Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mailbag - The 12.12.12 Edition

Post your once-in-a-lifetime questions, comments, and concerns here!  It's deadline time!

64 comments:

wScott said...

Wondering about including a synopsis with my novel excerpt-cum-manuscript sample. None of the schools I'm applying to (Vandy, Mich, Mont, etc) mention it anywhere I've seen. But it seems some other programs ask for one.

And if yes, does it make sense to put the synopsis at the end of the sample? The excerpt is from the beginning of the novel and I want the real writing to be the first impression.

Thanks! Good luck in the homestretch everyone!

Fancy Nancy said...

First, wScott, I'd just label the writing sample as a novel excerpt and not include a synopsis at all. They need to know it's part of something larger, but unless they ask for a synopsis specifically, I don't see why they'd need it. Those opening pages should feel strong on their own, and it's okay if the reader doesn't know what will come next.

I have a question about the MFA applicant Facebook group so many people are a part of. Is there a way to join it so your FB friends can't tell in any way? I can't "go public" my MFA applications because of my job, so I want to be careful. (In case you couldn't guess, "Fancy Nancy" is not my real name, either.")

Penny Lane said...
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Penny Lane said...

So I am in the midst of applying to programs and trying to get my sample ready. I have two questions really, unrelated.
1. As far as the writing sample goes, do you think it is better to start fresh and submit a sole piece of work or is it better to submit an excerpt from your current project?

2. I am a nonfiction writer, specifically a humor essayists. I have been rifling through programs and I haven't found many schools with faculty or programs that would fit me. Do you know of any programs that are best for this type of writing? That have faculty like Burroughs, Crosley or Vowell on their staff?

Thanks a bunch! And good luck everyone!

Alex Morrison said...
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Alex Morrison said...
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Samantha said...

I'm a mid-career professional, in software development, who is interested in obtaining at least an MFA in Creative Writing. It's been approximately 15 years since I attended college and have not maintained any relationships that I might ask for an academic referral. Three academic referrals are the norm for grad school. I would appreciate any insight you may have.

Thank you. Best wishes for a lovely New Year.

Chinmayee said...

Not an applicant this year- but hopefully next year. I have a very unconventional background (for an MFA!). I have a Masters in Economics and a few years of workex in an area completely unrelated to writing. How would the letters of recommendation work our for me then? I don't see my Economics profs writing a LoR about the quality of my writing! And yet a LoR is an essential admission requirement. Quite a complication for me. Any advice?

Chinmayee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex Morrison said...

Chinmayee,

If you have time, and if there is one offered in your area, maybe try to join a workshop class? Perhaps you could establish a relationship with your instructor and get an LoR that way...It's a tough situation. Three LoRs really does put those with a non creative-writing background in somewhat of a bind. Good luck!

Chinmayee said...

Thanks Alex

Sally Jane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sally Jane said...

@Penny Lane: Sloane Crosley is speaking at the Stony Brook Manhattan Track MFA program on Feb. 25, and Patty Marx will be joining the faculty and her first course in humor writing will be offered this Spring. Also on faculty (in non-fiction) are Matthew Klam, Melissa Bank, and Jules Feiffer. Hope that helps!

Fred Blake said...

THIS JUST IN: Virginia Tech has extended its application deadline to January 15th due to technical errors. We're a 3 year program, $15k stipend guaranteed to all students, located next to the Appalachian mountains, with opportunities to work on three different journals (the minnesota review, Toad, and The New River) and in several genres (fiction, poetry, new media, creative nonfiction, and playwriting). Our teaching load is 0/1-2/2-2/1, with the first semester being dedicated to composition pedagogy training and the last semester reserved for teaching a creative writing course. You can tailor both the composition courses and the creative writing course however you see fit. We're a small program (3-4 students accepted in each genre every year), and our faculty is pretty spectacular, not to mention our reading series is pretty fly also (of which students have a say in who we bring here to read). You should consider applying!

http://www.english.vt.edu/graduate/MFA/

Melissa Matthewson said...

Okay...so here's my question. I've turned in 7 out of 9 applications and just saw that I have a grammatical error in the fourth line of my first page - one of my stronger essays! Am I totally done for? I can't believe I missed it. Anyone want to chime in on their experience? I'm so mad at myself. I've worked for months on these applications and a typo on the first page!

HMS said...

I mean, if someone in the past was accepted to schools with typos in their essay, that has probably nothing to do with your outcome(s). Typos happen. Clean them up for the last two applications. Hope for the best.

Liz said...
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Liz said...

Melissa, I feel your pain. I did something similar but probably worse--put the same (shortish) essay twice in my submission portfolio without realizing, and this after bragging about my editing abilities in my statement of purpose. To make it worse, it was the weird/abstract/experimental piece that I wasn't sure I should include. My portfolio went out like that to several schools, including my #1 and #2. Awesome. I fixed it for the other submissions, but it almost physically hurts.

There's really nothing to be done about it, so in the great tradition of writers in general, I fixed myself a whiskey drink. Cheers.

Melissa Matthewson said...

Thanks for the words of encouragement. Sorry Liz to hear about your goof-up. Since I'm applying to mostly low residency, a few of them have allowed me to resend the manuscript over email. My two top choices are letting me do that. Phew! Hopefully the other schools won't just toss the manuscript in the reject pile.

I didn't quite go for the whiskey, but a large glass of red wine! :)

Megan said...

@Melissa,

I sent the wrong writing sample to the first CNF program I applied to. Double cheers to that.

Anna Lyon said...

I finally got the creative writing MFA handbook, only to read it and find out that I apparently made a huge mistake in my personal statements (which I've already sent out) by mentioning certain faculty members by name. I felt like it would be a good thing to show that I knew the work of the faculty and had an informed wish to study with them. Even if the professor I mentioned is not the one who reads my application, I still don't see how this is a problem. It's not like I'm insulting the other professors. Why does the handbook say not to do this?? Are my applications totally ruined because of it?

Anna Lyon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Megan said...

In case anyone else made a similar mistake to mine (submitting the wrong sample, essay, statement, whatever): I contacted the applications coordinator and she was extremely helpful. She promptly replaced my sample with the correct file. Just an FYI if any of you find yourself in that predicament.

Marie said...

You are in good company. I bragged about my experience as a "pubic" school teacher. Caught it after mailing. Awesome.

Megan said...

Slacker minds think alike. ;)

Jenny Beverage said...
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Jenny Beverage said...

Hello! I have a question. I have been applying to general fiction writing programs. However, I realized that pretty much all my writing is young adult fiction (but bordering that YA/adult line). I'm just like, should I apply to some children's lit programs? Can I even get into a regular fiction program with young adult stories?

Sally Jane said...

Hi Jenny Beverage,

You might want to consider the new Children's Lit Fellowship at Stony Brook Southampton:

http://www.stonybrook.edu/sb/southampton/mfa/childrenslit.shtml

Azenn said...

How important are undergrad GPAs?

I'm applying with a 2.4 :(

David Collins said...

Glad to see people are still posting here. Much of the activity seems to have moved to the MFA Draft 13 on Facebook. Anyone a member, and can you add me? I takes a member to add a new member evidently.
Thanks

NiniJD said...

I would also like to be added to the Facebook page if possible. I believe I requested to be added a few weeks ago, and never was, so if someone could add me that would be great. Nini Berndt-Di Lisio.

Melissa Matthewson said...

For anyone reading this as well-I had a typo on my writing sample and many schools let me correct it. Thank goodness!

AL said...

Oh my god. I did the same thing in every single one of my SOPs. Am I screwed? Could someone please answer this?

I also think it makes you look engaged and interested. I'm fiction, and there were typically very few fiction faculty members (I mean, how many schools have that many faculty members?) whom I did not mention, and I mentioned them in the context of similarities in our work/interests, which I thought would make me look like a good fit for the program.

Seriously, is this that big a deal? I've heard other people say they mentioned names (and how can you write a non-generic SOP without naming names?), so maybe we shouldn't be too worried, but...I didn't know about this. I consulted the Internet while I was writing my SOP, and I never saw this. In fact, I saw a blog post by an ad comm member that specifically stated that you should name names.

Maybe we can chalk it up to conflicting advice? I would just hate to find out that I spent over $2k (I applied widely) only to not get in because I wounded someone's pride. Seriously? Are people's egos that fragile?

TheIronCage said...

Seems like notifications have started. Someone on Grad Cafe mentioned acceptances posted to the FB group from South Carolina and NC State. Not sure which genre(s).

Alyss said...

Those were for fiction.

HMS said...

How many WUSTL applicants? 1 week until last year's first notification date.

Moll said...

I applied to Wash U (fiction) and am crazed. I didn't realize how hard the waiting game was going to be...and it's still January!

SnackAttack said...

Thank you for this--laughed right out loud when I read "whiskey drink". I, too, made a mistake on my SOP for my #1 school. I emailed them at like 3 in the morning their time and sent a corrected version. Have no idea if they swapped it out or not. My power's still on, and I made a mean roast chicken with yams last night. Seriously, there's more to life than the MFA. Repeat as necessary: There's more to life There's more to life There's more to life...

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