I recently got my copy of The Creative Writing MFA Handbook by Tom Kealey back from a friend who borrowed it (and was accepted to Goddard College) and was transported back to two years ago when I was in the “MFA zone.” All I did was research, revise my story, research some more, talk to people, research some more, and prayed I’d get into an MFA program. When I was rejected by all seven schools, I took a break. But man, it was brutal to try to put yourself on the page, sell yourself, and want to study with other writers. Continue reading
March of this year, I received a rejection letter from the University of Arizona. The letter went something like this:
This morning, I finished a short story for my writing workshop. I was enchanted and completely involved in my story like I’ve never been before. I was lost in the story, I liked what I was writing, and although I know the tale has many places where it can benefit from some description, the first draft is complete. The only place to go from here is the revision state.
I was in the revision zone last year with a piece I had workshopped in so many places and the result was a polished story lacking emotion. I read the manuscript myself a few days ago and was impressed with how I crafted my tale but as for impact, there was none.
With this story, I can build on it without making my message saccharine but truthful and honest. My goal is to put myself entirely on the page, which I was unable to do with my piece for MFA applications.
I have officially decided to put aside applying for an MFA degree this year; I’m having too much fun writing both creative non-fiction and fiction to worry about application deadlines. The good news is I can attend university open houses and start saving for school when I apply for 2012. Seems so far away but time will fly.
I’m focusing all my energy on my craft and also running, but that’s another entry (when I finish Marukami’s book) so I will be busy this fall.
How’s everyone about to apply this round doing? Psyched? Scared? Who’s taken the GRE? I’m so glad I never have to take that test again!
I’m writing. I’m reading. I’m reading about writing. I’m reading about writing as a writer. I’m writing about writing and reading. I’m doing the work. But I’m not MFA application ready.
I want to be so solid that I’m a shoe in. I want to spend another year thoroughly researching my programs and have a great manuscript ready for the applications. My spirits are lackluster in applying this time around and I’d rather not haphazardly apply in the hopes I’ll get in and then kick myself for not providing myself with more time to hone my work.
I’ve made my decision but am open to suggestions. Should I wait another year to apply or should I apply this year?
When I read Stephen King’s On Writing last year, my writing improved so much! Then I stopped reading books on writing. I wrote and read novels instead.
Stephen King mentioned that we as writers need to just write. But then I took writing classes and there were always great suggestions of books to own about writing.
The list is quite overwhelming and keeps growing. Recently, I bought three books on writing per suggestion of my current writing workshop instructor at the Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center.
They are: The Art of Fiction by John Gardner, Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose, and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. I also loved Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. There are so many books on writing out there!
What are some books that you have read and have helped you in your writing/process? Any suggestions?
Read a bunch of forum replies on the Poets and Writer’s Speakeasy Forum about MFA programs and the responses have rejuvenated my interest in applying.
I don’t know; there’s something magical, fun, and enchanting about sitting in a room with your peers who love writing and reading as much as you do. It’s like when you connect with someone who is as passionate about the genre of films you’re interested in. I don’t know how it’ll be second time around but I am excited to be applying again. This time, no anxiety – just anticipation for the best.
What does this even mean, really? And how much does this matter in my application for graduate school? If my writing is solid and my personal statement is iffy, will they not accept me because of that?
I have not started any personal statement/statement of purpose. I have an idea about what I’ll be writing but I have not settled on anything yet. I might write about this blog but am unsure how I’d approach it. I don’t know if I should even mention I’m applying for the second time this year. I can’t write about how much I’ve loved writing – it’s a cliché.
What can I write about myself that I’ve learned this year? Well, something was missing from my writing, that’s for sure. I see writing and inspiration in everything. I’m more dedicated to creating and being present on the page. I’m also aware there’s resistance to move forward because I’m afraid of my own failure. I’ve procured a new set of experiences to include in my “statement of purpose” but my purpose is to write. Well then, why should I get an MFA then? I don’t really need it, do I? I’m surrounding and seeking out writers in my free time. I’m in a writing workshop that’s starting out great! What else do I need?
What will writing in that environment do for me? Challenge me in ways I can never get on my own. I’ll be surrounded by writers all the time. See? It sounds like my other personal statement. I’ll get there when I’m good and ready. I need to make my submission tight first.
Just recently, I attended a panel hosted by In Good Company Workplaces (IGC) and New York Women Social Entrepreneurs (NYWSE) in Chelsea.
The panelists were from different arenas in the publishing world:
Fauzia Burke - President of FSB Associates, a marketing company.
Marcela Landres – author of ebook, How Editors Think: The Real Reason They Rejected You and the ezine Latinidad.
Alexandra Machinist – a literary agent at Linda Chester Literary Agency
Diane O’Connell – owner of company Write to Sell Your Book which aids writers to brand themselves
The hour panel was truly eye-opening. Being a published writer is no easy feat. Obtaining that literary agent is already tough, as you all already know. There are other avenues to be published like self-publishing. Diane mentioned self-publishing as a way to be published as well as selling one’s book via ebook format.
One misconception unbeknownst to rookies like us is that publishers no longer do all the publicity for your book once it’s published. Most agents and publishers are looking for writers with a platform; someone with a built in audience that will go out and buy your book. This is especially important for non-fiction writers because the market has become so saturated with celebrities who are selling based on their name.
Additionally, some writers think the only way to spread their message or have their work be distributed is through the big publishing houses like Random House, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster and so on but this is not the case. There are many small publishing houses sprouting up every day unknown to us publishing many authors. This is another way to be part of the “published author” club.
The one thing that resonated with me was Fauzia Burke’s advice on writing. She said that writing a book should be an add-on to your already bustling life and not your everything because that one book will Not pay the bills. Alexandra mentioned that this ideal of receiving a huge advance for your first book is all in your dreams. The most that can be paid is about $5,000 and that’s a good deal.
I sat with that and had to evaluate what I was doing, what I would do with my MFA degree, and if I really truly still wanted it. No one is going to pay me to sit in my pjs and write my novels; I’m not Stephen King! I’m still sitting with this and figuring out what else I’d like to do with my life other than writing.
The rest of the panel had great information tidbits. Marcela Landres mentioned competitive writing conferences that are not only ways to hobnob with published writers but also to have them write blurbs for your published work.
The workshops are:
VONA (Voices of Our Nation), a program for people of color was co-founded by Junot Diaz
Macondo, a writing program for published writers to expand their writing founded by Sandra Cisneros
Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference one of the first and oldest writing conferences in the United States started by John Farrar of publishing company Farrar, Straus, and Giroux Inc.
In terms of self-promotion, across the board, they mentioned that the usage of social media will become more prevalent for publicity and marketing and writers should take advantage of that. Because publishing houses will not do all the work, writers have to step it up and promote themselves. If they find they cannot because they are too introverted, they can hire people who do it for them, like Fauzia.
Overall, a very informative panel. I look forward to attending more panels and writing about them for others.
It’s May and I have no idea what I’m going to submit for my applications!! I have the beginning of my NaNoWriMo novel, a story I wrote in my creative writing class during college, and also something memoir like from my recent class. I have no idea which one to work on because I’ve been caught up doing too many activities.
Well, next week, I will be in Greece where I’ll be enjoying the sun, food, environment, and everything else in between. I won’t be thinking about the applications but I will have to worry about them when I get back.
Oh me, oh my – the things I do!
Although I haven’t officially received notification of rejection, I know its coming. Therefore, I’m locked on to applying to low residency schools and a few city schools. I didn’t want the city experience for graduate school but, this time around, I would be open to applying to New School University and Brooklyn College. These are the only schools that I would be content and satisfied with attending in the city.
When I first made the decision to apply for an MFA program, I looked at schools in New York mostly – Columbia University, NYU, New School University, Brooklyn College, Adelphi, and even Sarah Lawrence. But I only visited four New York City schools due to convenience. Those were Columbia, New School, NYU, and Brooklyn College.
Brooklyn College was my first stop. The campus was gorgeous, the commute from my neighborhood was a cool 50 minutes, and the autumn weather made the visit even more pleasant. I visited during a visitor’s weekend so the campus was bustling with young high school students eager to learn about Brooklyn College. Being one of the few graduate students visiting the school, I wanted to learn more about the program than the campus. I did take a tour with prospective undergraduate students which was cute because I thought about myself as an undergrad and how excited I was when I first started college. The most salient feature, for me, was the library. The different places to nap, write, and study in the facility entranced me and I fell in love with this place. I knew if I applied and accepted, I would live at the library. But I digress.
When I finally visited the department, there was only person there; she was very friendly in discussing the program to me and another prospective student. The MFA writing program is part of the English department which makes me wonder how much concentration on craft there will be versus emphasis on English literature. I also feel that I’m more versed about the traits I’m looking for in a program than two years ago.
At the time, I wasn’t interested in applying to this program because the education provides the opportunity for those interested in teaching to obtain a position either in the school or elsewhere. Now that my priorities have changed, I may be applying for next fall. All in all, a great program and campus so this school is on my radar.
My second stop was New School University. I absolutely fell in love with the faculty and the community they discussed during the information session. Additionally, I appreciated the insight that the currently matriculated students and alumni provided for prospective students like myself. What was it about the program that I liked? Every faculty member was genuine about the kind of support they provided their students and the alumni also spoke highly of everyone. The location is also very convenient as well. After I left the session, I was completely enrolled in the possibility of attending the school.
My third stop was NYU. Being an alumni of the undergraduate program, I didn’t graduate with high opinions of the school. Perhaps it was a mistake to attend a school in a city I’m familiar with because I’m a native but I felt like a complete outsider the whole time. I’m aware this factor had to do with the fact that I was a commuter all four years so I can’t necessarily fault the school for my experience. But because of that, I walked in completely skeptical but still open to learning about the program. The director spent a big portion of the information session plugging all the visiting faculty that’s well-known which is nice but not beneficial if I don’t a) know who the frak they are and b) know if they will be a good instructor or not. I did like the prospects of studying abroad with the program but my heart wasn’t interested in attending NYU for grad school.
My last stop was Columbia University. The information session also had me excited about applying to the school. I think the most interesting part of the session was the opportunity to talk about the program without the director present. He spoke and answered questions or concerns prospective students had, which was effective, at the beginning of the session but the insider’s view from the current students put everything in focus. There were students from different sections of the globe, two from each concentration in the writing program, to discuss their experience at the university. They talked about the lack of financial aid. One woman said, “If you are attending Columbia University, expect to be in debt. That’s the bottom line.” Which is why all of the students were competing to obtain a teaching assistantship because there is tuition remission, if I’m correct or there is more financial aid. I wasn’t thinking about financial aid, only thinking about how I’d mix in with the folks at the school. I didn’t apply because I wasn’t interested in staying in NYC but maybe next fall? I’m not really sure if this school is on my radar. It’s super competitive and the thought of more crazy debt makes my stomach clench into a ball. Not sure if I’m going to apply there but I won’t rule this out yet.
I wasn’t interested in applying to out of city schools like on Long Island or further than Manhattan at the time because I thought of my commute.
As for low residency programs, I’m slowly researching by using the database on the Poets & Writers website. I need to take a few hours and narrow my decision to what program would work for me. Once I’m there, I’ll be more focused. Especially after I receive my last two notifications.
I’m on the right path; positivity is key. Many prospects afoot. I’m excited!