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Fall MFA 2018

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It's a new season for applying MFA! I didn't find a post about 2018 programs so I started one here. Any thoughts/questions are welcomed to discuss together.

I just started to consider applying MFA in creative writing for the next year, but immediately overwhelmed by the numbers of schools provided such programs. I feel I have difficulties in narrowing down to under 5. My current question: is it totally ok to ask recommendation letters for maybe about 6-8 schools? Both professors I'm about to ask help I haven't talked with like almost a year... Feel very burdened to ask help if I'm about to ask his letters go for 8 schools.

Thanks.

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I'm also having trouble narrowing down my schools. I'm applying to some rhet/comp programs as well as creative writing, and want to avoid paying thousands of dollars in app fees...

But I can tell you that I will be applying to around your range of schools - maybe even more. I wouldn't worry too much about asking your profs; I'm sure they've been asked before. :)

I'm surprised that there isn't already a 2018 MFA thread...where is everyone? 

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1 hour ago, katie64 said:

I'm also having trouble narrowing down my schools. I'm applying to some rhet/comp programs as well as creative writing, and want to avoid paying thousands of dollars in app fees...

But I can tell you that I will be applying to around your range of schools - maybe even more. I wouldn't worry too much about asking your profs; I'm sure they've been asked before. :)

I'm surprised that there isn't already a 2018 MFA thread...where is everyone? 

I know, I actually get a lot questions that make me pretty hesitate to even apply for any. But yea thank you for the prof issue. I saw previous years some applied for more than 10 schools... that's really a lot application fees, if some school you know you wouldn't take the offer then there's no need to give a try.

I guess my current major concern is that I heard a lot MFA programs prefer literary writing/serious literature and go against those genre/non literary works, so I'd like to know if any programs are actually ok with all sort of writing, thriller, mystery or even horror... I read it some where that Brown prefers more experimental, what about others? any idea on preference of any programs?

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Hi, recent fiction grad here. 

You're right that many schools have a literary preference, but the best writers will get in somewhere regardless of form. You also see a lot of the newer literary big shots toeing the line - Ben Percy, George Saunders, Karen Russell etc. If it's hard genre, you'll have a more difficult time, but an original story, written well, with elements thriller, mystery, and horror, would be well received at most programs. (Brown, as you mentioned, is its own animal.) While the article has some good points (I do think the literary / genre divide is artificial and silly) I don't agree that MFAs push a pretentious echo chamber... not the ones worth going to, anyway. It's also holding up Flannery O'Connor as the main voice it's pushing against, and she was referring to what workshop looked like in the 1950's. For a view on a current day workshop atmosphere, check out this essay: https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexanderchee/my-parade

As to where to apply, because you're more of a genre person, program fit is going to be especially important. Even if you got into an excellent literary program, the faculty there aren't necessarily going to be equipped to be most helpful to you. My advice is to look up your favorite authors and see if they're teaching anywhere, make a list of those schools, see which ones are funded, and narrow it down from there. 

It's not unreasonable to ask for 6-8 recommendations. 10's a lot, but if you have a good relationship, go for it. If they have creative writing backgrounds you may also want to think about asking them for suggestions, it gets them more invested and makes it less of a chore. Make it as easy as possible for them, thank them profusely, and keep them updated if/where you get in!

Edit: Forgot to add my big note. Don't get discouraged, and don't be too nervous to apply! It's really impossible to guess which schools are looking for what style of writer on any given year, so worry more about what you're looking for in a school than what they're looking for in their applicants. Good luck!

Edited by HookedOnPhonix

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6 hours ago, HookedOnPhonix said:

Hi, recent fiction grad here. 

You're right that many schools have a literary preference, but the best writers will get in somewhere regardless of form. You also see a lot of the newer literary big shots toeing the line - Ben Percy, George Saunders, Karen Russell etc. If it's hard genre, you'll have a more difficult time, but an original story, written well, with elements thriller, mystery, and horror, would be well received at most programs. (Brown, as you mentioned, is its own animal.) While the article has some good points (I do think the literary / genre divide is artificial and silly) I don't agree that MFAs push a pretentious echo chamber... not the ones worth going to, anyway. It's also holding up Flannery O'Connor as the main voice it's pushing against, and she was referring to what workshop looked like in the 1950's. For a view on a current day workshop atmosphere, check out this essay: https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexanderchee/my-parade

As to where to apply, because you're more of a genre person, program fit is going to be especially important. Even if you got into an excellent literary program, the faculty there aren't necessarily going to be equipped to be most helpful to you. My advice is to look up your favorite authors and see if they're teaching anywhere, make a list of those schools, see which ones are funded, and narrow it down from there. 

It's not unreasonable to ask for 6-8 recommendations. 10's a lot, but if you have a good relationship, go for it. If they have creative writing backgrounds you may also want to think about asking them for suggestions, it gets them more invested and makes it less of a chore. Make it as easy as possible for them, thank them profusely, and keep them updated if/where you get in!

Edit: Forgot to add my big note. Don't get discouraged, and don't be too nervous to apply! It's really impossible to guess which schools are looking for what style of writer on any given year, so worry more about what you're looking for in a school than what they're looking for in their applicants. Good luck!

Thank you so much! Much appreciated! I read the article you posted, it's really interesting to read the process of how a writer started his journey to publish his first book. If you don't mind, could you please share a bit of your own workshop experience as well? 

I actually took one creative writing course of a pretty famous extension school, but it was a bit unease as I was the only person who wrote non literary type of story that during the critique at workshops, I feel they're leading me toward their type regardless the genre I was writing. I guess it was the isolation out of others made me hesitate to apply for MFA just to fear it might end up similar situations I had before. 

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On 10/6/2017 at 5:03 PM, REEEEEEE said:

My current question: is it totally ok to ask recommendation letters for maybe about 6-8 schools? Both professors I'm about to ask help I haven't talked with like almost a year... Feel very burdened to ask help if I'm about to ask his letters go for 8 schools.

As @HookedOnPhonix mentioned, asking for recommendations for this many programs is totally acceptable--your professors have done this before and know what to expect. I asked for upwards of a dozen when I was applying to MFAs. Just make sure you give them ample time to write (I've read that three months' notice is ideal) and that you maintain good communication throughout the process. 

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2 hours ago, slouching said:

As @HookedOnPhonix mentioned, asking for recommendations for this many programs is totally acceptable--your professors have done this before and know what to expect. I asked for upwards of a dozen when I was applying to MFAs. Just make sure you give them ample time to write (I've read that three months' notice is ideal) and that you maintain good communication throughout the process. 

Thank you! I'm now less concerned about that. Will focus on finishing the writing samples. 

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16 hours ago, REEEEEEE said:

Thank you so much! Much appreciated! I read the article you posted, it's really interesting to read the process of how a writer started his journey to publish his first book. If you don't mind, could you please share a bit of your own workshop experience as well? 

I actually took one creative writing course of a pretty famous extension school, but it was a bit unease as I was the only person who wrote non literary type of story that during the critique at workshops, I feel they're leading me toward their type regardless the genre I was writing. I guess it was the isolation out of others made me hesitate to apply for MFA just to fear it might end up similar situations I had before. 

My workshops were a total mixed bag; the quality is so dependent on the instructor and the cohort. Overall I've been pleased with it. There are a few instructors who I avoid because they have a bad reputation (either for being vicious or only open to hard realism), and there are a few people in my cohort who I try not to end up in workshop at the same time with (for similar reasons). You can't tell what the atmosphere's like until you get there, so if you do get in a few places try to visit, or ask for the email of a current student. For a genre writer, you might think about avoiding programs which are known to be overly competitive, because that can put people in survival mode and make them a bit cliquey and non-inclusive. On the other side of the coin, be wary of the all-inclusive, we-take-all-types-but-offer-no-funding schools like Columbia, because while you can find a workshop that exactly fits your needs, it's almost never worth the price tag.

In my experience, the impulse to write the "workshop story" (which is code for a dull but well-written, very literary, very realistic story in which nothing much happens, but which the workshop can't find fault in) is self-imposed. The first few times you or someone else brings something risky to workshop and it doesn't work can make you retreat back into the safety zone. But the first time you bring something risky to workshop and it does work, that's where you can really start sinking into your voice. (Another note, it doesn't sound like this is an issue for you but I think a lot of people don't get into an MFA program the first time around because they're sticking to safe workshop-y stories, which means they're interchangeable with all the other safe, workshop-y stories in the pile.)

Can I ask which authors are stylistically similar to you? I might have a few school ideas.

Here's an essay from Saunders about his experience at grad school, and how for a time he lost the spark in favor of being over-literary: https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/my-writing-education-a-timeline

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6 hours ago, HookedOnPhonix said:

My workshops were a total mixed bag; the quality is so dependent on the instructor and the cohort. Overall I've been pleased with it. There are a few instructors who I avoid because they have a bad reputation (either for being vicious or only open to hard realism), and there are a few people in my cohort who I try not to end up in workshop at the same time with (for similar reasons). You can't tell what the atmosphere's like until you get there, so if you do get in a few places try to visit, or ask for the email of a current student. For a genre writer, you might think about avoiding programs which are known to be overly competitive, because that can put people in survival mode and make them a bit cliquey and non-inclusive. On the other side of the coin, be wary of the all-inclusive, we-take-all-types-but-offer-no-funding schools like Columbia, because while you can find a workshop that exactly fits your needs, it's almost never worth the price tag.

In my experience, the impulse to write the "workshop story" (which is code for a dull but well-written, very literary, very realistic story in which nothing much happens, but which the workshop can't find fault in) is self-imposed. The first few times you or someone else brings something risky to workshop and it doesn't work can make you retreat back into the safety zone. But the first time you bring something risky to workshop and it does work, that's where you can really start sinking into your voice. (Another note, it doesn't sound like this is an issue for you but I think a lot of people don't get into an MFA program the first time around because they're sticking to safe workshop-y stories, which means they're interchangeable with all the other safe, workshop-y stories in the pile.)

Can I ask which authors are stylistically similar to you? I might have a few school ideas.

Here's an essay from Saunders about his experience at grad school, and how for a time he lost the spark in favor of being over-literary: https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/my-writing-education-a-timeline

I love Saunder's article! Who doesn't want teachers like that? But yea, the least thing I want is overly competitive survival mode place... It seems like your program provides with a lot freedom in terms of choosing the courses by instructors. I heard a lot programs only accept a small group of writers so that basically they have the same classes, teachers and surely same cohort all 2-3 years. I mean it could be great time to make life long friendship but it could be disaster if things go wrong. 

I totally agree with what you said about "workshop story", it actually reminds me of my experience in London when I was studying in a film school. Most filmmakers there go for the very specific artistic type of film.(code for drama, dull but well-shot, realistic story in which nothing much happens...) The vibe of mentality thinking mainstream/genre films are inferior really bothers me because they're simply different. But my concern is if I submit my writing sample as stories with paranormal element/fantasy/mystery thriller style, I wouldn't get a chance. It's difficult to tell which authors are stylistically similar to mine since I'm still trying to figure my voice out. Maybe Stephen King, Daphne du Maurier(Rebecca) and Neil Gaiman. 

 

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If anyone is interested, my friend and I created a creative writing Facebook support page (not specifically MFA targeted). Feel free to message me and I will add you. :)

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Hey everyone! This is my first time applying to MFA programs. I am a year out of college, so by the time of Fall 2018 I will be two years out. Since I am new to this, I am learning as I go. I am applying to fiction programs and the genres I write the most in are realistic ya LGBT fiction. I was wondering if anyone knows of a good program for that sort of stuff!

 

Edited by Paigeifer

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Hey Paigeifer, it'll be my first application season too next fall. I googled a little bit on LGBT fiction programs and found this list: https://queenmobs.com/2016/07/gradcwprograms-lgbtqfriendly/, as well as a few programs just off the first page. I'm not sure of the nature of any of them but I figured the list could be a good start. 

As for me, I'm applying in poetry and I'm considering about eight or nine schools: Ohio State, Indiana at Bloomington, Virginia Commonwealth, UMichigan, Purdue, Syracuse, UNC Greensboro, NC State and maybe Temple. UW Madison is also really interesting, but Wisconsin isn't my ideal location. I'm applying straight out of undergrad so everything's a little iffy if I don't get in, but I'm already thinking about the AmeriCorps or getting an apartment back home. Anybody have anything on the programs I'm looking into or if I'm missing out on some? I'm trying to apply to strictly fully funded programs and I'm pretty limited to the Atlantic/NC region and up along the East coast, and over to upper Midwestish, hence Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. 

Edited by Rosenam
Just wanted to see if I could check the option to be notified of replies after posting.

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Hi everyone,

I'm a first-year MFA student specializing in fiction with a secondary emphasis in literature at Western Kentucky University. I'm also the social media intern for the program this year.

I saw that a few people were interested in creative writing and rhetoric/composition. WKU offers a rhetoric/composition secondary emphasis along with literature or TESL for the MFA, and the program teaches poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and screenwriting genres. It's also fully funded and takes six students per year. https://www.wku.edu/english/mfacw/

Feel free to query me if you'd like more information about the WKU program; I'd be happy to share what I know or point you to someone who can help you better than me. If you' need tips on applying for MFA programs, feel free to ask me that as well; I was just there a year ago, stressful business!

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On October 31, 2017 at 11:14 PM, Rosenam said:

As for me, I'm applying in poetry and I'm considering about eight or nine schools: Ohio State, Indiana at Bloomington, Virginia Commonwealth, UMichigan, Purdue, Syracuse, UNC Greensboro, NC State and maybe Temple. UW Madison is also really interesting, but Wisconsin isn't my ideal location. I'm applying straight out of undergrad so everything's a little iffy if I don't get in, but I'm already thinking about the AmeriCorps or getting an apartment back home. Anybody have anything on the programs I'm looking into or if I'm missing out on some? I'm trying to apply to strictly fully funded programs and I'm pretty limited to the Atlantic/NC region and up along the East coast, and over to upper Midwestish, hence Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. 

Hi there! Just want to put a plug in for Madison. It's a really cool town, and incredibly beautiful. I know you might picture cornfields when you think Wisconsin, but Madison is really wonderful. Definitely apply if the program itself is appealing. Syracuse, on the other hand, is one of the worst places I've ever been (I'm personally still considering applying because of the program, but would definitely not be excited to move there.)

 

To jump in, I'm applying to Michigan, Wisconsin, Brown, UVA, Cornell, Oregon, WashU, and maybe Syracuse and Iowa.

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On 2017/11/3 at 12:49 PM, brodie said:

Hi everyone,

I'm a first-year MFA student specializing in fiction with a secondary emphasis in literature at Western Kentucky University. I'm also the social media intern for the program this year.

I saw that a few people were interested in creative writing and rhetoric/composition. WKU offers a rhetoric/composition secondary emphasis along with literature or TESL for the MFA, and the program teaches poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and screenwriting genres. It's also fully funded and takes six students per year. https://www.wku.edu/english/mfacw/

Feel free to query me if you'd like more information about the WKU program; I'd be happy to share what I know or point you to someone who can help you better than me. If you' need tips on applying for MFA programs, feel free to ask me that as well; I was just there a year ago, stressful business!

 

Thanking for offering helps for us. In terms of writing samples(for fiction), do you think it's better to submit the beginning pages of a novel or a collection of 2/3 shorts? Thanks!  

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7 hours ago, laika said:

Hi there! Just want to put a plug in for Madison. It's a really cool town, and incredibly beautiful. I know you might picture cornfields when you think Wisconsin, but Madison is really wonderful. Definitely apply if the program itself is appealing. Syracuse, on the other hand, is one of the worst places I've ever been (I'm personally still considering applying because of the program, but would definitely not be excited to move there.)

 

To jump in, I'm applying to Michigan, Wisconsin, Brown, UVA, Cornell, Oregon, WashU, and maybe Syracuse and Iowa.

I may apply to Syracuse as well, I've never been there but now I'm curious. Why does it make you feel it's so awful? 

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2 hours ago, REEEEEEE said:

I may apply to Syracuse as well, I've never been there but now I'm curious. Why does it make you feel it's so awful? 

I go through there once every year or two on my way to visit family, and there's almost nothing to do, and it's fairly ugly. It's also pretty gray and cold. I would definitely give it a chance because of the program, but visit before you consider going. The town seems to be pretty centered around college football without much else going on.  Where else are you applying?

And to the above, I'd definitely apply with stories over a novel excerpt, unless the excerpt stands alone with a narrative arc and is better than your short pieces.

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5 hours ago, laika said:

I go through there once every year or two on my way to visit family, and there's almost nothing to do, and it's fairly ugly. It's also pretty gray and cold. I would definitely give it a chance because of the program, but visit before you consider going. The town seems to be pretty centered around college football without much else going on.  Where else are you applying?

And to the above, I'd definitely apply with stories over a novel excerpt, unless the excerpt stands alone with a narrative arc and is better than your short pieces.

Thanks! I'll probably apply for Syracuse, Brown, Boston University, NYU, and Cornell.

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hey all!! So excited to see this thread--I applied for all PhDs last season with no luck, and am broadening my scope of programs. 

I've always loved writing--it's something that brings me so much happiness, but this year is the first time I've really mustered up the courage to apply to MFA programs in Creative Writing. In fact, in the past few months I've actually sent my pieces out to friends to review for the first time. I've had some really good reception, but I'm worried that they're not impartial enough to give me enough honest feedback.

That all being said, where do you go for edits? I've an English MA so I'm not worried about grammar, more pacing, detail, and content. I have the pieces that I think are my strongest picked out, but I would love a round of super objective edits before I submit!!

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On 10/31/2017 at 11:14 PM, Rosenam said:

Hey Paigeifer, it'll be my first application season too next fall. I googled a little bit on LGBT fiction programs and found this list: https://queenmobs.com/2016/07/gradcwprograms-lgbtqfriendly/, as well as a few programs just off the first page. I'm not sure of the nature of any of them but I figured the list could be a good start. 

As for me, I'm applying in poetry and I'm considering about eight or nine schools: Ohio State, Indiana at Bloomington, Virginia Commonwealth, UMichigan, Purdue, Syracuse, UNC Greensboro, NC State and maybe Temple. UW Madison is also really interesting, but Wisconsin isn't my ideal location. I'm applying straight out of undergrad so everything's a little iffy if I don't get in, but I'm already thinking about the AmeriCorps or getting an apartment back home. Anybody have anything on the programs I'm looking into or if I'm missing out on some? I'm trying to apply to strictly fully funded programs and I'm pretty limited to the Atlantic/NC region and up along the East coast, and over to upper Midwestish, hence Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. 

Thank you so much for this resource! I am also looking into Temple University, I love Philadelphia and has so much to offer. 

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