Saturday, September 08, 2007

Mailbag for Monday, September 10

Questions and topic ideas for the week of September 10 can be posted here.

Sorry if the mailbag's a little late today... spent most of the Saturday in bed, as some are wont to do. ; )


Eduardo G said...

How easy is it to get a writing job at a college or university after completing an MFA?

Unknown said...

Any insight on MFA playwriting programs?

SM said...

My MFA program just launched a new joint degree with our law school. The announcement just came out, so I don't know quite what to make of it. It's a joint JD/MFA program. Given our law school's prestige (one part of the program is ranked just below harvard) the idea is intriguing, but I have no idea how something like this would work. I know some of our professors do teach writing at teh law school already, though. One thing's for sure, I'm sticking with "just" the MFA. Announcement is linked on the front page of

Anonymous said...

I'd appreciate any insight into my letters of recommendation quandary. I'm applying to MFAs--for poetry--and most programs want 3 letters. How do I decide among the following options:
--undergraduate professor from my first and only two years as an English major; we've stayed in touch, but he hasn't taught me in 12 years.
--graduate professor from my Master of Social Work program, completed 5 years ago
--supervisor from my current social science research job, held for 5 years
--poetry workshop teacher who has an MFA but no college teaching experience; my tenure in his workshop--2 years
--new poetry workshop teacher; PhD in Lit. and lots of college teaching gigs; my tenure in his workshop--3 months


laura said...

Hey Tom (et al),
What do you know about the University of San Francisco's MFA program? I'm a bit put off by the fact that it's a Catholic school, but I want to stay where I am, in the Bay Area.

I'm applying to Creative Nonfiction programs, so my options are slightly limited. I'm thinking of applying to St. Mary's, UC-Davis, USF, Cal College of the Arts and maybe Mills (do they offer a Nonfiction program?). I'm also considering applying to SFSU in Fiction, because they don't offer a Nonfiction specialization.

Any insight into USF's program (and any other Bay Area schools you'd recommend) would be much appreciated.


Unknown said...

does anyone have any program info on bard's CW M.F.A. program? i know the school has a reputation for being innovative in all disciplines--that's all. it looks rigorous. is it also only a three consecutive-summer program? Chinua Achebe is a member of their English faculty.

Mike Valente said...

laurabxox -

I was fortunate enough to take a fiction writing course last summer at SFSU, and the course was fantastic. The instructor did her MFA/graduate work at Brown, and I can't remember exactly which type of degree it was, though. The 3 TAs for the class ran the mini-group workshops, and they were current MFA students at the time. All of them were stoked about the program and loved it. On top of that, San Francisco is an amazing city (i'm biased, of course). The cost of living is high, but the climate, diversity, restaurants, arts and night life that the city has to offer are tremendous.

Also, one of the women in my Stanford Continuing Studies fiction workshop last fall had completed her MFA at Davis. She was very fond of the program, and she had some wonderful things to say about the faculty, including Pam Houston, who wrote "The Best Girlfriend You Never Had", which is in the Best American Short Stories of the Century (Updike).

Don't know too much about the other schools. Regarding Mills, a couple of my friends did their post-bac med requirements there. Probably not useful info to you, though.

Anyway, hope this is helpful.

Sean said...

hey there - i'm looking to graduate this spring with a BA in English: Writing. Wanting to go to a MFA program -- trouble is my grades. ive gotten nothing less than an A in each of my (seven) writing courses, am TAing with the head of my undergrad english dept for Freshman Composition (mostly conducting research on writing pedagogy), did a novel-length thesis project last semester. I have a 3.0 GPA and have 5 D-s on my transcript from such things as, "Stagecraft Fundamentals" (A theatre course) introduction to Oceanography (a science) and one ugly one in Post Colonial Literature. My writing professors have offered me strong letters of recommendation, and tell me i'm a strong writer. I've also been overly involved as an RA, working for writing centers on campus, tutoring and some other stuff that i wont get into but...

With what amounts to some awful grades, that i cant retake, should i even bother trying to get into a grad school? I want to teach creative writing at the college level but i'm worried that i'm doomed and no program on the planet will take me. Any suggestions as to how i might increase my likelihood of getting in or perhaps which programs might like me?

any help would be greatly appreciated

Thank you!

Unknown said...

Don't worry about grades. The grades mean nothing. As I've mentioned before, I had a pretty dismal (less than your 3.0) GPA when I was applying. Not only did I get in, but I have a 4.0 going so far. In your SOP, write a brief sentence or two explaining why the past is all behind you now and why what's important is what's still ahead of you.

Unknown said...

Here's my question for this week's mailbag:

Any of the experienced MFAers have any advice on how to cope with the ups and downs of workshop? I just took my turn having my stuff workshopped for the first time, and even though all in all it didn't go too badly, I feel emotionally flatenned and oh so tired. Like I want to nap through the next two weeks at least.

mshea said...

Should I waive future access to the letters of recommendation or not?

Unknown said...

I waived. I think it's the sporting thing to do.

Know what else I think? That almond butter is delicious, that's what. Especially with honey or raspberry jam.

TheRant said...

Hey everyone,

I've found myself in a bit of a problem that I hope you all can help me with.

Is it a bad thing to exceed the page requirements that a program lists on their application?

I have this great short story that I truly love and that has been unanimously voted by my readers as my best work, but the damn thing is about 40 some pages long! Which in some cases doubles the page requirement of certain schools. I'm trying to edit it the best I can, but I just don't how much I'll be able to cut. Plus, I want to send at least one more story (about 5-10 pgs) to showcase some range.

What should I do? I don't want to put myself on the chopping block because I failed to follow directions and/or I don't want the admission readers to toss me aside because what I submitted is too long. I hope I'm just making something out of nothing here, but I kind of panicked when Tom's book didn't have anything listed about it.


The Rant

Suzanne said...

Sorry to ask such a basic question, but when applications ask for 20-30 pages of prose, do they mean double- or single-spaced? (I'm assuming double so that their eyes don't fall out, but this is my first time applying to this type of program, so maybe I'm wrong.)

mshea said...

I tend to agree with I. -- almond butter is tops. As for exceeding page requirements, that sounds suicidal to me.

TheRant said...

Here's another question for everyone:

What advice can you offer about applying to a brand new program? I'm from Jersey and Rutgers just started an MFA program at its Newark campus (effective fall 2008) and I'm thinking about applying. Would there be any pro's/con's that anyone can forsee?


Unknown said...

In regards to applying to a brand spinkin' new program-- I don't think it's a bad decision. What I've noticed is that certain established programs thrive on certain reputations. Brown U, for example, is well known for the experimental. What in the world? I think it's a double-edged sword for them because not everyone is into the experimental or can write the "experimental." The first thing I would do is e-mail the program offices of the new program. I would find out what the impetus was for creating the new degree program.

Unknown said...

I think it's OK to go over page-count requirements by a few pages. But my feeling is that sending twice as much as a school asks for is not a good idea. If they love your story they might not mind. But I think you'd be risking making some of your readers very grumpy if you send twice what they are expecting.

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

For Ruby:

I'd go with the undergraduate and the graduate profs. Then I'd pick the one workshop instructor who could talk about my work and my commitment to writing with the most enthusiasm.

Unknown said...

Any suggestions from veterans on how to get through those situations when you have to work/ collaborate (in workshops) with peers you may not have perfect chemistry with?

zooeyincharge said...

i didn't major in english or creative writing (rather, Sociology) -- is this going to hurt me in applying? should i address it in some way in application?i took 3 creative writing workshops and 3 english classes. thanks!