Monday, May 24, 2010

What do you want from the MFA Blog?

Hello dear, loyal, MFA Blog readers.

I have a question for you. What kind of content do you want to see here? What kinds of information would be most useful to you? What resources? How about guest bloggers? How about special sections on the GREs or on personal statements? How about more breaking news?

For while now, the MFA Blog modus operandi has been to stick up a new mailbag and let you all get on with it - and you have been doing a fine job of answering each others questions and building community. But if we, the people posting here, were to have more of a hand, what would you have us do?

Answers after jump - and thanks in advance for your input.

38 comments:

Adam Palumbo said...

As a prospective applicant to an MFA program, I hope I can provide a good summary of how I envision the MFA Blog.

I think a special section about preparing for the MFA would be useful. Advice and information about GREs and artist statements would go a long way.

On the flip side, how about something for post-MFAers? A listing of job openings, links to specific career-minded websites (advertising, publishing, what-have-you), and general contemporary poetics discussions could all be tremendous if done with care.

I'd totally love to see a feature every week or so on a current MFA poet/writer/memoirist/playwright. I'm envisioning a sort of on-the-ground reporting sort of thing, where the featured artist will walk the reader through a certain problem they had with their work, the new idea they're brewing for a grant, or something of the like.

These are all just suggestions to play with. Looking forward to what all the great imaginations lurking here come up with.

Nancy Rawlinson said...

Thanks Adam -- a great list of suggestions to start with.

懿綺 said...
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Meschelle said...

Info on GREs would be amazing, considering I still have to take mine before the next application season. Also for those who have gone through grad school, what is the work load like? How are the classes? I am in between a MFA or a MA right now and knowing that info might push me either way. What about loan info? Since not everyone can get full rides, or housing options once you get to a school. Also would love to hear from people who got into schools that are not well know to others.

Jamie said...

I would recommend people buy the MFA Handbook mentioned on this site - it really covers basics like taking the GRE, basic prep, etc. I found it hugely useful when applying last year.

Something that's endlessly interesting is hearing from successful applicants - you could do little feature interviews, either with people by screen names, as "anonymous Iowa student," etc. Ask where they applied, where they got in, how their decision process went, etc., what their application season psychology was like, little bumps in the road, what they learned, and all that stuff.

Sari said...

Perhaps you could include a section on writing the writing sample? For example, ideas on combating write's block (which I am currently plagued by). It is hard to write your "best work" when the thought of "is this good enough to gain me a spot in an M.F.A. program" holds center stage in my mind.

xin said...

I second Jamie. Would be interested in interviews with international MFA students too.

Mehnaz Turner said...

How about online MFA programs (not low residency--but completely virtual)? Have you covered that?

popsicledeath said...

I love the rankings and discussions about what schools are 'good', but I'd also like more (albeit subjective) information exchange on what types of programs there are. I've been told I applied to the 'wrong' programs for my style by several people. I/we all know good writing is the most important, but some more insight into what types of 'good' writing would be cool, whether a program is more standard or appreciates more experimental styles/voices/whatever, whether a program/community is more straightforward or seems to foster/appreciate people that are a bit weird. That sort of thing, if it exists (have had some people say it does, others not, so it would be an interested discussion anyhow on whether 'good writing' is the only thing working and that matters, or if there are personality/style trends in certain programs that could help/hurt an applicant.

Ryan said...

I'd like to see Q & A's with either professors or program directors, particularly those from schools that are not typically front and center on this blog (i.e. anything that falls beneath the #25 spot on the rankings). Of course, they would need to be somewhat atypical questions (as the typical ones can probably be found on the school's frequently asked questions web page), questions such as "What, if any, are some of the changes you would like to see made to your program within the next five years" and "Why your school and not Iowa?"

Ryan

frank said...
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kaybay said...

I just want to second some of the other suggestions - I'd totally love to see more Q&A's with program directors, specifically about what they look for in a prospective applicant. I'd love to know what school A thinks about the GRE and what school B think about the personal statement, etc... I've read interviews where program directors admit not caring at all about anything but the writing sample, while others admit to being "package" readers. That really helps when preparing. I also agree that I would like to hear from a variety of schools up and down the ranking spectrum.

I would also like to know about a program's aesthetic bent. I think it would be helpful to have links to alumni/faculty work (preferably free to read :D).

And, of course, I'd love to keep hearing about some under-the-radar programs with lower admittance rates, strong placement records, strong funding, etc... if they do in fact exist :)

THANKS, by the way, for ALL you do. This blog was incredibly helpful last year and I know it will be helpful again this year. Thank you for your work!!!

淑芬 said...
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M12aeganT_Moe12 said...
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WK said...

I'm trying to find writing samples from individuals who've been accepted to MFA programs.

Would anyone be willing to post a writing sample submitted in their application or written while enrolled?

I understand there might be plagiarism/privacy concerns, which are totally understandable-- I'm just trying to get a sense of quality and style for these samples. So, if anyone might be able to link to MFA writing samples (preferably used in application) I'd greatly appreciate it.

Anyone?

MFAguy said...

@WK

I have one of my stories available on my blog (not part of my writing sample) and a few others in lit journals, which you might find in your college library. I also have one on Kindle that was part of my app. All accessible through my website.

I was accepted to a few programs and in the fall I'm off to Virginia Tech.

Best,

MFAguy.

Guaranime said...

I'd like an idea of what life will be like in grad school, or maybe various grad schools. Will I have to be there every day or a few times a week? Will I have to have a job as well?

Also, a real idea of the funding situation. It's so hard to get an idea of how much I'll really have to live on at each of these places.

And finally, perhaps a downloadable spreadsheet of all the good criteria. As a dork, I've already made on, with headers such as Name, Place, Overall P&W Ranking, Notes, Deadline, etc.

I have your book and it's help a lot. Thanks!

730A_ngelinaRabideau0 said...
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londonlady said...

I'm from the UK and although I've already been to grad school in the U.S., I'd really appreciate any specific advice you could give for international applicants. The blog is geared for domestic applicants so a section to help us foreigners (especially with some of the logistical things that will crop up with referees etc) would really help!

Thanks!

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ElwoodK_Rank佳玲 said...
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orpheusmuse said...

What I wish to see in this blog is a few good comments from post MFA students in regards to MFA workshops they attended and their comments upon teacher’s style and whether they support individual talent or bring out clone like unoriginal work from the MFA program. It would be helpful to read the sad stories of experience from disenchanted students who felt that the teachers didn’t teach, but hindered the writing. Above all, I believe it would be helpful to the prospective MFA student to hear about the good programs and what made them good, if not for any other matter perhaps an MFA program that lacks will read about it in the MFA blog and look to see where they need improvement.
I have heard some good things about MFA programs and then some horrible things about MFA programs. As a prospective MFA student, I wish to clear the table for myself and other students who are looking into the best MFA programs. Some of the things I have heard, are how many universities feel rushed to establish an MFA program and fool heartedly employ MFA teachers that can’t teach, even some who go so far as to humiliate a talented writer. A few of these MFA programs with teachers who are untrained to direct a workshop, often leave it up to students to figure out how to critique each other. I have heard about some MFA programs full of teachers who believe in over embellished prose as a method to sustain a story alone. Lastly, the worst thing I have heard about some MFA programs are that they have teachers who support the untalented writers and veer their programs with writing that morphs into a clone like style that shows the student’s MFA program origin. In turn these programs do not emphasize originality and hone a writer’s gift.
I myself, talked my way into desiring an MFA since the area in which I live is oversaturated with writers only interested in genre writing. I hope to find talented colleagues in Literary writing through an MFA program.

cath said...

I'd like to see more information about funding, especially in regards to stipends. I wonder if it's possible to see statistics on how many people were accepted to programs and how many got funding and what type. Also, I heard that a few schools had their funding slashed. It would be interesting to hear what funding looks like for this coming year. On another note, I'd love to hear commends or feedbacks from current or post-MFA students on what they thought of their program.

Seth Abramson said...

Full data on MFA programs -- including funding -- is in the right-hand sidebar here.

S.

cath said...

Thanks Seth! And a bigger thanks for all the hard work you put into all the research. It's EXTREMELY helpful. Cheers, Cath

Jamie said...

Any thoughts on how state budget woes will effect MFA funding in the next few years?

We saw this past season how UNC-Greensboro got its funding gutted at the last minute, and that UVa only admitted five vs. usual six fiction writers because of funding. I'd bet there are other cases as well.

Many state budgets are lagging the recovery, and are experiencing additional downward pressure as stimulus funds dry up. It would be interesting to try and look at the effect on MFA funding at public Us, since some will likely be affected over the next few years.

T.G. said...

Jamie,
Just to clarify a point of contention -- Greensboro did NOT "get its funding gutted at the last minute" as you put it. Greensboro gambled that it would be able to offer substantial funding to all of their selected applicants, even though they knew they money was never guaranteed them from the start. The website information misinforms prospective applicants. Who loses out the most? Applicants who were seriously considered but never would have applied nor committed to attend had they known in advance the financial aid was iffy. No matter the possible good-will and sincerity of their motives, Greensboro took advantage of applicants.

Seth Abramson said...

Hi all,

I'm having a problem with the old ALC blog's polling software, and can't for the moment retrieve the full polling results from polls done on the old ALC blog in 2009. Does anyone have these saved on their computer, and if so could you e-mail them to me at sethabramson@yahoo.com? Thanks.

S.

Jamie said...

@TG -

Well, you and I differ. All the director had to go on was prior experience, prior years and the funding situation then. Yes, he got sold up the river by his administration and probably the state legislature. All that makes him guilty of is trying to run a program at a school with a tiny endowment ($115 mil), a dysfunctional university administration, an allocation process filled with uncertainty and unpredictability, and a bunch of hick republicans holding the purse strings.

Jamie said...

@myself

Ugh. I am a maroon. NC has a democratic legislature. Assume = ASS (out of) U + ME.

I guess parsimony and short sightedness is bipartisan, though.

marry said...
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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

張孟勳 said...
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Nancy Rawlinson said...

Thank you all, for these suggestions and comments. They have been taken under advisement.

In the meantime, if anyone is wondering why there are so many deleted comments in this thread, it's because we were hit with a ton of spam!

Smoke-oi said...

Ban trolls and spammers.

Alyssa C. said...

I'd like to request something from this blog, if possible :)

If you're working on a sample, and see an MFA in the works in the future (say maybe 2-3 years from now), do you have suggestions for getting feedback on the sample pieces - i.e. online workshops, in person workshops, ask your old professor, friends, etc. - and which has worked best!

Obviously you get really close with your own work and need a second or third or fourth set of eyes to advise, but do people find they definitely NEED the consulting of a full on workshop, or of a professor? Most of what I've done is via college course loads, but I've since graduated. I'm looking to write at least one new pieces in the next year, and then spend time editing etc. I'd love to know if someone has an online workshop they'd recommend.

Please and thank you!
-Alyssa

magnolia avenue said...

I'd love to see examples of great personal statements. The MFA Handbook has excellent advice, and the worksheet is great, but I'm still having trouble seeing what a good personal statement really looks like.

Many thanks for all you do here!!

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