Sunday, February 07, 2010

Mailbag, Sunday, February 7, 2010

Can't....keep....up....

But keep the comments rolling. There's plenty to talk about!

2,263 comments:

1 – 200 of 2263   Newer›   Newest»
Farrah said...

"When you're getting ready to launch into space, you're sitting on a big explosion waiting to happen." Sally Ride

Here's hoping this week launches more fellow applicants into the stratosphere! And that we can all continue to manage the claustrophobia and nerves and excitement of the countdown.

Good thoughts to everyone.

kaybay said...

Subscribing :)

Kati-Jane said...

@little poet: How on earth does not having an education degree keep you from teaching in SC? I've got PACE letters of eligibility in English and MS LA, a degree in theatre and an interview next weekend. I just don't think I understood what you were saying. The alternative certification programs across the country are beginning to address some of the education major overload y'all were talking about, in my humble opinion.

@RT: I said this earlier, I'll say it again, you may not want to wade through everyone's commentary, but people applying next year will find the book suggestions, discussions of public school teaching, and general blowing-off of steam instructional and helpful, as I did. That's also part of what this forum's for, as I understand it. AND, as several people have said, you can always just check the acceptance stats on TSE. Which, BTW, you should thank Seth for as I do again, now: Thanks Seth!

CM said...

Speaking of acceptances, somebody (not me) noted on TSE that they received an acceptance from Syracuse in fiction yesterday.

4maivalentine said...

Wow, Real Talk. lmfao XD

4maivalentine said...

EFF! Subscribing.

Brandi Wells said...

oh syracuse...

kaybay said...

What, what, what?? Syracuse fiction? Curses!! Maybe it's a false alarm???

Brandi Wells said...

looks legit to me.

*sigh*

kaybay said...

That's so early! That makes me sad. I need a second cup of coffee. Maybe I'll throw in some Irish creme. Kidding.

Abbie said...

Here's sending awesome vibes for loads of acceptances this week writer folk!!! :)

kaybay said...

I've officially decided to go to Mass today to light a candle and say a prayer for my writing sample. "Holy Mother, please intercede on my sample's behalf and help the committee members see its worthiness." Anyone want me to light a candle for theirs? :P

Mike said...

subscribing

gentleviewer said...

I think I have a sickness. I've refreshed my email at least a billion times since my friend got her UCSD rejection on Friday. I can't stop or think about anything else. I need distractions.

Jamie said...

Well, folks, I am definitely feeling the waiting. Going back over my sample in my mind, weighing all its flaws. Considering my current favorite programs - Brooklyn and Hunter - that I have a slightly better chance of getting in there (just a feeling), but then again I probably won't either. It's harder with those than Michener, say, which I can just laugh off. Harder to really hope bc then you're open to being dashed!

Anyway, not looking for TOO much sympathy...more just stating my solidarity with my fellows shivering away in the applicant pool.

In better news, yesterday I walked over the Manhattan bridge, through Chinatown and Soho, in time to catch "Ran" at the Film Forum. Restored print. Blew me away! That is a real tragedy on film. It is hard - very technically complex - to effectively create a true theatrical catharsis via film. Amazing! Definitely see it if you have the chance...

Brandi Wells said...

@kaybay

light 11 of those suckers for me.

Cratty said...

I saw the Syracuse acceptance post (in fiction), but notice it isn't reflected in the 2010 Application Response dates over on TSE. Or maybe it's just a matter of the data having to be confirmed.
I haven't been to church in so long . . . pity, churchy stuff was fodder for the first serious piece of writing I ever did. Anyway, Kaybay - I experience regularly power outages where I'm situated, so I'll light a candle for you by default.
And what's with all the conspiracies - a fake RealTalk! Trying to de-stabilize the real RealTalk's name! Someone call Dave Chappelle.

gentleviewer said...

Cratty, that might have something to do with the fact that the post was made at 3 am.

Vivian Darkbloom said...

all I can think about now is that cornell's "average" acceptance date for fiction applicants is rapidly approaching. it's driving me absolutely bonkers.

4maivalentine said...

Vivian, I'm with you on that. I'm a complete wreck.

MommyJ said...

@kaybay, light a candle for me too. I'll take whatever supernatural help I can get.

To add to the teaching thread ... I teach English to special education students. There are times I love it and many times I wonder about going back the next day.

I get the "worst of the worst," the kids who have been kicked out of at least one public school, if not more, for behavior issues. Friday was one of the horrible days. During afternoon homeroom we had a student changing in the hallway. When I told him he couldn't change in the hall, the nicest things he said were to call me a bitch and a whore. It went downhill in sexual comments from there. At least this time I didn't get thrown into a locker. Though when you have a sprained knee and wrist, you can take the following day off as workers' comp. Emotional damage, you use your few precious hours of personal leave time.

There are NO English positions at any of the public high schools right now, and everyone is talking about laying off teachers this year.

On the good news side, I've had two more poems accepted!

Vivian Darkbloom said...

PS 4mai, hey, I recognize you! this is c. #2 from sackett street :)

CM said...

With regards to the Cornell notifications, I assume people figured this out for themselves but, just in case some interested folks did not, the earliest notifications listed on TSE for '07-'09 all fall on the second Friday of February (the '06 notification was on the third Friday).

the duchess said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
apcb said...

So will syracuse be calling more people today? (He asks, knowing that no one here can possibly know the answer!)

Courtney said...

Man, is it safe to say that the freaks come out at night? That was some serious(ly rediculous) discourse last night!

I always find it amazing when people want to wrangle this blog into a particular shape of their liking. It's a living, breathing thing and I'm grateful for all of our discussions--be they cats, music, jobs, acceptances--as we build our community together.

Subscribing. ;-)

Hannah said...

oh man Syracuse!

that was early...

Brandi Wells said...

@apcb

one can hope.

frankish said...

Et tu, Syracuse? ;)

4maivalentine said...

Aaaaaaaw C#2! <33

So then you already know that I'm panicking, haha!

Vivian Darkbloom said...

4mai - we can panic together. either way, I think celebratory/suicidal drinks depending on the outcomes are in order at some point in the spring.

Maslo said...

Subscribing! - reeealll talk lol

I don't know why, but whoever that was made me think of that cop from The 25th Hour...

"Sheeeeeeeeeeiiit..."

Eli said...

That's exactly what I'm saying upon hearing of fiction news from Syracuse, but more of a Senator Clay Davis from the Wire style:
'Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeit'.

Eli said...

Ps. Jamie, thanks for the 'Ran' lowdown, glad it was great - I'm gonna watch it again (on a big screen) ASAP.

Ashley Brooke said...

All of this waiting makes me feel like I'm rejected across the board already. It's not rational, because it can still go either way, butttttt.... !

Abbie said...

Congrats @ MommyJ on your poems being accepted! Will they be available online? I'd love to sneak a peak if I could. Any poetry today, for me, is food for the soul. I've scanned every online lit mag out there, I believe.

pencore said...

Hungover and no Post-Secret for my Sunday morning ritual.

Ah well, off to my new dishwashing gig.

(You hear that? Goddish thingy that hangs everywhere? Help a sistah out because I've got a BA, soft hands and a sistah be washing dishes to pay her bills! Ugh! And I just started wearing nail polish again. How cruel.)

LAswede said...

about the 'cuse...that blows, but i'm a bit preoccupied today...my beloved saints are in the big dance and it feels so good to finally be able to say it!!
WHO DAT SON??!!!

Laura T said...

@ Ashley,

I've been feeling the same way and also know it's irrational, but trying to snap myself out of it is so difficult! I've been in high-panic-mode for months but now it's off the charts.

You know there's a problem when you're having breakfast with your best friend, blabbering on and on over your bagel and chai about how you're so scared and OMG Syracuse started notifying and you can't sleep anymore and you just HAVE TO get in somewhere blah blah... Then your best friend looks at you with a completely straight face and says, "Maybe you should go talk to a professional."

agoodbookishardtofind said...

subscribing

Ryan Duke said...

Staring at my phone (c'mon syracuse) and subscribing to the new mail bag.

Seth Abramson said...

Hi Trilbe,

In response to your comment from the last thread about Columbia (and I realize most have moved beyond this conversation, but this clarification isn't really Columbia-specific): I'll admit to being a little slap-happy yesterday, but I did want to make clear what use I'm making of the selectivity data. When I made the comment about Columbia's cohort quality, I want to first emphasize that that comment was not based on the overall rankings -- where the data comes from applicants -- but on the selectivity rankings, where the data comes from the programs. You're absolutely right to say that, if all one knows in a given hypothetical is that Writer A when to the 25th most selective program, and Writer B went to the 80th most selective program, you can't possibly know, specifically, who's the "better" writer (and not merely because, beyond a certain level of competence, it all becomes a matter of taste and aesthetics anyway). But I do believe, and I always have, that all things being equal the program that is more mathematically selective is better positioned to select (again using this term in an all-things-being-equal way) a "better" cohort. It's sort of like the way we use calculus to express scenarios we couldn't draw on a chalkboard -- there's a sort of abstraction at work here, I agree, but the notion is still probative: higher selectivity does generally equate to a more talented cohort. It must be so; it's not a matter of opinion. If one school selects 10 students from a pool of 20 applicants, and another selects 10 students from a pool of 1,000 applicants, it simply isn't so that the first program is as likely to have a strong cohort as the second.

That was my only point: We approach these programs ex ante, i.e. we're all behind Rawls' "veil of ignorance" when we make decisions about program quality -- we can guess at what our experience will be like, but until you're sitting in a room with your eventual cohort you don't really know. And in making such ex ante assessments it is reasonable to make deductions not about specific writers, but about cohort quality generally. This is another critical element of the "virtuous circle" the rankings are intended to create: It's not just that the most "prestigious" programs are slowly becoming those programs which are best-funded, it's that that "prestige" is increasingly bolstered by the fact that those best-funded programs are also the most selective, and therefore probably have the strongest cohorts, all things being equal. Thus the well-funded programs "earn" their prestige in more ways than one, and the rankings become more "accurate" over time.

I apologize if I expressed that inartfully yesterday.

Be well,
Seth

Coughdrop said...

Subscribing!

You kids are crazy. Well wishes for Syracuse people! That's all. :)

frankish said...

Seth, I agree that there is a positive correlation in a more general sense. On a case by case basis (even at the school rather than individual applicant level), however, I would expect a number of outliers. Many of these might fall in line if yield-inclusive acceptance rates were available for comparison...and even more so data of which applicants chose which schools from their lists acceptances were available (a pipe-dream, I realize).

For instance, Vanderbilt, Washington University and Oregon are significantly more selective than Iowa (based on yield-exclusive numbers), but I expect that many (maybe even the majority) of applicants accepted to both Vanderbilt and Iowa would select Iowa. That would suggest that the quality of the cohort at Iowa would not be of lesser quality than that at Vanderbilt despite the former's materially lower yield-exclusive selectivity.

Their may also be applicant bias based on perceptions regarding likelihood of acceptance. In the undergraduate world, Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Syracuse are only marginally more selective than the College of the Ozarks (at least based on some data I recently came across). But many people don't bother to apply to the first four schools if they don't have SATs of 1400 or greater and a near perfect high school GPA. If everyone thought they had an equal chance to get in to each school and applied with that in mind, I think the College of the Ozarks would fall far behind in the rankings (not to pick on that school...just an example). This leads me to believe that Harvard etc. are much more selective than the basic yield-exclusive figures suggest.

The same may hold true for Iowa and possibly certain other programs. Or maybe not. I don't really know but think it's worth thinking about.

Cheers!

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

Please pardon the typos. That's what I get for posting and watching tv at the same time.

Their=There, Syracuse=Stanford, etc.

:P

WanderingTree said...

I almost died when I heard about Syracuse and then realized it was for poetry. Fiction people, I think we still have AT LEAST a couple of more weeks to wait.

Dreux said...

Bummer on Syracuse.

I am not RealTalk. C,mon now. Really?

WanderingTree said...

I'm not believing the Syracuse fiction acceptance until it's actually on the TSE board (in blue)

Gena said...

Oh pain... oh Syracuse.

...sad and subscribing.

Laura T said...

So is it time for the Syracuse poetry applicants to despair yet? Does anyone know if they have finished notifying in poetry or if they just notified a couple of people so far?

Dreux said...

Nobody seems to know yet, and as we're all aware, every program has its own way of getting through notifications.

But usually after a couple of days of pissing and moaning someone stops by the blog to offer a nugget of wisdom that makes it (somewhat) more clear. Even in my brief time on the blog I've witnessed that pattern.

apcb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rahkan said...

"I'm not believing the Syracuse fiction acceptance until it's actually on the TSE board (in blue)"

All the information on the TSE Board just comes from peoples' self-reported acceptances, right? Seth doesn't have some special sort of information that we don't have out here, he's just collating everything out here and putting it on one page

Dreux said...

I think WT only looked at the blued acceptances in Seth's list at first.

Then went to the bottom, saw the fiction report and has decided to be leery of it until it goes 'in the blue' so to speak.

Fausto said...

Has anyone considered the possibility (shocking I know) that people might be lying about their admits?

Just a thought.

k said...

Seth's not vetting these posts. Anyway, it's in blue now.

Having gone through this before, my heart doesn't even sink at these posts. Nice big rejection callous around it.

gentleviewer said...

Why would somebody lie about admittance? It's not as if somebody asked him or her and they lied to save face. They offered information.

I, for one, believe it.

Morgan said...

eek, the UCSD acceptance is in blue now, too. I applied for poetry and I'm thinking no news is good news.

Dreux said...

I believe it, too. What I'm less sure of is if Syracuse has sent out all its acceptances and anyone who didn't get the call yet won't get one soon. That's the part that's less clear and not worth worrying about because it'll just drive you crazy.

CM said...

re: the relationship between selectivity and cohort quality There are a few factors underlying this debate about which I have no information but think are crucial to the discussion. First, although I recall that Seth has done some work attempting to estimate the size of the overall applicant pool and some guesses can be made, the extent to which each school's applicant is unique is unknown. Second, even if all schools are drawing from the same pool (give or take), if the number of qualified applicants who are virtually similar in quality (however defined) is greater than the number of spots offered by the most selective programs, than one would not expect the cohorts of less selective programs to differ significantly in quality. I think this is particularly true if one assumes that certain less selective programs possess attributes that might be more likely to attract a very a small set of (potentially very high quality) applicants. [Note: That said, I agree with Seth's general analysis and conclusions regarding the relationship between selectivity and cohort quality.]

gentleviewer said...

I'm with you there. My guess is that the Syracuse higher-ups all agreed on this person and the other applicants are still up for discussion.

M.Swann said...

Odd that the day Syracuse (reportedly) phoned acceptances for Fiction, I got a blocked-call message from a stranger. The stranger talked about his brother getting arrested for jumping onto the cooking grill at a KFC. He was angry he had to bail him out for $450. He said, "Word up patrol," and hung up.

CM said...

@ frankish In part based on my acceptance of Seth’s analysis regarding the approximate size of the applicant pool and the polling related to the percentage of applicants that apply to Iowa, I suspect there is very limited self-selection in the process. From all reports, the most important criterion---if not the only criterion---for admission is the writing sample. And, from my perspective, there is virtually no transparency in what a successful writing sample looks like for any given admissions committee. Thus, unlike when applying to undergrad (or law school or med school), there essentially is no reliable, objective data upon which one can gauge the general competitiveness of one’s application.

WanderingTree said...

On lying about admittance:

It happens. It has happened in the past. Why do people do it? *Shrugs*

On Syracuse:

According to TSE, fiction applicants have historically been notified around the first week of March. So, I'm still holding onto hope that the person that was called was notified earlier b/c of other factors (a university wide fellowship or something of that nature).

Yeah, can you tell I applied to Syracuse? haha

gentleviewer said...

I don't remember if I've mentioned it here before, but one of my professors who is on the commity to pick grad students was giving her undergrad students some insight into what she believes people look for.

She said that schools want people they are sure will be published, so she and her collegues have been told to look for people with previous publishing records, as well as people with impressive resumes. She said that some of her collegues (from other schools) look at that stuff over samples. Freaks me out.

frankish said...

@CM - That makes sense. Personally, I do think there is some self-selection (although I have no evidence to suggest this beyond the anecdotal) but agree that, because the acceptance criteria are subjective and opaque, it is likely far less influential than in fields with more quantifiable criteria.

Cheers!

Charles said...

@gentleviewer

Very delayed response, sorry, but I applied to UCSD in fiction and haven't heard anything yet.

Also, Syracuse? Fuuuuuck. I'm not ready for them to notify yet. Trying to keep that dream alive.

Ashley Brooke said...

@gentleviewer

Can I ask why school this was? Sounds kind of like backward priorities, if you ask me. I'm sure it can help but I can't see the reality of this actually mattering unless you're already on the shortlist.

WanderingTree said...

gentleviewer,

I'm going to have to call b.s. on that. I mean, people get into Iowa and Cornell with no publishing record at all. I'm sure opinions about this vary greatly though. Obviously, if someone had won a Puschart, it would raise some eyebrows - either for or against an applicant (i.e. why does he/she need us? vs. what strong applicant!). If committees were to go off C.V.s alone, entire classes would be comprised of already successful writers but I doubt this is the case. Iowa has a big class, and I'm sure experience and success levels run the gamut from not published at all to published a little to on the verge of a book deal. Also, publishing means little if an applicant's writing just doesn't speak to a committee.

Ian said...

M. Swann:

That's how Syracuse acceptances work. I'm surprised you didn't know that by now ;)

gentleviewer said...

Ashley,
She was telling us about people she knows from other schools (since our school is not a top-tier mfa program, they just take the best writers they can get). She was talking about people at UCI, SD, SF and some of the people she knew that worked in NY schools.

Jason J said...

Syracuse! Dang it.

gentleviewer said...

@WT,
I'm just relaying information. Everything you say is absolutely true, but I can see schools going for a good sample with publishing history over a great sample with an empty resume. Obviously it's not going to happen every time. Obviously people without anything published have gotten into amazing schools, but that doesn't mean that the scary connections b.s. never happens.

Jamie said...

@ Eli - I'm trying to figure out how to justify seeing "Ran" at the Forum again (am supposed to be heavy budgeting now to build up MFA-life funds). So insanely good tho.

Certain works of art we go back to again and again, reappraising them and ourselves at the same time. "Ran" is such a work for me. Since I last really watched this film, I have experienced 1. my country going to war in a foolish and unnecessary way (in Iraq), 2. the playing out of gender roles in such power situations as families and workplaces, 3. the awareness of universal suffering and mortality that became far more concrete as I went from my 20s to my 30s, and 4. my own writerly attention to storytelling and plot structure.

So I had a very intense experience watching this movie this time - both revisiting myself at a younger time and seeing all that had changed. I had much more understanding and interest in Hidetora (the King Lear), and Lady Kaede (who plays a Lady Macbeth role not exactly analogous to the Shakespeare). She especially became a much more interesting character. Her wielding of power almost controls the whole thing, while she's also a character whose fate was determine long ago.

I winced at the battle scenes because I could comprehend them not just representing the personal vanities of the wayward sons (sons in this, not daughters like in Lear), but could really feel those vanities connected to the destruction and degradation of states.

And somehow I saw so much more there - just how weird and abstract Kurasawa made everything. He really makes it very stagey. The camera is extremely static, which creates this incredible sense of gathering doom over three hours. And the space, the landscape - it's this plain hemmed in by mountains - is just so imaginary, dreamlike, and bare. That's the amazing thing I mentioned earlier - when you watch a Shakespeare play, especially one of the very dark tragedies, a good set will help you imagine this evil, bottomless space, an empty stage for the characters' intentions. That Kurasawa could create this empty stage feeling out of definite images is perhaps the most striking thing about my viewing it this time. It's like he's almost breaking it out of being a film.

And the way he plots it - the film becomes this pristine trap of fate that closes down in the end as the characters eliminate themselves and each other through their foolish and wicked actions. Nothing is wasted; it all narrows to a point, a single image, and then it's done.

What a movie! Definitely one of the five best narrative films ever made.

Jennifer said...

Hmmm, this thing about schools wanting a publishing history and an impressive resume seems strange to me given that I don't remember being asked for a resume or for a publishing history from any of the schools I applied to last year. And there were 10 of them.

kaybay said...

LA Swede - Who Dat?! You're not also an LSU fan are you? I will draw the line there ;) By the way, are you actually a Swedish person in Louisiana? Not too many Swedes in LA, I thought I'd ask.

@Brandi @Mommy J - your samples are prayed for and your candles are lit, sistahs! Just got back.

I am double-bummed about Syracuse. Oh well, even if it really is a no-go for me, I would probably freeze to death up there with the 180 inches of snow per year anyway, so maybe it's for the best :)

Dreux said...

@ Gentleviewer,

Your teacher is just wrong. You think the likes of Geoffrey Wolff at UCI don't know a publishable author when they see one? They don't need a CV or publishing record to determine who has what it takes to get a book deal. They know (as well as anyone could possibly know) from the moment they get finished with an applicant's writing sample.

What's more, they're able to identify through those writing samples who they feel they could guide into the greatest success. The kinds of people making the final decisions about these applications don't need that kind of crutch to figure out who they want.

kaybay said...

Dreux, where do you get your name from? Is it French? Is it pronounced Droh, or Drew? Is it your actual first/last name?

4maivalentine said...

Vivian-Of course!

Gent-Are you sure that she didn't mean that they were looking for people who have the best chance of being published? Maybe they were speaking of talent and marketability in the ideal sense.

We all know that talent has nothing to do with what gets published, but I could see some committees looking for people who they think could be published. It'll look good for the school.

Dreux said...

I am not French, but the person I was named after is French. It is my real name and while Americans pronounce it just like 'Drew' it would be pronounced like 'Drew' with a heavy French inflection if we were in France, heh.

Trilbe said...

@Seth - I don't think you need to make this portion of the argument, correlating selectivity to quality, in order to make your larger case about the key role of funding. And I think you're much better than this portion of your case. Like everyone else here, I've read your manifesto. Your statement there speaks to and about us, the community of writers. Based on that document -- and on your vigorous, ongoing commitment to the various MFA fora -- I don't believe you want to segregate us, your community, into quality classes by suggesting that more selective institutions have better writers and less-selective institutions have worse writers. We are a diverse community with different styles, backgrounds, geographical muses and artistic interests and as a result of this rich diversity we will make different choices. Some people, who have multiple offers, may even choose a less-selective program over a more selective one based on some personal set of criteria.

I hope you will publish your manifesto and get that message out to future classes of applicants. But I hope you'll do that without impugning your brother and sister writers' quality, based on a speculative interpretation of the selectivity data.

apcb said...

@kaybay - surely no need to be bummed yet; in past years Syracuse has given notifications over a span of several days, so we're all still good (you're fiction, right?)

kaybay said...

apcb - yes, I am.

Dreux said...

I think the more likely future for MFA programs is that in large part the funded programs rise to the top of the pile while the unfunded ones sink to the bottom (with some exceptions). In the end the demand for MFAs is so great right now that those unfunded programs will continue to see plenty of applications, but as is the rule in any competitive marketplace, they won't be able to attract top talent without paying top dollar.

LAswede said...

kaybay
my grandfather, my namesake, was from malmo, sweden, and came to canada in 1930 before eventually relocating in nola...
no, i can't stand lsu...didn't apply there, don't wanna be there...since katrina in '05, baton rouge is a logistic nightmare!
and i'm superpissed about 'cuse!
damn, if i thought i needed all these publications, and had them, why the hell would i quit my job and go back to school? seems a bit redundant...
i was going to ask all in fiction...are you primarily considering the short story form, novel form, or a blend of these, or other forms? i don't care to work on short stories, so i work in the longer format, which i feel can be a big disadvantage--ya know, b/c i just send in a chapter, a sample, rather than a full complete story...

apcb said...

@kaybay - so you (and I) are safe!

Dreux said...

I think any good novel chapter stands on its own. After all, novelists don't write novels. They write chapters, which later become novels. Only John Irving 'writes novels' and the end result of that is a pretty unenviable mess of family trees and colliding circumstances masquerading as a story.

Jason J said...

LAS,

I have primarily written short stories. But most recently I've been working on something quite a bit longer and so that is what I sent in with my apps.

Lydia E. Wright said...

Geoffrey Wolff retired. Ron Carlson runs the program at UCI now.

LAswede said...

i have to disagree with you dreux...it might stand alone as quality writing, but as a complete work, it is usually lacking...i would imagine most applicants are capable of quality writing, but the telling of a story (and i'm being very general with this) is what is lacking...
i could be wrong though...

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

I wrote short stories (other than the half-finished "novel" I wrote at 14) but I would eventually like to work on something longer. I need a good place to start for that, though, and something that can keep my interest look enough for me to work out a novel. I think I need to spend some more time on stories before I get in over my head.

LAswede said...

it is just something that worries me, probably with no reason, is why i ask...
yeah, i sent in a good chunk of a chapter, which i love that chapter, but it just feels incomplete without the whole story, but i suppose that i am biased on that b/c i know how the story will probably turn out...
just something else to freak out about...

Dreux said...

I was aware of that, Lydia. I was just using Geoffrey as an example to illustrate how out of touch it is to think that the caliber of writer running those programs is one that would need to lean on someone's CV to determine their potential to succeed as an author.

WanderingTree said...

LASwede,

I work on both short stories and novels. Novels are difficult to workshop though, so I sent in short stories with my applications. If I'm admitted somewhere, I'd like to get the folks writing novels together and workshop longer work outside of class. I think short stories are important in terms of amassing publications to stick on a C.V., query letter etc. and they can be used as manageable experiments to test characters/situations/settings.

WanderingTree said...

Plus, it seems like if you want a shot at publishing a collection of short stories outside of the small presses and indies, a novel is often part of the deal. Of course, there are exceptions even from new writers but the stories in these collections were all published in the likes of Zoetrope and the New Yorker.

Frankish, I assume you mean journals publishing an excerpt.

Dreux said...

Wow, all these considerations about what to write beyond 'what do I feel like writing today?'

I've seen novel chapters that hum along better in their own contained space than short stories many times in workshops. Do novel chapters present their own challenges that short stories do not? Sure. Can they be presented to workshops or admissions committees in a clear and understandable fashion so that the quality of the writing shines through? Of course.

To a reasonable extent, you can write a brief preface to the chapter. Or even better, you can revise said chapter to create a version of it designed to better stand alone for MFA admissions, literary journal publication, etc. It's very common practice for an author working on a novel to create a more independent version of a particular chapter so that he/she can send it out for publication at literary journals and thereby potentially receive some valuable feedback.

Sam said...

Looks like there's a good chance my first two shots out of the gate were rejections (Syracuse, Indiana).

I've been thinking about my applications, and it's starting to become real to me that I'm probably not a good candidate for grad school. I was concentrating so much on my writing sample because that's supposed to be the focus for an MFA applicant, but now I'm thinking about all my other application materials which are not open for subjectivity. Poor academic history, low GRE scores, no LORs from famous profs, and I may have even said a few stupid things in my SOP. So even if my sample made it past the first round, I'm not sure how much farther I'd go from there.

Oh well. If anyone else is having negative thoughts about their applications, group hug.

WanderingTree said...

LASwede,

A lot of novel chapters can stand alone with some tweaking. Literary journals publish stand alone chapters all the time and many collections include novel chapters that are complete enough to act as short stories.

Dreux said...

Sam, it really is all about the writing sample. 'Not cut out for grad school?' Bob Bausch got his high school diploma by mistake. MFAs are not necessarily for the studious. They're for writers.

If you REALLY screwed up your supporting materials so bad that it did torpedo some potential acceptances, that's great news for reapplying. Unlike someone whose writing sample needs a total overhaul, you just need to up your GREs to please the grad schools, edit your personal statements, and so forth. This kind of stuff is much less time-intensive and complicated than figuring out how to take your writing to the next level in a single year.

kaybay said...

Sam - *big ass hug* I have the EXACT same thoughts about the EXACT same things you mentioned. C'est la vie. If all that stuff matters more than the writing sample, then it's not going to happen for me either. I'll try again next year with more knowledge and hope for the best then. But, I think I can only do this one more year. If I am 0-2, I'll sell out and become a soccer mom. No I won't. But I'll just have to think of something else. I'll always write though, I have to write!

I know it's easy to go into self-doubt mode, but try to keep thinking about the next school, because good news could be just around the corner. If you are rejected everywhere, take a break, go to Mexico or something, write, study, take some workshops and try again.

Lydia E. Wright said...

KK ;)

WanderingTree said...

Sam, keep in mind that GREs are really unimportant. Low math score? Who cares? And as far as the verbal and writing scores, even top programs have pretty low cut-offs. I wouldn't even call them cut-offs.

Low GPA? Can't do anything about it now, so why worry about it?

LOR: Unless your recommenders wrote letters full of spiteful venom, I wouldn't worry about it. Go through the archives of P&W and you'll feel better. People that have been to top programs had pretty "flimsy" recommendations. I think the programs just want to know if you're basically the kind of person that can play well with others.

SOP: Okay, this one might be pretty important imo. But if they are using your SOP to figure out whether to keep you or not that's already a pretty good place to be in.

Ashley Brooke said...

Sam, Kaybay -
And we make three. *hugs*

Jessa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Courtney said...

I've really only done work in the short story form. I love it. There are people I keep coming back to in these stories, however, that feel like they have lives bigger than those in the story. For me, I haven't found the right material to sustain anything novel length. So I'll just keep writing these stories and look for ways the people in them could collide somehow in the same world and go from there. At least that's the plan.

Speaking of Ron Carlson--has anyone read Ron Carlson Writes a Story? Incredible. Irvine, call me!!

Farrah said...

I've wondered whether adcoms try to balance novelists and short story writers. Surely they must--at least to a certain degree. I fall firmly in the first camp. I started with short stories, and I believe in many ways it's more difficult to write an excellent short than an excellent novel. (Not exactly a controversial opinion.) But I do treat my chapters as stories to a large degree, and I've workshopped chapters without too much trouble.

As for deciding what portion to send, I went with my opening pages. After years of workshops and seminars (several dedicated to getting an agent and getting published), I either firmly believe--or have been brainwashed to--that the start of the novel needs to be (just about) the strongest part of your work. But I do agree that even a great opening chapter or two can't possibly contain the full experience of a good short.

My two cents.

@Dreux, you've been so much nicer lately. No need to take a swipe at John Irving.

Jessa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dreux said...

Dudes, John Irving sucks. I would rather read a Harlequin Romance novel than John Irving.

Franny said...

The mental/emotional peaks and valleys in this process are so quick and so many. One moment you think "My work is totally worthy of several acceptances" and the next "I will likely get rejected across the board".

I feel like Sybil lately.

Friends, take a walk. Make roasted red pepper/artichoke heart dip with sourdough batard and talk over the Super Bowl pre-game blather (yeah, that's what I do every year on Super Bowl Sunday). Call a friend. Take a shower. Do your best to feel good.

I'm sending my slightly malaise-ish calm to all of you.

frankish said...

@Farrah - It may not be controversial point you make, but I disagree. :D

As for my own reading, I generally prefer a mediocre or even decent short story to a novel of the same quality but definitely prefer a great novel to a great short story. This probably stems from the fact that I don't often find writing that I fall in love with. When I do, I like to inhabit it as long as possible.

Cheers!

LAswede said...

all good points on the chapter as a sample...
i guess i am just thinking this way because i have been working on the book for a few years now without the intention of using it as a highlight reel to get into school...
feels wrong to edit my story for selfish purposes when the "people" in that story seem more important than me at times...
i know that's probably weird, but it is how i feel...

ruth_the_sleuth said...

subscribng!

kaybay said...

Ha, I did not who John Irving was, so I googled him. Wikipedia said that his stories have the following themes: "...New England, prostitutes, wrestling, Vienna, Iowa, bears, deadly accidents.." Haha. Prostitutes, Wrestlers, and bears, oh my!

I've never read anything from him though. I just thought that was pretty funny.

Dreux said...

Kaybay, there's a fair chance you've been exposed to a movie based on one of his sprawling, premeditated, IMSMARTERTHANYOUHAHA novels.

kaybay said...

Out of curiosity, Dreux, which authors are you fond of?

WanderingTree said...

Dreux,

I'm not a fan of Irving either, but I wouldn't say he sucks. I think he's definitely more commercial (and he admits it) but he also has a foot in the literary/academic world (being associated with Iowa). Some people love him though. I don't really see what the big fuss is but different things move different people.

Jessa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gena said...

Hmph. I got a call, didn't know the number. It was my aunt, wishing me a happy early birthday (it's tomorrow). I was close (but thankfully not too close) to saying "Yeah, it'd be a hell of a lot happier if you weren't the one calling me right now." Sorry Aunt Sue.

frankish said...

I read Garp in high school, thought it was okay then. Picked up Owen Meaney a few years later and put it down shortly thereafter. I don't have strong feelings about Irving, but he's not on my reading list.

Of the New England Johns, I prefer Cheever if for no other reason than the plot line some college friends wrote around him on Seinfeld. :D

Farrah said...

@ Frankish, I TOTALLY agree with you. That's why, once I learned I could write a novel, I used my story writing skills to create chapters but never looked back in terms of writing them again. I find novels infinitely more satisfying as a reader and writer.

Dreux said...

Well, I guess I could make a list of 'best' authors, but I don't think my taste is good enough for that, so I'll just list a few personal favorites:

Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Hemingway, Paley, Richard and Robert Bausch, Flannery O'Connor, William Gass, Tom McGuane, Geoffrey and Toby Wolff, James Dickey, Chekhov, Turgenev, Gogol, Lem, and Matthew Aaron Goodman's book (Hold Love Strong) is the best thing I've read recently.

I also turn to Philip Levine a lot when I'm too lazy to read a whole story, but I want to read a story, you know?

Dreux said...

With particular affection for Richard Bausch, Grace Paley and James Dickey.

I'm also huge into Stanley Plumly for poetry.

Jennifer said...

Although Irving's grotesquerie may be an acquired taste, his writing certainly doesn't "suck."

Dreux said...

Oh, and I would name Fitzgerald the undisputed king of them all in my book.

And I do think John Irving's writing sucks. Showing off your intellectual capacity for mapping an archetypal novel down to the last irrelevant yet charming detail displays no writing ability that I care about.

Jason J said...

I don't know if Fitzgerald is indeed the undisputed king of them all but his writing is amazing. Tender is the Night screws me up every time.

Coughdrop said...

So it turns out I didn't actually subscribe when I thought I did. I thought you guys seemed too quiet!

Actually Subscribing.

frankish said...

Interesting list, Dreux. Do you mind my asking how old you are? I'm just curious because a number of those authors (Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Hemingway, McGuane, Dickey, Lem) were among my favorites in college and my early 20s. At the time I was also really into Kafka, Mann, Melville, Waugh and Calvino.

I'm 40 now, and my tastes have changed. Certainly, I don't think the authors I prefer now are in any way superior to those, but, being at a different point in my own life and writing, I find different things speak to me.

Today, I'd include Faulkner, O'Connor and Chekhov from that list. Others: Nabokov, John Hawkes, Cormac McCarthy, Borges, DeLillo, Alice Munroe, James Salter, Joyce, Cervantes and Pynchon.

Cheers!

Jessie said...

Hey guys, just checking in to report that I got a call from Syracuse today. I'm in for fiction! I totally wasn't expecting to hear back on a Sunday so it took me by surprise. Good luck everybody!

pogrator said...

Dreux, you're a brave man using your real (unique) name. You do know that some schools peruse these boards, don't you?

Your workshop critiques might be as graciously honest as you claim, but I suspect that any school that reads your posts would be afraid to add you to their programs. Unless they were looking to make a reality show of it.

If I were cynical, and if kaybay didn't seem so darned nice, I'd think she set you up.

Jessica said...

subscribe :)

frankish said...

@Jessie - Congrats! That's such a great program!

Cheers!

beedeecee said...

wow, congrats jessie!! excellent news, and on superbowl sunday, no less.

(and i'm now officially freaking out about the 'cuse.)

Farrah said...

@ Jessie, CONGRATS!!!!

@ Frankish, there's my knight in shining armor.

Gena said...

Good job Jessie!

Kati-Jane said...

Congratulations, Jessie! That's wonderful.

Morgan said...

congrats, Jessie! Awesome!


Sunday news?! Wow I didn't even know that was a possibility! I'm gonna go charge my phone...

Hannah said...

Congratulations, Jessie!

Courtney said...

Wow, awesome! Congratulations, Jessie!!

Coughdrop said...

Mega Congrats, Jessie!

WanderingTree said...

Congrats, Jessie!

Oh crap, it's real!

Dreux said...

@ Jessie,

Congratulations! Bummer on me, but good on you!

@ Frankish,

Yep, about that age. Maybe we should compare notes again ten years from now.

@ Pogrator,

Are you actually being serious? You think a school is going to deny my app because I'm less than 100 percent congenial on this blog? I say good riddance to those programs, because I haven't really done anything scandalous here. If you're offended by the stuff I write, I wonder how you get along from day to day when people throw much more caustic stuff in your direction than you'd ever have to worry about from me.

Courtney said...

I'm getting a sinking feeling. My head is saying, remember all those rejections you got last year? Why are you sticking your hand back on the stove!?

I want to go to the grocery store, but I know it's going to be packed before the game. I don't have a TV right now, but I'm still going to get drunk and eat chips and ranch dip in my front room by 4 o'clock!

Ashley Brooke said...

Congrats Jessie! Awesome news!

Pema D said...

tender is the night is my favorite book of all time! next, Franny and Zooey. RIP JD.

Courtney said...

hehe.

Dear Dreux,

We really liked your writing sample, but we think you are a big meanie-head and in our experience, the best writers are very nice and always socially appropriate.

Best Wishes (not),

Ad Comm

Maslo said...

Congrats on Syracuse, Jessie!

Pema D said...

@Jessie C O N G R A T S ! ! ! ! !

Ashley Brooke said...

Oh, god, tonight I will be answering questions for kgb (my only "job" as of now) and hope that people will ask about things besides football. Someone once asked me "what is the best creative writing mfa?"

Farrah said...

@ Pema D, those are both on my favorites list, as well. Although I'm afraid to read Franny and Zooey again. It spoke to me so strongly from when I was in my mid-teens through my early 20s. I don't want to spoil our youthful romance now that I'm an old phony.

Dreux said...

If I get a letter like that, I'll post it in its entirety for your enjoyment.

Cratty said...

Curious, Dreux, I noticed that there's just one lady in dem dere authors of yerrs. Have you noticed this as well? I find stuff like this so intriguing.

Courtney said...

Seriously, though, I have to think these faculty are busier than that. I'm an undergrad secretary in an English department and I can barely track our faculty down to sign super-important documents. I don't think they're blog-trolling. Now the secretaries, on the other hand...

Dreux said...

There were 2:

Grace Paley, Flannery O'Connor.

And sure, I notice the discrepancy. It's almost all white males.

But that's not me, that's just the literary canon, which I can't make more diverse just by wishing it so.

kaybay said...

Congrats, Jessie! Wow! You must have a kick ass sample!

Dreux, good list. I somehow knew Hemingway would be on there, hehe...

Courney - I'm not a drinker (last alcohol consumption was Christmas), but I am doing the same thing you are. I am gorging on spinach dip, fried chicken, and beer and watching a football game. Oh, how redneckily delicious that will be. The Syracuse notifications have a little bit to do with the addition of beer ;)

Ashley Brooke said...

Obviously, the only reason Syracuse hasn't called me is because I sometimes pronounce the name of their city/school "Sara Cues."

Dreux said...

Shhh Ashley! They wouldn't have known unless you posted it on here, but now their secret spy will report it directly to the PD who will strike you from the list of acceptances yet to be notified!

kaybay said...

Ashley, they don't want me because my sample is too good. That's right, George Saunders is a jealous man and he couldn't believe how amazing my stories were. Ahem......

Nick McRae said...

@ Jessie

Huge congrats!

NM

Cratty said...

Sorry, buddy - I missed Paley. But, yeah, I hope you don't take it as a criticism. I don't read into one's list of favourite authors as an indicator of 'personality type.'
And, certainly, from a historical perspective, this literary canon thing is disproportionately white male, but, especially since the turn of the 20th century, the diversity is there. I'm, not saying one is obligated to read something by an Asian or female author to beef up one's diversity cred - hell no - that's a sort of moral absolutism, imo. But, still, stuffs out there; don't blame the canon. Just say so and so authors is where my tastes/learning/predilections seem to have taken me.

Cratty said...

Oh, good heavens, can't believe I missed the Syracuse news. Congrats, Jessie! This is big. I'm willing a big ol' bottle uh free wine to come your way.

Dreux said...

I disagree. I continue to blame the canon. Because it's inextricably tied to trends in literature, and my taste tends to better coincide with what was going on 2+ decades ago than what's going on now. So whether it's today's canon or the canon of yesteryear, I still blame it. I think if there had been a plethora of minority authors getting the kind of attention necessary to allow their work to outlive them at the point in history where the style of writing best suited my current tastes, I would be reading a lot more minority writers.

Jessie said...

Thanks everybody! Cratty, I'm not a big wine drinker but I will be buying some nicer-than-usual beer tonight.

DigAPony said...

Congratulations, Jessie! What a great way to wrap up your weekend.

Sarah said...

First, to Jessie,
CONGRATULATIONS!! That is such wonderful news, I am so happy for you! (and, oddly, your acceptance has made me more confident about my own applications...not sure if that is a good thing :P ). Is that your top choice? And you probably said this, but are you poetry or fiction?

Re: John Irving
It's funny that some of you have mentioned Irving, because I was about to bring him up on here the other day...I am currently reading A Prayer for Owen Meany (first thing of his I've ever read) and have to say that I love his writing and the way he has constructed his story.

I can definitely see why some people might not like his style- he is kind of all over the place, includes (seemingly) arbitrary anecdotes/details, and (so far) the story seems to lack any real arc or direction.

However, this is precisely what I like about his writing. He relies relatively little on the structure and/or plot of his story, and instead devotes his attention to constructing his characters (and really the entire world of Owen Meany) through details that some might find tiresome/erroneous/"irrelevant", as Dreux called them.

I am certainly not trying to convince anyone to like Irving's style- obviously some people will like it and others won't. But I guess I just wanted to offer my thoughts on his writing...

WanderingTree said...

Dreux,

You also have to remember that America is a country that translates very few international writers compared to other countries. It's not that minority (esp. international writers) weren't getting attention in their home countries and even internationally. It's more that America has traditionally been pretty insular with regards to its literary cannon. This criticism was also brought up by the Nobel committee. And then you have to factor how race, class, gender played out 50 years ago. Despite there being more international and minority writers that Americans have heard of, the publishing industry is still predominantly white male.

Cratty said...

Wandering, I had this very discussion with a friend of mine not but a few hours ago. Uncanny.
Dreux, I hear ya. This is a satisfying topic to pick apart, and there are things I'd love to discuss with you regarding 'trends', its effect on readers, how it shapes (and is shaped by) this thing called literary criticism (and just who dictates this criticism). But I find this medium rather insufficient for tackling a subject like this. But, objectively, I can see where you're coming from.

koru said...

@ Jessie congrats!! well done!

@ everyone else, chin up and sending good vibes for this coming week! may you all receive calls and emails

@Pema D and Farrah, funny 'nuff I just pulled Franny and Zooey off my shelf this afternoon as I have to prepare a lecture on it. Looking forward to the re-read. :-)

Emily said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
laura said...

@Courtney

I just went to the grocery store. No line! :-D

pogrator said...

@Dreux
You haven't offended me at all, actually :-) While you've mellowed recently, you do seem to like to stir up the drama and that doesn't sit well with some. Like professors and other professional types. The internet has a way of regurgitating everything (even your deleted posts live on in others' comments/reactions).

But no need to worry that your name is attached since you now say you've accurately represented yourself.

pogrator said...

@Courtney
Oh, it's happened that schools know about an applicant's blog and forum postings, though I don't know that it ever negatively impacted an acceptance offer. But neither can I know that it hasn't.

Employers routinely google/facebook/etc potential employees. Surely *some* committee members at some schools do the same thing, officially or not.

Why would we assume that students are the only ones who know how to use technology to our advantage? Only takes a few minutes to look someone up and considering that they have to work with these people for the next 2-3 years...

I'm not talking about all 900 applicants but rather the short list. Could make a difference is all I'm saying.

DigAPony said...

Just wanted to share that I get to hear Tobias Wolff speak tomorrow night at a community college in my town. So excited! He is one of my all-time favorites. No one in my non-cyber life understands how awesome this is. :)

Abbie said...

@DAP-That's fabulous! None of my non-writer friends ever understand literary events either. Have a great time!

WanderingTree said...

Pogrator/Courtney

I know for a fact that professors at programs look at this blog. Hell, they occasionally post if people are really spreading misinformation. If you read the blogs of some of the accepted students, professors do look at this blog and your blog (if you have one) and they might ask questions. Would you be denied admission because of a slip of the tongue here? I doubt it. Professors know that this process is full of anxiety and all sorts of crazy emotions.

JohnDoe said...

If this blog is what being in an MFA program will be like, I'm beginning to have doubts about going at all.

P.S. Love John Irving. Love those "irrelevant, but charming" details.

Courtney said...

For schools selecting such a small number of people, I don't think it's unreasonable to assume they would google potential finalists. I do think it would be far-fetched to think that they are tracking blog comments. But stranger things have happened!

My dad just called me to tell me that I was rooting for the Saints. So, who dat?

frankish said...

Ok, it's time for the Who to hang up their spurs....

agoodbookishardtofind said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessie said...

Sarah, thanks! It's not my first choice--I'm still hoping for Iowa, Massachusetts, or Michigan. And I'm applying in fiction.

Brandi Wells said...

re: schools googling applicants and looking at their blogs

I get overly anxious/excited anytime someone googles me and they're from a town that houses a school I applied to. I check "clicky" at least twice a day to see my stats.

DigAPony said...

Gracias, Abbie!

apcb said...

@everybody (re: syracuse). don't worry yet. look last year: just with the two acceptances (out of at least 6 offers extended - that's with 100% yield) recorded by TSE, the notification period is 3 days long. we're only at day 2!

(well, okay, maybe we're at day 10 and we don't know it, but let's be a tiny bit optimistic, eh?)

Courtney said...

I love your optimism, apcd. Coupled with my denial, this is nothing short of a great day!

Dreux said...

I'm definitely in agreement with those of you saying that it's quite probable that those of us who make it to the short list at a few programs will be Googled at least once. It's a fact of life.

Luckily for those of us who have at least a remote awareness of that issue, the first few Google results are almost always social networking sites, and we control (to a large degree) the content on those. And I think 9 times out of 10 whoever is curious about you will be adequately mollified by browsing those sites and won't dig too much deeper.

Ashley Brooke said...

Haha, somebody over at P&W says they heard that Brown recieved 800-900 applications, and that those account for TWENTY PERCENT of all grad school applications at Brown. That is insane!

Dreux said...

Ashley,

I knew this was a record year all around, but numbers like that will never fail to make my jaw drop.

It must be a crazy, crazy time of year in those admissions offices.

Vanni said...

subscribing

Brad Smith said...

...can't...keep...up.......!

I posted this in the wrong mailbox like a dumbass:


@ Seth

Thanks for answering my question about government funding. I have another question for you, somewhat related:

You are strongly advocating that no MFA applicant settle for a program in which they do not receive funding. And clearly, you are advocating that all programs do what they can to ensure full funding for their students.

However, aren't funding and program size largely connected to one another, in that, for a number of programs, in order to ensure what can be classified as, "full funding" they would have to decrease the amount of students that they let into their program?

Now, I know that this isn't necessarily true for all programs. But generally: isn't that the connection? The more students you admit, the harder it is to fund them all?

Personally, I didn't apply anywhere this season where full funding was not available, and don't plan to enroll in the fall without said funding. However, by making this unofficial pledge, I radically reduced my overall chances at getting in somewhere, as schools with the best funding seem to be seeing their highest number of applicants in years.

As this trend continues, won't it be harder to get into fully funded programs, assuming that the number of fully funded programs doesn't increase at the same rate the MFA applicant pool does?

I'm certainly not disagreeing with you saying that we shouldn't go into debt in order to do the MFA, I'm only wondering how things will look in, say, 5 years.

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

Hi Trilbe,

I have a feeling I'm expressing my views very inarticulately. If I can try a different angle: I don't personally, in any sense, "care" where the "best" writers are, for any number of reasons. First, a writer's primary focus should be on what they're doing, not on what anyone else is doing. Second, MFA students are in the opening years of their lives as writers -- I don't believe we can "know" what/how someone is going to write until years after they graduate (i.e., an MFA writer is not the writer they will become, and the writer they will become is what we're all really interested in). Third, as I've said before, beyond a certain level of competence it's all a matter of taste anyway, and many/most MFA students will cross that line, at which point the question's a little moot, anyway. Fourth, I have way too many other things in my life to think about. Fifth, there is no way that I -- or anyone -- can make presumptions about a specific writer's writing talent from where they attended, as people attend schools for many different reasons.

All that said, it is imperative to the validity of the P&W rankings that they be seen to have -- as in fact they do have -- a strong correlation to the publicly available selectivity data, and that that selectivity data be seen as actually meaning something in a theoretical sense. Here's why: Otherwise, the P&W rankings are open to the accusation that they are merely funding rankings, as to the extent they are popularity rankings among a community of people largely interested in funding (i.e. this one) , unfunded programs would love to discount the rankings as simply a measure of where the best funding is. If that's all the rankings are, they cannot create the virtuous circle that is the very purpose of the rankings even existing.

This is the virtuous circle:

{cont.}

Seth Abramson said...

1. A ranking is created that privileges applicant values, not faculty values. This strikes a blow for the rights of applicants, who have traditionally been treated shabbily by the programs in certain respects (e.g., transparency of data).

2. Primarily the best-researched applicants are polled for the ranking, because these applicants a) are objective about the programs, b) know their options well, and c) know the conventional wisdom about how/why to value a program -- because it's they who have, in essence, reified that conventional wisdom by making it the gospel in their online community.

3. The best-funded programs therefore tend to be the highest ranked.

4. The best-funded programs therefore see massive increases in applications, because the clear majority of applicants value funding above all other considerations (as polling shows).

5. All things being equal, programs with more applications have lower acceptance rates, and (assuming a high enough "N") are therefore generally more selective, and more selective programs have stronger cohorts.

6. The rankings thus, over time, become "more accurate" because a) they better reflect applicant values (e.g., where the money actually is, one reason many NYC programs are dropping precipitously in the rankings), and b) they also become reflective of cohort quality in a "theoretical sense" (by virtue of there being a high statistical correlation between a program's ranking and its selectivity; right now, for the Top 25, it's a 92.3% correlation).

7. The rankings thus become ever and ever more legitimized over time, and therefore a more powerful tool for applicants to use (whether to create application long-lists, or to make their voices heard when a program is being unfair to applicants, or to predict cohort quality in a theoretical ["all things being equal"] sense, etcetera).

8. Programs are thus forced to conform their behavior to meet applicant values (e.g., programs, to be ranked, will have to fund their students).

9. All applicants benefit in a historic sea change -- a movement. Why? Because now everyone gets money to do an MFA.

So this has nothing to do with individual applicants. And it has everything to do with the big picture. I will never, ever abandon my thoughts on selectivity because a) they're mathematically sound (a whole different conversation), and b) they inform the virtuous circle that I'm hoping will help tens of thousands of young writers going forward.

Be well,
Seth

Black Water said...

I've been avoiding this blog since October simply because it nearly drove me insane last year after my 19 rejections in fiction and poetry. I applied to only 7 schools this year, and all in fiction. Thought I'd finally share my list given I got my first (unofficial) acceptance on Tuesday:

UT Austin
Texas State
Brooklyn
Iowa Workshop
Boise State
George Mason
Alabama - Tuscaloosa

I received an email from a representative--on behalf of the director of the program--at George Mason about a week ago saying that he was confident I would be accepted and that an official offer should be arriving in the mail in the next few weeks. While it isn't an official acceptance by any means, it certainly instills far more hope than I had last year when I received rejection after rejection.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for us all because I certainly know that awful anxiety that these months bring. Good luck to everyone!

Jason J said...

re: MFA students not yet being the writers they will become..

"It was always the becoming he dreamed of, never the being." -F Scott Fitzgerald

Love that.

laura said...

Black Water: Did you first email GMU to ask about your application? Or did they just send you that email out of the kindness of their hearts? GMU is a top choice for me, and your comment has me worried. :(

Kati-Jane said...

I'm sure both Dreux and myself also love the quote, self-proclaimed Fitzgerald fans as we are... Not to continue to validate the terrible stereotype that someone posted about the South earlier (that family is everything) but part of the reason I love Fitzgerald, the same reason I love Hank Sr., has to do with the fact that there are stories going back in my family about casual interaction with both... As in, we had a piano, and Hank played for us at the family home outside Montgomery one night, just as the Fitzgeralds were drunk one night at a party a neighbor had... perhaps everyone's family comes up with these equivalencies... but I will agree about Tender Is The Night... I remember when I acquired a copy from a library sale and read it for the first time... ended up turning me on to Verlaine, as I recall... Good luck in the new week, everyone!

Seth Abramson said...

Hi Brad,

Fantastic points/questions. The answer is complicated, and has several parts:

1. In the long run (see my post above) the goal is to "force" all programs to be fully-funded, so that even programs that wish to be "large" in size will be fully-funded. So what seems like a problem now is partly a problem now because it has to be a problem now for it not to be a problem later (hopefully that makes sense).

2. One ancillary benefit of the new thinking on MFA programs -- i.e., never attend an MFA without funding -- is that it also emphasizes to applicants that there is simply no rush whatsoever to do an MFA. There's no reason not to wait until one gets a fully-funded offer, even if it takes several years of trying -- this last item being a tertiary benefit (this eliminates the ridiculous stigma some people still attach to re-applying; nonsense! It's just smart thinking, I say).

3. The existence of rankings in this field is helping to drive the creation of new MFA programs (over time) because it helps the programs to know what it takes to be considered a "prestige" asset to the University -- i.e., in a world where MFA programs can plot out how to rise in the rankings, it's easier to convince administrators at schools without MFA programs to initiate programs and fully fund them. So the hope is that the total number of spots in funded MFA programs will rise every year, as -- for the reasons above and because of the Virtuous Circle (above) -- there will be more fully-funded programs over time.

4. By definition, the spots that are "disappearing" in MFA programs are spots that should disappear -- i.e., unfunded spots. Consider: Let's say Arizona fully funds 33% of their students, but they want to rise in the rankings, which they know means funding 100% of their students. But they don't have any additional money in the budget for it. What do they do? They cut the 66% of their spots that are unfunded, leaving only fully-funded spots and making them 100% funded. What's the loss? The spots cut were spots that exploit younger writers, and now -- now -- folks who wouldn't have applied to Arizona before (because the chance of full funding was too low to be worth the application fee) can apply, because the program is 100% funded.

5. Remember that as applicant pools are increasing yields are going down -- i.e., part of the increase in apps is people applying to more schools, so the increase in applicants isn't as great as you think, and more and more "acceptances" will be turned down (i.e. schools will go to their wait-lists more often) because people are getting more and more acceptances (and of course can only pick one).

So, in fact, the number of funded spots is going to keep pace -- and shortly exceed -- the pace of increase in applicants, both because more fully-funded programs are being created, because the applicant pool increase isn't as big as it seems, and because schools that aren't now an option for those willing to apply to fully-funded programs only (e.g. Arizona) will switch and become fully-funded, putting them "back on the map" as options for such applicants.

Be well (and hey, best of luck with your apps, Brad!),
Seth

LAswede said...

fucking WHO DAT BABY!!!!!
i'm am soooo fukced up on guinness and sam adams right now that i don't even care that the 'cuse hasn't called!!!!!!!! the SAINTS just won the SUPER BOWL!!!!! if you don't live in loueasyana you don't understand the craziness!!! my students are gonna love me in the morning!!!!!!!!

LAswede said...

sorry to clog the board with football, but the happiness can't be contained!!!!!!!
WHO DAT? WHO DAT? WHO DAT SON!!!!!

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