of actually running a creative writing program, is a fairly decent atmosphere to study writing while holding down a full-time job. They offer high-end theory courses and "masters-level" workshops, although you're limited by being in a setting with peers who often have full-time jobs to eat away at the time they would otherwise devote to their work. But I find it very interesting that, of all the program instructors, almost all who have an MFA have it from UBC. And many have a BFA from York and/or studied at Humber School for Writers. No wonder so much Canadian writing starts to seem alike...


malber


Feb 13, 2007, 11:14 PM

Post #15 of 27 (4252 views)
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Re: [scheherazade] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

i'm not canadian, but while in St. Petersburg this past summer (for the Summer Lit Seminar), I talked to a LOT of canucks. some were from Concordia University and they all spoke very highly of it. i have NO idea if there's an MFA there, or if these people were MA or BA students, but it came highly recommended. especially Mikhail Iossel, a prof there.


scheherazade


Feb 13, 2007, 11:17 PM

Post #16 of 27 (4251 views)
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Re: [teeninga] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

And by the way...

Is there some rule that every nation must have a unique style of MFA program?

Most American programs seem to want to copy the style of Iowa: Your choice of fiction OR poetry (or possibly non-fiction), which you focus on through workshops (though you might be permitted a workshop or two in another genre).

On the other hand, now that Guelph has an MFA, it's looking like a replica of UBC's program: workshops in fiction, poetry, screenwriting, playwriting, nonfiction, etc, and you are REQUIRED to take more than one genre. Two (at Guelph) is reasonable, but three (at UBC) is a bit demanding. Wouldn't it make more sense, if you were creating a new program, to want to build a niche that differentiated you from your well-established peer? Then again, Judith Thompson is Guelph's literary beacon, so I guess they have to include dramatic writing in there and thus sway from the Iowa model.


rhgibson


Apr 3, 2007, 12:23 PM

Post #17 of 27 (4137 views)
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Re: [scheherazade] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, I'm new to this forum and I was reading all the posts about rejections from U of Guelph until I finally realized that they were from last year! Has anyone out there heard anything yet in 2007?


MissEsquire



Mar 22, 2009, 4:04 PM

Post #18 of 27 (4016 views)
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Re: [rhgibson] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

It's too late for applications for this year, BUT, this is an old thread due for revival. I grew up in Canada. Due to funding reasons, I chose to do my MFA in the States. But I think it might be nice to make a list here of the Canadian MFA options, since none really seem to get any attention except for UBC. So, here are schools in Canada that offer an MFA or MA in CW. And they're all respectable options.

UBC -- Full and low-res. No need to explain it here, since everyone knows a lot about it.

University of Victoria -- Just starting an MFA program for fall 2009. I did part of my undergrad in CW here and didn't enjoy it, but to each her own. Only accepts one student per genre, so this is more like a residency.

University of Calgary -- This is an MA program with a Creative Writing thesis. Distinguished faculty here, particularly poetry-wise. Christian Bok, Suzette Mayr stand out.

University of Guelph-Humber -- This is a full-blown MFA and very innovative in its approach. Great faculty: Michael Winter, Wayson Choy, etc etc. This is in Toronto, by the way.

University of Toronto -- There are mixed reviews of this program. It's new and nobody knows about it. But the faculty is stellar: Margaret Atwood, David Adams Richards, George Elliot Clarke, Andre Alexis, Paul Quarrington, also Michael Winter.

Concordia University -- An MA. The faculty here seem to like the program. It doesn't get much attention. Canada's Poet Laureate teaches here. Also, Nino Ricci, Barry Webster, Pasha Malla.

University of New Brunswick -- Also an MA. New Brunswick is a beautiful province, and Fredericton is its biggest city. Has a pretty good faculty. The head of the department, Mark Jarman, is an Iowa alum.

One caveat with these programs: Canada has a real problem with funding its' artists. We have a Prime Minister who thinks everyone should be studying business. I don't think any of these schools offer a full scholarship.


kojak


Mar 26, 2009, 11:36 AM

Post #19 of 27 (3899 views)
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Re: [MissEsquire] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

rhgibson - thanks for the post. I am surprised that there are these many in Canada, frankly. I only knew of the ones at UBC and U of Toronto. I was accepted once into UBC's low-residence, but decided to turn it down (at the time, I had neither the finances, nor the motivation to study long-distance).

I am a Canadian citizen, and will be attening an American MFA program in the fall, with full funding and TA position. Needless to say, I am very excited. I wonder how living and writing in the southern US will affect my writing. I hope that there will be more creative writing programs sprouting up in Canada in the next couple of years, and that our government will make the arts more of a priority.


MissEsquire



Mar 26, 2009, 11:48 AM

Post #20 of 27 (3896 views)
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Re: [kojak] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

My friend is currently in the UBC low-res program, and is thinking of dropping out because of the cost. I don't think he's enchanted by the low-res model, either. Probably would have done him better to go to a more established program like WW.

Someone should count how many of us Canadians are studying down south because of full funding. Quite a few, it seems. Also, though, it feels like there's more opportunity for writers in the States. More journals, more conferences, more prestige. So everyone who wants to make powerful contacts goes south. Canada really suffers from talent drain in that respect.


kojak


Mar 26, 2009, 12:19 PM

Post #21 of 27 (3881 views)
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Re: [MissEsquire] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, I am glad to meet a fellow Canadian writer, MissEsquire. I brought up the question of Canadian/International students on MFA Blog a while back, but received no response.

The south does seem like a good place for writers and networking - my primary reason for going to school is to discover a writerly community, make contacts. I know that writing is a solitary business, and noone can tell you how to do it, but it does seem like having an MFA is almost a given if you want to start publishing seriously.

ps: for me, warmer climate was also a big draw; I just can't get used to the cold (despite the fact that I spent 10 years in Vancouver).

pps: as for the talent drain, I'll make sure to mention the Canadian connection in my author bio ;)


krystall


Mar 27, 2009, 12:42 PM

Post #22 of 27 (3811 views)
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Re: [kojak] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

wow. how timely. i'm trying to decide between UBC low res and Columbia.... i'm torn over the exposure and structure of Columbia and the guilt around building a canadian voice among canadians... does that sound corny? i worry that as a canadian (who writes in a kind of canadian way) that a US will mush that all out, whereas UBC will make it stronger and better. But maybe i'm over romanticizing all of this.


kojak


Mar 27, 2009, 1:07 PM

Post #23 of 27 (3799 views)
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Re: [krystall] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

Krystall, if you can afford Columbia and life in New York (I live in the city now and it is quite expensive), or even better, if Colubia offers you a good funding package, then I would choose Columbia for sure.

There are many factors involved -for me, location is quite important and I have to consider it carefully. It is nice not to feel the financial pressure, but if that is not going to stimulate you as a writer or move your career forward....i am going mostly for the sense of community (and completing assignments over the internet is not enough).

I think if you have your own voice, nothing is going to change that - the schools pick you because of your writing sample, after all.


krystall


Mar 27, 2009, 8:38 PM

Post #24 of 27 (3758 views)
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Re: [MissEsquire] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

I was wondering if you could tell me a bit more why your friend was disenchanted with the low res model? It's one i'm considering. Was it just not enough? thanks!


krystall


Mar 27, 2009, 8:41 PM

Post #25 of 27 (3756 views)
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Re: [kojak] Calling all Canadians! [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks Kojak,
I don't think there is such a thing as a good funding package at Columbia, and your right the big big draw is the community. I do worry the low res version will make my writing feel like more of a hobby than a calling and i like the idea of columbia being that kick start. i just didn't want to miss that diamond in the rough! Best of luck with your program...

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