Monday, May 10, 2010

Mailbag (May 10)

Time for a new one of these. We reckon. Leave all your questions, concerns, and musings. We're slowly creeping and crawling to summer time...lol.

131 comments:

anotherjenny said...

So. When does MFA season kind of turn over? I'm going to apply this winter and it seems like everyone's dropping away.

There won't be any new rankings out be the time I apply for winter 2010, will there?

Vince said...

Frankly, this is the "off-season" concerning applying. Plan on obtaining and gathering paper work for applications in the fall months. Long-term--polish up your writing sample. You need to submit your best work.

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

subscribing! YAY!

MommyJ said...

Work on your statement of purpose as well. Do some research regarding SOPs so you really know what you're doing. When it comes down to it, whatever gives you the edge will help ... Make sure the SOP is actually tailored to the program, i.e. answers the particular question they have asked or explains why you would be a good fit for the program.

Samantha said...

Hi!

Is anyone considering creative writing PhD programs? I don't know much about those - if they are worth it, etc.

Also, does anyone know about Hunter college's MFA? How many students do they accept?

What about Warren Wilson's low-res MFA? will I be in over my head with the workload for a low-res program - I have read that low-res work involves annotations of over 30 books per "term".

I am curious about what other people think! Thanks!

Jennifer said...

@Samantha--I'm in an MFA program now and I'm considering doing a Phd after my MFA. I think that is how most people do it (although there are some exceptions, of course).

Yarduni said...

Hi all

Are any current Columbia students subscribing right now?

Don't worry, this is not about the good-old-Columbia-debate. I just need to ask currnet students some urgent questions.

So if any of you are here, please comment back to me, or email me at: yarduni(at)gmail(dot)com.

Thanks!

Jamie said...

@ yarduni

I emailed you at the address you gave. Let me know here if it didn't come through.

Jamie

Nikay said...

Still waiting for SLC. Guh.

Lydia E. Wright said...

@C

What do you mean by "issues"?

:O I just want to know what to expect when I call.

Vince said...

@another jenny--

The Atlantic Monthly puts out several lists every year in one issue of MFA programs...listing programs on based on specific criteria or notable traits.

cath said...

I've been lurking on this blog throughout the whole process. I wanted to share that I just got into Sarah Lawrence off the wait list. It is my only acceptance. Best of all, the letter was dated for my 30th birthday. To everyone and anyone still on a waitlist, don't give up hope!
Cheers,
Catherine

NellieV said...

@Cath what genre did you get accepted to???

cath said...

@NellieV
I got accepted to CNF.

NellieV said...

@Cath...

CONGRATS!!!!! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY! What a great birthday present to you!

Hopefully I will be seeing you there!

cath said...

@NellieV

Thanks so much! Are you on the wait list there?

Seth Abramson said...

@anotherjenny

The 2011 comprehensive MFA rankings come out in August of this year.

The Atlantic periodically publishes non-exhaustive one-genre (fiction-only) "lists" which are based on a freelance journalist's opinions about programs and are designed to let applicants know about five interesting programs in each of several areas (funding, innovative pedagogy, etcetera).

The Poets & Writers rankings (the ones due out in August) rank all 145 full-residency MFA programs in all three genres and across fifteen categories of analysis. These are the definitive rankings in the field, by common consensus (full disclosure: I compile the data for these rankings; that said, everything I've said above is correct).

Cheers,
S.

Seth Abramson said...

P.S. Much of the data folks are looking for (e.g. Hunter's annual matriculating cohort size) is here (see right-hand sidebar at link).

NellieV said...

@Cath

Yes, I am on the list for poetry! WOO HOO for Sarah Lawrence!!!!!

Spartacus said...

subscribing!

Excited already about next year!

cath said...

@NellieV-
I just found out today, so fingers crossed for you. I've talked to a few poetry grads from SLC, and they've all had nothing but very positive things to say about the program. Keep me posted, and good luck!

NellieV said...

@Cath

Thank you for the positive vibes! I will definitely be posting a comment when the big letter comes!

cath said...

@NellieV
Good luck/good luck/good luck!

NellieV said...

@Cath

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

And just as a side note, I read a book recently: "Unreliable Truth: On Memoir and Memory," by Maureen Murdock. You said your genre was CNF, and this book, was a wonderful read about writing the memoir. I don't know if you have read it yet, but just in case you haven't, I highly recommend it!

cath said...

@NellieV-
I haven't read it. Thanks for the rec! I will definitely check it out. Are you in NYC currently?

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

@Cath

No, not in NYC yet. I am in California right now, but I am looking forward to moving to New York! Are you in New York???

cath said...

@NellieV.
Yes, I'm in NYC. I grew up in CA though. What part are you in? I'm from San Diego.

NellieV said...

@Cath

I'm from the Bay Area! YAY San Francisco! WOO HOO!

cath said...

@NellieV-
I lived in the Upper Haight for about 6 months. San Fran's awesome.

NellieV said...

@Cath

Yes! San Fran is amazing! I grew up in Sacramento, and then I just had to move to the city!

cath said...

@NellieV-
Cool. NYC is amazing. I love it here even though I miss CA dearly. Logging off now but best of luck! Crossing my fingers for you.
Cheers,
Cath

WanderingTree said...

@Samantha

Keep in mind that CW PHD programs are really literature PHDs with a creative dissertation. That means all the work the regular English PHD folk do plus your creative work. I'll be entering into an MFA program in the fall, but I'm starting to look into PHD programs just in case I want to go that route.

Nikay said...

@cath

Congratulations! I'm on the SLC waiting list as well for poetry with NellieV. What an awesome birthday present :-)

cath said...

@Nikay-
Thanks so much! I couldn't have asked for a better birthday present. Fingers crossed for you.

NellieV said...

@Nikay

We TOTALLY got this!!!!!

megan said...

I'm curious about the CW PhD thing, and I wonder if someone could explain more.

First of all, for a long time I know the MFA was considered 'terminal.' With the advent of the creative writing PhD, is this no longer really true? I've heard many people suggest that the CW PhD is the new terminal degree for this discipline.

Secondly, if a CW PhD is like a lit PhD with a "creative dissertation," does that mean they do all the PhD work and then.... write a novel that has nothing to do with all the research and work they did for the PhD? That seems weird to me. How do they connect the creative dissertation to the rest of the work done for the PhD?

Lastly, what would be the advantage of doing this? Is this the track that people take when they want to write AND they want to teach at the collegiate level? It seems like an odd choice if you're not intending to go into academia - is this an accurate assessment, or am I missing something?

Thanks in advance to anyone who offers insight!

Jennifer said...

@megan

Although an MFA is a terminal degree, many are now getting a Phd after they get an MFA. My understanding is that it may be easier to get a job in academia with the Phd.

A creative writing Phd is—in some cases—more than a lit Phd with a creative dissertation. For example, many creative writing Phd programs involve a lot of workshopping, just like an MFA program does.

I am considering a Phd even though I am not sure I want to work in academia. This is because I want more time to write with the input of a creative writing faculty. I will write a book for my MFA thesis, and maybe a second one for a Phd dissertation.

Hope this helps.

MommyJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nikay said...

Is anybody here familiar with the Creative Writing course in The Aegean Center for the Fine Arts in Paros, Greece?

Seth? Anybody?

Thanks! :-)

joven said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
dissertation said...

it's good to see this information in your post, i was looking the same but there was not any proper resource, thanx now i have the link which i was looking for my research.

UK Dissertations Help

Meggy said...

Hello (& hi, Tom, if you're reading this -- don't know if you remember me, but I went to Stanford and would run into you occasionally at the Four-Minute Readings) -- I'm writing not so much because I have a question, but because I remember applying for MFA programs back in the day, and now that I've graduated from mine (University of Michigan), I thought I'd put out my website/blog as a resource. It's not so much a blog about getting into an MFA, but it does recap some end-of-MFA/during-MFA experiences that I had, and is presently focusing on the large task of writing a "longish novel." You can find it at The Novelist's Hubris.

For what it's worth: I grew a lot as a writer at UMich. In case anyone was wondering.

Nefrettiti said...

Hey Everyone good to know a few old timers are still here and hullo to all the new guys.

I had a quick Non MFA question - has anyone heard about an online literary journal called Danse Macabre?? If you have - what is your take on it please?

祥傑 said...

在莫非定律中有項笨蛋定律:「一個組織中的笨蛋,恆大於等於三分之二。」...............................................................

Lauren said...

Uh, subscribing?

DaveESLetc said...

Question re: genre. I like writing science fiction. Not super genre sci-fi, but imagined possible futures, stuff like that. Like The Road, or something. Some programs seem to be anti-genre, while others seem more open-minded. Any suggestions as to where I could find some sort of list about this type of thing?

Thanks!
Dave

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

Whoa, just learned that there is a new mailbag up.

I hope that all who are applying next year are doing well. I've been keeping up with my writing schedule of one hour of reading and one hour of writing and it's been really helpful. It's really all I can muster with my job, although I'd like to be doing more. I'm going to be spending my summer studying for the GRE (I'm just going to try to improve my last score), working on my personal statements (they were pretty bland and generic last year, I'm going to personalize each one), finalizing my list, and talking to recommenders from last year (hopefully they can just reuse last year's letters). I'm trying to take a summer class at UCF but it's taking a while to get registered (I haven't been vaccinated in a few years and apparently I need to prove that I have been in order to take an online course. Go figure).

I'm excited and cautiously optimistic about next year, and it's crazy that the next application season has already begun, although it's in its early stages. What's everyone else doing over the summer??

Oh, and three more weeks left until summer break! Woo hoo!

kaybay said...

subscribing. Yes, I'm going to torture myself again by following this blog like a lost puppy.

Andrew Sottile said...

@Seth or anyone else, I suppose.

What do you have to say about Pacific University's low-residency program? I noticed they're not on your low-res selectivity rankings and was curious to hear some details about the program.

DaveESLetc said...

@Ashley

Thanks, I'll look at FAU.

It's not so much that I want to be in a scifi program. Most of my stuff isn't scifi. I just want the freedom to do it.

Thanks again,
Dave

Fire said...

For all current and future MFA students, Fire Point: A Journal of MFA Prose and Poetry, has a website and will be accepting submissions soon. Bookmark this link:

http://firepointpress.wordpress.com/

Sari said...

subscribing

Polly said...

Does anybody know of a place where I could combine an MFA with a divinity degree? Or even a school that offers both of those things?

Looking for a nonfiction MFA, and a nondenominational divinity school. Though I'd settle for just " generally open-minded." The closest I've come so far is Naropa, which doesn't seem to encourage nonfiction and whose divinity school is overwhelmingly Buddhist.

Thanks for any help.

Lydia E. Wright said...

I emailed UCR to check on my status. I was expecting a rejection and of course that's what it was but how freaking unprofessional is that? The deadline was April 15th and I had to email them to get a rejection by May 17th.

T.G. said...

Lydia,

At least you finally received a rejection. As of May 18th, I'm still waiting for an official answer from UNC Greensboro. I'm rather disappointed in them. I feel like I've been jerked around.

I won't be reapplying.

Fire Point Press said...

Submissions are now open for Fire Point: A journal of MFA Prose and Poetry. Students who begin this fall are eligible to submit.

Best,

The Editors.

http://firepointpress.wordpress.com/

T.G. said...

Btw, had Greensboro indicated on their website that they were in such dire financial straights, I never would have applied in the first place. I find it dubious and appalling for any program to strongly suggest they fund admitted students, only to backtrack after receiving app fees from hundreds of people eager to receive said funding.

Liz said...

I'm probably the last to realize this, but did anyone else notice that yet another Iowa alum won the Pulitzer Prize (this time Paul Harding for Tinkers)? That makes like 17 Iowa alums with Pulitzers, and that's not counting their faculty. Geesch. What are they putting in the water up there? And, more importantly, can I get some?

Spartacus said...

@kaybay

Your summer sounds like a carbon copy of mine. I'm trying to read and write as much as possible.
I'll also be talking to recommenders and working on my personal statement (mine was pretty bland too).

You can actually follow my progress on my blog if you want: jtlofton.blogspot.com
I recently posted my writing samples and my personal statement. Feel free to tear them apart.
I also post a new short story there every week (a good way to make myself write when I know other people will be reading)

Also, I was thinking about redoing the GRE. I just don't know what a good range of scores is. I know this is probably a touchy subject for some people but I was kind of wondering where everyone falls in the range of scores. I got 610 verbal 630 math and 5 on the written. I was wondering if it was worth it to plunk down the $150 bucks to up my scores a bit. Thanks for the input guys!

kaybay said...

I have to also second (third?) the dissatisfaction with UNCG. I wasn't accepted there, but I seem to be the only person who found out(?), since most people haven't even been notified yet (I received my rejection via email about three weeks ago). I just don't like how they handled their acceptances and rejections, and the funding situation there blows. But, I'm not in their situation, so who knows. I'm sure they had the best of intentions. Apparently, they beg for money every year and get it, hence the information on the website, but this year, they gambled and lost. I agree though, a nice little warning would have been nice. I also had no idea until after I applied that they essentially start out each season with zero funding. I will not be reapplying there because of the funding (and also because I seem to be the only person rejected, so they don't ♥ me :D).

Spartacus - glad to hear there are others! Yay for us getting a head start! Your GRE scores are just fine, by the way. They won't get you any super-duper scholarships, but you meet the minimum score for every program I've seen. They don't really matter unless they're really low, and those are pretty decent. Don't waste your $150; apply to a few more schools with that money ;)

I still think I'm going to retake mine because I fell below the 600 mark and I'd like to see if I can get up there. A summer of vocab words, how exciting...

Danielle Wheeler said...

@Spartacus- your scores are more than fine. I got into 5 programs (4 of them funded) with much lower scores. But, it isn't like re-taking the test will hurt you too much (though, that is a lot of dough, depending on your life situation) and if it will give you a boost of confidence, I say--go for it. But it is pretty much ALL about the sample, in the end.
Good luck!

Danielle Wheeler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laura T said...

Here is an interesting interview with John McNally, an Iowa grad who just wrote a satirical novel about the IWW. I think I need to read the book, it sounds hilarious!

Ashley Brooke said...

Polly, Vanderbilt has a Divinity program... but their MFA is the most selective in the country. Worth checking out.

Lydia E. Wright said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lydia E. Wright said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Spartacus said...

@kaybay & Danielle Wheeler

Thanks for the comments! I think I'm going to forego the GRE re-do and focus on the important things: getting my NEW writing sample polished, working on my SOP, and making sure my recommenders get my name right this time :)

Oh, and in the meantime, getting my teaching credential (yay for backup plans!)

Lydia E. Wright said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
colleen said...

Anyone have thoughts on Pine Manor's program for writing for children?

Keith Wilson said...

This seems like such a stupid question... but is there a timeline I should be following for application/taking the GRE and so on if I wish to be applying for fall programs? When should I be doing everything by?

Sud said...

subscribing

Jamie said...

@ Keith -

Here are some timing points I learned from my applications this past year:

• Get the GRE out of the way early, if you need to take it. October would probably be ideal - I did mine in November, which gave me time, but October or earlier would have been even better.

• Line up your referees (letter-writers) early; they will have many requests, so get yours in ASAP. Also, if you apply to many schools (the typical ten+ recommended by the MFA Handbook), you need to make the administrative aspects as easy as possible on your referees. Research exactly how schools want to get info - for online recs, look into what schools use the ApplyYourself system, which ones use Embark, and which have custom-built ones (UT does, for example). Do all the envelopes and send everything - envelopes, resume, recent writing if you want them to read it/comment on it, and materials from their class to jog their memory, if needed - together in one packet to each referee. Be extremely organized on this step. Have the materials in your referees hands three months before the deadlines.

• Referee note two - have an extra person in your back pocket. I had a referee flake out on me after the deadlines, and boy it wasn't pleasant. Schools allowed me to get someone else, but having that kind of stress really isn't fun. Plus you have to contact each school, plead your case...so have someone in mind, and if anyone's late, politely remind them a few times and don't be afraid to pull the plug. Also, set your deadline for getting recs well before the school deadline, so you have a buffer.

• Schools really don't make applying easy - even though they have online applications, it's not like anyone has thought of a common app that would share basic info - name, address, etc. So there's lots of data entry that's replicated for each school. Do it during downtime or odd moments. Also, schools are infuriatingly inconsistent about what materials they want mailed, and what you can submit online. Make a spreadsheet.

• Review each school's requirements carefully. Sometimes they're not all in one place (aggravating, but such poor information design seems part of the process). Just look for little special requirements like specialized personal statements, teaching statements, or critical essays individual schools might want. These can suck up time so have them on your radar.

• Plan out your sample. How much do you have just the way you like it? How much do you need to revise? Do you want to try getting a new piece in the mix? What works best? Do you know your lead piece? Your closer? Play with different arrangements. Who's going to read your stuff and give you feedback? What questions will you ask them? I would recommend having lots of time between when you get feedback and deadlines, to allow for revision. The Handbook has a great section on revising your sample.

• Make a budget - expenses will pile up, especially those app fees. So know what you're getting into, what you're likely to spend, and what your resources are. Budget tip - I recommend using priority mail. It's fairly cheap and you can get delivery confirmation for an extra buck. Freaking out and going express or fedex will blow your budget, so it pays to be organized.

• Get your transcripts out of the way early (though some schools have a limit on how early you can send materials). At least have the order form and check ready to send your bursar. Transcripts are yet another admin-y thing you don't want to do later in the process.

• The Driftless House service - I am not a paid spokesmodel, but the people I know on this blog who did DH had uniformly good things to say about it. I don't think it's essential for applying, but I know they do a very good, thorough job. You get a serious consultation/reading for your money, I've heard.

• It's never too early to start drafting/thinking of the dreaded personal statement.

Lydia E. Wright said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Spartacus said...

@Keith

I would add just a few points to Jamie's comprehensive list.

1) If you want to be sure that something gets to the school Certified mail is a bit more expensive but more accurate than delivery confirmation. DC will track only to the post office of the city that the school is in and no one has to sign for it. Certified mail will actually go directly to the school and it has to be signed for (I work right now in a university mailroom and have seen way too many DC's go missing.)

2) Jamie is right on about your recommenders. Notify them early and often about deadlines and such. Also be sure to know exactly how your schools want the letters. Some are incredibly specific (i.e. signature on the back with tape covering the signature) Also try and choose recommenders that you feel you can work with a bit. And ask for extra copies!

3) Get started early! It's never too early to start doing research and gathering info about prospective schools. Plus, if you go to info sessions for some schools they will wave the app fee, saving yourself some hard-earned moola.

Good luck to all!

WDE said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Liss said...

Anyone here headed to Lesley's program for fiction this fall? I am, and was wondering if anyone had any heads up as to what to expect. Thanks!

Nancy Rawlinson said...

Hey commentators - I just created a new post asking for your input on the future of the MFA blog. Let us know the kind of content you'd like to see here, and how you'd like the bloggers (ie, me and a few others) to get involved.

Thanks for any input you have!

Claire said...

@Liss - I did a semester at Lesley last year and loved it (the only reason I'm not still there is financial constraints) and I'd be happy to answer your questions about the program if you want.

kaybay said...

Quick reminder to anyone applying to the Iowa Writer's Workshop again. They will keep last year's materials and application information, so that all you have to do is send in another manuscript and SOP, so long as you let them know (I emailed Deb West). They will also waive the application fee (!) Yay, fifty dollars in my pocket and a little less hassle :)

Liss said...

@Claire-thanks! Basically, I'm wondering what to expect when I get to the residency in a few weeks.

kaybay said...

Heh, I think many of us should read, especially those of us interested in applying to some of the New York programs:

http://finance.yahoo.com/college-education/article/109701/placing-the-blame-as-students-are-buried-in-debt?mod=edu-collegeprep

Guaranime said...

Does anyone know about deference of the application fee? Some schools have information on their web sites about how they waive the fee for Peace Corps volunteers and Americorps Volunteers. Is that pretty universal, or do only some schools do it?
Thanks,
Paulette

Sandra said...

Kudos to those of you planning ahead for this fall’s application season. Several schools offer application fee waivers through the CIC Free App program. I managed to secure fee waivers from several schools due to financial stress. These really helped with expenses (and made me want to attend these schools all the more).

http://www.cic.net/home/Students/FreeApp/Introduction.aspx

I agree with the above advice to get your LORs in order as much as possible, and give your referees at least ten weeks before your first deadlines (usually December 15). Tell them you need all the LORs by December 1.

Definitely have a backup referee, and definitely ask them for at least three extra LORs in case some of yours get lost or you end up wanting to apply to an extra program or two. I created several organizational worksheets for my application process, including an LOR referee checklist, and have posted them on my website (available through my profile, through the “Writers’ Resources/Tools” link).

Some schools have an online LOR application process; some schools want your teachers to send the LORs directly to the program; some ask you to include the LORs in your application packet. Make it as easy as possible for your teachers. As much as possible, let them write your LORs and seal/sign them all in an identical manner. Provide your referees with a large, self-addressed manila envelope to send back to you, and you can do the organizing from there.

By the way, I worked it into my budget to get each of my referees a $25 Amazon.com gift card, which I gave when I received my bundle of LORs.

Also, cough up the extra dollars at the post office for priority mail and delivery confirmation. It’s too much agony to wonder whether or not your packet arrived.

Sandra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NellieV said...

@cath and @Nikay..... I just off the waiting list and got my admissions package today!!!! WOO HOO!

Nikay said...

@NellieV: Received my acceptance package too, but alas, no funding. Will apply again next fall, for sure. And some other schools too (SLC was my one and only for 2010.) Congratulations!

NellieV said...

@Nikay thank you! I was fortunate to get funding and I am super grateful for that! I applied to 8 schools and SLC was my top choice!

Next year, the funding will be nothing but good news for you!!!!!

Smoke-oi said...

Not to stoke the interfactional flame war that occasionally erupts here, but I found these on HTMLGiant's blog post about The New Yorker's 20 under 40 and thought they were interesting (assembled by "Info"):

MFAS:

IOWA (6)

Chris Adrian
Daniel Alarcón
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
Yiyun Li
Z Z Packer
Salvatore Scibona

COLUMBIA (4)

Rivka Galchen
Dinaw Mengestu
Karen Russell
Wells Tower

JOHNS HOPKINS (1)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

UC IRVINE (1)

Joshua Ferris

NYU (1)

Nell Freudenberger

CUNY (1)

Gary Shteyngart,

CORNELL (1)

Téa Obreht

UT AUSTIN (1)

Philipp Meyer

NO MFA (4)

Jonathan Safran Foer
Nicole Krauss,
David Bezmozgis (MFA in film from USC film school)
C. E. Morgan

----

kaybay said...

Hey, I was wondering what everyone thought about me retaking the GRE. I took the test in 2008 (twice) and received a 510v 540q and 5 analytical. I'd really like to apply to Ohio State, which has a 600 minimum score. I'm happy to retake it, but I just read that score reporting is done cumulatively, so even if I did score a 600v, the score reported with be a 550. I contacted Ohio State about their minimum and they told me that they read the whole application and to apply anyway. I don't know. It's not a money thing, because honestly, it's a difference of $50 (because they include the "cost" of sending the report to five schools in the $150 fee). Should I retake it? I think I could get up there to the 600 range, but would it matter anyway?

Claire said...

@Liss: Everybody at Lesley is really friendly and supportive, so for me the residency was a great experience. It was a pretty intense week, though. You'll take a seminar with Anita Riggio that is like a 3-hour stream of consciousness exercise, which I found enormously revealing. Which faculty member are you working with? If you want to read about my residency, I wrote a pretty detailed summary of it at http://explainingitall.blogspot.com/2009_06_01_archive.html.

Yarduni said...

Kaybay -

I think you should retake it. If you think there's a good chance of improving your score, it would be a shame for something like that to prevent you from being accepted. Also, I think the GRE scores only remain in effect for two years.

Smoke-oi -
I'd like to ask you a few questions about the Columbia experience. Do you mind leaving me your e-mail address? Or writing me at yarduni(at)gmail(dot)com?

Seth Abramson said...

Smoke,

Over the past decade, Columbia graduated between 300 and 350 students in fiction. Cornell graduated 40.

Adjusted for class size, Columbia's "score," as to the measure you've just created, is therefore 4/325, or 0.0123.

Cornell's is 1/40, or 0.025.

Cornell thus has 200% the performance of Columbia over the past decade in fiction (as to this measure at least) -- amazing, given that Columbia's strongest genre by far is fiction, and fiction is Cornell's "off genre," and Columbia is alleged, by its supporters, to have a major advantage in access to agents.

Iowa's "decade" score is 6/250, or 0.024, again roughly 200% of Columbia's score.

Hopkins' score is 1/50, or 0.020, again closing in on 200% of Columbia's score.

This is yet another reason -- among many -- that Columbia is #25 nationally, while Iowa is #1 and Cornell is also in the top 10, &c, for reasons having nothing to do with money.

S.

Smoke-oi said...

So you expect people to conclude that placing 4/20 in the NYer's list is somehow a bad thing? Dude, give it a rest.

Seth Abramson said...

Postscript:

So, ranked by "size-adjusted score," the schools eligible for this ranking look like this:

1. Cornell University (2.50%)
2. University of Iowa (2.40%)
3. Johns Hopkins University (2.00%)
4. University of California at Irvine (1.82%)
5. University of Texas (1.67%)
6. Columbia University (1.23%)
7. New York University (0.53%)

So Columbia ranks second-to-last, with only another poorly-funded New York City-based program behind it. As to Columbia, then, the rankings above are also similar to the 2011 TSE Placement Rankings for these seven programs:

1. University of Texas (#1 overall)
2. University of Iowa (#3 overall)
3. Cornell University (#6 overall)
4. University of California at Irvine (#10 overall)
5. New York University (#16 overall)
6. Johns Hopkins University (#28 overall)
7. Columbia University (#32 overall)

Except here Columbia ranks dead last, rather than second-to-last.

S.

Seth Abramson said...

Whoa, sport! It's not a bad thing at all! It's a good thing! It earns a program a top 25 ranking nationally!

Are you saying a #25 ranking nationally is a bad thing? What sort of expectations are you working off, Jesus!

S.

Seth Abramson said...

My only point was that of the schools you listed, Columbia pretty clearly has, and has always had, the worst size-adjusted alumni success rate -- and no one in their right mind would look at these numbers without adjusting them for size, that'd just be ludicrous.

But saying (as it were) "Columbia is clearly the worst program in this group" is like saying that Boston University's top 20 law school isn't as strong as the law schools at Harvard University, Yale University, Stanford University, University of Michigan, University of Virginia, and Georgetown University. It's not, but that doesn't mean that Boston University isn't a great school. Of course the difference in the MFA context is that of the seven schools you mentioned, five are free to attend, and two (Columbia and NYU) will cost you as much as a law school would with virtually no hope whatsoever (unlike law school) of immediate post-graduate employment.

I'm sorry these numbers make you sad, Smoke, but don't hate the numbers -- they're just, you know, reality, in numerical form.

S.

Smoke-oi said...

Learn something about sample size and then we can talk...

Seth Abramson said...

Er -- Smoke, become an expert on MFA programs and then we can talk. Because you have to understand, I'm not actually "talking" with you, I'm "correcting" you, because this is my area of expertise, not yours, and because you're a booster for a particular program, and I'm a researcher who really doesn't care one way or another how the numbers shake out. I don't "talk" with boosters as though we're coming from the same place or the same base of knowledge -- we're not.

You came on here and presented non-size-adjusted numbers in the hopes they would fool people into a false conclusion about a program you favor. That's what you did -- and you know it -- and that's why you did it -- and you know it. So, um, deal with it.

S.

Smoke-oi said...

How are you correcting me? I put a list up that someone else assembled and you're using it to try prove that Columbia's MFA program is underrepresented because it only placed 4/16 MFAs on the list. Your expertise is flimflam.

Seth Abramson said...

Postscript:

A free bit of advice: You do realize I'm never going to stop correcting Columbia supporters when they spread misinformation on this website, right?

So you do realize that every time you spread bad data regarding Columbia, you're creating bad press for the program, right? Because the truth is more damning, in this instance, then silence would have been?

So, in light of that, wouldn't it be smarter to just stop talking about the program and allow it to be the subject of only a little bad press, rather than a whole lot of it...?

Because if you've noticed, I really only get into these discussions about Columbia when a booster swings in with some BS data -- which Columbia supporters, for whatever reason, do at a much, much higher clip than any other program's supporters in the United States. Some have speculated that it's a way to justify spending $150,000 on a non-marketable, non-professional degree, but the reality is that many, many MFA students have way, way over-paid for their degrees, and for some reason they don't feel the need to come on here, en masse, and attempt to misinform other young writers into making the same terrible mistake.

Again, you do what you want, but if you want to help out CU, this isn't the way, partner.

S.

Seth Abramson said...

Smoke,

Yeah, er, this is why we don't "talk." I don't "talk" to you because there's nothing to say -- you're a scam artist who doesn't know or doesn't care about data, and I've spent years assembling data and folks in this community know that. Moreover, they can see that, however short I'm being with you, I'm also giving you good advice. You're hurting your cause by initiating a conversation that Columbia can never, ever, ever win.

In any case, it's no skin off my back. By all means, keep doing what you do. The future is already written -- if Columbia doesn't change its ways, there's nothing you or I or anyone will be able to do to save it. So, apologies for trying to do the right thing here -- proceed.

Smoke-oi said...

Serious question: Have you ever been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome?

Seth Abramson said...

Sorry, I guess I should have been clearer -- I didn't mean you should "proceed" in being an unrelenting %$!@#, I meant you should proceed in lying about Columbia's post-graduate success record. We clear now?

S.

Smoke-oi said...

Aren't you the one who started talking about Columbia, financial aid, rankings, sample size etc.? Your fact pattern is peculiar, my friend.

Seth Abramson said...

Listen, tiger, just wake me up when you've got more misinformin' to do. --S.

Smoke-oi said...

So you are saying the list I posted is not accurate? I haven't independently verified, but it seems right

Lauren said...

I don’t want to get in the middle of this, debate but I just want to point out something that we all know, which is that statistics can be, and often are, very misleading.

For example, Seth very conveniently chose a time period of 10 years to emphasize his point, but the truth is that 3 of the 4 Columbia graduates on the New Yorker list graduated within the past 5 years (Rivka Galchen in 2006, Dinaw Mengestu in 2005 and Karen Russell in 2006).

So, if cut the time period to 5 years—if we cut the graduate pool in half, and divide it by 3--it comes out to 0.0183, which is very close to .02 and considerably higher than the 0.0123, which is what Seth originally wrote.

You could also compare Columbia’s rate of nearly .02 to other programs in the current top ten (Michigan Virginia, UMass, Wisconsin, Brown and Oregon) who don’t have a single graduate on the list, and thus have a percentage of 0.00. You could do this and then say, as Seth does about Iowa, that Columbia has nearly 200% times more graduates on the list than these other top programs.

I have no personal allegiance to Columbia, but I just wanted to say that you can always find a way to make statistics support the argument you want to make. You can always make something “sound” convincing statistically, and Seth who is well versed in argument, knows this.

The bottom line is this. Columbia has a lousy financial aid situation. Everyone knows this. But it’s also true that they haven’t completely fallen off the map. If 4 of their graduates are on the list, and one of their current faculty (Gary Shteyngart), then they must still be drawing some talent, right? I don’t think anyone can deny that.

Would I shell out all that money to go there? No way. But that doesn’t mean their talent pool has dropped as drastically as some people seem to think.

Lauren said...

Hey guys,

Just wanted to let you all know that the Lauren who wrote the above comment is not the Cleveland-based fiction Lauren. I'm the Cleveland Lauren, the one who applied to schools in Florida and Ohio, the one who's attending the NEOMFA, has 3 kids and a one-eyed hamster named Blindo, and is in a long-distance lesbian relationship. And I did not write the above comment.

Just to clarify :)

And while I'm here, I just want to say, Seth, you rock. This: "They're just, you know, reality, in numerical form." -- This sentence pretty much made my day.

Seth Abramson said...

First Lauren,

I don't disagree with anything you say -- to a point. One can't, as you claim, "always find a way to make statistics support the argument you want to make." Neither Smoky nor I could offer any evidence to suggest BYU is a top 50 MFA program, for instance. Instead, the reality is something more like that attached to the fiction-only, unranked, non-exhaustive "lists" published by The Atlantic several years ago -- their author pointed out, to his credit, that even in listing "ten top" (as opposed to the "top ten") fiction MFA programs in the U.S., there were really twenty-five programs or more that could have made that "list." In other words, the statistics could probably be manipulated, to translate that premise into the present discussion, for many more programs to be "top ten" programs than any one ranking would suggest.

But here's the problem: Smoky came here, for the fourth or fifth time in twelve months, and presented information deliberately acontextualized in order the create a single, agenda-driven appearance: that Columbia is second only to Iowa in terms of the grandeur of its fiction program, a claim he's made previously with equally little evidence. Well, right now Columbia has a very high TSE ranking in fiction (#23) so I think we can all agree the fiction program has a good reputation. But the very point of me doing four years of research -- not merely spitting out single data-points -- is to collate enough data, across many measures of quality, to allow us to see trends. To make statistics speak truth, or something approaching it, rather than innuendo. Obviously your inversion of the data misses the point, both because you revise the time-frame downward in a way that makes the information less probative (five-year trends aren't particularly helpful in MFA research, for a number of reasons, as you'd know if you'd done historical studies of MFA programs), but more importantly you didn't actually look up how recent the other programs' graduates were -- i.e., if Cornell graduated 20 novelists in the last five years and placed one on this list, that's still exponentially more impressive than Columbia's achievement (i.e., you unfairly changed Columbia's point-of-reference, and thus its "score," but no other program's). But more importantly than that, you're indulging a premise I reject as abhorrent: that we can ever use a single data-point to make comments about anything. Why would we compare, say, UMass to Columbia using a single data-point, when the current rankings use 16 categories and hundreds and hundreds of data-points across these various measures to show a trend-line putting UMass slightly ahead of Columbia in terms of overall quality of cohort, funding, &c &c?

My only reason for "educating" (as it were) Smoky on his patent deceit was to point out that his premise -- that the current "under 20 list" puts Columbia right after Iowa in prestige in fiction -- is false. My own premise -- which is no more or less than the premise of the largest stock of MFA-related data ever compiled, anywhere -- is that Columbia is a top 25 but not a top 10 program, and thus I've reams of both objective and subjective data to suggest this is so. If Smoky didn't have a history of deceit on this board I would have, far more coolly, simply pointed out that the data provided is interesting but only a very small part of a very large picture.

S.

Lauren said...

Seth,

To be fair, I don't think I ever suggested that we should use a single data point to determine anything. I was simply demonstrating how the statistics you were using on this particular data point could also be manipulated in Columbia's favor depending on the boundaries set. As for my inversion of the data, that was precisely my point: that I could adjust this data to make Columbia look better if I wanted to--something that universities--and MFA programs, in particular--do all the time.

And for the record, I don't disagree with you about Columbia. The idea that it's second to Iowa in terms of prestige is ridiculous, and I don't think I ever suggested that. Based on it's poor financial aid, I wouldn't even put it in the top 10. My issue was really with your use of statistics to downplay the fact that Columbia, despite the hits it's taken in terms of admissions numbers, is still alive and breathing. They're still churning out successful writers, even if these writers only represent a very small percentage of their total graduates.

On another note, here's what I take from The New Yorker list: Iowa had seven graduates on the list, which tells me that they're still maintaining their long held position at the top of pack; UC Irvine and Cornell both had one, which is exactly the same number they had in 1999 (the last time The New Yorker did the list) and which tells me that they're deserving of their top 15 ranking, as is NYU and UT Austin. And then you have Columbia who had a surprisingly good showing despite their declining reputation, which tells me simply that they're still attracting some talent. Beyond that, I don't know what anyone can really take from this list other than the fact that 80% of the people on it went through MFA programs.

Smoke-oi said...

Seth - you are out of your mind. And, while you are fortunate in that few writers know anything about math, those of us who do think you are pathetic.

Seth Abramson said...

Smoke--

{Shakes head}. Yeah, we're done here.

Lauren--

Re: you remarking upon "my use of statistics to downplay the fact that Columbia...is still alive and breathing." I don't know what to tell you -- the ranking system I devised, which (not Smoky's anecdotes) are "the statistics I use" (as it were), has Columbia's fiction program ranked in the top 25 in the world. I can't do anything about the fact that some folks would like it to be higher. But I certainly can take issue with the insinuation that my data somehow obscures the fact that Columbia is "alive and breathing."

Keep in mind, too, that the rankings are a snapshot of what's happening now -- not between five and ten years ago. To be fair to me, you should be noting (or, one might note, if one knew) that the 2007 TSE rankings -- the oldest rankings in the present generation of rankings -- has Columbia at #14. So if you're telling me that the quality of Columbia's cohort between five and ten years ago isn't what primarily governs the 2010 rankings, I'm agreeing with you, and so is the rankings system, whose retrospective trendline would have had Columbia at approximately #10 nationally at the time these writers (on average) went through the program, with a fiction ranking slightly above that (a reasonable estimate would be #6 or #7). But the current rankings paint an accurate picture of the current situation, and in painting that picture the current rankings continue to be extremely generous to CU -- the ranking system presently used is more or less the only conceivable one that would put CU in the top 25 nationally. In a funding ranking they don't break the top 125, in a placement ranking they barely crack the top 35, &c &c.

The reason I approached the data Smoky provided the way that I did was to show that if put the data in any kind of context Columbia begins to move toward, if not to, its current/proper position in the general esteem/understanding. But I hardly endorsed using that data as something probative in itself.

S.

Term Papers said...

Thanks so much! Are you on the wait list there?


College Term Papers

Maryam Piracha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maryam Piracha said...

Any information on programs in the UK? I got into Lancaster University and Newcastle University's Creative Writing MA programs, and wanted to know whether there are any students here who've attended either of the two? Need some help in deciding...please?

Screwsan said...

Megan: The MFA is still considered the terminal degree but many colleges (especially small, regional lib-arts colleges) are starting to favor hiring PhDs because we can a) teach a wide-range of college-level classes (comp, lit, and creative writing) and b) many of them like to up their rankings and appeal by having as many PhDs teaching as possible (as opposed to faculty with MAs or MFAs). From everything I’ve been told and/or gleaned, if you don’t have a book, it’s easier (easier, but still tough in this market) to get a tenure-track teaching job with a PhD. However, the two prose graduates from my program this year got jobs without books (one is a tt, one is a renewable one-year that will likely become a tt). I have no doubt they would not have gotten those jobs as MFAs without books. The PhD is a more versatile degree (though of course an MFA with teaching experience and a few big press lit novels will probably still be more attractive).

In response to: “How do they connect the creative dissertation to the rest of the work done for the PhD?” Good question! In the PhD, you spend the first couple of years doing coursework that includes lit classes and workshops. The research-based work you do for the lit classes is, like in any lit PhD, tailored toward that specific class. For instance, we all (Lit and CW alike) have to take some pre-1800s classes, whether or not those classes are in our field of interest. And we all have to write seminar papers in those classes. The in-depth independent research that I think you’re talking about doesn’t begin until coursework is finished. After that, the Lit PhDs go off to do their dissertation research and the CW PhDs go of to do their own work, which is a novel, a collection of essays or short stories, etc.

In a broad sense, all the lit research you do can (and should!) be useful to you in your creative work. I’m interested in genre theory on the lit side and my creative work is often fraught with implicit genre questions and hybrid expressions. Even if you don’t have a set academic field or interest coming into the PhD, it’s almost impossible for your lit and crit work not to inform and influence your creative work in some way. I’ve found that my deeper study and understanding of criticism and literature has broken open my own writing and helped me find, if not a new voice, then new perspectives with which to think about my own writing and writing in general (teaching helps with this too). That’s not to say my fiction has started to sound Victorian or Modernist or whatever. That’s just to say that the more I learn about the various canons of literature the more I feel connected to a long history of writing and creative toil that can’t be broken down into easy academic denominations like “critical” and “creative.” I think those are false oppositions and my PhD study has been really exciting because it’s helped break down those walls in my own brain. In other words: just like in an MFA, the more you read and think about what you’re reading, the better off you are.

And your last question: what’s the advantage? You’re right when you say the end goal is teaching college. That’s really what you’re preparing for in a very specific way. If someone has no interest in teaching college, the PhD will feel like a slog. It’s tough—it’s a lot of critical work, it’s a lot of teaching, it’s a lot of professionalizing and learning the world of academia for very little pay (avg stipend/fellowship is $12,000) for 3-5 years. And no guarantee of a job at the end. Though it highly depends on the program, the PhD is not necessarily a place to go just to get more funded writing time. It’s not the same as, say, a studio MFA like Iowa in that way. My program resembles more closely an English PhD than an MFA program.

I hope that helps answer your questions (or whoever is still reading this thread at this point)! Also check out the Poets & Writers speakeasy chatroom. Under “MFA programs” there’s a discussion thread about the PhD with a lot of great info.

Constance Culver said...

For those in the NYC area- I have curated a reading coming up this Thursday, June 17th in Brooklyn which will feature five poets who will be attending an MFA program in the Fall.

There will also be free champagne and cupcakes named after your favorite poets! E-mail me at corsmny9@yahoo.com for more info.

Seth Abramson said...

Just to add to what Screwsan said: the average completion time for a Literature Ph.D. in the U.S. is 7.2 years -- and you'll find plenty of programs where the completion time (average!) is 8-9 years. And others on the low end (6-7 years). But only CW Ph.D. programs get completed in the sort of time we're talking about here (3-5 years, and that 3 is only possible because one theoretically could be writing one's book while taking three years of classes and teaching -- but why blow through the best part of the program, i.e. the second three years, where you're just writing and teaching?).

I suppose, re: Lit Ph.D. programs, if someone with a Master's -- academic, not fine arts, as often workshops won't transfer for credit -- had enough credits to apply to a Ph.D. program as a Ph.D. rather than M.A. candidate, one could do everything in five years after that -- but that'd be a pretty quick finish, given national statistics. So I think anyone looking at a non-CW Ph.D. in Literature needs to be prepared for 6-8 years in school, not 3-5. But I gather you were speaking of a CW Ph.D., Screwsan (though still, I think many do take 5-6 years, albeit by choice, not necessity).

My two cents.

S.

Seth Abramson said...

Sorry, I meant to say "6 to 8 years before degree," not 6 to 8 years "in school" -- the last 3-5 years after classes (and comps) ended would be dissertation work and teaching, of course. --S.

DigAPony said...

Hi Seth- speaking of CW PhD programs, do you have any thoughts or opinions about University of Denver's program? I'm only just starting my MFA in the fall, but I've already been looking ahead, and I'm really interested in Denver. I suppose that's a very open-ended question, and I know you're busy, but just thought I would ask. Gracias!

Seth Abramson said...

Hi DigAPony,

Well, it's in one of the nicer locales you'll find a CW Ph.D.; it has one of the oldest CW programs out there, and one of the five or six most-respected CW Ph.D. programs; it's generally considered to be somewhat theory heavy; their graduate roster has never seemed to me to be quite as impressive as it "should" be; it's a very tough (6%) admit; the English department itself is not particularly well-regarded, so the degree may have limited cross-over value amongst Lit-department hiring committees; Denver has no MA or MFA students, which is a plus in that all the focus is on the Ph.D. candidates and a minus in that it significantly reduces the size of the CW community; the funding seems very brief in duration (usually three years, strange for a Ph.D.), not as good as a place like UIC, for instance; the faculty isn't likely to knock anyone's socks off; the school doesn't have as much of a reputation as it should in the CW community at large because there's no MA or MFA there, so it's only talked about among a small cohort (doctoral candidates, and not Lit ones, but only CW ones); and so on. My quick thoughts, off-hand. This is by no means a full review. I'd say worth an application, definitely, but if location wasn't a problem -- i.e. if I didn't need to be in a cold climate, for instance -- I'd say there are at least three or four options I like better.

Cheers,
S.

Seth Abramson said...

Hi all,

Just wanted to remind everyone that full poetry and fiction portfolio reviews for the 2010-2011 MFA application cycle are now available via Driftless House. DH can be reached at driftlesshouse@yahoo.com. If you've spoken to anyone who's gotten such a review, in either genre, I'm sure you've heard that these are generally considered to be spectacular and in many instances game-changing. Details regarding the service can be provided via e-mail, but the general set-up can be gleaned through the shortly-to-be-shuttered-and-replaced ALC website, www.abramsonleslie.com. For those with a portfolio that needs looking at, summer is definitely a particularly good time, as things get busy -- very busy -- in the fall.

Cheers,
Seth

Nikay said...

@NellieV Can you e-mail me at nikay [underscore] p [at] yahoo [com]. Want to ask you a question about SLC. Thanks!

DigAPony said...

Seth, thanks for taking the time to respond! Lots of good thoughts to consider.

Claire said...

I have a question for Seth or anyone else who knows about it: Iowa State was quite high on the funding list on TSE and marked as "all funded" (100% funding for all students enrolled). I notice on the program and department websites that there is no guarantee of assistantships to accepted students. Is this a case where virtually all enrolled students get either fellowships or assistantships? Does anyone know much about Iowa State's program and funding aside from what is on their website? I am going to get in touch with someone from the school as well, but I wondered if anyone on here knew anything more. Thanks!

Nancy Rawlinson said...

I just put up a new mailbag, FYI...

Screwsan said...

Oh and hey DigAPony: to jump off of Seth's comments about Denver: I have a friend there and I believe it's a shorter program (avg. 3 years) and from what I've heard, the exam reading period and reading lists are shorter. I'm at Utah, for instance, and our reading period for exams is generally 1-2 years with a list of approx 120 books. I think Denver's reading period is about one semester with a much shorter list, which kind of sounds awesome to me right now (as I go into my exam reading year(s)). Another draw is, as Seth mentioned, only having a PhD cohort in your workshops. It must be really nice to be workshopping on that level and I've heard from faculty there that PhD-only workshops are wonderful. (All that said, I do love Utah's program.)

My advice when shopping for PhD programs is: do campus visits. Cohort is *so* important (more important, even, than in your MFA, since the PhD is longer and more intense), so do get a sense for the people and the community.

jiang said...

The first issuie that thomas sabo jewellery online consumers are facing thomas jewellery in India is the narorw range and limited choice of merchandize. Even pandora bracelets the leading sites like ebay.in, indiaplaza.in, indiatimes pandora jewellery or rediff have very liimited range of pandora australia iteems and therefore pandora bracelets are hardly attrractive. I personally searched pandora bracelet many a ties for books and music pandora charms titles amoong other things in the Inddian sites but seldom fouund any thomas sabo australia great product and never thomas sabo excciting prices. In spite of limited rnage still some conssumers want to buy online sabo jewellery just for the sake of convenience but then their expertience is also not good.