Saturday, January 12, 2008

Stegnermania...have a seat in the siege perilous. If you dare.

People are venting over their chances with the Stegner program. I'm not interested. I'm still going through the regualr MFA application process. What makes the Stegner fellowship so coveted? Honestly? Is it a "more creative" substitute for a Phd? The Stegner program selects ten people from an application pool of 1300 + each year. It's called a "writer-in-residence" program with no degree awarded once two years are over. What makes it so special? May I ask?


dbmicheal said...

The time to write, is my guess.

Probably there's some prestige associated with the fellowship too. While in grad school, one of the other MFA students said something like, "If I won a Stegner, I'd know I had made it."

That's the way some people think. By the way, this person also once said "Why would I want to help anyone else become a better writer? I'd just be making more competition for myself."

We writers are often an insecure bunch.

I would, however, say that the Stegner selection committee, just like an MFA committee, is after specific kinds of writers. Being a good or even a great writer isn't enough if you don't have the qualities they're looking for.

I once asked a visiting professor about the Stegner. He told me he had applied years ago and gotten turned down. Both stories he submitted had published around the time he applied, and one was later selected for the Best American Series while the other was shortlisted. But he didn't win a spot.

Clearly, he's a great writer (nominated for a Pen/Faulkner recently). But the committe didn't think he was a good fit, or his writing wasn't a good fit. These things happen. I wouldn't take a rejection from the Stegner fellowship as a sign that I can't make it.

Maybe I'm saying this because anytime a Stegner discussion comes up, someone invariably says something like "Straight, white guys don't get 'em." I don't buy that either.

My guess is that out of those 1400ish applications, half or more are awful, but at least a hundred or more are really good. Several dozen are probably outstanding and very deserving. Picking six writers from a pool that large is more trying than I can imagine.

elicitable kami said...

Normally MFA grads don't take their first step out of academia and get a line of six figure jobs waiting for them, in particular jobs that involve what they love most--creative writing.

First, the Stegner fellowship gives these grads the leisure to write. If they didn't have someone pay their rent and bills while they worked on their novels, they wouldn't be working on novels. They'd be filing papers at a stuffy office for a boss they can't stand. And in the grander scheme of things, we the public would never get the chance to read those genius novels never written because the genius writers were too busy filing papers.

Second, it's hard to get a novel or, worse, a collection of short stories published, even with an MFA degree from the most prestigious writing workshop in the country. The Stegner is one of those badges that make it a lot easier to get picked up by big name agents and publishers later on.

It also opens the doors to much cooler teaching opportunities, like being a Jones Lecturer at Stanford.

Finally, for those of us who don't have MFAs and are looking to get into writing and publishing without the classical training, the Stegner is one helluva way to do it.

GeekFeminist said...

elicitable kami touched on this, but I have to repeat:

They pay you to write.

Now, I don't know what you do for a day-job, but they pay more than I make at my current day-job, rather than demanding thousands of dollars each semester as degree-granting programs do. Whether or not you have an MFA, that sounds pretty good.

Unknown said...

thanks for your opinions. it's interesting that Stanford U throws this wild card into the mix. : 0

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

I also applied for the fellowship. Has anyone received anything from the Stegner people...letter, e-mail, I don't know?

Lindsey said...

I received an email saying they had processed my application...Anyone else heard the rumors that they fly out their top choices for interviews?

KW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Curious said...

Katie, can you approximate when they contacted your recommenders? Sorry for the question, but if mine don't hear from them, I'd like to just get Stegner out of my thoughts. Mine are the type to let me know as well. Congrats on having made it that far. Best.

KW said...

I have no idea... I think I first heard word of it about this time that year. Maybe a bit later, in early March? But that doesn't mean the recommenders hadn't heard back earlier.

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