Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mailbag (2.14.12)

Feel free to post questions/pertinent information here. Happy Valentine's Day!


Claire said...


Liv said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Liv said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Schwem said...

Anyone have any idea about Syracuse w/r/t Fiction? I know they've sent out poetry acceptances, but has there been any word about fiction?

JDEvans said...

Hello everyone and good luck to all applicants.
I am just beginning the process of application preparation for next year and would love some helpful hints from those of you considered experienced applicants.
My questions are:
1. How did you prepare/choose your writing sample? And how many hours did you spend in total on your writing sample used for applications?
2. For those out of the game for some time, how did you acquire letters of recommendation from writing instructors?
3. Tell me everything else important about this process. Go into great detail, and know I, and many future applicants thank you for your wisdom of response and clarity of thought.


Claire said...


This is my second go-round, so here's my two cents, for what it's worth.

1) The summer before application season, I sat down with all of my projects - those completed, those unfinished or in real rough draft, and a couple of new ideas. I spent the summer mostly focused on writing new material and revising old material. At the end of the summer, I selected a few pieces from each group that I thought might be good candidates.

In September/October, as I was putting together my final list of where I wanted to apply and gathering information on the deadlines and documents needed (make a chart, or a binder), I selected a few readers whose opinions I valued and had them read over the pieces I was considering. After I got their feedback and did some revision, I decided which pieces I wanted to use.

In my case, I wound up using the newer stuff I wrote over the summer. I also applied in 2 genres (both fiction and CNF) and in the fall I wrote a new CNF piece that I liked so much I used it over some of my older samples (after getting feedback).

2) I'm in my fourth year out of undergrad and studied music, so I was worried about recommenders. I wound up using one former professor (though he did not have me for writing) to speak about my general discipline and readiness for graduate work; one of my employers, who could speak to my potential as a teaching assistant and my professional communication skills; and an old teacher from high school who has been my literary mentor, who could speak to my growth as a writer over the last decade. Don't worry about it too much; the writing sample/personal statement matter more.

3) I did a lot of research, especially about funding. Seth's site is a huge resource. Don't apply to any programs you know you won't really want to go to, and don't apply to a place with little funding (like Columbia) unless you are hell-bent on going into debt. I tried to select a good mix of super-selective programs and less well-known ones; again, the rankings come in handy. Keep all of your notes about each school organized, and have all of the app info in one place, that you can update when you start and finish the applications. Think about a "what if I don't get in anywhere" scenario, so that you don't float adrift in the wind if it does happen. Apply to as many programs as you can afford, but don't kill yourself if that only means two or three.

Hope that's helpful!

Sally Jane said...

JDEvans: If you scroll down aways on this blog you'll see a post from July 11th titled "MFA Application Do's and Don'ts." Hopefully you'll find that helpful! And good luck!

kaybay said...

Subscribing :)

x said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cristina Perachio said...

I have recently been accepted to the Stonecoast program at University of Southern Maine and Rutgers Camden for fiction. In the coming weeks I will hear back from The New School and Sarah Lawrence.

I live in Philadelphia and am currently a Contributing Writer with Philadelphia Weekly and freelancer for several other blogs and publications. Though my work is flexible, my funds are limited so tuition/funding is a large factor in my decision.

I would like to know if employers are wary of low-res programs? How important is the "big name" school factor after graduation? How is the Stonecoast program viewed in the community?

Though I haven't heard back from all of my schools, I am leaning towards Stonecoast because of the affordable tuition, flexible schedule and most importantly, the incredibly warm community and the diverse residencies.

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Sandy Rose said...

Ahh okay, I'm going to post my question here. It's about possibly transferring from a low-res to a full-res and whether earning a previous MFA renders you ineligible for another program.

Here's some backstory:

I'm planning to join the Peace Corps next Spring, but I want to get started on my CW MFA so I am applying to University of British Columbia (UBC)'s optional residency (distance) program.

I'll be doing the program part time, so it's unlikely that I will be finished with the program when I return. However, there's always a chance I could finish my coursework in those two years while doing PC. I would love to transfer to a full residency program when I return, but I read (specifically on University of Texas's site) that a previous MFA disqualifies you - I've also been told they look at transfers skeptically.

Here are the questions:

1. Which programs would I be ineligible for if I earned my MFA? Which would I be looked at skeptically by?(Like UT).

2. Are there any programs who actually like accepting transfers or people who already hold an MFA?

3. Has anyone had transfer experience (specifically from Low-Res to Full-Res) they can share with me?

4. Is this just an all around bad idea? Should I wait? I just really want to get started and I'd love to have a program's support pushing me forward.

Sylvie said...

Hello everyone, I'm a newcomer here. Thinking about applying for MFA programs for 2013. I have been writing poetry seriously for a long time but have never taken a creative writing class before. My background is in literature (undergrad major was English and I have an MA in English).
First question: I'm thinking about how I can get some "professional" feedback on my work before applying, or even feedback from other poets applying for MFAs. I'm living in Korea right now, and planning to travel around in Asia from July-October, then return to the States and finish up my apps. I'll be working on my writing sample the whole time I'm traveling (its the best inspiration for me) and I'm wondering if there's some kind of online writing group that I could join, and participate in some kind of workshop-ish give-and-take while on the road? Anyone know of reputable things like this?

I don't have much idea about the quality of my work, i.e. if I should even apply this year or keep working on it for a few years before trying, can I try for top programs or better to shoot for lower-tier, which programs would I fit best with, etc. Any ideas how I could go about getting some feedback?

Many thanks! :)