Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Yesterday's Dish; Today's Neat, Reheated Treat

I wouldn't call any of these "safety schools," but in response to Jim (see post by Anna immediately preceding this one), who asks us to recommend great programs outside of the better-known fare, I offer up this reheated, yet quite tasty plate of options, put together last October--for your sampling pleasure and ours here at the MFA blog--by Andrew Scott.

Andrew's article rounds up seven sleeper programs that "quietly offer excellent opportunities for students."

With hundreds of programs in existence, it's fair to say that there could be dozens of other "sleepers" out there, waiting to be found. Could someone talk Andrew Scott into cooking up a "Sleepers, Round II"?


Andrew said...

As much as I'd liked to help, I just don't have the time. My point, then and now, is that there are many good MFA programs.

I went to NMSU, for instance, to study fiction writing. I went there because I wanted to study with those writers, not because NMSU "earned" some ranking in a bogus study.

I worked with Antonya Nelson, Don Kurtz, Robert Boswell, and Kevin McIlvoy. One of my classmates already had a book and an O. Henry award. NMSU brought in dozens of great readers. I received feedback from Thom Jones and Jane Hamilton on two of my stories. I was the opening act for Jean Thompson, right after her book was named a National Book Award finalist, and we read to more than 250 people. And, perhaps most helpful of all, I was allowed to be an editor for Puerto del Sol.

My advice for applicants: pick some places you'd like to live, read the work of the writers who teach there, and apply to those schools. Ideally, you'd get to study with someone whose work you really admire, and hopefully you can stay out of debt, or not go too deep into debt. But you'll be surprised once you get to your MFA program, anyway -- the writer whose work you may have brushed off might end up becoming your mentor, while the writer whose work you love might not be able to help you at all.

Lizzy said...

Thanks for stopping in, Andrew! Great advice. NMSU sounds wonderful. Another program that seems great, yet may not be on the tip of everyone's tongue, is Montana's. They have Kevin Canty and Kate Gadbow, plus a new director, plus they fund about half their students--though the stipend seems a little paltry at $8K. On the other hand, it's gorgeous Montana... For setting, it doesn't get much better than that.

Too, there's the San Marcos program, which produced a Stegner fellow last year, if I'm not mistaken. I also like Fresno, which has recently hired two new instructors, including Alex Espinoza. Of course, for those who feel adventurous, the new Rutgers-Newark program has several acclaimed fiction writers on staff, as well as a Pulitzer finalist for nonfiction.

There must be dozens of such respected yet underrated programs out there. Applicants should check out Anna Mendoza's blog for more information on dozens of programs.

Lizzy said...

Anna's blog is at,


for those that can't get the link above to work.

Vince said...

This might be somewhat related because of circumstance--Vanderbilt University has a creative M.F.A program that is only going into its second year of existence. Does anyone have any useful knowledge about it that readers would like to hear? Also noteworthy--Vanderbilt University (generally) has a sterling academic reputation.

Vince said...

Whoops! I meant to write in the previous comment that Vanderbilt University has a two-year old Creative Writing M.F.A. program.

Seth Abramson said...

For other popular choices which may not yet be in the "top twenty-five" (whatever that phrase means to you), check out the LJPW Poll at


The schools listed at 26 to 50 have (generally speaking) higher acceptance rates, and all are up-and-coming schools. The "bubbling under" section of the "TSE Rankings" (at the same site) is also, to my extremely-biased mind, a must-read. NMSU is on there, BTW.


K said...

Does anyone have any comments/info on the MFA Writing program at Stony Brook University Southampton?

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