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kbritten

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Jun 18, 2010, 12:05 PM

Post #851 of 1018 (11781 views)
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     Re: [elissa] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

I'd love to hear about VCU! I intended on applying there last year, but for whatever reason didn't. Then, just a few months ago, I got a "we loved your story, but..." response from Blackbird with a story that was part of my application last season (grrr...). But, I am definitely applying this year. I've heard good things about Richmond, the program is great, decent funding. It's a lower admit, but it shouldn't be. I'm not much of a hippie myself, by the way, but I was born in the San Fran area, so I'm used to 'em :D

How much of a commuter school is VCU? Is housing near campus cheap? What's the overall vibe about the school? Do people like it there?

Do you know anything about the creative writing program itself?


Peaquah

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Jun 18, 2010, 12:12 PM

Post #852 of 1018 (11779 views)
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     Re: [elissa] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

Thanks for the Ann Arbor recommendations! Yeah, I will have to get myself to a football game or two I suppose - I'll be heading out there the end of August. Charles Baxter teachers at Minnesota I believe, but someone correct me on that if it's not right.

Oh yeah, re: andsuddenly - the University of Minnesota is a good program.


kbritten

e-mail user

Jun 18, 2010, 12:25 PM

Post #853 of 1018 (11778 views)
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     Re: [Peaquah] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

Hi Peaquah!!

I'll second the Minnesota comment. That program is off the heezy. I'd totally apply there if it weren't so friggin' cold there! Going from a 107 heat index here in FL, to a -40 wind chill is not what I call a party...


andsuddenly


Jun 18, 2010, 1:00 PM

Post #854 of 1018 (11771 views)
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     Re: [kbritten] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

i love the cold! i'll look into it. :D thanks for the suggestion!


sports_2422


Jun 19, 2010, 3:33 PM

Post #855 of 1018 (11657 views)
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     Re: [Peaquah] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

Baxter, yes, teaches at the U of Minnesota. If you want to go to the U of M for graduate studies get ready to read Baxter's Burning Down the House.


sports_2422


Jun 19, 2010, 3:53 PM

Post #856 of 1018 (11655 views)
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     Re: [sports_2422] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

I have a question for all of you. I am interested in applying to MFA Creative Writing programs this upcoming year. However, I am wondering how many schools an MFA applicant generally applies to. I only ask because I don't want to upset my professors (i.e. the persons writing my letters of recommendations). Presently I have narrowed my search down to seven schools, based primarily on funding (listed below). I plan on familiarizing myself with the writing styles of the faculty members of each school, but I am not at that stage yet. Note: I would like to take a flier at Iowa's workshop but I crossed it off my list due to, well, you know...the impossible odds.

1. University of Minnesota
2. Mankato State University
3. University of Montana
4. Minnesota State University-Morehead
5. University of Wyoming
6. Bowling Green State University
7. Iowa State University

So, is seven schools too much? Is seven schools too narrowly focused?

Also, is this a decent list of top, middle-tier, and lower-tier schools? Or should I look to add one more lower-tier school like the University of Morehead?

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

AJ


Peaquah

e-mail user

Jun 19, 2010, 4:23 PM

Post #857 of 1018 (11647 views)
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     Re: [sports_2422] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

Re: Sports - The general advice seems to be to apply to between 10-12 programs, but that depends on your specific needs and goals. If you don't mind applying more than once, you could keep the list at 7. Recommenders familiar with the subjectivity of writing programs likely won't feel put out until you get into the 15-20 letter range.

I also wouldn't cross Iowa off your list just because of the horrible odds. Statistically speaking, with Iowa's large class size it's easier to get into than some of the other programs. Besides, there are people every year to get into Iowa and nowhere else, or get in when they thought they didn't have a chance - you could be that person.

What are your overall goals? Funding? Location? Reputation?


kbritten

e-mail user

Jun 19, 2010, 4:31 PM

Post #858 of 1018 (11646 views)
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     Re: [sports_2422] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

The number of schools recommended by the MFA Handbook and others is 10-12, more if you can afford it/want to. The reason is that this process is so. ridiculously. subjective. it's not even funny... Seriously though, there have been people accepted to Iowa and rejected from every other school they applied to. I've heard of applicants with extensive publishing credits that get rejected outwright. It doesn't matter what age you are or what experience you bring to the table. At the end of the day, someone either likes what you write and wants to work with you, or doesn't. Who knows who that someone is, if anyone? My recommendation is to pick schools based on faculty, location, funding *very important*, courseload (workshop heavy vs. lit heavy), and duration (2 or 3 years). Apply to as many as you can, to schools you could legitimately see yourself going to.

You also mentioned ridiculous odds: I will say that statistically, Iowa is actually not a horrible longshot when compared to others like Vanderbilt, Cornell, and U Texas. Not saying you have to apply there, but it's only a little bit harder to get into than some of the schools on your list. But, these odds are pretty daunting, and explain why it is usually recommended to apply to a variety of schools.

This website should give you the information you need for research.

I'm so excited to see some new faces that will be joining me for this next year of applying!!


kbritten

e-mail user

Jun 19, 2010, 4:32 PM

Post #859 of 1018 (11645 views)
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     Re: [kbritten] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

Ah, Peaquah, you beat me to it! :P


sports_2422


Jun 19, 2010, 4:45 PM

Post #860 of 1018 (11643 views)
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     Re: [kbritten] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

Thanks for all the advice everybody. I do appreciate it.


kbritten

e-mail user

Jun 19, 2010, 4:58 PM

Post #861 of 1018 (11640 views)
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     Re: [sports_2422] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

Hrm, I thought I was being super-cool by embedding those links, but I have shown myself to be inept!! Go to: http://sethabramson.blogspot.com/ scroll down, and then click on the links on the right side of the page (they have program rankings, selectivity rankings, funding rankings, etc). Sorry, heh.


Peaquah

e-mail user

Jun 19, 2010, 6:04 PM

Post #862 of 1018 (11627 views)
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     Re: [sports_2422] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

Ah kbritten - hello again old friend.

A few more thoughts on reputation/faculty/location/funding. Were I to do this all over again I would rank funding first, followed only by location. I hadn't realized what a factor location would be for me until I visited my school and realized I was *so glad* that I didn't get into Florida. Without a doubt I would suggest making your list ranking funding as #1, but if it's a toss-up after that I would weight location (by a landslide) over faculty. Faculty (especially in the CW field) have a habit of going on sabbatical or taking off a semester from teaching, and there's really no way to know if you'll get to work with your "dream teacher."


sports_2422


Jun 19, 2010, 6:32 PM

Post #863 of 1018 (11623 views)
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     Re: [Peaquah] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

I agree. Since I live in Minnesota, I don't want to go too far away from the midwest. That is why most of my potential schools--listed previously--are located in the midwest. Then I looked at funding because I am not going to enter into an MFA program only to sink into debt. From what I know right now I believe most of my listed schools are decent in regards to their funding incoming students with assistantships and stipends.


Peaquah

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Jun 19, 2010, 6:36 PM

Post #864 of 1018 (11621 views)
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     Re: [sports_2422] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

Good for you. If you're in poetry I would suggest the University of Wisconsin this year. Also Michigan? Illinois? Syracuse?


sports_2422


Jun 19, 2010, 7:16 PM

Post #865 of 1018 (11617 views)
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     Re: [Peaquah] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

No, I am not a poetry guy. I write Creative Nonfiction more than anything else. But, I would like to comment briefly on the University of Wisconsin-Madison's MFA program. I believe their "every other year" admissions into fiction and poetry is the dumbest thing in the world. I suppose that just gives me, as I am a Minnesotan, one more reason to despise Wisconsin. Well, I suppose I shouldn't say that because I do go to school at River Falls. Oh well.

I might look at Illinois. It is more expensive, though, to live out in Illinois compared to, for instance several other midwest states. Michigan would be interesting, but if I am going to take a once-in-a-million shot, I think I will apply the Iowa Nonfiction workshop. Then again, I do think too much emphasis is put on rankings. After all, several students first get published not because of what they write, but rather because of the person(s) that their professor(s) knows at a literary magazine.


kbritten

e-mail user

Jun 19, 2010, 8:53 PM

Post #866 of 1018 (11605 views)
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     Re: [sports_2422] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

Yeah, I didn't think sports_2422 was a poetry guy, haha. Sports and poetry don't go together usually :P I know funding's not amazing, but have you considered Notre Dame? Ohio State is also a fantastic program, but I don't know if they have a creative non-fiction program. I think they do.

On a side note, since I have all of you Mid-Westerners in one spot, how bad is the weather up there? I really wanted to apply to Minnesota last year and didn't because of the weather. If I'm willing to live in South Bend or Ann Arbor, should I give Minnesota a chance? I know that you get "used to it," (yeah, they say that about Florida heat, too), but how does one survive a -40 degree wind chill? That's like Arctic tundra stuff!


andsuddenly


Jun 19, 2010, 8:55 PM

Post #867 of 1018 (11604 views)
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     Re: [sports_2422] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

it drives me crazy that wisconsin does that! i think if i don't get in anywhere this year i'll apply there next year, though. lorrie moore is enough of a reason for me to apply somewhere, haha.


Peaquah

e-mail user

Jun 20, 2010, 12:23 AM

Post #868 of 1018 (11592 views)
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     Re: [kbritten] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

Re: Kbritten and weather - I swear it's not that bad. I was raised in Alaska, then Montana, and I've never had frost bite or lost any appendages to the elements. You get used to dressing for the weather - coats, hats, gloves, scarves, boots. And you simply learn to plan your life a little more. For instance, in the winter I always drive around with jumper cables, a jug of water, and a sleeping bag in the back of the car. Winter's not just something to get through, it's a very cozy time. You hibernate indoors, drink lots of tea, write, and you're not constantly feeling the pull to get outside and bask in the sun. Plus, you appreciate spring and summer in a whole new way.

On a completely separate note, people keep saying they're taking a "one in a million shot" applying to top programs - while that's sort of true, it's not like rolling the dice. Applying to one "one-shot" program versus applying to five doesn't give you any more of a chance of getting into the single one you applied to. Does that make any sense? Choosing to apply only to Iowa or Irvine or Wisconsin as the "one-shot" program just means that you might have missed your audience at another school. I'm not trying to pick on anyone, I'm just saying that labeling schools as a "one in a million" spot and only applying to one or two isn't really representative. I mean, choose schools based on funding and location and all that jazz, but don't talk yourself out of applying to programs that you really like because you think you don't have a shot.


Peaquah

e-mail user

Jun 20, 2010, 12:26 AM

Post #869 of 1018 (11591 views)
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     Re: [Peaquah] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

Whoops - ha. I meant "you simply learn to live your life a little more CAREFULLY." Not trying to say that anyone lives less of a life in a warmer climate.


sports_2422


Jun 20, 2010, 2:47 AM

Post #870 of 1018 (11570 views)
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     Re: [Peaquah] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

You're right Peaquah. I didn't intend my "once-in-a-million" idiom to come across literally. Perhaps I should have been more careful with my phrasing. Nonetheless, has anyone visited the Iowa workshop website? For such a respected program, their website, I think, is quite dissapointing. More to the point, poorly written and poorly constructed MFA websites, which are a dime a dozen, just baffle me. One would think that MFA programs would take more pride in clarity. Sometimes when I visit MFA websites, as in the Iowa website, I feel like I am turning in circles. Hmm, that sounds like song. Ahha, I remember. From now on, I am going to listen to "Windmills of Your Mind" when I look at schools. That way I won't feel alone when I end up on the page that I had previously wanted to escape.

Here's a serious point though: On Seth Abramson's blog--from Peaquah's link--it is made clear that colleges from within Harvard University, on average, hold a higher acceptance rate than several MFA programs. Needless to say, once I scanned the statistics my eyebrows raised as my eyes almost popped out. That just goes to show you, though, that Creative Writing is not highly valued in America.


sports_2422


Jun 20, 2010, 3:14 AM

Post #871 of 1018 (11565 views)
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     Re: [kbritten] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

Respone to KBritten: I cannot speak for North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, or Iowa, but weather in Minnesota and Wisconsin is not too awful. However, weather tends to get worse in the northern parts of Minnesota. On a side note, I wish Winona State University in Minnesota had an MFA program. It is very beautiful down there. Too bad.

Nonetheless, if you have a vehicle, you should also realize that really cold weather takes a toll on your car. Of course that is probably not a serious concern, but I am so happy that I have a relatively new car. I grew so tired of driving my 93' Grand-Am. In fact, I remember one time that my car couldn't even make it up a hill during a snowfall. Argh! So if you enroll into a school in a state that typically has poor weather, I would suggest trying to scrap together enough cash to get a decent vehicle. Then again, if you end up living within walking distance from campus, it doesn't really matter.

If you're considering the University of Minnesota, though, I would consider you to visit the campus at some point. I generally think visiting campuses is pointless at this stage in our lives, but the U of M is gigantic. Now that I have spent time at both the University of Minnesota and the University of River Falls, I believe that the former feels more like a city rather than a campus. But one a selfish note, River Falls undergraduate English program destroys the University of Minnesota's English program in every aspect--more challenging, more rigorous, better professors, more caring program, less politics, etc.


umass76


Jun 20, 2010, 1:55 PM

Post #872 of 1018 (11432 views)
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     Re: [In reply to]  

Hi all,

Just wanted to chime in briefly on the question of how many programs to apply to. Tom's now oft-quoted advice, i.e. that one should apply to "10 to 12 programs," was first published in 2005 (in the first edition of The Creative Writing MFA Handbook) and then (IMHO by mistake, not with particular intentionality) was republished by Tom without change in 2008 (in the second edition). I know Tom from having worked with him on the Handbook, and so I know both that his advice regarding "10 to 12 programs" was developed in 2004 or earlier, i.e. it pre-dated by years all the research that has now been done on how difficult it is to gain admission to an MFA program, and that he probably would give different advice now knowing what we know about program selectivity. I know, for instance, both from conversations with him and from things he actually wrote in the second edition of the Handbook, that his intent was to put in my hands (and in the 1/4th of the book I authored) most if not all of the research regarding individual programs and also, particularly, their selectivity. And my advice since 2007-8 has been that if one plans on applying to a handful or more of the top programs, one needs to be applying to 12 to 15 programs in total. The "10 to 12 program" advice only holds true, now, for those with lists where half or more of the list is comprised of programs not ranked in the top 50 (and in fact there are 6 to 8 Honorable Mention programs in the 2011 rankings that I would also put in that broadly-defined "top 50" category). I recognize -- believe me, as someone who's gone through three separate graduate admissions processes (law, doctoral, and MFA), I recognize -- that this sounds like an insane number of programs to apply to. And I will say that there's an additional caveat I always add to this advice, which is that it only applies to individuals who are dead-set on being admitted in their first year of application. Many folks realize, now, that the MFA is not a time-sensitive degree, that the average starting age is around 26.7 or so (and about ten years higher for low-residency programs), and so many will apply in successive years and will simply wait until they get into one of their "dream" schools. And that strategy is totally okay! But for those insistent on successfully getting through the MFA-application gauntlet the first time around, "10 to 12 programs," unless one's list is very carefully calibrated, is just not going to be a very good guideline. One reason I've been working directly with applicants on application lists for several years now is that this simply isn't like law school (or any professional school) applications: application strategy is absolutely vital, and understanding how the application process works (the "culture" of the MFA application process) is likewise critical, not least of which is due to the horrid state of MFA websites that the OP mentioned.

I also wanted to echo the OP who said that, after Funding, Location is far more important than Faculty. It is. By a lot. And polling suggests most MFA applicants agree with that assessment. One can either be inspired to write or depressed by one's environment, and it makes all the difference to one's MFA experience which; in contrast, beyond the reasons provided by the OP (sabbatical, retirement, job-switch, &c) for why you might never end up working with the faculty member you most adore, there's the simple fact that you might find out your favorite writer is a terrible teacher or -- just as common if not more so, as we're largely speaking of artists, here -- a terrible human being. Or (perhaps worst of all) they may just not dig your work, and will be more interested in mentoring other students (meanwhile, a faculty member you never gave a second thought to might turn out to be the person who championed your work during the admissions process and most wanted to work with you!). But if you end up having your dreams of X mentor getting popped, then suddenly you ask yourself, why am I living in ____________, again? Just to study with this douchebag? Or this terrible teacher? Oh hell no. You don't want to be that person, you don't want to be in that situation, so figure out who'll fund you, then where you'll be happy, then (IMHO) which cohort is the strongest -- as partly measured by selectivity -- because you'll be spending 99% of your time with your cohort or alone, not with faculty, and then, only then, and perhaps not even then (there are still other more important considerations, IMHO), look at faculty.

As to Wisconsin-Madison, I'll just say that I'm a lifelong New Englander, who never wanted to live anywhere but New England, and Madison, Wisconsin is so far and away the most wonderful place I've ever lived (and that includes Cambridge, MA, among many other places, including Iowa City, IA) that it's not even funny. I don't attend the UW MFA as an MFA student, but man, if I were a poet apply to programs today it would certainly be on my list of 12 to 15 programs. As would, FWIW, Minnesota -- Minneapolis is an amazing place to be a writer these days.

Cheers, all,

Seth Abramson


elissa
Elissa Field


Jun 20, 2010, 5:35 PM

Post #873 of 1018 (11395 views)
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     Re: [kbritten] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

kbritten, are you in Florida, too? I've been in Palm Beach Co about 17 years; before that, northern VA, Charlotte NC, Atlanta, and a childhood in Michigan. It's worth knowing how much weather affects you, personally. Personally, I have written better in FL than in other places; it's not just weather, but it is true that certain settings may have a greater or lesser influence on you. In Michigan, a beautiful snowy day was gorgeous; on the other hand, the state travel dept surely doesn't brag about its extended doldrums months, where the sky is a continual, spirit draining grey. I love Mich, but my facebook friends who are still there post about the grey, the slush, the difficulty driving, delays in traffic, and then the icy rain continually throughout the winter (as do my local friends continually complain about our humidity). It does seem climate/setting are a valid question to include in considering programs. If you're going to be short on cash, will it be too much of a burden to have a second wardrobe? Or, if in a really dynamic place, will all that's going on around you be too much of a distraction? Will the mountains, desert, beach, whatever be an inspiration -- for the good or as a distraction to your work? I'm sure that's all unique for each of us. Personally, at least when I went about this search the first time I was looking into it (nearly 10 years younger), I leaned toward low res programs because I found that I became too chameleon-like when submerged in a program, and it distracted me from my own voice.


http://elissafield.wordpress.com/
http://www.facebook.com/...p?id=100001772022683


kbritten

e-mail user

Jun 20, 2010, 9:37 PM

Post #874 of 1018 (11365 views)
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     Re: [elissa] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

I am in Florida! Central FL (Lakeland, to be exact, about thirty minutes between Tampa and Orlando). I am actually in St. Augustine right now, which I adore and could live in forever. It's like Spain, but you don't need a passport (although, I've never been to Spain, so can't really qualify that statement :D). It's very mild here and very hot inland, where I live.

It's funny, because I'm a big fan of gray, rainy days. Maybe it's because I've lived in sunny climates my whole life, but it was gray and stormy the other day, and I felt all warm and fuzzy inside. I'm totally not a "goth" person either, I just think weather like that is reflective. I've never lived where it snows though (ever, it's never snowed and stuck where I lived). So, I don't know whether I'll like it or hate it. But I do like cold, just not frostbite cold. More like Northern CA, Mid-South cold...

I just might put Minnesota on my list. I've also heard that Minn/St. Paul is awesome, and if the weather isn't so horrible, I could live in a city like that for a long time. Every time I add it to my list, though, I literally picture myself like orphan Annie shivering in the cold, pale-faced with nothing but a blanket and some hole-filled gloves on. I don't know why.


elissa
Elissa Field


Jun 20, 2010, 10:26 PM

Post #875 of 1018 (11355 views)
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     Re: [kbritten] Choosing an MFA Program (2009) (2010) (2011) [In reply to]  

Ah yes, one of my best girlfriends is a Lakeland native. I love St Augustine -- I wrote a fun historical piece on the alligator farm for a travel writing assignment a couple years ago . Hope you had fun!

I hear you about grey sometimes being a relief. That's the one thing people don't get about living in fine-weather places -- the constant sun can be exhausting, too. A rainy day is like a day off. (Although Michigan's grey is something else -- not that peaceful rainy day gray, more like insistent smog. Sorry Mich.)

Were you the one asking about VA Commonwealth? I have it flagged I owe someone an answer about it. One thing I like about VCU is that it is moderate (changing) weather, and a location with enough activity to be stimulating without taking one over. It's within reach of DC and NYC for all out culture and has some of its own, but with room for one's spirit to be reflective.


http://elissafield.wordpress.com/
http://www.facebook.com/...p?id=100001772022683

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