Friday, January 29, 2010

Mailbag, Friday January 29, 2010

Time for a new mailbag!

1,004 comments:

1 – 200 of 1004   Newer›   Newest»
John said...

So does anyone know about VT? Does that count as a rejection if we haven't gotten told to set up an email already?

Eli said...

Subscribe! I'm finding listening to Tony Blair's Iraq Inquiry on the BBC, reading the mass twitterstorm around it, and hearing people's good MFA news filtering in an almost satisfying afternoon at work. Rock on, y'all :)

Coughdrop said...

As I just said on the last mailbag right after Nancy said we had a new one... (:/)

Congrats Nick! You get to CHOOSE a program! How cool is that???

and re: whoever said that we should be the Zombie Cats Society instead of Dead

But what would we yell then? APPLICAAAATTIOOONSSS! or FAAAAFSAAAA!

oh god this waiting game is making me truly insane...

Danielle said...

subscribing! And I hope today is a good day for all those waiting on OSU and Alabama!

Mike said...

subscribe

GotBisco said...

It's interesting that the TOP 50 notifications so far have been for Poetry only.

Kitty In A Cathouse said...

Congrats, Nick!

Kitty In A Cathouse said...

1

Jessa said...
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kaybay said...

Congratulations Nick!! You're on fire this year. Craziness!

kaybay said...

Oh, forgot to subscribe :)

Mostly Swell said...

wow Eli - that was a cool little ditty

Congrats NM - on both!!!

I'm gonna give a go at this subscribe thang.

Coreyann said...

subscribing!
Ha, I had a fake out from IOWA yesterday. I got a letter from them. Kinda knew there was no way it was already a decision letter but of course that didn't stop me from shaking as I opened it. Alas, it was them returning my application fee because I had already paid it online.
sigh.

Maslo said...

Congrats again, Nick! And good luck to those being interviewed! You've already intrigued them over @ VA Tech, now here's your chance to knock it outta the park :D

Cratty said...

Coreyann, thanks for putting a smile on my face. You know how serious the MFA process is when seeing money in your mailbox is met with disappointment. Girl (or boy), I feel ya.

Xataro said...

Congratulations, Nick! Way to go!

You're going to North Texas, right? Right?

Just kidding. I wish you the best and hope you pick the one that's right for you.

I'm glad I have a busy day at work today.

Nick McRae said...

@ Maslo - Thanks! Also, did you know that your name means "butter" in Czech & Slovak? I've been meaning to ask you that :)

@ Everybody - Thank you so much for the kind words!

Wishing us all the best,
NM

Maslo said...

Really?! XD I had no idea lol. But hey, I do loves me some butter :)

frankish said...

You dirty stinking poets and your dirty stinking early notifications.... :P

Heh. Congrats, man, that's great!

Cheers!

MSR said...

subscribing

Morgan said...

Nick,

You are KILLING, brother! Can't say I'm surprised having read your sample. You give me hope!

the little poet who could said...

Nick, you're the man!

-as jealous as i am

Rosanna said...

Congrats on the acceptances thus far!

I applied to VT for fiction - no interview email, though. This really saddens me, and has pushed me into the realm of blogging. I've been a longtime lurker here - would have spoken sooner, but most of y'all seem to be able to read my mind. In other words, most of what I have to say has already been said.

Anyway, it's really nice to see the support system going on here. Good luck, all.

P.S. Another distraction book: Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. It's nonfiction and can sometimes get extremely detailed to the point of, well, wow. But it's a good read, esp for distraction purposes.

Jamie said...

Yes - Nick is the isht. I really enjoyed his "History of Burial" poem, available through his site.

During my train commute I've been re-re-re-re-reading my beloved Collected Poems of Brecht, and the first two sections of the above poem remind me of that - same tartness. Yum.

Jessa said...
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Xataro said...

@frankish

Don't hate on the poets. It's not all sunshine and lollipops, anyway. The early notifications are good for those who get them, but hell on those who don't. I now look back fondly on the days when nobody had been notified.

John said...

Garrison Keillor should know that better than anyone. He loves reading mid-life crisis/ Billy Collins-esque poems on his show in that whispy, all too forgettable voice. He also came out with a collection of love sonnets which are awful. Even more awful is the trite preface he includes. Seriously, it ends with something like "If any of what follows here should offend, I apologize, it was not my intention." OK Bill Shakespeare.

If you have time, you ought to look up August Kleinzahler's rant against him. Pretty good.

M. Johnson said...

Congrats to the two phone interviewers...and Nick of course. Amazing. Hoping for more word to come today!

-M.

apcb said...

the day is young

Jessa said...
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Xataro said...

Re: used condoms and good poems

I like this quote from Rudyard Kipling:

"... the Devil whispered behind the leaves, "It's pretty, but is it Art?"

It's from the poem "The Conundrum of the Workshops," oddly enough, which I do suggest reading.

Gena said...

Well, officially finished my lit comps (coughdrop? Were you the other comp-taker?) and can finally read for fun again! And, of course, finally have time to worry over not having received a phone call from Bama. Oh well, I found differance and the anxiety of influence more mind-crushing, anyway.

Oh yeah, and major congrats Koru! You too, Nick! Glad to see the whole Fullbright thing didn't cost you, in the end!

Subscribe!

GotBisco said...

Congrats to all...very cool to see. Did Bama notify any fiction applicants? I keep seeing posts from worried Bama applicants but I only remember poetry notifications.

pencore said...

Us fictioneers still have a ways to go.

Ke$ha got it right, tik tok, indeed. I mean, her poetry/lyrics are about this whole MFA shenanigans:

You build me up
You break me down
My heart it pounds
Yeah you got me

Dreux said...

I didn't apply to VT, but I'm curious about the interviews part of the admissions process.

They offer interviews to stronger applicants, but not all interviewees get admitted? Sounds harsh. I'd hate to go through getting interviewed and then not get the offer.

But congrats to the people who received those notifications, anyway. Hopefully you don't end up in that situation.

Coughdrop said...

@Gena

Yep! That was me! I hope you do plenty of jumping around and flailing like I did! CONGRATS WE DID IT! Now, we just have to wait to hear from schools.

M.Swann said...

@pencore That might be the first time anyone has written "Ke$ha got it right."

pencore said...

I bet all the higher-ups at the record label, who created her image and are banking off it, might have uttered it when no one was looking.

*Shrug*

I think I'm going to distract myself by making lots of absurd pop references to our 'ordeal.'

American Idol runner-up, Adam Lambert said it best:

Whataya want from me
Yeah I'm afraid whataya want from me
Whataya want from me

Seth Abramson said...

Hi all,

A few quick notes about LSU ('cause folks were asking): They don't accept 25 to 30 students per year, I too understand that that is (at most) the total number of people in the three-year program in both genres. As to applications, I think we need to remember that a program getting, say, 195 applications would put it just outside the Top 40 nationally for applications--not even the Top 50, the Top 40. Louisiana State, at the time of last year's applications was coded "low Top 50" in the Poets & Writers rankings (i.e. the ones which, if at all, would have informed this admissions cycle) with a real-world admissions scenario probably somewhat beneath that--because of hesitation regarding location generally but more specifically and importantly because non-researching MFA applicants are less likely to employ what might be termed The Southern Strategy (i.e., accepting that many/most funded programs are in the South, that Southern programs are not as aesthetically conservative as they once were because of their increased selectivity and consequent "nationalized" applicant pool, and then getting over the instinctive aversion that some applicants have toward applying to a Southern program--an aversion that has not one genesis but many, including, for instance, hesitation by our gay brothers and sisters about the environment/receptivity for homosexual lifestyles in the South).

So for all of those reasons I would not necessarily expect LSU's applicant pool this year to match its ranking from the applicable (i.e. 2010, not 2011) ranking structure, i.e. 40 to 50. Instead, it would be reasonable to assume an applicant pool somewhere between 50 and 60, i.e., between 100 and 150 total applicants in both genres. If 8 to 10 total applicants are being accepted each year, that would give us perhaps a 7.20% yield-exclusive acceptance rate, or just outside the top 30 for selectivity (continuing the trend this year of programs being roughly commensurate in 2011 ranking with anticipated or known 2010 selectivity).

All that said, could I be wrong? Yes. These numbers have not been released. But this is an educated estimate, not a shot in the dark, and it's the best we have. I do apologize for not placing LSU on the "Top 50 Programs With No Data Available" list for selectivity--that was merely an oversight, and I'll fix it shortly.

Be well,
Seth

Dreux said...

The Southern Strategy. Interesting. People certainly make a lot out of trying to game this whole process. And while I'm certainly guilty of that in certain respects (sheer amount of applications, if nothing else) and I fully understand the mentality that leads to it, I can't help but remember and deeply appreciate some really good advice that an author I admire gave me when I asked him where I should apply to MFA programs:

"If you put together the best manuscript you possibly can, then apply wherever you want to go. That should be your only consideration. If you don't manage your best manuscript, find another line of work instead."

frankish said...

Thanks, Seth. That makes sense.

Personally, I hope you are right on LSU's application numbers for this year, as I applied there and it would be one of the less selective schools if those numbers hold true...obviously, my application strategy wasn't thought through very well.

Anyway, I really like the faculty there and don't think Baton Rouge is such a bad place. In the future, when I am not in the applicant pool, I hope they move up in popularity as I think they deserve. :D

Cheers!

John said...

No one likes cockiness!

Seth Abramson said...

Hi Dreux,

Actually, the Southern Strategy--which was a bit of tongue-in-cheek wordplay by me (which those familiar with Nixonian politics may catch), not an actual working term in the field of MFA admissions--has nothing to do with gaming the system, and everything to do with the personal psychology of applicants. You'll note that I framed the so-called "Southern Strategy" in terms of the struggle of an individual applicant to get over his/her biases (hence the ironic twist on Nixon's racially-charged political stratagem from the late 1960s/early 1970s). The only part of the Strategy that has to do with the "system" is actually rather mechanical--understanding, as is factual rather than "strategic," that many/most fully-funded programs are in the South. The advice you were given contains within it a presumption that is somewhat outdated--that applying "wherever you want to go" means doing something other than heavily taking into account funding (usually, when someone says "just apply where you think you'll fit in!" they are really saying, "make your decision based on perceived aesthetic fit with faculty"; that, actually, is a much more strident [and I would suggest unwise] "strategy" than I've suggested here). Polling shows that 60% of applicants think funding is the most important factor in matriculation decisions, with location--something untouched upon by either the rankings or my own personal advice to anyone (it's such a personal determination)--in second place. All other considerations, such as the aesthetic-based targeting that is implicit (though perhaps not intended) in the advice you repeated here, come in a distant, distant third, fourth, fifth, etcetera.

Best,
Seth

Dreux said...

Well, the political significance of the Southern Strategy is the very reason it caught my eye. It seems apt given the amount of complex thought that seems to go into the average application list for a potential MFA student.

I'm with you on the whole funding, location and lots of other stuff is important line. The element I'm glad I left out of my search that it seems a lot of people don't is trying to find schools that not only deeply appeal to you on those important grounds, but that might be a touch less selective than others that are equally appealing, even if you sacrifice a little bit of those other factors in the process. What the advice I got saved me from was playing the same games that prospective undergrads are encouraged to play in terms of including schools on their list that they may not be as in love with, but are more likely to get into.

In the end, MFA doesn't feel like the time to do those sorts of things. At least not to me.

Mostly Swell said...

@Dreux
Thanks. I think that is really practical advice.

"If you put together the best manuscript you possibly can, then apply wherever you want to go. That should be your only consideration. If you don't manage your best manuscript, find another line of work instead."

My writing career will not come to a screeching halt if I don't get into a program. Don't get me wrong, I do hope and intend to get accepted. But this degree is not like one where the career rests on obtaining it, as compared to law or medicine or many other fields. In that regard, we are fortunate.

Dreux said...

One of the things I liked most about Tom's book was the frequency with which he took a moment to remind readers that aiming high in MFA admissions is a good thing, because it's a fine arts degree and for a lot of people a willingness to try more than once will result in an admission to a better school than an inflexible desire to attend in a specific year would.

Jamie said...

Maybe with hordes of MFA-seekers hitching up the wagon and heading south, we can alter the demographics and create a reliable blue belt across the paunch of Dixie, along with making Alabama the next state in our union to ratify gay marriage. While it does assume a bit about the political leanings of MFA applicants (who are we kidding?), that would be a sweet and tricky Southern Strategy indeed.

Kevin said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on LSU, Seth. It's very helpful to have an informed opinion when there's no hard data to go by.

Trilbe said...

*Ding* It's like a lightbulb just went on: "The Southern Strategy." My list is very heavily tilted towards the south -- like, 7 out of 11 schools. All this time, I've thought that's odd. But it totally makes sense, now.

Kati-Jane said...

Wow, Jamie, I found that totally offensive. Although I have to admit the tone about the South on here has in general been sort of offensive... even knowing such "biases" are typical. But I agree that it would be nice to see gay marriage legal... everywhere.

Congrats to Nick and Koru, belated as it may be... fast moving blog!

Deeedeee said...

Any in the knows about Northern Michigan? Living in Marquette? Is it really lake effect snow that keeps numbers so low? Of my list of schools, they (in addition to Brooklyn College) have been the most communicative throughout this whole process. Brownie points.

Deeedeee said...

P.S.

Many congrats to those who've heard news! May you have many more to choose from...

Dreux said...

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that municipal government in university campus areas in the south tends to be markedly more liberal than the surrounding areas already.

Dreux said...

Deedee,

I know nothing about the program. But I do know their lit review is absolutely first-rate, so maybe that's enough to tempt you into doing some further research.

Jamie said...

Well, if I'm going to rag on my homeland, let's do it right...

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/28559

Mostly Swell said...

@Deeedeee
Thanks for sharing your experience with N Michigan. That's nice to know.

I didn't apply there and don't have a reason. I just didn't get that far with my "research."(I applied to other programs in the area.)

I have old friends and new acquaintances in various spots up there, some rural, some city. So, what I do know about living up there is that they ice fish! Remember the movie Grumpy Old Men? Who was it? Walter Mathau and Henry Ford? There's a whole culture around it! And, I guess they do roller derby and ice hockey too. Totally new to me - should be fun. (-;

Deeedeee said...

Dreux,

Thanks for your input. And yes, I do agree about the journal. It was that and Lake Superior that initially did me in.

Jake Maxwell said...

Been lurking for a while, but wanted to let you all know: I got a fake out envelope from Oregon yesterday. So try not to freak out too much if you get one too.

Dreux said...

The fake out emails aren't so bad because they come with a subject line that usually indicates it's nothing to get totally worked up over. Fake out envelopes = 100 times worse.

Stranger said...

What about Iowa? When can we expect to hear from them this year? Did they finish reading all the applications? I need to know!! *sigh*

Dreux said...

Stranger,

I know Seth's response times have Iowa getting back to folks pretty early (often in mid-February as I recall), but when I last talked to them on the phone (on Tuesday) they told me they were still putting application files together.

So either they're one of those schools that really doesn't bother with anything except the samples until it really gets down to the wire, or they're a little behind this year because of the sheer number they've received this go-round

Deeedeee said...

Mostly,

If you don't mind, where did you apply near the area? Have you considered Fairbanks, too? Are you from the Upper Peninsula? Call me crazy, but that environment is appealing.

Ice hockey, ice fishing, ice sculpture, ice ________ would all be new to me as well. With more than half a year of snow, I'm sure there are lots of obscure little activities I never even knew existed. Yes! I remember Grumpy Old Men... might take awhile to get acclimated to that subculture :D

Stranger said...

Dreux,

Thanks! I'm really anxious, I just want an answer already. I only applied to Iowa, so you can imagine how I'm feeling right now. lol Hopefully we'll all get accepted where we want to. The waiting game sucks!!!

Ashley Brooke said...

Dreux,
I'd we willing to bet that Iowa won't be touching anything besides the writing samples for quite a while.

In panic news:
I've taken a look at my writing sample, and decided that I hate the first page or so of my first story and that it is the worst part of my writing sample. And now I'm saying "Why the hell did I start out where I did?" I put my strongest overall story first, but my second piece starts out much stronger. Now I feel like I should have put that sample first. UGH. Actually, I think I did put it first for one or two schools. Oh well.

Dreux said...

Ashley,

I had the same problem. I had a piece that was a really great story, clearly the best I had to offer.

Then I had another I felt less strong about, but which flexed a lot of literary muscle on the first page. The first page sings.

I decided to lead with the one that starts off in a less flashy manner. I decided that it was more important I lead with the stronger story than with the story with the stronger beginning.

Hopefully neither of us gets proven tremendously wrong in our judgment.

rahkan said...

Hey does anyone want to exchange fiction writing samples? I didn't want to before I applied, since it would only have stressed me out. But now that I am 99% reconciled to not getting in anywhere and having to reapply next year, I kind of want to see what sort of stuff is out there.

Email me at rhkanakia [at] gmail [dot] com

Ashley Brooke said...

I was looking back through the comments from around this time last year, and somebody asked what everybody's sample pieces (for fiction) were "about." There were some interesting answers, and so I am posing the same question: How would your describe your sample pieces? Not that this tells us if they're any good or not, since plot means nothing it it isn't done well. I'm just curious.

My pieces are, in the simplest terms:

1) A 17-page story about a twenty-something woman, raised by her father, who nervously meets her mother for the first time.

2) An 8-page story about a child who lost both of her hands in a scuba diving accident and the ramifications on her family.

3) A 3-page flash piece about the narrator's mentally handicapped brother and their ride across town on a bus.

P.S. Thanks Dreux! I'm glad to hear that you made the same decision. It makes me feel slightly more secure.

Lauren said...

Hi everyone.

That thunderously loud sound you're hearing is the sound of my phone NOT ringing. (I applied to Ohio State in fiction.)

Meanwhile, I spent half the morning working out so that I'd have somewhere to put my anger over this awful process.

I'm really angry that I am not in a position to apply to a bunch of programs all over the country. This puts me at huge disadvantage compared to other applicants. I have 3 children and an ex-husband who is less than amenable to uprooting and moving to 'wherever I happen to get accepted' -- and so there were only two locations I could possibly make work. I applied to all schools within driving distance of those two cities. (This is why I am the Ohio/Florida applicant.)

I guess I am just whining -- I could only apply to five programs because of my circumstances. This puts extra pressure on each application -- every rejection is, percentage-wise, much worse than the rejection of somebody who applied to 14 programs. I also don't have a 'next year' strategy -- at this point in my life I do not have the luxury of time.

God I'm horribly upset today. Like all of us -- I worked so hard for this. I really truly despise this process today.

Thanks for listening guys.

Dreux said...

My stories:

1. Titled, 'One Way Toward Progress,' it's about a fella named Tippett who changes spare tires for drinking money in an old coal town. He decides he's going to booby trap the local highway to generate more business and it leads to an interesting couple of days.

2. Titled, 'a Boy dreamed for Assisi,' it's about a father and son in 1970s Pittsburgh. The mill at which the father works as a puddler is closing and the family is facing the prospect of moving to Latrobe to stay with the boy's grandparents, a process of dislocation the boy internalizes by dreaming of himself as St. Francis in Assisi during his time.

Mostly Swell said...

@Deeedeee
I was ambivalent and thus slow to commit to the MFA. And, frankly, there was a lot going on for me personally that time slipped before I decided to plunge in. Seth's article in P&W lit a fire under me. And since Madison was taking fiction apps this year and not next, I applied this year. (Maybe it's because I'm in my 40's, maybe it's because I've lost and won so many times, I don't share the sense of urgency that some others have.)

Anyways...Anyway... I applied to UMich, UMinn and UWisc (alphabetical order, they are all my top pick.)

And if I am looking again next year, I will look at NMich. Nix on Fairbanks. I need some daylight everyday, even if it's overcast daylight.

I'm from several places, Rust Belt, Bible Belt and elsewhere. Never lived that far north, nor either coast.

Did you apply for poetry or fiction?

Signing for a while - so I'll get back to your response later.

phillywriter said...

@Ashley:

I've promised myself not to look at my writing sample until after this is all over, because I know I'll just freak myself out. What's done is done, at this point, and I know if I look at it I'll find a gazillion things that I'll think I should have done differently. I'm driving myself crazy enough as it is, so second-guessing my writing sample now would probably push me over the edge into crazy-land. If I were you, I'd just try to put it out of your mind (hard as that may be). Of course, no matter how hard I try, I can't put this application anxiety out of my mind. I honestly don't know how I'm going to handle this waiting game much longer. Totally going crazy.

Stranger said...

@ Lauren,

I'm sorry to hear that. Hopefully you'll get accepted where you want to go. Waiting is difficult, but keep your hopes high. When you least expect it, things change for the best. Best wishes, and good luck to you, and all of us!

Riah said...

@ Jake

Thanks for the Oregon heads up. When I saw Oregon in your comment, I thought you had gotten accepted, and my heart sank. Hopefully, I'll get the same envelope today and try not to be disappointed when I open it.

Dreux said...

Lauren,

My only advice is to remember that it's just the writing that matters. Really. I'm not being patronizing.

Just write and enjoy writing for its own sake, and somewhere down the line some awesome opportunities (MFA or otherwise) will present themselves.

Don't let it be about winning the race, as strong as that tendency may be in all of us. Just love to run.

Elissa Cahn said...

Lauren,
I'm with you regarding the lack of Ohio State calling! Also, I remember your Ohio/FL issue from a post you wrote awhile back. I don't know whether you're up for submitting any more apps, but have you considered Bowling Green? Their app fee is really low as far as such things go ($30), and their deadline isn't until 2/15, though they do require the GRE. Anyway, just a thought.

So, I need to decide in the next two days or so whether or not to apply to Northern Michigan...I keep going back and forth. Grr.

Stranger said...

So, I've been thinking...are there any basic books we must read to prepare ourselves for the whole MFA experience? Any recommendations on essays/books about literary techniques/styles? Even if I don't get in this year, it would be helpful to learn more. Suggestions, anyone?

Lauren said...

@ashley brooke,

(You read my samples so you know this, but, for everyone else:)

My writing samples are about

1. A guy who's losing his job and musing about the decline of the city around him -- he sees the ghost of a dead girl on the side of the highway. ("These Monuments Are Insufficient")

2. An anorexic woman whose love for her (female) neighbor brings her to the base of a giant TV signal tower, on top of which is perched a large construction crane that's about to topple down. ("A Crane, a Tower, a Hollow-boned Bird")

Wow, those sound really hokey, now that I think about it. Ha.

Jamie said...

@Lauren - don't despair! Not yet, not ever! Has there even been a fiction acceptance yet? I didn't apply to OSU, but I think we're talking about two totally different groups of readers, so it doesn't make sense to read the poetry activity into the fiction. At least, not to me.

Lauren said...

@Elissa,

I wish I'd applied to BGSU. I feel like I don't dare ask my recommenders to send to anywhere else. (Though maybe I've recently become desperate enough to ask.)

@Stranger,

I just found what looks to be an awesome book about literary criticism. I found it at Half Price Books. It's at home -- I do not have it in front of me to tell you the title/author. I'll try to remember to make a note of it and post it for you later.

I have also started to look at teaching resources (for Freshman composition). Mostly I do these things to distract myself from this process, of course...

Maslo said...

Lauren,

Those stories don't sound hokey to me - they sound interesting!

Dreux said...

Stranger,

The Art of Fiction, Poe's Essays and Reviews, a Mencken collection (Prejudices, perhaps?), Forster's Aspects of the Novel, maybe Plumly's Argument and Song for poets?

Ashley Brooke said...

Lauren,
I agree with others who are saying OSU doesn't seem to have called on fiction yet, at least as far as the internet knows! I know it's ~**easier said that done**~ but until that rejection letter is with you, don't give up!
I also don't like the way that my stories sound when they are reduced to a single sentence. That's okay, though. It means nothing, it's just a way to kill time. :)

Trilbe said...

@Lauren - Hang in there! I know that's a weak, worthless thing to say. But, as God is my witness, I really mean it. If my hope and my good wishes count for anything in this universe, you'll get into a great program and be very happy there. Honestly, after hearing about your situation, I wish you more luck than I want for myself because you clearly deserve it. So be strong! And remember that you don't have to get into all of the schools you've applied to, just one of them.

You've done your research and applied to as many schools as you could, plus it sounds like you've got a compelling life story -- the spirit and wisdom of which, I'm sure, has gone into your art -- you've got a good chance! Don't doubt yourself, now. Doubt, at this point, will just make you suffer and you don't need that.

Ashley Brooke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eli said...

Can someone clarify something for me? VERY idiotic question but I'm curious - are lots of you applying for MFA's with undergrad creative writing courses under your belts? If so, I must admit I'm crazy jealous. There wasn't a hope in hell of doing one of those when I was an undergrad; they barely existed in the UK back then. Straight-up English Lit, reify the texts, idolize the authors, accept you'll never, ever be anywhere near as good as them, have no access to any real-life fiction writers who could encourage you (albeit with pragmatism), and so you give up hope... Man, I can't deny I'm seriously jealous if many of you got to avoid that pointless detour and got straight-up support for your writing as undergrads instead. That's staggering to me. I really chose the wrong university, course, country, familial expectations, etc :D

Anyway, having said that, MFA's are openly offered to international students, which is just as tantalizing and awesome as far as opportunities go...so I am at peace with it all now. I'm just rabidly curious if most of you have done CW undergrad, cos everyone seems so polished and prepared, and I feel like a total outsider. Cheers dudes! AND RING, PHONE, FOR ALL OF US! (Though im not expecting anything till March...i just have a feeling)...

Eli said...

ps, Lauren, I didn't read your post before posting mine. I'm really sorry about your situation - but I hope you have faith and hang in there. You're writing from a pretty damn strong position so you never know - it may well work out for the best this year! Or next year!

phillywriter said...

@Lauren, Dreux, and Ashley Brooke:

Your stories sound awesome. I'm hoping for my sake that the folks on this forum are of higher-than-average caliber; you're tough competition!

I hope all of us get into the school that's the right match for us. My fingers are crossed for everyone on this blog.

Charles said...

In other news, WHO IS THIS GIRL and why is her picture so popular with MFA program websites?

http://webb.nmu.edu/Departments/English/SiteSections/AboutUs/AboutUs.shtml

http://www.indiana.edu/~mfawrite/

I feel so betrayed. I only applied to Indiana because I was sure she'd be there.

Lauren said...

Thanks Eli, Trilbe, and Ashley! And thanks to all of you, really -- just the existence of this place to vent and be heard -- it all helps. I know you guys understand. And yes I know -- it's not over until the rejection letter is in my angry little hands.

I'm going to cheer up now!

(P.S. Elissa -- I remember why I didn't apply to BGSU. They say you can't get a teaching assistantship without a 3.0, and by the sound of it, they're not joking around and wouldn't make an exception.)

Eli said...

er, Lauren, but hopefully THIS year!

Though I'm trying to see another year of non mfa-funded writing time gloriousness (if that's the way it rolls) as another year of commitment, yet again, to writing - it still happens, crazy jobs and other commitments notwithstanding, right? Good luck, and i like the sound of your samples too.

beedeecee said...

@eli:

i've been writing my whole life, but i only took one creative writing class in undergrad ... during my last semester.

Trilbe said...

@Eli - I've taken a ton of undergraduate creative writing classes and workshops. But I think the best stuff I learned was from the lit courses. Just my $0.02...

Ashley Brooke said...

HAHAHA Charles good find! I love cheap stock photography.

Ashley Brooke said...

Thanks phillywriter,
I think you're just downplaying your own writing, though!

Dreux said...

As far as undergrad goes, yes, I got to do plenty. I started at one 4-year BFA program and then transferred into another, so there really wasn't a moment during my undergraduate career where I wasn't a BFA with a major in creative writing. That said, I'm not sure it gives me that much of a leg up over someone who had a good writing habit during college even if they weren't getting graded.

GotBisco said...

@Eli..I took four or five fiction workshops plus an independent study; then, a creative nonfiction workshop which in addition to the lit classes required for my major, have been incredibly more valuable to my progress as a writer when compared to my fiction courses. I think the best and maybe only thing I took away from the fiction workshops in terms of a skill I will use fr my whole writing life was an ability to disassociate myself from my work and take criticism well.

phillywriter said...

@Eli
I was a lit major with a Creative Writing "concentration" in undergrad, which meant I was able to count three writing workshops toward the lit degree. Technically students at my school could do Creative Writing as an "independent major" - but it was strongly discouraged, so I settled for the "concentration" instead. Only one person in my time there did the "independent major" in Creative Writing thing, and the profs seemed to think she wrote like a god. I wonder where she ended up? Of course, I can't remember her last name in order to Google her (this was nearly 10 years ago). Hmm. I hadn't thought about her in a long time. (I used to think of her often, with terrible pangs of jealousy.)

Trilbe said...

@Eli - It's going to sound fake, I know, but I'm especially grateful for lit theory classes because they made me look at literature and see things that I would never have ever thought about on my own. I know that most people think theory is just a bunch of bags of air but, even if I don't buy a certain theory, I think I learn a lot just by considering the idea that I'm reading.

Nick McRae said...

@ Everyone - Thanks for the kind words!

@ Jamie - I'm glad you liked the poem! Thanks for letting me know! That was actually the first poem of mine to be published (excluding my university's student lit journal), and it was also kind of an experiment. Thanks again!

Good vibes going out to all,

NM

Trilbe said...

@Eli - One more thing! Last time, I promise. I would say that, in my opinion, workshops and creative writing craft seminars helped my pieces get better but lit courses helped the underlying machinery of my writing get better.

I hate saying that something helped my writing get better, though, because I feel like a big bag of suck right now. So, please take these opinions with a gigantic grain of salt, pending the outcome of this season's MFA acceptances.

Eli said...

Cheers for answering, dudes! I love the immediacy of this blog - amazing.

I'm sitting here feeling a tad jealous, but deep down I know such things make no difference. You know what, I think I'm just pre-emptively trying to find excuses for if/when I don't get in anywhere...and that's just silly. I mean, I could completely undermine my 'jealous-of-your-opportunities' point by reminding myself that Zadie Smith had pretty much EXACTLY the same educational opportunities as me, as far as I know... and she did alright, so I should quit whining! It's also true that just studying literature & theory is quite the feast - I learnt endless amounts from it. Yum textual yum.

Ps. Charles, not so fast - maybe those two are hot MFA-pursuing identical twins?!?

Adam said...
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Adam said...
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dxyzlee said...

@Lauren - those two stories ("These Monuments Are Insufficient" and "A Crane, a Tower, a Hollow-boned Bird") don't sound hokey at all. They sound interesting.

4maivalentine said...

Subscribe!

Funny, I was wondering why my mailbox didn't have like...200 emails. So I've decided to panic, and I guess I'll direct this more at Ashley Brooke since she usually cares to humor my ridiculous nervous breakdowns.

I have decided that I am not a writer. I have decided that my samples do indeed SUCK BIG NASTY SALTY NADS. My stories are cliche and unoriginal and that every admittance committee will look at it an squeal with abhorrence.

Yes, I am wasting my time. Acceptances will pour into this blog and I'll sit here, lonely and in twisted despair as rejection after rejection comes in. OH! Don't forget, they'll email you a rejection now. That's just wonderful.

Why couldn't I have been born a more logical person? I would love to be a doctor right now.

P.S. I'd like to take this moment and also bitch about facebook and how I hate all these people who are status updating about their weddings, job promotions and children. Screw them all. I think I'll go fit a noose now.

WanderingTree said...

Eli,

I was a Studio Art/Anthro dbl. major. I took a few workshops in college (and after) though. Personally, if I had to do it all over again, I still wouldn't have majored in English or creative writing. I've slowly realized just how much the visual arts and the social sciences have impacted how and what I write.

Eli said...

Trilbe, yep - I agree. I've done a pathetically tiny amount of fiction workshopping (I'm almost embarrassed to admit it) but what i have done clarified structural ting in ways which hugely helped. Equally, I love literature and literary theory so i thrived in my degree, despite whining about its paralysing effect. I think the ideal is a balance between the two - being both a consumer and a producer. Hence the MFA, innit!

ps. @Adam, hello. i agree with you too.

Himbokal said...

@Stranger

Books about writing: Francine Prose-Reading Like A Writer (particularly the chapters on Kleist and Chekhov). Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway. Burning Down The House by Charles Baxter (although he does sometimes seem a little show-offy with his analytical chops).

@Eli

My school offered an English degree with Writing Emphasis so I took 4 workshops as an undergrad. If it makes you feel any better (which is what somebody says right before they tell you something that will absolutely not make you feel better) those 4 workshops came with a side of crushing debt garnished with subzero winter temperatures and a dusting of dysfunctional parking rules.

Jamie said...

@4mai - Split the difference and get your MFA, then your MD. Be a writer-doctor. Like Chekhov. Like Celine (OK, not like him, he was scum). Like William Carlos Williams.

The insurance business has also been a good line for many writers: Kafka, Stevens, Kooser...

Ashley Brooke said...

4maivalentine,
I humor your ridiculous breakdowns because mine are the same and it's nice to coexist! Doesn't it feel nice to post it all here, though?
I'm rooting for you and for the realization to come to you that you are brilliant and will be accepted to every single school ever. Or some other happy medium, which sounds JUST RIGHT. Let me know when you discover the secret.

rahkan said...

Ethan Canin also graduated from Iowa and went to Harvard Medical School.

phillywriter said...

@4maivalentine and Ashley Brooke

Just wanted to say I'm suffering from the same ridiculous breakdowns and am so glad to have this blog so I feel a bit less alone (and perhaps even a bit less crazy).

Best of luck to everyone!

Sam said...

@Lauren

I think we’re all jumping around in an anxiety bubble right now and the only thing that matters to us is an acceptance letter, so maybe a little perspective wouldn’t hurt. Of course, I’m sure you’ve heard this before, so perhaps this is just a reminder.

You said, “I also don't have a 'next year' strategy -- at this point in my life I do not have the luxury of time.”

Several of us are non-trads, meaning older than your typical graduate student. Nascent MFA students are typically around the age of 27 which is high for most other disciplines, and many of us are much, much older than that. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself about how much time you have left to get an MFA or to be a writer. It’s hard to put it out of mind for some of us, but it’s necessary to view the big picture. The big picture is that writing is a very long journey. Think about how many years you have left on this planet and that’s how many years you have left to write. Life expectancy in the U.S. is around 78, so if you’re already a 65 year old retiree, then you still have 13 years to write. That’s a long time! So if you really want an MFA, what’s one more year? Or two more years? It’s insignificant because you can keep doing the most important things on your own. You can write, read, get published.

An MFA is not required for anything. It does not begin a career. Therefore, its sole purpose is to better your craft, a craft that you can already do on your own. It’s not a starting place. Writing on your own and studying the craft is the starting place. You’ve already done that. Usually a person can only get one MFA, so it’s best to go when you are ready for it, rather than go by the age of XX. Time is completely meaningless unless you have a terminal illness. Try not to put too much emphasis on this year because of your age; it will only cause undue stress.

4maivalentine said...

Ashley-My mother sent me 'The Secret' DVD. So technically we should all be thinking positive all the time. Sounds easy enough, but then I have a negative thought, and I go, "Oh no! I've ruined my connection with the universe!" But oh boy, that's another negative thought, until I've accumulated a forest of negativity in which my only solution can be to start thinking positive again.

...but technically, aren't I already screwed? Oh lawdy! Away ye thoughts!


I'm too emotionally compromised to be a doctor. But maybe that's the trick to becoming a doctor/writer?

I'd much rather be a astronaut/writer.

or a lead guitarist in a medtal band/writer

4maivalentine said...

I don't know what medtal is...

metal. >,<!

Jessie said...

If we're still doing these story summaries, here are mine:

1) In 1950s Louisiana, a young man just passing through town falls stupidly in love with a farm girl whom he attempts to rescue from her difficult life, not knowing that she has a husband and child. ("Naked Like Any Country Baby")

2) A woman who has cut ties with her poor rural upbringing is visited by her cousin, who tells her that her ex-lover has shot someone and is on the run from the police. ("Dirty Liar")

Also, I had tons of undergrad creative writing courses, and what they primarily taught me were the habits of writing, not the nuts and bolts so much. I've studied several ancient languages as well, actually, and that's taught me a hell of a lot about how to use language. Unexpected, I guess.

John said...

(Note: I'm a different John than the one who posts around here more regularly. I'm John #2!)

Anyway, as I'm sitting here playing the waiting game (which sucks, I'd rather be playing Hungry, Hungry Hippos), I keep going over the manuscripts I submitted and if they were the right ones for the programs I've pursued.

I used two different manuscripts to apply to programs, depending on how confident I felt about them at the time I had to seal an envelope and toss it in the mail.

My first one, which I used when applying to programs that seemed more "traditional," was about a gay man trying to understand the transformations of his family in the wake of the patriarch's suicide (everyone loves a good dead dad/daddy issues story, right?)

My second one, which I used when applying to more "edgy" and "hip" programs was about a lady trying to buy a pantsuit.

I don't think either ended up making much sense, but here's hoping personality and pluck makes up for any and all glaring technical errors.

Man, this wait is torture!

Ashley Brooke said...
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Ashley Brooke said...

phillywriter,
Maybe we're not so ridiculous. This is probably a perfectly NORMAL reaction. Either that or we writers have a reputation as crazies we must uphold.

More mail from Texas State today! This time is a postcard. The postcard is much better than the letter, as I don't have to open anything and risk a paper cut while I tear it open.

WanderingTree said...

4mai,

re: multiple advanced degrees

Take it from this guy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob_M._Appel

MFA, MD, JD, MA - damn boy

Ashley Brooke said...
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Ashley Brooke said...

4maivalentine,
Ha. This reminds me of Trading Spouses, which I am hereby admitting to watching from time to time - when the rich little 13 year old girl said, "I want to be a plastic surgeon and a guitar player in Japan."

Sam said...

@Eli

I got my degree in Literature. If I had a kid and they wanted to be a writer I would tell them to get a degree in Literature and take CW workshops for their electives. I don't know the purpose of getting a bachelors in CW other than its fun.

Morgan said...

Did anyone else apply to UC San Diego? They e-mailed us to say they would begin to notify in Feb., but they have no recorded response times from last year. Are we talking the standard 30-40 days or waiting... or just a few????

Morgan said...

(* of waiting)

Sam said...

@the people who have posted synopses of their samples

I haven't read one that sounded "bad" yet. They all sound quite interesting. Personally, I can't write synopses of my stories because I have an aversion to it from my screenwriting days. The very thought of writing another logline makes me want to turn inside out and eat my own stomach.

Btw, Jessie sounds like Flannery O'Connor incarnate. Very nice!

Kat said...

I love that we have Seth's database for when schools start notifying candidates of acceptances, but I will say it's made me far more neurotic. I keep starting at my phone, hoping for a North Carolina number to pop up. Nope. Nothing yet. Wahhhhh.

Jennifer said...

Stranger: Read John Gardner's The Art of Fiction.

Sam said...

@Phillywriter re: Indie CW major

Let me guess what happened to the girl from your college that all the teachers considered a writing god.

She graduate college and realized that she wasn't a writing god, but merely a plump fish in a bucket of minnows. Life kicked her around as the rejection letters piled up to her neck. She began contemplating suicide and began throwing herself into doomed and inappropriate relationships. She gave up writing for black tar heroin and meth. She stole prescription medicines to keep her sane during her down times and then she opened up a meth lab in the local crack house. The crack house gets busted, and after a three year stint with the state, she has sobered up now. Currently, she's writing a memoir. Two years from now she will be featured on Oprah, make millions of dollars, and you will go back to hating her.

Gena said...

@Sam -- uber-fun, actually. :P Naw, I'm not offended, I triple majored... but, honestly, looking at the economic market, you think a Lit major is better off than a CW? I think they're about evenly cardboard-box-bound.

Sandra said...

I called VaTech to schedule my phone interview (poetry) two weeks from now, and I’m glad to hear that it will only be twenty minutes, with three faculty members. That makes me breathe a little easier—but it’s one thing to write luscious words on paper and another to inadvertently reveal by voice all of one’s shortcomings. It may seem harsh to interview candidates for the final cut, but it makes me wonder why more programs don’t do this—I mean, the faculty will be spending three intimate years with their select students. Wouldn’t you want to be surer of your choice? Imagine all the additional agony on this blog.

Anyway, congrats to the OSU and Bama acceptances, no interviews necessary! (Sorry to be greedy, but I want to hear from Bama, too. Wah.)

kaybay said...

Good luck, Sandra!

Dreux said...

No offense to anyone, but I think with a couple notable exceptions undergraduate majors are all equal wastes of money. From a socioeconomic perspective, you're just doing it to qualify yourself for those jobs that say 'undergraduate degree required.' The difference between an English major, a history major, a music major and so forth isn't that great in terms of how it positions you to launch a career. Each has its own respective jobs it sorta qualifies you to do, but most of the people who major in that field will end up doing something that has zero to do with what they studied.

Arna Bontemps said...

Just a heads up-- For anyone who applied to Hunter, you might want to click back through the online application manager; I just got an email reminding me of the deadline and saying my app hadn't been submitted, though I really thought I had. I guess I missed a screen or two at the end?

Make sure you have a payment receipt and confirmation that it's been submitted. Otherwise it's not and they won't consider it.

Worth double checking, because I swear I submitted it the first time, and I'm really thorough.

Cratty said...

Sandra, you'll be fine. Treat it like a good ol' job interview - read up what you can on the company (i.e. faculty); re-familiarize yourself with your own work so you'll know what you have to offer, and have questions prepared for what you want for the program. If you want to go there, these questions will come. I won't get all cheesy on you and say this is as much an interview for them as it is for you (I mean, technically it is, but c'mon), but when you're confident and prepared you'll go in there knowing what you want and what you'll want to say. Don't sweat it; that you have this interview is an awesome acknowledgment - go in there with your head held high.

John said...

@Dreux

Yeah, I feel like so many of my friends, regardless of their undergrad major, end up getting funneled into that wonderful, wide world of sales/marketing/PR. Me included, more or less.

J said...

Jessie, those stories sound really enticing.

I submitted an excerpt from the novel I'm working on. It's called Witches' Night. Here's the blurb:

Exiled in Prague, Caleb O'Connor finds that fate has a few surprises in store for him on Witches' Night, April 30th, 2005, thirty years after the Fall of Saigon, the sixtieth anniversary of Hitler's suicide, the fabled night on which Central Europeans celebrate the opening of the Underworld. Caleb can’t grasp what’s behind it all—whether it’s his absence from Michelle, the love of his life who he left behind in the US, the life threatening illness suffered upon his arrival abroad, or the blur of absinthe fueled nights spent with Lenka, the Czech-Vietnamese girl for whom he’s found himself falling—but the ominous and vivid dreams he's been having for months have started to bleed into his waking life. Is he going crazy? Have sleeplessness and wormwood collided and driven him over the edge? Or are these hallucinations the keys to understanding his role in a drama of mythic proportions? Witches' Night takes you on an absinthe-fueled ride through the depths of obsessive desire, seduction, and violence, offering a whole new idea of what it means to love.

Lauren said...

@dxyzlee,

Thanks -- sometimes I actually convince myself my stories are interesting. For a few consecutive seconds.

@sam,

Wow, thank you for your response. I do truly appreciate a more reasoned perspective. Yes, I still have lots of time. Yes, I can write without being in an MFA program. Things will work out the way they're supposed to -- I do believe that. But thank you -- for the reassurance and the reminder.

Also Sam, I laughed a lot at your imaginings about what happened to the CW major phillywriter talked about. Awesomely distracting stuff :)

Lauren said...

@4mai,

I'm sorry you are also having a "doubt everything" self-hating sort of day. I do have those more often than I'd like to admit. I know what it feels like to hate the writing, to feel like I'm talentless, etc.

I'm sorry -- all I can say is, hang in there. Eventually we will all know one way or the other.

And I'm glad we're all in this together :) I'm pulling for so many of the posters here! I really am :)

frankish said...
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Cratty said...

Eli, I was a CW undergrad. It's weird, cuz I started as a journalism major . . . long story. I do not regret it. I loved the experience; learned a lot; made some great colleagues. Then, wouldn't you know, I ended up in a kick-ass journalism gig for a few years (and then came the recession, and magazines folded like daisies in a dessert.)
I do wish, though, that I had taken a few lit classes. I feel so terribly handicapped at times. Even when I'm reading through this blog, I see various people throw out books and authors seemingly off the tops of their head, and I'm like, crimminy, did you grow up in a library? A bit much, I know, but I feel so limited at times . . . kind of unworthy in a way, cuz, the truth is, I've read so little in my life (had a serious aversion to literature throughout high school). But, whatev - everyone has their hang-ups, and I keep reminding myself: we all have our respective strengths that keep constant failure in check.

Sam said...

@Gena

Having a degree in Literature qualifies me for two things in life: Graduate Student or Interesting Drug Dealer.

I didn't mean to offend when I said that I don't know the purpose of a CW major. What I meant is that I LITERALLY don't know what a CW major does. Isn't a CW major just an English major that takes a lot of CW classes? I do think, however, that the more literature a person is forced to study the better it is for their writing. Or at least, it doesn't hurt. Writing creatively, however, is something that people do for fun and will continue to do for many years. But unless you're gonna grade me, there's no way I'm gonna read Emerson or Thoreau in my spare time.

Of course, the only thing that a person needs to do to be a writer is read and write. A person doesn't have to study Literature or CW to be a writer. But for an undergrad, I would still advocate literature because it forces young writers to do the difficult reading and critical thinking they usually wouldn't do otherwise. The more of that the better probably, but it really doesn't matter since people with Math degrees go one to become great writers.

4maivalentine said...

Thank you Lauren :)

On another note, since we're speaking of plot summaries. Do any of you consider yourself historical and/or period fiction? If so, where did you apply?

koru said...

@fiction writers cool to hear the synopses!

@people stressing: perhaps don't check this blog or seth's acceptances one? go to the gym, work out your stress, go play with kittens at the SPCA, go built a Habitat house ... something to take your mind off stuff?

seriously, the crazy amount of work i've had to do this week has kept me sane(r).

@Eli ... i'm quite a ways out of uni. i've been trying to fit in workshops when i can find the time and dosh, but it doesn't help i tend to randomly move country.

now ... everyone go enjoy the weekend rather than spending it parked on the interwebs! xx koru

koru said...

maybe one of the purposes of a CW major for some people is simply to keep them interested enough in uni that they actually finish their course of study and get their degree?

that, in and of itself, isn't a bad purpose ...

Courtney said...

I have had the distinct pleasure of reading fiction samples from many of you. But now I need more! More! Please send me something to read. I must avoid this pile of work on my desk for just a few hours longer....

fixittuesday at yahoo.com

Lipsha said...

@DeeDee

I know I'm like one hundred posts too late, but if you're still curious about Marquette I received my MA from NMU. I had a wonderful assistantship as managing editor for the lit journal, and many grad students are involved with the journal (in fact, it depends on them).
I'm not sure why the program doesn't get that much attention considering it's got great funding options. Most likely it is location issue--the UP is well, the UP. You have to like vast open spaces and snow. Marquette is cute, but very limited in what it has to offer (i.e., good food, night life, etc.). But Katie Hanson (fiction) and Austin Hummell (poetry) are outstanding teachers, and you can take great lit classes. They get some pretty good visiting writers, too. Last year Pam Houston, Tom Bissell, John D'Agata, and the director of IWW (Sam Chang? I forget her name) were all visiting readers. . .
It's a good place. I liked it anyway. Hope that helps!

Sam said...

@Koru

Yes, I agree. It's important to major in something that will get you the degree. I don't mean to diminish the importance of "fun." Fun is really important. I like fun.

Nick McRae said...

@Lipsha

I actually applied and have been accepted to NMU's MA program. I did so because my good friend Eric Smith did an MA there (and worked for Passages North), too. Know him? Just curious!

NM

Gena said...

Hmmm, I concur about lit informing writing more than workshops in general... but just a brief note as to what a CW major does, exactly:

1. Takes a lot of Literature classes. At least in my school, a lot more than workshops.

2. Reads classic and contemporary lit in their workshops, with the goal of "reading as a writer"-- aka, studying form. I'd suggest from experience that almost all CW majors are more well read in Contemporary fiction and poetry than their Lit counterparts. Whether you think that is a pro or con is up to you.

3. Learns how to negotiate the writing biz. I had a workshop called "Publishing and the Writing Career", which saved me a whole lot of learning on "the practicalities" of submitting to journals, contests, applying for MFAs, etc.

4. Learns how to critique work and negotiate a workshop in a productive fashion. (Hopefully).

5. If all else fails, they've got the ability to put together a sentence. And, in the "real world" business/marketing job, I'd suggest you're called on to write analytically and sometimes, creatively.

Please note: this was not meant to be a defense, or necessarily persuasive. Just explanatory. I absolutely agree that Creative Writing is not necessary to writing in the least, and the best way to become a good writer is to be well-read, whether you've had studies in psychology, mathematics, Japanese, whatever... doesn't matter.

Dreux said...

The difference between lit and CW at my schools was always simple: lit was the academic degree, CW was the 'studio degree.' Meaning that the literature degree put an emphasis on reading and research, while the CW degree put an emphasis on practicing your own craft.

Farrah said...

I'll jump in on the writing sample synopses.

The one that went out with both applications (29 pages) is the first chapter of a novel in progress. It features three grown daughters throwing an unwanted 40th anniversary party for their parents.

For Iowa, I included the opening pages (approximately the same length) of a completed novel. The shorter chapters introduce characters who are about to be brought together due to a DUI homocide trial: the driver, the mother of the victim, the investigating officer, and the sole witness to the accident.

Ashley Brooke said...

I've just remembered that I have a sample or two from a sample trade last week that I kind of forgot to look at, so now I'm excited all over again to go back and look at those.

Riah said...

@Eli

I majored in English at UT Austin and was able to do a creative senior thesis with both prose and poetry around a single theme (which I did on the female dichotomy of the madonna/whore myth). I think I ended up doing 3 workshops as an undergrad. I also tutored my peers in expository writing at the writing center, which I'm hoping to do again in grad school. (I love helping people with writing.)

Although workshops help you develop your potential, it doesn't necessarily make someone a better or more affecting writer than a business major. It's kind of like the Iowa website says, you can't teach talent. Honestly, I didn't learn how to write fiction well until I took acting classes in New York way after I graduated. I learned more from my acting teacher about crafting subtle moments filled with details (the way a character kicks his foot into dirt when he speaks, things like that) than I ever learned in writing workshops.

I loved all the literature classes I took, but I think the danger with reading other writers' work extensively, especially in your formative years as a writer, is how to steel your work against imitating others. Sometimes when I'm working on a more philosophical section in a story, I'll think that I've come up with some brilliant metaphor only to realize in mid-sentence that I'm really paraphrasing Leslie Marmon Silko or someone else I read too much, and doing it badly at that.

I think maybe coming from a different background in your undergrad allows you to bring something unique and interesting to the table. It may actually make you stand out more.

Stranger said...

Oooooh! I'm very, very happy! No, don't panic, I did NOT get any acceptance, BUT I just came up with an incredible, incredible idea for a story!! Muwahahahaha! Yay! =) *so euphoric*

Sorry, my mind has been quite dead for a while. lol

Emily A. Benton said...

hey all,
Some of you I recognize, but allow me to introduce myself: I'm a first-year poet in the MFA program at UNC Greensboro. Your comments are giving me major flashbacks to last year, as I used to hang out here quite a bit. I'm glad to see good news rolling in so early for some of you!

Anyway, I just wanted to pop my head in and point you UNCG applicants to our blog where you can ask all your recruitment questions:
http://mfagreensboro.blogspot.com/2009/11/2010-recruitment-forum.html

...and know that the faculty here are working hard on reading everyone's applications! In fact, considering the storm hitting us right now, they will probably spend the weekend snowed-in with the (according to Michael Parker) very large stack of papers.

oh, and best of luck to everyone!

frankish said...

@Riah - Your undergrad program sounds really cool. Sometimes I wish I'd had the opportunity to do a creative thesis.

But I respectfully disagree about how to handle the dangers of being influenced/overly influenced by writers you read. Rather than not reading too much, I would suggest to read more. If one reads broadly enough, then the work of other writers can be put in a greater perspective and be less acute in its influence. Even then, though, influence is a key aspect in developing a voice as a writer...Harold Bloom's Anxiety of Influence and all that. I like his criticism because he really seems to understand writing from the inside out.

Cheers!

Sam said...

@Gena

It sounds to me like you went to a good program. It also sounds like we agree on what would be a great education for a newbie writer which is a concentration in literature with workshops sprinkled throughout. I think we also agree that writers don't need any specific education to succeed.

I think some CW majors are not required to take many lit courses and the degree is considered to be more of an arts degree. Just like in film, I would suggest someone study film history or film criticism rather than learn to set up lights and use editing machines. There's nothing wrong with an arts/studio degree, they teach you real skills, but I would still suggest undergraduate study that is more theory based. A person can learn the "real" skills through practice or continuing education.

Btw, if my school offered a CW program like the one you described, I definitely would have majored in CW rather than major in lit and use my electives on CW workshops.

sh said...

My fiction sample was two short stories:

1) A steak entrepreneur who has done some fishy business deals is on the run from the FBI and gets stranded in Nebraska. (18 pages)

2) A teenage boy who missed an opportunity to kiss a girl at church goes back the next week full of purpose, the same day a lone gunman interrupts service. (6 pages)

Clearly, one of these is a little more serious than the other!

Coughdrop said...

Well, I'll talk about my fiction sample! I submitted anywhere between two and four stories depending on the school so I'll tell you about all four.

1. A mock academic paper on an "incident" in which two people nearly brought down a plane because they were obnoxious

2. A mysterious town that has been covered in rock has all of their children get sick. They all blame a dog.

3. A man who's love life is in ruins keeps getting approached by people who tells him he is a great artist.

4. A boy attempts to cope with his own life by finding things in a ditch.

Put like that it makes them all sound very strange! haha

Jenna said...

@4mai
I definitely understand the freaking out.

re: CW major/lit major
I know this isn't the sort of conversation we were having, but my undergrad degree was a double major in writing and literature, which has me wondering something.

Was your writing department separate from your English? Or was it like a separate wing under the literature umbrella?

Sam said...

@Riah and Frankish

I did some undergrad study at UT Austin. It's a great school and one of my favorite cities in the world.

I do, however, have to agree with Frankish that a person can't read too much. I wish I were a natural reader, gobbling up every text put in front of me. Instead, I force myself to read in the hopes that I'll discover something amazing. And when I do, it's stunning.

I think imitating other writers is a very important part of developing one's own voice. It's something that a lot of writers, if not all writers, go through. It's completely healthy and a good thing, I think. Once a person has tried different styles and voices then they begin to get a sense of what their style and voice will be.

Thea Chacamaty said...

got an email on the 26th from admissions at uw-madison saying that responses would be out by 2/12. anyone else get this?

Dreux said...

At my school writing and English were definitely separate. The writing department was formed by a group of faculty who split from the English department in a very bitter and contentious dispute about curriculum.

I remember that the English department would always invite great writers in and intentionally hide their appearances from the writing department for fear our students would also get to take advantage of the readings. And vice versa.

But in the case of my school, the Writing department was extremely well-regarded, both within the school and the country, while the English department wasn't really much of a powerhouse. It made for some interesting dynamics.

Sam said...

@Thea

Yup, I think we all got that email.

Monica said...

My playwriting sample was about five graduate students who are stuck in the lab all night, and their sanity unravels after the youngest one drops a mouse into a flask of acid. Think Clerks meets Lord of the Flies, except, set in a lab.

Michener is the only place I applied, because it was the only place that guaranteed unqualified financial support. I think I have as good a chance as anyone at getting in. T-minus one month and counting...

Dolores Humbert said...

Ashley B, John, and other VT hopefuls,

If I remember correctly, last year, the VT requests for interviews took place over three weeks. So don't lose hope if you haven't heard yet!

Good luck, Sandra! Mine is early next week!

Congrats to Nick, Koru and other accepted folks!

Ashley B, Texas State and V-Tech? I have a feeling we're applying to most of the same schools! Are Montana, Illinois, Indiana on your list too?

And Courtney, gathering up my courage and sending you a flash fic now!

Lipsha said...

Nick,

Eric graduated the year before I got to NMU, but I heard a lot of good things about him and that he is an excellent poet. Congrats on all your acceptances--seems like you'll do good work wherever you end up!

Ashley Brooke said...

Dolores,
Thanks. Good luck with your interview! Haha... I also applied to Montana, but not the other two. I did apply to Southern Illinois University, though.

DigAPony said...

I'm loving all of these conversations, and have to jump in!

Re- majors

I have a BA in Creative Writing (fiction) and I minored in English. This meant that I took over 20 English classes (heavenly!), including all kinds of lit, theory, grammar, rhetoric, composition, pedagogy, etc. This also included 3 fiction workshops and 1 poetry (we were required to take one workshop outside our genre). At my school, Creative Writing majors were required to take all of the same classes as English majors, plus the workshops. My only regret is that there was no class entirely devoted to publishing/the writing biz like Gena described- that would have been wonderful! Also, we did not have separate CW and English departments.

Re- synopses

--"Harold Wakes Up" is about a middle-aged, sexually repressed man who becomes inspired by a late-night chat-line infomercial to try and get his sex life back on track with his uber-conservative, kindergarten-teaching wife. This story is my attempt at a grown-up, literary version of a Dick-and-Jane book. ("See Harold..." etc.)

--"Body Collage" is an abstract flash piece that alternates between several different women and their internal dialogues regarding their body image. It's my attempt to discuss female isolation despite certain similarities between all/most women and what they think about themselves.

As I read these descriptions, I shudder in disgust- however, I'm hoping it's because I became an extreme pessimist the moment all my apps went out. I thought everyone's synopses sounded great. (Especially Jessie's "Naked Like...") Fingers crossed for us all.

Re- reading material

Those interested in pedagogy and/or excited about teaching, check out St. Martin's Guide to Teaching Writing. It's all about being a grad student teaching 1st year comp. I studied it in a Teaching of Comp class in undergrad, and if I get in w/ a TA spot, I know it'll be an invaluable resource.

Aaaaand I'm out. Happy weekend, all.

Jason J said...

re: degrees/majors. I majored in Philosophy at UCSC. However, by my final two years my major requirements were practically complete so I ventured off into Literature/Creative Writing land. Essentially my final year was only creative writing courses as well as teaching a creative writing workshop to a hs sophomore english class. Kind of still bugs me now that had I taken maybe 1-2 more literature courses I could have double majored. I never envisioned being an MFA applicant then though so I didn't really know.

re: stories. My writing sample has been consistent for all my applications (10 programs).

It's the middle portion of a longer work - maybe a novel? - and is as of now not really titled.

"Literal Bulimia" is what I call it. The story is about a young man who without much reason decides to begin a journey to destroy his body/psyche(?) - via addictions to drugs, sex, and an unidentified eating disorder. With him is a similarly down-and-out young female friend named Wolf. They get in all sorts of trouble travelling around CA's Bay Area as well as Death Valley. Kind of sounds like a bummer now that I see it written out like this. Guess it really isn't a happy story. Ha.

Laura said...

Re: majors

I'm graduating with an English major with a concentration in Creative Writing and a minor in Writing and Rhetoric. (Yeah, some think that my undergraduate career has been an exercise in redundancy.) At my school, Creative Writing is part of the English department, but Writing and Rhetoric is a separate department. It's weird. Basically, I read a lot and wrote a lot of different things (creative writing obviously, and literary criticism, but also journalism, persuasive writing, professional writing, travel writing, on and on).

I've taken, I think, nine creative writing workshops as an undergrad. I believe four were in poetry (which is the genre I'm now applying in). For me, taking creative writing workshops as an undergrad was what made me want to go for the MFA. To continue doing what I love, in a way more intense environment, and to focus on improving the skills that I began to develop in undergrad workshops and that I've been devoting myself to developing further.

Gena said...

Jenna -- (actually, our names are pronounced the same way, probably. Except your parents seem to like phonetics.)

My CW department was under the Creative Arts collegium, and the Lit department in "Letters Collegium" (which included the other humanities minus comparative cultures stuff). But that didn't stop them from requiring courses across collegia.

I think I already summarized my pieces somewhere... maybe on PW... but I sent in

--18 pg novella-start of a man running for state senate running away to a foreing country, leading his twin/campaign manager unwillingly behind

--12 pg story of young man about to attend a family reunion, but becoming disenchanted with the family over an incident with statues in the parlour...

Yeah, I'm expecting this will be attempt 1/2+.

Gena said...

foreign. You know what I mean, gosh darnit.

sh said...

@Ashley Brooke (and anyone else applying to Southern Illinois)

I'm finishing my undergrad at SIUC right now in English with a Creative Writing specialization, so I've had workshops with all the fiction faculty and most of the poetry faculty. I'm also an editor of the undergrad lit mag, so I know many of the faculty and current MFA students personally as well. They're all really dedicated, really talented folks. It's a close-knit bunch. I know you're in fiction (I think?) so you'll work with Pinckney Benedict and Beth Lordan if you get accepted, who are completely different but both completely talented and helpful. Pinckney in particular is one of the best teachers I've ever had, and an incredibly interesting fellow. I don't know if you want to know anything more about the program or the city, but let me know and I'll tell you what I know.

pencore said...

re: Educational background

I got my undergrad degree in Journalism almost ten years ago. Took a single creative writing course at a community college more than a decade ago. Have backpacked across Asia. Found myself in one of the poorest countries in the world as a literature teacher, teaching literature to young adult students who never read for fun. That was when I realized I wanted this.

Let's put it this way, I didn't know one could study creative writing... no less earn an MFA in it, until about a year and a half ago. And... here's the thing about my writing sample... well, they're my first jabs at fiction. Really.

If, insha'allah, I get into even just a single program, it's gonna be insane.

I hope to still be active in this forum a couple months from now so that I can recount this to see how I did. How will my story end?

re: John #2
I really don't know how no one else has mentioned it yet, but a story about a woman shopping for a pant suit sounds awesome.

frankish said...

I've traded fiction samples with a handful of people and have to say some of them are really, really good. It makes me happy to think fellow MFA students (hopefully!) will be so talented, but it's a little intimidating with respect to admissions prospects.

Anyway, if anyone wants to trade samples, just let me know. I'm going to start reading a new book on Sunday but need something to read tomorrow. :D

Cheers!

Jessica said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
frankish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cratty said...

Hi Frankish,
I'm up for a trade. I've always wanted to ask but felt a bit intimidated . . . well, I thought it would've been a bit officious on my part. Anyway, if you're interested mangercratie(at)gmail(dot)com
Looking forward to it.

Riah said...

@ frankish & sam

Thanks for the thoughtful disagreement. :)

It could just be me. It's actually very easy for me to imitate someone else's style, so I guess that's why I abhor it and have to watch for it. In high school AP English we had to write our own version of Dante's inferno. It was extra credit if we wrote it in cantos. Oddly enough I was one of only four students across four classes who wrote it in cantos. Everyone thought it was amazing. But for me, it was just easy to imitate.

What has always been difficult for me to do is to develop my own unique voice/vision of seeing the world and communicating that through art. I still don't feel like I've developed a very idiosyncratic style. I guess that's what I'm hoping to do in grad school.

rahkan said...

Hey Jessica et al,

I'm still down for trading samples. Email me at rhkanakia [at] gmail [dot] com

Also has anyone else noticed people with the *.edu IPs of their chosen schools looking at their blogs? Maybe I am just paranoid, but I wrote them a message just in case.

http://blotter-paper.com/2010/01/28/dear-graduate-admissions-committee-members-i-can-see-you/

And yes, this is completely an effort to parley the bored and stressed out readership of this blog into hits for me =)

Sam said...

Rahkan, I sent you an email for a swap. I'm sending more out now to the others.

Btw, Rahkan, it sounds great that people from the schools you applied to are googling you!

If more people are interested in fiction sample swaps, you can swap with me at colder2012[at]gmail[dot]com

Go ahead and attach your sample and I shoot you back mine. Just no feedback please. I'm already stressed about the process as it is.

WanderingTree said...

I suppose I'm still down for trading samples (fiction).

You can hit me up at d19nprimo@gmail.com

Cate said...

Rahkan,

Which schools have found your blog?

rahkan said...

To be truly honest, I don't think anyone did. It's way more likely one of my facebook friends is going to grad school at one of the zchools I am applying to and they were the source of the IP address =)

Mostly, I figured that _if_ I am being considered anywhere, they'll _definitely_ google me first, right? You can't even get a babysitting job without being googled nowadays. And I thought it'd be funny to psych them out.

Emily Walker said...

Ladies and gents,

Today University of British Columbia (which is where I did my undergrad) accepted me into it's MFA for Fiction. Coincidentally, one of Canuck friends is in town and is helping me get what I believe all the rappers call "krunk". After I post this rambling drunken mess, I'm gonna start making international drunk dials.

On the downside for any UBC acceptances, they make you reply by March 1st because they are not part of the April 15th accord. By the way, if there are any UBC applicants are on the board and want info just message me your email and we can correspond (probably tomorrow, when I'm coherent).

Anyway, I'm getting hosed with a hoser and it feels good to at least be accepted somewhere. May you all get in where you wish.

Ryan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kerry Headley said...

Rahkan,

I assumed the selection committees would be too busy to bother to look at blogs, but I have seen some activity on my blog that MAY come from one or two programs I applied to. Don't know. (And my last post was about how, if I didn't get into grad school, I would become a stripper and then write a stripper memoir.)

the little poet who could said...

Congrats, Emily!

Anna said...

Yay! I posted in the last mailbag about fiction sample swapping, but got too a-scared and took it down.

But now that everybody's doin' it . . . :)

anna[dot]binion[at]gmail[dot]com

My stories are totally squishy and lovable, I promise. Emphasis on squishy. Give me something to reeead!

Sam said...

Big congrats, Emily!

rahkan said...

Kerry,

I mean, the point of googling someone is just to check if they've been convicted of murder somewhere, I doubt it's a big deal.

Also, I realize the implication of my post may have come across kind of douchey and I totes did not mean to imply that I was under special consideration anywhere. I just thought it was paranoid and possibly funny and, could generate traffic for me, which it has, kind of worringly, in a way that is totally going to destroy all ability to location-stalk (by IP) the people who browse my blog, on the strength of the notion that only fifteen people are actually interested in them, and I know where they all live.

Also, congrats Emily; Vancouver is a sweet city too.

Kerry Headley said...

No douchey-ness sensed by me, Rahkan. I did think it was funny, especially since I was already wondering about it myself in regard to my blog. And, in my case, I did actually include my blog in my SOP (not because it's so fabulous, but because it was relevant to what I have been doing.) I didn't think they would look at it, but when you start seeing those cities pop up and you're looking for something to obsess over, well ...

Point is, you made me laugh -- at myself.

Kerry Headley said...

Oh, and congratulations to Emily and to Nick again!

Cate said...

Re: Blogs & Google

If I was selecting a handful of people to join a close-knit MFA community, I would google them. I would read their blogs. I would want to get a sense of the person I may spend the next 2/3 years working with.

So if grad programs are reading your blog, I would say it's a good sign. I would think they only "research" their semi-final round picks.

Emily Walker said...

BTW, for those that were wondering, British Columbia got 123 applicants for the residency program.

Nick McRae said...

@ Emily Walker

Congrats on UBC! Exciting!

NM

Himbokal said...

Just to cover a neurosis that hasn't been talked about so far, has anybody experienced the "Phantom MFA syndrome"? In particular, I applied to 13 schools but not 2. Those were Michener (I put my skill level at the very center of the bell curve and not in a modest way but a realistic way. I reference Mr. McRae who I think is a pretty good rep of the higher end of the curve based on both his acceptances and his accomplishments (literary mag and Fulbright-I netlurked the shit out of you,bud)and VCU which I didn't apply to because I didn't want to write a 5 page analytical paper. Now if I am rejected from all 13 I'll definitely wonder if that was the one I would have been accepted to if I'd made the effort. Is there anyone else itching that nonexistent limb?

Trilbe said...

@EmilyWalker - Congratulations! And I think you're the first full-res fiction acceptance of the season. Right? That's so cool!

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