Monday, October 15, 2007

Weekly Mailbag for Monday, 15 October

Questions, comments, or coping strategies for all things MFA? Put them here. We'll do our best to answer.

Also, check out Lizzy's Roll Call post just before this one and let us know how things are at your end of the bog.

12 comments:

BorFalk said...

Hi,
I was wondering whether if one has a Master's degree in an unrelated field, whether it can simply be left out of the application. Is it absolutley necessary to include if one feels it has not affected their writing life?

nisa malli said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BorFalk said...

I actually have another question as well, sorry if I'm asking too many but I'll be happy if just one gets answered. I applied last year to only a few programs and got rejected. I am fairly convinced that this is because my writing sample simply wasn't up to par. Although I am casting a wider net this time around, as well as using new (and hopefully better) writing samples, it is acceptable to reuse sections of my personal statement for the schools I am reapplying to? Not the exact same thing, but similar with possibly a few paragraphs cut and pasted verbatim from last year. Thanks in advance for providing answers. It is much appreciated.

Bolivia Red said...

Hi Borfalk.
Q1-I think you should mention the previous masters, even if it's underwater basket weaving. In fact, you'd definitely want to mention it then. First, you want to show the committee that you're capable of completing graduate-level work, and a previous masters does that. You also want to show that you're an interesting person with some life experience. While another degree is mostly school experience, it is in a (I assume) totally unrelated field, which shows that you have this whole other interesting body of knowledge that you can bring into your writing. (We've got this engineer in our program who didn't do any CW/English in undergrad and he's the coolest person here.)

I also think it's ok to have pursued another career and now decide to change tracks (I assume it's been a few years since previous masters and this one, in which you went out into the world and worked a bit). Even if you just completed said unrelated masters, there's always the angle that you want to do the MFA now so that you'll be able to have both under your belt before rejoining the real world.

Q2 I'd do some revamping of that cover letter if you're applying to the same schools to show how you've grown and changed. The same basic ideas and themes are ok, but there's always room for improvement in those things. If you're applying to totally different programs, copy and paste that sucker and don't look back. You want to focus on that writing sample and making sure your overall application is complete and perfect.

Luke said...

Is it possible to send your applications too early?

Caroline said...

This isn't exactly related to creative writing but I'm curious if anyone is aware of a similar "advice" blog for the visual arts/MFA? And/or resources like Tom Kealey's book for people interested in the vis arts?

Felicity said...

I'm sure you have already done this - could you direct me to a list of rankings for Low-Residency MFA programs?

David said...

I've read in many places that the students in MFA programs and their experience and success with writing often varies. One workshop could have an individual who has published in multiple locations, perhaps even has a book out and/or an agent, and another who has not. I am interested in that gap between those two. For those who are attending programs now or have in the past, what's that gap like? How wide is it?

Lizzy said...

david,

come again?

David said...

Lizzy,

Yeah, apparently I should worry about clarity issues before thinking about an MFA program...I am just curious to know if most MFA students come into the program at the same skill level.

Sarah Perrault said...

Borfalk, I think mentioning the previous MA is a good idea. I went into an MFA program with a BA in anthropology, no MA, only one writing course, and 10 years of post-BA work as a technical writer. The profs who admitted me seemed to think that combination made me an interesting candidate.

Lizzy said...

david,

I think that MOST incoming students *are* at about the same skill level. Of course there are exceptions--one person may have already published a bestseller, for example, while another may have just started writing recently--but the majority of new MFAs are, I think, strong writers with perhaps a modest publication credit or two, wanting to take their work to that next level of skill. You will see styles vary much more than skill level, I think. In all, most people are there to buckle down and work, so you have that much in common, at least.

I hope that helps.