Thursday, November 29, 2007

Applying in Multiple Genres

Question from D:

I'm reading as fast as my brain can process, but have not yet come across the answer to my most pressing question so, if you have just a minute, please help. The deadline for applications is fast-approaching and I'm wondering if it's a bad idea to submit two separate applications to one program. I feel my poetry and short-fiction are equally strong, but I tend to favor poetry. Would it be a horrible idea to apply in both genres as far as my top programs are concerned? Schools usually post rules about this (that it is allowed but you must pay two fees, submit two applications, etc.), but I feel I'll end up in the can if I do this...seen as too flighty. Especially the way poets are about the craft. What do you think? Know anyone who succeeded in this way? Failed miserably?

Thanks so much for your great book, and for all the time you put into the blog. What would we do without you?

Hey, thanks for the kind words, D. Hypothetically, you should be able to apply in both genres. However, I think your gut instinct is right-on. Programs might see you, unfairly, as flighty or not serious. Since poetry is what you're sincerely interested in, I'd encourage you to only apply in that genre to programs. Best of luck, and of course we welcome other comments!


noah m. said...

i think tom is right-on here. in addition, i've heard so many stories from this forum and elsewhere about people who got into a program in one genre but whose heart was in another. some of them even quit midway through the program and reapplied in the other genre. go with where your heart is!

however, i've come accross quite a few programs that encourage or even require work in genres other than your focus (for example, the michener center in austin, tx or unc wilmington). no doubt you can find a dozen programs to apply to that are big on working in many genres!

Mike Valente said...

Okay, so I'm going to mention Notre Dame here - it's the only program that I know. Once you get in to one genre, you're free to take workshops in whatever genre you like. I think that you're just required to do your thesis in your accepted genre. the ND faculty encourages crossover, including William O'Rourke, the ND MFA founder (and still faculty here), who began his MFA experience as a poet but changed to fiction. One of the profs, Joyelle McSweeney is supposed to be an "experimentalist" poet, has books out on both prose and poetry, and she leads both a prose and a poetry workshop.

Some programs specify on the website the process for applying to both. I'm not sure what ND's website states. I'm sure that there are schools that permit you to apply to both. There'll probably be a different set of profs reading each of your apps. my only advice is to call the school. they'll tell you how to proceed with two applications.

Meredith Ramirez said...

just wanted to say that in the case of cornell specifically, the evaluation processes are totally separate and it's doubtful that the professors would even know that you're applying to both genres unless you get accepted to both, at which point they would probably ask you to pick one... i actually disagree with tom in the sense that admission committees are usually totally separate so i don't think it's a big deal.

Bolivia Red said...

I think noah hit the nail on the head. Look for programs that encourage cross-genre work and apply for poetry at those places. Stress in the SOP that you're interested in the cross-genre work.

Scroll down to a post from a few weeks ago called "Multi-Genre Programs" and you'll find a lot of suggestions for schools that let you dabble in multiple areas.

And since mike mentioned Notre Dame, let me plug Purdue. You can take cross-genre workshops as well as other art forms as part of your lit credits. The profs are more than willing to work with you outside of class as well.

Gustavo said...

Here at UMass-Amherst you are required to take at least one workshop in the other genre, and there's a lot of cross-genre work. Also, I know a couple of people who have switched genres midway through the program -- you don't have to reapply; you have to submit a petition, which is usually accepted, provided you have the support of some faculty member/s in the field you want to switch to.

Sally Jane said...

If you're looking for a program that encourages cross-genre work, then think about the MFA program at Stony Brook Southampton. They actually require that students take courses in different genres and learn a little bit about every form of writing. It allows you to explore all your talents and abilities.