Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mailbag-25 November

Let's start a fresh basket for all the Thanksgiving leftovers. Questions, comments, coping strategies? We're here for you.

37 comments:

written said...

How bad does it look if you scored a 4.5 on the analytical writing section of the GRE? I scored well on the verbal section, though.

Seth Abramson said...

Written,

Fortunately, the GRE is really one of the least important aspects of your application, so it should have little if any effect. The writing sample is 90% of the ballgame, perhaps more, followed by the SoP/recommendations. I think the GRE is only used, at most, as a tie-breaker, and frankly I think it's a long-shot that it would even be used in that sense. I wouldn't lose sleep over that 4.5, honestly.

Good luck,
Seth

Sean said...

I was wondering if there were any groups / blogs where MFA applicants get together and talk about their application materials? only one other English major in my class is planning on going, and she's going the MA route and i'd feel a ton better to be able to see what other people's materials look like. Might such a MFA Applicant Shangri-la exist?

Musée des Beaux Arts said...

Can anyone name any reputable low-residency programs that don't meet in January? Two I've found so far are University of British Columbia (though the deadline was in Sept.) and Goddard's program in Washington State. Any worthwhile others out there? Any feedback on Goddard's west coast program? I'm applying to low-residency programs but cannot go to the residencies if they're in January. Thank you very much.

tvyee said...

For Prose the writing samples are 20-25 pages....is it better to submit 2 whole short stories of a variety excerpts from different stories?

Erika D. said...

As far as low-residency programs that don't have January residencies, two others that come to mind right away are Spalding and Pacific Lutheran.

Lizzy said...

tvyee:

whole short stories are better. i can't think of one reason not to send whole stories. in fact, i think you're probably shooting self in foot if you don't send whole stories. half stories don't get published, so your readers in selection committees are going to be looking for whole stories, not excerpts.

of course, that's just one woman's opinion. ;-)

Bolivia Red said...

Tvyee-
I second Lizzy's opinion. The other reason is that the committees want to see if you have the basics of writing covered, including how to end a story or a chapter from craft perspective, but also from a follow-through perspective. There are millions of half-finished stories and novels out there in the world that are going to stay that way. Committees want to know you've got follow through.

Bolivia Red said...

sean,
I haven't looked myself, but others have mentioned that the P&W website has threads where people share work and talk in detail about application stuff. You'll find the link under the right sidebar on this blog's main page.

M. Ramirez Talusan kindly shared her SOP on her blog. Look for the link under the Mailbag, Week of 4 November post.

Of course, if you have specific questions, we're happy to try to answer them for you.

Sean said...

you're my hero bolivia. thank you!

Joyce said...

What sources of funding are there for art school MFA programs? Or should I rephrase the question: Are there sources of funding for an art school MFA program?

Also-- poetry portfolio-- variety within the collection (even if one is a bit uncertain about experiments?) or a cohesive themed whole?

Sean said...

i'd say make it a cohesive group of poems, personally. This doesn't mean it needs to be ten poems around the theme of "springtime in Kentucky". One of my mentors has said repeatedly (that i tend to agree with) that there is an art to figuring out just how to put a selection of poems together into a cohesive whole. Lay everything you've got out on the floor, read them, and see what themes, repetitions, similarities you see between them all.

Seth Abramson said...

Sean,

Respectfully, I think I'd disagree. I think you want readers to see your range, poetry-wise, provided you do have that range (meaning, you want your best poems in there, and if your best poems don't exhibit a wide range of style or voice, just go with your best poems). This isn't a book manuscript: fundamentally, the readers just want to know if you're good, not whether you know how to make poems play off one another as a manuscript-builder would be forced to consider.

Take your ten best poems, arrange them as best you can. That's my honest advice.

Good luck,
Seth

TheRant said...

Quick one here:

When reapplying to a program that you already got rejected from, do you need to resend your transcripts to the school?

Thanks.

sad andy said...

Question about the writing sample:

Is photography allowed? I have one nonfiction piece that revolves around a specific photograph (I'm not in it); the writing can't work without it. Will the reading committee skip over it or throw it away or anything? Or am I being neurotic?

Somewhat related: would a hand-drawn picture be allowed for similar reasons, ie, essential for the writing to make sense?

empiricalhubris said...

Kind of specific, but I'll ask anyway: is it advisable to send a PoMo humor piece alongside something like dirty realism? Both are strong, but I worry that humor might not go over well. I don't know what I'd send in lieu of the humor piece so I'm in a bit of a bind: send it and have a portfolio of relatively average length, or hold it and send a shorter collection of work. What do you think?

Bolivia Red said...

therant,
Since a lot of schools let you use the previous year's materials, you can probably forego resending the transcripts and save a little cash. However, I strongly urge you to check with each program/graduate school to be sure they still have your stuff on file and to see what their policies are.

M. Ramirez Talusan said...

sadandy: don't see any reason why they would reject you offhand because you have graphic material as part of your writing sample.

empirical: also don't see a reason why you can't submit both... this is an issue of range v. consistency and i think different programs would have different ideas about which they would want to see... alas, it's all a crap shoot so we don't know what those preferences are, so your best bet is to send what you instinctively feel is your best work.

L Lampton said...

I am fretting over my number of pages. On average, the programs I am applying to are asking for 25-30 pages of fiction. As I edit, my two stories are totaling about 16 pages. Is this going to come across as concise or skimpy?

Thanks,
Lightweight in Brooklyn

Bolivia Red said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bolivia Red said...

Lampton-
I'm reposting therant's answer from last mailbag, but I have a question to add. Do you mean that two of your stories together only add up to 16 pages, or that you have two 16-page stories? If it's the latter, send your best one if it's a 25-page limit. You'll be fine (read below). Snip snip to get those down to 30 pages and send both if it's a 30-page limit and you really feel good about both pieces.


TheRant said...

I had this same concern a little while back and I was lucky enough to stumble across Steve Almond's article "Confessions of an MFA Application Reader" which is posted in its entirety under P&W MFA ToolKit link on the right hand side of this blog's homepage. Almond states in that article:

"Less is, in fact, more. I often came across applications with one very strong story and one weaker story. All this second story did was water down my impression of the first. Quality trumps quantity, every time. There is no law against submitting a 15-page story, even if the limit is 30. To be honest, most readers (this one at least) will be grateful. We won't assume you don't have other good stories. We'll just assume you have confidence in your best work."

So according to Almond's insider opinion, you can get away with less, as long as your samples are strong. Hope that helps.

Devashree said...

Can anyone please shortlist some of the best universities offering MFA (Film Studies)?

M. Ramirez Talusan said...

devashree: do you mean film studies or films? film studies programs are generally m.a. or ph.d. programs... for m.f.a.'s you can either do film/video in an art school context leading towards becoming a visual artist or in a film school where you're expected to go into the film industry. so define what program you're referring to specifically and i can probably provide some insight.

Jay G said...

Pregnancy and MFA's?

I'm currently applying to MFA programs (fiction) and the timing happens to coincide with my husband and considering having children. I'm wondering if anyone has any anecdotal thoughts or experiences with pregnancy and MFA programs? I'm concerned about funding, missing courses, etc, and what kind of support (or lack thereof) the department gives. I've seen talk about this on the PhD level, but not so much for MFA's.

Any thoughts would be great!

Thanks,
Adrienne

Pensive495 said...

Jay G:

If you feel that a pregnancy may be too time constricting in your pursuit of an MFA, there are low-residency programs geared toward students without the ability to just up and leave. Many of these programs offer considerable funding.

Bolivia Red said...

jay g:
there's a thread over on the P&W Speakeasy called "Parenting and the MFA" which might be helpful. Look back to Feb 05. I imagine the info is still relavant.

I can't really say. It's only me and the cat, and I'm often a little overwhelmed.

angelle said...

Wondering if anyone else has come across this:

I'm applying to two Cali schools, both of which use the CSU Mentor online application program. Within the electronic program, they ask for a 500 word statement of purpose. But on the websites for one of the programs, it asks for a statement of 750-1000 words. I am really confused now... am I supposed to be submitting two of the same thing, and just cut one version down? Am I supposed to be submitting something completely different?

This also brings a question I had, looking for some opinions. In a school that asks for both a statement of purpose and an "autobiographical sketch", how does this differ? I feel like my personal statement is fairly autobiographical, and deals with why I want to write (very essayish), so is the statement of purpose then supposed to be more academic?

Starting to get pretty confused about the murky differences between the two...

Laura Lampton said...

Angelle,

Look closely at the UC Irvine website about applying to the MFA program. There is a concise description of how they differentiate between the essays. Also, on their manuscript cover sheet, there is a better description of the Autobio Sketch requirements. As for length requirements, I am deferring to what the departmental website indicates as opposed to what the grad school application asks for. I'm assuming the department is the higher authority on what they expect to see.

Noah said...

I'm looking for information about working part time while going for an MFA full time.

I'm currently working as an editor in New York and I want to go for an MFA, but I don't want to leave my job. I would be able to cut my work schedule down to just two days a week.

How can I figure out which programs might allow for this? Any information on getting an MFA while holding a part time job is greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Noah

Pensive495 said...

This is a question that was asked in a previous mail bag, and I was hoping for some clarification. I'm submitting my first string of applications this week. Is it better for the personal statement to be double spaced, or is single spaced okay? I've heard people say yes and no, but does it really matter? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

M. Ramirez Talusan said...

i single-spaced mine with paragraph breaks, though i doubt it matters that much.

Devashree said...

First of all, this is a blessed site! Ok..my question is, can anyone shortlist universities offering MFA (Screenwriting) programs?

R.P. said...

Lampton- my sample is around that 15-18 as well. And I was feeling worried. Thanks Bolivia for the excerpt.

R.P. said...

devashree, USC has a strong screenwriting program. TX-Michener has one, too.

R.P. said...

Okay, I just did a tiny bit of looking around on GRE scores and this is what I found: tofindsleep.blogspot.com

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