Nov 29, 2014, 8:53 PM
Post #170 of 174
So I'm struggling to find the programs that are both "right" for me and "plausible" for me and I'm becoming anxious as application due dates draw closer.
Re: [motet] Choosing an MFA Program (2013 - 2014)
[In reply to]
I want to write fiction. I've spent thirteen years letting life's endless little complications and disappointments and compromises get in my way. I've let everyone else push me around and decide what I should do with my life and I'm sick of making everyone else happy. I know an MFA won't assure me riches, and possibly not even better job prospects. Though those things would be nice, I don't need them, I just want two or more years during which time the focal point of my life, and my primary responsibility is to write.
Here's my conundrum. I was not a stellar student when I got my undergraduate degree in English. I was mired in such severe poverty I was trying to go to school from friends' couches, sometimes without shoes, frequently without food, always without the textbooks. The middle two years of my undergraduate experience were horrible. Poverty and depression and drink all ended up part of a self-perpetuating cycle and my transcript reflects this. I took almost two years off, waited until I was old enough for Uncle Sam to step in where my family wouldn't, and with a modicum of financial aid I went back and made straight A's my last two semesters. I've been trying to do professional writing as a free lancer for a few years since then and it's awful-- pushy and unreliable business owners asking me to write pamphlets or training manuals and then never paying me when they can't get their shit together. So it's time. I want to just go ahead and give writing a real shot, in a real community with committed time and financial support of a school, and the guidance and input of other writers.
So here are the facts:
GPA: 2.52 overall, 2.92 major
GRE: 54th percentile Math (No one cares, right?), 99th percentile Verbal, 99th percentile Essays
Recommendations: I have glowing recommendations from the most important faculty at my school.
Clubs, Honors, Organizations: None... I went to an art and engineering school and never really found a community of other literary types I found interesting or engaging at all.
Portfolio: I have three half-finished novels that are pretty terrible and then 9 short stories with which I'm quite happy that mostly range from 25 pages a piece to 90 or more.
Publications: None... I thought the whole point of an MFA was to learn how to publish... Isn't it a Catch-22 to expect us to have published already when we're applying? If I was already good at churning out finished work and knowing agents and publishers, I wouldn't be applying, would I?
So here is my problem. I have a great deal of confidence in my writing samples, but I know I won't get into the top tier programs because of my grades. How then, do I find the middle tier schools that are right for me?
When I've asked others for advice I've gotten the advice that is applicable for 4.0 students at Columbia who interned at the New Yorker for a year. Yes I know Iowa is great, but I feel as though it's not an option for someone who looks as lackluster on paper as I do.
Others, when giving me advice, have told me to look at my favorite authors, and see where they're teaching. Most of them are dead. Some are so successful they don't teach anymore. Some are professor Emeritus somewhere to just be a name on a masthead and they basically never actually teach. But for the most part, the contemporary authors I read are, again, at schools so prestigious I feel as though I have little chance of being accepted.
So that's where I need help. What are the middle tier schools that have teaching assistantships, and how do I find them? It's quite easy to find a list of the top schools in the country, but where are the unsung heroes of the Masters of Fine Art? If I could find that list I'd be more than happy to cull through it, read up on the faculty, look at their work, contact some of the current students, decide if somewhere is too remote or expensive.
Please, any help would be much appreciated.