Saturday, August 25, 2007

Mailbag for Monday, August 27

Questions and topic ideas for the week of August 27 can be posted here during the rest of the weekend and throughout the following week.

Thank you to the visitors and contributors who stimulated a lot of lively discussion last week concerning application materials, the professional purpose of the MFA, particular programs both here and abroad, the low-residency experience, and the process of re-applying. I really hope that we can keep the blog going in weeks to come as strongly as it has gone this week. And thanks to Lizzy, Seth, Lincoln, Erika and Noah for their contributions!


michael.whitaker said...

Perhaps this question is a little too suited for me, but I have a question loosely regarding the writing sample.

I'm ahead in my undergraduate studies so I may be graduating this summer instead of the spring of 2009. I just realized this, which brings me to my question. Shoukld I start applying for MFAs, even though I haven't had the time to really polish off a certain piece of my work? Or should I wait it out?


kennan said...

I have a question about using previously published work as part of a writing sample for an application to a creative nonfiction program. I wrote for a major metropolitan paper for about a year before deciding that I wanted to focus more on writing and less on reporting. Does anyone have experience with using news-features pieces that have been published as part of a writing sample? Good idea or bad idea? Thoughts?

margosita said...

Are there any good writer blogs or blogs run by current MFA students? This is a great forum, but I'm curious about more personal experiences and thoughts that are related a bit more to the experience of working for an MFA and a little less about how to get into MFA programs. Anyone have suggestions or favorite blogs/sites?

Seth Abramson said...


Hi! Well, I can't speak to whether it's "good" or not--that is, whether it's a job well done--but I'm blogging about my experience at the U. of Iowa MFA at

michael.whitaker said...


Since Seth isn't able to say what he thinks of his blog, I will step in and let you know that it's a good and useful one and he keeps it up to date.

noah m. said...

kennan said...
Does anyone have experience with using news-features pieces that have been published as part of a writing sample? Good idea or bad idea? Thoughts?

for that matter, any other tips on the writing sample? for those in grad school, how did you choose your sample? any specific comments from the selection committee about why it got you in? did you do revising specifically for the submission? or use something you had already worked over pretty hard and had confidence in? previously published material?

i know this is covered somewhat in the handbook, but i'd love to hear some real-life examples (like keeley gives in one question).

Brittany said...

I have read, and have been told, that one strategy for writing a personal statement is to write about something you have had to overcome because it shows you are human and have the capacity to grow as a person (much as you are expected to as a writer in an MFA program). That being said, I am in the middle of writing my personal statement and I chose to discuss my battle with bulimia for my opening paragraph and how, though it was a struggle, I learned determination and discovered myself and my true passions, the strongestbeing writing.

I graduated undergrad in May and admittedly, I haven't worked for literary magazines or been an editor or even worked in the English dept. of a university. Does anyone know, or think, that the aforementioned experience plus my reasoning as to why I want to go to X program and how I think I could benefit, is enough and I won't look too inexperienced or interested enough in my field?

Sorry for the long question, by the way! :)

Lizzy said...

brittany, grasshopper!:

to write a strong personal statement you have to believe that you can write a strong personal statement.

what's a strong personal statement? one that shows an admissions committee just how hellbent you are on working on this writing thing.

of course, that's just my opinion. take it with a grain of salt. in your shoes, though, i'd make sure that even though i'm saying 'bulimia' my readers are seeing 'writing.'

it'll be all about you and your writing and how serious you are about it. serious does not necessarily imply experience, though it does commitment. try to show that.

best of luck.