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Kim Fan

About the U.S. MFA in creative writing application

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   Hello everyone. To those who have achieved MFA degree in creative writing or those who have related experience, I'm glad being here. I really need your help there since I'm a Chinese applicant for the U.S. creative writing programs and cannot find another applicant in my university, and cannot get much information either. I only applied the fiction programs and what I received are all rejections (I applied to both large and small classes). Since I've always wanted to be a writer and there are not many MFA programs in China (not as advanced as America), I feel quite depressed and want to gain some help.

   As I wrote in my SOP, I started writing at the age of 14. My first Chinese novel was to criticize Chinese education that only focuses on academic result, and many stories came from my junior high school life. It has altogether 120,000 Chinese characters and got published in 2012. I completed my second novel in 2014, which was about young students' love, their fragile heart, their solitude and struggling. The novel was unedited and after I learned about the creative writing program in the U.S, I started to prepare my writing sample. I spent a month translating some chapters from this novel (about 50 pages). It was really a hard task since I hadn't written any English novels and got no translating experience, but I think it is worthy. I only incorporated my writing dream and experience in my SOP, not any preference to the MFA faculties since I haven't read their novels. 

   I also wrote classical Chinese poems, essays and dramas. I don't usually write short stories, which may be a disadvantage for my application I think?

   I study Chinese Literature in my uni and am going to graduate in June. Seeing my classmates holding lots of U. S. offers (of course they did not apply creative writing), I already felt like a loser. I know my writing sample plays the most important part in the application, but I don't understand why they did not choose mine? Is it because they don't prefer campus novel? Or did not understand my theme? Or did not like Chinese writers? ( I know at least one program I applied does not prefer Chinese)

   Another things is I suffered from depression last year so I did not get high scores in my English and GRE test. I tried to keep calm every time but still failed several tests. I finally achieved 7.0 in my last IELTS test and finally reported in my application, although it might not actually reveal my English level. I'm not sure if it mattered a lot in my application? Anyway my English in my fiction is still good. In Feb I emailed every program saying I translated myself and explained about my test score, and some of them replied they'd take that into account.

   This is all about my application. I don't suffer from depression any more but after receiving so many rejections, I became desperate to death. If you got any application experience and know something about the faculty's preference please give me a hand! I cannot describe how grateful I will be. Also, if your writing program has application for Spring, 2017, please recommend to me, since I don't seem to have any choices left. Thank you again!

 

Kim

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Sorry you're feeling down. Don't get too down. This stuff is hard/subjective. Just trying again next go around. All of the funded programs exclusively accept people for the fall. I'd wait until next fall and apply again, rather than attempting to apply to one of the handful of poorly funded programs that accept people in the spring. These programs aren't well rated and very few of them have funding. Apply widely, and work on your application.

There are some programs that focus on translation--Brown and Notre Dame come to mind immediately.

ALSO, if you focus on poetry, apply in poetry. Try to attend a program that will let you take courses in multiple genres, but yeah, apply in the area that you accel in the most. It's also much easier to gain admittance on the poetry side of things. There are 4-5 fiction applicants for every 1 poetry applicant, for an equal number of admissions slots at most programs. Also, poetry programs are even more into translation than fiction programs. I would seriously consider applying in poetry and then branch out into fiction. I suspect you'll be much more successful.

Here's some good info on putting together an application from a professor at Brown:

http://thejohnfox.com/2013/02/brian-evensons-tips-for-mfa-applications/

You also might want to read books of poetry (or fiction) by current faculty at MFA programs? It's a good way to get a sense of things.

I'm a big fan of SPD's bestseller list for finding contemporary poetry books:

http://www.spdbooks.org/pages/bestsellers/poetry/default.aspx

Anyway, best of luck!

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26 minutes ago, FalloutCoversEverything said:

Sorry you're feeling down. Don't get too down. This stuff is hard/subjective. Just trying again next go around. All of the funded programs exclusively accept people for the fall. I'd wait until next fall and apply again, rather than attempting to apply to one of the handful of poorly funded programs that accept people in the spring. These programs aren't well rated and very few of them have funding. Apply widely, and work on your application.

There are some programs that focus on translation--Brown and Notre Dame come to mind immediately.

ALSO, if you focus on poetry, apply in poetry. Try to attend a program that will let you take courses in multiple genres, but yeah, apply in the area that you accel in the most. It's also much easier to gain admittance on the poetry side of things. There are 4-5 fiction applicants for every 1 poetry applicant, for an equal number of admissions slots at most programs. Also, poetry programs are even more into translation than fiction programs. I would seriously consider applying in poetry and then branch out into fiction. I suspect you'll be much more successful.

Here's some good info on putting together an application from a professor at Brown:

http://thejohnfox.com/2013/02/brian-evensons-tips-for-mfa-applications/

You also might want to read books of poetry (or fiction) by current faculty at MFA programs? It's a good way to get a sense of things.

I'm a big fan of SPD's bestseller list for finding contemporary poetry books:

http://www.spdbooks.org/pages/bestsellers/poetry/default.aspx

Anyway, best of luck!

   Thank you for your help! I don't know what you mean exactly about the translation programs. Do they focus on translated literature? Well as I want to be a English writer, I think I should write all in English in the future, not Chinese and then translate. 

   I think it is impossible for me to apply poetry since all my work is classical Chinese poems. I never learned about how to write English poems, but I've read some and got quite interested. I think I will undoubtedly learn English poetry in the future.

   I don't mean I want to read the faculty's work. I just want to ask if it is necessary to do this. Because my SOP are all the same to the 8 programs I applied, I'm not sure if it is the reason they rejected me, that I did not show any preference to the faculty. Should I know something about them? Well I don't think I have any time reading their work, as I always spent most of my time reading classical literature (I love classical very much). 

   I'm also interested in non fiction and drama. I love to write drama very much but I don't think I specialize in it, since we have this major in our institute and compared to those students I think I know too little about it. Another thing is I should also translate my non fiction and drama, which will take a lot of time again. I'm not sure whether to choose the spring program or fall since I really want to study in the U.S. I've never been there and it is always my dream to study and work there. I guess I can't wait for a long time but I'll take what you said into account. Thank you again!

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20 hours ago, Kim Fan said:

   Thank you for your help! I don't know what you mean exactly about the translation programs. Do they focus on translated literature? Well as I want to be a English writer, I think I should write all in English in the future, not Chinese and then translate. 

   I think it is impossible for me to apply poetry since all my work is classical Chinese poems. I never learned about how to write English poems, but I've read some and got quite interested. I think I will undoubtedly learn English poetry in the future.

   I don't mean I want to read the faculty's work. I just want to ask if it is necessary to do this. Because my SOP are all the same to the 8 programs I applied, I'm not sure if it is the reason they rejected me, that I did not show any preference to the faculty. Should I know something about them? Well I don't think I have any time reading their work, as I always spent most of my time reading classical literature (I love classical very much). 

   I'm also interested in non fiction and drama. I love to write drama very much but I don't think I specialize in it, since we have this major in our institute and compared to those students I think I know too little about it. Another thing is I should also translate my non fiction and drama, which will take a lot of time again. I'm not sure whether to choose the spring program or fall since I really want to study in the U.S. I've never been there and it is always my dream to study and work there. I guess I can't wait for a long time but I'll take what you said into account. Thank you again!

I do think it is important to read contemporary literature if you're planning on writing it. Reading classical literature is obviously important too--but, like, reading contemporary stuff gives one a sense of the space one is writing for (the publishing industry, the type of contemporary work people are reading, etc.) 

The programs don't focus singularly on translation, rather they offer translation classes. The goal of those classes is to translate other people's work into English usually. You'd still primarily be writing in English, but there'd be an opportunity to turn a skill you have (translation) into a different form of publication. And it could (very likely will) be a good experience in terms of developing your own writing. I know some people who do this work, and they find it very beneficial to their own (untranslated, written for English) work.

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On April 7, 2016 at 10:01 AM, Kim Fan said:

   I don't mean I want to read the faculty's work. I just want to ask if it is necessary to do this. Because my SOP are all the same to the 8 programs I applied, I'm not sure if it is the reason they rejected me, that I did not show any preference to the faculty. Should I know something about them? Well I don't think I have any time reading their work, as I always spent most of my time reading classical literature (I love classical very much). 

When you apply again, I would recommend not using the same SOP for all programs. The SOP provides you with an opportunity to explain not just why you write and why you want to get an MFA, but why you want to get an MFA at that specific program. What made you choose the programs that you did? Are there specific opportunities available at each program that appeal to you? How do your interests and goals fit with the program's structure, faculty, coursework, etc.? Addressing these kinds of things in your SOP can help an admissions committee gain a better understanding of why you want to be there. You don't have to craft a completely different SOP for every program (it will make sense for some parts to remain basically the same), but you do want to make sure that you discuss what it is about that program in particular that makes it seem like a good fit for you. 

As for reading work by faculty members, you certainly don't need to read everything they've ever published, but you do want to become at least a little bit familiar with their work, as this will help you make sure that you're applying to places that are a good fit for you. Are there people at these programs whose work you admire, people who are doing something similar to what you want to do, people who would potentially make good advisors for you? If so, then you're on the right track. 

Edited by slouching

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8 hours ago, slouching said:

As for reading work by faculty members, you certainly don't need to read everything they've ever published, but you do want to become at least a little bit familiar with their work, as this will help you make sure that you're applying to places that are a good fit for you. Are there people at these programs whose work you admire, people who are doing something similar to what you want to do, people who would potentially make good advisors for you? If so, then you're on the right track. 

Yeah, I want to second this--you don't have to read _everything_ by faculty, but do read some work by faculty in MFA programs. Read some things in different styles, etc. You don't even have to have read the stuff of people from all of the programs you're applying to, but it is good idea to get at least a cursory sense of what the MFA aesthetic landscape is like. 

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On 2016年4月9日 at 3:38 PM, slouching said:

When you apply again, I would recommend not using the same SOP for all programs. The SOP provides you with an opportunity to explain not just why you write and why you want to get an MFA, but why you want to get an MFA at that specific program. What made you choose the programs that you did? Are there specific opportunities available at each program that appeal to you? How do your interests and goals fit with the program's structure, faculty, coursework, etc.? Addressing these kinds of things in your SOP can help an admissions committee gain a better understanding of why you want to be there. You don't have to craft a completely different SOP for every program (it will make sense for some parts to remain basically the same), but you do want to make sure that you discuss what it is about that program in particular that makes it seem like a good fit for you. 

As for reading work by faculty members, you certainly don't need to read everything they've ever published, but you do want to become at least a little bit familiar with their work, as this will help you make sure that you're applying to places that are a good fit for you. Are there people at these programs whose work you admire, people who are doing something similar to what you want to do, people who would potentially make good advisors for you? If so, then you're on the right track. 

 

17 hours ago, FalloutCoversEverything said:

Yeah, I want to second this--you don't have to read _everything_ by faculty, but do read some work by faculty in MFA programs. Read some things in different styles, etc. You don't even have to have read the stuff of people from all of the programs you're applying to, but it is good idea to get at least a cursory sense of what the MFA aesthetic landscape is like. 

Thank you for your advice! Now I'm still waiting for Columbia College Chicago's decision, as I sent my certification of transcript very late. I don't think it is a great program but a famous Chinese writer graduated from there. Do you know any famous MFA program in those art schools? Since it is an art degree. For the spring semester I'm also searching programs in the U.K. It is said they are easier to get enrolled but are expensive.

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8 hours ago, Kim Fan said:

 

Thank you for your advice! Now I'm still waiting for Columbia College Chicago's decision, as I sent my certification of transcript very late. I don't think it is a great program but a famous Chinese writer graduated from there. Do you know any famous MFA program in those art schools? Since it is an art degree. For the spring semester I'm also searching programs in the U.K. It is said they are easier to get enrolled but are expensive.

The faculty there is great. That said, they have very little funding and a high acceptance rate. There's a decent chance you'll get accepted, but it is very unlikely you'll get any funding.

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9 hours ago, Kim Fan said:

 

Thank you for your advice! Now I'm still waiting for Columbia College Chicago's decision, as I sent my certification of transcript very late. I don't think it is a great program but a famous Chinese writer graduated from there. Do you know any famous MFA program in those art schools? Since it is an art degree. For the spring semester I'm also searching programs in the U.K. It is said they are easier to get enrolled but are expensive.

If you're interested in doing a creative writing MFA at an art school in the US, there are a number of options, but I think the funding at those programs is generally pretty limited, unfortunately. Off the top of my head, I know Pratt, Otis, CalArts, and SAIC (also located in Chicago) all have creative writing MFA programs, and I'm sure there are other art schools that do as well. You'll also find that some creative writing programs that are not at art schools will allow or even encourage students to take courses in the visual arts (for example, the program at UCSD is structured this way). 

Edited by slouching

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