Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mailbag - October 28, 2012

Looking at the mountain of apps and wondering how to begin?  Editing your writing sample and feeling anxious?  Killing time before Hurricane Sandy cuts your power?  Then post your questions, concerns, and advice right here!

33 comments:

Liz said...

I posted about this on the last mailbag, but only a few days ago, so in the interest of keeping things current--

--I am having a hard time writing a resume [or CV] for my applications. I've written only job resumes before. All the grad-school exemplar resumes I'm finding online don't seem to apply because they are really all about the person's academic work and publications and not about other experiences [I've been out of undergrad for 11 years]. Is there anywhere to find a good one?

--Also, I am thinking of applying to 15 [!] schools, if I can afford that many application fees. How many are others applying to?

Liz said...

And just for fun, where are folks applying? Right now, I'm thinking of these. Got a glowing review from a poster on here for Ohio State, and I live in NOLA, so I know one or two UNO folks, but curious about all these programs.

Iowa
UMN Minneapolis
UNCW
Hollins
UNH
Columbia
Arizona
LSU
Ohio State
UNO
Sarah Lawrence
Georgia College and STate University
Old Dominion
Boulder

Meghan Drummond said...

I have no idea if I should make a portfolio with the first chapters of a bunch of different works to show range, or just send the first twenty pages of my newest and best writing and have it be linear. Any thoughts?

Also, so far I am applying to:
The New School
Emerson
Simmons
NYU (just for kicks)
California School for the Arts
and Hollins

Probably a couple more too, but still undecided. Those are my top choices anyway.

Jason said...

Hi guys,

@Liz, I'm in a similar situation as you-- been out of college for six years, my resume is entirely professional. If you find a good example online, let me know! I think this year is my only shot to get into a program due to personal circumstances, so I'm applying to at least 15 programs.

One thing I have not worked on at all is the expository essay that a lot of schools require. I'd love any suggestions for working on that if you have any.

I know a guy who graduated a year or two ago from Ohio State in non-fiction and loved it there. Don't know much about many other programs unfortunately.

I think the general idea is just to send your best work, whatever it is. I'm editing my stuff, preparing to send to a few people I trust for their comments. I'm going to ask them to rank the separate pieces I have and see if that aligns with how I view them, then just sort of make the best decision I can.

Good luck to you guys.

Jennifer Moffitt said...

Well, I'm feeling sorry for my LOR writers. I'm applying to 12 schools, and that seems like a lot of foot-work (or finger-work, rather) for these very nice people who've agreed to do me this favor. In an effort to reduce the load, I've recruited five people so far - hopefully I can get one more, and divide the schools in half to have each person do six.

What I'm realizing with all the online applications is that they send the email to your LOR writers once you SUBMIT the application. I've started all my apps, but wasn't planning on submitting until much closer to the deadline. I want to give everyone as much time as possible to write the letters though. Should I just ask them to go ahead and write a letter now, so when the time comes they're all done and can just submit?

My real question is, do most schools just let them upload a letter, or will there be a time-consuming form they have to fill out as well? Is anyone else running into this dilemma?

And for s&g, here are my schools:

(You'll see a lot of Florida schools...TRYING to stay here for my hubby ;-))

UF
FSU
USF
UCF
FIU
UM
UNCW
Univ of Oregon
Oregon State
UT Austin (NWP)
USC
GA College and State

Lots of luck and good vibes to everyone out there going through this super fun process!!! =)

Matthew Welch said...

I've decided to buck all norms and advice and only apply to one program. Yeah, I know, that's not how it's done. Yet there is one program I really want to be in -- MIchigan -- and every other program is just, well, not Michigan. I guess I'll wait and see. And if it doesn't work out this time, perhaps I'll take the 8-10 application route next year!

Anu said...

Hi there, am an international applicant and plan to apply to MA programs in Creative Writing in the UK, right now the US is quite unaffordable to me :(

So what I wanted to know was this....what does the admissions committee look for in the writing sample that you send as part of your application. Am applying to the poetry track, so the universities expect anywhere between 8 - 12 poems. What kind of poems would they expect to see in the application packet?

This is my very first time that am trying to apply for a creative writing program so am nervous as hell....! Any tips / suggestions are welcome :)

Megan said...

I'm looking to add a few more "top-tier" programs and a few more unranked programs to my application list (fiction-writing, full residency), per the recommendation of a former professor and LOR writer. Here's what I've got now. I'm sort of trying to stay away from the East Coast, would like to spend a little time working with Non-Fiction as well, and am only interested in attending programs that fund most or all of my education. Would appreciate any suggestions/ feedback.

UNC-Wilmington
Montana
University of Arkansas
Texas State
LSU
Alabama
Oklahoma State University

And maybe a couple of the following:

Iowa
Notre Dame
Emerson
University of Colorado
University of Houston

I was also wondering about Columbia College in Chicago...

Thanks!

Sally Jane said...

In regards to the resume/CV, I know my local admissions committee (Stony Brook Southampton) would say this: the purpose of the resume is to see what you've been doing with your time. So if you've been working, then show when and where you've been working (don't allow gaps in time). If you've been a stay-at-home parent, then show that. Whatever you've been doing since undergrad, your resume should reflect that. Publications are great (and should be included), but it's also just to get of sense of what you do, writing or otherwise, and where and how you do it.

NiniJD said...

It looks like we will have similar lists, Megan. I am also applying in fiction also, and funding is a primary concern. My list is:
Brown
Michigan
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Southern Illinois
Alabama
University of Virginia
Montana
Washington U St. Louis
UNC Wilmington
University of Florida

I think it's fairly well rounded, and I know I would be ecstatic to be in any of these programs. I have been researching schools for 2 years, and I still feel like I could add or change schools, so I am just committing to this list.

Liz said...

Thanks for the resume/CV advice, Sally Jane. Jennifer, are you expecting your letter writers to write different letters for each program? I've written lots of letters of recommendation [I'm a high-school teacher], and I've gotta say, I usually write one boilerplate per kid and then just switch out details/finesse it depending on the school or scholarship. I'm assuming my LOR writers will be doing the same with my letters, except in special circumstances--one of my recommenders graduated from one of the universities where I'm applying, has taught there, and is on familiar terms with the MFA program director, so she'll be writing a separate letter for that program only.

NiniJD said...

Ok, I'm starting to really freak out, and I'm rethinking every aspect of my application. My question is, how much does your GRE score really factor into an application? I know my sample is by far the most important component, and I know if they don't like that, they won't even look at any other aspect of my application, but I'm wondering if they reject me based on a poor GRE score. My writing score is solid, and my undergrad GPA is very good, but now I'm reconsidering not retaking the GRE (which I took 2 years ago). Is it worth the time studying and the cost for a possible improvement, or should I just send my mediocre scores and keep focusing on the other aspects of my applications?

TheIronCage said...

The thing about the GRE is that it can't help you, but it can hurt you. Basically the only application materials you should worry about at any level are the writing sample and the S.O.P. Everything else is secondary.

Just remember: writing sample, writing sample, writing sample. If you're wondering about your CV or your letters, the answer is: writing sample.

AMF said...

I want to hash out the novel excerpt issue.

I really don't understand what is superior about a short story IF you believe a novel excerpt is more representative of you/your abilities. I am not asking whether or not to submit it, it's my best so it's going, but why the partiality to short story? Take the first chapter of, I don't know, Moby Dick, or Housekeeping, or The World Without You, etc. etc., would they not do? Not comparing myself to those, just wondering why, why is it considered riskier?

alborotador said...

I think it's mostly because people feel more comfortable in being able to show a complete story, i.e. the plot and character development, etc., rather than worrying about having a superchapter to submit. It is the writing "sample" so most are probably just more comfortable being able to show a range, rather than a piece that they may consider as being more limiting. But, what do I know? I'm a poet, haha.

Forgive me if this makes absolutely no sense. I've been up to my ears in editing my portfolio the past three days, as I've actually had some time off from work. (I'm on a gap year, teaching English in Chile, and we're off work for All Saints Day.)

Matthew Welch said...

Help! I'm having a SoP panic! I have had the fortune to work with one of the faculty members at my first choice program. This individual happens to be the director, and I believe we had a good rapport. Do I mention this person's name in the SoP? Or avoid it at all costs? I've received conflicting advice and am having a hard time trusting my gut (which was to say something like, of course, having already worked with XX makes me even more certain this program is right for me, but I am equally excited to work with all of the esteemed faculty. ). Ideas or advice? Thank You.

Meghan Drummond said...

Referring back to the chapter of a story vs. short story debate, I finally decided to do both. I'm including two short stories and a chapter of my Young adult novel. For programs with a young adult specific program I'll do one short story and two chapters of the novel. I think you can show different things in a short story than you can in a novel excerpt. And I don't want to be so stuck in novel that I miss an opportunity.

AMF said...

I understand/agree with the personal judgment calls, but this blog seems to suggest an overwhelming disadvantage in submitting novel excerpts. Like, a predisposition on the committee side. Unless explicitly stated by the university, why would this be?

Melissa Matthewson said...

My first application is due in two weeks to Rainier. I'm almost done with the manuscript for all my schools - but all ask for different amounts of writing -- for instance, if Rainier asks for 30 - 40 pages of prose, do I send at least 30, or can I send less? If Iowa wants 20 -30, then how much do I send? OSU (oregon) says 15 pages max....any advice? I'm applying for nonfiction.

Liz said...

Melissa, I just finished my customized-by-length portfolios today. I have one that's 20 pages long, one that's 25, one that's 30 and one that's 40 [hi, Ohio State]. I am submitting pretty short pieces, so it was a matter of swapping things around so that I didn't go over the page count. I'm staying close to the upper limit for every program, whatever it is, because I want to submit as much of my work as possible, but I'm not going more than a page over because I don't want to annoy the readers.

Lorinda said...

Does anyone know if it might be a good idea to drop off a hardcopy application in person? One of the schools I am applying to, University of California, Irvine, requires quite a few hardcopy application materials. It would probably be about a 3 hour round trip with traffic for me I live in LA), but I am wondering if it would be worth it to show my face and maybe meet a few people. Of course, I would call or e-mail in advance to set something up.

Any thoughts?

wScott said...

RE: novel excerpt v. stories

Risk-factor seems apocryphal to me. A novel chunk is only riskier inasmuch as it's riskier to spend all your time writing a novel rather than a host of short stories. Stories are digestible, novel chunks aren't really. But that's not the point of the application--the point is to show you're a serious writer who can work with other writers and bring talent to a program that wants the best talent they find. Should be apparent sentence by sentence on every page, I think, not just in the story arc, etc.

I'll remain skeptical of the risk claim until I read something statistically significant.

That said: I'm thinking of ending my sample just after the beginning of a new section, in order to show where the structure of the novel is headed. Thoughts? Also, thoughts on providing a short synopsis, say at the end of the manuscript?

Thanks!

John said...

Hi everyone. I'm interested in to which schools you poets are applying. Also wondering how many poems people are including for those programs taking "up to 15 poems". Cheers to finishing up those apps! Here's my list:

UNCW
GCSU
SLC
UNH
U of Idaho
Hunter
George Mason

Rebekah Mays said...

Hi guys! Excited to be applying to these fine schools for fiction. It's turned out to be a ton of work and stress but it'll be great once it's all in ... we'll see how it turns out:

University of Minnesota
Ohio State
UVA
Virginia Commonwealth University
UNC Wilmington
Syracuse
University of Iowa
Johns Hopkins
University of Montana
Florida State University

Also, any thoughts on late recommendation letters? One of my recommenders sent the letter after the deadline, and after pulling my hair out I've just decided there's not much I can do but hope it won't hurt the application.

J said...

Hey guys! I just wanted to say hey and indicate where I'm applying, as a poet. I'm a Bay Area native so if you can't tell I'm trying to stay local...but I want to wish everyone the best of luck finishing up those applications :-). I just annoyed my ex-profs. into sending out my letters of rec. so hopefully they will arrive on time.

List!

SF State
San Jose State
St. Mary's
Mills College
University of San Fran
California College of the Arts
Oregon State University
University of Alaska Fairbanks
University of Nevada Las Vegas

R.T. said...

If anyone needs info on fully funded MFA programs, here is my blog http://affordingthemfa.wordpress.com/

1 said...

Just submitted my fourth application . . . feel like I'm gonna puke . . . I'm a poet from Georgia, and this is where I'm submitting:

University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Phd)
Cornell University
Washington University
UMass-Amherst
Florida State University
Uninversity of North Carolina-Greensboro
Chatham University
Purdue University
University of Kansas
Georgia State University

americancentrist said...

Things sure went quiet over the holidays. I've applied to 12 schools, 11 full and 1 low res. Now the waiting begins I suppose.
Is anyone a member of the MFA Draft 13 group on Facebook? It appears much of the conversation has moved there and somebody who's already member has to add you. Help.

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