Monday, July 17, 2006

Questions for the Mailbag


You can send questions or comments to my email address.

I have three simple rules:
1. You must include a codename. This can be anything from Disillusioned in Denver to Titillated in Tuscaloosa. Whatever you want. Why? Because I like it, that's why. No codename = No answer to your question.

2. NEW: If you reference a program or a website, please include the URL in your email.

3. I really enjoy reading your emails. That said, I don't have time to edit your emails for the blog. You're a writer, right? Edit your email so that I can post it to the blog. This means: about two paragraphs maximum. (If you want to preface it with anything, that's fine, just set the part you want posted off with a dotted ----- line). Your questions are almost always very relevant to other readers, and I'd like to include them so others can comment. However, unclear or overlong questions = No answer on the blog.


19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Tom,
Why oh why is your book not coming out until right around my MFA deadlines? I've looked far and wide for this type of publication and you're doing the smart thing by publishing the first of its kind.
Iin my personal statement and in my writing sample, I talk about Deaf culture and growing up Deaf. I've emphasized that I've done well in workshops and the "hearing" world, but I'm worried that my honesty on this topic will send up a red flag to programs worrying about me "fitting in". this brings me to my first question: do you think I have to worry about discrimination in terms of "fitting in" to workshops?
My second question is, can you say a little more about the program at Emerson, since I'm applying there and you've given it a red flag?

Adrift said...

Awash in Arlington had a question about why Davis McCombs had become the program director at Arkansas. Well, the writing faculty at Arkansas rotates the program director every year. They all take turns. In truth, i don't think anyone wants to do it all the time. So if the change concerns you, not to worry, it will be one of the other faculty writers next year.

jimpage174 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Julie Du. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stumped in Stumptown said...

Hi Tom,
I've been greatly enjoying reading the MFA weblog and I was pleasantly surprised to find that your story in "Coyotes" includes a Deaf character. About a month or so ago, I sent in a question (sans codename), about whether or not I'd be penalized as a Deaf writer.
Before I get to my newest questions, I wanted to mention that I checked Powell's bookstore here in Portland and they aren't planning on stocking the MFA Handbook. I gave them a whole spiel about Portland being a literary town, full of writers, etc., etc., and that your book needs to be on the shelves. And I very much hope it gets there.
So, onto my (convoluted) questions:

--- This will probably involve man-facting, but based on your experience, what's more important to a successful application: the potential of a writer or the "polish" of the sample? Perhaps this is a better way to put it-- how many successful manuscripts do you think are already of publishable quality, and how many are diamonds in the rough?

---Have you ever been part of an application committee for a program, or had the chance to evaluate the manuscripts of successful applicants? If so, what was your experience like?

Anxious in Aurora said...

Hello Tom,

Excellent concept for a book and blog. I guess this is more of a suggestion than a question, so please handle it in any way you see fit.
--Have you considered (or would you consider) keeping a list or chart of schools that have sent out MFA acceptance and financial aid offers? Readers could send in confirmations as soon as they hear from schools and you (or someone else) could record and compile them. Might take some weight off of your readers' shoulders.

lvincola said...

Tom-
I wish I found this blog a few months ago while I was working on my applications.

--Any thoughts on the University of New Mexico's new MFA program?

Thanks,
getting ready to leave Boston.

neophyte on nantucket said...

Hi Tom,
I'm a nontraditional student, (that means old), in my first semester in the MFA program at Vermont College. On a lark I applied to UMass. Amherst, thinking I didn't have a chance in hell. Well...I got in. I'm a total neophyte in the academic world, and have no idea what getting into this school means.

--is the prgram so good at UMass that I would be crazy to turn this opportunity down?

Bounding for Baltimore said...

Hi Tom,
i've previously posted as Stumped in Stumptown and Anonymous. e.g.-- the Deaf guy. Your weblog provided me peace of mind numerous times during the waiting game when I needed it. And of course, thank you for your wonderful advice.
Now the dust has settled and I have offers: UMass-Amherst, Emerson, and the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars. I'd be a fool to turn down the last one, what with their funding. So-- thanks for all your help!
Bounding for Baltimore

Anonymous said...

Hi Tom,

I'm really interested in teaching writing someday and have three questions for you regarding MFA programs and teaching:

1. Would it be harder for me to find a teaching job after completing my MFA if I do a low-res program?

2. Which programs are the best for preparing people to teach?

3. Should I be considering a PhD instead? Writing is my passion and most English PhDs do not offer a ton of writing courses so that's a big downfall. On the other hand PhDs have a better chance in the job marketplace.

rabbit474 said...

Hi,

I am lacking for readers to get feedback on my work before I apply to graduate school. Most applicants seem to have friends, writing groups, faculty, etc to act as readers, but what do you reccomend to someone without that community?

thanks

kandroma said...

Hey there. You mentioned that you liked the program in Arizona... did you mean the one at U of A? I'm thinking of applying and wondering what you think of the program and why. Here's their website. http://web.arizona.edu/~cwp/mfaprogram.htm. Thanks.

hot dog & eggs said...

I'm considering a low residency program. Do you have thoughts/rankings on low residency programs? Or could you suggest 3 good ones. I'll pretty much live anywhere. Thanks!

jgrome said...

Could you list your e-mail address instead of the link? I can only send e-mail through the web, so without beeing able to see the address, I can't send you an e-mail.

The question I wanted to ask pertains to the Stegner Fellowship. I know the decision comes down to your writing sample. I think my sample's strong, so I'm going to send in the app. That being said, I haven't completed an MFA nor have I published anything. Will that seriously lessen my chances?

Narcissus and his echo said...

Tom,

I emailed you my query already, but thought that it might be better if I posted it in the case that you don't have time to respond to personal emails. In all events, my question concerns the writing sample; I am applying for a poetry concentration at Brown, NYU, Columbia, UMass A, etc., and am stuck in the dilemma whether to submit one long, and most recent, series of linked poems (all of which are taking off of the Haiku form) or, should I extract a section of these and pair them up with other selections of writing in different styles? What is more attractive to the writing programs: an experimental writer or a versatile one? So hard to decide which to make myself out to be, and I don't know how show both faces well without compromising coherency or completeness.


What do you recommend?

Eliot_Protege said...

Tom,

While it's only October, it's ALREADY October. I have my letters of recommendation lined up and have made a packet for all my generous contributors (schools listed in order of due date, addresses, process for each school, samples of my writing, etc), but my recommndors want my statement of purpose. This is where I am stuck. I looked at my statement from last year (I decided to apply to one school last minute and threw an application together in three days...I was wait listed)and it is awful. I'm quite unsure what I am supposed to be writing.

Should my statement be creative? Should I discuss influences on my writing as far as literature? What is the division of labor for each section - A paragraph on my goals, one on how an MFA will help achieve them, one on why I have these goals in the first place? Strangely enough, I am not all that concerned with my writing sample. I am confident in that area; what I am worried about is my ability to "sell" myself to these schools and while I would love to believe my writing will sell itself, if that were true then why would any of these other things even be required. Please advise on what and how much of it should be in a personal statement for an MFA program.


Much thanks during this extremely stressful time.

Eliot_Protege said...

Tom,

While it's only October, it's ALREADY October. I have my letters of recommendation lined up and have made a packet for all my generous contributors (schools listed in order of due date, addresses, process for each school, samples of my writing, etc), but my recommndors want my statement of purpose. This is where I am stuck. I looked at my statement from last year (I decided to apply to one school last minute and threw an application together in three days...I was wait listed)and it is awful. I'm quite unsure what I am supposed to be writing.

Should my statement be creative? Should I discuss influences on my writing as far as literature? What is the division of labor for each section - A paragraph on my goals, one on how an MFA will help achieve them, one on why I have these goals in the first place? Strangely enough, I am not all that concerned with my writing sample. I am confident in that area; what I am worried about is my ability to "sell" myself to these schools and while I would love to believe my writing will sell itself, if that were true then why would any of these other things even be required. Please advise on what and how much of it should be in a personal statement for an MFA program.


Much thanks during this extremely stressful time.

~BS~ said...

Hi Tom,

I'm currently an undergraduate student studying Media Studies (film, storyboarding, screenwriting) at an art and design college. I've taken a few fiction writing classes and I'm doing a manuscript for my independent study. I am just wondering how likely most graduate schools are to accept students that dont have a traditional "English" degree (BFA, BA) before they apply to graduate school? I'm looking at schools like Emerson, Sarah Lawrence, and Johns Hopkins. But I live in Ohio and will also be applying to Ohio State. What do you think the chances are that I get in without a degree in English or the like?

Thanks

Quee Qua, the one-legged horse said...

Hi Tom,

So, I'm currently enrolled in an MFA program (I won't say which one, but it's a top-thirty program), but I've found that the program is not particularly open to more experimental writing (which I have never called my writing, but apparently here it's considered that). I'm applying to transfer to a couple programs. How should I address this in my personal statement? Do you have other advice for transferring? Are all MFA programs focused on straight lit writing, so should I not even bother to change programs? Would I have to start over, or would some credits transfer?
Thanks for your time.