Monday, October 22, 2007

Mailbag for October 22, 2007

Monday is here. Qustions? Concerns? Musings? Program news and updates? Please don't be afraid to let everyone know. Oh...bother...just ask.

39 comments:

Liberal Arts Lackey said...

What does anyone know of the MFA program at University of Washington (Seattle)? I have heard in mentioned a few times, but without any discussion of the programs merits and/or competitiveness.

Elizabeth said...

Hello again. In my MFA search I have e-mailed the directors/contact of school I'm looking at with some of my own personal questions about their program that the websites do not answer. How should I view a lack of a reply, or a reply that does not actually answer my questions? I know things happen (e-mails get lost, professors on leave, etc.) so is it fair to feel ignored?

mummy licker said...

I know everyone hates a GRE questions, but mine is quick. I did not score well on the GRE (1060), and I'm okay with that, but for schools that don't require the scores, but are intersted in seeing them when they are available, say for TA or fellowship decisions, would I be better off sending or not sending my score? Thanks!

Noah said...

elizabeth: my research seems to indicate that school contacts don't really want to spend the time to correspond with applicants. most program's websites actually ask applicants NOT to try to contact program directors, etc with questions. they say to only contact after you've been accepted. if you really want an answer to a question, i would think that trying to contact a current or recent student would be a better strategy. so... not fair to feel ignored, that's just their policy so they're not inundated with questions.

ADS said...

re: references

I saw on the Tip Sheet that you normally want to have two teachers and a former boss, editor, etc. I'll be applying at least seven years after graduating from college. Do these references become stale at any point? Also, I took a lot of writing classes with visiting professors that would be difficult to track down now, and I don't know if they would remember me. Any recommendations on how to handle? I have another professor that loved my writing and I can trust, but I was writing academic stuff for him, not the creative nonfiction I'd be getting my MFA in. Thoughts?

Thanks.

Fink said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fink said...

To build off ads re: references - is it better to have three recommenders from old writing classes, or two old writing profs and a work contact that has little knowledge of my writing but a lot of knowledge about my work ethic?

Kennan said...

re: elizabeth's question -

I agree that you can't expect programs, especially ones at big universities, to answer every applicant's every question. So don't feel ignored. *However*, if they do respond, I look at that at a 50-points-for-Gryffindor plus for the institution. They *do* care. They do their best to answer all questions. Nice. I had this experience at University of New Mexico - the director of the program got back to me within the hour with a very nice answer to what turned out to be a silly question.

Lizzy said...

I have to again give props to UNM on that, too, kennan. They were super attentive and really really nice about it when I wrote to them last year. I thought this spoke volumes about the level of attention they must give their students in the program.

On another note, if your writing classes were a while ago, try to strengthen your application by adding one glowing recommendation from a more recent source (such as an employer). Of course, this is just my opinion :o) But my sense is that your application is stronger if you can give people a sense of what you've been doing lately.

Sailor Jordan said...

Hey Everyone! I'm just finishing up my B.A. in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing and have been researching MFA programs. I was wondering what you think about the idea of "safety schools" and how those can be determined. It seems to be difficult to figure out a graduate program you can have as "back up"-- does that even exist?

nisa malli said...

Are there any programs that allow cross genre work or is it standard to require students to adhere to strict genre guidelines for the duration of their MFA?

TuckPendleton said...

Does anyone have a take on whether or not recommedations from online classes are viewed as weaker than in-person classes?

Erika D. said...

OK, a couple of things. As for cross- (or multiple) genre study, look at the University of British Columbia (both the residential and optional-residency programs). Some low-residency programs are flexible enough for some of this, too.

And count me as another member of the Sharon Oard Warner (UNM MFA director) fan club. I was in one of Sharon's workshops at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival (10 years ago! is that possible?) and then attended the inaugural session of the Taos Summer Writers' Conference (which she founded and directs), and she is terrific.

Andrew said...

Re: Statement of Purpose

I know Tom's statement is on here somewhere, but is there a resource for statement of purpose samples anyone is aware of? This thing's stressing me out!

Lizzy said...

A few people last year posted their winning SOPs at PW.org in a thread called.... drumroll... "Statement of Purpose."

You'll have to comb through it. I'd look as far back as two years ago. I know they're in there.

mp213 said...

Hi,

I'm a prospective MFA applicant from Pakistan, and have no...and I repeat, no prior experience with English majors in my undergrad. I studied computer science in a place where they taught nothing but computer science. So aside from being shortlisted in a writing competition, and owning a writer's website and being a writer for the past 12 years (I'm 22), I don't know what else I've got going for me. I guess my question is this: does it really matter if you're not coming from an English Lit background? I know they primarily focus on your writing sample. In addition, my recommenders are all former CS teachers. No one, aside from the people on the writer's community I'm a part of, can comment effectively on my work. I realize I'm being a bit of a pessimist about this, but I need help. Note: I applied last year for Fall '07, but was rejected (only applied to UMich - dumb, I know) and now I want to apply for Fall '09.

Sarah Perrault said...

Hi Sailor Jordan,

Sometimes new MFA programs are willing to take more of a risk because they know they won't get the top-flight folks who will be snapped up by famous programs. There are drawbacks to being in a new program, but if your goal is to be in an MFA -- any MFA! -- some of those could be worth a try.

alicia said...
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alicia said...

What are people's thoughts on having a literary agent or editor write recommendation letters? Good because they know your writing (and like it, obviously) or bad because they work with your professionally and potentially stand to benefit from any of your success?

Lizzy said...

alicia, I think it might be sort of like asking your sister to recommend you. Not quite that blatant, but yeah... But that's just one person's opinion :o)

Jennifer said...

I have a super weird question!

I have a friend that passed away and, I usually name a minor character in my short stories after him in his memory. For my writing sample, I am sending two stories, both of which feature two such characters. Should I change the name in one of the stories? Does it look tacky and unoriginal to leave it that way without knowing why I did it or am I thinking too much?

Thanks!

Andrew said...

Thanks!

M. Ramirez Talusan said...

mp213: if you're planning to apply for fall '09, just take some writing workshops now, even online ones, to supplement your application. committee's aren't just looking for a good writer. they're looking for people who can function in a group and have some familiarity with a workshop environment. appropriate recs are not hard to get... i got one of mine from someone i've never met in person since i took a workshop with him online. the cs background itself is not a problem. in fact, it makes you stand out and is probably an asset.

Jensen Whelan said...

I'm having a hard time tracking down info about actual program size.

It seems to me that there are many small programs (4-6 students per genre) and some medium (10+) and only a few large (20 or so). This would make sense. But maybe there are some I haven't looked at.

Anyone know which are the big programs? I know Columbia and Iowa are large and Montana and UMass are medium/largish but are there any others?

I'm trying to get a good mix between large and small and having a hard time finding larger programs.

Any help is much appreciated.

J

Elizabeth said...

I totally second Jensen's question. I have also noticed that there are a plethora of 4-6 student programs, and the larger programs seem to remain mysteriously hidden.

mp213 said...

M. Ramirez Talusan, thanks for the help. Much appreciated. Since I don't have the chance of actually participating in creative writing workshops here (there aren't any in my country that I know of, which might be why I'm applying to the program! :) ), any suggestions for the online ones? I've heard UCLA has some good ones, but are there any particularly notable ones out there? Again, thanks for the help.

elisabeth said...

I have two questions:

Does anyone have any advice for someone looking to apply in multiple genres (for me, specifically, playwriting and fiction). I know Michener has an interdisciplinary program, but just one on the list isn't really a sure bet.

And also, for someone who previously applied last year, I know some schools don't require you to resubmit all the materials; NYU and Brown, for instance, are clear about this on their website, whereas Iowa and the UC system I'm less clear on. Has anyone had to try to figure this out yet, and found a good system for doing so? I may wait to reapply for another year, in which case the point would be moot, but I thought I'd ask just in case.

elisabeth said...

Oops! Sorry, realized my first was already asked. Although if anyone's got more info, I'd appreciate an expansion. Thanks!

M. Ramirez Talusan said...

mp213: i apologize. i wrote the above in haste and was being wildly presumptuous. i took my writing workshop through mediabistro.com but i've heard good things about ucla. you should also look into going to an american writers conference this summer if you can afford it, such as sewanee, napa valley, and breadloaf.

mp213 said...

Writing conference, huh? Before applying? Will this help in getting in...or what, exactly? I still have to give my GRE, so between that, and the workshop, managing an existing website, etc., I should really look into the conference option if it poses a significant advantage when applying. It being affordable isn't a consideration. :) So do let me know on this.
- mp.

M. Ramirez Talusan said...

mp: look up the following conferences online: sewanee, breadloaf, and napa valley writers conference. you will be able to work with distinguished writers in a workshop format, and hopefully get good recommendations.

Vince said...

For those concerned about size: A directory list of programs by state with size information is available through P&W's M.F.A. toolkit.

Miss Esquire said...

Hi there,

I will be including three stories in my portfolio. The strongest story is also the longest. The second-strongest is a short, and the third is average short story length. Is the "put your strongest story first" rule universal? My readers have suggested that I put the short first in order to draw people in.

Mike Valente said...

Regarding multi-genre study (if I understand the question correctly), Notre Dame allows its poetry students to take the prose workshop and its prose students to take the poetry workshop. That's the case this semester with both workshops. Also, there are two non-fiction writers under the umbrella of "prose".

Bolivia Red said...

Jennifer's super-weird question: I would change the names of your minor characters to be different for each story. The admissions committee may assume your stories are linked somehow when they aren't. You can change the names back later

Bolivia Red said...

ms. esquire: You want the committee to see your strongest work from the start. If the second strongest doesn't pass muster, they aren't going to keep reading.

Lizzy said...

elizabeth,

FSU requires coursework in two genres, from fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and (in some cases) playwriting/screenwriting.

Jensen Whelan said...

thanks, vince! that site was great. for anyone who hasn't seen it, there lots of info about many different programs.

Captain Captain said...

U of Orgeon in Eugene? Anybody got anything to say about that place? I haven't heard much about it.