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Choosing an MFA Program (2008)
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__________



Sep 19, 2007, 11:56 PM

Post #176 of 454 (6007 views)
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     Re: [Clench Million] Choosing an MFA Program (2008) [In reply to]  

One caveat about the New School, though: research the faculty. I'm sure it's a swell place, but I had to cross them off my list because they're very hostile towards certain modes of writing. Dale Peck, for example, is a little whiny bitch. Loathes anything fun and postmodern. Especially when it outsells his own little dry, whiny books.

Just saying.


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Sep 19, 2007, 11:58 PM)


Aubrie


Sep 20, 2007, 1:22 AM

Post #177 of 454 (5999 views)
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     Re: [Junior Maas] Choosing an MFA Program (2008) [In reply to]  

Just got out of a class with him and would beg to differ.
If anyone has Q's PM me. I'm happy to talk about The New School.


__________



Sep 20, 2007, 2:21 AM

Post #178 of 454 (5993 views)
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     Re: [Aubrie] Choosing an MFA Program (2008) [In reply to]  

Tell us here! I'd like to put the New School back on my list.

Surely you read Peck's incendiary piece awhile back, though -- I think it was in The Atlantic -- where he said Rick Moody's the worst writer of his generation, and pretty much anything excessive, realist or no, pretty much sucks? And then he whined about how much that stuff's published, as if the majority of MFA'ers weren't still writing Carver imitations? If I were writing in the vein of Moody, or say, a Vollmann or a Foster-Wallace, I'd be kind of hesitant to say, Here, Dale, judge this! I just might suck more than Moody!

I'm all for strong opinions when it comes to art. I just think it helps to be selective in your school search.

His book of essays aside, I'd still love some more info.


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Sep 20, 2007, 2:22 AM)


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Sep 20, 2007, 3:17 AM

Post #179 of 454 (5988 views)
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     Re: [Junior Maas] Choosing an MFA Program (2008) [In reply to]  

Initially, I crossed off the New School as a possible MFA school. But, for some reason, despite their funding and such, they seem to have a stellar lineup of writers. A co-worker of mine is currently enrolled in the MFA program and is taking a course with Shelley Jackson this semester. According to him, it's an 'interesting' class as they're reading some pretty hefty material (i.e. tristam and shandy, naked lunch, invisible cities, to name a few). Either way, after months and months of research, I've selected 13 MFA schools:

1. UW-Madison
2. University of Florida
3. University of Montana
4. University of Minnesota
5. Cornell University
6. Florida State University
7. Syracuse University
8. Brooklyn College
9. Ohio State University
10. University of Alabama
11. University of Virginia
12. Purdue University

And, so far, I've been studying the GRE for weeks on end. The test is slated for Oct 13th, a date that will live in infamy. Maybe. Either way, I'm feeling very confident that I'll do well. I think I am talking in circles over here!


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Sep 20, 2007, 3:18 AM

Post #180 of 454 (5987 views)
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     Re: [seemingmeaning] Choosing an MFA Program (2008) [In reply to]  

And it's 12 schools, not 13 :)


jaywalke


Sep 20, 2007, 9:55 AM

Post #181 of 454 (5970 views)
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     Re: [seemingmeaning] Choosing an MFA Program (2008) [In reply to]  


In Reply To
And it's 12 schools, not 13 :)


See . . . that math review is helping already. :-]


Papierboi

e-mail user

Sep 20, 2007, 9:56 AM

Post #182 of 454 (5968 views)
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     Re: [mrshankly] Choosing an MFA Program (2008) [In reply to]  

My advice is simply this: Choose your program very, very carefully. Every MFA program operates with its own sets of rules and many have various strengths and weaknesses, so definitely use a checks and balances system.

More importantly than anything else, make sure you get in touch with current students at the program and ask them about their experiences and what to expect. Many programs post contact info for current students on their web sites so you can ask without going through the program's administrators.

I can give you a few things to ask about so that you can perhaps avoid some of the frustrations I've experienced:
  • Ask about the sense of community among writers in the program. This will probably be a lot more important than you expect by your second semester. Some programs are competitive, some encourage students to feed off of one another. One or the other situation may suit you better, based upon your personality.
  • Don't assume that your favorite writer will also be your favorite instructor. Ask specifically about the teaching styles and efficacy of the professors you expect to work with. To be blunt, some of the most accomplished writers are given golden seats within their programs inn order to attract students. Some of these writers show little interest in teaching and come off as self-appointed gurus who espouse wisdom but don't actually invest in their students.
  • Consider whether the name stature of the school is the most important thing for you. It may be, and that's all right as long as you accept what comes along with that. If you go to Iowa, UVA, etc., for example, you will inevitably get more attention from agents, publishers, lit mags, etc. A smaller program might be better if you'd like more nurturing and less competition, though. Just think about it.
  • If part of your interest in an MFA is gaining teaching experience and the programs you apply to don't offer this opportunity to all students, find out BEFORE you accept admission not only how many teaching assistantships are provided by your school, but how TAs are chosen. If you can't get a direct answer, this could be a warning sign of an inept/uninterested program administration, which could lead to many further frustrations with the program as you study.
  • Also make sure to ask current students in the program about the faculty's treatment of students. If the instructors are aloof or undepdendable, or if they seem impartial to students' work, this very likely indicates a problem with the program. The problem could be that inferior students are chosen for the program and therefore don't engage the instructors' attention, or it could be that the faculty have their heads in the clouds and have prioritized their writing, their personal lives, or something else over their students' needs. (While on campus and in office hours, you should be your professor's priorities. That's their job, and most MFA faculty are paid well to do their jobs.)

As a specific example of possible frustrations to look out for, here's my recent experience: I just began consulting on my thesis with my thesis director. The first week, the instructor was 40 minutes late to our meeting and spent five minutes with me to take my work. Because the professor was late, they cut our meeting short to five minutes in order to meet with another student for a half hour. The second week, the professor was 50 minutes late and gave encouraging words, but did not have the manuscript with them and, while everything was encouraging, no specific advice was given, leaving me to wonder whether the professor had even read my work. The professor told me that no specific feedback will be given at all this semester, other than telling me if I begin to take the plot in the wrong direction. This is not the one-on-one mentorship I was hoping for when working on a thesis novel, on which I had hoped to receive enough guidance to get the work in good enough shape to shop around within a year of graduation.

It is possible that this treatment is specific to me, however, so if you are concerned about making the most of your MFA studies, make sure you ask several students from every program to which you plan to apply so you can get a balanced perspective.

The bottom line: Realize before you jump into this major 2-3 year lifestyle change that this should be an investment and a commitment to your work, and that getting into any reputable program may not meet your specific needs or desires. If you are doing it for the degree, then that's fine, but if you are doing it to grow and mature as an author do not compromise. You will regret it.


Clench Million
Charles

Sep 20, 2007, 4:08 PM

Post #183 of 454 (5916 views)
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     Re: [Junior Maas] Choosing an MFA Program (2008) [In reply to]  

Yes, Dale Peck was a definite negative for me. Not only do I agree that his tastes are horribly narrow and his shtick terribly cliche, but he seems like a big hypocrite. He rails (correctly, perhaps) against the gushing book blurbs that new books get from their author friends. But then he reviews his friends books with absurdly gushing praise. I think he said that Jonathan Foer's debut was the greatest debut ever.

But I don't know how that would translate to his teaching abilities.


Clench Million
Charles

Sep 20, 2007, 4:30 PM

Post #184 of 454 (5909 views)
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     Re: [Papierboi] Choosing an MFA Program (2008) [In reply to]  

I've said this before, but I feel like it needs to be emphasized regularly. I agree with you totally. Some students don't seem to quite realize when they are applying that they are applying to their only MFA experience that will take up 2 to 3 years of their life. I personally think you should shoot for the stars with MFA programs. You don't want to go to a weak program that wasn't high on your list merely because it was closer to home or gave you a little bit more fellowship money, only to find your instructors are apathetic, your peer group is weak and your experience turns out to be a bad one.

I often see people on here saying they will go to whatever school gives them the most money, even if they get into better ones. Unless the money difference is a huge one, I'd go where you will get the best experience.

The only thing in your post I'd question is the idea that the best programs are necessarily more competitive. This seems like some idea spread by Iowas supposed competitiveness. I don't know if Iowa is competitive or not, but if it is I imagine that is mostly because the funding changes from year to year and you literally have to fight to get more funding. You get ranked by the faculty. That seems kind of like a bad environment. I'd want first years to be able to experiment and have beautiful failures instead of trying to appeal to their teachers as much as possible to get more funding.

But beyond that, I've never personally gotten the impression that the top programs are more competitive internally. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if the opposite was true. At a top program most of the students are going to be good writers and maybe even most will be publishing while in the MFA. It is hard to be too haughty when everyone around you is good. However, in lower ranked programs the peer group as a whole won't be as strong and the chances of two or three students becoming the "darlings" of their professors and acting like big fish in a little pond might be common.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Sep 20, 2007, 5:33 PM

Post #185 of 454 (5901 views)
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     Re: [Clench Million] Choosing an MFA Program (2008) [In reply to]  

I haven't seen it mentioned here, and I only mention it out of loyalty (since Vanderbilt pays my salary), but it's new and possibly not on a lot of the lists yet, and with Mark Jarman heading the MFA program the poetry aspect might be pretty damn good, so you might consider Vanderbilt.


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/


Scrat1


Sep 21, 2007, 8:42 PM

Post #186 of 454 (5804 views)
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     Re: [pongo] Choosing an MFA Program (2008) [In reply to]  

Anybody know anything about University of Memphis? I would love to move to memphis and also love Richard Bausch's work, but I don't know much more than it is in Memphis and Bausch teaches there. Anybody studying there now?


rpc
ryan call

Sep 21, 2007, 10:24 PM

Post #187 of 454 (5792 views)
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     Re: [Scrat1] Choosing an MFA Program (2008) [In reply to]  

im not studying there, so i dont know anything about the program, but i went to undergrad at rhodes college in memphis for four years before heading up to mason (incidentally, the year bausch left for memphis)

so if you have any questions about the city, let me know; id be happy to help that way

otherwise, good luck


<HTMLGIANT>


GDClark
George David Clark
e-mail user

Sep 22, 2007, 9:12 PM

Post #188 of 454 (5729 views)
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     Re: [rpc] Choosing an MFA Program (2008) [In reply to]  

Rumor has it Bausch is headed elsewhere after this year.


bennyprof


Sep 24, 2007, 9:15 PM

Post #189 of 454 (5623 views)
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     Re: [GDClark] Choosing an MFA Program (2008) [In reply to]  

Quick question: Is there any advantage to applying earlier rather than later? The first deadline for the schools I'm applying to falls on December 15th. With that in mind, I've decided to send off all of my applications on or around December 1st. Would I gain any edge whatsoever by sending my packets off a month or so earlier than that?

(I suspect the answer is no, but thought I'd make sure.)


GDClark
George David Clark
e-mail user

Sep 24, 2007, 10:15 PM

Post #190 of 454 (5606 views)
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     Re: [bennyprof] Choosing an MFA Program (2008) [In reply to]  

An early application will only improve your chances at a school with rolling admissions (Arkansas is the only one I know of). Some places won't even start reading manuscripts until March.


Scrat1


Sep 24, 2007, 11:39 PM

Post #191 of 454 (5595 views)
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     Re: [GDClark] Choosing an MFA Program (2008) [In reply to]  


In Reply To
Rumor has it Bausch is headed elsewhere after this year.


Well that is too bad. Where'd you hear this? Also, aren't you at UVA for poetry? I'll be applying there for fiction for fall 2008. How's your experience been so far? (Disregard if I'm thinking of the wrong person.)


__________



Sep 25, 2007, 4:13 AM

Post #192 of 454 (5577 views)
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     Re: [GDClark] Choosing an MFA Program (2008) [In reply to]  

I'm sort of wondering this too. My psych buddies who love to drop the psych lingo always talk about the 'Mere Ownership' effect; which, in terms of the MFA game, means readers would value that good, earlier story over a later story of equal skill--simply because they've lived with it a little while.

Is this sort of what you were thinking in terms of Arkansas? Are there other schools known to read work early (even if they don't have rolling admissions)?


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Sep 25, 2007, 10:31 AM)


HopperFu


Sep 25, 2007, 7:42 AM

Post #193 of 454 (5569 views)
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     Re: [Junior Maas] Choosing an MFA Program (2008) [In reply to]  

I've been told by a couple of profs that most schools don't even start reading until after the deadline has passed (unless they have rolling admissions). They probably aren't even aware of when applications come in - an administrator most likely handles that.
The benefit of sending your stuff in two or three weeks early is that it gives you a chance to fix it if there is a problem (i.e., you forget to send your transcripts or one of your letter writers flakes out), and if you track your mail you can also make sure it gets there.
If it's done, send it in, but if you think you can make it better in the extra few weeks, you're better off working on it more. Which is probably one of those things I write that is going to get a lot of 'duh' comments.


MissEsquire



Sep 25, 2007, 9:00 PM

Post #194 of 454 (5492 views)
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     Bard...? [In reply to]  

Has anyone noticed that there's an MFA program at Bard College? It's very "mixed media" and interdisciplinary. It has an odd faculty and seems more like a residency than an MFA program. Anyone know anything about it?


dclark8


Sep 28, 2007, 9:33 AM

Post #195 of 454 (5303 views)
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     Vanderbilt & Memphis MFA programs [In reply to]  

Can anyone out there give me some info regarding the quality of the MFA programs at Vanderbilt and Memphis? (the MFA message board doesn't seem active here.) I know Memphis has Richard Bausch teaching now, which is a big plus. Any other insight on them? Vanderbilt I know less about. Seems like a maybe a newer program--I haven't spotted it on any of the rankings but I know it's a great school overall. I'd love to hear more about their teachers, especially in Fiction. I read a little about Tony Earley, and he seems pretty reputable. Any help is greatly appreciated!


HopperFu


Sep 28, 2007, 9:56 AM

Post #196 of 454 (5300 views)
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     Re: [dclark8] Vanderbilt & Memphis MFA programs [In reply to]  

Hi,
I don't know a ton about these programs, though I did hear Tony Early read, and he seems like an interesting guy. Jim The Boy is a good book.
You might have more luck posting about this in the MFA forum.


dclark8


Sep 28, 2007, 10:31 AM

Post #197 of 454 (5296 views)
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     Re: [HopperFu] Vanderbilt & Memphis MFA programs [In reply to]  


In Reply To
Hi,
I don't know a ton about these programs, though I did hear Tony Early read, and he seems like an interesting guy. Jim The Boy is a good book.
You might have more luck posting about this in the MFA forum.



Thanks for the good word on Tony Early--he does sound interesting from what little I've heard. I'm going to give the MFA message another try here. It wouldn't let me post earlier, for whatever reason.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Sep 28, 2007, 2:22 PM

Post #198 of 454 (5287 views)
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     Re: [dclark8] Vanderbilt & Memphis MFA programs [In reply to]  

Make sure you're not trying to post in the archived MFA section, but in the current one.

I teach at Vanderbilt (not in the MFA program, though), and have encountered a few of the MFA students. They seem pretty happy to be here.

It may just be local pride, and I have no personal experience of Memphis, but I understand that Nashville is a much nicer place to live. Slight edge to Memphis for barbecue, but for music other than the blues, and other cultural life, Nashville is better. (Tonight I'm going to hear Salman Rushdie speak; if I didn't have a 3:00 class, I might have gotten into the small meet-and-greet with him.)


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/


dclark8


Sep 28, 2007, 4:26 PM

Post #199 of 454 (5281 views)
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     Re: [pongo] Vanderbilt & Memphis MFA programs [In reply to]  


In Reply To
Make sure you're not trying to post in the archived MFA section, but in the current one.

I teach at Vanderbilt (not in the MFA program, though), and have encountered a few of the MFA students. They seem pretty happy to be here.

It may just be local pride, and I have no personal experience of Memphis, but I understand that Nashville is a much nicer place to live. Slight edge to Memphis for barbecue, but for music other than the blues, and other cultural life, Nashville is better. (Tonight I'm going to hear Salman Rushdie speak; if I didn't have a 3:00 class, I might have gotten into the small meet-and-greet with him.)



Thanks pongo. My wife has some family in Nashville, so I might have to get over there and have a look around!


Scrat1


Sep 29, 2007, 6:53 PM

Post #200 of 454 (5262 views)
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     Re: [dclark8] Vanderbilt & Memphis MFA programs [In reply to]  

Im interested in both programs as well so any info for this thread is appreciated.

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