Monday, September 25, 2006

Differing Page Limits

A great question from Neurotic in New York...

First of all, thank you for running this blog and publishing your MFA guidebook. Both have been a lifesaver in the process of running up to my applications. Now actual application is upon me, and while I scramble to write a cohesive statement of purpose, I have a kind of basic question. The length limits vary from program to program.
UC Irvine maximum page count is 40, whereas UMass - Amherst is 20. Iowa's limit is 100 pages!

My question is, do I break the "send the same work everywhere" rule and send an extra 8-page story to Irvine that I wouldn't be able to fit into my UMass application? Since UMass only takes 20 pages, I can't possibly send them the 17-page story I'm planning on opening my portfolio with and another story. Do I pick something completely
different? Do I just send them one story? Does it matter? Any advice will be infinitely helpful.

Neurotic, this is Man-Facting to the Max: If I'm on a committee, I'd want to see two stories no matter what. One to see that you can catch lightning in a bottle, and another to see that you make a habit of it.

I'd send the 17 pager to UMass along with a shorter story (10-12pgs) that you think is also good. As for Iowa, I'd send at least fifty pages, and then whatever you think, up to the 100, that you think is of quality work. Rock on.

8 comments:

UrnMalley said...

I worry about that too, and figure the easiest way for a school to narrow down the pool is to weed out those that don't know how to follow directions.

So, say the poster sends a 17 and 10 page story to a 20 page max school, they already show that they don't know how to read what's on the site or in the application packet.

It worries me, a lot. I have three stories that are becoming solid, but are radically different and each over 10 pages long. Then there are the little ditty flash fictions, like 2-4 pages long but not, I feel, as strong as they were more exercises.

I say keep with Tom's original statement, send your best work and make sure you don't show a flagrant disregard for the colleges application procedures and time. Why should they read 27 pages of yours when so many others keep within the 20 pages and show they can edit, etc?

poetastin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Incredible Undulating Daughter said...

Wow does this scare me too...

First of all, who are these people writing 10 page stories? If you think in 5-8 thousand words, post-editing, are you just SOL on the whole two story thing?

But why I'm really posting is: I wonder how many program readers have read Kealey's advice. They may be more tolerant of a few extra pages knowing he's given the OK a couple places, here and there.

BarlArten said...

Good point, urnmalley. As someone who typically writes 15-25 page stories I think a 20 page limit is too restrictive, but I don't want to antagonize the readers by assuming I can disregard their guidelines. I

I know you can't say for sure, Tom, but do you feel fairly comfortable saying that UMass wouldn't view a 24-27 page submission with two stories as some kind of disregard for or violation of their rules?

Incredible Undulating Daughter said...

How many manuscripts, though, do they even read past the first page of either story? Perhaps the worry over page limits is blown a little out of proportion.

Greg said...

I can't say this for all programs, but from the ones I've been in contact with (UMass, U Arkansas) -- the page limit is by no means absolute. I sent them an email, explaining my situation (that my two pieces are 16 and 18pg respectively). Both of them said to go ahead and send both. "The page limit is a guidline."

Now, I'd email them if you're planning on sending more than 5-8pg more than the limit, but otherwise, I think you'll be fine.

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