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HopperFu


Jul 5, 2007, 7:44 AM

Post #101 of 333 (6600 views)
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Re: [dunnkc] a question regarding recommendation etiquette [In reply to] Can't Post

last question first: yes, ask him to sign a copy of his book. If anything, that's actually considered polite (it indicates that a) you bought a copy, and b) you might like it.
As for the letter, go ahead and ask him. What do you have to lose? So he says no. But if he says yes, then you get a nice letter from somebody who is - at least somewhat - familiar with your work.
Seriously, what do you have to lose other than a little dignity?


easter


Jul 6, 2007, 8:01 PM

Post #102 of 333 (6544 views)
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Re: [dunnkc] a question regarding recommendation etiquette [In reply to] Can't Post

While I tend to agree that you really don't have anything to lose in simply asking for a letter of recommendation, part of me disagrees. A solid letter of recommendation comes from those who are familiar with both your work and your character. Asking someone, in particular, simply because they may be distinguished in the industry doesn't necessarily help your cause. Even though admission committees may be impressed by a big name, I think, for the most part, they are looking for confirmation that you take direction and criticism well, and that you respect the writing and technique of your peers. If you're sure you have what MFA programs are looking for, both in your work and your character, help yourself out by getting those who know you best to write letters for you.


In Reply To
I was wondering if anyone could help me with this.
...



dunnkc


Jul 6, 2007, 8:36 PM

Post #103 of 333 (6538 views)
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Re: [easter] a question regarding recommendation etiquette [In reply to] Can't Post

I think maybe you are right. He doesn't know me well enough, I don't think. He is not familiar enough with my character, even though he has read a little of my work. (He had to approve my writing sample before he let me in the class.) But I don't really know anyone else who is familiar with my work, except this one other teacher. But I'm going to need more letters than that. If I just go find another writer to take a class from, then I guess he or she wouldn't really have enough time to get familiar with me and my work to the extent that it would be possible to make really good comments on these things before applications will be due, either.

Maybe you are right and I should spend some time thinking about whether or not I am right for an MFA. It is definitely something I ought to spend a year or two thinking about. It's not right for everyone, I guess.

Thanks for your help


dunnkc


Jul 6, 2007, 8:38 PM

Post #104 of 333 (6537 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] a question regarding recommendation etiquette [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the advice. I am definitely getting that signed copy at the last meeting.


easter


Jul 7, 2007, 12:28 AM

Post #105 of 333 (6526 views)
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Re: [dunnkc] a question regarding recommendation etiquette [In reply to] Can't Post

I wouldn't start doubting whether or not you're right for an MFA - writers deal with enough self doubt as it is. If it's something you want to pursue, by all means do it. Just don't get bogged down with the letters of recommendation; they're important, but ultimately, it's your writing sample that will get you through the door. I guess another workshop wouldn't be a bad idea--another candidate for letters, and, of course, further practice for your writing--but there is still plenty of time to make the next application process.


bennyprof


Jul 7, 2007, 1:04 AM

Post #106 of 333 (6522 views)
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Re: [dunnkc] a question regarding recommendation etiquette [In reply to] Can't Post

I've got to agree with easter on this one. Getting an MFA isn't like getting married... you shouldn't need a year or two to think it over. You either want to go, or you don't. Sure, an MFA isn't a prereq for becoming a writer, but where else are you going to get the opportunity to set aside 2-3 years to focus solely on writing, and under the mentorship of some very talented, published authors?

A lot can happen in a year or two, and putting things off temporarily can turn permanent real quick. So I guess what I'm saying is that if you want to write, and think an MFA program will be worth the time for you, then go for it. If it means cramming in a few workshops (which you'll get something out of anyway) so you can earn yourself a few more recommendation letters, so be it! And like easter said, the letters aren't the meat of the application; they're just a requirement. Your writing sample is what will make or break you. I think I actually read somewhere that, at one school, they don't even open the letters until after they've made their decisions, and then it's mainly as a kind of reward, to pat themselves on the back for making the right choices.


HopperFu


Jul 7, 2007, 7:59 AM

Post #107 of 333 (6506 views)
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Re: [dunnkc] a question regarding recommendation etiquette [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I think maybe you are right. He doesn't know me well enough, I don't think.


My three letters of rec were from:
1) a writer I worked with for one week at a summer conference
2) a fellow student at that conference who I had kept in touch with
3) another fellow student from a different conference.
I met all of them in the summer before I applied.

If you ask him and he says 'no,' well, that's the sign that he doesn't feel like he can write you a letter....


dunnkc


Jul 7, 2007, 2:20 PM

Post #108 of 333 (6479 views)
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Re: [easter] a question regarding recommendation etiquette [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
If it's something you want to pursue, by all means do it


Thanks, but it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me to pursue it just because I want to. I ought to have some kind of talent or ability to improve my writing, which I don't think I have done these past two years. This is sufficiently evident in the fact that I had a worse track record for being waitlisted this year than I had the year before. (I applied to a lot of the same schools.)

Thanks for everyone's help, but I think it is just time to move on.


(This post was edited by dunnkc on Jul 7, 2007, 2:33 PM)


Rambler


Jul 7, 2007, 3:29 PM

Post #109 of 333 (6464 views)
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Re: [dunnkc] a question regarding recommendation etiquette [In reply to] Can't Post

dunnkc,

Your last post made me feel so sad inside. If you want to apply, go for it. Don't overthink this. Follow your heart. How many famous authors faced rejection, multiple times? Somebody on this site applied to Iowa like 5 times and just got in this time. I applaud that. And if you've been waitlisted, you're ahead of a lot of the rest of us.

We writers are a fragile breed. If you want to get an MFA, keep trying. I know good writing takes a lot of time, and time is the number one enemy of a writer. But do your best, get your letters from whoever you think best, and go for it.

Just because you've been waitlisted doesn't mean you're not up to snuff as a writer. There are a lot of other factors at play in the selection process...


Dewey

e-mail user

Jul 7, 2007, 7:19 PM

Post #110 of 333 (6439 views)
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Re: [Rambler] a question regarding recommendation etiquette [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey, dunnkc, George Saunders makes a great point in Kealey's MFA Handbook, here it is:
Tom Kealey: "What if a student is not accepted anywhere? What advice would you offer? Should a student apply again next year?"
George Saunders: "Yes, I'd say you definitely apply again. Not necessarily to the same programs. To some different ones, and maybe the two or three that you really wanted to go to. I look at my own writing in my twenties, when one year I was writing very poorly and the next year I got suddenly, mysteriously better. Progress seems to happen in surges. You have to shake things up...My feeling is, acceptance to an M.F.A. program is not diagnostic in either direction. People who turn out to be great writers could be rejected, and people who turn out to be poor writers could be accepted...Teachers should be unsure of their own powers of selection, and writers should be humble, and hopeful, about their ability to transform their own work, suddenly, unexpectedly...If you've been rejected, one way to shake things up is to question your reading list. Find a writer that is new to you. Two or three writers that you're really excited about. Follow their linage back. Know everything about them. Immerse yourself in those writers..."
You're probably right, just wanting to go to an MFA is not enough, but wanting to be a writer is. I'm like Saunders; I started out as a not so good writer, kept at it though, then after a good while I "suddenly, mysteriously" got a lot better. But that's never gonna happen if you don't keep trying. I'd follow Saunders' advice. And...Who’s telling you you're not good enough? Seems to me like it might be you. You need an outside opinion, other than an MFA acceptance board, some one who gets what you're trying to do. But no matter what anyone says, if you want and love to write and you like, maybe even love to read, then you'll improve through persistent effort.
Good luck!


jujubee


Sep 26, 2007, 11:42 PM

Post #111 of 333 (6343 views)
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A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

Hello, everyone!

Like many others on this forum, I am planning on applying to MFA programs this winter for Fall 2008 admission. I am currently in the midst of getting all elements of my application packets in order (more or less) and realized that there are only a limited number of people from whom I can ask for recommendations from.

What would be the best way to get all recs to all schools without having my poor writing instructor/writing buddy fill out recs for all 10 schools that I plan on applying to? Would it be appropriate to just have the person make copies of a rec and just stick in sealed envelopes? Is it even appropriate to ask someone to make 10 copies of the rec?!

And, how damaging do you think it would be if I didn't send in recommendations on the school-approved recommedation forms?

Sorry for the onslaught of questions! With the deadlines looming in a matter of months, all sorts of things need to be untangled, it seems.

Thanks so much for your help!

jules


bighark


Sep 27, 2007, 6:40 PM

Post #112 of 333 (6287 views)
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Re: [jujubee] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

Jules,

You'll need three letters of recommendation for each school. Your LORs don’t have to be all from professors, but you should strive to have at least one former instructor writing on your behalf. The other letters should be from people who are familiar with your writing. These people should be writers or editors with publication credits.

If you’ve been out of school for a number of years, you could probably get away with one former professor, one writer, and one former boss or supervisor. If you’re still an undergrad or have graduated within the past five years or so, you should strive to get three letters from instructors or writers or both.

The process of writing LORs, for professors at least, is a routine part of the job. Don’t worry about the volume of LORs you are requesting. You won’t be the first student to ask for a bunch of letters, and you certainly won’t be the last. Your LOR writer has written dozens of these kinds of letters over the years and could probably compose one for you in minutes. If you’re an especially talented student, he or she may even write something original J Regardless, the LOR writer will most likely use the same letter (swapping out names when necessary) for all of your schools.

You can make things easier for your LOR writers by doing all of the administrative work for them. For each letter, you should provide a list of directions. These directions should include at least the following:

Program’s LOR deadline
The date by which you’d like letter in the mail (It’s ok to say “The letter is due by December 15. If you could have it to them by November 30, I’d really appreciate it)
Delivery method requested by the school (Mail directly to the program, mail to you so you can include it in your application, or fill out online)
Any other special directions (Sign over the envelope’s back flap, fill out an extra form, etc.)

Be sure to include a self-addressed stamped envelope for any LOR that must be mailed. If there are extra forms, you can go ahead and fill in as much of the objective information (names, addresses, graduation years, etc) as you can so the LOR writer doesn’t have to waste time filling out the same information over and over.

Also, many programs (the majority, I believe) offer online delivery of letters of recommendation. Definitely take this route whenever you can! It’s easier for you, the school, and the LOR writers.

Good luck!


(This post was edited by bighark on Sep 27, 2007, 6:42 PM)


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Sep 27, 2007, 11:29 PM

Post #113 of 333 (6252 views)
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Re: [bighark] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

 
Say, bighark, thanks for the helpful tips.


Raignn



Sep 28, 2007, 9:34 AM

Post #114 of 333 (6230 views)
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Re: [bighark] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you very much for this response! I was actually wondering all the same questions and was going to pick the brain of one of my peers this weekend. Thanks for saving her the trouble!


jujubee


Sep 28, 2007, 12:12 PM

Post #115 of 333 (6213 views)
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Re: [Raignn] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

  
bighark,

Thanks so very much for your insight! If only everything in life can be answered with such swiftness and accuracy!

I definitely will take your advice on making the process as easy as possible for the people who will be writing my recommendations. Surely, the online forms will help tremendously with that as well.

jules


(This post was edited by jujubee on Sep 28, 2007, 12:20 PM)


forthedogs


Sep 28, 2007, 12:24 PM

Post #116 of 333 (6205 views)
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Re: [bighark] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

first post here, but i've been lurking and reading for a long time. i'm applying this winter for next fall too. just wanted to say: Thanks for this, Bighark! this is a great resource.


hamlet3145


Sep 28, 2007, 12:56 PM

Post #117 of 333 (6201 views)
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Re: [JWhelan] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

One thing that made my application process much MUCH easier was that Grinnell College (my undergrad institution) maintains a credential file for their graduates. Basically, you ask your recommenders to write one letter each which are then kept on file at the college. When you need them to be sent to a program you just let alumni services (or whoever maintains it) know and then mail then out for you. I was able to do this even for those programs which have their own recommendation forms. (I flat out asked Michigan if I could just send letters from my credential file and they said yes).

So it might be worth it to check and see if your undergrad institution offers such a service. Saved me so much time and I didn't feel like an ass for asking my profs to mail out 12 letters each.


forthedogs


Sep 29, 2007, 4:24 AM

Post #118 of 333 (6157 views)
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Re: [Hamlet3145] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

this sounds incredibly convenient! i wish my undergrad insitution had this. i'm just finishing up at stockholm university, though, they don't have this sort of system set up. it's not all that common that people go to grad school in the US, from here (this, I suspect, is changing with the bologna accords, though), so they haven't set up this kind of a great service. i doubt they will, to tell the truth. the student services office is pretty notorious for being difficult to work with. getting transcripts is also a pain.

i'll just have to ask my recommenders the old fashioned way.

J


Yugao


Oct 1, 2007, 10:48 PM

Post #119 of 333 (6090 views)
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Re: [JWhelan] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

I graduated from college over nine years ago, and though I had good relationships with my professors when I was a student, I am no longer in touch with any of them. One, who wrote me a recommendation letter for something else, has died. Others have moved, or seem to have disappeared into the ether. I am also in the very unusual situation of having attended a small art school that has now been taken over by a larger art school. So, in a sense, my alma mater doesn't exist at all anymore. There is not a support system for former students, credential file, or anything like that.

Additionally, I have changed a lot since my late teens/early twenties, and do not feel that my former professors could write a letter of recommendation that is reflective of who I am now. My writing has matured. I have matured. A letter detailing who I was at nineteen strikes me as rather useless.

So, instead of going the former professor route, I have asked people who have knowledge of my current work to recommend me. One recommender is a novelist who is very familiar with my work, and who I have completed two workshops with. My second recommender is the chair of the English department at our local community college. I have taken her creative writing courses, and also given presentations to her students. My third recommendation will probably come from an editor I have worked with for several years, or from a long-time workshop/critique partner.

Is this acceptable? I started filling out applications this weekend and noticed that most of the forms assumed that all of the recommendations would be coming from professors. A few of the sites were adamant that recommendations must come from professors, and one insisted that at least two of the recommendations must come from professors at the last college/university attended. I know the application forms are boilerplates intended for every type of grad student but these dictates are causing my Type-A craziness to flare up. Will my recommendations be trashed if they don't come from professors who haven't seen me in a decade? Should I be moving heaven and earth to contact old professors for out-of-date recommendations to fulfill the letter of the law?

(Please excuse my neurotic questions.)


(This post was edited by Yugao on Oct 1, 2007, 10:50 PM)


hamlet3145


Oct 1, 2007, 11:11 PM

Post #120 of 333 (6084 views)
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Re: [Yugao] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Is this acceptable?



Absolutely. Those sound like great recommendations.

(And for what it is worth, recs aren't that important to MFA applications).



bighark


Oct 2, 2007, 12:10 AM

Post #121 of 333 (6073 views)
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Re: [Yugao] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree. Those sound like damned fine letter writers to me.

Frankly, I think it would be even more odd if you were to get your LORs from former instructors. As someone who’s been out of school for a number of years, you’d think you’d have made new relationships and contacts.
And look at you—you have!
Good luck.


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Oct 2, 2007, 12:34 AM

Post #122 of 333 (6068 views)
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Re: [Yugao] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

Those are exactly the kind of recommendations I had (a couple of writers familiar with my work, an editor, and a recent workshop instructor). They worked just fine. Go for it.

Jeanne


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


HopperFu


Oct 2, 2007, 8:14 AM

Post #123 of 333 (6057 views)
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Re: [Yugao] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

My recs came from a novelist I did a one-week summer workshop with, and two writers, both of whom I met during one-week summer workshops.


Yugao


Oct 2, 2007, 8:16 AM

Post #124 of 333 (6056 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] A technical question regarding asking for recommendations [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for putting my mind at ease.


edwriter



Oct 4, 2007, 7:48 PM

Post #125 of 333 (5998 views)
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recommendations (resource) [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi, everyone:

I stumbled on an interesting resource today and thought it was worth posting about here.

It's a guide on "How to Get Great Recommendations," written by Vince Gotera, who teaches at the University of Northern Iowa (and edits poetry for North American Review). It's not specifically tailored to MFA programs, but given Gotera's background, I think it has lots of relevance. You'll find it here.

Best,
Erika D.


Quiet Americans: Stories
http://www.erikadreifus.com


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