Monday, October 16, 2006

What's in a Concentration?

Hi Tom,

I know I harassed you a bunch last spring with my questions, but I'm back with one more! So, I was the one debating about whether to start my creative nonfiction MFA this coming fall even though I didn't get the funding I wanted, and I decided to wait and reapply for fall 2007. Here's my question:

I have a new list of 12-13 programs I want to apply to. Some are the same from last year, some are different. In filling out the list, I am adding some "dark-horse programs," and I'm looking at places you suggested at different points like Alabama, Utah, Davis, Boise State, Kansas and New Mexico. Some of these have more fleshed out nonfiction programs than others. Some only have one nonfiction faculty member. I'm thinking I should only apply to programs that have fairly developed nonfiction programs -- that should be a make-or-break criterion, right? Do you agree?

For example, Alabama looks really interesting to me, but nonfiction is really only a secondary concentration there -- so I don't even know if I could apply there. If I can, while the program overall looks interesting (flexibility, financial support, innovative), I'm thinking I should pass that up for a program like Utah, which offers nonfiction as a primary concentration, even though that program doesn't seem as strong overall. It seems like I shouldn't bother with programs that don't offer a strong focus on nonfiction. What do you think?




That's a great question, Sanguine, and yes, I think your take on it is just right. If nonfiction is what you want to study then you should primarily look at places that hold concentrations or lots of nonfiction faculty members. In the Stanford undergraduate program, we're revving up the nonfiction side, and it will likely be a concentration in two years. I'm mentioning that because we'll be a long way in two years than we are now in terms of teachers and resources.

Do keep in mind: I'd still like to put a bug in your ear about applying to 8-12 programs. So if you have a few "borderline" programs, you might add one or two to get you to that number. It will keep your options open. Rock on.


Ethan Black said...


In case you have not considered it, Colorado State University has a great MFA program with at least three/four professors in creative writing. (Ok, I am an alumni which forces to represent) But, you may find it beneficial to check out.

Beverly said...

I'm enrolled in UNM's Fiction program, but took a CNF workshop last semester--it was really useful, both for my personal essay writing and for my fiction. Greg Martin is a dedicated teacher, and you'll learn so much if you decide on UNM. Plus, nothing wrong with some green chile!

Kate Evans said...

Another good program to think about in terms of CNF is Memphis--they already have a very good CNF prof (Kristen Iversen) and are hiring another this year. They also just got Richard Bausch who is fiction but who, I hear, is very dedicated to growing the program.

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