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stephkarto1
Stephanie Kartalopoulos

Oct 12, 2007, 1:35 PM

Post #226 of 710 (11763 views)
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Re: [seemingmeaning] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

Yeah, I did. UF was my first choice over the whole 2 years I researched programs, it was the first application I sent out, and it was the only school that I *really* wanted to go to. It was also my only outright acceptance (I did get into George Mason from the waitlist, and for 3 of my schools I had to rescind my application due to some family emergencies that made it impossible for me to get my *entire* application in by a reasonable time). UF really turned out to be the right place for me--I learned so much, my experience was overwhelmingly rich (and not only with my writing and with the work I did in workshops and in my thesis with Sidney Wade--I had some really amazing literature-based academic experiences, found a scholarly love in comic books scholarship, and organized academic conferences ON TOP OF--the writing, literary translation, teaching, etc. etc. etc...). Also, having moved from Boston, it was VERY nice to pay so little rent as I did in Gainesville. I will say that it was sort of tough whittling down my financial obligations to live on the stipend UF offers, but it is do-able and I was able to do it (though because I am me--filled with strange anxiety and the desire to eat out every now and then and to get the better brand of olive oil (something my Greek relatives would be proud of), I did get some very part-time jobs. NONE of my writing, teaching, or academics suffered one bit, though).

I can never recommend UF enough to anyone. It's one fantastic program, and for all of the hokiness of "The Florida Gators" (and the school's colors--blue & orange) and how that fills the town of Gainesville, G'ville is actually a pretty cool little place to spend a couple of years. It's also a very reasonable place to be a poor grad student for a couple of years (ie the cultural offerings are limited enough that you don't feel like you're missing out, but there is just enough to, I guess, punctuate your experience with some non-creative writing-related fun).

To ANYONE who is sending applications to MFA programs: I more than highly recommend UF. Even if you don't think that you really want to go there. The application fee is incredibly small (something like $30), the application (from what I remember) does not require a statement of purpose, and the faculty will read your work very carefully and *discuss* it and whether they think that they have stuff to teach you and stuff to work on with you based on your talent and their collective talent. Whether you get in or not, your application will be very carefully and thoughtfully considered. And aside from the glory of an actual acceptance--that sort of means a lot. It's nice to know that someone cares...


seemingmeaning

e-mail user

Oct 12, 2007, 2:34 PM

Post #227 of 710 (11751 views)
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Re: [stephkarto1] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

That's great, stephkarto. Your post makes me really excited and positive enough that I've made the right decision in choosing UF. Hell, the more I hear about their program, the more I want to move UF as my top school for the MFA. And I didn't realize that the application fee was so cheap, too. Is it possible if you can send me a short e-mail--I have additional questions I would like to ask. Thanks!


stephkarto1
Stephanie Kartalopoulos

Oct 12, 2007, 2:41 PM

Post #228 of 710 (11750 views)
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Re: [seemingmeaning] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

Drop me an e-mail any time about UF. Seriously. I love that program, loved my experience, and would be happy to talk to anyone (especially on the poetry side of things). Not every part of my experience was perfect--there's a lot of stuff that sort of took me by surprise when I was there--but even the not-amazing stuff was fine. (Ultimately, EVERY school and EVERY town has good things and bad things about it. You just have to find a combination of good and bad that works for you. For me, that was Gainesville and UF...)

But drop me a line any time. The next week and a half is pretty tough for me, schedule-wise. I take the GREs very early tomorrow, I have extra office hours with my students all day Sunday, poetry group Sunday night, work at my office job on Monday, office hours Monday night, and then Tuesday I leave for almost a week to Las Vegas for my office job. I'm sort of busy, but never too busy to read an e-mail and send something back within a few days!


Scrat1


Oct 25, 2007, 5:37 PM

Post #229 of 710 (11671 views)
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Re: [stephkarto1] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

How many hours/days/months/years has everyone spent on their writing sample?


mpagan


Oct 25, 2007, 9:10 PM

Post #230 of 710 (11643 views)
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Re: [Scrat1] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

I was thinking about this recently,

For one of my stories I spent half the year - working maybe an hour or two - in between working full-time for 5 days a week- but I was able to workshop this story at a summer conference as well this past summer- so that was time well spent - then for the second story the process seem to fall into place in less time - maybe a month for getting the story down - then another month revising- but it was an easier go than the first. So I guess it just depends on the story your writing.


__________



Oct 25, 2007, 11:35 PM

Post #231 of 710 (11618 views)
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Re: [mpagan] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

Sub question: how much help (and what kind) did you receive?

Undergrad I spent two months on a first draft. Workshopped it twice. One class loved it, the second hated it. Tossed that one. Six months on what I feel is my best work. 15,000 words--too long. Tossed it. Trying a minimalist approach that'll jibe with page limits. Thinking of paying a famous editor to read, laugh at it.


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jacarty
Jessie Carty
e-mail user

Oct 26, 2007, 9:23 AM

Post #232 of 710 (11584 views)
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Re: [Scrat1] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

that is an interesting question.
i'm in poetry so it might be harder to guage.
i know i spent at least a month just choosing what i would send and then probably another month revising.

--Jessie


http://jessiecarty.com


Yugao


Oct 26, 2007, 11:09 AM

Post #233 of 710 (11564 views)
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Re: [Scrat1] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

Both of my stories were first drafted last summer (2006). I'm still working on both, though I spent much of my writing time over the last year working on a novel, so I haven't been steadily working at these particular stories. They've both been revised and workshopped several times, but I still don't find them satisfactory. One needs about 1-2 more drafts and I'll probably continue to work on the other until December.


mpagan


Oct 26, 2007, 12:42 PM

Post #234 of 710 (11549 views)
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Re: time spend on drafts [In reply to] Can't Post

This discussion of time spent on drafts can get tricky - since you can spend forever on one story and never really feel like it works - or like it one month - hate it another - at least that happens with me sometimes. Then other times you write something in a short amount of time and it somehow works.

But in the end - if you've put in the time - productive, moved the story forward and polished it till you can polish it no more - kind of time, then it will show. It may still need some work, but at least it will showcase some of your stregths in addition to your weaknesses. My samples right now, I think, show promise or at least what I am capable of doing. I like them some days, have issues with them the next, but I overall feel satisfied that I've given them all I got at this point, before applying to school.


maanprophet


Oct 29, 2007, 2:17 PM

Post #235 of 710 (11475 views)
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Re: [Scrat1] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

I wrote a story in two days that both my professors hailed as my best to date, and it was far cleaner than the second story that I'd worked and reworked over three months. Go figure.

On an unrelated but relevant note, I had my thesis advisor comb over the story with the perspective of the admissions board (He's on Michener's). It was a very strange and frustrating experience--the fact that a better story doesn't make a better admissions story is a difficult pill to swallow. You have to show them not that you can write, but that you can tell a story. Well, show a story. Hrmm. There's still a great deal of work to be done.


lostmyshape


Oct 29, 2007, 3:03 PM

Post #236 of 710 (11460 views)
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Re: [maanprophet] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I had my thesis advisor comb over the story with the perspective of the admissions board (He's on Michener's). It was a very strange and frustrating experience--the fact that a better story doesn't make a better admissions story is a difficult pill to swallow. You have to show them not that you can write, but that you can tell a story. Well, show a story.

interesting... can you be more specific as to what your advisor suggested? and what they might be looking for? and how a "better admissions story" isn't always a "better story?"


maanprophet


Oct 29, 2007, 9:04 PM

Post #237 of 710 (11409 views)
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Re: [lostmyshape] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, part of it is that I'm more on the experimental, post-modern edge of things. I ain't featuring in Glimmer Train any time soon.

But a lot of it was that these professors have to tear through a few hundred first-reads in a day or two. They quickly find either reasons to like you or reasons to discard you. More specifically, my advisor wanted to see action immediately, things happening, so he can get hooked in easier. Also, the first exchange of dialogue is extremely important because it shows you that you can write conversations.

The fact that nobody was talking till page six was a risk I'm taking. Does that make sense? Does a story without dialogue for six pages necessarily and always bad? Of course not. But for the purposes of the application, you want stories that are jump right into action you show and not tell. For someone like me, who doesn't focus on straightaway literary fiction, it's kind of tough to get used to/take, but after blowing last year's apps by mistakenly believing the schools would buy into my brand of super cool, I understand that I'm playing their game and applying to their schools.


Good luck to all.


__________



Oct 30, 2007, 12:06 AM

Post #238 of 710 (11389 views)
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Re: [maanprophet] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

Very interesting, very frightening.

There was a Michener Center story in the Best New American Writing (or Best of the Fiction Workshops) '98. Very pomo-ish, minimal dialogue, about people playing cards or something. It gave me hope. But I guess it's better to 'experiment' once you actually get in.

If I read one more thing like this, I'll explode. I mean, who cares if their eyes get tired? Who cares if they have to--gasp--read! for a week during their sinecures. Not me. We're paying them, for godsakes. Read those manuscripts, boys!

My new opening gambit:

Assistant DA Rick ManCusso could't talk with Manny "The Grease" Greasinski's knife wedged into his throat.
"I'm having trouble talking!" Assistant DA Rick ManCusso said, Manny "The Grease" Greasinski's knife wedged into his throat.


Is this what you want? Aaaaaaaahh!

I mean, gosh.


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Oct 30, 2007, 12:08 AM)


bennyprof


Oct 30, 2007, 11:28 AM

Post #239 of 710 (11346 views)
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Re: [maanprophet] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Well, part of it is that I'm more on the experimental, post-modern edge of things. I ain't featuring in Glimmer Train any time soon...

... For someone like me, who doesn't focus on straightaway literary fiction, it's kind of tough to get used to/take, but after blowing last year's apps by mistakenly believing the schools would buy into my brand of super cool, I understand that I'm playing their game and applying to their schools.



Can you expound on what you mean by "super cool?" Are you talking subject matter-wise, prose style or both? (One of my pieces is a little avante garde-ish, though not to Lynch/Barthelme proportions.)


mpagan


Oct 30, 2007, 12:41 PM

Post #240 of 710 (11331 views)
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Re: Writing samples [In reply to] Can't Post

The expectations of the people who will read your samples can only be guessed at with little certainty. In the end it will come down to subjective measures that one hopes is based on a readers ability to discern talent in work that is not yet fully formed. So if you write something that is "experimental" or "realist" the hope is that if you've written it well, or indicate in your work some talent a school feels it wants to work with, then you've done all you can do at this point.

I kind of bristle at these distinctions between, "experimental" and "realist"
when it comes to describing your work. As if somehow they are mutually exculsive - that a realist work can't display some experimental construction, or an experimental piece is not allowed to reflect the real world in some poignant way. Quality fiction has a way of making itself known no matter what guise it wears. I'd concentrate on writing good work and sending in samples that reflect you labors. If that is not enough to get you into a school then keep working and doing what you got to do. But don't hitch your wagon to what you "think" schools want and styles of writing that are in or out of favor for one reason or another.
Write what you got to write and work at it.


maanprophet


Oct 30, 2007, 2:26 PM

Post #241 of 710 (11313 views)
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Re: [bennyprof] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, my best piece last year was a novel excerpt. Instead of cutting the piece to its most coherent short story form, I kept in all the funky things I love about my novel: very poetic experimental sections, posthumous letters, and the like.

Taken in context, I've gotten great feedback about those devices. In a MFA application, it's a very, very dumb idea. I thought the form of my novel was so badass and was sure they'd see it too. The story inside the excerpt is, I still feel, really, really good. This may sound obvious or trite but you're much more likely to wow them with your ability to nail the basics of storytelling then with the flash of your style and diction. They want to care about the story, not think it's "super-cool." This is something I'm still struggling with, and why I question my maturity in reapplying this year.

Good luck again.


aiyamei

e-mail user

Oct 30, 2007, 3:16 PM

Post #242 of 710 (11303 views)
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Re: [maanprophet] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

Maanprophet, I respect what you're trying to do, but I would also caution you not to be too quick to bow. Think about what you're talking about -- it's not the right way to make a German chocolate cake or calibrate your sprinkler system, it's not even the right way to play a violin, which, while an art, arguably still has more of a right and wrong to it. You're talking about fiction. Last time I checked, while there is a right way to make yourself an easy-read for a mass audience, there's still no "right" way to put together a masterpiece. I completely understand that you're just talking about what will get you past the gatekeepers at these schools, and it makes sense that compromises would have to be made, but you sound dangerously close to internalizing the presumed values of these schools. That is problematic for you, but also for our literary culture at large, which doesn't need any more conformists than it already has. Remember -- an artist must be fierce, independent, wise. If you are giving up a great deal of what you love in order to play ball with these schools, I say to hell with 'em.


maanprophet


Oct 30, 2007, 10:35 PM

Post #243 of 710 (11252 views)
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Re: [aiyamei] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for you concern, and I'm all about your ideals. And I'd love to think of the MFA as being just about art and artists, but unfortunately I feel a lot more goes into it.

Look, my writing is my writing. I write because that's the closest I get to exploring who/what/why I am. I'm not concerned about that. But I think it's important to realize that the application and the writing sample are a picture of who you are and what you can do. Oftentimes what these schools want consists of specific things (and excludes other things). If I want to attend these schools, I need to take this into account. The thing is I feel like I could really benefit from getting an MFA. While some people need it to experiment, someone like me needs to use it to really focus.

I write for myself and even if I never got published again I'd write until I die. That's a part of me. But I recognize that if I want to grow as a writer, and work in their schools, I need to show them that I have skills worth them improving. Is this selling out? Playing the game? I don't know. I'm just looking for time to write.


__________



Oct 31, 2007, 1:35 AM

Post #244 of 710 (11232 views)
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Re: [maanprophet] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

Heck, I'd like to hear more about what your teacher said.

I know I'm cynical, but my perspective is closer to Brenden Fraser's in School Ties: give 'em what they want (brevity, dialogue in the first scene), then take what you need (time, money) without compromising your values. Better to stand up later and tell 'em you're really Jewish/postmodern.

The standard argument against this is that you'll fare better at whatever tiny school has the chance to recognize your crappy genius, or that you're sellling out your values. But crap, I say. I think we'll do better with a big wad of cash. My application story is just that -- an application story, designed to show that I understand certain things. It is separate from my 'real' work.

This is like the zillionth mention of poor tired administrators forced to read a hundred stories. It would be really fun to make a list. Number one: dialogue up front. Hook me in! Show me you can write a conversation!


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mpagan


Oct 31, 2007, 12:39 PM

Post #245 of 710 (11191 views)
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Re: [maanprophet] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't have a crystal ball or anything, so if that "strategy" works for you - then good for you.

But if you're going to tailor your writing to some perceived idea of what MFA programs want to see, because you want to go to school so bad, what makes you think you'll pull of that kind of writing. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but do you think it's easier than your "true" work? Also, is the kind of work you truly love doing so out there that you think no school will be able to understand and appreciate it? I'm sure there is a genre for the type of work you do, how does it compare? It doesn't have to be on the same level, but if it mirrors some of the quality and contains some of the craft then I say send the work you are doing in - instead of an imitation of what you think MFA programs want to see.

Thats just my pie-in-the-sky view I guess.


MissEsquire



Oct 31, 2007, 1:59 PM

Post #246 of 710 (11172 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I know I'm cynical, but my perspective is closer to Brenden Fraser's in School Ties: give 'em what they want (brevity, dialogue in the first scene), then take what you need (time, money) without compromising your values. Better to stand up later and tell 'em you're really Jewish/postmodern.

The standard argument against this is that you'll fare better at whatever tiny school has the chance to recognize your crappy genius, or that you're sellling out your values. But crap, I say. I think we'll do better with a big wad of cash. My application story is just that -- an application story, designed to show that I understand certain things. It is separate from my 'real' work.


I agree that everyone would do better with a big wad of cash (never was a big fan of School Ties, but maybe that's because Brendan Fraser reminds me of Moose from Archie), but what kind of guidance are you going to receive in the actual program if you duped the admissions board into accepting you? The ideal situation here is that your program of choice accepts you for your Jewishness/po-mo-ness (and who says po-mo writing can't also have brevity?) If not, wouldn't it be better to be in a place that nurtures your style rather than end up in Extremely Well-Funded Workshop #1, only to receive lame feedback from your peers and teachers? Maybe I'm just misunderstanding your comment here and you actually did mean that you're modifying the order of your story rather than throwing the admissions board something that doesn't represent you at all. The difference between being Jewish and being po-mo is that you can hide being Jewish.


mingram
Mike Ingram

Oct 31, 2007, 6:32 PM

Post #247 of 710 (11131 views)
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Re: [MissEsquire] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

This discussion reminds me of my freshmen comp. students, who sometimes claim their papers aren't good because the assignments are too boring, and are hemming in their creativity. "I was doing way more creative stuff in high school, so this stuff's just, like, too simple for me." To which I always respond: "Great, it should be really easy for you to write an A paper, then."

It's hard to write a straightforward, scene-driven realist story that grabs the reader's attention and holds it until the end. If you can do that -- whether you're "faking" it or not -- you're a really talented writer.

But if you're thinking about your own writing as a by-the-numbers exercise, I'll guarantee you it'll suck. Rule number one -- which should be obvious but for some reason rarely is -- if you're bored by what you're writing, people will be bored by reading it.


mrshankly


Oct 31, 2007, 11:45 PM

Post #248 of 710 (11096 views)
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Re: [mingram] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

The notion of an admissions board feeling duped by a disparity between your application submission and the work you end up doing while in the program is, quite frankly, ridiculous. If your application contains an excellent realistic story that gets you admitted to Prestigious Program X and then, during your first semester at PP X, you realize that you're actually into fragmentary pomo narratives and you start writing really excellent fragmentary pomo stories, NOBODY is going to give a shit. Your instructors, if they're good, will want to see you grow as a writer, regardless of the "school" your fiction belongs to. Your peers will have no idea that you're a lapsed Alice Munro acolyte. And regardless of where you go, and what style of fiction you write, you will have people in your workshops who "get" what you're trying to do, and people who don't.

I write realistic stories. I hate 99% of pomo narratives. In each of my workshops (I went to NYU) there were people doing realism, and people writing Donald Barthelme-esque stories. Some of the best critiques I got for my work came from people doing pomo stuff, and some of the best commentary and analysis for the Barthelme folk often came from people doing realism. Thinking "I write experimental stuff so I have to go to Brown" is typical, but I don't know if it's the best way to approach the application process. (Which is not to dissuade anyone from applying to Brown--it's obviously a top program.) If you're in any one of the top 30 or 40 programs, you're likely to be surrounded by people who have read a lot, and are well-versed in any narrative style you can think of. Just because somebody works primarily in style y doesn't mean s/he isn't qualified to analyze a story written in style z.

With that in mind, apply with the story you're most enthusiastic about, not with the one you think the admissions board will appreciate the most. If you've written some insane pomo fugue that you think kicks ass, send it. Don't play it safe with the realism you're kind of lukewarm about.

My 2 cents.


__________



Nov 1, 2007, 6:15 AM

Post #249 of 710 (11071 views)
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Re: [mrshankly] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post

I probably overstated my case. Think of it this way: Barthelme wrote some lengthy, convoluted pieces with little or no dialogue, no 'scenes'. He also wrote some snappy little scene-driven numbers that were no less weird. (Think "Sentence" vs. "City of Churches").

It doesn't have to be a matter of realism. You can write in different modes and still sound like 'you'.

Plus I hate to say it, but my own experience has matched up with these tales of bleary-eyed administrators. I was an editor of a tiny, tiny local journal once, for about five minutes. The first stories I pulled had a lot of white space and tended to read almost like screenplays. I often look for the same thing late at night when I'm reading a new journal.

It gets to me, it gets to me....

And no lo to this, by the way:

It's hard to write a straightforward, scene-driven realist story that grabs the reader's attention and holds it until the end. If you can do that -- whether you're "faking" it or not -- you're a really talented writer.

It's hard to write a good story, period. And for me, trying new things has really paid off. I don't think a more practical approach to applications is necessarily faking it.



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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Nov 1, 2007, 6:19 AM)


MissEsquire



Nov 1, 2007, 10:28 AM

Post #250 of 710 (11041 views)
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Re: [mrshankly] reapplying [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
The notion of an admissions board feeling duped by a disparity between your application submission and the work you end up doing while in the program is, quite frankly, ridiculous.


Yes, you're right. My choice of words was bad there. What I was trying to say is that I don't understand why you wouldn't put your best work forward - whatever it is - and leave the rest to...whatever forces are at work in making selections. If it's po-mo and it's good, it's good. If it's a traditional narrative and it keeps people reading, that's good, too. If your particular brand of cool doesn't appeal to the schools you've applied to, then maybe it's time to try something different. But hedging bets seems impossible in the application process. It makes me go crosseyed just thinking about it.

Of course, this is assuming that your best work is your po-mo work, which leads back to my confusion as to whether we're talking about writing specifically for an admissions board, or just choosing less-"risky" stories that you're still confident with.


(This post was edited by MissEsquire on Nov 1, 2007, 10:31 AM)

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