Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Letters of Recommendation and Writers Conferences

Studying Sleepaway Camp asks:

Been faithfully reading your blog. I'm thinking of applying to creative writing "summer camp" this summer and was seeking your advice.

--Would it be reasonable to ask the faculty whom you worked with you later on to write a letter of recommendation? Is it hard to stay in touch with them? If they were also faculty member at a place where you wanted to apply for an MFA, would that help your chances of getting in? (Though I know it's the writing sample that counts the most). Does it matter at all, actually, whether your letter of rec writers are known to the school you apply to?

--What have you heard about Napa Valley vs. Squaw Valley writer's conferences? From the websites, I can see it's a matter of size. What else have you heard?

SSC, I don't know much about those conferences, except that a friend of mine teaches at Squaw Valley, and I think highly of him as a teacher and person. Maybe other readers have some experiences with these summer programs? Write to us in the comments section.

As far as letters of recommendation: It's appropriate to ask anyone who knows your writing and knows you as a dependable person. Don't worry about big names etc. Get people who can speak to your strengths.

My main advice on your question: Ask when you still know the person. In other words, if you're going to ask someone at the conference, ask them on the last day or so. Then send them the material via email or post as soon as you get back. Get that recommendation while you can. No teacher wants to write a letter for a person who emails and says "Remember me from three years ago?"

Get those recommendations while you're still in regular contact with the person. Rock on, SSC.


Anonymous said...

Yeesh. I've come across at least three people on the P&W Speakeasy board recently who attended conferences lead by the program directors that later admitted them. They all recommend it.

Call me crazy, but shouldn't the admissions process be anonymous? Just like literary prizes? Of course the program director will favor a story he or she helped fashion.

Doesn't seem very fair...

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