Friday, January 22, 2010

Mailbag, Friday, January 22

Lots of good discussion going on concerning, amongst other things: Is-my-application-complete anxiety, typo anxiety, plan Bs, teaching abroad, the weather conditions of various programs, how to distract yourselves from the aforementioned anxieties, what makes for good teaching and good critiques, and books to read. Did I miss any major threads?

Some links, gathered up top here for ease of access:

Seth's application response time database, which is up and running for the 2010 season.

(Some other resources Seth has made available at this time: Lists of low res programs, creative writing PhD programs, playwriting/dramaturgy programs, and screen/scriptwriting programs.)

As Seth has noted in the comments, he'll be posting a bunch of other good stuff on February 1st, once his contractual obligations to PW magazine allow it, so check back on the Suburban Ecstasies blog then.

And here are a few awesome ways to distract yourselves from general application anxieties, grabbed from various comments (thank you, commentators.)

Puppy webcam!

A poem! "It's the time when we are waiting to be told."

Satirical stick figure games!

Add your own favorite books to read, websites to visit, and things to do to reduce the anxiety, below, as well as open season on other topics, of course.


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Ashley Brooke said...

The best, most relaxing games are located here:
My personal favorites are the pig stacking and bumblebee gathering games!

frankish said...

After a solid week of rain in LA, I'm not sure if I could handle Oregon. :D

kaybay said...


Eeyore said...


frankish said...

Have any of you ladies or gents done online workshops, like MAR or zoetrope?

Sequoia N said...

I've done MAR twice. I totally recommend it.

frankish said...

Great. Thanks, WanderingTree. I'm planning to do the next session. I've never done an online workshop before but it looks great.


lookylookyyonder said...


kaybay said...

I did zoetrope and had a pretty good experience. Wanderingtree actually recommended it to me, and he uses it quite frequently. Some of the responses sucked ("I just didn't like it"), but others were wonderful, specific stuff about the piece that was incredibly helpful. My sample would not be at all competitive if it weren't for that site, I promise you that. I still have a long way to go, but zoetrope definitely made me a better writer.

For those who wonder what an admissions reader is going through, join zoetrope and start reading each story from top to bottom. You'll notice some terrible stories, a lot of good stories, and a couple of great stories. I would imagine the stories going to MFA programs are more polished, but it's a good exercise in reading and gives you an idea of what it's like to read so many samples.

Another thing about zoe: there are a lot of published writers there. In fact, one writer (a pretty successful one) told me that one of the stories she posted on that site for review got picked up from a literary mag. That can't be verified, but it was a good story and she had a lot of previous publishing creds, so it's certainly possible. It's a good place to be a part of a serious writing community.

Unknown said...

Is anyone else out there working on filling out the FAFSA? It's my understand that they will only let you send the info to six schools. I'm applying to eleven, as I know most of you guys are too...anyone know how that is gonna work?

frankish said...

I think it's ten schools, not six. Once the report goes out, I think you can delete one or more of those schools and add new ones to get additional reports out.

Next week I am going to call and make sure.


Kerry Headley said...

Consider this a public service announcement. Oregon is lovely during the eight to ten weeks when it isn't raining and gray. Many people love this place, and there are wonderful aspects to being here. But if you are wired for sun, it could be a challenge. Being wet a lot of the time is gross and annoying to me, but the natives do just fine. And some people, like my sister, have adjusted and would never move.

And when the sun is actually out? Watch out! If it's above 70 degrees people will be wearing shorts and tank tops. No exaggeration. They were declaring it an emergency last summer when it was in the 90s. Granted it was hot, but Oregon folks are wired for mold and cold. They were sizzling. Anyway, just some more climate info. The state is pretty freaking gorgeous. You just need to know that it's very wet and gray very much of the time.

And yes, grad school is my escape plan...

Sequoia N said...

Adding on to kaybay's PSA of

It's definitely a great place to get a sense of the quality of work (in terms of range) that might be sent to an MFA program. As she said, stories on the site range from the terrible to the promising to the brilliant. Private offices on the site also serve writers in need of more specific communities (i.e. finding an agent, people working on novels, flash fiction etc.). And there are many published (as in the major publishing houses and well-regarded small presses) that still remain active on the site (mostly in private offices) but still submit stories from time to time. Having the opportunity to review and get reviewed by someone who has won an O.Henry or received an NEA grant is pretty damn cool. I've been on the site for a few years now as have a couple of other applicants on this blog. Lots of nice people over there that can help you. Anyway, there's my plug.

frankish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily Walker said...

Heads up to those who applied to Portland State- I just got one of those "We have received your application" emails (even though I applied two months ago). I about had a stroke because I thought it was something substantive. Prepare yourselves accordingly.

Anonymous said...

For those who have taken online writing workshops was that because there weren't in-class workshops available to you in your area or do you prefer the online format?

I've only enrolled in in-class workshops in the past. I wonder if people are more honest over the internet since they're not looking at anyone face to face.

Gummy Bear Sacrifice said...


Distractions also include roleplay (not sexual kind, even though I'm sure that's great too!)

Ryan said...

@ salt, while for the most part people seem to be better equipped to strike down what they don't like online (for proof, just look at the history of this blog), but I will say that when I workshopped in college I had around 14 people in my class, only a few who I knew well, and let's just say I didn't give everyone five stars because I didn't know them well. I love it when people are able to cut into a piece of writing and bleed it out for the good. We need more people like that.

Sequoia N said...

Salt, I've remained active with zoetrope more because of the community. It's free, you can pop in any time and see what sort of discussions are going on, and you really get to know some of the people on the site. As I said earlier, even seasoned writers have stayed just for the ongoing support as their careers advance. And then there's the international component to workshopping online which has its benefits. Other online workshops like MAR or the courses through Stanford, are similar in many ways to in-person workshops but also provide a kind of community that in-person workshops take longer to develop. I think part of this is because people are less inhibited to share their thoughts in a virtual setting.

I've been active with both in-person and online workshops, and I think both have their positives and negatives. I've found that people are more likely to concentrate on the micro (line edits, specific scenes) when critiquing in online workshops (esp. from people that are less experienced) vs. commenting on the macro (i.e. the plot as a whole, themes), which I've found more common in in-person workshops. Of course with online workshops, there is a history of comments and a document will be up for everyone to see, so a conversation can develop over time, people can put more thought into what they want to say. You can't really do that in in-person workshops easily (time is a big consideration). In both cases, there will always be comments that might come off as a bit harsh but there's more room for misunderstanding in online workshops (esp. if you're working with people from diff. cultures) since there is no voice or body language to interpret.

kaybay said...

Salt - I work with a woman who received her MFA from Emerson and loved the feedback she gave me over the summer (we're teachers and have the summer's off), but when we started back to work, she was too busy to help me and I didn't want to bother her anyway. I can't afford to spend $300 on a workshop, consultant, etc...and I didn't have the time to take courses at a nearby college (plus the expense). Online workshops allowed me to control everything, and being free was nice too :)

Ashley Brooke said...

Thanks to all of this great conversation, I've just joined Zoetrope!

Amy said...


Ha! I've said this before, but I was born and raised in southern California and I've survived years here in the gray. Once you're in at Eugene, the weather's gonna be secondary.

A plus is the crazy amount of green EVERYWHERE!

frankish said...

@Amy, thanks. I'm from upstate New York, so don't mind bad weather...just feel spoiled in LA. :D

@Tyler, I'm new to the process, but I wouldn't read too much into it.


Book_Moth said...

@Emily Walker:
I applied to Portland State too, on a bit of whim (fiction). Had a coupla extra LORs lying around and thought, 'Why not?'
Do you know much about the program/school/faculty? I've read the website, but not heard much discussion around the traps.

Amy said...

Even though I don't have an iPhone, I wonder when someone will make a MFA-notification app. You know, for our collective mild obsessions...

Emily Walker said...


The only one on the faculty I know anything about is Charles D'Ambrosio. He teaches for a pretty famous summer workshop here (I'm from Portland) during the summer at Reed College (Tin House). It's a new program, but because Portland has become this huge arts hot spot, my guess is the faculty is going to only get stronger. I don't really know much beyond that myself besides what I've read on their official site and here:

Ryan said...

So I just did that register for a password thing with Alabama, and am I the only one who thought it was hilarious that they ask you not to use the words Bama, Roll, or Tide in your password? Ha.

Ryan said...

Although that site doesn't even seem to asknowledge that I've applied. Random.

Emily Walker said...

Speaking of record number of apps., from Minnesota's website:

"We received a record number of applications to the MFA program this year: 443 applications for 13 seats in fall 2010. Applications are now under review. Applicants will be notified in mid-March."

Well, I'm gonna go drink now.

Ryan said...

I'll drink to that.

Alana Saltz said...


This is a little late in the conversation (it moves so fast if I don't check every couple of hours) but I used to love that site! Pig stacking is awesome, and I really like the star collecting little girl game. Oh, and the snow ball bowling. Good times.

Ryan said...

Anyone else looking forward to Hoagland's new collection which comes out on 2 February?

dYlJ said...


Danielle Wheeler said...


Jasmine Sawers said...

I just want to say that in 2007-2008, I was applying for the Peace Corps, and I was, like many Peace Corps applicants, really neurotic about the process. Not letting it happen on its own time frame drove me, and a lot of applicants, really crazy - we'd call PC headquarters, harass the med staff/our recruiters/anyone we could get a hold of - and it just stressed me out a lot. Even the attitudes of others in the same situations were infectious. I told myself that this time, applying to MFAs, I wouldn't focus on the negative, I wouldn't wait by the phone/mailbox, and I wouldn't let my doubts rule me or freak me out. I got into the Peace Corps. I served. That was that, and the application process itself was so remote, in the end. I know that for me, and you guys here, that it's going to turn out just fine in the end, even if we don't get in on this round and have to pull ourselves up and try again next year. We just have to let it happen in its own [maddening] timeline.

As I wait for the responses to trickle in (I posted my list in a mailbag a long time ago), I'm trying to be better about reading. Azar Nafisi is coming to my hometown in March as a part of our international writers' series, so I just finished Reading Lolita in Tehran. I'm not too much into non-ficiton, so it wasn't what I usually read. Sometimes I had to force myself to get through it, but it was worth it, and it'll be great to hear her speak soon.

I also want to put out the recommendation to read books by Kazuo Ishiguro. He's probably most famous for Remains of the Day, which I finished a couple weeks ago and which earns my highest praise. His book Never Let Me Go was haunting and resonant, and I'm working on The Unconsoled right now. His work is a great lesson in "show don't tell," and I wish I had the discipline to do it as well as he does. He's earned his place among my favorite authors.

And, for anyone working in retail or otherwise with the public as you wait for next fall, you have to check out - always good for a laugh.

the duchess said...

I took an online Stanford poetry class - we started with about 18 people and participation went down each week until we had about 7. The instructor was truly dedicated and did everything possible to keep us engaged - setting up an email discussion list and 2 live 1-hr chat room discussions per week. All Stanford writing classes are taught by current or former Stegner fellows.

the duchess said...

also, the class was expensive, so I don't think I would do it again. But I did value the instructor's extensive written comments to my work each week, which seems difficult to come by in in-person workshops.

Raine said...

I'd like to second the Kazuo Ishiguro recommendation (though I didn't enjoy The Unconsoled as much as The Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go, and A Pale View of Hills).

Also, way back in the last thread when people were discussing short stories, someone mentioned Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery." I highly recommend reading her other short stories, and her last novel, We Have Always Lived in the Castle. They are unsettling in the best of ways and, though most do build up the tension throughout the story, most don't rely on a shocking twist like in "The Lottery." (Not that shocking twists are bad, but I probably wouldn't be as enthusiastic about her if that's all she did.)

Trilbe said...

@Ryan - Hoagland is apparently visiting Virginia this year and I read on MFA Chronicles that, in addition to his time in seminar, the MFA poets also take him out to eat and spend one-on-one time with him as part of their study with him as a visiting lecturer. I am in so much awe of that. What a great system!

herglands said...

I took a Stanford online poetry course and had a great experience. The instructor was engaged, supportive and insightful. She actually ended up writing me a recommendation for my mfa applications.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments on online workshops. I live in NYC so there are plenty of local writing workshops I have to choose from. I had never thought about taking an online workshop but it might be something to consider. I want to enroll in at least one more workshop before schools starts...if i get into a program.

the duchess said...

Salt - I live in NYC too! :)

Unknown said...


Anonymous said...



are you hoping to stay in this area for the MFA? what schools did you apply to?

I'm an nyc native and I didn't apply to any schools here because I think I need a change of scenery.

herglands said...

Yeah, I live in NYC too... whoa.

About said...

Did anyone apply for Saint Mary's College MFA Creative Writing?

I'm wondering if others received an e-mail yesterday reminding applicants of the materials deadline of Jan. 30. I sent in my materials back in December, so I'm hoping this is just a form e-mail and not an indication that they did not receive my application.

I tried contacting the school, but haven't received a response yet.

kaybay said...

I'm kind of bummed that nobody's notified yet :(

Emily Walker said...

I racked up pretty well at Christmas in the book gift card's department. With those cards I bought:

-The Ticking Is the Bomb- Nick Flynn (and he 's going to be here Friday reading)
-Moab is My Washpot- Stephen Fry
-Swing Low, a Life- Miriam Toews
-Wasted- Marya Hornbacher
-Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius- Dave Eggers
-The Year Of Magical Thinking- Joan Didion

I've powered through them all except Miriam Toews so far.

I'm primarily a fiction writer, but I've been on a nonfict. kick of late.

Morgan said...

@kaybay seriously. i just had a nap dream that I got an acceptance call and the relief I felt was nothing like I've ever felt before. woke up to realize I'm still waiting. in knots.

insertbrackets said...


Based on Seth's data and how things went down last year, this upcoming week should be the first big week of acceptances. Last year around this time Illinois, Indiana, OSU, UNC Greensboro and Willmington, Alabama, and Texas Tech all phoned out their notifications. So...something should be happening soon :-P

Sea Bee said...

I'm still in the gathering information and portfolio developing phase of this whole process but I have a location related question for LGBT people who are either considering or have gone through an MFA:

I've lived in a large West Coast city my whole life, and while I am enamored with many small programs in small towns in the Southeast and Midwest, I worry that the experience could be very isolating.

What have your experiences been? Did you resign yourself to two or three years without queer community or a romantic relationship? Have you found it in unexpected places? How did you cope with living in areas where hostility/violence towards gay people is high? Is the college town a magic bubble? Did these things influence your targeted locations?

Eeyore said...

Did anyone consider Johns Hopkins? What influenced your decision to not apply? I've not seen many Hopkins applications -- while the prospect of living in Baltimore could be understandably daunting, that alone can't be responsible for the noticeable absence of JH on people's lists.

Did I miss a P&Ws article saying that it sucks? I know Kealey listed it as 2nd tier but it was high on other lists.

--Glad that the numbers seem low; worried about the apparent lack of interest

Jasmine Sawers said...


I did consider Johns Hopkins. They have a foreign language requirement that I just don't qualify for, despite being fluent (but not literate) in Thai, and taking French for 5 years before college, and learning not quite enough Cebuano to get by during Peace Corps.

So, pretty much, that was my only reason for not applying. It was a little disappointing when I first crossed it off my list, but in the end I applied to enough without it.

Kitty in a Cathouse said...


Jennifer said...

Eeyore--I too passed on Johns Hopkins last year when I applied because I didn't meet their language requirement.

Everybody check out The MFA Chronicles if you haven't in a while. . . we've had lots of posts up lately!

Ashley Brooke said...

Emily Walker,
If you have ever had an eating disorder, or have even come close, be careful with Marya Hornbacher. The book is really triggering (I keep it far away where I can't get at it!). It's also overfilled with sentences that go like this: "Pictures from that time show me as frail, weak, a cigarette in hand." She does a lot of describing photographs.

Also, Tory, just a nitpick, you mentioned a list of schools that made calls last year around this time, but I know that at least UNCW sent out e-mails last year. I just wouldn't want anyone to neglect their inbox!

Sea Bee, I am not really qualified to answer your question since, well, I'm not LGBT nor do I go to school in a small town, BUT I really think it's pretty true that college towns are more liberal and open minded than other parts of the south or midwest. The bigger the school that you go to, the larger the community might be. Writers, especially, are usually pretty diverse groups who are open minded. I can't imagine you'll find anywhere with a college big enough to have an MFA program that doesn't have at least some kind of LGBT community. If you're like me, you can obsessively google each location of all of your potential schools to look for information about the LGBT community in certain areas.

In distraction news, I've started watching Dexter. It might be my new problem!

Sasha said...

I was an undergrad creative writing major at Hopkins, but didn't apply there for grad school.

Hopkins students are generally studious and bright, and the professors are approachable/involved. Plus, Baltimore is a wonderful little city, and art is valued there. It's a great place to study--I loved it, anyway, and learned a lot.

My personal reason for not applying though: my professors advised me not to come back to the same (small) department for grad school.

Of course, that's probably not the reason for a wide-spread drop in interest, lol.

Maybe there is an applicant drop because:

1. There are no new big shots/celebrities on the writing faculty. Stephen Dixon retired not long ago, and maybe the department's still adjusting/is in transition?

2. the application's Critique of Work. Hopkins is the only school to require it that I know of, and their due date is right by the Jan. 3 due date storm. I think a lot of people probably had Hopkins on their lists and dropped it because they were too burned out to do the Critique.

But that's just a theory :).

And maybe there hasn't been a drop at all?

Emily Walker said...

@Ashley Brooke
I've never had an eating disorder, but I get what you mean about her stuff being triggering. I was recommended both "Wasted" and "Madness" by her. At times they got a little too heavy and hard to take, but I still enjoyed them immensely.

Juliana Paslay said...

I, too, am bummed that no one has been informed yet. I just finished my literature comps (HOORAY) and I had this little tiny idea that the universe might reward me with maybe not an acceptance but at least knowledge that acceptances are happening.

No such luck.

Ashley Brooke said...

I guess that I missed that you had already read it! How was "Madness?" It's about Bipolar Disorder, isn't it? I should pick it up. Didn't she write a novel at once point as well? I should just google this. :)

Sequoia N said...

I think a lot of people drop Hopkins off their lists b/c of the foreign language requirements. (Go American stereotypes!)

mj said...

@Tory and others: I know! I'm heading into this week with baited breath. Also, my birthday is on Tuesday, and I really don't want any rejections to come my way that day. UGH.

@Eeyore, didn't Hopkins require a GRE subject test in English literature? Maybe I misread the directions way back in May/June, but that coupled with a high application fee sort of turned me off. When I want to be in Baltimore, I'll just watch the Wire.

WHICH, by the way, I most highly recommend for those of you needing a distraction. That show is like a Russian novel happening on tv. You won't think about anything else for weeks. Netflix it now. I've just started watching Lost, which I've never seen before. It's okay. I just need something else to think about for those 42 minutes before I go to bed.

Jennifer said...

Tyler--The way I understood it with JH is that you had to already be fluent in a foreign language to attend and that you had to pass an examination to prove it. . . if it were just about taking foreign language classes while there I definitely would have applied.

Jennifer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ashley Brooke said...

OMG keep watching Lost. Prepare yourself. You have no idea what you're in for.

Jennifer said...

Tyler, what I am privy to is the sentence that comes before the material you quote. . . and it is this:

"Students applying to the M.F.A. program should have a reading knowledge of a foreign language at the second-year college level."

So, you need to already have reading knowledge of a foreign language before you apply. Period.

Sean Patrick Cooper said...

What does everyone think the percentage of total acceptances reported to Seth is?

There's got to be some if not a decent amount of accepted applicants who don't know about the Writing Handbook/P&W/Seth scene...or do you guys think that just about everyone applying is tapped into this internet community?

I ask because I wonder if any acceptances get offered by the programs and it doesn't hit the interwebs for the rest of us to find out about...

Ashley Brooke said...

That's true! It seems to be the case, though, that at least one person accepted into most of the bigger programs reports it online. Or it is reported to Seth in some way. A few calls may have gone out, but it's doubtful that many could have without work getting back here!

Sequoia N said...

Tyler, I interpreted the Hopkins website as Jennifer did. While you CAN take classes to fulfill the language requirement, do you really want to? I mean, becoming proficient in a language requires A LOT of time (usu. classes are everyday and that doesn't include the time you'll need to study on your own). While Hopkins is a great program, I knew I didn't want to go to a program where I would have to worry about extra requirements that would DEF. cut into writing/reading time. That's my two cents.

Sequoia N said...


Honestly, it boggles my mind how applicants (living in this century) could not be aware of the MFA Blog. If you type "MFA Creative Writing" into google this is the first hit you'll get.

burlaper said...

In my opinion, Lost is far more than just "okay." I just had to add that in there, as I'm a rabid fan.

frankish said...

I don't think the language requirement is necessary going in. The way I read it, even failing to pass by the first semester of the second year will only delay graduation until you can pass it rather than disqualify you from the degree entirely.

Anyway, I applied to JHU and, if I end up going there, plan to address the language requirement while there.


Jennifer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
insertbrackets said...

Well Sea Bee, I can definitely speak to your concern as it was one of mine when I applied and one of the issues that played into accepting my spot at Ohio State over Florida.

I'm from LA, which is just about as LGBT friendly as you can get. When I applied one of my main concerns was whether I needed to worry about getting lynched (or put into a period of involuntary chastity lol). Several schools I applied to were in big to medium sized cities (Columbus, Ohio being one of those) and the others were in small college towns.

What I did was a) research whether the schools had any LGBT support services/centers/offices because that is typically indicative of whether or not as school is accommodating to LGBT people, and b) research whether the larger cities and towns had these things plus any discernible gayborhoods, bars, etc.

If you want to know more, email me at insertbrackets [at] gmail [dot] com and I will be more than happy to give you more in-depth info.

Ashley Brooke said...

FEBUARY 1st - Seth puts info back online


Juliana Paslay said...

Okay I have to chime in on the Lost train as I adore that show as well! So, yes Ashley Brooke, I am SO PSYCHED even if I was not who you were directing the question towards! haha

Jennifer said...

frankish--how can you say you don't think "the language requirement is necessary going in" when their website clearly states that "Students applying to the M.F.A. program should have a reading knowledge of a foreign language at the second year college level." What is ambiguous about that?

It seems that the confusion stems from the language on their website about students being allowed to take foreign language classes.

My understanding of that JH language is that they will allow you to take language classes if you already have reading knowledge of the language but fail their proficiency exam.

For instance: Say I took two years of college French. I happily apply to JHU and I'm (even more happily) accepted. I take the French proficiency test they require of me. I fail it because although I got B's in French in college, I really wasn't paying attention at all and I don't remember any of it. Now JH allows me to take classes to meet my foreign language proficiency requirement.

Anyway, I'm in a program now, and I can't imagine trying to learn a foreign language while also doing all of my MFA work.

Ashley Brooke said...

Lost fans (and haters) waste your time on this (contains spoilers for the end of season 5):

Sean Patrick Cooper said...


That was my assumption too, that because so many programs have an online app component and with a few exceptions, I'm sure just about everyone applying is doing their program research online...everyone then must know about this blog, Seth's site, etc.

I guess then I have to think that for even the large amount of people aware of this Scene (and that is what it is I think, in the best sense of the word) there's got to be a healthy number of accepted lurkers. Sure there will be the lurkers who get in and jump on some comment thread to make their acceptance known, but there's got to be some too that just keep it low pro and don't report to Seth. Having said that, Seth does seem to have a near omni-presence in the MFA program pool so maybe everything ends up on his radar regardless of how low-pro the lurkers try to be.

Not that any of this really matters. I keep thinking that all this elevated angst and hyper-analysis will seem like wasted time once all the offers roll in and we're knee deep into the next part of our lives.

frankish said...


My opinion is based only on my own academic experiences and reading of the website. I understand your point but believe that the program would accept an applicant who does not have a reading knowledge of a foreign language provided he or she takes classes for a year and then passes the exam.

You are correct to point out that there is not much ambiguous about the passage you point out, which comes from the About the Program section. However, in the Application Information section it lists the sole prerequisite for admissions as a bachelor's degree.

Anyway, the website isn't a legal contract. Arguing about the language won't change what the actual requirements are. A friend of mine is writer in residence or lecturer in the program this year. I'll drop him a line over the weekend and try to find out for certain.


Ashley Brooke said...

Also, the word "should" implies that it's a very good idea but not completely required. In order words: You're going to need to know another language, so you'll want to already know it because the program won't leave a lot of free time for you to be memorizing 1000s of words and grammar rules.

Laura B. said...

Sea Bee,

I’m originally from Berkeley, CA, but I’ve lived in the Midwest, Southeast, Northeast and PNW. I’ve found LGBT communities in all of those regions. There are definitely “pockets” all over the country, and college towns are usually pretty liberal. If you tell me specific places, I can give you LGBT info about them.
Also, LGBT is a large umbrella, encompassing a wide spectrum of people and subcultures. Are you looking for a more specific community within the larger LGBT community?

you're welcome to email me -


Sasha said...

Re JHU language:

The language proficiency exam is just a placement test (I've had to take it before, in order to test out of the undergrad requirement).

Based on my experience, I read the app info as: if the test places you in the "beginning" or "intermediate" level of your language's coursework, you take Hopkins's courses in the language until you're done with the intermediate level.

Hopkins really isn't very big though, and the departments have a lot of freedom. If the worst happened and you couldn't squeak by, you could probably get a pass from the department (this also happened for me during undergrad there).

I've heard the same thing about the Lit. GRE--that even though it's on the website as a requirement for application, they actually don't care.

This is all rumor, memory, and conjecture though :)

Gummy Bear Sacrifice said...

I apologize for this short response but in my experience, it generally isn't the college campus that fosters hostile feelings toward LGBT, but the surrounding community (the people who actually live there) are a whole different story.

That said, it's like anywhere else, you learn where to go and where not to go. I think the real question is, would you be comfortable going to a town that may be more hostile towards you?

kaybay said...

Interesting link for those researching schools obsessively. It's a website where students review their graduate school:

kaybay said...

Wait - edit that - the reviews are undergraduate and graduate, so look at the bottom of the review to figure out who's writing the review. It's still interesting to read what people say about the school, no matter the age, but undergrads have different expectations and experiences than graduate students, so I would take their reviews with a grain of salt.

Laura B. said...

On the LGBT issue:

Keep in mind, no matter where you go, there are going to be “hostile” people.
I’ve actually had way more “hostile” experiences in the San Francisco Bay Area, than in the small town in Kansas where I lived. Don’t assume that just because it’s a small town that it’s going to be a hostile town.
I’ve met people in small towns who fit the stereotype of what a homophobic person should look like, when in fact they were very friendly and welcoming.

Also keep in mind, in small college towns, “the people who actually live there” are, in part, people associated with the college – professors, coaches, administrators, recent grads, etc.

If there is enough of a community, the whole town is not going to be hostile. It's true, a few people probably will be, however there are hostile people in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City too.

Nick McRae said...

So all of the student essays I've been grading are finally starting to get to me. I need something else to read or I'm going to go insane.

Therefore--poetry sample trade, anybody? I thought about participating in some sample exchanges last year, but I just never did. This year, though, I'm really curious. What say?

nmcrae1 [at] gmail [dot] com


Amy said...

re: The calls, emails and acceptance packets in your mailboxes.

I think I've hit some weird wall between wanting to know and NOT wanting to know, if that makes any sense. I know you will all understand the how badly we want to hear about acceptances, but there's a part of me that's okay with not knowing for now because that means that I have not been solidly rejected. Anyone else out there facing this dichotomy?

Ryan said...

Jennifer, just to be clear, you do know that a "reading level equivalent to a second year college foreign language" is very little, right? I mean, it may not be "easy," if you have never had languages before, but it's not even close to being fluent, as you seem to think.

Ryan said...

For instance, "second year" Spanish at my undergrad was 201, which I tested above when I went in as a freshman. Yes, I had a stronger than most background in Spanish, but I have several friends who also tested as high as me there, and it's not like I'm a genius in Spanish. We're talking can you conjugate/use a sentence/write about 250 words worth of a paragraph/know basic vocab? That's it.

Kerry Headley said...

There is no part of me that is not totally ready to know NOW. And my car broke down today, so I am even more worried about not having an exit strategy.

Trilbe said...

@Amy - Yesssss! Until (unless?) a school is going to call me with an acceptance, I'm fine with all of my schools not calling anyone right now. I mean, I've put so much time and research and love into my applications -- being rejected from any of my schools is going to hurt, bad. I'm in no hurry to feel that pain. With that said, though, I want to know... I'm dying to know! Basically, I'm dying to hear some good news. Soon.

I swear to God, I went into workshop last Tuesday and it was the first class meeting with an instructor that I've never had -- never even met before but I was, like, "Hi. I don't want to be obnoxious, but I'm gonna need to leave my phone on just in case Joel Brouwer calls. Alabama notified this time last year." He just nodded and gave me a cockeyed look that said .

Unknown said...

I didn't even apply to any of the schools that tend to notify around this time, and I'm anxious for someone - anyone - to hear something positive. I'm ready to be happy and congratulate someone! But next week should be the time when people start getting responses, yeah?

Ben McClendon said...

@Sea Bee

I'm a gay guy from a red state (AZ), and I can say that it's not really that bad. The college towns are oases of civilization in the vast dumb deserts. I've lived in Tempe and Flagstaff, but also in very conservative suburbs of Phoenix that are extremely religious and right-wing.

In such places, don't expect the politics to go your way. In the big picture, the voters and politicians are going to decide against you.

That being said, the details of everyday life don't change much. My partner and I go out in public together and show casual affection (an arm around one another, occasional hand holding) and not once have we been confronted or heard anything negative said of us.

In my professional life, I work as a public educator, and while I'm not flamboyant, I don't make my sexual orientation a secret at all. My district is very Republican and very Mormon, but again, no problems.

As for community, Phoenix has a large and relatively active gay community. Flagstaff, a small college town in the middle of redneck northern AZ, doesn't have lots of gay bars or whatever, but there are a ton of bars and social places near the university, all accepting. I met my partner of over 7 years there.

So I guess what I can boil down my red state living to (in both university communities and ultra-conservative suburbs) is this: don't expect society as a whole to make progress towards LGBT inclusion in these places, but for everything else, life pretty much moves along as usual.

Sean Patrick Cooper said...

According to Seth's site, a few people have already been offered spots. However, they are spots to programs I didn't apply to and thus do not exist to me right now. Come on Bama, drop the hammer!!

Trilbe said...

@Nick McRae - I just emailed you! I haven't been exchanging -- ugh, I don't want to look at my poems until this is all over. But I'm a big fan of yours (and Raysen's) from this time last year on P&W! I was so happy for you, when you got the Fulbright.

Sequoia N said...

4mai, as someone else noted, a good chunk of people in college towns ARE associated with the local institution is some way.

Last year, I had some concerns about racial issues when I applied to Vanderbilt. I know a few people that go there and asked them what they thought about the Nashville. Their answer? "Nashville? Who knows? I hardly leave the campus area. But Vandy people are def. liberal enough."

In other words, I don't think people really have to worry about the surrounding town so much unless you're seeing mass riots on CNN.

Unknown said...

A Borders near me is going out of business (65-90% off!) so I went to town in their fiction section. I got all kinds of deliciousness I'd been putting on hold until paperback: Barbara Kingsolver's new book, "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane," Colson Whitehead's new book, a few collections of short stories, loads of other novels, and of course a lovely encyclopedia of wine. That should keep me busy for at least 6 months.

Right now I'm trying to finish Marilynne Robinson's "Home." It's more difficult to follow than "Gilead," so it's been a struggle. Still, the language is so beautiful. I keep thinking wouldn't it be amazing if she wound up reading my writing at Iowa.

I found a gaming site that I'm mildly addicted to. People will probably curse me once they find it too: They have a section of word games than I now require a daily fix on.

Nick McRae said...


OMG! Someone has invoked the name of Raysen this year! Ahahaha! Last year's Speakeasy chatter definitely was, well, something else! ;)


RugbyToy said...

I lost my dog last night. My beloved, beloved dog. And he didn't come back and he didn't come back and by 3:30 PM today I was bargaining with God, even though I'm an atheist--THAT's how much I love this dog.

And I went down the list with God:

"God, I'll give up Michener and Iowa if you just return my dog ..."

and then, two minutes later:

"... and Brown and Wash U..."

and then, after 20 minutes:

"Ok. Ok. You can have U of Florida, too. but I want him SAFE and SOON."

Jude came back an hour later. And I was all like:

"Oh, FECK me."

And I'm so happy to have him back. But now I wonder ... if I'm rejected from all my favorite schools, should I start believing in God? Should I BLAME God's hand? Or does it even matter, because when Jude came home, he was limping ... so does that count as "safe"? I guess it does.

Well, I'm glad to have him back. It was worth it.

anyway. See you guys next year--I'll be workin' at the Red Lobster ... because I'm a sucker and prone to maudlin acts of desperation.

kaybay said...

Wandering Tree - Nashville is about as vibrant and diverse city as it gets, especially for the South. It's not the "scary South" that people think it is. Atlanta is the same way.

The scariest thing about Vanderbilt is the contingency of rich, white, fraternity/sorority types that think their shit smells like pansies and beg their parents to hire someone to wipe their filthy asses. I shudder thinking about those idiots.

Plus, if you are at all interested in music, Nashville is certainly a good place to be.

Leslie said...

Riah--The Lacuna is great. You'll love it.

I am right now reading Ha Jin's "Waiting".

Perfect, huh?

Eli said...

Alright, what I have to say is eyeball-rollingly petty and trivial given that people are talking about genuinely important issues in above posts. I'm almost embarrassed to write about it. Yet i can't help it...i can't help but voice my mathematical neurosis, and it goes like this:

-let's say there are 100 fiction writers enjoying the sweet, sweet banter of the MFA blog (aw yeah!)
-another 20 or so more at P&W
-the MFA blog is, as WanderingTree said, the second google search result for 'MFA Creative Writing'. Maybe that's due to the fact I/we go here often; maybe not. I'm not sure if Google 'remembers' search terms and places them higher accordingly. Either way, I too find it absolutely baffling how anyone applying for an MFA won't stumble across this place, or Seth's work, or P&W sooner or later.
-There were 629 fiction applicants at Wisconsin.
-So are there hundreds of lurkers around or people who haven't stumbled on any of these websites, despite their ability to google 'MFA Creative Writing' well enough to complete all the application hoopla? (And are thus deprived of all the insight/usefulness of Seth and Tom Kealy's work, poor buggers?)

I know, petty thought or what? But I'm afraid I can't offer any LGBT insight since I live in a gay heaven (London, UK) and couldn't imagine being anywhere better if I were gay (except perhaps Berlin, which is wonderful, but that's hardly conducive to wanting to do an MFA, sorry); so I'm stuck thinking silly things like this.

So if anyone can indulge me and have a go at answering where the hell the other hundreds are, c'mon! We got time...i think hundreds of people must have lurked a few times and that was it. Fools! They don't know what they're missing out on! Us discussing THEM! HA!!

Um, yeah...

*waits impatiently for acceptances to kick off*

*tangentially re-recommends The Wire/Battlestar Galactica as the best programmes/best distractions ever...*

Lucas said...

Heh...just noticed Kaybay said what I did (only better). I don't know why I'm defending Nashville's honor...but, as a TN native, I do bristle at the accusation that we are all hill-billies down here (not accusing you of saying that, Wandering Tree, I'm just talkin here). Now, my extended family...they are hill-billies, and I'm kinda proud of that, in some ways. But my parents went to college and my dad is a Veterinarian. And there are plenty of goobers walking around. But I've seen/met lots of goobers everywhere I've been.

I used to tour with a metal band and we loved to play in Milwaukee. The first time we were there, a kid hanging out before the show was like, "So, you guys are from Tennessee? Is it true that everyone is racist down there?" He just said it like that. I nearly spit out my beer (no big deal, though, since beer flows from the friggin taps up there). I don't remember how I responded, but I remember pointing out that when we arrived, a member of another band who rode with me an the drummer pointed out how the town was very divided, with black people living on one side of the river and white people living on the other, more or less. Maybe that is inaccurate...this was years ago. So, yeah. Of course, I know towns around where I live (thirty miles or so) where it isn't safe for non-whites. But most of TN has progressed well beyond that sort of thing, and racism lurks around everywhere. Done with my not especially cohesive rant now.

So, uh, for anyone who applied to Vandy, the campus is pretty and Nashville is a fairly happening town. Lots of hipsters and frat guys, but lots of stuff to do. Cool bars. TONS of music. The guitarist for my now defunct metal band is in divinity school at Vandy. He likes it. Peace out.

Gummy Bear Sacrifice said...

I am quite aware of the population that is associated with the university but there is still a large population that lives independent of the University, or is associated by way of super awesome football team. That population does tend to be close minded.

I'm not insinuating to run for the hills, I'm just stating my experience as someone who went from a city in California to the middle of no where for undergrad. You will come across people who claim to have never met any diversity and who also feel themselves to be educated by way of MTV.

It may or may not be dangerous but they do exist and it is something that you should prepare yourself for.

As I said before, you'll know where to go and where not to go, and that's with anywhere, it does exist.

Ashley Brooke said...

I actually visited this blog for a while around August/September without ever really realizing that the mailbags were worth taking a look at. I imagine many others have made the assumption too and passed over them. I don't think I really realized that they were used as a discussion board.
I imagine these invisible people who applied are less neurotic than those of are who are here... Maybe less likely to need to read EVERY LITTLE DETAIL ON MFAS ON EVERY LAST CORNER OF THE INTERNET'S ASS. I can't help it, though!

I'm hoping acceptances start piling in, because the longer they are delayed the more than I think... "Oh no, they're taking longer because there are 1184597343589347d7400 extra applications!"

Sequoia N said...

No offense meant. I was just pointing out the fact that folks aren't really going to be interacting a lot with "the outside world" no matter how great it is. As far as misconceptions of places and people, I hear ya (but we all still have them whether or not they are conscious or subconscious, warranted or unwarranted). Wars are fought over such things (Yeah . . . anyway). I often find myself defending Iowa when I mention where I did my undergrad. People probably just think corn and hogs, and yes, there's a lot of both going on but most people disregard the possibility that Iowa is pretty damn liberal (um, centers for transcendental meditation and yogic flying anyone?) and that the state (even apart from the IWW) has been known for producing writers. Most of all, people in Iowa are just awesome.

ajcourtney said...


and chiming in on a few bits from the thread:

*i'm also in nyc. and i'm queer. i've been here nine years and am trying to prepare for the possible cultureshock of moving to some non-lgbt-hotbed. sometimes i entertain the fantasy that i'll get into a school in the middle of nowhere and meet the queer girl of my dreams who's also a grad student there (library science? anthropology? engineering?) and everything'll work out like a dream.

* re: workshops. i did an advanced fiction writing workshop two springs ago through Sackett Street workshops in Brooklyn. The particular group I was with all had their hearts in the right place, but it never jived like some of the other writing workshops I've had the pleasure of being part of, and so I actually ended up skipping the last two classes.

*can't wait to read the new nick flynn--it's on my desk, under a stack of other waiting-to-be-devoured books. am in the middle of mary karr's lit right now and liking it a lot.

cheers, c

Amy said...

Here's a link my BFF sent me:

Under most circumstances, most folks might insulted to have their friend forward a link about "How to take Failure like a Champ" but I think we can all agree that every one of us will receive some bad news this season. But perhaps it'll be easier to handle when you read things like, "The rejection is not necessarily a reflection of your worth or capabilities." in a tutorial!

kaybay said...

There was a discussion about the South and the Midwest last year on this very blog that I found very, very interesting. I'll opine about my experience in the South:

I went to school at Auburn from the San Fransisco Bay Area. It was definitely culture shock, and I got into a few arguments with some close-minded people that I couldn't believe held views like they did (like "women shouldn't divorce abusive husbands because God never intended them to lead," bad). I also made a lot of good friends and made a lot of really nice people. I had a great faculty and great classes, my program gave me tons of amazing attention, I learned a lot about another culture, grew as a writer (I actually write a lot of Southern stuff, two of my sample stories are set in the South), and had a good time. Now, I'm not gay, I'm not a minority, I don't dress "differently," so I can't speak for everybody.

BUT, I will say that there are some things in the South that haven't changed. My mom lives in Southern Alabama (by the beach) and works for a FLAMING racist, who corrected my mom last week when she said she was happy to take off Martin Luther King Jr. Day (the day was "in honor of Robert E Lee," he said). She's pretty convinced that he's a closet Klan member. She was born in Berkeley, CA by the way :)

Also, the South sometimes has this weird social hierarchy that might put the blue-bloods in the North to shame. If you have the right surname, come from a slave-owning family, can trace your heritage to Robert E Lee or some other Civil War somebody, then you're golden. That obsession with status is at times fascinating and at times very annoying. I just want to shake them all and tell them to get the F over themselves.

It's funny though, there are so many ex-hippies in the South, you'll feel like you never left Berkeley. I was in Micanopy, a small Southern town 15 minutes from Gainesville, FL and everyone there was an ex-hippie with organic gardens and anti-war bumper stickers. A bookstore owner there told me how sad he was that Southerners didn't appreciate the beauty of the South. Very true. So, not everyone's a hillbilly here :)

ajcourtney said...

hey local new yorkers:

anyone else wanna go to this? happy ending reading series at joe's pub with joshua ferris (love him), padgett powell (u of florida faculty), ron carlson, and musical guest holly miranda (who is aces, aces, aces):,com_shows/task,view/Itemid,40/id,5008

it'll be a distraction from the waiting game, if nothing else!

Gummy Bear Sacrifice said...

Wandering Tree,

I didn't mean my post to come off so bitchy, I apologize. I really need to take the time to edit my replies.


That's horrible but satirically comedic at the same time. "ROBERT E. LEE DAY!" I don't even know how I'd respond to that. You can't exactly laugh...or can you? I really don't know.

I don't really have an opinion on the South. There always seems to be two sides. There's the side that claims that the South is just proud of the Confederacy because it's like the ultimate claim to fame (like if you come to America and have a British accent) and silly liberals shouldn't take it so personally. Then there's the side that says that the South is about as backwards as you can get.

All I know is that I applied to University of New Orleans. Their server crashed on me and their office isn't the most helpful bunch, they seem a little disorganized. Plus their retention rate is like 64% and it's graduation rate is somewhere around 30% (I should go check Fafsa to make sure I'm accurate.)

But GOD, I love New Orleans. It's so alive with rich history and culture.

kaybay said...

4Mai - New Orleans was an experience. My mom and I went there last summer without knowing where to park or go and just walked around. I had this feeling that the buildings were going to fall on me, that I was going to get herpes from walking down Bourbon Street, or that I was never going to get the fresh scent of poop and vomit out of my nose. And yet, when I went home, I googled New Orleans for like three weeks and wrote a few stories from there, and now I'm sort of strangely attracted to the city. It's SOOOO weird and different, eccentric and eclectic. It's truly a gem, although it smells really bad. That sounds snobby, but Bourbon Street was NASTY.

And the Robert E Lee thing is bizarre to me, and yes, I didn't know if I should laugh or yell. That pretty much sums up my experience in the South, I don't know whether to laugh or yell. But, it's not as bad as a lot of people think it is, I swear. My mom's boss is just an uber-ass hole.

Trilbe said...

@Eli - I feel you on The Wire and, well, Battlestar Galactica had it's moments. But, c'mon! The very best programme/distraction in the history of broadcast has to be the gorgeous, original Life On Mars! When the BBC gets it right, they F*cking A get it real right!

@all you Wire-heads out there - Richard Price, one of The Wire writers, had a great book out a couple of years ago, Lush Life. It's just gorgeous, set on the Lower East side of NYC. It has a similar ethic to The Wire, wherein he doesn't explain anything, you learn the language and culture of the setting as you read along. And the characters actually surprise you sometimes, just like real folks.

Sequoia N said...

I'll third New Orleans being a special city. There's just something about the place that can fill a journal with tons of story ideas and vibrant characters. It's like normal rules and laws don't really apply there. I used to go there every year (either for St. Patricks festivities or Mardi Gras and once to teach art among other things at a charter school summer program) but haven't been there since Katrina.

Lucas said...
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Sequoia N said...
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kaybay said...

WT - that actually made me laugh out loud. And cringe :)

Sequoia N said...

Oh, an amusing aside:

I was walking around in New Orleans helping a friend assess housing in a poor neighborhood for a report he was working on for a local community group. A guy walking across the street started staring at me and then walked over and asked, "Are you Mexican or Indian?" I told him I was Japanese. He nodded his head approvingly and then invited us to his house for refreshments. A lot of people just invited me over for meals. It was kind of crazy (in a good way). Definitely something to be said about hospitality there. BTW where was the telethon (like the one they had for Haiti) for Katrina victims?

Lucas said...

I meant "None taken, sir. None taken."

kaybay said...

WT - I think it's sad how we expect so much from our own citizens, like "they should have left when they were told to." Granted, Haitians are worse off than New Orleanians, but it really did feel like the general attitude was, "gosh, that's sad, but you're on your own kid" after Katrina.

Trilbe said...

There were US federal programs after Katrina. People received housing and relocation assistance from their (our) government. These weren't solutions and they weren't good enough to fix what the government broke when they let those levees collapse. But the Haitian government will not, at any point, be able to offer to its citizens anything like what the US government gave to Katrina survivors. You can't contrast the two disasters, the two situations just aren't analogous.

I remember my dad (who's from Port-de-paix, Haiti) telling us, when we were kids, about riots for water. That, as horrible as it is to starve in a rich country like America, the crime of rich people letting some poor folk be reduced to the indignity of being taking the remains from trashcans, he explained to us that Haiti doesn't even have trashcans to eat from. In Haiti, when you have nothing, you don't even have the option of begging, borrowing or stealing anything.

Mostly Swell said...

@Sea Bee (re: LGBT topic)
Thanks for a great question and the helpful responses.

What I've done, thus far, is signed onto Lesbian yahoo groups in the areas I've applied. You can just search yahoo for groups based on topic and locale.

Also, I read up on the cities on Wikipedia. What's great about Wiki is it's written for general public, so, one gets a feel for the general attitude. Thanks to others for the links. I'll look at them.

If you or other interested folks want to talk more, feel free to e-mail me at MostlySwell [at] gmail [dot] com

Emily Walker said...

Nick Flynn's new book is awesome. I read it in less than 24 hours. You're in for a treat.

@Ashley Brooke
Yeah, "Madness" is about bipolar disorder. I really enjoyed it, but parts of it were actually hard to read because they were so frenetic. She wrote parts of it while actually going through manic episodes, so while they aren't the easiest to read, you really get an accurate sense for the kind of hell she goes through.

Oh and a Public Service Announcement for any Portlanders: This FRIDAY (the 29th) Nick Flynn is reading from his new book at Powell's. I just saw the announcement about two weeks ago (it was buried on their site) and had a fangirl moment.

frankish said...

The Katrina response was pathetic and disgusting.

To put things in perspective, though, approximate 2000 died in Katrina. The number of dead in Haiti may ultimate approach 200,000.

Haiti has a GDP of around $7 billion, the US around $14 trillion (or $14,000 billion).

The two tragedies are very different both in the scale of death and the ability of the country itself to handle the aftermath.

Sean Patrick Cooper said...

@ Eli: I'll help you keep the petty party alive. I think Ashley makes a good point on readers missing the good stuff that is sort of hidden if you just look at this blog and think, "oh, a blog," and move on. I think looking at the Wisconsin #'s though like you did does reveal at least a sizable chunk of lurkers who are Probably Reading This Right Now and either keeping quiet or just skimming for news of acceptances. If 600+ ppl applied to one program, I'm going to guess that 450 of them are active internet users. And that obviously is a very conservative guess, saying that 150+ applicants didn't do heavy internet research. One has to wonder then why we're such a small contingent of active participants? Maybe we get something out of this that they see as frivolous/unnecessary? I'm not sure what the answer is but I do know that it would be a much more difficult process to go through w/out knowing that others share my particular brand of acute obsessing and worry.

kaybay said...

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that Katrina was worse or even equal to Haiti, I don't think that for one second. But, I do feel a general lack of pity for our own citizens that is very unfair. I agree completely that being homeless here is almost luxurious compared to life in some African nations, and nobody here has to deal with genocide or malaria or war. I guess I just want to add that we can't turn our backs on each other. Although, we're all one people too, so Haitians are just as much "us" as Americans. But, people need some help in America too, especially now.

Ryan said...

I should preface by saying that I do feel bad for the people who were hurt, lost loved ones, homes, et al. during Katrina, but here's what the fuck pisses me off about that: 2k people died? Ok. Check this out.

27 THOUSAND people died today around the globe (mostly NOT in America) from starvation. That's ONE damn day. And the best part is, starvation is NOT a natural disaster, it's a figure of exploitation and power over time. Hurricane Katrina, regardless of the aftermath, could not be stopped. Hunger absolutely can. So sure, I'll feel bad for the people who lost a house they had totally invested in, or whatever, but seriously. Don't ask me to drop everything I'm doing and go build a house when thousands of people die daily from starvation. There are just priorities which are obvious to me...

Ryan said...

Oh, and a note on the south: sure, places down here are screwed up at times, but it's more about who you talk to. I did my undergrad in Charleston, a flourishing haven for rich frat-boys (not myself) and party animals. It has a fairly vibrant art community. But then there are the outskirts, where people fly the confederate flag (which we still fly on the state house, by the way, haha) and think black people should be shipped back to Africa and that's it's Jon and Kate not Jon and Nate. But it's like that everywhere. My best friend lives in Indiana now, is from Ohio, and when he came down here he couldn't believe not only how integrated people were. Apparently where he lives, there are almost no non-whites around. Another of my friends is one of the biggest racists I've ever met, and he's from New Hampshire. So it's everywhere, really, and you can't just single out "the south" and say it's racist, homophobic, or whatever (not that anyone was!). It depends on who you talk to/know.

Also, most people down here don't consider Florida part of the "real" south, because most of the population is Latino or rich retired people from the north. Just saying. It's nothing like the rest of the states (Georgia, Bama, et al.).

Jessa said...
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kaybay said...

Ummmm, I SOOOOO beg to differ, I'm in Polk County and there are some BUB-AHHHHS here. Every day I think my little Yaris is going to be crushed by an F-1020050 truck covered in confederate flags and those deer head cut-outs from that one outdoors store (don't know what they're called).

And North Florida is basically South Georgia/Alabama, let's get real. Gainesville and Tallahassee and even Jacksonville are Southern cities. Bubbas included.

Daniel said...

Kaybay -

Bourbon Street is for tourists. The rest of the city smells fine, and UNO is actually a decent drive from the Quarter. That's one thing to keep in mind - New Orleans is spread out, so it might be tough to live there without a car. A bike might cut it, but a car would definitely make life easier.

I'm a native and my folks still live there.

Courtney said...

Re: discrepancy between number of posters/number of applications.

I think that Poets and Writers having actively advertised the download-able Guide to the MFA this year cut down on the number of folks participating, since they have all the vital info in .pdf form. Fewer lost souls googling to find one another, more solitary data analysis. Maybe?

Gummy Bear Sacrifice said...

I'd like to add onto Bourbon street. What is up with that place? Hand grenades can literally kill you. It does smell like feces, and I remember watching a short man stumble past me, covered in his own blood.

He crawled right past the policemen. Why, you ask? Well, they were talking to the 6'7 transvestite hooker, who could have possibly been Dennis Rodman.

I could not believe that this stuff was actually happening.

Not too mention that there are way too many people crammed onto that tiny street.

But as everyone else has said, every other part of New Orleans is sooooo beautiful. I would love to study there. However, my original point was, why the heck is New Orleans' retention rate so darn low?

Daniel said...

Doesn't that rate include the whole school and not just the MFA program? There are other schools in the area (Tulane, Loyola, LSU) that are just as good if not better, so I wouldn't be surprised if people use UNO and Delgado Community College to get started and then try to transfer somewhere else.

Ryan said...

Courtney, you may be right, but isn't that scary? Hundreds of people we have no contact with? What are they up to in their batcaves of creativity that they don't need our collective thoughts, or our collective craziness?!

Unknown said...
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Lindsay said...

@ Sea Bea,

I grew up in a rural town in western New York that is more in-line, politically, with the midwest and southeast than the northeast and, other than a few "dyke" comments from drunken idiots, I've never had a problem with homophobia here. It wouldn't be my first choice for a place to live, but if your choice is between a program you really love in an area you're not so sure about, and a program you're not so sure about in an area you love, it might be a comfort to know that even my school in the middle of nowhere has a drag show every year that draws almost 400 people.

That said, I had similar concerns when I first started researching schools and did research similar to what Tory suggested. If a school didn't have an LGBT group (or better yet, an LGBT center), I crossed it off my list. I also looked for towns/cities that had their own Pride celebrations and ones that had a gay bar in the area.

I wasn't comfortable with a few of the areas, though, and crossed Idaho, Wyoming, Boise State, West Virginia, and Alabama off my list for these reasons. Truthfully, I probably would have been fine in any of them, but my comfort level wasn't high enough. I think that's what it comes down to. You just need to figure out what you're comfortable with.

My final list was University of Minnesota, Ohio State, and Minnesota State - Mankato (for CNF). I think I'd be okay with any of these, though I have my personal favorite.

Ben McClendon said...
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Ben McClendon said...
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Kevin said...

@ Sea Bee re: LGBT concerns

I would highly recommend going to a program that was actively gay friendly rather than not. This means the university has basics like a university recognized gay-straight alliance, a physical center/online resource for LGBT students, "sexual orientation" included in their non-discriminatory statement, and the school itself is in a town that has LGBT resources, clubs/bars, and an active community. Small town does not mean small-minded, and like other posters have said, just because something is in the South does not make it anti-gay. But do your research. I also agree with prior posters that said that Arizona, while not liberal, is no place that a LGBT student would feel uncomfortable. (Bored perhaps, but not unsafe.)

That said, there are certain schools that have a lot of red-flags, even if the program itself is one that I respect. First and most notably is Notre Dame. I'd be very happy to attend their program... if it weren't attached to Notre Dame. They've recently gotten much attention from a cartoon in their campus newspaper that promoted gay bashing, and have an unsettling homophobic history (they have routinely been in the top ten of Princeton Review's list of schools where an Alternative Lifestyle Is Not an Alternative, sometimes number one; they have refused to add "sexual preference" to their non-discrimination statement for over a decade; and yearly they deny official club status to a gay-straight alliance). Now, again, I really like their program, and this is obviously not representative of their university as a whole (plenty of students and faculty are angry about this and trying to change it), but as it stands now, I would not feel welcome there. (Further reading:

Another CW school I can't imagine a LGBT student feeling comfortable at is Brigham Young University (another top ten contender in that Princeton Review poll - a poll which students themselves voted on, by the way).

Most schools are actually very liberal though, and some of the top schools are especially known for being a haven for LGBT rights: Iowa City, home of the IWW, is one of the top five gay-friendly towns in the country (as detailed here:

If I were you, I'd first pick programs you liked, and once you had your list narrowed down to 20 or so, then I'd do some google searches (University Name + keywords like gay, homophobia, LGBT) and see what you can find. And again, you can tell a lot from the school's own website. See what the official stance is. Is it welcoming or obligatory? I know it's not a small town, but a school with a model LGBT office is NYU: If you find offices like that with other schools, you know you're set.

Andrea said...

What with all the geographical love going on between Southerners and New Yorkers, I just wanted to say what up to Xataro, another Arizonan! (And no, I don't actually say "what up.") I'm from Prescott but now live in Washington.

Also, about the LGBT discussion, I found Tucson (where I did my undergrad at U of Arizona) to be a fairly open-minded place- definitely doesn't fit with the typical AZ red-state stereotype, at least not everywhere. There are quite a few LGBT bars, bookstores, and a pretty active student
association. I had a great time there.

Nick McRae said...

Chiming in on two threads:

1.) The Wire - I discovered The Wire just a couple of months ago. I watched every episode in ten days. Ten. Days. And these are not short episodes/seasons. That's how absorbing The Wire is. In my opinion, it's the best written television series ever put into production. The characters, the dialog, the subtle subversion of expectation, hell, even the technical aspects of the shooting script must be well-written, because the camerawork is phenomenal. This stuff is Shakespeare good. Sophocles good. After finishing the show, I got kind of obsessed with Baltimore and David Simon, so I decided to watch ever episode of Homicide: Life on the Street (his first TV show), which I just finished last night. That's 7 seasons of 45 minute episodes, the last five seasons of which were 22 episodes long. (So, between The Wire and Homicide, that's many, many, many hours of time killed while waiting to hear from schools.) Homicide, too, is just marvelous. The first few seasons have that sort of early-90s roughness to them (think Daniel Baldwin), but the whole arc of the show is still stellar. Not The Wire stellar (season 1 of The Wire might be the single best season of any show ever produced), but stellar nonetheless. After these few months of being is the TV world of Baltimore every day, I am (a.) hopelessly depressed at the thought of these shows being finished, and (b.) slightly obsessed with Baltimore enough to now regret not sucking it up and applying to Johns Hopkins. I'm just about to watch the Homicide: Life on the Street made-for-TV movie, which will be the last scrap of this obsession that I have not yet devoured. I am both giddy and inconsolable.

2.) The Southern Question - I was a big defender of Southern schools last year, and I still am, but I think the people that have chimed in so far have already said the things that most of us Southerners on here would probably say ourselves, so I won't make a big overarching statement about the commonly-held misconceptions of the South, but I will say a thing or two about my own experience of college in small-town GA. I went to a mid-sized state university of about 12k students in a college town of about 20k, and honestly I was surprised at the diversity there. First of all, the African-American population was huge, and there were plenty of large and respected student organizations for them to participate in (the Black Student Allianca, Black Men With Initiative, a slew of traditionally Black fraternities and sororities, etc.). There were also active organizations for other minorities (Muslim Student Alliance, Campus Catholic association, the International Student Society for the considerable international population). And of course LAMDA, the GLBT-straight alliance, among others. In my five years in that college town, I never once heard of any of my gay friends or their friends being given a hard time for their sexual orientation. And while this town was not nearly big enough to support gay bars and the like, there were a couple of local bars that were particularly alternative-friendly and hosted Drag Nights and the like, which is pretty good considering that there were only maybe 6 heavily-frequented bars in the whole city. And Atlanta, which has a very vibrant GLBT scene and is often considered one of the most gay-friendly major cities in the US, was only about 50 miles away. It might not be a dream location for most people nor ideal in many ways, but it also isn't the gay-bashin', lynch-mobbin', monochromatic caricature that gets shown on TV so often. It's a little of everything. That's GA. Okay, I've done my duty as a liberal, alternative, typical/atypical and proud Georgian so I can shut up now :)

My current application season mantra, stolen from one of my favorite Wilco songs:

"We'll find a way, regardless, to make some sense out of this mess."



Unknown said...

Bit of a late response to Eli, but here goes. He said:

So if anyone can indulge me and have a go at answering where the hell the other hundreds are, c'mon! We got time...i think hundreds of people must have lurked a few times and that was it.

Lurker here. Obviously I've seen the blog, as well as the P&W forums, and the MFA Chronicles blog, individual blogs, etc. Why don't I participate more?

Well, one, this site moves pretty fast. So I'd either have to jump on the horse or continue to mind my own business.

Personally, I have a full-time job, a "real world" job where my duties don't necessarily end when I leave work. And I've been out of school for five years. I've got other stuff to take care of, and with the pace of the conversation here, I'd be sacrificing a lot of free time just to keep up. I'm not trying to condescend, but just to share another perspective - I know a lot of MFA applicants aren't 22 or 23, they're not right out of school. Some of them have families, they're married, they work full-time or two jobs. Their lives have been filled up with things outside of school, which is probably why we're applying in the first place (fingers crossed for funding).

Another reason? I don't want to get caught up in the drama. Like I said, I've got a job. I'm trying to find a way out of it, but the worst thing that happens to me is I keep working until I make new plans. If I get rejected, it'll suck, but I'll be okay.

When I read the comments here, I get anxious. I don't want to spend the next two months anxious. So instead of reading this discussion in full, I'm going to go to the gym instead. Maybe make something involved for dinner. Go see Youth in Revolt with my Mister. ANYTHING to take my mind of the idea that my live could be doing a complete 180 a mere six months from now.

So, anyway, I hope that you understand why there may be many of us lurkers who choose to keep quiet. I haven't even gotten into the other possible perspectives - people who've applied but don't feel confident, or people who only applied to a few schools and don't want to jinx it.

We're out there. And we're not stupid, we can Google. It's just, you know, some of us are so busy trying to stay calm that we can't bring ourselves to comment regularly.

Eli said...

@Wire thread. Nick - woah, you watched the whole 5 seasons in 10 days? Shit, man! I very much agree with you about its beauty, brilliance and resonance, and I'm not usually a fan of TV crime dramas. The Wire's just stunning though. David Simon, in an interview in the Believer, ages ago, said he was trying for the scope of Greek drama, and it sounded not arrogant but justifiable. The show's just magnificent.

@Trilbe, Life on Mars - i had no idea people thought it was that good! There are adverts for it all the time here but it fell way off my radar. i'll check it out though since the BBC are indecently proud of it...I never watch homegrown drama, for some shameful reason, so thanks for the heads-up!

@New Orleans - can i cross-pollinate with David Simon?
Promo for new David Simon HBO series, Treme, set in New Orleans.

@GotBisco, Ashley Brooke, Courtney - petty party joiner-inners. Thank you!!! I feel silly even making such a pointless point. GB, I feel exactly the same would be far harder for me to have done this without knowing that others share my worryin' fevers too.

@La, hi there...thanks for responding to my silly question. I think it's just different folks, different strokes and I figure you probably speak for a lot of people. I get your point, and it was, as i felt literally while i was writing it, a random, whatever-ish question based on momentarily rabid curiosity :) I was just procrastinating.

herglands said...
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Eeyore said...

Hey guys -- anyone else feel that the convo is getting a little too political?

Ryan said...

Eeyore, what's hilarious is that it seems like every thread that starts tobe political eventually seems to run out and people start talking about internet games again or something else, which I'm totally fine with by the way, I mean, this is an MFA blog.

Although to be honest anything to keep me less anxious (eg NOT talking about getting in directly) is a pleasant misdirection.

Eeyore said...

little poet -- let me help further distract you by telling you what I'm up to this fine Sunday morning.

Was notified at 6 am by the friendly microphone voice that it was time to wake up. I was already awake, however, finding it surprisingly difficult to sleep much with an oxygen tube wrapped around my ears and shoved in my nose, and electrodes stuck all over my head and to my legs.

I'm doing a sleep study; apparently waking up multiple times a night combined with a recent bout of sleepwalking is cause for medical investigation. I was put to bed last night at 11 (on a saturday!) with wires attached to the electrodes strapped around my body. Of course, I didn't sleep much in that condition.

I thought doing this study would be interesting and possibly useful for becoming a better sleeper.

It is extremely unpleasant. My typical sleep behaviors are "complicated" to the point of requiring a "nap" study after the full-night. So I am stuck without caffeine or breakfast (the night tech told me the day tech would handle the meal; the day tech said the night tech was supposed to have ordered it), fearing a migraine from caffeine withdrawal, whiling away the 2 hours following each of 4 "naps" that must occur today with episodes of The Office and work leftover from the week.

Yay me.

Deeedeee said...

Ha! Donating plasma to pay app fees?! That made my day :D Keeping this in mind for next year, and you best believe it'll be included in the SOP.

If America had a Borges, who would it be? Paul Auster? What about an Italo Calvino, too?

Jeffrey said...

Hi, all:

I'm researching life after the MFA. Does anyone know where I might find statistics on MFA grad employment? I'm looking to figure out how many MFA alums pursue careers in writing, publishing, or academia. I assume it's pretty high but, you know, I need hard figures.


Ashley Brooke said...

Not to make the blog even more political or anything, but is anybody else here a vegetarian? I wonder how I'd do in places like Laramie or Missoula. Surely I'd be a bit of an oddball, but I can get by anywhere there is fresh produce.

If the school is not considered AT ALL, where (of the schools you've applied to) is your TOP LOCATION? I think mine would have to be Boca Raton or Las Vegas... Laramie sort of excites me too, though. UNLV is one of my top schools, for sure, but FAU isn't, mainly because the funding isn't enough to live on. Wyoming is also pretty high on my list.

In conclusion: I think this blog is probably tl;dr for most people.

Juliana Paslay said...

Hey Ashley!

I'm a vegetarian and although I am not in Laramie or Missoula, I am currently doing my undergrad in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere in Indiana. I do just fine here and find most of what I need here. The more speciality stuff (like I use nutritional yeast on my salads a lot) I order over the internet! It's usually a better deal anyway... I wouldn't worry

Katie said...

I want to jump in on what La said — I'm a lurker too, just an occasional commenter when I can't keep my mouth shut.

I don't comment much because, frankly, I'm not as hell bent on the MFA as some of you seem to be. I love my life right now; I'm equally anxious about acceptances as I am about rejections, because I don't necessarily crave the upheaval that could come with enrollment in an MFA program. I know it's the right thing for my writing, but I'm not confident it's the right thing for my life, my relationship, my work.

It seems blasphemous to even voice that sort of ambivalence, and it's a pretty isolating feeling to have in the face of this forum's enthusiasm. Of course, ambivalence, strangely enough, isn't keeping me from obsessively lurking here and checking the 2010 acceptance notification thread.

I'm also nervous about revealing too much about myself — where I've applied, my specialties, my current career in writing, or my location — because I'm nervous (perhaps irrationally) that representatives from some of the schools are surfing the forum. Anyone else have that fear? I don't want anything I say here to color my applications.


Sequoia N said...

re: veggie

Ashley, I'm not too worried about it. Most colleges/universities (even in very small towns) have very active vegetarian and/or vegan communities/co-ops/outlets/options.

re: location (taking out the school as a factor)

I'd say it would be a tie between Iowa City and Madison.

Sequoia N said...


I'm almost certain that representatives of some programs surf this forum. Why Not? Universities regularly do studies on the demographics/desires/perceptions of applicants (and current and former students). This blog along with the P&W is full of information that could prove useful to programs. Also, if you go through the archives, you'll find that program staff and directors DO comment on occasion if applicants are spreading misinformation.

Jenna said...

Re: The South

I'm a born, raised, and educated southern girl. I've lived in Arkansas for the majority of my life and I've never heard of Robert E. Lee day.

In other words, it depends on the community that you move into, just like anywhere else. At least as far as I can tell.
But, hey, if you've got any questions about Southern attitudes and whatnot, give me a shout.

Eli said...

Katie, you're undoubtedly right. I do think, though, that if I'm recognised by a program representative, they would still bear my writing sample, personal statement, educational and work history and recommendations in mind more than the fact that i love Battlestar Galactica and The Wire and am quite neurotic. It's a risk such information might colour my applications but I'm not going to stress about it at this stage. We are who we are!

kaybay said...

Sorry Jena, I didn't clarify in my previous post. I guess last Monday was Robert E Lee's birthday, not Robert E Lee "Day." It coincided with MLK Jr's Day I guess, so some Southerners choose to honor that instead.

Ryan said...

Eeyore, I've heard sleep studies suck. My fiancee has some major sleep problems (she can't sleep past 6 or 7am, period, and if she's woken almost can never go back to sleep in the night). They did sleep studies on her, which, of course, were "inconclusive," so they boiled it down to stress and gave her some meds (which don't work, by the way, because they either make her tired as hell or even more unable to sleep). At least she didn't have to pay for the study out of pocket.

As for program spies on the blog, sure, they probably are here. But are they honestly taking the time to search your profile and read everything you wrote, then going to find your app and go FUCK this guy, he likes BATTLESTAR GALLACTICA! Probably not. They're probably just reading, as was said, for demographic info and just out of curiousity. Probably no need to hide your profile from them.

Ryan said...

By the way, I'm more of a Firefly fan. I gave my buddy back is Battlestar dvds after like 3 episodes because I thought it was boring, the story was lame, and the acting (yeah, I know it's tv, but still), sucked.

laura said...

Re: veggie

I'm vegan. I did my undergrad at University of Oregon, and Eugene was the perfect place for a vegan to live. Portland (home of Portland State University) is also very vegan friendly.

Of course, San Francisco bay area schools are in vegan-friendly areas.

I researched Houston's veg options because I applied there, and it seems to be a very veg-friendly city.

I should mention that Davis (home of UC Davis) is not very vegan friendly, although it is bike friendly and close enough to Sacramento that there are a few more options if you're willing to hop on a bus or drive 15 minutes.

Courtney said...

I'm hoping to get as far away from organic-hysteria as possible. Los Angeles is out of control. When I move, I'm going to eat nothing but meat and pesticide covered cheese for two-three years.

Brandy Colbert said...

i'm a vegetarian and have heard you might be surprised at the location of some of the most veg- and vegan-friendly places. one of my veg friends had a really positive experience in an unexpected town in montana - can't remember the name. (unexpected being that she lives in LA and, as someone who lived there myself for 6 years, it can seem like a whole different world when you leave, in terms of choices.)

while it would be wonderful to move to a town with at least two or three veg/veg-friendly restaurants, i would say as long as i end up in a place with a trader joe's, i'm ok.

Ben McClendon said...

I'm a vegetarian, too, and I like the idea of moving someplace green where plants grow without the agricultural equivalent of an iron lung, and where the climate isn't actively trying to exterminate all life. I like to think that if I can be vegetarian in the desert, I can do it anywhere.

Yeah, go ahead and fire up the gay vegetarian poet jokes. I swear to god(s), though, I don't own as much as a drop of patchouli oil or a single soundtrack to a Broadway show.

Kitty in a Cathouse said...

hahahahahahahahahah!@ X!

laura said...


Haha. Gay vegan poet here. We're so cool, living our clichés. :-P

Ryan said...

I'm not gay, but this quote from Kurt Vonnegut makes me laugh every time.

"If you really want to hurt your parents, and you don't have nerve enough to be homosexual, the least you can do is go into the arts."

Unknown said...

re: veggies

I'm vegetarian too. Location was a very big part of deciding where I wanted to apply, and that included vegetarian-friendly living. (Although I probably won't eat out much once I'm in grad school to save money.) Places I chose that I think are supposedly good for veggies: Wisconsin-Madison, Oregon-Eugene, and Arizona-Tucson. I also applied to schools in other larger cities; I figure I can at least find one or two veggie places. I applied to Davis also, thinking of it more as a fallback. (Considering I also chose Arizona as a fallback, it's very clear to me now I have no idea what the word fallback means.)

If I had to pick one as my top location, right now I'd say Madison, WI, just from everything I've been reading about it. Maybe they just have good PR.

Sea Bee said...

@ Lindsay/Xataro/Mostly Swell/Ashley Brooke/Tory/Kevin/Laura B

Thank you *so much* for the tips, links and offered email addresses. I now have an awesome set of criteria for my research arsenal and will start developing a highly neurotic Excel index of queer friendly programs/schools/locations. I'll share it when completed!

As an aside, I have to confess that UMass is my dream program for more than one reason...I hear the Amherst area is like an alternate universe populated entirely by lesbians.

re: LOST
so excited!!!! I requested the night off work and everything.

laura said...

Sea Bee:

"I hear the Amherst area is like an alternate universe populated entirely by lesbians." Haha! That's what we (on the West Coast) say about Santa Cruz. Too bad UCSC doesn't offer the MFA. :-P

Ben McClendon said...

@Sea Bee

Glad to have been of assistance.


You'll do OK in Tuscon. The liberal bastions in Arizona are Tuscon, Tempe, and Flagstaff. Sedona is, too, but by liberal I mean hippies, and by hippies, I mean wealthy ex-Californian crystal hippies, not your run of the mill green cloud or granola hippies. Think of driving your über-expensive luxury car home to meditate in your crystal garden, waiting for the star children to whisper a message of universal harmony, or some crap like that. Anyway, Tuscon is fine.

@ the little poet who could

Great quote. I must have been going for the jugular on my parents, which is odd, since I get along well with them. While I am quite a fan of Vonnegut, I'm going to argue that his assertion is null and void if your mom is an artist and your dad is gay. Long story. Just trust me on this one.

Mostly Swell said...

@SeaBee and LGBT shall we call it a forum???

Yes, I've heard that about Amherst/Northampton area. But what about the funding? Plus, I just didn't get it together by Dec 1 deadline, or I would've applied. I was pleased to discover that Ann Arbor has a long-standing LGBT organization at the school. The town itself was the first to elect an openly gay city council member, back in the 70's. Whoa. I didn't know that either. They were the first University in the US to have an LGBT student group, also in the 70's - plus they recently just had Carol Ann Duffy there (sponsored by the MFA program, Institute for Research on Women and Gender and Lesbian, Gay, Queer Research Initiative.) The "research" bit sounds scary to me, but I suppose, since it's Ann Arbor and NOT Laramie or some affiliation of FBI/CIA, it's probably helpful research. LOL

And re: Brigham Young - I'm not so sure that's a problem since Salt Lake City has a huge gay population. I personally wouldn't take my chances on that. I imagine the University would be "don't ask, don't tell" and the general population itself, more tolerant. Gay marriage ain't gonna happen there though. LOL

Emily Walker said...

I'm trying to come up with a list of schools that admit for spring term (I'm feeling uber-pessimistic). I only know of two:

Texas State
Hamline University

Can anyone think of others?

Jessa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
golightly said...


I'm a lurker, as well, and I'm with you on the anxiety over acceptances. I'll have quite a bruised ego if I don't get in, but really, I'm in a pretty good place right now with everything BUT my writing (and it sounds like you are, too). This should take the edge off of the anxiety because it means if I don't get in anywhere, I'll be no less of a good place than I already am. Somehow, it doesn't.

Getting passion, practicality, love, and occupation to line up is so difficult... but well worth the effort.

For what it's worth, it really is good to hear from another who is in a similar state.

Also... I'm afraid to jinx my apps! Here goes anyway.

Laura B. said...

I too am given to irrational paranoia. I prefer to think of it as an over-active imagination. I have run many scenarios through my mind and can’t see how (if you take the right precautions) they can identify you from this forum. All I know about you is that your blog ID is Katie. I don’t even know if that’s your REAL name. Is my real name Laura? Who knows. Who cares.
Even if it is your real name, and you post where you applied, I’m sure there are many Katie/Kate/Katherine applying to the same programs.
Also, as someone mentioned, I doubt the program “spies” have time to pull a Sherlock Holmes and link your comments to your application. I feel like they probably have enough work just reading through the applications.
Also, if anything, I would think enthusiasms (as expressed on this blog) could only help your application.

Unknown said...

@ Emily Walker
American offers spring admission, but scholarship opportunities for fall only.

This question will betray my naivete - but - could anyone explain to me the qualifications (if any?) that a MFA student gains from undergrad teaching experience while enrolled in the program? I know that it doesn't equate certification, but do opportunities exist for MFA grads in academia? Or is a Phd compulsory?

Jamie said...

Well I have had a rotten time recently. Thursday I learned that one of my letter-writers has not written my letters and won't be able to. This was after saying he had (though, looking back, in ambiguous terms). Turns out that was only for a couple schools, which ones he can't even remember. Medical issues are involved.

Obviously I am beside myself. We're talking about a missing item that will delay my application at Dec 15 schools like Michener, NYU, Cornell, Brown. I feel that I'm just in damage control here, trying to save what applications I can. I know, while it's not the end of the world, it will have a negative effect on some.

I have already lined up someone to write for me on short order (it's nice when old teachers step up so kindly to your SOS).

But it's done - a year's work compromised. I submitted nearly everything early - and now I'm that jerk who's calling admissions offices trying to get special attention. I really didn't want to be that one.

If this person who hung me out existed for me anymore, I would be utterly mad at them. But they don't exist; still, sometimes I'm mad at a them-shaped cutout in empty space.

I have submitted everything - Hunter, with their tricky personal statement, went out today. What should be happy and an accomplishment leaves a bitter taste, though. When I get rejections (and of course I'll get some, maybe all), I'll have to question if this lapse played a role.

I am pretty despondent.

kaybay said...

I'm so sorry for you, Jamie. Have you considered applying to late deadline schools or schools allowing Spring admissions?

Just for the sake of optimism - I remember reading a post from a woman who knew someone that didn't send in several materials and was still accepted by several schools who simply asked for it after the deadline. Hopefully, if you're good enough to be accepted at any of those early deadline programs, they'll want you enough to let it go. Good luck :)

Sequoia N said...


From what I know, the MFA is the terminal degree in the field (although there are PHDs in creative writing). That means, you can technically teach at the university and community college levels. Teaching anything else like H.S. esp. in public systems often requires certification. Adjunct and part-time lecturer positions in composition are probably the most common gigs for fresh graduates really wanting to stay in academia. There are also full-time temporary gigs where you could teach creative writing and/or edit a journal (note: these are very competitive). Applying to tenure-track positions usually requires at least one book (or in some cases a record of significant publication) [Note: tenure track creative writing positions aren't exactly common and since the economic downturn (and even before) universities have been cutting back on full-time faculty and relying on adjuncts/flyers/graduate teaching assistants in order to cut costs]. There are several articles on sites like The Chronicle of Higher Education that details the job market (among other things) for folks getting graduate degrees in the humanities.

Danielle Wheeler said...

That is such a bummer, Jamie. If it is any consolation, I think you are OK for Brown. This is from their FAQs:

"If your application form, personal statement and writing sample are sent on time, then your application will be reviewed, even if a letter or transcript hasn’t yet arrived. Of course, letters and transcripts that arrive on time may affect your candidacy. If accepted, you will need to have all materials on file with the Graduate School before you matriculate."

Sequoia N said...

And of course this is just if you want to stay within academia. Otherwise, the degree is worth as much as you put into it/ how you present it on your resume to employers.

Sequoia N said...


Hopefully the programs will still consider you. Like Kaybay and Daniel have pointed out, you might still be in the running. LORs are out of applicant's control. Hope everything works out. Fingers crossed for you.

Laura said...

Jamie, I also applied to Michener, got everything in by the deadline, and found out a few days ago that one of my recommenders hadn't submitted his online form. From the tone of the email though, I think that late recommendations (even for a 12/15 deadline) will be considered. At least that's what I'm telling myself. Good luck!

Jamie said...

Thanks, everyone, for the consolation (and hey, if I did indeed lose my spot at Cornell etc bc of this, I say one of YOU nice folks should get it). And that bit off Brown's site is very useful.

As I email and call schools about this into this week, I'll let people know what I find.

UVa, for example, was OK with it. The admissions officer (extremely nice lady) gave me her email so my writer could send the letter as an attachment (bc the online system didn't allow changes after submission).

George Mason also said they would add a late letter to my file; as did Brooklyn College.

But it's those Dec 15 schools I'm most concerned about. Ugh - the worst was telling to my significant other about the whole thing - she had been so proud of me as I completed this Herculean task, and was following along with all my hopes.

Well, I'm not sunk yet I guess.

Mostly Swell said...

@ Jamie
Surely you have not lost face with your significant other over someone else's goof. But I understand your dismay, and I wish this didn't happen. But it does appear that this was completely out of your control.

Perhaps you're correct that some programs will drop you because of this, but I think many do understand and make "off the record" allowances for this sort of mishap.

Something I think will work in your favor when calling is to be humble and avoid "blaming" the person who didn't follow through on the letter, and simply cite "for medical reasons" and how unfortunate this is, and that you have a replacement person in line, if they will make an allowance. I just think with all of the programs stating that the writing sample is the most important part of the app, that they won't hold this against you.

And check the facts with your significant other about whether you lost standing over this. (Or forget about.)

Hang in there.

lookylookyyonder said...


Unknown said...

I totally feel you, Jamie. I have an application due next Friday and one of my recommenders just now informed me that she was fired from that university and thus, won't write the letter. One week really isn't enough time for me to find someone else. Ugh.

I DO have an extra letter sitting around from a past employer. I taught creative writing as an intern one summer and had him write a letter "To Whom it May Concern" ambiguously recommending me for my future endeavors. It's dated 2008, though, and the university asks for "academic references." Anyone else have an opinion on what I should do if I'm shot down by back up professors (or, more likely, they just don't reply to my emails and phone calls)?? Should I send the backdated letter and hope for the best?

Ashley Brooke said...

Definitely don't give up on applying to the school over the one letter. As long as two of your recommendations are academic, I think you can squeak by. Otherwise, maybe ask one of your peers from workshop. They might be willing to do it on short notice and they can really speak to your ability to work with other writers in workshop. It's not ideal, but it's better than nothing.

Unknown said...

I am also a gay, vegetarian poet! :) Don't worry; we all have aspects that defy convention. I have a rather pleasant mix: gay, vegetarian, frat boy, Steelers nut, tap dancer, poet, and more!

For those wondering about being LGBT in the midwest, I can say (from my experience growing up outside of and in Pittsburgh) that cities are generally fine, and small towns are generally not. Violence is pretty darned rare, no matter where you are, though.

In small towns (and this is probably less likely in college towns), the problems you're more likely to experience are those of verbal harassment. While a bit of a drag (especially when you're a full-fledged adult and entitled to freedom from certain hassles), it's usually minimal.

The probability goes up, however, if you *look* different, LGBT or no. Especially if you're a man, and you aren't dressing/behaving the way a man is *expected* to in that area.

My boyfriend has long, beautiful hair (seriously, an effing Pantene commercial) and dresses very fashionably, and even in Pittsburgh he regularly gets hecklers asking him whether he's a man or a woman. (And he has a beard!) He'd likely experience similar harassment if he were straight. (He says: "No I wouldn't! If I were straight, I wouldn't look as fancy!")

It was much worse for him, however, in small-town Nebraska, where he recently completed a two-month art residency. In addition to verbal harassment, he was reported to the police by some locals, who didn't like him being "near the school" with a camera. He eventually had to explain to the principal there that he wasn't a pedophile. (Female artists with cameras regularly perused the town without incident.)

In keeping with the city theory, however, he felt quite comfortable in both Omaha and Lincoln, where people just seemed more positive, more open, more friendly. Pittsburgh certainly fits all those descriptors, in my opinion.

In short, I'd say don't fear the midwest too much, but do continue your research and consider a visit to a school you want to go to. (Also, if you're LGBT, you can be in San Francisco and still get harassed. So watch your back everywhere.)

After all that talk, I'll admit I'm still skeptical of the south. I've applied to LSU, but if I get in, I'll have to visit Baton Rouge to be convinced I'd feel okay there.


wEEman33 said...

Anybody worried about going under for the "critical essay" page limit?

I'm applying for poetry, and the longest poetry essay I've still got saved on my computer from undergrad is 4 pages long plus a work cited.

I like this essay a lot, but I'm worried by the fact that most places ask for an essay that's in the ballpark of 8-20 pages long.

What do you guys think, is it OK to go a few pages under if the content is good and genre-appropriate?

Unknown said...

WT - thanks so much for the thorough response. My background is in classical music so I've had my fair share of teaching experience, albeit in the private sector only, and frankly I am absolutely terrified by my 6-yr old students. They're, like, scary smart and cool. I was tempted to ask several of them to take my GREs for me. Needless to say - teaching (creative writing) appeals to my practical side but I would be so worried about guiding those precious souls in a wrong direction? I second-guess my own writing so much, I can't imagine advising on another's. Thoughts?

alana said...

Someone told me today that University of Arizona requires GRE scores to determine financial aid. Is this true? I've never seen anything about that on their site, but I'm scared I'm missing something.

Ryan said...

Alana, I don't know about U of A specifically, but I do know that, for the most part, if the school doesn't have a fully-funded program, and offers competitive funding, part of the qualifications can often be grades/test scores. This has nothing to do with admission, by the way. Just the aid package you could get.

Jamie said...

I'm sorry to hear it! The worst is feeling that you've done everything right and that now someone else's problem/issues will negate all your work.

Your case is really about as cut and dried as it gets. It is not your fault; you could not have known this.

You're also in good shape bc you're acting before the deadline, not after.

First, I would contact the professor who's been fired. Maybe they're overreacting to this bad event in their life. The fact is, they taught you in class and had an impression of you, and that's not going to change by them getting fired. You could remind them that you still value their recommendation, and gently mention that you'll be in a real jam if they can't do it. (That is, assuming you value it.)

I would already be thinking ahead from this. If you're emailing, don't wait for a reply - email or phone others. Be very plain and upfront about what you're asking for - an emergency letter turned around in a week. If you get a commitment and others commit after, just say you lined one up and thank them profusely.

I would say go in order of former teachers, then employers/supervisors.

I would recommend against you using the intern letter because of the date and also, it's an intern - you had power over them at the time they wrote the letter (or close to it), schools don't ask for letters from students, and they might not be the best writer/evaluator of you.

But don't delay - you're still in the game. Play your cards now.

Good luck!

ajcourtney said...

Distracting reading here: this is an enjoyable and somewhat heartening essay on how tiring writing can be:

cheers, c

Ben McClendon said...


Do you work? I've been out of college for several years, so I emailed programs and asked about alternative recommenders. All of the ones I talked to were happy to have letters from supervisors where I work, and a colleague who's been my mentor. That might be your way out if it's a possibility. Good luck with your pickle. If you stay calm, whoever is on the other end of the phone/email can do so, too. Hang in there!

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