Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mailbag for Monday, March 31, 2008

Let's get an early jump on a new and exciting week! It's mailbag time for all of us. Questions? Concerns? Musings? : - )

54 comments:

Keely H. said...

I'm currently researching MFA programs. I've been trying to find out information about the University of Alabama program and the surrounding community. I'm really impressed by the Black Warrior review and the faculty. I did, however; have a concern that I was hoping someone could confirm or deny. I'm a liberal agnostic and my writing reflects that, am I likely to encounter hostility from fellow workshop members that would interfere with my ability to get impartial feedback on the quality of my work? It's very important to me not to have to censure my work just because I am writing in the bible belt, is this a genuine concern or am I worrying over nothing?

DJP said...

Dear Keely:

While I'm not a student in U of A's mfa program I am currently a student in an Alabama university (and a liberal agnostic) so I'm going to throw my two cents in. I personally do not think you'll run into problems. 1) Many-if not most-of the students will not be from Alabama. 2) College students in an MFA program are probably your more liberal types anyway. 3) and the faculty seems to tip more towards the liberal end (Wendy Rawlings has even published a book called "The Agnostics"), which will no doubt influence the class. That being said, the area (while not as bad as the small town I live in) will almost definitely be more conservative than you are used to. But, adversity might have a positive effect on your writing. Look at Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Harper Lee, etc. And it would be great for Alabama to have another openminded person added to the folds.

If you are still in doubt I would call the school and ask for contact information for current students. Chat them up and see what they think.

Good luck.

Book Nerd said...

Hello,

I was wondering if anyone has information about the MFA program at McNeese State University. I was offered a TA-ship ($12/k for two/classes a sem) but have heard very little about this program, or its location in Lake Charles.

Thanks.

boleto said...

Hi. Could someone share some info about BU? I read about the negative experiences of the 'unreliable narrator' here, but s/he was there for poetry, and my query is about fiction. Judging by BU's stellar cast of faculty (Ha Jin etc.), it should be high on the rankings, but not so (below 20 on PW). Judging by the comments here it doesn't seem as popular as say, NYU, Columbia etc. (did no one apply there?) Is it a very expensive program and the funding too low? There just doesn't seem to be as much fire about it on all these blogs as Iowa, NYU, etc. Any info would be very useful and appreciated.
Thanks guys!

Sara E.G. said...

boleto--

While I'm not in the BU MFA program, I do work at the university, and I think there are probably a number of reasons why it isn't as highly ranked as other programs. For one, it is a one year MFA program. I think many people, including myself, are extremely skeptical of this. What can truly be accomplished in one year? Add on the fact that it is a very pricey school renown for poor funding, in an extremely expensive city, and the program really falls behind others. Sure, it has Ha Jin, but it's my understanding that like many big names in programs, he doesn't teach all that often. I could of course be wrong, but I believe there are programs outside the city that really shine, whereas BU isn't that highly regarded.

It's surprising that in a city with such a thriving literary scene that there aren't more MFA programs. To my knowledge, it's only BU and Emerson, neither of which I'm looking at applying to next year.

Plus, this city has just about bled me dry ;)

boleto said...

Thanks, Sara! Do you get tuition reimbursement if you work for BU? And can one find decent housing around the BU area (or near the areas serviced by the T) for say $600 a month? Thank you so much for your help!

Richard said...

Hello,

I'm new here, but I feel as if I'm in familiar territory. I am already putting some MFA programs in my favorites tab. I'm a sophomore at FSU, right now. I struggle with this whole MFA hoopla because I don't really know how good, or bad, I am. I only hope dropping out of pre-med was a good decision. But writing is my life!!

delicata said...

In Boston there's also Lesley, which has a low-residency MFA program.

Speaking of which, I've been accepted at Lesley as well as at Warren Wilson (for fiction). I'm having a hard time making a decision between the two.

Obviously, WW has an older and more reputable program, with faculty I'd be really excited about working with. And that program will keep me really focused. On the other hand, Lesley has an interdisciplinary component that very much fits the way I work and think, they are offering me a (small) scholarship, and I really like the idea of spending time in Boston during residencies. They also offer student health insurance.

WW's program seems more rigorous (60 credits rather than 48) and demanding, which I like, although I'm not sure how I'll be able to balance it with work/life. Lesley's program seems a little more manageable, but perhaps less challenging. The students I've talked to from both programs all seem very happy with what they've gotten from their experiences there.

Help! I'm really confused. I would appreciate any input/opinions on which choice sounds best.

Sara E.G. said...

boleto--

I do get tuition remission but have only had the time to take a couple of classes in the last year as my work schedule is really hectic. They'll fund you fully for one class per semester, which is nice. I'm thinking I may take a creative writing course this summer (my easier months) as it's been a few years since my BFA in CW and I miss workshops terribly.

In regards to rent, yes, you can find something for around $600 a month, but you will have to search. You could easily find something like that (sharing, of course, as it's not realistic for anyone to live alone in the greater Boston area) in the Somerville or Jamaica Plain area. Both are serviced by the T, but neither are close to BU (to be honest, the areas around BU really lack character, in my opinion. Brighton and Allston are two places that lack the charm seen across the river.)

I pay roughly $600 a month in a basement apt. and live in Cambridge. With two other roommates, this is a real steal, given the location. It helps to know people. If you're set on moving to Boston, it is feasible to do it on a budget, but not easy by any means.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

KSY979 said...

hi all,

does anyone recall a post about negotiating financial aid packages? i can't seem to find it in the archives.

if i imagined seeing this post, perhaps someone could help me out. how does one approach negotiations? who would i contact?

any insight is appreciated.

thanks!

Julia Clare Tillinghast Akalin said...

A question:

Can any current or former MFA student (or just really well researched prospective/accepted) give me an idea of what my schedule might be like? The website of the program I got into (Virginia Tech) gives total credit hours, but I don't really know what that translates into in terms of hours per week, number of actual classes per day. I am currently trying to get the rest of our shit together -- partner's job, preschool for child, etc. and I am having a hard time envisioning the actual day to day. Thanks!

And Boleto:
I considered BU but couldn't really even do so seriously because of the money issue.

However, I read somewhere (this blog, some other?) that BU is in the top very few schools where graduates have a very high degree of success in publishing RIGHT after leaving the program. I think that is definitely a mark in its favor.

Julia Clare Tillinghast Akalin said...

(The VT website says 50 credit hours, including thesis and pedagogy, etc. for TA-ing)

Taggie7 said...

There are so many literary magazines and journals out there... which ones are the best (for fiction)? I just need a starting point so I feel less out of the loop!

Thanks in advance!

Lizzy said...

ksy,

I don't recall that post here, but I've seen that issue mentioned at the Speakeasy.

I would say--and this is not firsthand, just going on gut feeling and what I've heard mentioned--that not a lot of programs are going to be open to negotiating an aid package. Under the best of circumstances, if they really really want you, maybe a few programs might. But I'd say it's the rare exception. I vaguely recall someone mentioning it about the Iowa program, but don't quote me on that--my recall is iffy.

I would not try to initiate "negotiations" unless I were very sure that it's been tried successfully at the program in prior years. Only because these are going to be your colleagues and mentors, and I'm not sure that bartering is the best foot to get off on. But I could be wrong about this. If someone has firsthand experience that says otherwise, please weigh in on this.

Jane,

My program requires 45 credits. I teach two classes per term. I am taking three classes now, and that keeps me very very busy--busier than I was at my fulltime job before coming here. There is a lot of reading, writing, grading and lesson planning required. In a typical week, with that kind of load, you'll have little time to do anything much but the basics of sleeping, showering, eating and keeping your place tidy. Next semester, I plan on cutting back to taking two classes, instead of three.

I hope that's helpful. Good luck.

Lizzy said...

Sorry, I meant "julia" not "jane"!!

Julia Clare Tillinghast Akalin said...

That's Ok, Lisa! :)

Thanks for the information. That's what I was afraid of!! I was hoping I would be less busy than I am now in my teaching job...

I hear you saying that lesson planning, grading, reading, and writing take up a ton of time outside of class -- But when you say that you are taking 3 classes, how many days per week, how many hours are those classes? I know every school is different, I am just kınd if trying to get some kind of idea.

KSY979 said...

hey lizzy,

thanks so much for responding. unfortunately, i found the post and sent an email already. i was polite, but i feel like an ass now.

anyway, here's the link:

http://creative-writing-mfa-handbook.blogspot.com/2006/03/mailbag-for-march-20th-2006.html

any suggestions on what i should do now?

KSY979 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben B said...

Julia,

From the research I've done on VaTech, it looks like you (and possibly me--I interviewed for fiction a week ago but haven't yet been accepted) will be required to enroll in 12 hours (or four 3-credit classes) each semester in order to be eligible for funding from the school. Each class meets for roughly 3 hours per week, either in one class meeting or split into two. However, after the first semester, during which you'll work in the writing center and take ENGL 5034 Practicum to help develop your syllabus for the coming semester, learn about teaching composition, etc., you'll continue to enroll in the ENGL 5034 but no longer receive credit. This course, after that first semester, from what I understand, counts as basically an empty credit toward the class or classes you're teaching (0 the first semester / 1 second semester of your first year; 2/2 second year; 2/2 third year (with one class being a creative writing). I've tried the math several ways but have had trouble balancing the 50 hours across six semesters with the required twelve hours each semester. Take a look at the program requirement on their website (if you haven't already). If it still doesn't make sense, I'm sure they wouldn't mind a call. The assistant director, Aileen Murphy, has been great about answering questions.

Samara said...

People being asked to teach two classes--maybe some of you are better at managing your time than me, but I was just at an program open house and one of the faculty was very blunt about teaching requirements--she said if you are ever asked to teach more than one class, don't do it, because you'll never have time to write. It doesn't seem fair of programs to invite people to join them as writers and then make it almost impossible to write and take classes, when that is ostensibly the whole reason you're there. On the other hand, I understand that it might be worth it for some people, but because this teacher was so adamant about it, I thought I'd share.

Delicata--does Jim Shepard still teach at Warren Wilson? If so, I would try really hard to take a class with him if that's where you end up. I took a summer workshop with him last year and he was an amazing teacher, one of the reasons I decided to get serious about applying for an MFA in the first place.

chris said...

I've narrowed down my acceptances to Univ. of Arkansas and UNCG. Both are offering good funding and assistantships. I love both programs and the faculty at both. I'm concerned that Ark is 4 years. I'd love some direction, and I know that you (Keely) have an insider view of UNCG from at least an undergrad perspective. Many thanks!
- CD

chris said...

Book Nerd,
First of all, Neil Connelly (McNeese director) is just a great, super cool guy, and it would be a real pleasure to study with him. Lake Charles is between Houston and New Orleans, and it's a good place to get mufaletta and other authentic LA food. From what I've heard the town isn't awesome, but isn't totally boring either (I've never been though). I work with a guy who attended the mfa there, so if you'd like more info I'll put you in touch with him. Drop me a line at writetodickens[at]gmail [dot]com.

-Chris

Screwsan said...

I have a question that addresses the point that Samara made about only teaching one class at a time: I'm deciding between two PhD programs right now. Program A would ask me to teach 3 classes per year in mixed subjects (2/1) and Program B would ask me to teach two per year (1/1) in comp only.

I have no prior college teaching experience.

Do I go with Program B because the teaching load is smaller and easier thus giving me more time to write? Or do I go with Program A because the experience teaching more classes and varied subjects will make me more attractive to future employers?

I really want to protect my writing time, but I am getting this degree so that I can get a job in academia afterwards. Like Natalie Imbruglia, I'm torn...

Samara said...

I should clarify--I meant teaching more than one class per term.

Screwsan--hmm...it sounds like either way you have a good option, but I will defer to others here...

CS said...
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CS said...
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Sarah Perrault said...

Hi Screwsan,

What kind of professor you plan to be: literature, rhet/comp, or creative writing? And what type of school are you aiming for a job in: R1, liberal arts, teaching intensive public...?

Depending on your answers, I may have some insights.

Cheers,

Sarah

Julia Clare Tillinghast Akalin said...

Ben,

Okay, so what you understand is that it would be about 12 hours a week first semester + writing center, and 9 hours second semester + teaching a class, 9 + 2 classes 3rd semester, etc. Right? Is that what you mean?

I can't make it work either, and the website doesn't give more specifics. I guess I'll ask?

That's cool that you might be going -- I haven't met any other prospective or accepted students. An interview is a very good sign, I think. I had one before they admitted me as well -- and really liked them. Good luck!!!

Julia Clare Tillinghast Akalin said...

Ok, never mind, I get it, sort of. I downloaded the MFA policies from the website and got what I wanted.

Good luck, again.

Screwsan said...

Hi Sarah,
Thanks! I'm going to start a Creative Writing PhD and so would ideally teach CW (though at Program A I'd get to teach comp, CW, and lit). As for where I want to end up: anywhere I can land a job in this market, really. I'm more location focused than institution focused (now anyway, maybe that will change after I start the PhD).

Can you still help or are those answers to vague? :)

Screwsan said...

*too*

ShannonR said...

Hello everyone,
This is my first post to the mfa blog.
I was wondering what people's thoughts were on using a dossier service for recommendation letters. Do all MFA programs accept letters from dossier services? If so, could anyone recommend a dossier service other than the AWP one (which requires AWP membership) and those affiliated with particular universities? My alma mater has a dossier service, but is in Canada.
Thank you!

Sarah Perrault said...

Screwsan,

I mainly know about the other areas, but
AWP suggests that the creative writing job market is about publications, publications, publications. The article is from 2005, but (based on colleagues' recent experiences) I don't think there's been much change.

Also, the PhD in creative writing is still a bit of an odd duck in the academy as people try to figure out if the job candidate only needs to shine as a creative writer (a given), or *also* needs to shine in scholarly publications (since the PhD is considered a scholarly degree). From what I've heard, this can vary greatly depending on the school, on who does the searches, and on the composition of the faculty. (For example, a friend taught at a place where he was the only non-literature PhD, and he was held to lit crit standards even though he was hired as a rhet/comp person.)

I suspect this doesn't help much, but feel free to email me if you want to correspond directly.

Good luck deciding!

Cheers,

Sarah

Screwsan said...

Sarah,
Thanks, I appreciate it! It's a difficult decision because there's not a ton of info out there about CW PhD programs. I know--I spent two years scraping the corners of the internet for info. I end up having to bother the MFA people on this website with my queries :)

Anybody in or graduated from a CW PhD program have definite opinions on teaching load while a student?

Thanks!

Bolivia Red said...

screwsan,
You want to go with School A if they give you the opportunity to teach lit as well as comp and creative writing. That will make you much more marketable where ever you go.

Some thoughts about teaching two versus one class. I've done both. At the school where I had to teach two classes of frosh comp per semester, they had 25 students each, but the preps were exactly the same. That school dictated the book we used and the five papers the students were required to write, although we had a bit of say in the day-to-day lesson plans and topics of the papers. I didn't have to use a lot of time or brain cells coming up with original stuff. Those classes met three days/week for 50 min each. Also, I didn't have the opportunity to teach any other kinds of classes there.

At school B, I've only had to teach one class of composition per semester, 20 student cap, but the class meets 5 days per week. After the practicum semester, I've had complete control over the choice of book, the focus of the class, the kinds of assignments, and ultimately how many and what kinds of papers the students write. The extra two days in class suck, but it is so nice grading 20 papers instead of 50 papers. I do, however, spend a lot more time coming up with lessons, cool ideas for class projects, and such, so it's not *that much* less time than 2 classes, just more fun.

I've also had the opportunity to teach lit, advanced composition, and intro to creative writing at school B (I only availed myself of the last one, which I kick myself for now). The lit classes have more students, but only 24.

I would definitely choose option B given the choice, but option A still left me with plenty of time to get my own schoolwork and writing done.

If you've never taught before, teaching is going to take up a lot of time, but you get to set the hours outside of class time and you get to decide exactly how much to put into it.

And let's be real about how much writing time you really need. Most people are only good for a few hours of true writing time per day, maybe four hours max unless you're some wunderkind. If you need great swaths of time, you can do your class work and grading during the week and leave weekends for the writing, or you can figure out some daily or every other daily schedule that works to balance school and writing.

Bolivia Red said...

shannonr,

I don't think it's a problem to use a dossier service for rec letters--it's probably easier on your recommenders not to have to keep changing the salutation and filling out the different envelopes. The downside would be that the MFA programs are getting a generic letter that is not addressed to the individual program, let alone tailored for that school's interests (my recommenders personalised the letters where they knew someone at the school or knew something specific about the program). This may not be a huge negative, but it's something to consider.

As for services, if you Canadian school has a free or cheap service, by all means use that. The fact that the letters are flying in from Canada shouldn't be a problem. It wouldn't hurt you to use the AWP service. Student memberships are only $40, and would show a level of seriousness about writing that you're familiar with it (plus you get an excellent magazine and access to the joblist). I know there's an extra fee for the service, but it's probably comparable to any professional service you'll find in the world.

Bolivia Red said...

screwsan,
You want to go with School A if they give you the opportunity to teach lit as well as comp and creative writing. That will make you much more marketable where ever you go.

Some thoughts about teaching two versus one class. I've done both. At the school where I had to teach two classes of frosh comp per semester, they had 25 students each, but the preps were exactly the same. That school dictated the book we used and the five papers the students were required to write, although we had a bit of say in the day-to-day lesson plans and topics of the papers. I didn't have to use a lot of time or brain cells coming up with original stuff. Those classes met three days/week for 50 min each. Also, I didn't have the opportunity to teach any other kinds of classes there.

At school B, I've only had to teach one class of composition per semester, 20 student cap, but the class meets 5 days per week. After the practicum semester, I've had complete control over the choice of book, the focus of the class, the kinds of assignments, and ultimately how many and what kinds of papers the students write. The extra two days in class suck, but it is so nice grading 20 papers instead of 50 papers. I do, however, spend a lot more time coming up with lessons, cool ideas for class projects, and such, so it's not *that much* less time than 2 classes, just more fun.

I've also had the opportunity to teach lit, advanced composition, and intro to creative writing at school B (I only availed myself of the last one, which I kick myself for now). The lit classes have more students, but only 24.

I would definitely choose option B given the choice, but option A still left me with plenty of time to get my own schoolwork and writing done.

If you've never taught before, teaching is going to take up a lot of time, but you get to set the hours outside of class time and you get to decide exactly how much to put into it.

And let's be real about how much writing time you really need. Most people are only good for a few hours of true writing time per day, maybe four hours max unless you're some wunderkind. If you need great swaths of time, you can do your class work and grading during the week and leave weekends for the writing, or you can figure out some daily or every other daily schedule that works to balance school and writing.

Lizzy said...

Hey, ksy,

I would say don't feel anxious about having sent that e-mail. I'm sure you'll be fine as long as you were polite. And if you're in a position of not being able to enroll if you don't get funding, it hurts nothing to lay your cards on the table, as TK suggests in that post. Wait and see what happens and let us know how it works out for you.

M. Douglas said...

bolivia red,

I think I know what your school "B" is (cause its the same midwestern school I will be attending this fall). In that case: 5 DAYS A WEEK???!?? I'm not sure I've ever heard of that. It is possible to teach that often, right?

M.

KSY979 said...

you are wonderful, lizzy. that comment made me feel a lot better. thank you.

one of the schools i'm considering is fsu (not the school i politely begged for money). if you're not too busy, i'd love to hear about your time there. my email is ksy979@gmail.com

Screwsan said...

Bolivia Red,
Thanks for the input! You're right about writing time--try 2 hours per day if I'm lucky. Also--five days a week for one class! That's amazing. I'll bet it is fun though.

ann said...

hi book nerd,

i'm from south louisiana (new orleans, and i attended college in baton rouge) and dated a guy from lake charles. it's got some pretty parts - although it's one of the major cities in LA, it's still medium rural. but there's also a lot of industry there, i believe, which kind of grosses me out. pretty much i wouldn't want to live in lake charles, but i'd probably find a comparable city in another state "charming" and it's just my "everything from my home state is worse than everywhere else" complex. e.g., i have heard good things about the mcneese program and i was surprised. what? there are good grad programs in louisiana? yeah, it's irrational, i know.

good luck with your decision!

Miss J said...

Screwsan:

Do you have any advice for a potential CW PhD applicant after your two years spent scraping the corners of the internet?

I put out MFA apps this year, but I've been rethinking my plans and am realizing that at the end of the day, I probably want to teach lit/comp/CW or some mixture of the three. But I don't even know where to begin looking for the right PhD programs to apply to. Any advice?

Screwsan said...

miss j,
Location had a lot to do with where I applied. I'm not the spring chicken I used to be and frankly, I didn't want to live in, for instance, Texas for 4-5 years. Nothing wrong with Texas, it's just not my cup o'. Same with Las Vegas. Um, actually, my list was quite short--I only applied to three programs (FSU, USC and Utah). Only now do I realize how foolhardy that was. I got lucky to get in anywhere as it seems these programs are even more competitive than I realized (I know this now from reading blogs and Speakeasy).

There's a list of CW PhD programs at Seth Abramson's blog (he did a ranking similar to the list he compiled for MFA programs). That's a great place to start. Once you have that list, just go to the school websites and start reading. Also, the Speakeasy message forum on Poets & Writers website has a board about PhD programs. It's under MFA Programs.

My sense is that it's a bit rare for programs to allow you to teach all different kinds of classes and not just comp. As far as I know, Houston and USC only let you teach comp. FSU and Utah let you teach comp, creative writing and potentially lit classes.

Because I was rather limited in my scope of schools (mostly because I didn't know what programs were out there--seriously, Seth's list was published after I'd sent my applications out and was like, "Damn, I didn't even know that program existed!"), so I can't tell you a whole lot about programs other than the few I applied to.

I will say that you don't necessarily need to have teaching experience (obvs: I don't) but they are, in essence, hiring you to teach for them, so speak as glowingly as you can about the opportunity to grow as a teacher. I think the USC app actually says, "give us 350 glowing words about teaching comp" or something to that effect.

Also, in re: critical work: FSU doesn't ask for any critical work. On the other hand, a friend of mine who now goes to Utah was wait-listed because the critical piece he sent in wasn't strong and he admitted to me that he hadn't really taken that part seriously.

In other words, it's not necessarily the same as the MFA app, which really boils down to the creative sample.

Hope this helps!

Screwsan said...

miss j,
One more thing to consider: some schools ask that you take the GRE Lit exam. If you're applying to schools that ask for it, definitely take the time and study for this test. I didn't and bombed it and felt I couldn't apply to schools (like Missouri) that require it.

Miss J said...

Screwsan,

Thanks so much for this advice! I'll definitely take a look at the sites and programs you mentioned. (And the GRE Lit test! Didn't think about that one.) It's been hard to find info on the CW PhD since it does seem like the bastard child of the English department.

Bolivia Red said...

m. douglas--
Congrats and welcome!! You're going to be so happy!

The five days/week is not so bad (just keep thinking "Only 20 papers!"). It's only 50 minutes a day, after all. Two days a week are conference days with students, so you don't have any preps for those days.

email me directly (find my info on the CW webpage under students) and I'll give you the whole scoop. I'm happy to answer any questions you have.

Miss J said...

Sarah-

I'm curious about your insights into the academic lit/comp job market for folks who graduate with Creative Writing PhDs, or a PhD in English with a Creative Dissertation, which seems to be a slightly different creature.

A friend of mine says that I'll be a tough sell as a lit professor whether I do the CW PhD or the English/Creative Dissertation option, since universities base their employment decisions on the (critical) thesis. I have no desire to be a rockstar English professor/world-renowned theorist at a major university, but a job teaching literature and writing at a college (while still producing my own creative work) seems like it would be just my speed. Am I delusional to think I could teach literature and/or composition with a Creative Writing PhD?

Thanks in advance for any advice you (or anyone else here!) can provide!

Bolivia Red said...

miss j--
We've had one MFA go on to do the PhD in Rhet/Comp, and two others go on to do lit PhDs. It means probably an extra year or so more than doing just a straight lit or CW PhD, but it makes them completely marketable in both CW and Lit or Rhet/Comp. If you concentrated the lit courses for your MFA right, with the PhD in mind, you could probably get both degrees in the same amount of time it would take to do the regular PhD.

That said, most of the CW PhDs require a secondary field, so that would allow you to teach lit or rhet/comp at least at the undergrad level or in a non-R1 school. If you were smart and published some articles as well as some creative stuff, you'd have just about the same credentials as a plain old lit PhD.

Miss J said...

Thanks, Bolivia Red, that's heartening to hear!

Sarah Perrault said...

Hello Miss J,

For the university world, you should get the degree for the job you want -- a lit degree to teach lit, a creative writing degree to teach creative writing, etc. I'll talk about those first, then rhet/comp.

For both lit and crwr, the job market is very competitive, so schools can be choosy and go for the folks whose preparation fits their precise needs -- and at medium-to-large universities, at least, the areas are pretty well demarcated. A school needing a Victorianist will hire someone with a PhD in Victorian lit. If they need a creative writer, that's what they'll hire. In both cases, applicants will outnumber jobs.

For creative writing, here are some numbers to illustrate: Last year, there were 42 creative writing PhD programs in the country, and 131 creative writing MFA programs. That's 173 programs. Some graduate one or two people/year; most graduate considerably more. In 2006-2007, 167 TT creative writing jobs were listed in AWP. Not the best odds, especially given that many previous years' graduates will still be on the market.

Looking at similar figures for 2005-2006, Kristin Hahn and Caren Scott write: "Although 169 tenure-track creative writing jobs in 2005-06 represents a big increase in job opportunities as compared to the previous year, the number of job openings remains too few for the thousands of new graduates who have just earned advanced degrees in creative writing. AWP estimates that, each year, 2,000 to 3,000 students earn advanced degrees in creative writing." Plus hundreds of grads from last year, the year before, etc.

I don't have literature track numbers handy, but it's a buyer's market there too (with the schools being the buyers).

So what about rhet/comp? Again, I don't know much about the smaller schools, but I can say pretty confidently that to get a TT R/C job in a larger university you'd need a R/C PhD. Yes, here are a *lot* of R/C jobs, especially compared to lit/crwr. However, there are more PhD grads in R/C each year, enough to mostly be meeting that need, and that means that the R/C jobs going to lit/crwr people are the post-docs, or the positions with a 4/4 or even 5/5 teaching load, or those in undesirable locations.

A lot comes down to what the degree says about your goals and your training. Just as lit and crwr programs don't see a R/C PhD as serious about lit or crwr, R/C programs don't get excited about applicants with lit degrees. In each case, the applicant has prepared for a different job.

When it comes to smaller schools -- college, and maybe smaller universities -- they do have flexibility to hire, and need for, generalists. If a four-year-college is your goal, you may do well with a crwr PhD and a secondary emphasis in a literary area. I don't know, though -- that's not my niche, and what I do know is anecdotal. You might want to identify some schools of the type where you'd want to teach and find out information about their recent TT hires: Who, when, with what degrees and from where and in what area(s)?

I hope this helps, and isn't too long-winded. I wish I had known a lot more about how the academy works back when I started the graduate school adventure -- but then, when I started it, I didn't know I was going to want an academic career. I just knew I wanted change, and time to write, and heaven knows I've gotten both!

Cheers,

Sarah

Murphy said...

Now for something completely different... I've been wondering about fonts after reading some posts on the Speakeasy.

Did I screw myself by sending all but one of my writing samples in 12pt Arial? Only one school actually required Times New Roman.

TNR is difficult for me to read, so I've preferred Arial for years. But now I'm reading that TNR is really the way to go and anything else stands out in a negative way.

What do you guys think? Is Arial somehow really distracting?

Pensive495 said...

Murphy: I hope not, because I sent most of my samples in Palitino Linotype. I find it much easier to read.

StoshaD said...

Life circumstances right now are preventing me from packing up and moving to get my MFA and there is no program in my current city. Therefore, I am seriously considering Low Residency programs. However, I have a concern. I really want to write, but I also really want to teach. Do students who get Low Residency MFAs have an even harder time securing a professor job as traditional MFAs? I thought this might be the case because there are no teaching opportunities in a Low Residency program. Are there ways for low res. MFAs to give themselves an edge in the job hunt, such as mentoring underprivileged kids who want to write or even getting published? Your thoughts are appreciated!