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vronsky


Mar 6, 2007, 8:00 AM

Post #76 of 466 (20674 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] The jig is somewhat up? [In reply to] Can't Post

What one learns from accusations like these is not that the contest system is corrupt. Rather, one learns that writers can be kind of whiny.

Maybe a large percentage of the contestants were Iowa grads. Maybe Iowa grads have simply been better writers in the past six or seven years. Maybe many of the judges have been Iowa grads because there were fewer writing programs out there 20-30 years ago.

In my experience, connections have very little to do with whether one wins a contest. Call me naive.

Maybe Iowa just draws in a lot of decent writers. It is a competitive program, after all.


(This post was edited by maggiekate on Mar 6, 2007, 8:04 AM)


__________



Mar 6, 2007, 8:53 AM

Post #77 of 466 (20653 views)
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Re: [maggiekate] The jig is somewhat up? [In reply to] Can't Post

I won't call you naive...

...but let's just look at the facts, absent any whining. Six out of seven years, the workshop has awarded its first book prize to its own graduates (and in one case, a current Iowa professor!). Legitimate contests have strict rules in place to avoid this behavior. I just have to ask why, in six years out of the last seven years (not thirty years ago, when there were few writing programs), these Iowa chaps didn't win any of those other first book contests, when they are clearly so talented as to avoid your suspicion.

This contest is a good scam all-around. Grads get their books published. They get good teaching jobs. The school maintains its reputation ('Look at all our grads publishing books!"). Don't believe me, check out their ad copy.

The 'contest system' isn't corrupt. This contest is corrupt.

You want to hear real whining, talk to the only real live workshop grads I know who submitted and lost out to their Iowa peers!


six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Mar 6, 2007, 8:59 AM)


mingram
Mike Ingram

Mar 6, 2007, 9:32 AM

Post #78 of 466 (20629 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] The jig is somewhat up? [In reply to] Can't Post

I can't speak for all the Iowa Book Prize winners, but Kevin Moffett's book (one of the two winners last year -- the other was a non-Iowa person) is really fantastic. I have no trouble believing his was the best thing they got. Ditto Thisbe Nissen's book a few years back, which is a really tremendous first collection. Actually, that book was good enough it was subsequently scooped up by a large press as part of a multi-book deal.

I admit the whole thing looks suspicous. And despite having gone to Iowa, I don't feel any great compunction to defend the contest. But I can say, basically, how it works, which is that a couple first-year students read all the entries as part of their funding package, and then pass along a certain number to the guest judge (it's a lot more than 5). My girlfriend was one of those first readers, and the sense I got was that they passed along just about everything that wasn't obviously flawed.

Again, I know the thing looks shady, and maybe it is. Though I think you also have to account for how the contest is publicized, which means the number of entries from Iowa grads and local people is disproportionately high. Really, the only reason I care about this at all is that it makes me sad to think people will possibly discount Kevin's work, or some other winner's, because they'll assume it won on grounds other than merit. When in fact he's a really amazing writer. At the same time his book was in the contest pipeline, incidentally, he was getting stories published in Tin House and McSweeneys, and he also won the Chicago Tribune Nelson Algren Prize, which definitely has no "connection" to Iowa.


(This post was edited by mingram on Mar 6, 2007, 10:34 AM)


marcelisima


Mar 6, 2007, 11:11 PM

Post #79 of 466 (20552 views)
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Re: Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi just a note to everybody--I've started a blog for people attending Iowa this fall... please come by and comment at www.iowamfa.blogspot.com thanks and looking forward to seeing everyone.



redragtop


Mar 13, 2007, 12:23 AM

Post #80 of 466 (20399 views)
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Re: [marcelisima] Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I've heard a lot about agents and Iowa. How many agents actually visit the program? Does the program set anything up so they can see your work? I was wondering because this seems to be one of the perks of going to a "big name" program.


dorchester


Mar 14, 2007, 2:07 AM

Post #81 of 466 (20319 views)
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Re: [redragtop] Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I've heard a lot about agents and Iowa. How many agents actually visit the program? Does the program set anything up so they can see your work? I was wondering because this seems to be one of the perks of going to a "big name" program.

Yes. A lot of agents come to Iowa, at least when I was there some years ago. You get a mixture of big name agents as well as younger, less established agents looking to build a client list.



silkfx2004


Mar 15, 2007, 12:08 PM

Post #82 of 466 (20254 views)
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Re: [dorchester] Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

In the almost-two years I've been here (graduating in May, God willing) I wouldn't say there have been "a lot" of agents. I do think there were more last year than this year, but even then it's not like the place was overrun with them. I'm thinking less than 5 in a year, maybe? Unless there's some underground agenting going on that I don't know about...

Agents usually come in and talk in a group setting, and then allow you to make individual appointments if you want. This semester will be the first time I've ever made an appointment. I never did it before because I didn't really have much to show, and even now I don't have a whole lot but I think it will be worth it to talk one-on-one.


--------
Nobody but God gets it right the first time. Everybody else has to rewrite. --attributed to Stephen King


redragtop


Apr 11, 2007, 7:48 PM

Post #83 of 466 (20043 views)
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Re: [silkfx2004] Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm looking at schools for next year and Iowa is my top choice. Everyone mentions the tiered funding for second years, but how many fellowships are there for first years? On the site it mentions the Truman Capote, Iowa Arts, Maytag, etc. For anyone who's gone there, what do these fellowships mean? Which is the "best" one? Who gets them? How many are there?


taizhu


Apr 12, 2007, 12:36 AM

Post #84 of 466 (19997 views)
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Re: [redragtop] Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I'm looking at schools for next year and Iowa is my top choice. Everyone mentions the tiered funding for second years, but how many fellowships are there for first years? On the site it mentions the Truman Capote, Iowa Arts, Maytag, etc. For anyone who's gone there, what do these fellowships mean? Which is the "best" one? Who gets them? How many are there?



I think that Iowa does pretty well on funding--given the size of the program. I would guess that 6-7 people get funded via fellowships that dont require teaching. Mostly everyone else is funded through some sort of teaching package and is given in-state tuition.

I believe the Maytag and Capote are 1 yr fellowships. The Iowa Arts and Deans Graduate (for under-represented groups) give 2 yrs of funding. In my experience, no one pays attention who got what fellowship in the first year. However, if you get a two yr fellowship, it's nice to not have to re-apply for funding.

I don't think there is any major prestige factor that comes with receiving one of these first year fellowships. It is not always clear how/why these fellowship decisions are made. I think the 2nd year funding process receives A LOT more scrutiny and attention from the student body.


piratelizzy


Apr 12, 2007, 3:58 PM

Post #85 of 466 (19946 views)
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Re: [taizhu] Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
I think the 2nd year funding process receives A LOT more scrutiny and attention from the student body.


Is the increased scrutiny to second-year funding related to anything? What I've heard is that faculty favorites get the most second-year funding, with the implication that at least some of that favoritism is based on factors unrelated to the quality of student work, e.g. faculty preferring work in a certain stylistic or thematic vein and neglecting work that does not conform.

Now, I'm not saying any of it's true. I have no way of knowing firsthand. I'm only curious as to whether these rumors have an actual basis or are complete BS. Is the anxiety over second-year funding related to competition for publication post-graduation, i.e. being a faculty member's favorite at a program of Iowa's reputation will open doors that other MFA students may not have access to?

Just wondering...


'sup?!


taizhu


Apr 12, 2007, 5:36 PM

Post #86 of 466 (19915 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

My thoughts? Hmmm

Well understand first that I was lucky enough to get a 2 yr fellowship and therefore did not participate in this process at all. That said, my sense is that the hullabaloo is not related to worries about favoritism or future publication. I think people get nervous because they think they are being ranked and they are stressed about funding.

1. Imagine having to prepare a manuscript for a fellowship competition (however small) during your first year in an MFA program. The truth is that you are usually given AT LEAST the same level funding that you received the first -year, but still people still freak out about it. Also, its not the best way to spend your winter break.

2. Once the decisions are made, some people are bound to be like WTF? By the time the faculty has made the decisions, most people have a sense of who they think writes well and who does not. Sometimes it matches up with who gets the TWIFs, sometimes it does not. Of course, it is all purely subjective.

Personally, I have never felt that the people who got the TWIF's were faculty favorites--they have either been really good writers or really smart. Of course, other people may feel differently than I.

I do think that things would feel less competitive if everyone were just funded at the same level--but given the size of the program, I am not sure this is even possible. Most MFA programs that fund everyone at the same level are tiny.


MissEsquire



May 29, 2007, 8:03 PM

Post #87 of 466 (19723 views)
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Re: [taizhu] Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Sorry to draw everyone away from the all-important funding issue, but I have a question about fiction portfolios - both those that are submitted to Iowa and as a general rule - which nobody has really been able to answer so far.

I had a creative writing professor who told my class that young (or beginning) writers often lean toward wanting to write in as many different first-person voices as possible. She implied that this was amateurish. I can understand that being the writing equivalent of Sybil wouldn't allow for much development of a particular style, but what if my two best stories are both written in (differing) first-person? Would this potentially be a strike against me according to those who are reading portfolios?

Have any of the Iowa students or grads out there been portfolio readers before? What are your thoughts on this?


tenderloner
Geary'n Hyde

May 29, 2007, 11:00 PM

Post #88 of 466 (19693 views)
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Re: [MissEsquire] Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I never thought of this. Maybe that's why I got rejected from 9 schools. I sent slightly different porfolios everywhere, but the 2 main stories were first person (one of each sex), so perhaps that explains things. Oddly enough, the program I'm going to allowed multiple genres, so while I think I included something third person, and even second person, I think it also resulted in even more first person pieces (not to mention the dreaded photographs that someone made a snarky comment about, but never returned to respond to).

One thing I've noticed again and fretted about is that "The People" like my work, but academics don't seem to...will I fit in at an MFA program? Is the literary establishment limiting voices, due to biases not related to quality? My hope is that we all ultimately find our place and certainly my advisor expresses an excitement about working with me that mitigates all the b.s. I went through to get to this point.


hamlet3145


May 30, 2007, 12:01 AM

Post #89 of 466 (19684 views)
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Re: [MissEsquire] Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd be pretty surprised (shocked even) if one were rejected from an MFA program due to a difference in voice in the two submitted stories. While there are a number of things to worry about in the MFA process, I really don't think this is one of them. =)


mingram
Mike Ingram

May 30, 2007, 12:04 AM

Post #90 of 466 (19683 views)
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Re: [tenderloner] Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

While I can certainly understand the temptation to second- and third- and fourth-guess these things, at the end of the day it all comes down to the quality of the stories. Sure, there are some subjective variables -- one reader prefers Story A, another prefers Story B -- but it's impossible to predict these things, so why waste the energy on crystal-ball work?

For what it's worth, I got into Iowa with a first-person story and a third-person story. The first-person story was told from the perspective of a female Jeopardy contestant, two things I've never been. The third person story was ... actually, I don't remember much about it, except I looked at it later and thought it was embarrasingly awful, and I haven't gone back to it since.


bighark


May 30, 2007, 12:05 AM

Post #91 of 466 (19683 views)
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Re: [MissEsquire] Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't know, MissEsquire. That kind of sounds more like the professor's illogical and/or poorly communicated pet peeve than something you actually need to worry about.

I mean, young/beginning writers have been accused of a lot worse than displaying range and creativity.


tenderloner
Geary'n Hyde

May 30, 2007, 12:26 AM

Post #92 of 466 (19679 views)
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Re: [mingram] Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

True and I misread the post somewhat. You're right about different readers. Some assumed one story was the one I knew best because the character was a biracial woman. Yet the story from a white, male perspective incorporated far more details of my actual life. Readers who know you read your work differently than strangers would and that's certainly effected by what they see and know (or think they know) about you. The good thing about this process is that the writing is standing largely on its own.


__________



May 30, 2007, 10:28 AM

Post #93 of 466 (19651 views)
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Re: [MissEsquire] Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

I had a creative writing professor who told my class that young (or beginning) writers often lean toward wanting to write in as many different first-person voices as possible. She implied that this was amateurish.



Christ. Another thing to worry about. We should start a separate post and make a list.

So far, I've avoided TV plots and dialogue, and I don't write college romances involving horses or that ultimate marital dilemma: rich, good looking Chad, with his perfect wavy hair and somewhat empty personality, or artistic Chet, who you know'd be just perfect if he weren't (gasp!) slightly poor.

And so now there's this? Fie! Fie!

Let's think: what are the other first person choices? The same voice, over and over? That would mean you're writing about the same type of character over and over, or using a toned-down, journalistic voice. Neither seem very appealing.

Trying to think of examples now.... Sam Lipsyte's Venus Drive. Good book, uniform voice...but the characters all seemed like the same guy. George Saunders--superior books, uniform voice...and it works. Most of the time. David Foster Wallace's stories...multiple styles, hugely different voices, and it works. But he's got the whole parallel 'I'm trying to re-invent the story' thing going on. So who knows. Thom Jones? Conversational throughout, but different voices, for sure.

What's wrong with that? Oh God, what's wrong with that!?!?


six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on May 30, 2007, 10:32 AM)


ecphraticknolls


May 30, 2007, 10:42 AM

Post #94 of 466 (19641 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
rich, good looking Chad, with his perfect wavy hair and somewhat empty personality


I hate that guy… with the African country he purchased on a whim. Sitting inside the border with his sweater vest, all like, "Dude, don't go outside of the fence--those people can get a little crazy."


piratelizzy


May 30, 2007, 12:51 PM

Post #95 of 466 (19624 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
And so now there's this? Fie! Fie!


Yes, yes. Fidel! Fidel! Let's all write about Fidel.

So, I would say that--on my gut feeling--who cares whether you're using first, second or third. I do sense, though, that committees know what they like, and if your work ain't it, you're out of luck. But who can read what's on their minds? Syracuse's "yes" may turn out to be Indiana's "no." I'd say just work at it like crazy and try to shut out the million and one voices with opinions about how you should be writing. Listen only to trusted persons.


'sup?!


MissEsquire



May 30, 2007, 1:28 PM

Post #96 of 466 (19613 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts. I was pretty sure this professor was just venting, anyway.


Glinda Bamboo


May 30, 2007, 6:57 PM

Post #97 of 466 (19580 views)
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Re: [MissEsquire] Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Yep, and it sounds like the prof was venting about how beginning writers use the first person poorly. It doesn't matter what POV you're writing in if you're not doing it well. :) So yeah, if your two best stories are in first person, different voices...those are your two best stories. Use those. I think lots of applicants (and here I look down at my feet in shame) end up sending in work that is not their best because they are caught up in thinking things like, "Well, this story is first person, so the other one needs to be third person to show I can do both, even if it isn't as good" or "But this story makes my portfolio's page count work perfectly for EVERY SINGLE SCHOOL, so how can that not be my second story?"

Oh, the shame.


aluminum


Dec 18, 2007, 12:13 AM

Post #98 of 466 (19186 views)
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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

well, reading through this thread certainly scared the hell out of me... but i am still applying to iowa and i actually have a logistical question concerning the application process. perhaps someone who's been through this before can help.

Q: what exactly do i submit on paper/in the mail?

the writing sample,
the statement of purpose,
app. for graduate awards (?),
financial aid form (?),
hard copy of the application that i've downloaded and filled out (?)

Q: what can i submit online?

just the main application form?

thanks in advance!


Zash
Zachary Ash

Dec 18, 2007, 12:27 PM

Post #99 of 466 (19137 views)
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Re: [aluminum] Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

I believe what Iowa wants sent to the Writer's Workshop itself is (1) personal statement; (2) writing sample; (3) graduate award form; and (4) financial aid form. The letters of rec go there too. I don't think they want a hard copy of the online grad application, which is sent to the grad admissions office. Anyway, this is what I'm doing.


(This post was edited by Zash on Dec 18, 2007, 12:30 PM)


aluminum


Dec 18, 2007, 1:50 PM

Post #100 of 466 (19112 views)
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Re: [Zash] Iowa MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

hey zash,

thanks for answering... that's pretty much what i gathered, but i needed a second opinion!

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